Tag Archives: reading

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

23 Jul

Cloud Atlas

Photo thanks to condalmo.wordpress.com

‘Ahhh.’

That’s the precise feeling I had as I hungrily gobbled up the last words of this masterpiece. Even after turning the last page, closing the book and rubbing the back cover in that clichéed but perfect way, I was unable to let go. In fact, for the next couple days, I kept it with me, thinking about the characters, pondering the detail and the storylines and at times flipping back through the book to read through the delicious mind traps and perfectly woven plot.

Even before I was halfway through, it had instantly become one of my favourite books. It’s that good. The amount of precision and detail involved is astounding, but all the while that finely tuned machinery of the novel is masked by the easy breezy, enchanting style of the author’s prose. I was willingly swept up in the storylines, hanging on to every word and re-reading pages just for the fun of it. It was less a novel than an experience for me, full of wonder and excitement and, surprisingly, powerful political commentary. It’s a thinking book.

It’s hard to describe this book without taking away from its perfection, which lies in the way the stories unfold to the reader. This much can be told without spoiling it: six characters, spread out across centuries, in different parts of the world entirely. Each character has a powerful story, connected in subtle and fascinating ways to the other characters, those connections revealed slowly and carefully throughout the book. The author effortlessly (well, I’m sure it required much effort, but it doesn’t seem that way to us) inhabits each of the characters’ souls and personalities, writing in a variety of styles to reveal the different facets of their personality. The styles include an interview, a journal, a movie script, a first-hand account..each perfectly suited to the characters themselves.

As the book (or maybe the reader!) races back through the stories, revisiting them and tying up loose ends, you’re struck again and again by the connecting details, the characters’ links and the magnitude of detail involved here. It’s incredible.

The book made me feel alive, in a way I can’t really explain. It made me happy, it entertained me at the most primitive level of my being: it told me stories. It told me rich, detailed, fascinating and compelling stories, beautifully crafted stories, stories that might once have been real and could become real in the distant future. And although it’s intellectual, it’s not an impossibility to read. The stories aren’t pretentious, they’re real.

It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2004, and won several other awards including the British Books Awards for Literary Fiction. It’s David Mitchell’s third book, and I’m itching to get my hands on his others. His newest book is called The Thousand Autumn’s of Jacob de Zoet, published this year. If you want more spoilers on Cloud Atlas, read them here.

This book made me happy to have read it. It tricked me and messed with my head and made me think. How wonderful! All in all, a wonderfully entertaining and intellectual read. I can’t wait to read something else by this marvelous author.

Cheers!

Shelfari

30 Jun

Hello fellow book-lovers! How are you this fine evening? I hope everyone liked the last review, by adistantlife, who is our new contributor! Hopefully over the next little while we’ll get some more contributors set up here on the site and there will be lots more content available. You can check out his ‘about’ page for more information on the types of things he likes to read!


For now though, I thought I’d stop by and do a feature post on one of my favourite websites. Shelfari is a wonderful website for any and all avid book-readers. It’s a service that allows you to create your own shelf (you can even choose the finish on said shelf, if you wish!) which will contain electronic versions of books.

There are three categories per shelf: I’ve Read, I Want to Read, I’m Reading. You can indicate your favourite books, and the ones you own also. Think of it as having an electronic bookshelf.

The really cool part about this service is that it allows you to make books a social thing, without going so far as to start a book club. A few of my good friends are using the service, and it’s so fun to check out what they’re reading or what’s on their ‘to-read’ list. It can start conversations, provoke sharing and provide tons of inspiration!

Whenever you read a new book, or hear about one in the newspaper/radio/tv, all you have to do is search for it, quickly choose which category it belongs in on your shelf, and it’s there for future reference. You have the option of rating books that are on your shelf, providing information on their characters/summaries on their general info pages, participating in discussions of the books with other Shelfari members, and more. There are also tons of groups you can join on the site, depending on what sort of books you enjoy.

All in all, I think it’s a fun service. I don’t use it for social networking so much as for my own records and amusement, but it could be used for any number of other things! Like I said, it’s a favourite service of mine and I thought you might want to check it out.

If you’re interested, here’s my profile on Shelfari, feel free to check out what I’m reading these days!

xoxo, S.

Dying To Read..

14 Jun

These are a few books that I’m so excited to read that I’m practically tying myself to a chair to prevent the inevitable sprinting to Chapters to buy them. I am typically a patient(ish) person – I’ll see a book I want to read, either online, in the paper or in the store, and then I’ll place a hold for pickup at my library. The only problem is that sometimes, other people want to read the same books that I do. Then what happens is I get stuck in an inevitable holds lineup of anywhere from 7 to 44 people. And the line never gets any shorter. It’s so frustrating. And yes, I’m the type of person to check my library holds online 4 times a day. Guess what people! READ FASTER! But, since I’m poor and cheap, I must sit patient(ish)ly and await my turn to read said books. Sigh. Such is the life of a reader, I suppose.

Anywho, here they are: the ‘I-Can’t-Wait-To-Reads’!

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

By: Aimee Bender

First, read the reviews from The Globe and Mail and The Millions.

Photo thanks to opl.on.ca

And here’s the book description from Amazon.ca:

On the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein, a girl at the periphery of schoolyard games and her distracted parents’ attention, bites into her mother’s homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother’s emotions in the cake. She discovers this gift to her horror, for her mother—her cheerful, good-with-crafts, can-do mother—tastes of despair and desperation. Suddenly, and for the rest of her life, food becomes a peril and a threat to Rose.

The curse her gift has bestowed is the secret knowledge all families keep hidden—her mother’s life outside the home, her father’s detachment, her brother’s clash with the world. Yet as Rose grows up she learns to harness her gift and becomes aware that there are secrets even her taste buds cannot discern.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is a luminous tale about the enormous difficulty of loving someone fully when you know too much about them. It is heartbreaking and funny, wise and sad, and confirms Aimee Bender’s place as “a writer who makes you grateful for the very existence of language.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

By: Alan Bradley

This one has been recommended to me by several of my old colleagues at the bookstore, who say that it is absolutely adorable, but also a very compelling mystery story.

Photo thanks to opl.on.ca

Here’s an article about the author himself – a 70 year old from Cobourg, ON initially! Props to Canada.

And here’s the description from Amazon.ca:

A delightfully dark English mystery, featuring precocious young sleuth Flavia de Luce and her eccentric family.

The summer of 1950 hasn’t offered up anything out of the ordinary for eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce: bicycle explorations around the village, keeping tabs on her neighbours, relentless battles with her older sisters, Ophelia and Daphne, and brewing up poisonous concoctions while plotting revenge in their home’s abandoned Victorian chemistry lab, which Flavia has claimed for her own.

But then a series of mysterious events gets Flavia’s attention: A dead bird is found on the doormat, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. A mysterious late-night visitor argues with her aloof father, Colonel de Luce, behind closed doors. And in the early morning Flavia finds a red-headed stranger lying in the cucumber patch and watches him take his dying breath. For Flavia, the summer begins in earnest when murder comes to Buckshaw: “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.”

Did the stranger die of poisoning? There was a piece missing from Mrs. Mullet’s custard pie, and none of the de Luces would have dared to eat the awful thing. Or could he have been killed by the family’s loyal handyman, Dogger… or by the Colonel himself! At that moment, Flavia commits herself to solving the crime — even if it means keeping information from the village police, in order to protect her family. But then her father confesses to the crime, for the same reason, and it’s up to Flavia to free him of suspicion. Only she has the ingenuity to follow the clues that reveal the victim’s identity, and a conspiracy that reaches back into the de Luces’ murky past.

A thoroughly entertaining romp of a novel, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is inventive and quick-witted, with tongue-in-cheek humour that transcends the macabre seriousness of its subject.

Summer at Tiffany

By: Marjorie Hart

The wonderfully glamourous-sounding memoir of one woman’s move to New York City to be a clerk at Tiffany’s for a summer. How luxurious! Well, maybe it wasn’t exactly a breeze, but that’s exactly why I want to read it..all the gritty details of the world’s most glam store.

Photo thanks to amazon.ca

And here is the description from Amazon.ca:

New York City, 1945. Marjorie Jacobson and her best friend, Marty Garrett, arrive fresh from the Kappa house at the University of Iowa hoping to find summer positions as shopgirls. Turned away from the top department stores, they miraculously find jobs as pages at Tiffany & Co., becoming the first women to ever work on the sales floor, a diamond-filled day job replete with Tiffany-blue shirtwaist dresses from Bonwit Teller’s—and the envy of all their friends.

Looking back on that magical time in her life, Marjorie takes us back to when she and Marty rubbed elbows with the rich and famous, pinched pennies to eat at the Automat, experienced nightlife at La Martinique, and danced away their weekends with dashing midshipmen. Between being dazzled by Judy Garland’s honeymoon visit to Tiffany, celebrating VJ Day in Times Square, and mingling with CafÉ society, she fell in love, learned unforgettable lessons, made important decisions that would change her future, and created the remarkable memories she now shares with all of us.

Runners Up

Photo thanks to opl.on.ca

Photo thanks to opl.on.ca

Okay, fine, I’ll wait..

..but you know I’ll be watching my holds very closely. Or, I could break the bank and scamper on down to the local bookstore. Huh. We’ll see!

Let me know: what books are you dying to read??

xoxo, S.