Monday, February 5, 2018

UPDATE: January Fiction Reads

I feel I was all over the place in my January reading. Paper books are taking me longer and longer to read, yet I can zip through an audiobook in a few days. I realized in my end of the year recap that I hadn't read many/any short story collections, and I usually enjoy short stories. Somewhere, once upon a time, I marked some books at Goodreads from a list of connected short story collections, so I hope to find some of those this year.

Emerald City by Jennifer Egan is not one of those books.  I don't think. But some of the stories have the same type of characters (con men, models, daughters of adulterers) enough that made me question whether they were the same characters. None of the stories are happy, everyone has something to hide or reveal. I like short stories that are a little diabolical.
(5h 32 min, narrated by Richard Waterhouse, Madeleine Lambert, Charlie Thurston)

A couple of graphic novels series I have been following are the Lumberjanes and FBP (Federal Bureau of Physics)
FBP Vol 3: Standing on Shoulders by Simon Oliver is a science fiction world where something is happening on earth that defies the laws of physics and the FBP investigators. The series is only four long I believe, so I'm getting near the end. Each so far, besides detailing some of these black hole/dark energy issues, backstories the main investigators. Now that all of them have been thoroughly introduced, the final edition should be a doozy.

The Lumberjanes Vol 6: Sink or Swim by Shannon Watters was, as usual, excellent. I've got Volume 7 out from the library, so will review them together next month.

There are some classic novels I have no interest in reading, like The House of the Seven Gables, or Ulysses by James Joyce and there are some that seem intriguing (and short. That helps.) Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka is one of those classics that seems worth reading. I was pleased that it ended up being a free YA Sync book last summer. It was readable, and a guy actually woke up turned into a giant bug. His family has to figure out what to do with him. It's the kind of book that makes me go look up Sparknotes to find out about themes and motifs and such.
(2h 12 min, narrated by Martin Jarvis)

While I'm getting better, I still get pulled in by books that win awards or get lots of praise. There has to be more than just prize-winning (in this case,  Booker Prize) to make me get it. I've read George Saunders' short story collection, Tenth of December so was predisposed to like him. Then, Lincoln in the Bardo was selected as one of the Tournament of Books. The cast of narrators is much too large to name, and it's more of a cast recording, so I chose to listen to it.

Ghosts surrounding Abraham Lincoln's son after he died tell lots of stories. Distractingly, real quotes about the person or event are included. I had to look up "op. cit." which was just a bibliographic reference to a book that had been previously quoted. I actually think the paper edition might have been better for me as I didn't recognize hardly any of the famous voices, and all the real quotes didn't help my listening. Parts dragged, but parts were humourous and interesting. Overall, Saunders created a unique style to tell a story, and for those interested in American History. I can see why it won the Booker Prize.

And finally, two books to round it out will get their own reviews later. 
The Dud: The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson and 
The Best: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (audiobook)

Sunday, February 4, 2018

UPDATE: January Nonfiction Reads

Still keeping a good percentage of nonfiction books into 2018. A couple of perfectly fine memoirs that  were engaging and entertaining and made me look up information as I read.

Lion by Saroo Brierly, which the movie was based on covers a little boy who gets majorly lost in India, and eventually adopted in Australia. He uses what little he remembers to eventually search for his family in India. So many good people in this one, very hopeful and the author maintained such a good approach to life even after surviving as a five year old on the streets of Calcutta.
(7 h 29 min, narrated Larry Buttrose)

Similar to Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, the story of Nike. It's hard to believe that Nike was once considered an underdog. A tad too much business information and money battles, but it was fascinating to see how an empire was built based on a few guys and a dream. I remember when the waffle sole sneaker came out in the late 70s. The afterward addresses somewhat the sweatshop factories in Asia.
(13 h 22 min, narrated by Norbert Leo Butz)

Two books were carry overs from 2017, and still took a long time to finish.

Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate - Discoveries from a Secret World by Peter Wohlleben was okay. Wohlleben's love of trees was clear, but the anthromorphication of their behaviour was a stretch for me. (They feel pain? They send messages? Not buying it. All I could think was what will the vegans eat?) I felt like I had read some of this before; maybe from Lab Girl? I guess it mainly felt too long, and repetitive. I get it, trees are amazing.
(288 pages, library)

Thunderstruck by Erik Larson also needed a bit of editing. I got it for the Marconi/radio story but it bored me far more than it should have. Larson does impeccable research and seems to not want to leave out any minor fact after learning it. The parallel story, about a murder in London was much more interesting. I could not figure out why the stories were paired, but once I realized (far too late - editing!) it was a very good pay-off.
Poor Erik Larson - the first book I read was by far his best (Devil in the White City) and each time I read another one of his, (Dead Wake, In the Garden of the Beasts) am slightly disappointed.
(480 pages, own book)

My final nonfiction was Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay, a real gut-wrencher. Gay writes heart-breakingly about when she was raped as a teenager, and the subsequent weight gain, so she could feel unapproachable to men. She is brutally honest and it was a difficult read, but seeing inside someone's head is always an aware-making experience. The stream of consciousness style led to, for me, some contradictions. Is everyone looking at you and judging you, or are you invisible and not paid attention? Clearly can be both on different days but still felt weird. I will read more Gay.
(320 pages, read on e-book)

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books I Really Liked but Can’t Remember Anything/Much About

This is my first week participating with Top Ten Tuesday now that it is hosted @ThatArtrsyReaderGirl. This topic was easy to research - I looked up my top rated books at LibraryThing, and found ones that I liked, but I could barely make a one sentence plot summary. Certainly not enough to rave about it to someone, but I know I liked them all. Some I consider my favourite authors - how can I forget books I loved? Do you remember any of these better than me?

Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson
something about a family

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

Black Swan Green by David Mitchell
young kid, 80s England

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
teens at a boarding school, maybe dystopian

The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog by Dave Barry
was funny and touching about something at Christmas

Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
it's the story of how the painting came about, 1500s Belgium

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
chasing books in Barcelona

Broken For You by Stephanie Kallos
there was tile being broken, and laid

What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn
maybe a newsman has a breakdown? 
I know I read two of her books in a row because 
I like one so much and both were very good

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
it's a classic, maybe time travel

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Ten Books I Meant to Read in 2017

For the last week of Top Ten Tuesday with The Broke and the Bookish, our topic is Ten Books We Meant To Read In 2017 But Didn't Get To (and totallyyyy plan to get to in 2018!!) I'm going to list books that were from 2017 to be able to limit this. I believe this was the same topic from last year and I only did okay getting them all read last year. Oh well, try try again!

Thanks for all the great weeks of Top Ten Tuesday.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine 
Gail Honeyman

Little Fires Everywhere
Celeste Ng

 Manhattan Beach
Jennifer Egan

Word by Word 
Kory Stamper

Roxane Gay

The Hate U Give
Angie Thomas

Bellevue Square 
Michael Redhill

A Gentleman in Moscow
Amor Towles

The Animators
Kayla Rae Whitaker

Sing, Unburied, Sing
Jesmyn Ward

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

LIST: Best of 2017

Here's my recap of my top books for 2017. It's really hard to pick when you have read a lot of books! I changed a lot of how I read by increasing my nonfiction incredibly.

total books 152
92 fiction
60 nonfiction

65 audiobooks,  42 library books(+ all the audiobooks)

77 female, (+2 by Robert Galbraith who I'm not sure where to put)
75 male
1 both

Best Mystery
Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

Honourable Mentions Best Mystery (because I read a lot of mysteries)
Icarus by Deon Meyer
The Silkworm AND Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

Best Start to a Series
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrente

Best End to a Series
Tangle of Gold by Jaclyn Moriarty

Best Historical Mystery
Dark Fire by CJ Sansom

Best Recommended Book
Field Notes by Sara Jewell as recc'd by lavenderlines and Debbie at ex-urbanis

 Best Childrens
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall (audiobook)

Best Young Adult
The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez  

Favourite Characters
the Lumberjanes! from the graphic novel series

Best Science Fiction/Fantasy
Redshirts by John Scalzi

Best Book by a New to Me Author
Citizen Vince by Jess Walter

Best Historical Fiction
A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park

Best  Book by a Tried and True Author
The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O'Neill
Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry 

Best Apocalyptic
World of Trouble by Ben H Winters
(The Last Policeman trilogy) 

Best Short Story Collection
Although I read a few SS collections, none stood out. 
Goal for next year is to find one that does!

Best Short Story
To Everything There is a Season: A Cape Breton Christmas story by Alistair MacLeod
Based on a True Story by Norm MacDonald

Most Heartbreaking
March graphic novels by John Lewis 

Creepiest Novel
The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich 

Best Debut Book
Girl at War by Sara Novic 

Most Unique Book
Finding Wonder by Jeanne Atkins
a novel in blank verse, that contains biographies of female scientists from across the world and the ages 

Best Audiobook
I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and A Grander View of Life by Ed Yong  (nonfiction)
An Irish Country Courtship by Patrick Taylor (fiction)

Best Nonfiction (since I read so many nonfiction this year, I have broken this down a little more)
Best Nonfiction: science
The Dorito Effect by Mark Schatzker

Best Nonfiction: history
Sisters in Two Worlds: A Visual Biography of Susanna Moodie and Catharine Paar
Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood  Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History by Antonio Mendez
Best Nonfiction: memoir/autobiography
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Best Nonfiction: feminist essays 
Shrill by Lindy West 

Best Nonfiction: self-help 
Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

Best Nonfiction: contemporary/social
Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance

A few books I loved by couldn't find a category for!
Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al Franken
The Pluto Files by Neil Degrasse Tyson
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert    

And the Three Books I Rated a Perfect 5 Stars as soon as I read them (which is very rare for me)
Finding Wonder: Three Girls Who Changed Science by Jeanne Atkins

Canada by Mike Myers

March: Book Three by John Lewis   


Tuesday, January 2, 2018

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Favourite New Authors from 2017

This week's theme from The Broke and the Bookish people is Favourite New Authors from 2017. I like these end of year type lists, especially when they are in January so I can include the full year. Lots of great new authors this year, some I read more than one after starting, some I will definitely read more of. Any of your favourites here?

Daphne duMaurier   
The House on the Strand 

Candace Savage      
Crows: Encounters With the Wise Guys of the Avian World - 

Jeanne Birdsall
The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and One Very Interesting Boy

Elena Ferrante   
My Brilliant Friend

Ed Yong    
I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life 
Caitlin Moran   
How to Be a Woman

Atul Gawande   
Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science

Hope Jahren    
Lab Girl

Jess Walter     
Citizen Vince and Beautiful Ruins

Al Franken    
Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

VIRTUAL ADVENT TOUR: Decking the Halls with #PhysicsHaikus

This one is a little different! A few weeks ago, Perimeter Institute, a reknowned research center in Canada, posted some #PhysicsHaikus on their tweeter feed. I always like when the arts and sciences can be combined, and I took note. I decided I'd get my grade twelve physics students to write a haiku.

Now, students who take physics are not usually fans of English, and especially poetry. They like our formulas and numbers and rules in physics - that's why they take physics. However, I figured if there was ever poetry designed for scientists, it's the haiku. I mean really, it has rules with numbers in it! How perfect is that?

Saying that physics students are not fans of English is not quite right. A good number fit that category, but I have had over the years, a fair number of music/band students who take physics as the only science course they take, and just because they like it. I'm pretty sure there is a great connection between physics and music; I know there is with math and music. We actually have two math teachers on staff who are also music majors.

If you don't remember, here's a haiku on how to write a haiku. The haiku is a Japanese based poem, with specific number of syllables in each line - five syllables, then seven syllables, then five again. They are pretty easy to write.

So I found some glitter tree decorations and stuck them on the wall, making a tree shape. A bow for the top and voila! The big space on the hall outside my classroom was now ready for some haikus.

Our recent topics were electric fields and forces, and the last chapter was planetary motion. The inspiration for many was clearly the ideas we've been studying.

One aspect that was particularly tough for some of my students was just the language. We have a large number of EAL students (English as an Acquired Language) and while they are pretty good at physics, having to create in English was very hard. I was super impressed with the effort they put in to figuring out what a syllable was and then trying to make a haiku that made sense. I have students who have only been in Canada for less than a year who found this task challenging.

Some students are into modern physics, not a topic we cover, but Schrodinger's cat is pretty famous even for people who aren't into physics.
And then one fella took it pretty literal about writing a haiku about physics. He wrote about physics - the high school course. Surprisingly, he is a student who does pretty well, and I don't think he works a lot to stay on top of things, but he summarized the over all feeling of probably a lot of students, lol.

So Happy Haiku
from  outside Room 203!
and the Advent Tour