Tag Archives: reviews

It’s Monday….what am I reading?

[Image is a little reminder that pollen season is on the way….]

I’m getting more and more excited about our trip to England in a couple of weeks!  I’ve set aside some books set in the area to read while I’m there, but I’d really like a novel set around the time of the Norman conquest. So please leave any ideas in the comments box.  I’ll let you know what books I’ll be taking with me in next Monday’s update.

Anyway, at present, I am reading Becoming George Sand by Rosalind Brackenbury. The main character, Maria, is having an extra-marital affair while also reading about George Sand and her affair with Chopin. The novel intertwines her current situation with that of Sand, but I’m not very far into it so am not sure how successful this will be. It’s set in Edinburgh, so another country added to my Where Am I Reading in 2011 map!  My current audio book is Shopaholic and Sister by Sophie Kinsella. This is the first of her Shopaholic series that I’ve read, although I’ve enjoyed a number of her other novels. They are light but very entertaining novels and I love the narration by Katherine Kellgren on the audiobooks. In this novel, rather well into the series, Becky is married and meets her half-sister who is extremely different from her, and Becky is determined to bond with her. I’m about half-way through and it’s been fun so far.

Since I checked in a week ago, I finished up  A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley which was just as great as I expected. Bride of New France by Suzanne Desrochers, about a fille du roi, was excellent and I learned a lot about the period and the hardships that these women experienced.  It would be an excellent novel for a teenager studying Canadian history. And speaking of teens, I finished the absolutely hilarious Young Adult novel Alice, I Think by Susan Juby. It’s about a fiffteen-year old girl in British Columbia who has been homeschooled (or rather, “unschooled”) and has some issues. It’s written in a journal format and she chronicles her efforts towards her life goals in quirky yet intelligent narration. If I was a teen in the early 2000s, this is a book (a series, actually), that I would have loved. Sort of a Harriet the Spy for the new millenium. I plan to pick up the next books in the trilogy.

Finally, I just finished Left Neglected by Lisa Genova. The novel follows Sarah, a high-powered HR exec in an international consulting firm, as she experiences and is treated for a traumatic brain injury following a car accident. The type of damage is called hemispatial neglect (or “left neglect” in this case, since it’s her left side). Essentially, she loses the experience of her left side. She’s not paralyzed…she just cannot “see” anything to the left, including the left side of her body, the left side of a piece of paper, or her dinner plate, or the room.  It’s rather hard to describe, but Genova (who has a PhD in neuroscience) does a fabulous job of evoking not only the physical and mental issues associated with this injury, but the effect it has on Sarah’s family and lifestyle. I highly recommend this novel.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins turned out to be an absolutely terrific read, much as so many people had said. As I mentioned last week, it’s not the kind of novel I’d normally pick up (dystopian future, kids having to kill each other….) but I was very taken in by the main characters and the world in which they lived. I look forward to the rest of the trilogy.

As I mentioned to a friend last week, I feel like I”m on a bit of a Young Adult jag. There is such terrific writing out there for that demographic. I may even give the Harry Potter series another try!

Coming up in paper:

  1. Under the Net by Iris Murdoch
  2. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman
  3. Double Fault by Lionel Shriver
  4. Incredible Edibles: 43 Fun Things to Grow in the City by Sonia Day

Coming up in audio:

  1. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
  2. A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
  3. The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
  4. An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin


    Tangles….a mini book review.

    Tangles: A Story About Alzheimer's, My Mother, and MeTangles: A Story About Alzheimer’s, My Mother, and Me by Sarah Leavitt
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    A remarkable story of a woman’s journey alongside her mother who struggled with Alzheimer’s. I would highly recommend this to anyone facing a similar situation…the story is told with truth and love, and is a realistic portrait of the feelings of family members caring for a loved one.

    View all my reviews

    It’s Monday….what am I reading?


    I’ve got two pretty good books on the go.

    • I’m about three-quarters of the way through In the Kitchen by Monica Ali, a novel about a chef working in an upscale London hotel, stresses in his personal life, and some peculiar activities that are going on around him.  It’s well-written and engaging, and the cast of characters that inhabit his kitchen and his life are intriguing and, if not likeable, multi-dimensional and interesting to read about.   Ali is the also the author of Booker-shortlisted Brick Lane, a wonderful novel about a family of Asian immigrants (also set in London) that was also made into a film. 
    • I’ve been listening to my second J.D. Robb novel, Glory In Death.  This is a series written under one of Nora Roberts pen names, and is set in a New York of 2058.  With a copyright of 1995 (that’s over 15 years ago!), some of the futuristic details seem a little dated, but they’re a fun read.  These are sort of the thriller equivalent to Harlequins but are excellent listening while folding laundry and walking the dog.  

    Next up are Love the One You’re With by Emily Giffen, Mr. Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt, and The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie in audiobook format.

      Check out my updated Where Am I Reading? map, as well as my Goodreads profile where I’m trying to get better about posting reviews of things I’ve read.

      Oh, and the wonderful vintage graphics in my last few posts are from The Graphics Fairy.  She has wonderful, free images to download for blogging, scrapbooking, and all manner of crafty endeavours!

      Janet’s bookshelf: read

      We Have Always Lived in the CastleInnocent GravesSecrets of EdenLogicomix: An Epic Search for TruthLittle Green Dresses: 50 Original Patterns for Repurposed Dresses, Tops, Skirts, and MoreThe Good Apprentice

      More of Janet’s books »

      Janet Berkman's  book recommendations, reviews, quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists

      His Illegal Self by Peter Carey: my review from Goodreads.

      His Illegal SelfHis Illegal Self by Peter Carey
      My rating: 5 of 5 stars

      Reviewers’ problems with following the narration were perhaps mitigated with audiobook version that I listened to. I found this a completely absorbing novel, with facts that are revealed slowly and a point of view that changes between the two main characters. Set in the 70s, mother-figure Anna/Dile, kidnaps Che/Jay, and takes him from his privileged New York home to the outback of Australia. Their relationship, as well as the one with their friend/protector, Trevor, forms the main core of the story. I found the emotions very believable and enjoyed the political drama against which the novel is set.

      Narration by Stefan Rudnicki is outstanding.

      View all my reviews

      Review: Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart

      Summer at TiffanySummer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart
      My rating: 3 of 5 stars

      A lovely, short memoir written by a woman who spent a wonderful summer in 1945 working at Tiffany’s New York with her best friend. It nicely evokes the tenor of the times, the club scene, clothing, dating life, and the end of the war.

      A fun, summer read, made better by the fact that it’s a memoir and not fiction. My mother is approximately the same age as Marjorie and it helped me to understand what it was like for her during those times (although none of her summer jobs were as glamorous as Marjorie’s!)

      View all my reviews

      Interested in joining an online book-lovers’ community? Check out my books on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/profile/jannie_b  

      A couple of book reviews.

      Come, Thou Tortoise by Jessica Grant

      Come, Thou Tortoise

      One of the highlights of my summer reading so far, this book recounts the experiences of a young woman, Audrey, called back from the west coast (US) to Newfoundland when her father falls into a coma.  She has to leave her tortoise, Winnifred, with friends and good chunks of the book revolve around her checking in with her friends about the tortoise, and her longing to be reunited with Winnifred. The remainder of the book involves Audrey's discoveries about her family in some very humorous ways.

      This book is rather difficult to describe, but it is very funny, particularly for people who like words, and poignantly insightful about family life, all in the same breath.  It kept me completely engaged with a quick moving plot and terrific wordplay. Random House has an excerpt that lets one get a feel for the writing.  Grant has a unique voice and won the 2010 amazon.ca/Books in Canada First Novel Award for 2010.  Well-deserved.

      Highly recommended!

      Girl Crazy by Russell Smith

      Girl Crazy

      I loved Russell Smith's columns on men's style in the Globe and Mail, and so was interested to check out his fiction.  This novel follows Justin, a thirty-ish English instructor at a community college in Toronto who stops to assist a young woman in distress, waiting for an ambulance on the street.  He ends up accompanying her to the hospital, they become friends, and quickly more.  This woman has, lets call them, issues, and his infatuation with her leads him into involvement with the underbelly of the city.

      The story is simple and the reader can easily see what's coming ahead.  Smith writes well, but his protagonist is obsessed with sex, seeing women's undergarments through their clothing, the effect of air-conditioning on female anatomy, etc etc.  This constant stream of lingerie sighting is tiresome and after the first couple of times, unnecessary.  We don't need it every time the man sits in a cafe or wanders down the college hallway.  I enjoyed the unfolding of the relationship, but Justin seems unable to see what is staring the rest of us in the face.  Presumably, this is where the title comes from.  

      A quick, unsophisticated read.  Not for the (sexually) faint of heart.  

      Borrow it from the library if you think it would appeal.  Not a buy.