Books I’ve Read

October 18, 2017
The Secret WifeThe Secret Wife by Gill Paul
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I am really too cynical to read romance books.

The Secret Wife is a “what if” historical fiction about a secret romance and subsequent marriage between one of the Russian princesses, Tatiana, and an officer, Dmitri.
I later found out there was some evidence that a possible romance did occur, but highly unlikely they were secretly married.

The author takes this “what if” scenario and write about what happens if they do secretly get married.

I did enjoy reading about the backdrop of Russian history in the early 1900s, but would have loved to learn more about this, more so than the unbelievable romance story.
I felt like I was being told a story, rather than living it with them.

I have read other books about Russian history that I have much preferred.

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September 24, 2017
Born for This: How to Find the Work You Were Meant to DoBorn for This: How to Find the Work You Were Meant to Do by Chris Guillebeau
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book a fantastic read for someone who is trying to figure out their work life, and find ways that will bring them both joy and more money.

There is a lot of advice on how to take risks, quizes to find out what you love and ways you might be able to turn a hobby into an extra business.
As an entrepreneur, there is a lot of great advice on how to make pitches and how to go after what you want, but also knowing when to give up and try a different angle.
The story is full of testimonies from lots of successful people who have found joy in their work.

However, I don’t think I’m the right target market for much of the advice. A lot of this advice is easier to follow when you are young and starting out in a new career and have the time to devote to this. As a mom with young kids you are staying home with, while working on the side, your time and abilities to take risks are a lot less. But, perhaps the advice will work for the next phase of my life.
It’s definitely a keeper, and a great book for new grads!

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September 10, 2017
Secret DaughterSecret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Secret Daughter is a wonderful family story that takes you between India and America, to the heart of the story.
This book starts with a couple in India who are having a baby. Because it’s a daughter, and their family must have a son, the mother hides her baby away in an orphanage. This baby is eventually adopted by a couple (she’s American and he’s originally from India).

The story flips back and forth between the birth parents in India and the couple in America. Eventually, Asha goes to India to discover more about her roots.

Having been in India, this story put me right back there, and what it was like to walk the streets, and be there as a foreigner.

The book is really about relationships, making your family, love and forgiveness.
It’s a wonderful story and so interesting to read more about Indian culture.

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August 13, 2017
The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder (Herringford and Watts, #1)The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder by Rachel McMillan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder is a cute murder mystery happening on the streets of Toronto in the 1900s.
Merinda and Jem are two bachelor friends who traipse around Toronto trying to solve mysteries, including the murder of 2 Irish girls found dead in a theatre. They are constantly getting into scrapes and are helped by, and they help out, two men – a newspaper reporter and a police officer.

The story reminded me much of The Ladies’ Detective Agency where the story wasn’t so much about the crime as it was about the characters and their adventures. It’s a cute story and interesting to read about the role of women during this time period, when they definitely should not be wearing pants and going around the city solving mysteries!

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August 5, 2017
The Girl You Left BehindThe Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book really, really irritated me.
I loved Moyes’ book, You before Me, so I was looking forward to reading another one of her novels, but I found myself rolling my eyes and getting so annoyed with the story. Originally, I was listening to it on audio, but switched to a hard copy so I could get through it faster.

The first part of the story is wonderful. It’s about a woman, Sophie, who is living in occupied France in WWI when the Germans come in and take over her hotel and she is forced to cook for them and have them in her home. She “befriends” a German Kommandant who falls in love with a portrait that Sophie’s husband did of her… or does he fall in love with her?

The second part of the story is a woman named Liv, living in London, who now has the painting. It comes into question whether this painting was part of German looting during the war and if the painting needs to be returned to the original owner.

Liv is supposed to be a strong, courageous woman, but she is stubborn and can’t move on with her life after her husband died 4 years ago. She is stuck in the past, thinking that this painting will keep him there.
I hated the second part of the story, and the court case and romance that ensues.

Although, this would be a good book for book club, because there is so many ethical things (like in Moyes’ other book) to discuss.
It was too stressful reading this book, wondering if it would trun out “right.” It doesn’t.

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August 4, 2017
Somewhere in FranceSomewhere in France by Jennifer Robson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although I don’t love romance novels, I do like a good historical fiction!

Somewhere in France takes place during WWI when Lily, the daughter of an Earl, decides she wants to help in the war effort and drive an ambulance. The story is about how she becomes involved in the war, and also her friendship with a surgeon, working on the front lines somewhere in France.

Through the novel, we can see what life on the front lines in the hospital was like, but also, what it meant to have a relationship in that time period, when social mores were very strong.

This is a lovely, quick read, and by a Canadian author!

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July 23, 2017
Fifth BusinessFifth Business by Robertson Davies
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In honour of Canada 150 our book club read a Canadian Classic, Fifth Business.
I have to admit that I had never heard of this book and wasn’t sure what to expect, and I was pleasantly surprised!

Fifth Business is about a man named Dunny, who when growing up, comes in contact with a woman named Mrs. Dempster. Throughout her life, he feels a special tie with her – and even sees her face in a statue that saves him when fighting in WWI. He spends his life researching saints because of it. Dunny is also tied to a childhood boy, Percy, a boy who is at first his bully then friend.

It is very hard to explain what this book is about, but it is about friendship, hiding who we are, reinventing ourselves, and living with the truth.
It’s a great read, and I would love to go to a lecture on this book to really get into the finer details.

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June 13, 2017
Annihilation (Southern Reach, #1)Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If this book hadn’t been for our book club, I am not sure that I would have been drawn to pick it up. However, having said that, I am really glad it is a book club book because I am looking forward to discussing with others the deeper meaning and analogies in the book.

In Annihilation, 4 women have been chosen to go on an expedition to a long abandoned area known as Area X. There are weird things happening here that no one knows or understands, and the team is not given any information before they head in to explore and map the are.

The Biologist is the narrator of the story, and through her, we start to piece together what is really happening, and not the brainwashed answers they were all given. There is some creature living in an underground tower, leaving messages on the walls. Not everything is what it appears to be!

The book is definitely fantasy/science fiction, and I imagined the green glowing blob as something directly from Scooby Doo. I am definitely interested in discussing this book with others, though!

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May 26, 2017
Year of WondersYear of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the second time that I have read Year of Wonders. I don’t normally read a book twice. We had read this book many years ago with bookclub, but after I visited Eyam, someone reminded me that this book was loosely based upon the events that happened there. So, I had to pick up the book again, since I had a frame of reference for the story now!

The Year of Wonders is based on the true story of the Village of Eyam in England that decides to cut themselves off from other neighbouring towns when the plague strikes. this is to prevent the plague from spreading further.
The book is told through the eyes of a servant, about how the village deals with the plague, and a lot about how they try to explain and understand and blame its existence.

I really loved the story the first time I read it. However, when I read it the second, now knowing the true story and details, I realized how much of the story was a fictionalized account of what happened. This is the author’s prerogative of course, but I kept waiting for the story to line up with what I know really happened.

Still a great story of survival and bravery of a small community during the 1600s!

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May 20, 2017
A Morbid Taste for Bones (Chronicles of Brother Cadfael, #1)A Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked up this book to read because we had visited Holywell in Wales where there is a shrine to St. Winefride. I was curious to read a book that places this town and this saint in the forefront.

In this book, the first of many in a series, Brother Cadfael goes with his fellow brothers to Holywell to bring back the bones of the saint to Shrewsbury, England, where they can create a shrine for her there instead. Cadfael, being the only Welsh speaker, goes with them to help translate.
While there, one community member who is against the removal of the bones is found murdered, and it is up to Cadfael to figure out what happened.

What is great about a book happening in the 1100s is that it can be a very simplified answer and plot, because of the lack of science and the high rate of believing in spirits.

Overall, it is an interesting story with a simple but creative plot. I really got bogged down in the writing and found it awfully convoluted and hard to follow without a great deal of concentration.
However, I may see if this one is in the TV series!

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May 10, 2017
The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in BritainThe Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain by Bill Bryson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As Bill Bryson makes his way across the United Kingdom, he makes a commentary on life and the people he encounters along the way.

This is a sequel to his book note from A Small Island (which I haven’t read, but really should!) where Bryson draws a line through the country and decides to visit places along the line, giving his thoughts and reviews. The book can be taken a bit as a travel guide (we did decide to visit a few of the places he writes about) but it is also a commentary on the British culture.

It’s a wonderful, charming and insightful book written by an American looking into British life after having lived in the UK for 40 years. The book is full of funny quips, interesting facts, insightful comments, and great ideas for places to visit.

If you are looking for a book that is so much more than a travel guide, definitely pick up this book to read!

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April 23, 2017
Case Histories (Jackson Brodie #1)Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Case Histories is a wonderful mystery/detective story where Jackson Brodie solves several cold case files.
A former police officer, now turned private investigator, Jackson is approached by several people who are either looking for people who have disappeared, murdered or possibly both. The story starts with the cold case files from three cases. Little does Jackson know these stories will all intermingle.

The story is written with great detail to the characters so you feel like you know and understand them all. It is a great read that you will not want to put down!

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April 13, 2017
The Reckoning (Welsh Princes, #3)The Reckoning by Sharon Kay Penman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is a love story. It is a love story not just between people, but also for Wales.

The Reckoning is the third book in the trilogy about the Welsh Princes in the 1200s and their struggle to maintain control over the land instead of the English Kings. In this book, Llewellyn, Prince of Wales continues his struggle with the English king Edward I, much as his grandfather did with King John in the first book.

Unlike the first book, you know how this book is going to end… badly, especially if you know anything about history. Because I knew from history what happens, it wasn’t as motivating to read this book, because it wasn’t going to have a happy ending.

I also felt that because this was the third book and final book in the series, the author was trying to get out as much research as possible, and it felt more contrived. I adored the first book in the series and highly recommend it. I did not read the second, but jumped to the third as I was mostly interested in Welsh history. I would just read the first book, and study history to find out what happens from there.

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April 8, 2017

How Green Was My ValleyHow Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Using an expression from the book, “there is a good book.”

This book is set in the early 1900s in mid Wales and is about a small community in one of the valleys that is built around mining. Mining is the way of life, but what happens when the miner aren’t treated fairly? A young boy grows up in the midst of this mining community, and the book is the story of his life, and how community events shape him.
It’s a beautiful story of love, commitment, and what it really means to be a strong and courageous person. It’s full of stories that makes you wonder if this is all true.
You will love these characters and enjoy this classic novel!

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March 14, 2017
From Aberystwyth with Love (Aberystwyth Noir, #5)From Aberystwyth with Love by Malcolm Pryce
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a quirky, quaint mystery novel that is a spoof off the Film Noir style.
In this book, private investigator Louie Knight is given a strange case to delve into. He receives a visitor from Russia who tells him that his daughter is having visions of a girl who disappeared from Wales many years ago! What happened to this Welsh girl and why does someone in Russia know all about her?

To figure out the case, Louie must travel to Russia and meet all sorts of characters along the way!

I found that with this book I really had to concentrate and try to remember all the details. Because of the style, it is a very wordy book and sometimes I couldn’t figure out or remember who was talking. Also, there were so many scenes that I couldn’t figure out what they had to do with the plot. So, there was a lot to keep in my head at a time.

I did like how the book takes place in Wales, where I am living now, so the scenes were very familiar. I do not think, however, I will read any more in the series. They would probably make a good tv series, though!

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March 4, 2017

Named of the DragonNamed of the Dragon by Susanna Kearsley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is full of romance, history, beautiful Welsh countryside, legends, mystery and more.

In this book, Lyn goes with her friend Bridget to Southern Wales for Christmas break where they are staying with brothers James and Christopher. They become enveloped in the neighbourhood, and start to learn and appreciate the history of the area, and get to go the neighbours.

One such neighbour Emily, is convinced a dragon is after her son and that Lyn has been sent to protect it, just as in Merlin’s prophecy.

The book is interesting and keeps moving, but I felt it tried to add too many elements, without determining if it is a romance novel or a mythical legend.
Cute read though.

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February 11, 2017
The Earth Hums in B FlatThe Earth Hums in B Flat by Mari Strachan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am reading this book because it is set in North Wales where we are currently living. The book was recommended to me by the local librarian, and I am so glad she did.

I loved this book.

The Earth Hums in B Flat is written from the perspective of an innocent pre-teenaged girl. Much in the style of the Curious Dog With the Incidence in the Nighttime, there is a simplicity yet depth when the main character interprets what happens in the world around her but her juvenile perspective.

Gwenni lives in Harlech, Wales. One of the village men goes missing and is later found murdered. Gwenni decided she will try to solve the murder, and to figure out what is happening in her small town and all the secrets that people are keeping.
This is as much a book about secrets and the way they can destroy us, as it is about madness and how it affects those around us.

I highly recommend this very moving story!

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February 4, 2017
Here be Dragons (Welsh Princes, #1)Here be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is worth every single one of its 800 pages and the author deserves a PhD after all her research and writing of this incredible novel.

This book is about Lleweyan the Great who is a Prince of Wales in the 1200s. He marries Joanna, King John of England’s daughter, thus setting the scene for decades of battles between the Welsh and Normans over who owns what land and who has the right to be the ruler.

The book is written with incredible details and the real life struggles of both sides, making Lleweylan and King John equally likeable characters.

This book was even better as I am living in North Wales at the time, close to all the places they are talking about, and can see them firsthand.
I cannot wait to read the next books in the trilogy.
Fantastic read if you are interested in British history!

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January 6, 2017
Younger Next Year for WomenYounger Next Year for Women by Chris Crowley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received this book as a gift and took it to heart to read it.
Although, this book is really geared towards those in theirs 50s+, it’s never too soon to start thinking about your health.

Younger Next Year is about how to improve your health so that you age gracefully and healthily. The answers are not rocket science, and according to the authors, there are several basic rules, which are all outlined in one page in the Appendix. (Actually, you could almost just read that page rather than the whole book, but you would miss out on some interesting information.)

In essence we need to exercise more and eat less crap.
I am sure we already know this, but the book also goes into the science behind how and why and gives practical information how to achieve this. Basically, when you retire, treat your health as your job.
There are a few pointers that I gained that I can implement in my life now.

It’s never a waste of time to read a book that can help you improve your life!
This particular book is geared towards women, while there is a more generic one for anyone.

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January 3, 2017
Dreams of Joy (Shanghai Girls #2)Dreams of Joy by Lisa See
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love every book by Lisa See – she has to be one of my favourite authors. So, once again, I was not disappointed.

Dreams of Joy is actually the sequel to Shanghai Girls. Although it is not necessary to have read Shanghai Girls first, it certainly would be better. I read it awhile ago, and had forgotten a lot of it, but See does a good job of refreshing your memory.

In Dreams of Joy, Pearl’s daughter, Joy, heads back to China from LA to go help build the mother nation. She is a victim of the great propaganda coming from China in the 1950s. Pearl heads dangerously back to China to try to rescue her daughter. She comes in contact with her old life and struggles with the new China during the Great Leap Forward.

I wish that this book was not true. However, I know that everything in this book is based on historical accounts. I have read a lot about Chinese culture, but never a book from the 1950s, and the story kept me on the edge of my seat, wondering how this all could have happened and whether it would end well.

I learned so much from this book, that I know will stay with me. I highly recommend this, or any of Lisa See’s books!

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December 22, 2016

Arsenic MilkshakeArsenic Milkshake by Sylvia Barrett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Any Canadians out there who love true crime will like this book!

Arsenic Milkshake is a fascinating read about the evolution of forensic science in Canada. The author uses true cases to go through different aspects of forensics to show how they are used and how they evolved.

What is really interesting is that this book was written in the 1990s, so before DNA really took off, and before the age of the Internet! So, it’s rocket science up until that point, with good old fashioned sleuthing and scientific methods.

This is a great read, which shows how Canada is involved in breakthrough science!

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December 17, 2016
Wolf Creek Homecoming (Wolf Creek #2)Wolf Creek Homecoming by Penny Richards
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was looking for a quick read that I didn’t have to think about, and picked this book off my shelf. I was pleasantly surprised.
This is a lovely little story, with Christian themes, about Gabe who runs off and sows his wild oats, and later returns, much like the prodigal son.
Years ago, he had gotten Rachel pregnant, but left town before he knew the truth. When he returns to town, he will discover he’s now a father, but is he ready for the responsibility?

A quick read about judgement, love, family and forgiveness.

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December 13, 2016
The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian DetectiveThe Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective by Kate Summerscale
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is an indepth look at a murder that happened in England in 1860.
A 4-year old boy is found murdered in the privy and the investigation ensues.

This book is non-fiction, so it goes through all the newspaper and crime reports about the investigation at a time when detectives are just starting to be used for crime cases. So, this book is about the creation of a detectives, and how that changed the police force, and how people saw crime.

This book is also equally about the family members of the Kent family and what happens to them over time.

The research in this book is incredible, and it is fascinating to learn so much, and how much was actually recorded at the time.
However, because it is non-fiction, it is a dense book with lots of information, making it an involved read that takes time to absorb the information. However, if you like true crime stories, this is a great book to pick up!

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November 26, 2016
Inside the O'BriensInside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really, really liked this book.
Lisa Genova has done it again.
She has delivered another heart-wrenching, inside look at what it is like to live with a neurological disorder, this time Huntington’s Disease.

Through the O’Brien family, you learn about HD as the father Joe is diagnosed with the disease. Now, his children will have a 50-50 chance of getting the disease. There is a genetic test that they can take to find out, but should they do it? Would you want to know what’s going to happen to you as you watch your father steadily decline with the disease?

Through the book, you learn so much about the disease and the way it can effect a family.
It’s beautifully written, heartfelt, and an incredible read.

Just don’t read it in in public, because you’ll have to explain why you are so emotional!!

Read all of Lisa Genova’s books, including this one.

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November 24, 2016
Broken PromisesBroken Promises by Nick Nichols
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Some books grab you by the first page, and this is one of them.

Jack Adams is a lawyer and as disciplined as they come. And at age 35, he has earned the trust of his mentor and boss and been handed a delicate case for the daughter of a major client. If he handles this right, his partnership is all but guaranteed. After he wins a big hearing, Jack sees the finish line in sight. But his career takes an unexpected turn when his client has other plans and Jack succumbs to her charms. Seduced and manipulated, Jack struggles to unravel the truth while he is forced to fight for his job, his law license, and even his freedom.

Read more of my review at https://valleyfamilyfun.ca/broken-prom…

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November 22, 2016
The Book of Madness and CuresThe Book of Madness and Cures by Regina O’Melveny
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Book of Madness and Cures is about a woman named Gabriella who is obsessed with the idea of her father, an Italian doctor. Having taught her everything he knew, created Gabriella in his image. He starts writing a book about madness and cures, perhaps because he senses the decline of his own mental health.

Then, one day, the doctor disappears, and Gabriella sets off on a journey through Europe (in the 1500s) with two servants, in an attempt to follow his letters and try to find him. While on her journey she collects tales and begins her own book about madness.

The journey takes you around Europe in the 1500s where through Gabriella’s eyes you learn about medicinal practice and culture of the time.

All of this sounds interesting, however, it isn’t really. I found myself not caring where the doctor was, and finding it hard that a woman in 1500 and her servants could speak the languages in all those different countries.
I tried to remember that the journey itself was a character, but that only helped somewhat.

I was reading this for book club, otherwise, i might not have finished it.

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November 12, 2016
The Quiet AmericanThe Quiet American by Graham Greene
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is so beautifully written and is set against the back drop of the Vietnam War (before the Americans were involved).
The Quiet American is about a British journalist, Fowler, who befriends an American in Vietnam, named Pyle. Pyle falls in love with Fowler’s Vietnamese girlfriend and asks Fowler for his permission to “have her”.
The story is about Fowler and Pyle’s relationship, and figuring out what exactly this quiet American is doing in Vietnam.

Although I don’t understand much of the Vietnam war, it didn’t really matter for the context of this story.
I can’t wait to see the movie now.

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November 5, 2016
Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For the longest time I had been putting off reading the Hunger Games trilogy. There had been so much hype about the books, and I thought they would be more for teenagers, and honestly, that I wouldn’t like them.

Boy, was I ever wrong!

I started by listening to the first two books in the series, and by that time and investment, I knew I had to finish the series to find out what happened.
This book, I half listened to and half read.

The Mockingjay continues the plight of Katniss who is a teen aged girl who is helping to lead a rebellion to bring down the Capitol who started the Hunger Games as a form of entertainment for themselves.
The entire series is wrapped up, but not without heartbreak and much death and destruction.

If you are looking for a good riveting series, no matter your pre-judgements, I highly recommend listening to or reading the Hunger Games series! You won’t be disappointed!

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October 17, 2016
The House of WivesThe House of Wives by Simon Choa-Johnston
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have always wanted to read a non-fiction book about the opium trade in China, so I was very excited when we picked this book to read in our book club!

The House of Wives begins with Semah and Emanuel living in India. Emanuel gets involved with the opium business which takes him to Hong Kong. Eventually, he ends up marrying a Chinese girl in Hong Kong while still married to Semah in India. This situation doesn’t make anyone happy, so he ends up with a house of wives!

The first part of the book really focuses on the opium trade and how it worked, while the latter part was about the relationships with the women.

What makes this story so interesting is that it is based on the author’s ancestors – his great-grandparents. It is a fictionalized telling of their story.

I really had wished this book was more about the opium trade – and it’s influence on the culture and the negative effects it had on people. I would like to learn even more about that aspect of history. I will need to do some more research!

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October 3, 2016
But I Trusted You and Other True Cases (Crime Files, #14)But I Trusted You and Other True Cases by Ann Rule
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am a true crime junkie.
I love watching TV shows about true crime, and reading true crime books is right up there.

In this book, Ann Rule covers several true crime cases, most of which happened in Oregon in the 1960s-1970s. She does a great job of covering the crimes and the outcomes without using too much jargon or getting bogged down in the details.

It make for such an interesting read, and I will definitely be reading more of her books!

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September 23, 2016
The Virgin CureThe Virgin Cure by Ami McKay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved this book.
From the first few pages, it was thrown into such a great story that captivated me the whole time. I read every word, and never looked ahead to see how many pages I had left.

The Virgin Cure is about a young girl named Moth who is growing up in the slums of New York, until her mother sells her to become a housemaid. This sets her on a path to become a trained whore where young girls’ virginity is bartered off to the highest bidder.
Can Moth handle her new life? Is it really what she wants? Is she as old as she is pretending? Is anyone looking out for her?

This is a wonderful story you won’t want to put down!

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First Circle Club (First Circle Club, #1)First Circle Club by Alex Siegel
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First Circle Club by Alex Siegel is the type of book you need to read like the script to a super-hero action movie! It is a fantasy. And, if you can keep the scenes in your mind, the book will make a whole lot more sense as you watch the action unfold.

We are now in limbo. Somewhere between heaven and earth and hell and earth.

A serial killer from the past has escaped from hell and returned to earth to start killing children again. To catch him, the angels of heaven and the demons from hell release each release 2 people who fought crimes in previous lives, to go on a manhunt.

These 4 agents must work together to catch Daniel Shipman before he kills again.

However, Daniel Shipman has other demons working for him, making him hard to catch. And, no matter how hard they try, these 4 agents are always behind the ball and seem to mess everything up completely.

Will they catch this escaped demon? How many people will be killed in the interim?
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 September 9, 2016
The Final Summit: A Quest to Find the One Principle That Will Save HumanityThe Final Summit: A Quest to Find the One Principle That Will Save Humanity by Andy Andrews
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is a fable with a great meaning.

David Ponder is taken by the angel Gabriel to meet with hundreds of people from throughout history called travellers.
He is tasked with having to answer the question

“What does humanity need to do, individually and collectively, to restore itself to the pathway toward successful civilization?”

David gets 5 chances to answer the question, and after each unsuccessful answer, he is able to bring forth another “traveler” to help solve the question.

There is a lot of debate, and many ideas, and the end result with surprise you at how simple yet true it is!

This book is the sequel to The Traveler’s Gift. I did not read that book, and found that it was not necessary to understand this book.

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September 5, 2016
Love the One You're WithLove the One You’re With by Emily Giffin
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I am not the target market for this book.

This book is about a newly wed 23 year old girl who runs into her ex-boyfriend and starts to wonder and doubt her current marriage.

To be honest, I couldn’t get past more than a few pages of this drivel. It was so not where I am in my life, and although I wanted a fluffy book to read, this one was over the top!

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September 3, 2016
Pope JoanPope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a wonderfully research book that takes place in Europe in the 800s.

Joan is a girl who loves to learn, but unfortunately, in a time where women are not to be taught. She secretly learns to read and write with the help of her older brother, and later a tutor.
Joan eventually makes her way to a monastery where she is further schooled until she must take up a disguise as a man. Her strong character, intelligence, wit and bravery help her become a leader in the church, and eventually Pope.

Based on historical records, this historical fiction tells a fictionalized story (based on facts) of this remarkable woman.

If you like historical fiction, this one is definitely worth a read!

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The Glassblower of MuranoThe Glassblower of Murano by Marina Fiorato
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I was really hoping to like this book, as it sounded really interesting: a glassblower from Murano paralleled with the story of a descendant in modern days who is also a glassblower.

The truth is, I couldn’t get through the book at all, and gave up reading it about 1/3 of the way in. I didn’t like the style of writing. After almost every line there was a line in italics to show what the character was thinking. I found it distracting and just gave up.

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August 8, 2016
The 19th WifeThe 19th Wife by David Ebershoff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I absolutely loved the versatile writing in this book.

The 19th Wife is a story, based on facts about Ann Eliza Young who was the 19th wife of Latter-Day-Saints Prophet Bringham Young. Based on facts, but fictionalized, the story tells of her life, resulting in her crusade to end polygamy in the United States – which ultimately she did help do.

Running parallel to this story is one about a young man named Jordan who is trying to help his mother who is in jail for allegedly killing her husband. She is part of a break-away group of Latter Day Saints called the Firsts who still practice polygamy to this days.

These stories run concurrently, and you are left to wonder what has changed in 150 years.

The author has an incredible gift to write so many styles of writing from modern day to research papers, newspaper articles, and historical records, all interwoven to give the background to the Latter Day Saints.

I found this a fascinating read and makes me want to learn more about what is true and more behind this faith.

A long but intriguing read!

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July 23, 2016
Catching Fire (Hunger Games, #2)Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For so long I had avoided reading this series, but once I started listening to them as an audio book, I couldn’t put it down!

Although not quite as good as the first one, as not all the ideas are new, Catching Fire is just as good, exciting and addictive as the Hunger Games.

In the second book in the series, it’s the 75th anniversary of the Hunger Games. So, to try to avoid a rebellion in the districts that seems to be rising, the game makers have decided to put all the tributes from the previous years back in the arena to fight till the death.

Alliances, rebellion, friendship, knowing your true enemy – these are all themes of this book.
And, of course, the book leaves you hanging wanting to read the next in the series to see how this is going to resolve!

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July 22, 2016
61 Hours (Jack Reacher, #14)61 Hours by Lee Child
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There is nothing better than a good thriller to keep you reading and engaged!
I have always enjoyed Lee Child’s books, and this one is no different.

In 61 Hours, ex-military cop Jack Reacher finds himself in a bus crash in South Dakota and in the middle of a showdown between the local police, a biker gang, and a lot of drugs. Reacher finds himself entangled in the middle of the affair, helping the local police track down a Mexican drug lord. But, Reacher is somewhat of a vigilante and handles things on his own terms.

There are 61 hours until everything will come to a head. Will they be able to solve the crime?

A great book to keep you wanting more. And, it doesn’t matter the order in which you read Lee Child’s series, which is another great reason to pick one up today!

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July 18, 2016
The Family Orchard: A NovelThe Family Orchard: A Novel by Nomi Eve
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really liked the concept of this book: It started with the author’s family tree. Just two people, and told their story. From their, the family tree started to grow roots and branches as stories from other family members were added and told until we get to present day.

The Family Orchard followed Jewish families from Palestine and Jerusalem to Poland and America and beyond. Everyone is connected and everyone has a story to share. But, what makes our real stories? The ones we share with others, or is our real story the secrets that we keep?

Each section was like reading a different short story about someone else’s life, but knowing the back story and how they got there. It really required you to remember somewhat the other characters, so best to read this book in a relatively short period of time if you can, so you don’t forget.

Because it was a short story, it was hard to completely get connected and stay focused on the various stories. I found myself skimming some of the book, but really appreciate what the author was trying to do in this totally unique way of telling a story!

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July 12, 2016
Trace (Kay Scarpetta, #13)Trace by Patricia Cornwell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am a big fan of murder mysteries, and especially Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta series.
This book is no exception.

Trace is about a woman who is attacked in Florida, and who has no memory of the incident, and a seemingly unrelated case in Richmond of a teen aged girl who died in mysterious circumstances. Will the trace evidence link the cases and help them find the killer?

The book is fast paced, and is a great behind the scenes look at forensic science.
I did find, however, that there was so much filler material in the book that wasn’t relevant for this particular story, but probably adds to the overall series. I skimmed through most of these parts, and the book could have been half the size.

Great light summer read.

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July 4 2016
Murder at Mosquito Cove Harbour Grace: The Murder of Elfreda Pike, 1870Murder at Mosquito Cove Harbour Grace: The Murder of Elfreda Pike, 1870 by Patrick Collins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Murder at Mosquito Cove is everything that I love in a good story. It is a true story of a murder that happened in the 1870s in Newfoundland, but the story is told in a narrative, rather than simply reviewing the facts. It’s told in an engaging fashion that you don’t know the end result until the very last page of the book!

This is the story of Elfreda who was murdered and her fiance is suspected of killing her. However, he escapes the accusations on a sailing vessel and ends up in Boston. The story comes full circle and everything comes to a head, but not for another 40 years!

If you didn’t know this was a true story, you would never believe it!
What a great story! I loved the writing and the retelling of this gruesome story!

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June 28, 2016
The Reluctant MatchmakerThe Reluctant Matchmaker by Shobhan Bantwal
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The author describes this book perfectly when she said it was Bollywood in a book.

This is a fluffy romance story that happens between 30 year olds, but is better suited for teenagers. The games they play, and the predictability of this story is better suited for lovesick teenagers.

In this book, the main character, Meena works for a company, and when her boss asks her to write a personal ad for him to find the perfect bride, she becomes jealous and realizes she’s in love with him.

The only interesting thing about this book is that it is about 2nd and 3rd generation Indian families in the United States, so you get to learn about cultural aspects that are still ingrained in society. Also, there is a struggle between the American way and the traditional Indian ways for marriage. Which will win out?

Give it a miss. Just guess what will happen and you are right.

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June 26, 2016
An Available ManAn Available Man by Hilma Wolitzer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a wonderful, heart-warming, feel-good story, that I would recommend to anyone to pick up for a summer read.

Edward is 62 and his wife has just died of cancer. He’s sad and he’s lonely. Eventually, his step-children decide that he needs to start dating again, so they put an ad out for him. Edward begins his foray into the dating world in his 60s, and it’s not quite the same as when he was in his 20s. He goes on a series of dates, trying to find his way through dating again, and missing his wife.

This is a lovely story about friendship, and what family means and who your family is. It’s also about how people can surprise us, and how some can never change.

I highly recommend this heartwarming story.

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June 21, 2016
The Miramichi Axe MurderThe Miramichi Axe Murder by Sandra Mitchell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have a fascination for true crime stories, especially for those that happen locally. The Miramichi Axe Murderer is no exception.
Because we are going to the Miramichi for our summer holiday, I thought I had better read this book!

The story is an in depth look at the murder of Nicholas Duguay in 1979 in Chatham, NB. The murder was bloody and gruesome, and at the time, the only one near the body was an 18-year old boy named Robbie Cunningham. Robbie had a reputation for being involved with the law, but never anything so violent.
The only trouble was that Robbie was so drunk and stoned at the time that he had absolutely no memory of the events. The defense tries to put a case to prove his innocence, however, a week after the murder, the house is burnt down, and all evidence is lost. Only a few photos of the crime scene remain.
Is Robbie the killer, or is it actually serial killer Allan Legere, his cousin, who a few later committed a serious of brutal killings in the same area? No one is talking, and no one is listening.

Sandra Mitchell takes you on an in depth journey of behind the scenes and all the evidence and statements to try to piece together what really happened.
My only suggestion is that I would have preferred to know some more about key figures who were mentioned (like Legere and Donald Marshall) who I sort of remember hearing about in my youth, but can’t completely remember. I would have liked those details as a refresher.
Overall, interesting, in depth read!

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June 17, 2016
The Piano MakerThe Piano Maker by Kurt Palka
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Piano Maker is a story that takes place on the French Shore of Nova Scotia – or a lot of it does.

The story actually begins in France with Helene Giroux who is the daughter of a piano maker right before WWI. Because of her contacts, and because of the war, she ends up traveling the world, meeting several men, including a man named Nathan.

The book flips back and forth between her time traveling and present day when she is a music director for a church on the French Shore. Ultimately, you find out that Nathan has been murdered and now, Helene is being charged. How did it get to this point, and what will the verdict be?

Each of these stories in themselves would be really interesting. Her travels, the husband in Asia, a boyfriend in the war in Canada, and the murder scene and trial. However, they are all just really touched on every so slightly before the plot moves on. I would have liked to have read just more about the murder and the ordeal of that, without all the other background stories.
I also found it confusing when it flipped back and forth, to know what time period I was in.

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June 11, 2016
Northanger AbbyNorthanger Abby by Jane Austen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There’s nothing like reading an old classic.
I have read Northanger Abby before, but it had been years. So, once we decided to read it for book club, it was like reading the book for the first time.

Northanger Abby could really be told in about a page. However, in the beautiful writing style of Jane Austen, it is told in about 200x that! The language is exquisite and every sentence carefully crafted.

The story is simple. Catherine Morland goes with family friends to Bath and meets so friends, there are miscommunications and misunderstandings, she falls and loves and gets married.
But, through this tale, we learn of social norms and rules, we learn of society and we learn of life in England in the 1800s.

A delightful read. Maybe not the best of Jane Austen’s books, but I still enjoyed reading it again!

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June 4, 2016
The Third SecretThe Third Secret by Steve Berry
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Third Secret is about a series of secret visions and messages from the Virgin Mary to a series of people around the world.
These secrets have been kept private, hidden in a vault at the Vatican, because their message would be too powerful and change the world too much.
Then, a series of events happen when the current Pope dies, and the newly appointed Pope will do anything to destroy these secrets.
Michener must travel the world to find the sources of these messages to learn what is really happening to protect the church.

This book is a bit like a Dan Brown Angels and Demons, but, not as exciting. Michener (a priest) runs into his former girlfriend who was hired to spy on him, and yet that is ok, and worth leaving the church for. The secrets just justify his entire life.
Big deal.

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The MementoThe Memento by Christy Ann Conlin

Before The Memento was launched, Christy Ann and I had talked quite a bit about the writing process, and where some of the ideas had come from. I couldn’t wait to see them in print. I wasn’t disappointed!

I love reading books that take place in the area because you can perfectly imagine the scene. You can picture the Bay of Fundy shoreline and know how remote areas on the North Mountain can be. It’s the perfect setting for a novel. Especially a scary one.

Throughout The Memento you are left wondering what is real, or what in the past haunting the characters. I loved the interwoven ghost stories (especially the one from Japan as I used to live there!) and not knowing which character was actually in charge of the story.

Because we are going to be reading the book with our book club, I kept thinking about a lot of discussions I want to have:

1. How much are we a product of our parents? Are we bound to repeat their behaviours? Did any characters break free of their parents’ fate?
2. What happens when we ignore or try to change the past? Are we every fully able to do this? Or, will the past always come back to haunt us?
3. How does the isolated, remote setting of this book influence the story? Could this story have taken any other place?
4. What happens to Melissa?

Read more of my review: https://valleyfamilyfun.ca/memento-chr…

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May 29, 2016
The Lynching of Peter WheelerThe Lynching of Peter Wheeler by Debra Komar
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another incredible story about a murder and the subsequent trial that happened right here in the Annapolis Valley.
In 1896, Peter Wheeler is accused of killing Annie Kempton, a young teen aged girl. As author Debra Komar points out, there is very little evidence, and what they do have is circumstantial and keeps changing as time progresses.

The book is about how it is actually the media that convicts Peter Wheeler. At the time, there was no journalistic integrity and no bylines, so reporters had no need to print the truth – they could print what they saw fit to sell papers and make a good story.

The book is also about the need for one detective in Halifax with an ego so big, he needed to be right, and changed the facts of the case to prove his point.

Although in the end we don’t know who really did kill Annie, readers are pretty convinced it was not Peter Wheeler!

The book is impeccably researched, drawing upon newspapers and other primary sources to convey the story. It is written as an academic account, that outlines the research and theories.
Although so well written, readers can easily get bogged down in the language. I often felt I needed to have Readers’ Digest Ways to Enrich your Word Power beside me, as every page contained new vocabulary words. This really slows down the reading process, and you are left to get the meaning from the context. I would have preferred a bit more of a reader-friendly text, but it won’t stop me from reading another of her books.

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May 7, 2016
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and SweetHotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What a beautiful and sweet story.
Very rarely do I like a romance novel, but this book had me rushing to the end to find out how it all ends!

Set in Washington in the 1940s, this story is about a Chinese boy, Henry, who forms a close friendship with a Japanese girl, Keiko. Both are outsiders in their all-white school. Both feel alienated from their families for being more “American”. They struggle with where they belong and where their loyalty should lie.
This is particularly true when Keiko’s family is uprooted during the Japanese interment in WWII. A terrifyingly sad story, told through the eyes of young teenagers who are discovering love and who they are.

Much like the story of Evangeline and Gabriel, it’s a story of long lost love and friendship and war.

A very enjoyable read.

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April 29, 2016
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and LifeBird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Bird by Bird is a book for people who are thinking about writing their own book.
Anne Lamott gives advice to aspiring readers as to how to start writing, perfect it, and then what it means to get published.

Dispersed amongst the tips are Lamott’s personal stories and anecdotes, so the book is just as much about her life as it is about writing tips.

Because I was reading the book for writing tips, I found that I really had to slog through the text to find the nugget of information. I found myself skimming and skipping pragraphs to get to the “point” on the chapter.

If you are looking for a good book for writing advice, I would recommend Stephen King’s On Writing and give this one a miss. I didn’t learn anything new here.

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April 25, 2016
The Prison Book ClubThe Prison Book Club by Ann Walmsley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I loved that this book is a true story about two women who set up and run book clubs for men in Canadian prisons.

Through the book, readers get a first-hand glance at the book clubs in prison that have helped to change the lives of so many men. It is the ultimate lesson in literally not judging a book by its cover.

The book goes through a year in the life of several book clubs where you meet the prisoners and hear their opinions on each of the books they read during the year.

What I liked about the book:
– It’s a true story
– It’s right here in Canada
– It gives you a human side to those men in prison and their rehabilitation, and just how much reading and literature can make a difference in people’s lives
– The book has also inspired me to look at my province to see if there are any book clubs and to see if our book club might be able to help

What I didn’t like about the book
– The book was written a bit like a journal, or a transcript of the sessions. There should have been some editing as not all the details are important, and at that level. I found myself really skimming the book, but really paying attention when the author talks about the prisoner’s lives and how the book club affected them. Not so much their opinion on every part of every book.
– I would have liked a character list. Who is each prisoner and what is their crime? It’s hard to keep them all straight, and they are really interesting person.

Although I didn’t love the writing in the book, I did really like it and am glad I read it. I learned so much and looked at prisoners in a whole new way!

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April 17, 2016
The Ballad of Jacob PeckThe Ballad of Jacob Peck by Debra Komar
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I love true crime stories.
I have historical novels.

Put them together, and you have the ultimate recipe!

Debra Komar, a forensic anthropologist has a series of books where she looks into historical crimes to discover what really happened.

This story, the Ballad of Jacob Peck, takes place in New Brunswick in 1904. Jacob Peck, a self-proclaimed preacher comes to the small town near Shediac and begins holding revival meetings. Amos Babcok becomes under his spell, and after hearing what he thinks is a message from God, he kills his own sister.
The book delves into the events that led up to this event, and the subsequent investigation and court cases. It also gives you a background on each of the “supporting” characters.

I found this book really interesting, to find out how justice was carried out over 250 years ago, so close to home.
The book is written somewhat like a text book. There is some analysis with endnotes giving sources.
However, it is also somewhat written like a story where you are following the events, as if written like a novel.
It is indeed a combination of the two styles.
The language and vocabulary is quite academic, so is not your lay reader crime story.
None-the-less, I really enjoyed this book and will definitely read a few more of her books!

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April 11, 2016
On Writing: A Memoir of the CraftOn Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a great and informative book!
This book was recommended to me to read if I were ever interested in writing a book of my own. Actually, it was also recommended to me by people who had no interest in writing, and just thought it was a great and funny book.

As someone described it, it is like sitting down and having a cup of coffee and chatting with Stephen King.

Even if you are not a Stephen King fan (I have only read 2 of his books!) this book is immensely enjoyable. As a writer, I got so many great tips and insightful advice to help make me writing stronger. But, I also got a strong sense of who Stephen King is and where some of his stories had come from and the process he went through to become an author.

This is a book that I would like to buy, highlight, tab and refer to a lot.
Loved every word of it!

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March 26, 2016
The Pearl That Broke Its ShellThe Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a riveting novel.
The Pearl That Broke its Shell is a story of two women in Afghanistan. Shekiba lives around the turn of the century, while her great-granddaughter, Rahima, lives in modern day times.

Although separated by 100 years, is there much difference in the treatment of women? Nothing much seems to be different, yet, through it all, both these women are forced to find their own path for survival. Each woman has spent time in roles dressed as men that adds to their confidence and ultimately their survival.

This is a great book to learn more about the Afghanistan culture and the plight of women.
I highly recommend it!

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March 13, 2016
My Brilliant Friend (The Neapolitan Novels, #1)My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am really glad I read this book, especially as I learned a lot about Italian culture.

My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante is an English translation of trilogy about friends Lila and Elena who are growing up in Naples in the 1950s.
I don’t normally like books that are a snapshot or a slice of someone’s life, but somehow I was drawn hook, line and sinker into the lives of Elena and Lila and their friends and neighbourhood.

Lila is the friend that seems to dominate everything and everyone. Life seems to revolve around her, although I’m not sure that she realizes this. Everyone defers to her opinion, and watches to see what she will do next. In a sense, she is the “brilliant” friend as she sparkles and shines; however, Elena is also the “brilliant” friend as she excels in school while most others have dropped out to work in their family’s businesses.

Lila and Elena are an unlikely match of friends, and many times I just want to shout to Elena to focus on her own life and not Lila’s, but it’s easy to get wrapped up in other’s lives and drama.

It is a story about friendship, honour, loyalty, brilliance and not forgetting who you are when being friends with someone else.

I did enjoy the Italian culture, and learning about dialects and codes of honours. I did not like that the book was very dense. Almost every page is a paragraph, making it impossible to read quickly. If you have time, sit down over a few months and read this book slowly with a cup of coffee by the fire.

I am undecided if I will read the next 2 books in the series, but probably will as the characters are weighing on my mind and I want to know what happens to them!

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March 3, 2016
The Girl Who Saved the King of SwedenThe Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was a really interesting read, along the same style as the author’s first novel – The 100 Year Old Many Who Jumped out the Window and Disappeared.

In the Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden, is about Nombeko, a brilliant South African girl who grows up in the slums of South Africa and ends up following an atomic bomb to Sweden where she tries to prevent two anarchists from getting it to use against the King!

The book is chock full of historical and political information that is woven into the story in great detail. If you already have a foundation or an interest in this, it will be a great read. I did find this really interesting, but also heavy to absorb, and it was not a book that I could read quickly. It was so dense – but in a good way.

I found this book to have a similar plot line as the 100 Year Old Man. People are running from the authorities with bad guys chasing them. Instead of an elephant, it’s the atomic bomb. The books had extremely similar feels to them.

If you enjoyed the 100 Year Old Man, you will enjoy this book, too. Just don’t read them too close together, or take it for a quick read.

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March 3, 2016
The Daring Ladies of LowellThe Daring Ladies of Lowell by Kate Alcott
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book is not at all what I thought it would be about.

When picking up this book to listen to, I thought it would be a historical fiction about a mill girl in New England who was murdered, and then her subsequent trial. This part is a true story, and it really interested me.

However, the Daring Ladies of Lowell ended up being a love story about the mill owner’s son who was “slumming it” by falling in love with one of the mill girls – the protagonist, Alice. This relationship was unbelievable, Alice was not daring, and in fact, I found her annoying. I’m not sure if this was the voice that was reading me the story, and if I would have felt the same way had I read it.

Give me a good historical murder plot over a smarmy love story any day.

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February 14, 2016
WaitingWaiting by Ha Jin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love books about Chinese culture, and this book is no exception.

Waiting is a book about… waiting.
Lin Kong is a married man living in a city in China in the 1960s. His wife Shuyu lives in the
countryside looking after his daughter and his parents.
However, in the city, he forms a close relationship with Manna Wu who he promises to marry once he divorces his wife.
He is released once a year from his job as a doctor in the military to go home and ask his wife for this divorce.

Through this process, the reader learns so much about Chinese culture and the rules around marriage and family life.

We also learn about what it is to wait. Wait for a loved one. Waiting for justice. Waiting for better health, or death, and waiting for what we really want.
However, after all of this waiting, is it what we indeed wanted in the end? How do we ever know?

Waiting is a raw, human look at Lin Kong’s life and human frailty and what it means to have so many people waiting on you.

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February 8, 2016

Courting Trouble (Rosato & Associates, #7)Courting Trouble by Lisa Scottoline
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book read like it was written by a girl in grade 8.

In Courting Trouble, Anne is a lawyer. One day, the newspaper headlines read that she has been found murdered. The actual person murdered just looked like her (how convenient) and the police hadn’t gotten around to do any legitimate identification (doubly convenient). Then, it turns out that her ex boyfriend has escaped from prison (seriously) and he might be after her.

It’s one contrived plot device after another with nothing compelling, plausible or original.
It’s light and fluffy, and a quick read. Those are the good points.

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February 4, 2016
Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and AlcoholDrink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol by Ann Dowsett Johnston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Drink is a beautifully written book that looks at the relationship that women have with alcohol.

Written by a journalist, the writing is clear, concise an well researched. The book combines the author’s personal story of alcoholism with interviews with other women along with research. Because Johnston is Canadian, she does a great job of telling the Canadian story along with the American and world-wide perspective.

Drink looks at marketing of alcohol to women, how alcoholism is now more prevalent in women, and besides health – just what is destroyed by drink. This is an up-close and personal account, yet balanced by the research.

I really enjoyed reading this book, and think it would be great for anyone who has a female family member who is suffering from alcoholism to read to gain a further understanding of the disease.

A few years ago, I had the great pleasure of hearing Johnston speak at the local university, so I knew the premise of the book and couldn’t wait to read it. I’m glad I finally did, and look forward to discussing it with our book club!

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January 29, 2016
Her Inheritance Forever (Texas: Star of Destiny, Book 2)Her Inheritance Forever by Lyn Cote
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book did nothing to keep my attention.
In fact, I would call it a trashy romance novel. Without the sex scenes. Because, technically, it’s classified as Christian Lit.

Her Inheritance Forever is about Alandra, a woman in Texas in the 1830s who owns her own ranch. The ranch is threatened by cousins who claim it is actually their property. However, bigger problems arise as the Mexican army from the south march forward to claim the land.

I kept reading this book in hopes that I would learn something about the war and political situation of the time in that region.
I found myself skimming the pages looking for content to grasp on to, or not remembering anything I read. I gave up with only 40 pages to go. I just couldn’t do it.

Part of a trilogy? No thanks.

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January 24, 2016
The MiniaturistThe Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We all have secrets that are kept insides us like little compartments or rooms of a doll house. Sometimes it takes someone from the outside to show us what is happening on the inside.

The Miniaturist is one of those books that I really couldn’t tell how I felt about it. It was one of the most unique and interesting plots that I had read in a long time.

The Miniaturist is about a young woman named Nella who is living in Holland in the 1600s. She is married off to Johannes, a wealthy merchant. By coming in to the house, she is entering a world of secrets.

Along with the secrets comes a world of greed, self-interest and the willingness to do anything to get ahead.

Overarching the whole story is that of the miniaturist. This is a person who was originally contracted by Nella to build tiny furniture for the dollhouse given to her as a wedding present by her husband. However, Nella gets more than she’s commissioned. Is the miniaturist able to predict the future? Her creations seem to suggest that she can!

A very interesting read that could really be set in any time period.

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The Price They Paid: Enduring Wounds of WarThe Price They Paid: Enduring Wounds of War by Michael Putzel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I seriously loved this book.

I need to preface this by saying I know nothing about the military. I know nothing about the Vietnam war.
So, how can I love a book that is all about American soldiers in the Vietnam war?
he Price They Paid is written by journalist Michael Putzel, so the research and writing style are superb. The book draws you in hook line and sinker – into the lives of these helicopter pilots and airmen.

Most of the chapters detail a different helicopter mission in Vietnam, mostly under the command of Jim Newman.

Although the book includes a lot of characters and military lingo, it made no difference to understanding the story. Although I couldn’t always get the finer details of these missions, nor could I always remember all the soldiers, it did not matter. The stories were of brave, heroic men in terrible times.

The Price They Paid speaks to the missions, the numerous times that they risked their lives to head back into fighting zones to rescue their friends. It is just as much a story of war as it is of friendship.

Read my full review here: https://valleyfamilyfun.ca/the-price-t…

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January 19, 206
The Killing Kind (Charlie Parker, #3)The Killing Kind by John Connolly
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was so creepy, it was almost like a horror movie!
There were moments where I was legitimately scared!

In The Killing Kind, John Connolly, private investigator, is hired to look into the murder of Grace Peltier. It turns out that Grace was digging into an extreme religious cult group that disappeared 40 years earlier. She also may have taken one of their relics, and they are not happy!

Gruesome, lots of death and many spiders are involved – so not for the feint of heart!
But, an interesting murder mystery, nonetheless.

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January 12, 2016
The Light Between OceansThe Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was incredible difficult to read.
Not because of the writing (which was great) but because of the subject matter.
I did not like reading this book because of the way it made me feel – I felt angry most of the time reading it.
The only other book that made me feel this way was the Dinner by Herman Koch.

The Light Between Oceans is about Tom and Izzy who are lighthouse keepers on an island off the coast of Australia. One night, a dead body washes ashore in a boat with a live baby. Having miscarried so many times and desperate for a baby, Izzy convinces Tom to keep the baby. They will forever be haunted by this decision.

I loved the male characters in this book, which was a great surprise. But, I hated the subject matter, and found myself reading quickly to make sure there was a satisfactory ending.
There was.

I would not recommend reading this book unless you enjoy feeling really uneasy while reading!

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January 2, 2016
The Casual VacancyThe Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The way I describe this book is similar to a Maeve Binchy book.
It is about the life of a small town and all the people who live in it. All of their lives intersect.
However, the difference is, with Binchy, it is a lovely story with quirky, funny, nice people, where with The Casual Vacancy – everyone is miserable!

The Casual Vacancy is about a small town in England. One of the town Councillor members suddenly dies, leaving an opening. Several people are vying for that position, and in the run up to the election, the worst in everyone comes out.

Everyone hates everyone else. No one is happy. Everyone is at war.

Especially when it comes to the issue of what to do with the high level of poverty on the outskirts of town. Whose issue is that?

Rowling’s beautiful writing does pull you into the characters’ lives, and makes you wonder how much of this is based upon her own upbringing.
It goes to show you that the issues of the middle class are equatable to the poverty stricken, and sometimes it takes a tragedy to make us stop and take notice others around us, and what they might be going through.

Although a miserable and depressing read, I am glad I read it. However, I am not sure that I would recommend it to others.

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December 26, 2015
Cutting for Stone Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If I had to recommend one book to everyone, this would be on my MUST READ list!

Cutting for Stone is a book that I had been meaning to read forever, and am so glad I finally got around to – and didn’t let the length get in the way (657pages!)

Cutting for Stone is an incredible story of family, friendship, forgiveness and finding the greatness in your life.
It is the story of twin boys Marion and Shiva who are born to an Indian Catholic Nun in a hospital in Ethiopia. How did they get here? What led to their birth? What happens afterwards?

This story is full of characters you will still think about long after you have finished reading. Through it, you learn so much about Ethiopian history and culture, and the world of medicine.

Please treat yourself to this book!

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December 12, 2015
A Christmas PromiseA Christmas Promise by Mary Balogh
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I am honestly not a reader of trashy romance novels. Really.
However, I was in the mood for something light and fluffy, and this book was on my shelf.

Christmas Promise is a typical formulaic novel about a woman who is forced by her father to marry an earl. She is the daughter of a wealthy working class man who has promised to pay the debts of the earl if he marries her. What starts as a tumultuous forced marriage develops over the course of the novel.

What was great and different about this book is that it is actually the male character who is kind, generous and likable, while the female is more difficult to like.

Need some Christmas mindless fluff? Why not.

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December 2, 2015
Too Close to HomeToo Close to Home by Linwood Barclay
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book is a thrilling, but is completely unthrilling.

Too Close to Home is a book that stars with a family in a small town being murdered. One of the neighbourhood teenaged boys is actually in the house, hiding, at the time when it happens. The story follows the crime investigation, told by the teen’s father. However, in most cases, he thinks he’s smarter than the police and tries to solve it himself.

However, what this book is really about is a dysfunctional town where everyone is horrible. People who have slept with under aged prostitutes, married women sleeping with teen aged boys, liars, plagiarizers, crooks, and that is just the surface.

The Cutter family, who are the protagonists in the story are awful and despicable people. I didn’t care what happened to them as they were liars, cheats, self-centred people.

The only good thing is that this 500 paged book was incredibly fast to read, as I skimmed over most of it.

There are a lot of better thrillers out there.

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November 29, 2015
Red PoppiesRed Poppies by Alai
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have always had a fascination for Chinese and Asian history, so when I found this audio book in the library, I couldn’t wait to listen to it. I wasn’t sure what I was getting into, but I am so glad I took the chance!

Red Poppies is about a clan in Tibet under the rule of Chieftain Maiqi. He has two sons, the second of which is the narrator. He is known as an idiot, although today, I am sure he would be called autistic.

The book goes through the life in the clan in the 1930s during a time where poppy fields are on the increase and family revenge is still sought. The novel follows the life of the second son as he grows, matures, and proves himself as a great leader, and not so much an idiot.

It is a beautiful story, right on the cusp of culture changing when the Red Army and communism was on the rise. It is the family trying to hold on to traditional life in a changing world.

It was great to listen to so I didn’t have to worry about pronunciation.

To learn more about Chinese culture, have a listen!

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November 24, 2015
Too Close to the FallsToo Close to the Falls by Catherine Gildiner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Normally, I am not a fan of autobiographical stories about people’s childhood, but this book had me hooked.
Written beautifully, Too Close to the Falls, are stories from Catherine Gildiner’s childhood growing up in the 1950s on the American side of Niagara Falls. Perhaps the geography makes it feel like a Canadian story!

Through the book, you begin to understand the author’s eccentric childhood. She grew up working at her father’s drugstore from the age of 4, never had a home-cooked meal (her family ate every meal in a restaurant) and the guilt instilled by going to a Catholic school. There are so many delightful characters from the nuns and priests at the school to her constant companion, Joe, who worked for her father, and in many ways, was more of a father figure to her.

If you are looking for a nice, story, with lots of smiles, cuddle up in front of the fire with this one.

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November 21, 2015
The Color PurpleThe Color Purple by Alice Walker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have read this book three times and enjoy it each time, and somehow never remember what happens!
The last time I read it was 20 years ago in English Lit class in university, so luckily, I had lots of things underlined. However, I wish I still had my notes, so I could remember all the deeper meanings and analogies in the book!

The Color Purple is about a woman named Celie, in the deep south. Slavery is no longer legal, but somehow, she is still enslaved to her husband, children and her step-father. In the book, she meets a singer/performer named Shug who is larger than life. Through love Shug teaches Celie how to love herself and how to stand up for herself. The book is also about stopping and looking at the world beyond ourselves to notice the color purple, and what happens around us.

It’s a beautiful story, and a quick read. Then, of course, watch the movie!

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November 12, 2015
When Bad Things Happen to Good PeopleWhen Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold S. Kushner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think this is a must read for everyone – everyone wondering about religion, anyone with Faith, or those without. It’s a great book, written simply, that has a beautiful explanation of why bad things happen to good people.

The book is about creating a community for those in need and having the strength to go forward another day, especially in the face of tragedy.

I loved this book and wanted to highlight so many passages – except I had a copy from the library!

This is a great, feel-good and thought-provoking book that I hope to read again and again.

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November 6, 2015
Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Near-Death Experience and Journey into the AfterlifeProof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Near-Death Experience and Journey into the Afterlife by Eben Alexander
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Proof of Heaven is about a man who nearly dies because of an infection and lies in a coma for 7 days while his family and the doctors are sure that he won’t make it out alive.

While in a coma, Alexander, experiences a Near Death Experience where he reports to have gone to another realm – heaven.

Proof of Heaven is written by the author about his own experiences. Because he is a neurosurgeon, this adds extra clout to his story.

The author does a great job telling his story and mixing science, medical terminology and explanations for the lay person.

Since the book has been published, there has been a lot of question as to whether or not Alexander’s story is real, what parts he embellished with artistic license. Another questioned that proof of a hallucination is not proof of heaven.

One is left to wonder at the arrogance of being “God’s chosen messenger”.
Despite the criticism and controversy surrounding this book, the experience is real to Alexander. It helps shape his future life and faith. In the end, isn’t that all that really matters?

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October 29, 2015
The Invention of WingsThe Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a powerful and moving story that I highly recommend!

I could not stop listening to this audio story. Through Sue Monk Kidd’s story, I felt I got to intensely know the characters and could perfectly imagine them in their setting.

The Invention of Wings is about Sarah and Angelina Grimkey – two historical characters – and their lives growing up in Charleston during the time of slavery.

The story is also about Handful who was given to Sarah as a slave on her 11th birthday.

The novel follows the lives of these two women through childhood through to adulthood. It follows Sarah and Angelina’s plight as abolitionists, and Handful’s wish for freedom. It is about how we all create our own history and find the courage to do what we need to do to take flight in the world.

This is a beautiful story that will stay with you long after you have finished reading it.

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October 22, 2015
The Silent MenThe Silent Men by Richard Dickinson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Silent Men is a book about snipers in the Vietnam war.

In a sense, I felt, when reading the book, I was like a soldier wading slowly through thick water, my pack above my head, trying not to get my equipment wet.

Well, in this case, I was wading through all the military lingo and war jargon.

There was a list of acronyms at the back of the book, but the book was so thick of things I didn’t understand that I kept reading to grasp onto the plot.

And I found it. Despite the military parts that I couldn’t really understand, I really enjoyed the plot of this book and how snipers were out for each other, or helping each other during the war. You really got a sense of what it was like to be a sniper in the think jungle!

Had I understood (or been more interested) the military part of the book, I am sure I would have rated it much higher.

A great take on an aspect of the Vietnam war!

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October 18, 2015
QuentinsQuentins by Maeve Binchy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another lovely Maeve Binchy story.

This time, the story is set around a restaurant called Quentins in Dublin. The book flips through the lives of various characters who are either working at the restaurant or who are customers. Binchy also does a great job of bringing back some characters from some of her other stories (if you haven’t read them, you’ll be fine, but if you have, you’ll appreciate the references!)

The overall arching story is about Ella who finds herself involved with Don, a married man who may or may not be all that he says.

This is a story of love, friendship, honesty and community.

Maeve Binchy does it again.

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October 1, 2015 The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. (Josephine Bonaparte, #1)

The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. by Sandra Gulland
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I started reading this book, I really realized that I knew absolutely nothing about who we know today at Josephine Bonaparte.

In that regard, this book was very enlightening.

Starting with her life as a young child, when our heroine was known as Rose, the book chronicles her life in the Caribbean to Paris.

The book is written as diary entries. As a result, there is not much room for description or really describing people. I got very lost with so many characters, especially those who were involved with the war. I couldn’t tell who were maids and who were friends. Everyone was mentioned in passing. There was a family tree at the back, yet, I would have appreciated a list of characters as well.

The book ends just as she meets Napoleon, so you are left wanting to read the next book in the trilogy to find out what happens next.
However, I think I will give it a miss and just read Wikipedia.

The book was well written, extremely well researched, and interesting. I loved the footnotes explaining actual tidbits in history.
But, I was too bogged down in so many characters that I didn’t completely understand.

Overall, I am glad I read this book and learned a bit more about French history.

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September 27, 2015 The Prodigal Daughter

The Prodigal Daughter by Jeffrey Archer
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I found this book boring and predictable.
I usually really like Jeffrey Archer’s storytelling, so it was a surprise to me that I didn’t like this book.

In this book, Floratyna dreams as a young girl about becoming president of the United States. The book is about her journey through life and her political career.

I did listen to an abridged audio version of this book, so that could have been part of my problem. I found the book lacking any emotion, and it was just detail after detail.

I found that the book was too predictable. It read like a Romeo and Juliet story, followed by a rich girl whose life goes perfectly according to plan and everything works out perfectly for her.

The book was too pro-American politics, too perfect and too predictable for my tastes.

Try another Jeffrey Archer book!

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September 23, 2015

Got Social Mediology?: Using Psychology to Master Social Media for Your Business without Spending a DimeGot Social Mediology?: Using Psychology to Master Social Media for Your Business without Spending a Dime by Jay Izso
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The world of social media can be daunting. Especially for those who have not yet delved into it.
It’s big. It’s scary. And, it’s very powerful and very necessary for businesses.

Did you know that the same part of the brain light up when people use social media as when they have sex?

No wonder people are addicted to social media!

In his book Got Social Mediology? author Jay Izso, also known as the Internet Doctor, delves into the world of social media. In it, he uses psychology to master social media for businesses without spending a dime.
What is social mediology?

Izso describes it as the study of social media from the perspective of psychology.

Do I really need to be on social media?
What is the best way to create business through social media?
Which form of social media is best for my business?
What should I post? When should I post it?

These are all topics and questions covered in Got Social Mediology.
Book Layout

Got Social Mediology? Is laid out in clear chapters – each one focusing on a different form of social media including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest and YouTube. Other chapters focus on the Return of Investment of social media and social media myths.

Each chapter is well laid out with a summary at the end, text boxes of things to try, and highlighted information.
You can skip to the chapters that interest you, or, do as I did, and read the entire book with a pencil in hand to underline the key points that you will want to remember.
What I learned

I consider myself to be well versed in social media. I am on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.
Even though I frequently use these social media platforms, and have taken a few workshops on how to effectively use them, I still learned a lot from this book.

As I was reading the sections, I found myself sitting at my computer making changes to my various accounts based on the suggestions in the book. I updated my headline in LinkedIn, changed some settings on Pinterest, and started tracking when and how much I use Facebook.

Izso does a great job of explaining the different social media platforms, and the best way to communicate on each one – whether it is professionally on LinkedIn or like a friend on Facebook.

Read my full review: https://valleyfamilyfun.ca/blog/got-so…

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September 21, 2015 Harbor Nocturne

Harbor Nocturne by Joseph Wambaugh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a really great police detective story.
Rather than Harbor Nocturne being about one crime that the police are trying to figure out, it’s more about life in a Hollywood police station.
You get to know the various police officers – their quirks, the quirky cases they encounter, and about life in Hollywood.

Over arching the whole book is a story about strip clubs, illegal immigrants, murder, and a man obsessed with amputees.

I really enjoyed listening to this story because you really get to know the characters – not just the good ones, but the bad ones as well.

The person reading the story is also incredible. There are a lot of characters from many different countries, and the reader can do them all.

I really enjoyed this story and would definitely pick up other ones in the series!

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Miss EmilyMiss Emily by Nuala O’Connor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I must admit that I know very little about Emily Dickinson, nor do I remember studying her poems in school. Because of my lack of knowledge, I was very interested in reading Miss Emily by Nuala O’Connor.

Miss Emily is a fictional story about Emily Dickinson and her relationship with her maid, Ada. Although Ada is a fictitious character, the story is based on true facts about Emily Dickinson and some of her hired help.

Miss Emily goes back and forth, chapter by chapter, between a narrative from Ada, followed by one by Emily Dickinson. The author does a wonderful job of creating two different voices – short and quippy is Ada the maid, while Emily’s chapters are more eloquent and full of descriptions.

Each of these narratives are very short making this 200 paged book very quick to read.

Miss Emily is like a snapshot in the life of the Dickinson household where everyone is going about their daily routines and tasks. Ada falls in love with Daniel Bryne, but later gets into some trouble, from which Emily is forced from her seclusion to help her.

It is a story of loneliness, secrets, acceptance, and finding friendship in unlikely places.

Miss Emily is also a lot about baking. Apparently, Emily Dickinson was a great baker, and it is, she and Ada are always making the most wonderful cakes and pastries – many of which are from Ireland.
To get the recipe for Irish soda bread, visit: https://valleyfamilyfun.ca/index.php/b…

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September 12, 2015

Empire of Deception: The Incredible Story of a Master Swindler Who Seduced a City and Captivated the NationEmpire of Deception: The Incredible Story of a Master Swindler Who Seduced a City and Captivated the Nation by Dean Jobb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book needs to be made into a movie!

I first heard about Empire of Deception when I read a review of it in our local paper as the story has ties to Nova Scotia. When I read the description, I knew I had to read the book!

Empire of Deception is about a man name Leo Koretz from Chicago in the 1920s. Over a period of 20 years, Leo creates a scheme where friends, family members and associates invest over $2 million with him for stocks in rice fields in the mid west, and then land/oil in Panama. Using the new investor’s money to pay the dividends to the other investors, Leo creates a million dollar fraud scheme. With this money, he is able to live the high life until one day it all catches up with him, and he’s discovered hiding out in the Nova Scotia.

Empire of Deception is a true story.

I was worried that the book would read a bit like a history text book or an essay documenting what happened. Or, that it would be a historical fiction based on fact.
It is between these two forms of writing.

Author Dean Jobb does a brilliant job of weaving the plot together like a story using quotes from newspapers and interviews. All the sources are listed at the back, so you are not bogged down as you read. It is wonderfully written, captivating and extremely well researched.

This is such an incredible story that you will not believe it’s true!
If you are looking for a crime story set in the 1920s with women, alcohol, gangsters, detectives and fraud – this is the book for you!

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August 31, 2015

World Without End (The Pillars of the Earth, #2)World Without End by Ken Follett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is such an incredible book!

I have had World Without End on my bookshelf to read for the past several years, not wanting to pick it up because of the thickness of it (1000 pages). This summer, I decided to tackle it. And, it wasn’t even a tackle!

World Without End takes places about a few 100 years after the Pillars of the Earth in the community of Knightbridge. The story focuses on the townspeople and their struggle with daily life, the Church, the plague and much more.

It is a story about good and evil. About serfs versus the nobility. Men versus women. Doctors versus healers. It’s about power struggles and greed, and how clergy can be just as evil as nobility if they see there is something in it for themselves! It is live in the 1300s in Medieval England.

You do not need to have read Pillars of the Earth to understand and enjoy World Without End. Although there is some reference to the first book, it does not influence the plot. But, both books are equally as worthy to read.

Although 1000 pages, this book didn’t take me very long to read. I couldn’t put it down, and thought often of the characters even when not reading the book. It is well written with so many layers and intrigues that I highly recommend it!

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August 29, 2015

In the Blood: A NovelIn the Blood: A Novel by Lisa Unger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a great book!
I listened to the audio version of this story and was hooked right from the beginning.

In the Blood is a book about a college student, Lana Granger, who gets a job babysitting for a troubled youth. Their lives intertwine. There are secrets, and there are lies, and you are never exactly sure what the truth is.

What I loved about the book is that the author allowed you to figure things out. In fact, she assumed that you did figure it out, and so when the truth was revealed, it wasn’t meant to be a shock or a twist, but a confirmation of what you had so wisely figured out.

The book is about mental illness, genetics, redemption, the power of forgiveness and whether or not people can truly change.

This is a great psychological thriller that is worth picking up.

My only complaint about the audio version is that each chapter is a separate track, so it’s hard to pick up and put down without losing your place

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August 4, 2015

LandlineLandline by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I am not a romantic.
I should not read romantic books.

If I hadn’t known this was an adult novel, I would have pegged it as a teenage love story. Which in essence it is.

This is the story of Georgie and Neal who have been married for over a decade, and whose lives are now so completely wrapped up in work and kids that they forgot who they were and why they fell in love the first time.

That is until Neal goes away with the kids for Christmas while Georgie is working. Then, Georgie discovers a phone that allows her to call Neal back in 1998 when they first fell in love. During these conversations, she remembers why they originally falls in love, which in course, changes the outcome of her present marriage.

This book is a super-quick read with lots of dialogue that seems to go in circles without going anywhere. It’s a cute concept and a cutsie love story, but not one that really hit me.
If you want a great story about marriage and wondering how you got from there to here, then read What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty (which I gave 5 stars).

This is a beach read.

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August 2, 2015 Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Where’d you Go, Bernatette is labeled as being “Divinely Funny.”
I found nothing funny about this book. At all.

To be honest, I have no idea what all the fuss is about with this book.

In Where’d You Go, Bernadette, Bernadette, obviously, goes missing. Her 14 year old daughter tries to figure out where she has gone by assembling a series of documents of her mother’s life and the events leading up to her disappearance.

This makes for an interesting first-half of the book, as it is written as a series of emails, documents, reports and articles, rather than a traditional novel.

However, as the book proceeds, which involves a trip to Antartica, I found myself hoping that this selfish, self-centred, insane woman is never found.

The book is left with many unanswered questions and problems not resolved.
Overall, I guess the theme is, we can’t help who we love!

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July 30, 2015

9th Judgement: (Women's Murder Club 9)9th Judgement: by James Patterson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I have to say that this was my least favourite of the James Patterson books. Normally, I am a huge fan, but I found this book to have a lot of extra fluff.

In this book Lindsay Boxer is trying to find a serial killer they have dubbed the lipstick killer. He is killing women and children and leaving messages in lipstick. In a second case, the wife of a famous actor has been found murdered, and this crime is being blamed on a jewel thief the public has dubbed as Hello Kitty.

I found the plot to be very cheezy, too much about the personal lives of the characters (which I didn’t care about) and also found it to be so “American” in their vigilante pro-gun extremes. Cases are wrapped up with a bow, without justice for some, while other parts are very cliche.

This made for an entertaining listen while I was gardening, but wouldn’t want to invest more than that into this story, or probably this series.

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July 26, 2015

ShadowShadow by Jenny Moss
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In this young adult fantasy novel, a girl named Shadow grows up in the castle as the shadow/protector of the queen. When the young queen suddenly dies, Shadow flees with a young knight. They learn that the evil Regent is about to take over the land. Can Shadow and Kenway stop him in time?

Along the journey, Shadow learns the story of who she really is, and the powers that live within her.

Ultimately, the book is about finding peace, doing what is right and honourable, and respecting the land and the people who live on it.

Although an interesting concept, not much happens in the story and it isn’t until nearly the end that you actually find out what the book is about. You kind of need to stick with it.
Besides, I did not like the character Shadow one bit, so felt no desire to “root” for her or wonder what would happen to her.

This book is probably best suited for preteens to early teenagers who enjoy fantasy novels.

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July 21, 2015 The High Road

The High Road by Terry Fallis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The sequel to Best Laid Plans, this is another wonderful novel by Terry Fallis.

Normally, I would not be inclined to pick up a book about politics, but Terry Fallis has created a series of unforgettable characters in Canadian Politics.

In this sequel, Angus McClintock once again is running for leadership of the Liberal party for the Federal government. The book is about his political campaign, his interactions with the characters from the last book, and an introduction to some new ones.

Although about politics, it is extremely well explained in simple terms so that it is not difficult or boring to follow. In fact, it makes you want to take a great interest in our government policies.

This is a delightful book that you will want to take your time reading to absorb. Although not as good as the first book, it is still enjoyable and worth a read!

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July 17, 2015

R Is for RichochetR Is for Richochet by Sue Grafton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really enjoy Sue Grafton’s novels, and have read quite a few of them. This is the first audio story that I have listened to.

In this one, Kinsey finds herself “babysitting” Reba who is just released from prison. Little does she know that she is going to be caught up in a huge money laundering scam, get kidnapped, and maybe find true love.

What I love about Sue Grafton’s books is that they are written in the 1980s when detective work was a lot harder. There was no internet. No cell phones. No computers. There is a lot of hitting the ground running and working hard to chase down a lead. It always makes for a great story.

Can’t wait to read or listen to another!

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ONE OF EVERYTHINGONE OF EVERYTHING by Donna Carol Voss
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One of Everything is an autobiography about Donna Carol Voss’ life, and how she experiences pretty much one of everything – from drugs to sexual partners, religions and more.
Throughout her life journey, the author learns to really love herself and comes to a place of self-acceptance to forgive herself for everything that happened in her life. Not only does she forgive herself, but also her parents and former friends and lovers.

One of Everything is a book about acceptance. It is a book about loving someone – warts and all.

It is also about realizing what makes for a good person. The author writes,
“Good people can have colossal flaws and still be good people.”

See full review: https://valleyfamilyfun.ca/index.php/b…
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July 9, 2015

The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an ExperimentThe Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment by A.J. Jacobs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoy reading books by A.J. Jacobs – and even better, this audiobook was read by the author!
I enjoy his humour and his insight, research, and I always learn something news.

This book is about a series of experiments that Jacobs completed. These are not your typical science experiments, but more experiments of behaviour.

What would it be like to live live by George Washington’s ethical code?
What would it be like to do everything your wife asked of you for a month?
Is it possible to completely unitask or to outsource your life to agents in India?

Jacobs carefully researches each topic and combines his personal experience with each one. You will be left thinking about your own life, and if these changes would affect you as well. I know I am more aware now of doing only one thing at a time!

I highly recommend this novel, especially the audio version!

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July 4, 2015

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold FryThe Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is a delightful story that reads almost like a legend.

In this book, Harold Fry receives a letter from a long-lost friend, Queenie, in which he discovers that she is dying of cancer. He writes her a letter, but instead of mailing it, he, much like Forrest Gump, keeps walking. Harold decides to walk from the Southern tip of England all the way to the North where Queenie now lives.

Throughout the trip, Harold meets many characters and hears the joys of sorrows of those he meets along the way. Through these characters we learn not to judge a book by a cover, and to realize that everyone we meet has his or her own back story. They are carrying around burdens that we will never know about.

During his journey, Harold does a lot of soul searching and thinking about the mistakes in his life and how he got to be where he is today.

It is a delightful story about hope, faith, friendship and realizing it’s not the past we can change, but the future.

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June 30, 2015

Balzac and the Little Chinese SeamstressBalzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a wonderful story about life in China during the Cultural Revolution.
I have read a lot of books from this time period, and they mainly focus on the politics, the hardships, the government, or Mao.

Not Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress.

This story by Dai Sijie is supposed a loose auto-biography about the time during the Cultural Revolution when he and his friend Luo were sent to the countryside to be re-educated by the peasants.
This short novel is actually about their time in the countryside. It is about their antics, their pranks, the interesting people they meet.

More so, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress is about the power of storytelling, and how important it is for a culture. It is also about the importance of education and how being educated really does change you.

This is a fun-loving story that introduces you to some very memorable characters.

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June 29, 2015 The Other Queen

The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I love the way Phillipa Gregory can make a reader fall in love with history and want to learn more.

The Other Queen is from the perspective of Mary Queen of Scots during her time imprisoned by Elizabeth I. In the audio story, there are three actors reading the parts of Queen of Scots, and then her two captors – Bess and George of Shrewsbury. This gives the reader multi perspectives of what happened during this time period.
It is mostly Elizabeth I who gets much of the attention, so it is nice to hear the story of a lesser known and celebrated queen.

Although an abridged version, I do not feel I missed anything of the story.
For lovers of Philippa Gregory, this is a great book to get!

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June 26, 2015 The Atlantis Code (Thomas Lourds, #1)

The Atlantis Code by Charles Brokaw
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is a Dan-Brown type of adventure story where a group of people go off on a historical search.
In this case, it is over 5 musical instruments that are the key to unlocking the Lost City of Atlantis.

The plot moves quickly, is easy to follow, and has some interesting theories and plot ideas involving the Catholic Church.

However, Lourds, the main character is an arrogant know-it-all professor, who is being followed by a stereotypical video gaming camera man, and an even worse stupid and childish tv host. The only redeeming character is Natasha, the Russian police member who is out to revenge her sister’s murder.

Even still, this book would make a pretty exciting movie!

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June 15, 2015

Still MissingStill Missing by Chevy Stevens
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a really interesting story full of many layers of different story lines.
Primarily, Still Missing is about a woman who is abducted and kept prisoner by a man, she refers to as, The Freak, for over a year in a small cabin on Vancouver Island.

The story alternates between her time in the cabin with The Freak with her sessions with her psychiatrist after she escapes.

Although you know that she does escape, you are not sure how, or what happens in between. The author does a great job of keeping you guessing and wondering just what happened.

Still Missing reminded me an awful lot of the book The Room (although that was told from the child’s perspective). I felt emotionally connected to the characters The Room. I did not feel this in Still Missing. I wasn’t attached to Annie. I felt the story to be wooden and disjointed, and passing over major events without much thought or feeling.

There were so many layers and plot twists and the story kept going – all of which I don’t think was necessary. There was just too much in the story without too much feeling.

I did like that this was a Canadian author, and loved the suspense elements.
I am looking forward to discussing this book at book club!

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The Secret Between Us

June 12, 2015

The Secret Between Us by Barbara Delinsky
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Secret Between Us is a book all about, as you can guess, secrets.

The main plot is about Deborah and her daughter Grace. One night, while Grace is driving, they hit a man on the road. Deborah decides to shoulder the blame by saying that she was the driver of the car.
But, can the two of them live with the secret?

Every character in the book conveniently has a secret. Drinking problems, eye sight problems, affairs, pregnancies, and the list goes on.
The idea is how secrets, especially amongst family, can really do us more harm than good. Better out than in!

The book is a bit contrived, trying to ram the “theme” down your throat, while everything wraps up in a neat package with a bow.
How convenient!

Would be an interesting book for book club, as there would be a lot of ethical questions to discuss with the book.

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June 10, 2015 Orphan Train

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have read quite a few books about the orphan train – that is, the train that takes orphaned or disadvantaged children from the streets of New York and ships them to the mid-west to be adopted by families there.

However, this is the best book I have read on the topic.

Orphan Train is about a girl named Niamh who, in 1929, is passed around from several households, as she tries to find a place to belong and to feel safe.
This story flips between Niamh’s story in the 1930s to the modern day to Molly who is a foster kid. Like Niamh, Molly is passed around from house to house, just trying to find out who she is and where she belongs.
A friendship develops between Niamh and Molly – as only two people who have been orphaned can understand each other.

I loved the characters in this book. I loved the friendships and depth of emotion.
I loved everything about this wonderful story.

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Connected to Goodness: Manifest Everything You Desire in Business and LifeConnected to Goodness: Manifest Everything You Desire in Business and Life by David Meltzer
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Connected to Goodness is supposed to be a self-help book with great advice about how to get the most out of your life.

However, it is written by the most stereotypical, hippie Californian who believes that the more vibrating energy we send out the better we will be, and that the more nicely we speak to water, the cleaner it will be.

According to the author, if we are not getting the things in life we want, or are not making enough money, it is because we are not trying hard enough, sending out enough positive vibrations, or meditating enough.

What a load of BS.

There are plenty of people who work extremely hard and still are not rewarded for their efforts, or just can’t seem to get ahead or make ends meet.

The author is an arrogant, rich person who believes his opinions will help everyone to make more money. Well, for him, losing $200,000 is not a big deal, but not everyone is so lucky or connected.

Speaking of being connected… there is no goodness in this book. Although in the title, the author never explains what this goodness is. It certainly is NOT about being a good and charitable person and giving back to the community.
It’s whatever makes you the most money.

I did continue reading it, because it kept getting more ridiculous, and I wanted to see how many times the word manifest was used on a page.

Connected to Goodness is a bunch of mumbo jumbo. Give it a miss, unless you are looking for a good laugh.

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June 7, 2015

The Fault in Our StarsThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just loved this book.
Yes, it is a book about teens who are dying of cancer, but I promise this is not a depressing book.

Listed in the Young Adult genre, this book is equally as appealing to adults.

The Fault in our Stars is about Hazel and Augustus who meet in a cancer support group, and who spend their time (the limited time that they have left) trying to discover who they are and what life is really about. There are philosophical debates about existence, literature, poetry, video games, and more, as they try to figure out life.

It is a touching story with beautiful characters.
I listened to this as an audio book, and it had me hooked on every word, not to mention crying from time to time.

This is a wonderful book that should not be overlooked.

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June 2, 2015 Manhattan Transfer

Manhattan Transfer by John Dos Passos
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

My biggest piece of advice to anyone wanting to try to read this book is start with a pen and paper beside the book. Every time there is a character, write down the name along with a descriptive sentence of who they are.
Otherwise, it’s near impossible to keep track of this book.

There are so many characters, and each section is a short snippet into the character’s life. If you can’t remember who he is, it’s impossible to keep up with the book.
Actually, even knowing who the character is, it is still impossible to keep up with this book.

Manhattan Transfer is a book of snippets or snapshots into life in NYC in the 1920s. However, I kept grasping for a plot, something to hold on to, anything.
I found myself reading pages and having no idea what I was reading or why I was reading it.

As this was a bookclub book, I kept trudging through it, but I have to admit, I gave up half way through. I have no idea how this book became a classic!

Good luck!

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May 29, 2015

The Girl on the TrainThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a great psychological thriller told in the voices of three different women.
The premise is that Rachel, on one of her train rides home from work, witnesses something that could be important in the case of a missing woman.
However, is Rachel’s mental health and personal life stable enough to make her a reliable witness?

The story moves quickly and is compelling to make you want to read more and find out exactly what happened. It is definitely the making of a good movie.

My only complaint was that I didn’t like any of the 3 women characters, and therefore, found it a bit harder to really care what happened about them. However, I still enjoyed the story and am glad that I read it.

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May 22, 2015The Curious Casebook of Inspector Hanshichi: Detective Stories of Old Edo

The Curious Casebook of Inspector Hanshichi: Detective Stories of Old Edo by Kid? Okamoto
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I used to live in Japan, so this book brought back many memories. I am not sure that someone who didn’t have that Japanese connection would fully appreciate or understand the intricacies of this story.

This caesbook needs to be read and appreciated for what it is – old fashioned mystery novels, set in a time before technology, and when people believed in spirits, ghosts and being honourable above anything else.

Written as several short case stories from Detective Hanshichi’s recollection, it tells of many mysteries that happened in Tokyo in the 1860s. The stories are short, simple, and of course the murderer confesses everything in the end – but it just adds to the book’s charm.

Each of the cases is about 25 pages long, and I found I really had to read a full case in one setting, or I would get confused, or mix up the stories. I also read them a bit more slowly because of the foreign words, and the many characters with similar names!

If you have an interest in Japanese culture and history, I would recommend reading this book!

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May 16, 2015

A Secret KeptA Secret Kept by Tatiana de Rosnay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book has a lot of death in it. Yet, somehow it is not depressing.
This book is about a man named Antoine who is in the process of discovering who he is, and what his voice is after having grown up with a domineering, cold father. Antoine’s mother died of a brain aneurism when Antoine was a child, and there has always been an air of mystery around it, and no one in the family will talk about it.

In A Secret Kept, Antoine starts to discover the truth about his past, and is confronted with it through the deaths of various characters, family members, and strangers. Life is put into perspective, somewhat with the help of a woman he meets, appropriately named Angele.

Antoine is a very likable character, and the reader feels herself rooting for him, and his family.
This is a lovely story worth reading.

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May 10, 2015

I Know I Am, But What Are You?I Know I Am, But What Are You? by Samantha Bee
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I’m not very cool, or up on my current shows. I have no idea who actors or TV personalities are. So, I had no idea who Samantha Bee was.
I’m sure if I knew who she was, this book might have been interesting.
In truth, I didn’t finish it. I got about half-way through the book, and realized that although she grew up in Canada, and is roughly the same age, none of her experiences and reminiscences from her childhood were anything that I could relate to, or wanted to know more about.
Anh. Give it a pass!

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May 8, 2015

All the Light We Cannot SeeAll the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

All the Light We Cannot See is a lovely story. It is nearly impossible to explain to someone what is actually about, as there are so many layers. The story is not complicated, but so well-woven and intertwined, that makes it such a fascinating read.

In essence, the story takes place before and during WWII with a blind girl in France, and a German boy. They are tied together by the radio, and linked by a legendary gem.

The novel is a quick read, although over 500 pages. It flips almost page by page between the two characters. Sometimes the chapters are flashes from the future. I found this to be very confusing at the beginning, but it does start to make sense as the book goes on.

I am really looking forward to discussing this book in bookclub, as there are so many intricate layers, and lots of symbolism.
I recommend picking up this thought-provoking book!

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May 7, 2015 Only Time Will Tell

Only Time Will Tell by Jeffrey Archer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Only Time Will Tell is a really engaging story about a boy named Harry Clifton. There are 7 sections in the book, each told from the perspective of a different character, but all around the same activities and the life of Harry.

Harry is a boy growing up in Bristol in the early 1900s. There is an air of mystery surrounding the death of his father, which seems to haunt Harry. The story is also about Harry’s journey through school and the friendships he makes.

This is a really engaging story with very memorable characters. The writing is captivating, and you are left wanting to find out more.

Because this book is the first in a series of 5 books, there is no real conclusion to the story, and the end section is merely a set up for the sequel. I may or may not read the sequels, but I have heard that they are very good as well.
Lovely story, great writing, and fascinating characters!

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April 26, 2015 Beloved

Beloved by Toni Morrison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Beloved is a book about how the past can haunt you if you let it.
“We have more yesterdays than most, so let’s work on a better tomorrow.”

Beloved is about a woman named Sethe who escapes slavery, having sent her three children ahead of her. A tragedy occurs where one of her daughter dies, and then 18 years later, she reappears in the flesh to live with Sethe and her daughter, Denver.

Beloved is also a book of the stories of many slaves who have escaped, and what happened in the aftermath of abolition. It’s a wonderful, slow, detailed story that goes into the lives of each character, letting you know their back story.

There is a lot of symbolism and allusions, that I’m sure I missed, so this would be a great book to discuss in English class or with a book club.
It’s a great take and personal look on the lives of black people post slavery.

This audio book was read by the author, making it all the more enjoyable to listen to.

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April 25, 2015

Into the Darkest CornerInto the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Have you ever read a book that makes your heart pound?
Keeps you awake at night thinking about it? Can’t stop reading and want to read more?
Like psychological thrillers?

This is the book for you!
Recommended to me by a friend, Into the Darkest Corner is a psychological thriller about a woman named Catherine. The book is written in two parallel time periods – four years apart. The stories go on simultaneously and are both about Catherine. It outlines her time in a relationship with a man named Lee. In the earlier time period, you see her getting involved, and in the later time period, you see the repercussions and the PTSD and the OCD that she suffers from. How did she get there? What exactly happened? And, will Lee come back for her?

Not for the faint of heart, this is a wonderfully written book, that will keep you on the edge of your seat!

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April 20, 2015

My Notorious LifeMy Notorious Life by Kate Manning
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My Notorious Life is a really interesting read and looking into life in Victorian times in New York City. The main character, Axie, begins in rags – growing up in poverty, being sent on an orphan train to the mid-west (and later rejected) and returning to NYC where she becomes an apprentice to a female physician, or midwife.

The story is of Axie’s plight to help, whom she calls, women in need, by helping them with their reproductive issues. This could be in trying to get pregnant, or in many cases, an abortion. Axie is later charged and jailed for her “illegal” procedures.

The book is about Axie’s climb from rags to riches. It is also about the love of family, and really realizing who your family actually is. It is about a husband who is loyal and stands by you. It is about family members you never forget.

My Notorious Life is also about the prudish, confining lives that people were expected to live in Victorian times. It makes one wonder how society would have been different if birth control were available!

This book is loosely based on two real characters: Madame Retsell and Anthony Comstock.
To have a look into life at this time, this is a very interesting read!

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Tomorrow Comes: An Emma StoryTomorrow Comes: An Emma Story by Donna Mebane
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Donna Mebane’s daughter unexpectedly died at age 19 in her sleep. Understandably, this was a real shock to the family and community. To help her come to terms with her daughter’s death, Mebane wrote Tomorrow Comes.

The story, which I would categorize as Young Adult, is how each person in the family is coming to terms with Emma’s death. As in interesting addition, it is also about Emma herself coming to terms with having died. In it, Mebane creates her vision and utopia of what life after death is all about, in a secular way. Her thoughts and concepts are really interesting, and of course, we will never know the reality!

And of course, Mebane talks a lot about the messages that Emma is trying to send to her family through birds and music.

If you have had someone close to you die, you may want to check out Tomorrow Comes, to realize you are not alone, and to see how others come to terms with their grief.

Read more of my review here: https://valleyfamilyfun.ca/index.php/b…

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April 14, 2015

The Geographer's LibraryThe Geographer’s Library by Jon Fasman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I have to admit, I could not get through this book.
I really liked the concept and the idea of the plot, but I just couldn’t get into it.
The book was far too wordy, with very little having to do with the actual plot, so I often got lost in the words and realized I had no idea what I had just read.
When the story flips back to history to talk about the ancient artifacts, I couldn’t figure out what time period it was, where they were, or who they were talking about. It was very confusing, and would have appreciated a header on each of the chapters to let me know.

I’m sure it’s a great book if you can get into and understand and follow it!

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April 12, 2015 Nights in Rodanthe

Nights in Rodanthe by Nicholas Sparks
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am not a romantic.
I am a cynic.
This book was obviously not meant for me.

In this book, Adrienne, a divorced mother of 3, meets Paul Flanner over a weekend. He is also divorced and in need of making some changes in his life. The two of them fall in love over those two days, which changes them forever.

Although beautifully written, and captivating, this book had me gagging.
Falling in love after 2 days and refusing to date anyone else afterwards because it was such a perfect relationship? Really?
This book is meant for those with a more romantic side than me!

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April 10, 2015

Big Little LiesBig Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Liane Moriarty has done it again. She has created another book with incredible characters and a plot that will keep you thinking long after the book is finished.

In Big Little Lies someone is dead. However, it takes you to nearly the end to find out who died at the parent school function! The book weaves the story of 3 women together, along with police interviews to keep you on your toes and wondering just who dies and how and why!

This book is about friendship, and how we sometimes get wrapped up in our own lives that we forget our friends have problems of their own. It’s about the lies we tell to ourselves and to others to try to project a certain image, or to try to protect the ones we love.

Big Little Lies is another must read by my now favourite author, Liane Moriarty.

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March 28, 2015

The Mermaid Of ParisThe Mermaid Of Paris by Cary Fagan
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Mermaid of Paris is about an eccentric inventor (Henry) in the 1900s who is married to a bored housewife (Margaret).

Henry works for his father-in-law at his bicycle factory, but would much rather be inventing or looking after his birds. Margaret becomes bored and takes off to Europe with a circus performer. Finding his wife becomes Henry’s new obsession.

To me, the book is about how obsessions can haunt us and get in the way of living life.
A few interesting characters and concepts.

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March 22, 2015

The Lincoln Letter (Peter Fallon, #5)The Lincoln Letter by William Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am Canadian.
I have not studied a lot of American history, so this book about Abraham Lincoln and the American Civil War really fascinated me. It prompted me to do a lot of research on my own to find out who in the book was real, and what else happened at this period in time!

Although it does not say so on the back of the book, The Lincoln Letter is a historical fiction that takes place in the 1860s in Washington. It’s about a man named Halsey Hutchinson who works for the government, and comes to know Lincoln. While in his presence, Lincoln leaves his personal diary by accident. Halsey goes to return it to the President, but it gets stolen before it is returned. Halsey spends the next 4 years trying to relocate the diary and get it back to the President.

If this this was the only story in the book, I would have been equally as happy. I loved these characters and their relationships – and the struggle of the blacks to be free.
However, the book flips back and forth between this time period and modern day where treasure hunter Peter Fallon is looking for this lost diary of Lincoln’s.

It did take me to nearly the end of the book to realize that the hunt for the book in the two time periods were completely parallel. However, the modern day story had far too many characters for me to keep straight of who what on which side, and I felt that Fallon’s intentions were not so noble as Halsey’s!

This is a great historical fiction that made me learn a lot about the time period in American history. I highly recommend this book!

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March 13, 2015 The Time Keeper

The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think I have high expectations now for Mitch Albom, having really loved Tuesdays with Morrie, 5 People you Meet in Heaven and Keeping the Faith.
So, when I read The Time Keeper, I wasn’t as impressed, nor did I find this book as moving, or really “grasp” the moral of this legend.

However, having said that, it is a nice, easy story about a man named Dor who, thousands of years ago, started measuring time, and was therefore banished to a cave as Father Time, for the effects that that action would have on everyone in the future.

People are too caught up in the concept of time. Wanting more time, or wanting less time. We are never satisfied.

Dor is eventually brought to earth to help a teenaged girl named Sarah and an older man, Victor – to help them understand their time on earth.

The Time Keeper makes us think about how we use our time and to cherish every moment.

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March 8, 2015

What Alice ForgotWhat Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Liane Moriarty has done it again. This is another fabulous book (like The Husband’s Secret).

This is a story of Alice, who hits her head at the gym and wakes up having lost her memory of the last ten years. In her mind, she is newly married, and doesn’t yet have her three children. Bit by bit she is reintroduced to the people in her life and has to try to put together who the new Alice is – and does she even like her?

This book will stick with you long after you have finished reading, and make you think and re-evaluate your own life. Would the old you be surprised at who you are today?

What Alice Forgot also makes you look at the big picture and urges you to forget the annoyances of life and focus on the joy. It shows by how obsessing over one idea can really bring you ruin. It also clearly shows how difficult life and marriage are – especially in the early stages of raising a family.
This book has so much that I could identify, and felt that this book was reaching me, and a message I needed to hear.

I highly recommend this book – especially for book clubs!

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February 25, 2015

The God of Small ThingsThe God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

As soon as I saw that this book had read the Booker Prize, I should have put it down.
I read all of this book but probably understood about 75% of what actually happened.

The God of Small Things is about a family in India whose cousin comes to visit them from England. While there, she dies. The entire book is about waiting to find out how she died.

The book is not written in chronological order. It constantly jumps from past to present to future and you are left struggling to catch up to what time period you are in. Then, when you finally get to the future, you can’t remember the details from the past!

The author is trying far too hard to be artistic. The writing is flowery and honestly makes no sense most of the time.

Do not waste your time on this book. If you want a good book about India, read a Fine Balance of the Space Between Us.

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February 16, 2015

The House at RivertonThe House at Riverton by Kate Morton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is a book club must read.
There are so many delicious elements to it, that when you finish it, you will be dying to have someone to discuss it with!

The book is built around an event in 1924 when a young poet, Robbie Hunter, commits suicide on the evening of a society party at Riverton Manor. Present are sisters Hannah and Emmeline Hartford who are forever changed by the event.

House at Riverton floats (easily) between past and present and is told from the perspective of Grace who is a maid at the estate. Now in her 90s, Grace is reliving the past, and revealing the secrets that were hidden along with it.

House at Riverton is about duty and the power and the destructive nature of secrets.
It is a powerful tragedy that will stay with you long after you finish reading it.

I enjoyed this book just as much as Morton’s second novel, The Forgotten Garden (which we did read for book club!)

Do yourself a favour and pick up this book to read — just make sure you share it with a friend so you have someone to discuss it with!

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February 14, 2015

The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the RulesThe Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I know that a lot of people talked to really loved this book. I’m not sure why, but I couldn’t really get into it.
Maybe because I read it in small doses rather than large chunks.
Maybe because I’m about 20 years younger than the main characters.
Maybe because I loved The 100 Year Old Man Who Jumped out the Window and Disappeared so much and I felt that this was riding on the fame of that Swedish book.

Whatever the case, I found my mind wandering while reading it, and getting a bit bored.

The story is a cute one, though. It is about a group of seniors who live together in a nursing home and who long for a more exciting life. This is when they decide to take up a life of crime – to rob from the rich to help the poor, and really, to see if they can do it.
This takes them on many adventures, through a stint in jail, and back again.

It’s a cute story, but wasn’t grasping enough to me. But, I urge you to give it a try to see what you think!

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February 1, 2015

Have a Little Faith: a True StoryHave a Little Faith: a True Story by Mitch Albom
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mitch Albom has done it again.
He has written another thought-provoking and motivating story right up there with Tuesdays with Morrie and 5 People you Meet in Heaven.

Have a Little Faith is the true story of Albom’s visits with his childhood Rabbi who has asked him to perform his eulogy upon his death (which ends up being 8 years later). Interwoven throughout the book is the story of Henry, a Detroit Pastor, who started life as a drug dealer.

The book shows readers the power of faith, hope and forgiveness and the importance not to judge others. Love your neighbour and have some faith.

It’s a lovely story that I highly recommend.

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January 31, 2015

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as PossibleThe Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A.J. Jacobs
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a book that I have been wanting and meaning to read for a long time. I had heard it was a really humourous take on one man’s attempt to live according to every rule in the Bible for one year.

Although the book was entertaining and funny in parts, I got a lot more out of it than that.

The Year of Living Biblically is a day-by-day account of A.J’s quest to learn about the laws contained in the Bible. Each day (or few days) he focuses on a different law and trying to fulfill it. Through this, the author talks about the historical context of the law, and where it might have come from. He looks at the teachings in the Bible from both a Jewish and Christian point of view, and with various denominations and schools of thought under each. It is well researched, and very interesting. I did learn a lot from reading this book.

At first I felt that the book was a mere marketing ploy. “Let’s try something different and make a lot of money.” However, as the book progressed (because it is written like a journal) you could feel the change in the author’s heart and intentions. Even if he didn’t end up becoming completely converted, it has help him (and the readers through him) to strive to be a better person – and there’s nothing wrong with that!

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January 23, 2015 Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry

Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry by Lenore Skenazy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was selected for our book club, and I’m glad, otherwise, I may not have found it.

I do not consider myself a parent who worries. My kids are pretty independent at ages 6 & 8. They walk to their friends houses, they bike the neighbourhood, they bake cookies on their own, and they make their own decisions.

However, I do live in a small rural area. Maybe if I lived in a city I would worry about them more…. but I don’t think so.

Even though I am a parent who doesn’t worry, I still enjoyed this book that was aimed at getting parents to worry less about their children. In fact, it has really motivated me to give them even MORE independence.

The book is informative, with lots of information (with resources listed). It is written in a fun and witty way rather than as a lecture.

This is a great book for nervous parents, and I can’t wait to discuss it with others!

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January 18, 2015

Wideacre (The Wideacre Trilogy, #1)Wideacre by Philippa Gregory
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I only finished this book for 2 reasons.
1. My son bought it for me at his school’s Christmas shopping party.
2. Philippa Gregory is a great author.

Even though this book was despicable, horrible, terrible with evil characters, there was something that compelled me to read all 648 pages.

There are two things that you need to know before reading this book
– There is a lot of incest in the book. I wish I had known that and wasn’t so shocked and grossed out
– There IS justice in the end. I couldn’t have handled it if there had been no wrap-up at the end.

The book is about Beatrice Lacey who lives on the Wideacre estate, unfortunately, during a time when women cannot inherit land. Therefore, she does everything and anything to ensure that she will be the master of the land for centuries to come. This includes murder, plotting, and yes, incest.

Philippa Gregory has so many fabulous historical fictions. Don’t waste your time on this book. Pick up a good one (The Other Boleyn Girl)and you won’t be disappointed.

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January 15, 2015

We Can DoWe Can Do by Moshe Kai Cavilin
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This book mad me mad, annoyed and angry.
I started listening to this book as I thought it might be interesting.

It is the true story about a boy who goes to university around the age of 8. Now, he is offering advice on how you can help your children do the same thing.

First question: Why would you want to?

He outlines the 5-hour day sessions that his parents did with him to home school him as a toddler. No where is there mention of play, fun, love or friends. I would be surprised if he had any. There is more to life than being smart or the best in school.

When the author started talking about how students should only learn the basics (reading, math and science) and not about culture, world views, and opinions, I had to turn off the story.
Can one be serious? That narrow minded?
And, how can we take advice from someone who doesn’t even have kids?

Don’t waste your time. Spend time with your children instead!

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Get Life Right: Ten Minute Reads: Your Companion for Personal Growth, Prosperity and FulfillmentGet Life Right: Ten Minute Reads: Your Companion for Personal Growth, Prosperity and Fulfillment by David A. Dunn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What if knew that you could make simple changes to your life and it would only take 10 minutes?
Would you give it a try?

This is the premise of the book Get Life Right: Ten Minute Reads by David Dunn.

The book’s introduction states:

“This book will show you that you already have everything you need to nail your life. Whether you are polishing up your act or you need a complete makeover, these principles, philosophies and ideas will give you the tools you need to craft your life to its fullest.”

The book is written in several chapters, each with a different theme from relationships to finances and goal setting. Within each section, there are a series of short 10-minute (or less) readings to help you think about the topic. There are guided questions, rooms for notes, and thought provoking statements. You are going to want to have your highlighter in hand when you read it.

The book is meant to be a reference. Use only those sections that you need at the moment. Read the parts that will affect you now and keep it handy. When new issues arise, read the topics that apply to your life at that time.

– See more at: https://valleyfamilyfun.ca/index.php/b…

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January 13, 2015

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd: A Hercule Poirot MysteryThe Murder of Roger Ackroyd: A Hercule Poirot Mystery by Agatha Christie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

How can you not like a good Agatha Christie book? These are the classic Who-done-it books for a reason.

In this story, Hercule Poirot gets involved in solving a case of the murder of Roger Ackroyd who has been found dead in his study with the door locked from the inside and very few clues. He enlists the help of a Dr. Shepherd to help him interview the fellow guests to solve the mystery in only the cunning way that Poirot can.

It is a delightful story. There are many characters, so be sure to pay attention!

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January 11, 2015

The Husband's SecretThe Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the best book that I have read in years.
I loved this book from the first page to the last page.

It is the story of three women: Cecelia, Rachel and Tess. Their lives become intertwined when Cecelia finds a letter from her husband “To Be Opened Upon My Death.”
This starts the plot in motion. Should she open the letter? Would you open the letter?
Would it be like Pandora’s box if the letter were opened?

This book keeps you on the edge of your seat, wanting to read all night long. The characters are real and ones you can identify with. The book is full of ethical quandaries. What would you do? What would you do to protect your family?

This will be a great book to discuss with book club.

Do yourself a favour and get this book!

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January 7, 2015

Gone (Alex Delaware, #20)Gone by Jonathan Kellerman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really like this mystery series starring Alex Delaware (psychologist) and Milo Sturgis (LAPD) who work together to solve murder cases.

This one is another great read.
It is about two young acting students who stage a kidnapping in the woods. This turns out to be a hoax – until a few days later when the woman turns up dead. The case turns up a whole host of other sordid crimes, dysfunctional family stories, and murder.

If you are looking for a great story, in-depth characters and a suspenseful crime plot – this is the one. No need to read the book in order. Although, there is mention of past characters and crimes, it doesn’t affect the current story.

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December 29, 2014

The Charlemagne Pursuit (Cotton Malone, #4)The Charlemagne Pursuit by Steve Berry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is another exciting adventure book by Steve Berry.
Much like a Dan Brown novel, these books take you around the world following clues from the past to try to figure out the present.

In this book, Cotton Malone is trying to find out why and how his father died in a navy submarine mission over 30 years ago. In the midst of his pursuit, he meets twin sisters Dorothea and Christl who are also trying to find about their father who died in the same mission. However, they have more information – about a secret ancient culture who may have ties to Charlemagne. They are on the hunt.

As a parallel story, 2 Government agents are trying to track down Ramsey, who was head of the military, to find out what shenanigans he’s been up to in order to advance his career. This story does have ties to Malone, but the two stories never completely intertwine.

I listened to this story. It was definitely intriguing that I wanted to keep learning more! However, it was a bit hard to follow at first. There are many characters and the story flips between the various story lines. The author often used “he” or “she” rather than the characters name, so it was easy to get lost on which story line you were following at that moment. If you were reading the book, you could easily flip back, and it wouldn’t be so confusing.

Another great story, and a fun mystery to solve. Not much actually about Charlemagne, but rather about a completely dysfunctional German family who Malone gets tied up with!

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December 23, 2014

A Week in WinterA Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Knowing that this was Maeve Binchy’s last book certainly set a certain tone of finality to this book!

In true Binchy style, this book is a series of short stories that all connect and intertwine and culminate at an Inn in Western Ireland. The book details how everyone ends up at the inn – from the owners to employees and the first few guests.

It is a very sweet story full of interesting characters and tales.
There isn’t much plot or drama, so the book isn’t a page turner, but something nice to share with your grandmother or to read on a wintery day in front of the fire.

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December 17, 2014 Kill Me If You Can

Kill Me If You Can by James Patterson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I love listening to James Patterson’s books. They are fast paced, full of action, easy to follow and have a great plot line.

Kill me if you Can is no exception.

This book is about a man named Matthew Bannon who discovers a locker full of diamonds and decides to keep them for himself. This soon sets the Russian mafia after him as well as many other characters who are trying to hunt him down. Throw in his girlfriend Katherine, and you have all the elements for a great mystery – including a great twist in the middle of the book. There is great character development, as I actually ended up feeling sorry for the bad guys!

There were several parts of the plot that were predictable and cliche. The girlfriend is stupid and makes dumb decisions. Bad guys show up when expected. It’s a bit of a formula. Despite this, Kill me if you Can is still a great story and worth the read/listen.

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December 10, 2014 The Rosie Effect (Don Tillman #2)

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I read the first page of this book it immediately reminded me of how much I loved the first book, The Rosie Project, and how I wanted to read that book all over again, too!

The Rosie Effect picks up where the Rosie Project left off – with Rosie and Don living in New York City, freshly married. Don and Rosie are settling into married life with everything running smoothly – until Rosie finds herself pregnant, and this throws Don’s life into chaos. Will their marriage survive?

Don Tillman is a fabulous character. He is never diagnosed, but you are lead to believe that he has a form of autism. However, by not labeling him, it’s making an important point of not putting labels on people or expecting certain behaviour from certain people.

What I also loved about this book were the strong male friendships. There are many books about women getting together to talk about their problems, but very rarely do you hear the honest and realistic conversations coming from men. These are great friends who support each other through all their crazy antics.

Although better to read the first book first, it is not totally necessary, as there is enough explanation as to who all the characters are, and the story will equally make sense without the background.

This is a funny, heartfelt, insightful book that I highly recommend!

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December 5, 2014

The Great GatsbyThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a book that I would have loved to have read in high school or university. I feel there are so many layers of symbolism that I missed and would like to learn more about.

I picked up this book because we are hosting a 1920s party called the Great Gatsby, and I figured I should know what the book is about!

It is about a man named Nick who lives next door to Mr. Gatsby who is a bit of a mysterious man – no one knows for sure what the truth about him is.

On a deeper level, the book is about wealth and the shallowness that often comes with it, and whether money really does bring happiness.

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November 27, 2014

Firefly Lane (Firefly Lane, #1)Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book is about two best friends, Tully and Kate. The book cover says that this is the book you will want to share with your best friend.

I have already told one of my BFFs that because she is my best friend that I will not be sharing this book with her.

If I ever head a friendship like the one in this book, I would be truly depressed!

One “friend” is completely self-centred and self-absorbed. She spends her entire lifetime trying to steal everything from Kate – her parents, her family, her husband, and her daughter. It is always about her, and there is no concern for anyone else. Kate never has an opinion of her own, lets everyone walk over her and take advantage of her, and doesn’t stand up for herself.
There is no sign of real friendship in this book at all.

I didn’t stop reading this book because it is well written and doesn’t get bogged down in details and descriptions. It is a quick read until its predictable ending.

Instead of reading this book, go spend some time with some real friends!

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November 19, 2014

Last Snow (Jack McClure, #2)Last Snow by Eric Van Lustbader
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I read 200 pages (of 500) of this book.
The dialogue was cheezy and it went on too long about topics that did not advance the plot.
This book is apparently the second in the series with the Jack McClure character, and had a lot of references to the first book. If you had not read the first book, you may be lost like I was.

After 200 pages, I was no further along in the plot and was bored of waiting for something to happen.

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November 1, 2014

RockboundRockbound by Frank Parker Day
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really thought that I wasn’t going to like this book. Most times when I think about books about Atlantic Canada and fishing, my first thought that it is going to be depressing. Life is hard, people die to the sea, and it is just plain miserable.

I was never so happy to be proven wrong.

Rockbound is a book about David Jung who goes to the island of Rockbound as an orphan to work for his uncle Uriah, who is known as the King of Rockbound. David must work hard to prove his worth, and to try to be accepted into the Jung family. Whilst there he befriends a slew of characters from his uncles many sons, to his wild friend Girshom, and Mary the school teacher.

This is a wonderful story about David’s life and the people on the island. David is often the underdog, but it is nice to see that nice guys don’t always finish last.

This is a wonderful story with vivid characters that you will love.
Don’t miss out on this story!

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November 1, 2014 Blood Brothers

Blood Brothers by Elias Chacour
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

All it takes is one person to take a risk. One person to accept a challenge. One person to make a change and to make a difference.

Blood Brothers is an autobiography by Elias Chacour who was born in Israel in the 1940s. Through his lifetime he witnessed Israel becoming its own country, and the resulting wars between the Palestinians and the Jewish populations – which are still happening today.

Chacour is a Palestinian who was evicted from his village when the Zionists came to power. Blood Brothers tells the story of his experiences during these times.

I must admit that I did not know much of anything about what happened in Israel after WWII, nor do I really know what is happening there still today. Chacour does a wonderful job of trying to simply explain why the conflict started, the politics behind it, and why it is still happening today.

Chacour studied in the ministry and has gone on to do remarkable work towards peace reconciliation – trying to get Christians, Muslems and Jews to all live peacefully together in Israel. The story is about how he works to change peoples hearts, and not necessarily the laws.
It is about how he was brave enough to be the one person to make that difference.

Blood Brother is a real eye opener and a wake up call to us in the West to pay more attention to what is happening in the world around us.

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October 31, 2014

What a Difference a Dog Makes: Big Lessons on Life, Love and Healing from a Small PoochWhat a Difference a Dog Makes: Big Lessons on Life, Love and Healing from a Small Pooch by Dana Jennings
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

What a Difference a Dog Makes is the type of book that I would share with my grandmother. It’s a lovely story about a man, his family, and his dog. It will definitely resonate with all dog owners.

However, I found that this book tried to be much deeper than it actually was. The author outlined some of the lessons that we should learn from our dogs – enjoy life, take naps, and keep on keeping on! The thoughts and lessons were there, but I found the book repetitive, and probably wouldn’t amount to more than a coffee table book. It was not riveting or life changing – just another author capitalizing on writing a book about a dog to make some money. Which gives me an idea…

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October 24, 2014 Don't Blink

Don’t Blink by James Patterson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you want a good thriller, this is the book for you!
I listened to this book, and literally couldn’t stop!

Don’t Blink is a thrilling story about a journalist, Nick Daniels, who happens to be in a restaurant at the time a gruesome murder is committed. He somehow becomes involved in a thrilling and dangerous story that involves several of New York’s mob bosses, a lot of shootings, and a little romance thrown in for good measure.

James Patterson never disappoints and this is another good example!

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October 19, 2014 A Spot of Bother

A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is raw, real and very sad – not depressing, sad.

When I first picked up this book to read it, I thought it would be a light and fun read much like the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.
However, this was not the case.

The story focuses around George Hall, recently retired, who finds a spot on his skin and thinks that he has cancer and that he is dying. This one incident is the catalyst for George’s eventual nervous breakdown and unraveling of his life and sanity.
Into the mix, throw a wife who is having an affair, a daughter who is marrying a man that no one approves of, and a homosexual son who is struggling with his relationship. The point is, everyone has problems.

The book is written in such a real way, you are convinced that the author must have experiences that are similar. The book gets into the heart of a regular family with lots of problems. However, as you go along, you realize, that they are not unlike other families who also have problems. We are just really good at hiding our “spots of bother.”

This is a powerful book, well written and heartfelt, and very real.

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October 16, 2014

Trust Me on ThisTrust Me on This by Jennifer Crusie
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I have no idea what possessed me to pick this book off the library shelf! Maybe I need to take a break from all the murder stories that I generally gravitate towards, and go for a real story.

However, I did not know that this was going to be another formulaic romance novel.
You know the kind.
His hot breath on her cool shoulder.
The couples fall in love, get engaged and quit their jobs all over someone they met 48 hours earlier.
They all live happily ever after.

Fantasy, I think you call it.

Despite this being a typical romance, there were elements of the plot that were cute – mistaken identity, characters weaving in and out of the plot, etc.

If you like this sort of book, then you might like this book!

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October 13, 2014 Nefertiti

Nefertiti by Michelle Moran
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was chosen as our historical fiction selection for book club, in hopes of learning something new about a different time period.
I am certainly glad that I read this book.

As the title suggests, Nefertiti is a book that describes the reign of Nefertiti and Akhenaten in 1350BC. It is about Nefertiti’s rise to power, the building of the new city of Armana, the change in gods to worship they tried to enforce, and then ultimately their downfall.

Because little fact is known about this time period, much of the information is conjecture. While reading the book, it also made me wonder how much of the book was complete fabrication and which parts were actually based on historical fact. I found that the book raised more questions than it answered. I cannot be certain that what I learned in the book is actual historical information, or just the foundation of a good story. (It’s a good thing I am married to a history professor who will be speaking to our book club about the real history of the time!)

Besides the historical information, I found that the book also dragged a bit, and tended to go in circles with the same issues. As the book is actually told by the perspective of Nefertiti’s sister, it is continually talking about their arguments – which tend to be on the same topic each time. This got tiring.

I do recommend reading Nefertiti, as it is an interesting story. But, also be sure to check your facts with other sources before you claim to be an expert on Egyptian history!

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October 7, 2014 Therapy (Alex Delaware, #18)

Therapy by Jonathan Kellerman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was in the mood for a really good mystery story and this hit the spot!

Using the characters Alex Delaware (a consulting psychologist to the LAPD)and officer Milo Sturgis, the two set out to discover the mystery behind a gruesome murder. A young male and female are found impaled in a car. A bit of digging leads them to a therapy clinic where the victim had been going for counseling. There is more here than meets the eye.

I love the writing style. It is short, quick, and to the point. Even though this is a book in a series, it doesn’t matter what number you come in on, as the back stories are irrelevant.

I will definitely be looking for more Kellerman books!

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September 27, 2014

The Next Accident (Quincy & Rainie, #3)The Next Accident by Lisa Gardner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was in the mood for a good “fluffy” murder and this story fit the bill.

This is the story of Quincy – an FBI agent who hires Ranie – a private detective with whom he has been involved with in the past, to help find a psychopath who is hunting down his family.

The book is well written and has enough suspense to keep you going. I came in in the middle of the series, so there was mention to back story that I was not familiar with. However, this did not deter from the story, and I glossed over some of it, as I did with the romance element between Quincy and Ranie.

Despite these factors and a bit of predictability, the book is a good read, and perfect when you want something mindless to read.

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September 20, 2014 The Cancer Olympics

The Cancer Olympics by Robin McGee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For me, the takeaway message from The Cancer Olympics is to be brave, be strong, and fight for what you believe in especially in the face of adversity.

I must admit that I was hesitant at first to read this book. A close family member had just died from cancer, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to read a book about cancer. However, friends encouraged me by explaining that it is not a depressing book about cancer. It is a book about hope, optimism and advocacy. I was glad I listened!

The Cancer Olympics is about one woman’s personal story from when she learns that she has been diagnosed with cancer through to post-surgery and recovery. It combines personal reflections, blog posts from the time as well as correspondence from friends and family. This helps to give the complete picture of events, and realize how such a strong community of support is a powerful healing mechanism.

Even while sick, McGee fights (successfully) for change for better cancer care in the province – despite the fact that she might not be the one who benefits from these changes.

This is a great story of hope, empowerment and the love of friends. I am proud to have McGee as part of my community!

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September 18, 2014 Huck: The Remarkable True Story of How One Lost Puppy Taught a Family---and a Whole Town---about Hope and Happy Endings

Huck: The Remarkable True Story of How One Lost Puppy Taught a Family—and a Whole Town—about Hope and Happy Endings by Janet Elder
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In essence, this book is about a family from NYC who get a dog, said dog runs away, and then they find it.
However, it took 6 CD (over 7 hours of listening to the story) to tell a “tail” that would have taken me 15 minutes to recount to my friends.

However, having said that, this is a sweet story, and the writing is fantastic. The author does a great job of character development and painting a vivid picture. It would be the kind of story that I would pass to my grandmother to read.

Perhaps, coming from a small rural town, I am cynical of city folks. Here, the authors couldn’t believe that people in a small town would help them find their dog. This was harped on continuously, and I found tiring – as this is the way of life in towns. We are nice and helpful!

I might recommend reading this book over listening to it, so that you could flip through the pages of description when it starts to get boring. However, still a nice story for any pet owner, or especially those whose pets have run away.

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September 7, 2014 The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

We are all connected.
One thing that keeps us all connected and bound together is books.

This is one of the main themes of the Storied Life of AJ Fikry.

This is a lovely story, and a quick read (I read it in a weekend). The story is a simple overview of AJ’s life and the people and books that come into his life. At first I was a bit disappointed that the major events were glossed over in a paragraph or two until I realized that that wasn’t the point of the story. The point of the story, as AJ himself says, is that our lives are all collected works of books.

The author has definitely read a lot of books, as there are allusions to so many books – which makes you feel proud when you get the connection! However, it is not done in a “show off” kind of way. It does help to expand your reading list much like the book “The End of your Life Book Club” did.

I did find the “package” and the book’s ending to be a bit cliche (I won’t spoil them here) and unoriginal, but it worked for this story.

I also enjoyed how most of the characters had the discussion, “what is your favourite book?” You can learn a lot from a person through their response!
I think that will lend to a great discussion for book club.

If you are looking for a simple, nice, quick read, I recommend you give this one a try!

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September 5, 2014

The Five People You Meet in HeavenThe Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Five People You Meet in Heaven is another wonderful story by Mitch Albom.
This book reads like a legend, much like The Noticer by Andy Andrews. It’s a simple story that can be read in 1-2 days but stay with you much longer.

At the start of the book Eddie dies. When he gets to heaven he meets five people who have influenced his life, or whose life he has influenced – whether he realizes it or not. Each character has a lesson to teach him. These include
1. For every action there is a reaction – why some people die and others don’t
2. Sacrifice
3. Forgiveness
4. Endless love and the power of memory
5. You are where you are meant to be

Take these lessons from the book today and think about your own life so you don’t learn them when it’s already too late.
This book would be a nice book for book club discussion as well!

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August 17, 2014 A Recipe for Bees

A Recipe for Bees by Gail Anderson-Dargatz
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Although a nice story, this book didn’t have much in it to keep my attention. In fact, there were several times that I thought about not finishing the book.

The story is about a woman named Augusta who is married to Karl. They live in Rural BC and have a farm. The story is about their marriage, the hardships of life and inlaws all told with a bit of bee folk lore thrown in as an analogy.

The story jumped around a lot in time from past to present. In addition, Augusta has visions which are also described in the book. You had to pay close attention to whether the story was taking place in the past, present, future, or not at all.

The book was “fine” but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it.

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August 6, 2014

Defending JacobDefending Jacob by William Landay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was selected via recommendation for our book club. By complete coincidence, we ended up reading this book back to back with We Need To Talk about Kevin. These two books are a fitting pair as they both deal with the topic of parents whose sons become murderers. We Need to Talk about Kevin is from the mom’s perspective while Defending Jacob is from the dad’s.

Defending Jacob is a great page-turning read. It combines conversational text with manuscripts from court cases. The book does jump around in time, but it is never confusing.

The plot is perfectly laid out and there are twits and turns along the way.

Defending Jacob is definitely a book that you will need to discuss with someone afterwards. What is ethical? Would you do what the father does? How about the mother? How do families see what is really happening within their own homes?

A great book, although about a disturbing topic!

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July 27, 2014 Me Before You

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I first picked up this book to read I thought it would be a light and fluffy romance novel. Although technically it IS a romance novel, there is so much more to it than that.

Me Before You is about a young woman named Louisa who has spent her entire life living in a small town. When she loses her job, she takes the position as a caretaker to a young man who became a quadriplegic in a motorcycle accident. Will Traynor has decided that he would like to commit assisted suicide in 6 months time, and Louisa has been hired to care for him, and also to help change his mind.

Through their encounters, Will encourages Louisa to live and get away from her “small life” while Louisa helps Will to start thinking more positively.

The book is a great look into the life of a quadriplegic and makes you realize how unfriendly places and people can be. A lot of discussion can stem from this book from ethics to euthanasia and freedom of choice.

It’s a very emotional book, and definitely worth the read!

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July 26, 2014 The Expected One

The Expected One by Kathleen McGowan
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When I picked up this book to listen to, I thought it would be like a Dan Brown adventure story where you are taken back in time to solve the mysteries of the past.

This story is about Maureen who discovers that she might be the bloodline daughter of Jesus and Mary Magdalene and has been chosen to reveal her prophecy. Maureen goes to France to help unravel the mysteries behind supposed scrolls that were written by Mary Magdalene and have been hidden since that time.

I found this book delightfully boring. Most of the action that happens in the book actually happens “off stage” and we are later told about it through the encounters of others. Nothing seems to happen at all. It is more about Maureen learning about the history of the Magdalene cause than any true adventure.

A large portion of the book is the author retelling the Bible stories through the eyes of Mary Magdalene. Although it is a creative first-person account and does make you feel like you are right there, it is not convincing. Any story that makes Judas the hero and John the Baptist an abusive overbearing husband does not get my vote.

Although I found this book boring, and merely a set up for the rest of the books in the series, it was still calming to listen to. The story was innocuous and was a good background story while gardening.

I would not recommend this book, and I will not be picking up the the others in the series.

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July 20, 2014 We Need to Talk About Kevin

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is not for the feint of heart!
We Need to Talk about Kevin is written by a mother whose son has just gone on a rampage and killed students and teachers in his school. Written as a series of letters to her former husband, Franklin, Eva goes through her life, pregnancy, career, marriage in order to come to terms with what happened to Kevin. How did her son turn out to be a murderer? Was it her fault? Was she neglectful?

Although you know what happens at the end (or you think you do), you are still compelled to read further.

Because the book is written as a series of letters, there are long paragraphs of text. Eva is a well-educated woman, so the vocabulary is more advanced. This makes for a slow read that you need to spend time concentrating on. You will be glad that you did. However, it is not a pick-up-put-down book. You need large blocks of time to read it.

This book will spark many conversations about society, parenting, mental health, and the struggles of family life. This was chosen for our book club, and I am sure it will be a great discussion!

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July 10, 2014 Wicked Appetite (Lizzy & Diesel #1)

Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I love books by Janet Evanovich. They are fun to listen to as the reader of the series is incredible and able to do lots of voices. They always have an interesting plot, funny lines, and interesting characters.

Wicked Appetite is about 4 stones representing gluttony that Diesel has to collect before his evil cousin Wolf does. To do so, he enlists the help of Lizzie who has learned she is an “unmentionable.” This means, she has the power to know when items are enchanted.

The story is about Lizzy and Diesel tracking down these stones and all the mishaps that occur. Throw in Carl the monkey and a cat, and you have the story.

Although I did enjoy listening to this story (while gardening), I found it too similar to Plum Spooky that featured Evanovich’s other heroine – Stephanie Plum with Carl the monkey and Diesel. Some of the jokes were even the same. This book felt too much like a formula with not enough new ideas or characters.

However, on its own, this book is a cute read/listen to pass the time.

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July 8, 2014 Ape House

Ape House by Sara Gruen
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book was about a whole lot of nothing! If you actually took what the book jacket said would happen in the book, this would be about a quarter of the actual novel.

In the Ape House, a scientist is working with a group of bonobo apes. She has a strong bond with them, and has taught them to communicate in a variety of ways. That is until her lab is blown up and the apes are shipped off to be part of a reality TV show and she must work to get them back to safety.

If this is what the book was about, this would have been interesting. However, this was more of a subplot and the real plot was about the characters and all of their dysfunctional relationships.

This is a disappointing book from author of Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen.

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July 1, 2014

Baby Got Back: How I lost 52 pounds in 52 weeks with 52 baby steps, became a happy healthy hot mom & you can too!Baby Got Back: How I lost 52 pounds in 52 weeks with 52 baby steps, became a happy healthy hot mom & you can too! by Celine Gabrielle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Been there. Done that. Doing it.
Celine’s story is one that I think most moms can relate to.

During both of my pregnancies, I gained a lot of weight. I then lost 30 pounds each time with Weight Watchers but find my weight slowly creeping back up.
Right now, I know I weigh too much, and I’m not happy about it. I just haven’t found the motivation necessary to lose the weight once again.

Celine’s book, Baby Got Back, is a handy guide to keep close as you go through the process of regaining control of your weight and eating habits. The thought of losing weight can be overwhelming, but with Celine’s help she breaks it down into simple and manageable steps. Although you might know some of the information already, it’s always good to be reminded and to have all the information in a guide in one place!

If you are in the process of wanting to become a healthy hot mom, I highly recommend picking up a opy of Baby got Back!

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A House in the SkyJune 23, 2014

A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How can you say that you really liked a book that is a true story about a woman being kidnapped, tortured and repeatedly raped? Despite the horrific content, the stressful nature of it, I am really glad that I read this book.

A House in the Sky is the true story of Amanda Lindhout’s kidnapping for 15 months in Somalia. It is a story of her hope, her courage, and ultimately her forgiveness.

The story begins with Amanda’s difficult childhood followed by her desire to “escape” and to see the world, fueled by her love of National Geographic magazines. Having traveled the world in my 20s, as well, I could relate to so many of her adventures, and the thrill of going somewhere completely different. Every day is an adventure.

However, over time, Amanda begins to take greater and greater risks by visiting war-torn countries in the Middle East and finally Somalia. This can only be fueled by a 20-something’s sense of invincibility and naivety about the world. However, one cannot contemplate the What Ifs or Should Haves in life.

Luckily, by reading the intro to the book, and even the fact that that book exists, we know throughout the book, that no matter how horrible it gets, Amanda and her friend Nigel are eventually released.

A House in the Sky is a real eye-opener to what is happening today around the world, and much of it, we don’t know about or choose to notice. This is a book about trying to understand the root of societal problems, and forgiving the torturers, for often, they know not what they do.

I recommend this book to anyone to learn more about world affairs, to make you thankful for what you have, and to make you think twice about where you travel!

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June 19, 2014Swimsuit

Swimsuit by James Patterson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am surprised that I did not get nightmares from listening to this book!
This is a story of how an ex-cop turned journalist/author gets connected with a serial contract killer to write his life story.
Through the course of the book, we really get a peek inside the mind of this psychotic killer and hear the ins and outs of a multitude of murders. Patterson does a great job of developing this character, Henri Benoit and his motivation behind the killings.

The story is a bit gruesome at time so it is not for the feint of heart! But, if you are looking for a good psychological thriller, this is the one!

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June 10, 2014The Affair (Jack Reacher, #16)

The Affair by Lee Child
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Lee Child has a way of hooking you into the story and make you want to hear what happens next. I have become completely hooked on his writing!

The Affair is a story of a military cop named Jack Reacher who is sent to Mississippi to help discover why a young woman is found dead and how the military might be involved. Jack Reacher is somewhat of a vigilante but always works for justice and what is right – albeit in his own way sometimes!

The book has twists and turns right up till the very end which makes for a great story. Can’t wait to read, or listen to, another book!

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June 7, 2014The Complete Essex County

The Complete Essex County by Jeff Lemire
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was selected as one of our bookclub books. Otherwise, I know I never would have picked up this book to read on my own. I had never read a graphic novel geared towards adults – let alone did I like them much as a child. This book was completely outside of the box for me and I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about reading it.

I have to admit that I was completely surprised and completely hooked. Essex County is actually made up of several short stories that have characters that cross over. They are stories about lonely, sad people, and yet strong friendships and support. Being a good Canadian book, there is also hockey thrown in, too!

I was surprised at how much depth could be portrayed through the use of images, and how the distinction between past and present are shown. I found myself feeling so much emotion for the characters and wanting to know what happened to them.

For someone who is looking for something different to read, I would highly recommend picking up a copy of Essex County!

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May 31, 2014 One Shot (Jack Reacher, #9)

One Shot by Lee Child
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was at a used book sale going through the mystery section. An older gentleman (around 75+) came up to me and told me I had to read something by Lee Child, and he recommended this particular one! Always appreciating a recommendation, I picked it up. And, I wasn’t disappointed!

This book kept me turning pages and on the edge of my seat the whole way through. It was full of clever twists that kept me guessing until the end of the book.

One Shot was a quick read and easy to follow (a definite must for me)!
Thank you to the gentleman who has now gotten me hooked on Lee Child! Now, to check out the movie!

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Guilty Wives

May 14, 2014

Guilty Wives by James Patterson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book has a satisfactory ending.

While listening to this book, I became incredibly stressed out about the injustices that happened within the book. I kept saying that I would be “OK” if I knew that it all ended satisfactorily! It does, and everything is resolved, but how – I won’t say. I wish I had known that before I started!

This audio version of the book is very good. The reader does distinctly different voices, and it keeps your attention throughout.

I thought that this book was a great mystery. There was suspense up to the very end, and it was all cleverly plotted out. This book combines adventure, intrigue, mystery and tension for a great read/listen!

I would have liked an epilogue at the end, but this is what imagination is for, I guess!

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The Noticer: Sometimes, All a Person Needs Is a Little Perspective.

May 11, 2014

The Noticer: Sometimes, All a Person Needs Is a Little Perspective. by Andy Andrews
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am glad that this book was selected for our book club, otherwise I may not have come across it.

This is a delightful fable that tells us sometimes all we need is to look at our life from a different perspective. The book reads much like the Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo – a simple story with deep meaning.

In it, a man named Jones, happens by at the right moment and meets people at what seems, just the right time. Many of these tales resonated with me, and I found myself highlighting many quotes in the book.

The questions at the back offer an opportunity for self-reflection, or can be used as a book club reading guide. It will certainly leave with you a lot to think about, and how you can make changes in your own life with a few simple choices.

And, everyone will wish that they too, could meet a Jones!

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May 8, 2014 The Painted Girls

The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was selected as one of our book club books. The title, unfortunately, made most members think that the book was going to be about prostitution! However, after cracking the spine, we found that the book is actually about a set of three sisters who are growing up in Paris in the 1800s in the ballet.

The book flips between Antoinette (the oldest sister) and Marie (the middle sister) tell the story about their family’s struggle to stay afloat, the social pressures of the time, and how easy it is to lose everything, and how hard it is to climb out again.

Tying the book together is the painter, Degas, who is using Marie as a model for the famous sculpture, Little Dancer.

The book is based on actual characters and historical fact, but Buchanan uses her literary imagination to fill in the gaps, and make a plausible story that will have you not wanting to put the book down.

By far, my favourite character was Antoinette, as you could feel her struggle to maintain her own sense of self, yet keep her duty to look after her family. The story is rich in description with in-depth characters that will keep you thinking about them long after you have finished the story.

Even better, the book is Canadian! Be sure to look up Degas’ art while you read the story!
I highly recommend this historical fiction.

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April 27, 2014

The Clinic (Alex Delaware, #11)The Clinic by Jonathan Kellerman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the first book in the Dr. Delaware series that I have read. Jumping into the middle of the series, I did not find that I was confused about the characters or any past histories. That was one thing that I really liked about the novel.

I really love crime stories, and thought that this was an easy and quick read with a good plausible plot. There were times when I was confused as to why something was included, and although confusing at the time, everything makes sense by the end.

If you are looking for a good quick read in front of the fire or on the beach, this is it. I would definitely pick up another one of his novels, for sure.

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The Murder of King Tut: The Plot to Kill the Child King - A Nonfiction ThrillerThe Murder of King Tut: The Plot to Kill the Child King – A Nonfiction Thriller by James Patterson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I just finished listening to this fascinating story about King Tut and Egyptian History.
Before I listened to this book, I had actually watched a recent documentary about King Tut, with scientists unraveling the mystery of his death. http://www.channel4.com/programmes/tu…

Although knowing this new information disputes James Patterson’s theories of how King Tut actually died, it was still an interesting story. Patterson’s story felt more like history than a historical fiction. I felt I learned a lot about the history of the time, as well as the archeological dig.

I really enjoyed listening to the book, and the reader was captivating. It was good to listen to something different for a change!

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The Spark: A Mother's Story of Nurturing GeniusThe Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius by Kristine Barnett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“If you fuel a child’s innate spark, it will always point the way to far greater heights than you could ever have imagined.” This is the essence of what The Spark is all about.
This book was selected for our book club, and at first I was hesitant to read it because I don’t like women’s bloggy-type stories of their lives. Everyone has troubles and why should you make money off yours?
However, I was proven wrong with this book. Despite the hardships that the author and her family endured (not just because their son has autism), she was able to maintain a positive outlook. The book is a true inspiration to look at the bright side of life and to give to others as much as you can.
The book is extremely well written and is a quick read. The story is interesting, and you can’t help rooting for her son. Although her son is a genius and the author herself has done so much to help other children, the book is not boastful and told in a humble way.
It certainly makes me think about my own children and what their sparks are and how I can nurture them further.
As a mother, I recommend this book.

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The Woman Who Mapped Labrador: The Life and Expedition Diary of Mina HubbardThe Woman Who Mapped Labrador: The Life and Expedition Diary of Mina Hubbard by Mina Benson Hubbard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I put off reading this book for quite some time because of the length of it. The book is written by University scholars and therefore reads like a textbook and not a story.
With this in mind, and treating it like a text for a course, I found the book very interesting. It is well documented and explained. It is easy to get bogged down in the footnotes, so I began to just read the text.
The story itself is fascinating and it boggles my mind that this has not been made into a National Film Board documentary. It should be, as the story is remarkable.
It’s a great look into women’s studies, Canadian history, and Canadian geography. As long as you treat it like an academic text, and perhaps take breaks while reading it (disperse it with other books), I would recommend reading it.

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