Thursday, January 29, 2015

It's Mystery Time: Mini Reviews

2015, so far at least, seems to be the year of mysteries and thrillers for me. Of the seven books I've read so far, five of them fall within these two genres. I'm not overly picky when it comes to mysteries or thrillers, and will read anything that sounds good or is highly recommended by reading friends.  Luckily, I've enjoyed each of the books I've read in these genres this year.  Here are my thoughts on the two I most recently finished:

The Blackhouse by Peter May (4 out of 5 Stars)
Publisher: Quercus, August 2014 (Trade Paperback)
Source: Purchased

Set on Scotland's remote Isle of Lewis, The Blackhouse is a compelling mystery that highlights how our past can shape who we are, and how it can impact the present. When a Lewis man is found murdered in a manner similar to a recent killing in Edinburgh, Detective Fin Macleod is sent to the Outer Hebridean island to determine if there is a connection between the two. But the Isle of Lewis, the childhood home of Detective Macleod, is a place he had hoped never to return to, and the murdered man was a childhood bully.  Returning to the island means Fin will not only have to confront the present, but also his past. 

I enjoyed The Blackhouse immensely.  Not only was the mystery a good one, leaving me guessing as to the perpetrator until the novel's end, the characters are well-developed and interesting.  My favourite aspect of the novel, however, has to be its setting.  This is, as far as I can remember, the only book I've read set on the Isle of Lewis, and May does a great job capturing the essence of the Isle and bringing its culture to life.  I'm very much looking forward to reading the next novel in the Lewis trilogy, The Lewis Man.  I highly recommend this book to fans of the mystery genre. 

Suffer Little Children by Peter Tremayne (4 out of 5 Stars)
Publisher: Headline (mass market paperback)
Source: Purchased

Suffer Little Children is the third novel in Peter Tremayne's Sister Fidelma historical mystery series.  Set in Ireland in the mid-seventh century, the series features an Irish nun - Sister Fidelma - as its protagonist. Fidelma, however, is more than a nun, she is also dalaigh (lawyer) of the law courts of Ireland, and it is in this capacity that she is called upon to solve crimes. In Suffer Little Children Fidelma is asked by her brother to determine who killed a renowned scholar at an abbey within his domain, and in so doing put a stop to a war being threatened as a result of the killing. 

The Sister Fidelma series is quickly becoming a favourite of mine. Not only does the series feature a smart, fascinating heroine in Fidelma, but each of the mysteries is engaging.  I also love how Fidelma goes about solving them.  One of the strongest aspects of this book, as well as of the others in the series, is that it showcases early Christianity in Ireland and how it differs from Rome. As Roman Catholicism takes further hold in Ireland it will be interesting to see how Fidelma, who doesn't agree with many of the tenets being put forth by Rome, adapts in future books.  I can't wait to continue with this series! 

post signature

Monday, January 26, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (January 26th, 2015)

It's time once again for It's Monday! What Are You Reading? This weekly meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

I managed to read two books last week, The Girl on the Train (check out my review here), and The Blackhouse by Peter May, which is a contemporary mystery set on the Scottish Isle of Lewis (if you like mysteries definitely check the book out).  While both books came into my home relatively recently, I continue to make good progress on trimming my TBR pile!  This week's read is one I've had sitting on my shelf since it was first published in 2012 -- The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye, a historical mystery set in 1845 New York City that features one of NYC's first police officers , aka a "copper", as its protagonist. I'm at the halfway point and just love it. 

My re-read of Anne of Green Gables has stalled somewhat, as has my reading of Caliban's War by James S.A. Corey. The former because, even though I love the book, I keep setting it aside for stories I've not yet read, and the latter because it's my book before bed (it's on my Kindle) and I've been so tired lately that I'm not reading before I fall asleep. I hope to get back to them both this week.

Looking ahead, once I finish The Gods of Gotham I plan to pick up yet another novel that's been languishing on my TBR pile -- Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant, which is a work of historical fiction about the Borgia family.  I've put this one off in part because the reviews I've seen haven't been overly positive, but I'm hopeful that the book will work for me.

What are you reading right now? Have you read any of the books I've mentioned in this post?

post signature

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

All Aboard with The Girl on the Train: A Quasi Review

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Publisher: Doubleday Canada (2015)
Source: Purchased
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

My Thoughts

I picked up Paula Hawkin's debut novel, The Girl on the Train, on Sunday. I set it back down again only a few hours later. Why? Because I finished it! Once I started reading the book I didn't want to stop -- I just had to find out what would happen next.

One thing that is apparent almost from the opening pages is that the novel's principal narrator, Rachel (aka the girl on the train), is unreliable. Knowing this about Rachel serves to make the story more intriguing, as there is always a question about what is the truth when it comes to her. While Rachel has certainly made some poor decisions in her life, she is nevertheless a sympathetic character.

As is probably obvious from the fact that I read the book in one sitting, The Girl on the Train moves at a very quick pace.  The writing drew me into the book, and the plot kept me engaged in it.  While I had a pretty significant part of the conclusion figured out by the novel's halfway point, this didn't diminish my enjoyment of the book or dampen my satisfaction at how the story ends.

The Girl on the Train is receiving a lot of attention in the bookish world at the moment.  Since I have a tendency to be disappointed by books that garner a lot of hype, I made sure to keep my expectations in check when I started this one.  In the case of The Girl on the Train, however, I think the praise it is receiving is warranted -- it is a great book, and I have no hesitation in recommending it to other readers.

On a side note, normally when I prepare a full or partial review for a novel I include the book's synopsis as a key part of my post. I haven't done so in this case because I think the publisher's synopsis gives away too many details of the book that are best left discovered as the story unfolds -- I don't consider these details to be spoilers, but I'm glad I hadn't read the publisher's synopsis prior to starting the book. 

post signature

Sunday, January 18, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (January 19th, 2015)

Happy Monday fellow book bloggers! It's time for It's Monday! What Are You Reading? hosted by Book Journey.  Since I didn't end up reading all that much last week, this post looks quite similar to last week's addition.

Currently Reading:

Paula Hawkin's debut novel, The Girl on the Train, is my latest read -- although given how quickly I'm reading it (I'm devouring it actually) I suspect I'll be finished by the time this post is live. The book, which is a psychological thriller featuring a very unreliable narrator, is eminently readable and (extremely) difficult to put down. I have my theory as to how it will all end, and can't wait to get to the conclusion to see how right (or wrong) I am.  Even without knowing the ending, The Girl on the Train is definitely a book I'll be recommending to others. 

I'm also still working my way through both Caliban's War by James S.A. Corey, and my re-read of Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery.  I hope to finish both in the week ahead. 

Look forward, I soon plan to pick up Adam Lebor's The Washington Stratagem, the second novel in his Yael Azoulay political thriller series. I'll likely also start something that qualifies for the Reading Bingo Challenge: Canadian Edition that I've decided to take part in this year.

What are you reading right now? 

post signature

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Reading Bingo: Canadian Edition

Canadian books, anyone? One of my reading resolutions for 2015 is to read more works by Canadian authors. This is a resolution that will also help me to achieve my goal of tackling my extensive TBR pile, a pile that includes a number of Canadian books.  To assist in my efforts I've decided to take part in Random House Canada's 2015 Reading Bingo Challenge, which is dedicated to reading Canadian! 

While this is considered a challenge, I won't be treating it as such. I simply want to use it to help guide some of my reading selections this year. There are some squares I already know I won't achieve -- A book of poetry and Biography/Autobiographer of a Canadian celebrity, for example, since neither are of interest to me -- and I'm totally okay with this.  My goal is simply to read more Canadian books rather than to cross off every square on the Bingo card.

Any other Canadian bloggers out there planning to take part?  I'll use this post to periodically update my progress against the Bingo card, and will also tweet about it using the hashtag #ReadingBingo.

post signature

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Top Ten Tuesdays: 2014 Releases I Meant to Read But Didn't

It's time for Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's top ten is:

Top 10 2014 Releases I Meant To Read But Didn't Get To

(1) A King's Ransom by Sharon Kay Penman (Historical Fiction) 
(2) A Burnable Book by Bruce Holsinger (Historical Fiction) 
(3) The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton (Historical Fiction)
(4) Jane Austen's First Love by Syrie James (Historical Fiction)
(5) The Back of the Turtle by Thomas King (Literary Fiction)

(6) Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami (Literary Fiction)
(7) Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (Contemporary Fiction)
(8) Red Rising by Pierce Brown (YA Science Fiction)
(9) Natchez Burning by Greg Iles (Thriller)
(10) The Three by Sarah Lotz (Thriller) 

Have any of you read any of the books on my list? If so, what did you think?   

post signature

Monday, January 12, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (January 12, 2015)

In an effort to post more regularly on this blog, and hopefully generate more discussion in the process, I've decided that it's high time I took part (on a more consistent basis) in some of the more popular bookish meme posts. While certain of these memes have appeared on this blog from time to time (e.g., Top Ten Tuesday, Waiting on Wednesday), I'm a total newbie to It's Monday! What Are You Reading, which is hosted over at Book Journey. Since I always have at least one book on the go, this should be an easy meme to keep up with.

Currently Reading:

I'm starting my week out with the second book in French novelist Maurice Druon's Accursed Kings series, The Strangled Queen. The series is set in 13th and 14th century France, and follows the fates of the Capet and early Valois monarchs. The series has been heralded as the "original Game of Thrones" by none other than George R.R. Martin. I read the first book--The Iron King--last year and loved it (click here for my review), and so far this second book is every bit as good.  Based on what I've read of the series so far, I'd say it's a must read for historical fiction fans. 

A little Science Fiction, anyone? In addition to The Strangled Queen, I'm also currently working my way through James S.A. Corey's Caliban's War, the second book in The Expanse series.  I'm generally not a big fan of Science Fiction, but this series is an engaging one and has me encouraged to try other Space Opera novels.  The Expanse will also be coming to a TV near you sometime later this year and I, for one, can't wait to watch it.

Last, but certainly not least, I'm re-reading one of my all-time favourite books, Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables, as part of the Green Gables Readalong hosted by Lindsay at Reeder Reads. Not only is the book and series a favourite of mine, but Anne Shirley is one of my all-time favourite literary characters. Every time I read the book I picture myself walking the fields, meadows, forests, and beaches of beautiful Prince Edward Island.

Looking ahead, I'm not sure what I'll pick up once I'm through with this week's books. I'll just have to see where my reading mood takes me.

What about you? What are you reading this week?

post signature

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Week in Review -- Including Mini Reviews (January 1st to 10th)

Hello fellow book bloggers! I hope 2015 has gotten off to a great start for all of you. Reading-wise, 2015 has already proven to be a great year for me -- let's hope this continues.  Other than my Reading Resolution post (click here if you haven't already checked it out), I've been silent on the blogging front so far, but I have managed to read three books, all of which have been sitting on my TBR pile for well over a year. I've not had time to write-up full reviews for these books, but have included my brief thoughts on each of them below:

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (4.5 out of 5 Stars)
Publisher: Little, Brown Books - Hardcover Edition (2011)
Source: Purchased

This first book in Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy has been sitting on my shelf since it was first published in 2011. I have no idea why it took me so long to read it, especially since several other readers I know and trust loved it, but it was well worth the wait! Set mainly in Prague, this YA fantasy features a unique heroine, intriguing secondary characters, and a fabulously engaging plot.  I'm not generally a fan of urban-type fantasy, or fantasy that prominently features mythological creatures, but this one had me hooked from the opening chapter. I can't wait to read book two -- which I don't have to wait to be published since the whole trilogy is now available.  For me, this is a must read for YA fantasy fans (or fantasy fans in general).

Quiver by Holly Luhning (3.5 out of 5 Stars)
Publisher: Harper Perennial - Trade Paperback Edition (2012)
Source: Purchased

This modern-day tale follows a young clinical psychologist, Danica Winston, who is on a fellowship in the UK at an institution that houses a notorious killer, one who was inspired by Hungarian "Blood Countess" Elizabeth Bathory. I liked this book overall, finding the writing good and the plot engaging. Some of the information presented related to Elizabeth Bathory, however, was more than a little disturbing, and the main character made a lot of very bad decisions that made it difficult to like her at times.

The Witch of Babylon by DJ McIntosh (4 out of 5 Stars)
Publisher: Penguin Canada -- Trade Paperback (2011)
Source: Purchased

This quick moving modern-day thriller opens at the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad during the recent Iraqi War, and involves the theft of a priceless Assyrian artifact. The protagonist of the novel, John Madison, must find the relic before his enemies do, but these enemies will stop at nothing to prevent Madison from locating it before they do. Madison is a compelling protagonist, mainly because there is mystery surrounding him throughout the book.  Though his character could have been better fleshed out, The Witch of Babylon is the first book in an expected trilogy, and Madison's back story, which is only hinted at in this novel, will likely be more fully articulated in one of the two remaining novels of the trilogy. I, for one, am very curious to know the truth of his origins.  For me, the best part of the novel rests in its incorporation of Mesopotamian history and myth, which I found fascinating. I look forward to reading the trilogy's second installment, The Book of Stolen Tales

Looking ahead to next week, I hope to finish up the following two books:
  • Suffer Little Children by Peter Tremayne -- the third novel in Tremayne's excellent Sister Fidelma historical mystery series, which is set in 7th century Ireland.
  • Caliban's War by James S.A. Corey -- the second novel in Corey's epic Space Opera Science Fiction series, The Expanse. 
I'm also continuing with my re-read of Anne of Green Gables as part the Green Gables Readalong hosted by Lindsay over at Reeder Reads

How did your week go?

post signature

Friday, January 2, 2015

Book and Blogging Resolutions: 2015 Edition

The beginning of a new year always brings about reflections on what one would like to see and/or do in the year ahead. While I don't generally make resolutions for the non-reading parts of my life, I enjoy making them for bookish-related things -- even if I don't always keep them. So, without further ado, here are my book and blogging resolutions for 2015 (some of which look remarkably similar to those I posted for 2014):

(1) Read what I want, when I want. As indicated in some of my posts from the latter half of 2014, I suffered from serious (self-inflicted) review fatigue in 2014. This fatigue resulted in the loss of my both my reading and blogging mojo. I was on the verge of giving up on blogging, and I realized that if I didn't stop accepting books for review I'd likely lose my love of reading altogether. The solution was a simple one. I stopped accepting review copies of books, and focused instead only on those books I truly wanted to read at the time I was ready to pick up something new. With no review due dates to stress me out, my enjoyment of reading and blogging has slowly been coming back. I still plan to review books, but these books (with one or two exceptions) will come from my own collection, and the reviews will be posted according to my own schedule. I think this decision will make me a better, happier reader and book blogger.

(2) Focus on my massive TBR pile. 2014 was the year of new releases for me, so 2015 is going to be the year of the TBR pile. So many of my reading choices in 2014 were for new releases that I wondered if I would ever get back to my TBR pile -- which continues to expand, by the way! I have lots of choice on my TBR pile, but here are some of the areas I'd like to focus on:
  • Canadian authors. I have lots of Canadian lit sitting unread on my shelves, and I'd like to move at least some of these unread books into the read category in 2015.
  • Broaden my genre reach. I read a lot of historical fiction, or at least I did until genre fatigue set in last year. I'm getting along with historical fiction again (thank goodness!) but I plan to mix up the genres I read in 2015 so I don't read so much in one genre that I get tired of it. One area I'd like to read more in is non-fiction.  
  • Get back to the classics. I've put off reading the many unread classics I've had on my shelves for years. It's time to tackle some of them!  
I'm not going to stop buying new releases, but they now won't automatically be the go to books for me when I'm looking for my next read.

(3) Increase my blogging presence. Not only do I hope to blog more, but I am going to make a much bigger effort to visit other blogs too, something I wasn't good at in 2014. I love seeing what other people are reading, and what they think of books. I love meme posts and general book-related discussions and want to take a greater part in them, whether through my own posts or visiting and commenting on those of other bloggers.  

So, those are my resolutions. What are yours?

post signature