Wednesday, June 28, 2017

BOOK: Based on a True Story by Norm Macdonald

Based on a True Story by Norm Macdonald, 240 pages 

Norm Macdonald, Canadian comic, famous for his stand-up, his dry humour, his controversial time as host of SNL Weekend Update, a few unfamous movies like Dirty Jobs, and recently, playing Uncle Rusty on The Middle and a weird stint as Colonel Sanders of KFC fame, has written a 'memoir'. 

Before I started reading the book, I happened to notice on the copyright page: "The stories in this memory begin with the author’s recollection of events, which is – by his own admission – spotty.” Next I noticed the dedication - To Charles Manson (not that one). 

These were my first clues to the total foolishness that Norm Macdonald was up to.  Knowing that Norm is just telling a story with a long punchline let me in on the joke that is this book. I found it funny, but don't expect to read this and think you will gain insight into Norm Macdonald's life.  I will say I though the Manson joke paid off very well and I found the whole ghostwriter stuff pretty funny. 

I've followed Norm by times on Twitter, but he tweets too much to follow continuously. However, a few times I've read this stories on Twitter, such as the background to the Celebrity Jeopardy skit from the anniversary SNL show, which was pretty funny. He writes long stories on Twitter, which shouldn't be possible.

There may be germs of truth in the book, but most gets super exaggerated and flat-out made up. The whole gambling gambit, deal with the devil, falling out of windows are clearly made up. Some of the people are real (Adam Sandler, Lorne Michaels, etc) but I doubt the conversations are real. But once you get the humour, it just continues and you can enjoy the foolishness. I haven't seen all of Norm's stuff, so the famous answering machine joke was something I wasn't familiar with (and neither will you - he never tells that joke in the book) but in some reviews I've read, some of his jokes, like the moth joke, have been told before.

If you are half a fan of Norm, you might enjoy this, but it is not for someone unfamiliar with Norm's humour. I enjoyed the foolishness.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Best Books of 2017 So Far

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted each week at The Broke and the Bookish. Check them out for other lists, and future topics.
Half way through the year and time for a best of list. I've been reading a lot this year, a lot of very good books. I'm going to pick 5 fiction and 5 nonfiction.  Ask me tomorrow, and I'll pick a different list. I've reviewed, and raved, all of these this year, so none of these choices will be a surprise to regular readers.

Field Notes by Sara Jewell

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong

March 2, March 3 by John Lewis

Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al Franken

Finding Wonders by Jeannine Atkins

Icarus by Deon Meyer

Silkworm, Career of Evil by Robert Gailbraith

Citizen Vince by Jess Walter

Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry

Canada by Mike Myers

Monday, June 26, 2017

CHALLENGE: Canada Book Challenge

As we get ready to start the second decade of The Canadian Book Challenge, only one thing has changed - the host. John at The Book Mine Set has handed over the reins to Melwyk at The Indrextrious Reader, feel free to read about the challenge here. Thanks to John for starting and keeping it going, and to Mel for continuing.

Read thirteen books by or about Canada or Canadians, and post a review somewhere online. I never have any trouble reading 13 books, but I don't always get 13 reviewed - I'm working on it. The point of reviewing is to start a discussion and share these great Canadian books and authors.

This year, in honour of Canada 150, I'm planning to read 13 fiction and 13 nonfiction books. That goal is really part of 2017 so it carries over between last year and this year's challenge. It'll all work out somehow.

Some of the books I'm looking at to read include:

This is Not My Life - Diane Schoemperlen
The Tiger - John Vaillant
Stories About Storytellers - Douglas Gibson
Gone to an Aunts - Anne Petrie
Susannah Moodie - Carol Shields
Paper Shadows - Wayson Choy

The Diviners - Margaret Laurence
Landing - Emma Donaghue
Against a Darkening Sky - Lauren B Davis
The Glass Harmonica - Russell Wangersky
Rockbound - Frank Parker Day
Bachelor Brother's Bed and Breakfast - Bill Richardson

Saturday, June 24, 2017

SERIES: plucky British ladies of the 1930s

I've been doing quite well in some ongoing series this year. Here's two lighter mysteries, starring those plucky British ladies of the 1930s, Maisie Dobbs and Her Royal Spyness.

Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear
#12 Journey to Munich (audiobook)
#13 In This Grave Hour

I wasn't happy with the Maisie series after book 11. It essentially reset the series and now instead of dealing with effects of WW1, Maisie is becoming involved in the beginning of WW2, moving on and leaving a large number of previous characters just home in England.
I listened to Journey to Munich, and it wasn't as compelling to me as some of the other books. I'm not convinced I'm liking this new reset.

In This Grave Hour brings Maisie back to the best parts of the series. Billy and Sandra at the office, with small stories for them, Frankie and Brenda (Maisie's dad and step-mom) butting into her life, The Compton's and their estate, and Maisie's friend Priscilla Partridge and her boys. There is a mystery going on which dates back to WW1, while WW2 has just been declared. Maisie is showing some interest in Richard Stratton (who sounds like he is working at Bletchley Park). It's all the good stuff about Maisie mysteries that has been missing in the previous two books. I'm pleased with the return!

Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen
#8 Queen of Hearts 
#9 Malice at the Palace 
#10 Crowned and Dangerous 

Georgianna Rannoch, 34th in line to the throne and smitten with Darcy O'Mara, keeps getting in scrapes and finding dead people. These cozy mysteries are one of the few cozies that I enjoy. I usually prefer my mysteries as crime, with detectives investigating. There is something fun about this 1930s-era stories as Georgie runs in the royal circles, being as rude as she is able to Mrs Wallace, and dealing with her wayward maid, Queenie.

Nothing in particular about any of these mystery stories, but the back stories of Georgie's friend Belinda, Darcy becoming much more attentive, her kind brother and her mean sister-in-law keep each new book interesting.
I started this series in late 2014, and now am up to date, and waiting for the next book, On Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service, expected in August 2017.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Series I've Been Meaning to Start

Cool! This is a topic that was originally posted in March 2013, and I wrote a post then. Time to check in and have a little reckoning on my list-making skills (and follow-through).  Check out The Broke and the Bookish for future lists, and the find all the other participants.

1. Mo Hayder's Jack Caffery series (5 books) 
Excellent! There ended up being 7 books and I read them all. Loved Jack Caffery! This one is at the edge of my violent description levels, but I really enjoyed the series.

2. Laurie R King's Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series (12 books)
Oops! Haven't started this yet, and now there are 15 books in the series.

3. George RR Martin's Game of Thrones series
This doesn't surprise me that I haven't started this series, and some day I will because I know they are really good. 

4. Karin Slaughter's series with Georgia (3 books), Will Trent, and Sara Linton
The labeling of these series can be confusing. I've read the 8 books in the Will Trent series, and Sara Linton shows up in the later books. This was a good police series; I probably listened to half the books. 

I'm at 50 %  series read so far!

5. Kate Ellis' Wesley Peterson mysteries (17 books)
Nope, haven't read any, but I've picked up 3 of them at book sales.  And now there are 21 books. Yikes!

6. Amitov Ghosh's Ibis Trilogy
I still want to read this trilogy.

7. Michael Stanley's Assistant Superintendent David 'Kubu' Bengu (3 books)
Starts with A Carrion Death, and now there are 7 books. I feel like there is a chance I'll start this series.

8. Ariana Franklin's Mistress of the Art of Death (5 books)
There were only 4 books, and Ms Franklin died, but I loved this series set in the 12th century. Read them all!

9. Declan Hughes' Ed Loy mysteries (5 books)
Well, I forgot all about this series, and I'm pretty sure I have the first book, The Wrong Kind of Blood. Still only 5 books - seems readable.

10. Anchee Min's Empress Orchid series (2 books)
You'd think I could read a 2 book series, but apparently not yet.

So, final tally - 3 series read, but I read them completely, so that counts for something! I thought I was going to list the books I had already added to my FictFact lists, because I had 9 new series already listed there. None of them are the ones I never read from my list 4 years ago. 

Here's the 9 from FictFact. I add new series as I read good reviews, so I won't forget. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

BOOK: I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong

I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes within Us and a Grander View of Life by Ed Yong (9 h 52 min)

This was fun! And I'm not really a biology person, but I do like science. The information in this book felt very up to date, like listening to cutting-edge science. What do we know about microbes? Not very much overall, but it seems to be a developing field.

I've never been an anti-bacterial soap person, and, anecdotally, I'm fairly bacteria-free, having only had several doses of antibiotics in my life. I do pick up viruses, but I seldom get bacterial infections. I must host a well-rounded multitude of microbes! 

Have you seen the microbe stuffed animals? They make microbes almost look adorable.
I'm not even completely sure about all I listened to, but Yong had a great writing voice and narrator Charlie Anson was engaging and enthusiastic with the material. I would read more, or at the very least, re-read this and feel like I am still learning new ideas. There is just so much to learn about the interactions between good and bad microbes, the evolutionary skills of bacteria and virusus and phages, symbiosis, and probiotics (the opposite of antibiotics).

My favourite microbe that appears throughout the book was Wolbachia, present in insects and sometimes is good and sometimes is bad. I'm not even sure what it does, but it seems necessary, and there was something funny to me about how often Wolbachia kept showing up in a new chapter. 

Think of all the television shows which showed - 'how many germs/bugs are present on your (fill in the blank)'. The problem was these were presented as bad things, as dangerous microbes, when in reality, the balance of microbes is necessary. So there are billions of microbes - they are supposed to be there! And many of them are the good ones, necessary to deal with the bad ones. This wasn't presented in the book, it is my analysis and opinion of things, which is why I've never been an anti-bacterial soap, or Purex person. 

Microbial scientists are doing great work, and fighting a battle against society's inherent disgust over these bugs. More people should read this book to get on board with these invisible creepy crawlies.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Nonfiction books I've added to by TBR recently

The topic for this week's Top Ten Tuesday is books from 'x' genre that have been recently added to my TBR pile. I chose nonfiction, and I looked at my lists at librarything and my library to see what I've recently added. Thanks to all you reviewers out there who give me all these great ideas!
Check out The Broke and the Bookish for future lists, and the find all the other participants.

by Candace Savage
I find crows fascinating! Each summer, there is a March of Crows in Charlottetown, where people dress up as crows and march to the park where all the real crows return each evening. Caw, caw!

by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Moss doesn't sound like it would be interesting, but when a person who has a passion for something writes about a seemingly mundane idea, it doesn't matter the topic: it will be good.

by Steven Johnson
Victorian era London is always interesting, and add an infectious disease? Sounds like gold! 

Bad science : Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks 
I like good science, I like bad science, I like all science

Krakauer is always on his game (Into Thin Air, and Into the Wild) so I expect no less on this one.

by Norm MacDonald
This one so interested me that I have it out from the library right now. Uncle Rusty from The Middle tells a good story. (Plus, Canadian!)

by Luke Dittrich
Something I read last year (maybe Moonlighting with Einstein, about memory) mentioned this book. Brain research is cool.

H is for Hawk 
by Helen MacDonald
I've heard this one is good on audio, so I am waiting for my library to get the audio version.

This is Not My Life: a memoir of love, prison, and other complications 
by Diane Schoemperlen
Another Canadian book, I found this one on the Taylor Prize for Nonfiction writing as a finalist.

The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the  History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements 

by Sam Kean

Nonfiction titles have the best subtitles! I still remember that grade eleven chemistry class, learning about the periodic table and how it all fit together, and how Mendeleev knew where to leave blanks and being blown away. 

Thursday, June 1, 2017

AUTHOR: Alistair MacLeod

Alistair MacLeod (1934-2014)  is a Canadian treasure. He didn't written a ton of books (one novel, a few short story collections) but he packed a huge punch in what he wrote. While in university, I took a course called Maritime Studies and the professor, David Weale, took us on a tour of Maritime culture. Music, language, history, culture, and literature. The main thing I remember though is reading a story called  Lost Salt Gift of Blood. I later went back and read the whole book, and all the rest of MacLeod's writings. Another thing that Alistair produced was his son, Alexander, who also writes wonderful short stories, see Light Lifting.

I went through a little Alistair MacLeod spell this spring...

To Everything There is a Season by Alistair MacLeod (short story)

Dear little Christmas story set in 1940s, waiting for the older brother to come home on Christmas eve. It's a story about family, and remembering, and nostalgia, tinged with sorrow. 

I think it is a book I'd like to have to my Christmas book collection, so read once a year, like A Child's Christmas in Wales or Dave Cooks the Turkey. You know, classics.

Reading Alistair MacLeod

NFB of Canada DVD

I was able to borrow this DVD from my local library and enjoy the legend of Canadian literature. Typical delightful NFB film with no narrator, just conversations and people answering questions that have clearly been asked, but the viewer doesn't get to hear.

Featuring Alistair MacLeod ; with appearances by Margaret Atwood, David Adams Richards, Russell Banks, Colm Tóibín, Lisa Moore and Wayne Johnston.

A documentary that explores the mysteries of MacLeod's creative process, his deep and abiding connection to Cape Breton, his explosion onto the international literary scene with his first novel, No Great Mischief, and his love of family. Woven into the documentary are commentaries by other authors such as Margaret Atwood who read their favorite passages from his work and sharing their personal stories.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

BOOK: Knucklehead by Matt Lennox

Knucklehead by Matt Lennox, 320 pages 

Kuncklehead came to my attention when it was on the longlist for Canada Reads this year. There weren't a lot of books that caught my attention, but this one had mystery associated with it, so I decided to give it a try.

Ashley Rosco is a small town Ontario young guy, going no where. He's bouncing at the local club, working out and competing in body building. He's in love with his best friend's girl who also happens to be his cousin. Yeah, things get a bit icky here because they fool around too. 

And yet, I liked Ashley and hoped he could get his life together. His family is messed up and Ash has his own issues. He's that young guy with no ambitions, just hanging out with his old life, doing drugs, on the edge of society, but senses that he could be doing better.

The mystery is when his cousin, Chastity, goes missing. He gets a bit obsessed, and the story he narrates goes back in forth, growing up times, present time, and times with Chastity. His friend Darren is definitely heading in a dangerous direction with his really bad news father. 

Things get pretty gritty - guns and drugs and fights. Somewhere around half way through I really got into the story, and the mystery of Chas started ramping up. 

Certainly not a book I would have ever found myself or picked up, but I ended up liking it quite a lot.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Most Anticipated Books for the Second Half of 2017

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish each week. The topic this week is Top Ten Most Anticipated Books For The Second Half of 2017. I have lots of books already to read, so most of the books I'm anticipating are from tried and true series. I'm looking forward to seeing what books other people are looking forward to. 

On Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service by Rhys Bowen (August 1st)
What's up with Georgie and Darcy? Book 11 in this fun cozy mystery

Mrs Fletcher by Tom Perrotta  (August 2017)
I've enjoyed two other Perrotta books quite a lot, so I thought I'd take a chance on his latest book. (The Leftovers, Little Children)

The Ice-Cream Makers by Ernest van der Kwast  (August 1st)
This cover is so delightful, and I feel like an Italian book

Glass Houses by Louise Penny  (August 29th)
Book #13 of the Three Pines crowd

The House of Unexpected Sisters by Alexander McCall Smith (Nov 7th)
Another Precious book, #18

The Paris Spy (August 2017)
I'm actually one behind here, so once I get The Queen's Accomplice read, this one will be out.

New Boy by Tracey Chevalier (now)
I'm waiting for the library to get the latest Chevalier book in. It is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare retelling series. It has been released, but fairly recently and I'm waiting. Chevalier is one of my reliable authors, but this is her first non historical novel.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

BOOKS: Leftover Nonfiction

I am trying to review all the nonfiction books I read this year. Let's file these under - Not all Nonfiction Books Will Be My Favourite Reads

How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland's Heroic Role From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe - Thomas Cahill, 246 pages

I read the introduction which told how, because it was isolated, books survived in Ireland that were destroyed in Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire in the early centuries AD and then spread Christianity during the Dark Ages. That's the main point and after reading the rest of the book, I don't know a whole lot more than that. There's a nice background on Saint Patrick and I have increased my still slight knowledge of the Dark Ages.

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible - AJ Jacobs (audiobook)

This idea of picking a crazy idea and then writing a book seems to have reached its nadir here. It started with a secular, not very religious guy wondering what to teach his son about religion, and then he decides to live the Bible, Old Testament, for a year. There is some humour and you can tell he is writing this to be a book. I guess I see a difference between doing something, and then writing about it after, versus deciding to write a book about something and then chronicling it as you go. There is a level of artificiality to this, like a reality show that follows famous people on their very contrived adventures. 

A lot of the tasks seem to be doing them just to do them, or finding loopholes to do a different version of things. However, he treats the people he talks to with respect, and his effort at prayer and meditation were getting somewhere. His wife was a saint throughout this. A saint.

The Omnivore's Dilemma: Young Readers Edition - Michael Pollen (audiobook)

I previously listened to Pollen's In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto and only found it okay. This was the last of last summer's YA Sync I listened to and it was very similar to In Defense of Food. Pollen makes good points, and he doesn't say anything is good or bad, just presents the different facts.  It really is a dilemma! There is a level of judgement though and I find myself arguing what ever point he is making as I listen. 

The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old With Autism  - Naoki  Higashido, 176 pages

I feel bad not liking this book because it is written by a thirteen year old with autism, sharing his experiences and reasons why he does the things he does. It is written as a somewhat guide to dealing with kids with autism with Naoki wrting questions and then answering them based on his experience. I felt there was too much generalizations as I can't imagine that every autistic child is experiencing the world the same way he does. However, I imagine that even seeing his explanation of why things happen they way they do could be insightful.
There were some very beautiful sketches between chapters.