Category Archives: Books and Reading

Reading journal: a novel I can’t put down

It’s been a while since I’ve read a novel I just couldn’t put down (although, life being what it is, I did eventually have to put it down). I love when this happens, though, because it usually means I’ve got a seriously good read going.

 

The Fifth Gospel

I’d picked up Ian Caldwell’s The Fifth Gospel because Caldwell had co-authored The Rule of Four with Dustin Thomason and I remembered quite enjoying The Rule of Four.

Going into it, I hadn’t realized The Fifth Gospel would be one of those books that are tough to put down. I mean, it sounded like it would be good, but lots of good books aren’t necessarily ones you can’t put down.

Here’s the summary:

In 2004, as Pope John Paul II’s reign enters its twilight, a mysterious exhibit is under construction at the Vatican Museums. A week before it is scheduled to open, its curator is murdered at a clandestine meeting on the outskirts of Rome. That same night, a violent break-in rocks the home of the curator’s research partner, Father Alex Andreou, a Greek Catholic priest who lives inside the Vatican with his five-year-old son. When the papal police fail to identify a suspect in either crime, Father Alex, desperate to keep his family safe, undertakes his own investigation. To find the killer he must reconstruct the dead curator’s secret: what the four Christian gospels—and a little-known, true-to-life fifth gospel known as the Diatessaron—reveal about the Church’s most controversial holy relic. But just as he begins to understand the truth about his friend’s death and its consequences for the future of the world’s two largest Christian Churches, Father Alex finds himself hunted down by someone with a vested stake in the exhibit—someone he must outwit to survive.

I’m halfway through, and while I have a busy week coming up, I’m hoping I’ll be able to grab some time to finish it.

And while the title and the synopsis might make you think, “oh, another Da Vinci Code kind of read”, I’m here to say, no, it’s actually not a Da Vinci Code kind of book at all.

I’ll be writing a review of this one, so stay tuned! I just have to finish it first—and even with all my upcoming deadlines, I’m definitely going to find the time to sit down with this one and finish it.

Monthly Wrap-up: April 2015 Reads

I hadn’t thought April was a good reading month for me. My mom broke her hip in the middle of the month and I’ve been running around pretty tired ever since. And when I’m tired, I tend to read less. I certainly didn’t think I spent much time reading—not even for the Readathon, where I managed to read only about 200 pages and didn’t finish a single book.

But when I took at look at my reading spreadsheet I was surprised: I read 13 books in April! It turns out audiobooks were what saved me. I’ve been way too tired to feel like reading much in print, but I listened to a lot of audiobooks, especially the first week after my mom’s accident. She was in a hospital out in the suburbs during that week, which meant an hour and fifteen minute commute there and back for me, and I visited her daily, so that added up to a lot of additional listening time.

Here are the books I read in April (not in chronologically-read order):

April reads 1

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (audiobook) (reread)

Cat Among the Pigeons by Agatha Christie (audiobook) (reread)

Black Coffee by Agatha Christie (audiobook)

Behind the Curtain by Peter Abrahams (paperback)

 April reads 2

Leader of the Pack by David Rosenfelt (audiobook)

One Dog Night by David Rosenfelt (audiobook)

Dog Tags by David Rosenfelt (audiobook)

Unleashed by David Rosenfelt (audiobook)

April reads 3

Pet Sematary by Stephen King (paperback)

Strong Female Protagonist by Brennan Lee Mulligan and Molly Ostertag (trade paperback) (my review here)

Working Stiff by Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell (audiobook)

Motive by Jonathan Kellerman (audiobook)

April reads 4

Lumberjanes, issues 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9, by Noelle Stevenson (counting these as one book)

So altogether, eight audiobooks this month! I’m actually finishing up another audiobook right now, but I’ll probably listen to less audiobooks in May.

How did your reading go in April?

Post-Readathon Thoughts: Notes to myself for my next readathon

The Spring 2015 Readathon has come and gone, and I had a blast. This was my first year participating as a reader as well as a cheerleader; in previous years, I’d cheered, but never read. I have always enjoyed the cheering part of the Readathon, but I’ve decided, now that I’ve actually experienced both reading and cheering, that participating in both is even better.

I had so much fun! And even though I spent a great deal of the day out of the house, I think I kind of made it work. But now that I’ve actually participated as a reader, I have a much better idea how to make my next Readathon experience even better.

Book selection. I did give some thought to picking out the books I might want to read on the big day, but now I know better what kinds of books will work for me during a Readathon, especially if I’m also cheering.

Greenglass House

I started the Readathon with Greenglass House, by Kate Milford. I read 102 pages before I decided to move on to another book, but most of my Readathon time was spent on Greenglass House. I am loving it so far—it’s exactly what I like to read.

It’s the kind of book you want to read slowly, savouring the story as it unfolds before you, absorbing the hint of mystery as you become involved with the different personalities you’re encountering. But for me it’s not the kind of book that stands up well to the distraction of popping onto Twitter every once in a while to cheer on other Readathon participants.

when the bough breaks

I realized this when I ending up whizzing through 52 pages of Jonathan Kellerman’s When the Bough Breaks, the first in the Alex Delaware series. When the Bough Breaks is one of those highly readable thriller-ish mysteries where you’re racing to turn the pages so you can see what happens next. There’s no slow savouring needed here. You read without even realizing you’re holding your breath, as your eyes scan the words as quickly as you can, getting the gist of the story into your mind so you can turn the page for more of the same.

In addition to being a quick read, a page-turning thriller is also much easier to pop in and out of. I found I could tweet some cheers and then go right back to reading.

So my next Readathon? More page-turners.

Adding short stories to the mix. While I had planned to, I didn’t actually end up reading any short stories this time around, but I wish I had. Just so I could have the satisfaction of finishing something! Next time I think I’ll actually select the short stories ahead of time—and pay attention to length while I’m doing so.

Balancing cheering with reading. This is a tough one. Because the bottom line is, cheering on Twitter is FUN! There’s the immediacy of reaching out to someone who’s doing some heavy-duty reading, there’s the pleasure of the occasional short conversations that ensue, there’s that really lovely feeling of meeting and getting to know other readers you never knew before.

So next time, I’m going to time myself when I’m cheering. And when I’m reading. Maybe use the Pomodoro technique. Actually, using the Pomodoro method might work really, really well in terms of balancing cheering with reading.

Resting my eyes. My eyes also seemed to tire more quickly than they normally do when I’m reading. It was a little odd, since I really didn’t read all that much. But I think taking some breaks to rest my eyes would also be a good thing. Maybe I could work that into a modified Pomodoro technique, too.

Not feeling sleepy. I am normally a night owl so I found this bit a little strange. I was feeling sleepy at around 9:00, even though most nights I don’t go to bed until after 1:00 a.m.! Someone on Twitter mentioned walking around while reading, and I think I might give that a try. After all, I do this when I’m talking on the phone for long periods of time, and afterwards I tend to feel charged up with energy rather than tired. It’s worth a shot, right?

Hopefully I’ll be able to take part in the Fall Readathon, both as a reader and a cheerleader (a lot will depend on my work schedule, as it will be my busy season then). And if I can participate, I’ll be sure to come back and read this post!

The unexpected benefits of a reading goal

Readinggoal.jpg

It appears there are unexpected benefits to having a reading goal. This is the first year I’ve actually set a “books read” goal (mine is 96 books) and while having the goal alone is quite motivating, there’ve been some interesting side effects.

I’m slower to DNF. Yes, it’s true. I used to be one of those “I’ll give you ten, okay, maybe 15 pages but that’s about it” readers. Now, though, if I’ve invested the half an hour or whatever it took for me to get through those first fifteen pages, I find I’m reluctant to put down a book unless I’m absolutely sure I’m holding a real stinker. Which doesn’t actually happen very often at all.

I’m still a moody reader, but now my moods are “stickier”. So yes, I still have to be in a a certain type of mood to read a certain type of book. Which means I still get into a mood for mystery, or fantasy, or science fiction or non-fiction or memoir or whatever—but I find myself staying in that mood for longer. Often for long enough to finish whatever book I happen to be reading. And if not (I like to have three or four books on the go at any given time) then it seems like I switch to a mood that’s right for another one of the books I have on the go. Quite handy.

As for that “not in the mood for reading” mood. And so far this year (knock wood) I haven’t encountered the “not in the mood for reading” mood. Which has been very nice indeed (although I’m not so sure I can credit this to my having a reading goal this year. But maybe I can.)

I have a lot more “Incoming!” books. Once upon a time I would semi-regularly post an “Incoming!” post, where I’d list the latest books that crossed the MsBookish threshold. It’s hard to write those posts, though, when you’re only seeing a trickle of new titles every now and then. But now that I’m reading regularly and consistently, I find I’m constantly on the lookout for more books. And when that happens, more books arrive. (Perhaps this is the Avalanche Theory of Reading More?)

I have a lot more to blog about. Reading more books means I have a lot of bookish stuff on my mind, which means I have a lot more bookish ideas for posts. Which is a good thing, since I’m also committing this year to 365 days of blogging.

Have you encountered any of these benefits of having a reading goal?

[TSS] Bookish Bliss: Readalongs

I’m SO glad I’ve discovered how much fun it is to read a book in the company of others. Fun because reading is still a very solitary thing (which I also love) but when you’re doing a readalong, it’s like being able to take a trip down the hall to the office water cooler (aka Twitter, Facebook and blog posts) for a quick chat, but with an added bonus: you certainly won’t be discussing the weather!

I’m joining in on three readalongs this month and next, with a fourth one coming in June. (One of the readalongs, alas, I’m already behind on (as in, just got the book haven’t read a thing yet, and it’s been a go for twelve days already now), so maybe I shouldn’t actually say I’m joining in on that one …)

So, first up:

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle Readalong

windmeup

I’m really really excited about this one—you can read all about it on Jill’s blog. Murakami is top on my list of “authors I want to read but oh my God they’re a bit on the intimidating side aren’t they?” and I’m going to need all the hand-holding I can get. (Strange Library doesn’t really count, because it’s more of a novella, plus it has lots of illustrations so it felt a little like reading a graphic novel or maybe a picture book for grown-ups. Although length probably doesn’t mean anything when it comes to Murakami, now that I think about it, because I’ve also read two Murakami short stories and let me just say, one of them flew right over my head. As in whoosh. I fared a little bit better with the other one.)

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle also made it to the Guardian’s list of “most disturbing novels” and after reading why it made it to the list I know there will definitely be some scenes I’ll be reading with eyes half-closed while quickly turning the pages. Because I’m squirmish like that. (My spell check is telling me that’s not a word and I should be using squeamish but squirmish feels right to me.) I have a feeling Jill is the perfect person to be reading a squirmish novel with …

So do come join us if you’re in the mood for tackling Murakami! It’s an informal readalong that runs from April 15 to May 31, so there’s lots and lots of time to read the book. The hashtag for this one is #windmeup.

And then some science fiction:

The Dune Readalong

Starting April 19, Suey, Jenni and Kami are holding a Dune readalong. I have had Dune, by Frank Herbert, on my to-read list for a very long time now. I can remember when I was a kid seeing my mom read it.

We used to have these weekly reading sessions where my sisters and I would all pile onto her bed with her, each of us with our own book, happily reading together. My mom doesn’t read fiction any more now, but when I was growing up she was a huge mystery, thrillers and SF reader. I grew up with Agatha Christie, John Le Carré, Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov scattered all over the house. So I do come by my genre leanings honestly (maybe it’s even hereditary!).

And I had to smile because this cover that Suey posted with the sign-up post:

Dune_Herbert

is the very same cover of the copy of Dune that I remember my mom reading! I love that she picked this cover instead of the one that graces the more modern edition.

There will also be three Twitter chats, which sound like they’ll be fun. The Twitter hashtag for this one is #DuneRAL. If Dune‘s been on your to-read list, too, I hope you’ll join in!

The one I missed (but maybe not):

Cloud Atlas Readalong

This is the one I’ve kind of dropped the ball on—it started back on April 1—but I’m still hoping to start Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell this month, and maybe even join in some of the discussion posts. Cloud Atlas is another one of those “I’m kind of intimated by this” books, although unlike Haruki Murakami, it’s not the author himself I find intimidating, just the book. I know this because I also want to read The Bone Clocks and I’m not intimidated by the idea of reading that one at all.

(Can you all tell, by the way, this is my year for reading outside my comfort zone?)

Hosted by Katie and April, the sign-up post is here, and the Twitter hashtag is #CloudAtlasAlong.

And coming in June …

The Misery readalong, hosted by Care! This is definitely going to be my year for reading Stephen King. I love the guy but I’ve really only read his earlier novels, so I have a lot of catching up to do.

I haven’t read Misery yet so this will be a first-time read for me. Haven’t seen the movie, either, although I always picture Kathy Bates when I think of the movie. It promises to be a fun, informal readalong. The hashtag for this one is #MiseryRAL. And you really need to pop over to Care’s post to see the really scary looking Stephen King picture she’s posted.

Wanting to read more middle grade novels … and A Game of Thrones

I know, I know, two totally different things. But for some reason, they’ve become interconnected in my mind. When I start thinking about what I’d like to start reading more of, I think, middle grade novels! And then for some funny reason, I head straight from there to A Game of Thrones. And then back to middle grade novels again. A very strange but now comfortable cycle.

A few years ago, I bought this from Costco:

Game of Thrones boxed set (Actually, it was the boxed set without A Dance with Dragons …) I was listening to A Game of Thrones in audio at the time, and realized it was going to be too gory for me to continue it in audio (because it’s impossible to listen with your ears half-closed, the way you can skim through the brutal bits with your eyes half-opened). But for some reason I’ve just never gotten back to the series, even though I had been so enthralled by what I’d heard so far in the audiobook. (I’d gotten as far as Bran’s fall.) I say “for some reason” but it’s mostly because I suspect the books are a lot like potato chips—you can’t consume just one or two.

So these books stare at me every day from their place on my TBR shelves. I need to just bite the bullet and start reading them. Amazon tells me, though, that all five books combined total 5,216 pages. That’s a lot of pages. A lot of reading time.

Anyway, swinging back to the whole middle grade novel thing, I really need to start reading more middle grade novels. I used to read them all the time, but in the past few years I haven’t added very many new titles to my TBR.

So to honour this yearning of mine, I recently made a list of middle grade reads to add to my TBR (I know. As if I needed to add more, right?). Here they are, in no particular order:

So that’s my list so far. Do you have any suggestions for good middle grade fantasies or mysteries?

Reading Journal: Working Stiff, The Damned

Since I don’t write a whole lot of reviews (although I’m hoping to change that—but the idea is still a speck in my mind’s eye, so to speak), I thought I’d start a weekly “Reading Journal” post. More for myself, really, to help me keep track of my thoughts about my reading.

Because, you know, Bad Book Memory. Oh, so bad. I’m surprised sometimes I remember what I read last week.

Anyway …

Working Stiff

I just finished Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner by Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell and it was so good. I listened to it in audio, which was a great choice; narrator Tanya Eby was a good fit to the material. As you might expect, there were some (well, okay, lots of) gory bits but I was so enthralled with this behind-the-scenes look at a medical examiner’s life, I winced but easily moved on.

Near the end, Melinek recounts her time working in the aftermath of September 11, and these scenes stole my heart. She was right there—cataloguing the bones and fragments of bones, because for the most part that was all there was to catalogue. If you’ve been thinking about reading this one, you should definitely take the plunge.

What’s next? I have three books that I need to get to. Three scary novels by Canadian authors! I missed the Dark Side Tour—partly because I had a heck of a time finding the website for the tour and then when I did, I could have sworn I added it to Todoist but I can’t find the link now and Google’s no help. My memory tells me my last chance to meet Andrew Pyper, Rob Pobi and Nick Cutter here in Toronto was this past weekend, and I wasn’t able to make it (and I really really wanted to “do” an author event! *wails*). But it’s okay, because I have their books to read still. That’s what really counts, right?

I’m probably most excited about Andrew Pyper’s The Damned, because I had quite enjoyed his previous book, The Demonologist (my review here– yes, I actually wrote a review of it!). The synopsis for The Damned:

Most people who have a near-death experience come back alone…

After he survived a fire that claimed the life of his twin sister, Ashleigh, Danny Orchard wrote a bestselling memoir about going to Heaven and back. But despite the resulting fame and fortune, he’s never been able to enjoy his second chance at life.

Ash won’t let him.

In life, Danny’s charming and magnetic twin had been a budding psychopath who privately terrorized her family—and death hasn’t changed her wicked ways. Ash has haunted Danny for twenty years and now, just when he’s met the love of his life and has a chance at real happiness, she wants more than ever to punish him for being alive—so she sets her sights on Danny’s new wife and stepson.

Danny knows what Ash really wants is him, and he’s prepared to sacrifice himself in order to save the ones he loves. But to do this, he’ll have to meet his sister where she now resides—and hope that this time, he can keep her there forever.

Sounds good, right? And I’ve read a few reviews that say it’s a good read. So The Damned is definitely up next. Along with Good Omens and A Dark and Twisted Tide, both of which I’ve started.

What have you been reading recently?

Colouring books for adults? I’m in!

The other day I read this article in The Guardian about how colouring books for adults were topping the Amazon bestseller list in the UK.

Secret Garden

Secret Garden by Johanna Basford

Enchanted Forest

Enchanted Forest by Johanna Basford

My first thought? How did I not know about these books?!

When I was a kid, I liked my colouring books, but I admit, I liked them more for the puzzle pages that were always tucked in here and there. I was never that enamoured of the actual colouring itself. Mostly, I think, because … crayons.

Yes. Those beautifully coloured Crayola crayons. We’ve all had a box or three when we were young, right? And the colours are just scrumptious. But colouring with them? As in, actually filling in spaces in a colouring book? I never really liked it. The crayons resisted every step of the way. The tough, cheap paper most colouring books for kids use didn’t help much, either.

Then when I got older and started drawing, I discovered the pleasures of colouring in with felt markers. And the surprising thing is, unlike the world of crayons, where professional artist’s crayon is a delight to use—smooth, gliding sweeps of colour wherever you want it—children’s felt markers are almost as nice to use as professional art markers, especially when it comes to colouring in things.

Once I discovered this, I was hooked. There was a time when I actively searched for colouring books that would actually take markers. And featured intricate designs. After looking for ages, I finally found one called SpinLights. I knew what a treasure I had right there—so much so, I bought FOUR of them.

Spinlights

Mandala

A little obsessive, I know.

As illustrator Johanna Basford says in The Guardian article about her books, ““I think it is really relaxing, to do something analogue, to unplug. And it’s creative. For many people, a blank sheet is very daunting; with a colouring book you just need to bring the colour.”

And she’s right—it is a really meditative activity, and best of all, when you’re done, you’ve got something really beautiful.

It’s actually been a while since I last sat down to do some meditative colouring. Dylan doesn’t use markers anymore—he’s like me, more fond of his drawing pencils—so we don’t have any right now. But I’ve put in an order for both of Basford’s books, and in the meantime I’m going to see about getting the biggest pack of Crayola markers I can find!

And if you’d like to give a colouring page for adults a try, check out these gorgeous colouring pages Judy Clement Wall has available for free download on her site.

Did you colour in colouring books when you were a kid? What about now?

Pet Sematary Readalong Completed!

I finished Pet Sematary a few days ago which means Yay! I’ve completed the readalong! This was my first large-scale readalong, with hashtags on Twitter and Instagram and everything, and it was a whole lot of fun.

But probably the best part of the readalong was this little guy, a little cat-duck sent to me by Jill to be dressed in whatever gangster cat gear I wanted:

Gangstercat poses

Dylan and I had so much fun dressing this little guy up today! Dylan made the gun and the suit, while I made the hat and the tie. We used Crayola Model Magic, which worked quite well. We even googled 1940s gangster suits, hats and guns so we’d have a good idea what we were aiming for!

And now this little guy will sit in a place of honour on my desk, reminding me of the fun of joining in on the #gangstercats readalong.

gangstercat at home

And as for Pet Sematary itself? Definitely not my favourite King book. I enjoyed the first part—King writes those family with kids scenes so well, brings such life to them. And what happens to the Creed family is just gut-wrenching. But once we get to the part where we know what Louis is going to do, and we also know it’s not going to turn out well (not to mention, we’re screaming at him, “No! Don’t do it! Don’t do it!”), it started to feel (to me) more a matter of turning the pages in order to get to the end than anything else.

Compared to It, which I read back in February, Pet Sematary lacked that tightly wound tension that makes you hold your breath in anticipation … of what, you have no clue, but you know for sure it’s going to be good, whatever it is.

The ending was a nice touch, though. I liked the question it left in my mind: was Louis right? Was that really the reason why things went so terribly wrong? Was it in his power to right this one last particular wrong?

Despite the book not being my favourite King book, it was still a good read. And #gangstercats more than made up for the lack of oomph as the book neared its end.

Have you read Pet Sematary? Or seen the movie?