Welcome friends! I have started this entry in the global technosphere because I have been in love with books since the age of 2. Among the busy business of being a new teacher, this is my outlet for sharing thoughts on a love of reading a wide variety of books. My inspiration can be summed up with a yearbook quote from a teacher written when I was 8: "To the only girl at recess I see reading a book. Good for you!"
My blog title is quoted from a classmate who asked me this once. Believe it or not, I've also heard it as a teacher :D

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Monthly Wrap-Up & Year-to-Date

Wow, is it time for this already?  Summer must be on its way because my posts have been few and far-between, but my reading totals are looking promising and all challenges seem to be on track...except my poor Back to the Classics Challenge progress bar which I need to get a move on.

Last month, I had a dismal total of 2 books read, the first eating up nearly 3 weeks of time to finish.  May was my "getting back on track" month.  Here's the round-up:

Books Read This Month:  (4)
Rebecca- Daphne du Maurier (for fun) (A)
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy- Douglas Adams (for 1st in a Series challenge) (A)
The Stone Diaries- Carol Shields (for What's in a Name 4 Challenge) (B)
Night Shift- Stephen King (for Stephen King Challenge) (A)--review coming soon

Other Books Reviewed This Month: (2)
The Cider House Rules- John Irving (for fun)--finished in April (B)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets- J.K. Rowling (for fun)--finished in April (A)

Currently Reading:  (3)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban- J.K. Rowling (for fun)
A Short History of Nearly Everything- Bill Bryson (for What's in a Name 4 Challenge)
My Life- Bill Clinton (for fun)

Books Read So Far in 2011: (25)
*DNFs don't count in this total

How was your reading in the month of May?

Monday, May 30, 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

A weekly meme hosted by Sheila @ Book Journey.

Read This Week:  (1)
Night Shift- Stephen King- great collection of 20 creepy, scary stories--review coming soon

Currently Reading:  (3)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban- J.K. Rowling--started dipping into this during some down-time today.

A Short History of Nearly Everything- Bill Bryson--I'm starting to read this tonight at home.  It was too big to load to work today, so I dipped into some HP instead.  You know how it is with HP ;)

My Life- Bill Clinton--yup...this is taking a while.  Maybe this will make a good summer project?

Next to Read
To Kill a Mockingbird- Harper Lee--I can't wait to re-read this for the Back to the Classics Challenge, which I'm embarrasingly behind on.

Have a great reading week!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Stone Diaries- Carol Shields

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters

Published: 1993
Pages: 361
ISBN: 9780007268344
Genre: Fictional Biography/Memoir

Start Date: May 5, 2011
Finished Date: May 19, 2011 (14 days)

Where Found: Book Depot
Why Read: On my TBR list; Carol Shields is a name that came up in my Canadian Lit class years ago and I've finally come around to exploring her work.

Read For: What's in a Name 4 Challenge (4/6)


The Stone Diaries is the type of book that is ordinary and simplistic in individual pieces, but as a whole is rather extraordinary.  Because of this, the book is settling with me better now that I've finished it than it did while I was reading it.  Has this ever happened to you?  Carol Shields wrote in the afterword to this novel that people must all be ordinary or all be extraordinary, and this thesis guides the fictional biography of Daisy Goodwill-Flett from her shocking, unexpected entry into this world through recognizable milestones of childhood, marriage, parenthood, a stint in the working world, retirement, declining health, and finally her death.

The structure is orderly, the characters familiar and the events of Daisy's life are generally a part of everyone's existence.  But it is far from boring as the omniscient narrator sees into feelings, thoughts, regrets, and perspectives that open up the story to become something more than a typical biography.  A centerfold of photos of Shields' own relatives teases readers into believing the novel to be a true biography, and while little detail is known about how much of The Stone Diaries comes from Shields' life, we come to believe that a fictional life story offers tidier conclusions about events and people in the subject's life, and that not a single life is without stories that would make for prime literary material.

But don't get me wrong.  Parts of The Stone Diaries are screaming for more explanation and insight, which resembles the unsolved parts and "plot holes" of our own lives.  What bothered me most about this was that some friends and family members are discarded for no evident reason or are mentioned as an aside like a tiny footnote.  This must be deliberate as not every player in a person's life plays a major part, but why bother creating a character just to reference it offhand and then never revisit the person again?

To pinpoint a theme of the book, "life happens."  The mundane, the exciting, the anxious, the wonderful, and the horrible parts of life are not hyperbolized or edited to make Daisy's life cheerier or more envious, but are laid out honestly and takes more liberties as a novel than a nonfiction biography could take.  This novel proves that indeed even a life that appears ordinary on the surface or even in the mind of  its subject is more special and, to reference a favourite movie of mine, It's a Wonderul Life, has more of an impact on the people we encounter, even if temporarily, than we can ever realize.

Rank:  (B)- Very Good, Highly Recommend

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy- Douglas Adams

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters

Published: 1979 (originally)
Pages: 323 (with movie tie-in edition pages)
ISBN: 0330457984
Genre: Sci-Fi

Start Date: May 4, 2011
Finished Date: May 8, 2011 (4 days)

Where Found: Campus bookstore
Why Read: On my TBR list

Read For: 1st in a Series Challenge (5/6)

Summary:  A dull-witted Earthling is swept away by his friend (who turns out to be an alien being) as the Earth is destroyed where they catch a ride with a multi-headed dimwit (who turns out to be President of the Galaxy) to search the galaxy for answers to deep thoughtful questions...and riches beyond (or maybe in?) their dreams.


Science fiction is a tough genre for me to crack.  I love many of the classic sci-fi movies:  Star Wars, Aliens, The Day the Earth Stood Still...just not 2001: A Space Odyssey (the space shots with the classical music were tremendous but the rest made me snooze).  So why do I falter when it comes to sci-fi novels?  I really don't know.  I guess it's the genre I grab last off the shelf.  But to live up to my reputation of being eclectic (thanks again Jillian @ Random Ramblings for the sweet compliments), I really need to expand my (universal) horizons more.  Maybe there's a sci-fi reading challenge out there for me?

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is the first in a trilogy written by the late Douglas Adams.  Once I got started, it was hard to stop.  I loved taking it outside on the deck on a brilliant spring day, sipping a cold drink, often risking it spurting out my nose as I laughed out loud at some random comment.  Let's face it: the entire book is all about random moments.  In short, it's oddly captivating.  Imagine Monty Python meets Lewis Carroll in space.  There you have it.

The plot is absurd and so much fun to lose yourself in.  Forget about logic and flow--it jumps gears randomly at breakneck speed that it's much more enjoyable to go with the flow.  The characters are a blast--I love Arthur's dry British wit, Marvin the depressed robot's sharp intellectual banter, and as for the villain (who's more of a dope than a bad guy), Zaphod Beeblebrox takes the prize for most eccentric character I've encountered in recent years.

My one beef with this book is that it ends so abruptly that two pages from the finish line there is still so much up in the air that it screams for a sequel and PRONTO!  I'm not too taken with it to move immediately into reading the sequel (and the next 3 Adams books, plus one more written after Adams' death by Eoin Colfer), but it was, to literate the British accent, a hoot and a "hawf" :D

Rank:  (A)- Excellent, Highly Recommend

Monday, May 23, 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

A weekly meme hosted by Sheila @ Book Journey.

Happy Victoria Day, Canada!  Enjoy the fireworks :)  And a happy early Memorial Day to American know, and everyone else, too :D

Read This Week: (1)
Reviews coming this week...promise!
The Stone Diaries- Carol Shields--read for the What's in a Name 4 challenge

Currently Reading: (2)
Night Shift- Stephen's a spookfest :D
My Life- Bill Clinton--collecting dust on my nightstand but still bookmarked for little dips now & again :)

Next to Read:
I think I'll try A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson for the What's in a Name 4 challenge.  It sounds fascinating & Bryson is a name thrown around most book blogs that I haven't read anything by yet.  It was suggested that I start with this one to explore his style, so here I come!

Reviews Written This Week:  (0)
Ack...I'm behind by two now!  I'll get my thoughts in order & write them up this week.

Have a great reading week everyone!

Monday, May 16, 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

A weekly meme hosted by Sheila @ Book Journey

Books Read Last Week:  Nothing :( 

Currently Reading:  I'm about halfway through The Stone Diaries and it's a bit slow to get through. 

Reviews:  I still need to review The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and I really shouldn't put it off much longer or I'll forget what I wanted to write!

Work has been dry this past week and the weather has been miserable, so I've been doing some family history research at the library and got on a roll, which has been more appealling to me lately than the book I'm currently on.

Next to Read:  Night Shift- Stephen King-- Hurray!  I can practically guarantee that I'll like this :)

What are you reading this week?

Monday, May 9, 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

A weekly meme hosted by Sheila @ Book Journey.

It feels so good to be back on track in the reading world.  The weather has been gorgeous here the last few days after a nasty windstorm in my area that took out a number of trees and roof shingles, but *knock wood* my house wasn't affected.

Books Read This Week (2)
Rebecca- Daphne du Maurier (click title for review)
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy- Douglas Adams (review coming soon)

Currently Reading (2)
The Stone Diaries- Carol Shields- for What's in a Name 4 Challenge
My Life- Bill Clinton- on hold for now

Next to Read
Night Shift- Stephen King- for Stephen King Challenge- I've heard a lot about this & love Stephen King books

What are you reading?  I can't wait to catch up with everyone.  I've been feeling a bit antisocial this week, only having time to review and read.  I will definitely be more active with my comments this week :)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Rebecca- Daphne du Maurier

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters

Published:  1938
Pages:  448
ISBN:  9781844080380
Genre:  Suspense/Mystery

Start Date:  April 22, 2011
Finished Date:  May 4, 2011 (13 days)

Where Found:  Borrowed from my mom
Why Read:  It's my mom's favourite book and I wanted to see what it was like.  It was also on my TBR list.

Summary:  A young, impressionable woman is swept off her feet by a rich older man who brings her home to his estate, Manderley, where she feels compared to and less favourable than his dead first wife, Rebecca.


There is something charming about a story set in England, even if it is a mystery shrouded in deceit and deception like Rebecca.  The language is so crisp and the characters so familiar that it feels as if you have known this book and are instantly drawn to its story.  Nothing is ever quite what it seems and it becomes so complicated that trust is a slippery slope for the reader.  Characters make decisions that are awkward, cringeworthy, even shocking.  What is most fascinating about the plot is how little actually happens but what does occur is presented with such depth and analysis that you sometimes forget how isolated and small the story actually is.

The story moves along at a somewhat slow pace but very soon, things begin piling up and every occasion has a hint to consider in solving the mysteries of the Manderley household, both past and present.  I especially enjoyed Beatrice and her down-to-earth wit.  She cracked me up and really let the tension of the story subside when she visited.  Of course, Max de Winter cannot help but be considered rather partriarchal and overprotective, but then again, the new Mrs. de Winter is quite naive and often completely unaware of what she got herself into.  This may shock those of you who have read Rebecca or seen the Alfred Hitchcock movie (being a huge fan, I'm saddened to say that I haven't yet watched the movie, though I highly intend to), Mrs. Danvers was not quite as villainous as I expected her to least from the onset.  After a certain *ahem* wardrobe malfunction in the story is when I really loathed her.  Now don't get me wrong...I didn't ever find her likeable, but she didn't come across as the essential villain either.  I think the unconventionality of her as an antagonist was clever and added to the deception of the story.  As for the title character, the first Mrs. de Winter was mysterious, powerful, and literally drop dead gorgeous...what could ever be wrong with her?! :D

I really enjoyed this book and would definitely re-read it to catch all of the subtle nuances that I missed prior to the very surprising twist (or two...or maybe it was three?).  I would highly recommend it to mystery lovers and literature lovers alike.  I've never really been able to say this about any other book I've reviewed (though not to say it isn't true about many other books), but it is universally appealing, timeless, and very few books have a literary style comparable to Daphne du Maurier.

If you have read du Maurier before, I would love some further recommendations.  I'm interested in Jamaica Inn and My Cousin Rachel.  Are they just as good?  Better?  Worse?  Please advise!

Rank:  (A)- Excellent, Highly Recommend

Monday, May 2, 2011

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets- J.K. Rowling

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters

Published:  1998
Pages:  251
ISBN:  155192370X
Genre:  Series (Harry Potter, #2), Adventure/Fantasy

Start Date:  Apr. 15, 2011
Finished Date:  Apr. 21, 2011 (7 days)

Where Found:  Part of a birthday gift (box set of the first 3 books)
Why Read:  I intend to finish off the series by next year.  I've only read the first 3 before.

Summary:  Upon returning to Hogwarts for their second year, Harry, Ron and Hermione attempt to solve the mystery of the hidden Chamber of Secrets that somehow revolves around the cocky new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher and the mysterious heir of Slytherin.


Boy, this series sure grabs hold you and doesn't let go!  I had a blast revisiting this book again.  The plot is not as creative as book #1 as there is less to learn about the workings of Hogwarts (pretty much set up in book #1) but more mysteries are revealed and the story is just getting warmed up.  Chamber of Secrets doesn't have quite the same level of excitement and wonder that the initial book of the series gave us but answers a few questions left over from The Philosopher's Stone.

I found the mystery somewhat predictable (big whoop--I'm an adult!) but at just the right level of intrigue for children to get excited and feel like detectives, keeping track of all the clues and potential suspects.  I love how the characters are becoming more distinct in their personalities, especially supporting players like Professors Snape, McGonagall and Dumbledore.  And how adorable is Ginny Weasley? :)

By the end of this book, there are a few conflicts hanging in the balance, making the wait to start book #3 almost unbearable!  J.K. Rowling is obviously skilled in luring readers to continue the series by offering a tiny peek at a time into her Pandora's box.

What more can I say that hasn't already been said?

Rank:  (A)- Excellent, Highly Recommend

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Cider House Rules- John Irving

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters

Published:  1985
Pages:  598 (with Author's Notes)
ISBN:  0345387651
Genre:  Literary Fiction

Start Date:  Mar. 26, 2011
Finished Date:  Apr. 15, 2011 (21 days)

Where Found:  Chapters-Indigo
Why Read:  On my TBR list and I love John Irving's work

Summary:  A naive orphan raised by a doctor who performs abortions fights against assumptions that he will carry on the doctor's practice, instead working in a cider mill where he falls in love with the fiancee of his boss's son.


It's no secret that I've been a big admirer of John Irving, having read & reviewed The World According to Garp and A Prayer For Owen Meany. Garp remains my favourite but Meany was just as fascinating. With The Cider House Rules, I expected a similar quirkiness in the characters within a family saga type of structure. There certainly were a number of creative figures at the Maine orphanage that feels like a modernized gothic setting with its nods to Dickens and Jane Eyre. I was instantly taken with the backstory of Dr. Wilbur Larch and his loyal nurses with their oppositional personalities. As for their charges, Melony was the strongest, and probably the most interesting character. Her story could have been a novel in itself. But when Homer grows into an adult and moves away from St. Cloud's, the plot takes a considerable drop and slogs through mostly inevitable events until a very busy climax takes place.

Candy and Wally are likeable characters, and their friendship with Homer, as well as the cider mill workers and all their complexities is interesting but I kept wanting to see more of the orphanage  and more of Melony's story. In short, I got bored with the cider house.  Without spoiling the story, a whirlwind of activity in the book occurs, including some deaths and some life-changing moments, seemingly happening all at once, and after that point, things look up and I actually finished  the book liking it. What was missing for me was a certain spark that the Garp and Meany books had. Homer, the main character, needed more of an edge but instead he was purposely dull and empty, leaving the supporting characters to have all the unique qualities expected of an Irving novel.

As for the subject matter, which I will not discuss as I feel socio-political topics such as these are controversial and difficult to address without offending anyone's beliefs and is not the point of reviewing this book in the first place, it was quite powerful. No angle on the issue went unrepresented. It was a brilliant way to broach the subject on Irving's part, leaving no room for accusing Irving of being on any one "side".

I would recommend the book, though I wouldn't consider it a high priority read. If you are new to John Irving, I would definitely suggest you try Garp or Meany first. In general, The Cider House Rules can be difficult to plow through but the end is (mostly) worth the journey.

Rank:  (B)- Very Good, Recommend