Torontoc's Books Read in 2015

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Torontoc's Books Read in 2015

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1torontoc
dec 25, 2014, 8:17am

Looking forward to good reading in the New Year!

2saraslibrary
dec 30, 2014, 7:35pm

>1 torontoc: Best of luck, torontoc! :)

3mabith
dec 30, 2014, 8:09pm

Happy reading!

4jfetting
dec 31, 2014, 11:12am

Welcome back! I always enjoy following your reading.

5torontoc
jan 1, 2015, 1:52pm

Thank you!

1. Dvorak in Love by Joseph Skvorecky I picked this novel from my very big TBR pile and just finished it today. The story centers on Dvorak's time in the United States when he had a post as the Director of the National Conservatory in New York City. Each chapter is narrated by a different person- so the reader learns about his family and how he married his wife, Anna, as well as the histories of the many people that Dvorak met and worked with in America. In fact at one point in the novel, there seemed to be too many characters to follow as Skvorecky writes about Dvorak's many musical friends and his appreciation and later use of Black music. The many stories that make up the narrative give the reader an appreciation of the many influences that Dvorak used in his music as well as the people who were influenced by him in their musical careers in the United States as well as in Europe. In this biographical novel I made the acquaintance of some formidable women who figured in this development of music- Jeannette Thurber, a patron who used her husband's money to set up both the Conservatory and an earlier opera company and Adele Margulies - a pianist who bridged the gaps between classical and popular music. And there are the many stories of unrequited love from Dvorak's first infatuation with his wife Anna's sister Josephine to Otylia, Dvorak's daughter who had to choose between the Old and New World. The book ended and I felt a little sad in leaving all the remarkable characters in the story. A very good read to start the New year.

6wookiebender
jan 2, 2015, 2:10am

Welcome back, and congratulations on posting the first review! (At least, it's the first review I've seen so far!)

7swimmergirl1
jan 2, 2015, 1:37pm

Sounds really good, adding it to the ever growing list.

8torontoc
jan 2, 2015, 4:53pm

Thank you!

2. The Hockey Sweater Anniversary Edition by Roch Carrier and illustrated by Sheldon Cohen and translated from the French by Sheila Fischman. This beautiful book came with the DVD of the National Film Board of Canada of the animated film. Both book and film are not very long but they evoke memories of the days when the Montreal Canadiens were the best hockey team in the 6 city league. Carrier uses a childhood memory to create the long gone world of a small town in Quebec in the late 1940's. Carrier said that the most important things were the Church and the skating rink, and the idolization of the great Maurice Richard who played for the Canadiens. Every boy knew all about the statistics and listened to the hockey games broadcast on the radio. At the skating rink, every boy wore the jersey of the Montreal Canadiens. The story shows what happens when Roch as a growing boy needs a new hockey jersey. His mother orders a new one from the Eaton's mail order catalogue. ( Eaton's-a long gone Canadian department store empire with stores and a famous catalogue) Unfortunately, the wrong jersey arrives- that of the hated Toronto Maple Leaf team. Roch is forced to wear it and suffers the consequences. That is the story- the settings and dialogue were illustrated by Sheldon Cohen for the book as well as the short animated film. This book has more- information on the history of making the film, the references and tributes by many prominent Canadian politicians ( including the present Prime Minister) writers, sports figures and a former goalie and member of parliament- Ken Dryden. This book was also taken by a Canadian astronaut to the International Space Station. This edition is more than one for children- it is an exploration of a past life in Canada.

9judylou
jan 3, 2015, 5:13pm

Welcome back. Looking forward to following your very interesting reading this year.

10torontoc
Redigeret: jan 3, 2015, 10:57pm

thank you!

3. An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine I read this book because of Chatterbox's review on her blog. What a beautiful book- I loved the character of Aaliya, a seventy two year old " unnecessary woman" divorced and living alone. She used to run a bookstore but has been spending her time reading and translating selected authors into Arabic. Aaliya tells stories about her life, her friend Hannah and her life in Beirut during many wars. The language from her own ( or the author's great turn of phrase) thoughts and those of her favourite authors serve as a tribute to book lovers and reading. Aaliya is a solitary person but she learns about friendship and change. A wonderful read!

11judylou
jan 3, 2015, 6:31pm

I returned to my review of this book which I read at the end of 2013 to remind myself of why I remember it so fondly. My final sentence of the review This book is reads like an anthem to literature in all its forms, but shows us that nothing is sacred, or capable of lasting forever. made me remember so many good things about this book and the beautiful writing style of the author.

12LShelby
jan 3, 2015, 10:22pm

>8 torontoc: I believe I saw that short animated film. Maybe I should try read the story.

Maybe I should try read the story in French. That would really make me feel patriotic. :)

(A bit of a scary thought, though. My French was never all that good, and it's gotten super rusty.)

13torontoc
jan 3, 2015, 10:59pm

Judy- I agree! what a treat to read this book!

LShelby- the story is brief but really captures the time and place of rural Quebec and the Montreal Canadien hockey team worship.

14wareagle78
jan 5, 2015, 1:33am

An Unnecessary Woman has become my third wish-list addition since starting on this group tonight. {{{sigh}}}

15mabith
jan 5, 2015, 1:02pm

>14 wareagle78: Only three? You haven't looked at enough threads yet! ;)

16wareagle78
jan 5, 2015, 5:11pm

haha! My wishlist is already pretty robust.

17torontoc
jan 5, 2015, 8:27pm

4. The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri This novel is certainly about alienation and destroyed relationships. Subhash and Udayan are brothers living in Calcutta in the 1960's. Udayan is the most passionate about politics and joins a revolutionary group-The Naxilites. His brother, Subhash disapproves of his brother's actions and moves to the United States to continue his education. Udayan marries Gauri and continues his undercover activities,. A crisis occurs when Udayan is killed by the Indian police. Subhash comes home, and marries Gauri, in order to protect her and the unborn child of his brother. The relationship of Gaudi and Subhash and the child, Bela is examined in this story. The relationship of the two brothers is probably the warmest in the novel. I found the Gauri is portrayed as a very withdrawn person, perhaps crippled by her life in India. Her actions seem very coldhearted as she pursues her own education and life in the United States. There are revelations about Gauri as all the characters age and create new lives. I found this book to be well written but I thought that there was a " coldness" and withdrawn feeling in the writing and created characters.

18swimmergirl1
jan 5, 2015, 10:55pm

I have this on my nook to read this year!

19torontoc
jan 7, 2015, 1:58pm

5.Blood, Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton.This book is a well written memoir, by the owner and chef at the New York City restaurant, Prune. Hamilton had a very unusual upbringing.She remembers being taught about food, taste and work ethic by her French mother. Her father built stage scenery in his own shop. Her parents divorced and left a young teenager on her own. Hamilton is very careful to give the reader an edited version of her life, emphasizing her food education and her work in the catering industry for many years. She also has a MFA in Fiction writing and her descriptions of food and what drives her is the main attraction of this book to me. Hamilton writes about both her strained marriage and the wonderful experiences in Italy with her husband's family. So the book is both revealing and hidden about features in her life at the same time. A good read for those interested in food and taste.

20judylou
jan 10, 2015, 6:17pm

I am looking forward to reading The Lowland. It will be interesting to see if I have the same feeling as you about the characters.

21torontoc
jan 14, 2015, 11:19am

6. Original Minds Conversations with Eleanor Wachtel Eleanor Wachtel is the best book and author reviewer. She has a show on the CBC Radio that is so insightful. As well, during the Toronto International Authors' Festival, she will interview a number of authors and the shows will air later on the radio. Wachtel is direct and knowledgeable. This book is a compilation of her talks with notable people-Harold Bloom, Jared Diamond, Desmond Tutu. George Steiner, Susan Sontag, Jane Goodall, Gloria Steinem and more. The discussions cover books and important events in the lives of these notable people. The read is exhilarating and humbling- how can the reader learn about the vast array of topics covered in these interviews. A great read.

22torontoc
jan 19, 2015, 11:03am

7. Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart. I liked two out of the three novels that this author has written. ( I found Absurdistan too " over the top" and too much like the film Borat for my taste. Shteyngart's last book Super Sad True Love Story was frightening in its take on the future- some events coming too close to present day reality. His memoir is a combination of the humour and savage barbs that are familiar from his novels. The reader is taken on a trip from the author's youth in Leningrad to his immigration to the United States. Relationships with his parents, his family, lovers, and friends as well as his schooling adventures are presented with honesty- he spares no one including himself. Shteyngart admits through his descriptions that he did change his view of himself (with the help of a therapist) and eventually came to understand his parents. The style is somewhat over bearing at times but I did enjoy reading this book.

8. The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale. I had to buy a book for a five year old and this one was recommended by a lady in a bookstore. This particular five year old is into princesses and loves the film Frozen. She has abandoned her obsession with Dora the Explorer. I read this story and think that it is perfect for her. Both authors want this story to be the first in a series of adventures for this princess - a girl who is also a heroine as she saves the goats from a very bad monster. She disguises herself in black clothes so no one knows who she really is.( almost like Zorro). The story is not frightening for a young child and begins to provide a role of a girl who takes charge. I think that authors are looking at changing the stereotype of the girl who needs protection.

23torontoc
jan 21, 2015, 9:48am

9. a reread for my book club
Your Sad Eyes and Unforgettable Mouth by Edeet Ravel. I try to follow all of this author's works- her themes are very interesting. I read this book a few years ago and had to refresh my memory for my book club meeting next week. Maya is the child of Holocaust survivors as are her close friends Rosie, Tony and Patrick. The lives of the children are definitely impacted by the histories of their parents. I liked the book when I first read it and the reread reemphasized the trials of the parents.

24torontoc
jan 26, 2015, 3:40pm

10. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel This novel was well written but touched close to home when I think about the major event that changes the lives of the world in this story. A flu virus is unstoppable and it seems that the majority of the world's population dies.Major systems that we take for granted stop working- no electricity, internet, any form of communication and more. The author follows that lives of three main characters and how they live just before the catastrophe and after. Arthur Leander is a noted actor who dies during a performance of King Lear in Toronto the night that the flu reaches the city. The actress Kirsten Raymonde is a child actress in Arthur's play and later grown up, travels with a troupe of actors and musicians that perform plays in the isolated North American towns that have survived. A paramedic who has previous been a photographer, Jeevan Chaudhary, tries to save Arthur and later looks to his own survival. One important link is the graphic novel that Arthur's first wife, Miranda, writes and privately publishes- it is read and owned by a number of the characters in this novel. The story combines both past and future. There is a menacing prophet who threatens the lives of those who are trying to make a new life. I found the story positive in the end but well conceived in the concept of survival and ( surprisingly) the essential role of the arts. Well written.

25torontoc
jan 27, 2015, 3:07pm

11. By the Book- stories and pictures by Diane Schoemperlen ( touchstones can't find the right book) This is an unusual book. The author has taken old books from the mid 1800's to the 1940's and used them to create both visual and written collages. The stories are all different- sometimes the author recreates her own story using the sentences of the old books. There are a lot of lists involving nature, geography and history. I think that the most successful story is the first one. Using an Italian-English dictionary from 1900, the author fashions a story of immigration and love that incorporates her own words and sections of the dictionary. I did like the collages- very beautiful works associated with the stories and subjects.

26torontoc
jan 29, 2015, 8:35am

12. Reading Pictures A History of Love and Hate by Alberto Manguel Manguel has selected twelve artists and architects and one of each of their works to talk about in this very good book. The discussions cover philosophy, politics, personalities and more as he deciphers the meaning and importance of each composition. I did like his take on Peter Eisenman's Holocaust Remembrance structure in Berlin- he hated it and I liked it. Manguel's subtitles give away some of his thoughts- The Image as Story, The Image as Witness The Image as Violence to name a few. I found that Manguel's ideas on these artworks were thought provoking and gave me another reason to view these art pieces.

27torontoc
jan 30, 2015, 2:59pm

13. Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz I really liked this adventure and detective story until the last chapter. I can't believe that the author resorted to a very cheap and very cliched solution to solve this story of mystery. What did I like about the majority of the book- was the emerging story of conspiracy in London after the death of Sherlock Holmes and James Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls. Frederick Chase is an American investigator working for the Pinkerton Agency. He is looking for master criminal Clarence Devereux who has come to London to control the underworld of crime. Chase works with Scotland Yard's Inspector Athelney Jones- who tries to follow the methods of Sherlock Holmes. During the search in London there are some pretty lurid murders and plots. Everything in the novel was building up to a climax until..... the solution that the author decided on using. I was not pleased.

28judylou
jan 31, 2015, 10:55pm

I have wishlisted two of your books. Station Eleven sounds like I would enjoy it, and the Gary Shteyngart also sounds like it would be worth a look.

29torontoc
feb 2, 2015, 2:02pm

Shteyngart sometimes goes on and on- in his novels and also in this memoir- I liked his youtube stuff as well- very funny

30torontoc
feb 5, 2015, 9:11pm

14. History of the Rain by Niall Williams I almost never cry when I read a book but I did for this one. I loved the language, the humour, and the ideas in this novel. The story is related by Ruth Swain, an invalid young Irish woman who never goes out of her attic room in the small village of Faha. Her narrative traces the stories of her great-grandfather, grandfather and her father Virgil. Ruth was a twin and her brother Aeney's tragic story is part of her work. Ruth reads from her father's library and there are many literary references to the large library that is her legacy. The relationship between Virgil and his wife Mary is beautifully recalled by their daughter. A really great book- why did it not win the Booker?

31judylou
feb 6, 2015, 1:51am

Another one I have on hold at the library!

32torontoc
feb 9, 2015, 11:15pm

15. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. I read this book because my book club is reviewing it at the end of Feb. It is not my kind of book. I know that some people have found it cute or funny- I don't think that I did. It would probably make a good light movie. That's all

33judylou
feb 10, 2015, 4:49pm

#15. I agree.

34torontoc
feb 12, 2015, 3:19pm

what we do for book clubs- at least the other books for this year are good!

16. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery ( touch stones are not working this afternoon) I had never read this Canadian classic story before. Early Reviewers gave me a chance to do so. I must admit that I loved the story and the amazing character of Anne. The author created a lovely very talkative young girl who loves her imagination, nature and every new experience. A modern jaded reader might not appreciated the wonder of seemingly everyday events like concerts and exhibitions. But the world of Anne Shirley- young orphan in pre-World War 1 Prince Edward Island - was very grim before she was taken in by Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert. The author traces Anne's growth from bold and talkative little girl to mature young lady who makes wise decisions. The story is dated but in a nice way. The world of this small rural town no longer exists but this novel is a remarkable tribute to the lives of those who lived in Canada at the beginning of the 20th century.

35torontoc
feb 14, 2015, 8:31am


17. The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer. I finally finished this novel last night. I had started it two years ago and put it down after finishing the first half of the story. I found the pace and writing style " slow". Last year I picked up the book again for one reason. A member of my book club said that she found the novel difficult for read because it was similar to the story of her in-laws and how they survived in Hungary during World War Two. This statement made me curious and I resolved to finish the book. The story follows the history of a young Hungarian Jewish man, Andras Levi and his life as he studies for his architecture degree in Paris in 1937. He struggles with balancing work and studies and meets with Klara Morgenstern, a young woman with secrets of her own relationships. Andras, his friends' and brothers' lives are related in great detail in the first half of the book. The complicated story of Klara and her family and why she is in Paris make this first part of the story more of a saga that moves very slowly. The second half of the novel takes place mainly in Budapest. Andras has to leave Paris because of the political situation. He and Klara marry and take up residence in Hungary where the war in Europe changes lives for Hungarian Jews. Orringer writes about the labour groups that Jews have to join- these companies are to support the Hungarian Army. The details of the work , anti-Semitism, and survival take the reader through the changing politics of Hungary as an ally of Germany and later a puppet state controlled by the Nazis. The writing seems more authentic as the author describes the horrors of the work and conditions of the labor camps. I found the ending touching as the fate of Andras's family and friends is revealed. In fact, I am glad that I did return to this novel.

36jfetting
feb 15, 2015, 7:58am

Great review. Another to add to the list...

37torontoc
feb 16, 2015, 3:01pm

18. The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin I liked this book- but then any novel with books as a subject attracts me. The story is a bit of a fable- lovely plot about finding love by all of the main characters. A.J. Fikry owns a bookstore on an island off of Massachusetts. His wife died and he is a bit of a curmudgeon. A series of events leads him to adopt a two year old little girl left in his book store and eventually marry a book representative named Amelia. Fikry changes lives for the better- his daughter Maya, his wife and his friend Lambiase, the police chief. There are references to books at the beginning of every chapter and books play a role in many conversations. A really nice book.

38judylou
feb 16, 2015, 7:48pm

I'm pleased you enjoyed No 18. I also thought it was a nice book. Nicely written and just, well, nice.

39SouthernBluestocking
feb 17, 2015, 11:18am

>37 torontoc:. I loved The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry too--one of the best from last year.

40torontoc
feb 21, 2015, 10:59am

19. Priscilla The Hidden Life of an Englishwoman in Wartime France by Nicholas Shakespeare I found this memoir written by the author about his mysterious aunt to be very interesting. The story adds to the information on how people coped during the German occupation of France during the second world war. Shakespeare's family is complicated at best-his grandfather left his wife ( mother of Priscilla) but never divorced her. He then lived with a woman who gave him two children-they never married. The author-grandson in the second family- never knew Priscilla very well. Priscilla had lived in France- first as the wife of an older titled Frenchman- and later on her own. She had been taken to the internment camp at Besancon, later released and at one point questioned by the Gestapo. When France was liberated, Priscilla fled to England, and married again. The story of her survival was known until the author was given a collection of love letters, and diaries by Priscilla's step-daughter. Shakespeare researched and interviewed until as he was able to put together Priscilla's story of life in wartime Paris. What he found was somewhat surprising to him but led him to think about how some people survived. Priscilla's lovers included married Frenchmen,a Belgian black marketer and a German officer. She was saved by false identity papers and influential people. Her wartime life damaged her later relationships. The author presents an honest picture of a woman really set adrift by her parents at an early age and who lived a precarious life in wartime France.

41torontoc
feb 21, 2015, 11:07am

20.The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley. This really fun mystery is the first featuring young Flavia - a young girl living with her father and older sisters on a big crumbling estate in England in the early 1950`s. The language used is very date sometimes so I am not sure that the young adult reader would understand everything at first. The story involved murder both past and present, the stealing of valuable postage stamps past and present and the framing of Flavià`s father for the murder. Flavia is a master of chemistry(she has her own lab)and as budding detective. Her story of how she solves the crime and is saved when she is threatened by the true murderer is a good read and I looki forward to the next book in the series.

42bryanoz
feb 24, 2015, 9:42pm

Glad to see you enjoyed The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, there are about 7 sequels, all good !

43torontoc
feb 25, 2015, 1:37pm

Great! I have to put them on my wish list!

21.A Dangerous Inheritance- A Novel of Tudor Rivals and the Secret of the Tower by Alison Weir. I like Alison Weir's biographies of the Tudors but until now was not as happy with her historical fiction. But this story was really interesting. Weir has taken two women who might have know something about crucial events in British royal history- the murder of the two princes in the Tower of London by Richard the Third and the succession plots during the reigns of Mary and Elizabeth- and given them plausible biographies. Katherine Plantagenet was the illegitimate daughter of Richard the Third. She was married to William Herbert and probably died in childbirth. Katherine Grey was the sister of Lady Jane Grey and married secretly against the wishes of Queen Elizabeth. Katherine Grey was imprisoned for most of her life as a result of this action. Weir had given both women lives that place them at points of known history. She has made them both curious about the fate of the princes in the Tower of London and gave them actions that add more detail to what is generally know today. The fictional detail that could be true make this story interesting to me.

22.Gossip from the Forest by Thomas Keneally I liked this fictional story about what may have happened during the talks that led up to the armistice and the end of World War One. The structure of the book uses very short chapters to imagine the conversations between the German, French and English negotiators as they met in a railway car outside of Compiegne.. The story of one of the German negotiators was particularly poignant as the reader learns of his fate after the war. In a way the writing style is somewhat " impressionist"- Keneally alternates between the dialogue between the French and English and the Germans. I liked this story and found it informative in learning about the circumstances surrounding the negotiations to end the war.

44torontoc
mar 4, 2015, 2:22pm

23.Imagining Toronto by Amy Lavender Harris. The author has written a really interesting account of the literature ( essays, fiction, poetry and articles) that feature the city of Toronto. This book not only identifies the neighbourhoods that play an important role in specific books. Amy Lavender Harris thoroughly examines early history and major themes of multiculturalism and diversity, sexuality and the specific urban geography. I learned about many authors and their works that I would not have associated with Toronto. I loved the use of language in this book and am glad that I read it.

45torontoc
mar 5, 2015, 9:12pm

24. Lunch in Paris A Love Story with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard. I really enjoyed this memoir of the author's life in Paris. An American who falls in love with a Frenchman, Elizabeth Bard learns to adapt to a different way of life and philosophy. She also helps her fiancé learn about possibilities with his own career using techniques that are very american. Each chapter that describes a step in Elizabeth's story is accompanied by recipes that are very seductive. i plan to try a few of them. The themes in this well written memoir are food and a changing life.

46torontoc
mar 13, 2015, 3:07pm

25. A Replacement Life by Boris Fishman. This novel is funny and very tragic at the same time. The author, an American who was born in Belarus and immigrated to the US when he was nine, takes on the theme of identity. At first, the plot centres on Sasha's dilemma.Sasha is a young writer working as a researcher at the famous magazine in New York. Sasha doesn't have any opportunities to write articles for the magazine as his style is not what the editors want. At the same time as Sasha is struggling at his job, the reader is introduced to Sasha's grandfather who is mourning the death of his wife. Sasha has been avoiding his Russian relatives in Brooklyn. At the shiva for his grandmother, Sasha and his grandfather talk. The grandfather had escaped to Uzbekistan during the war while his future wife was trapped in a ghetto and managed to survive. At the shiva, Sasha encountered his relatives and family friends who really lived a very different life than he did. The family kept on trying to get Sasha to date Vera, a childhood friend. Sasha had developed a relationship with a co-worker, Arianna. Sasha's grandfather pressures his grandson to write a letter for him to the German government in order to claim restitution for Holocaust survivors. Sasha uses part of his grandmother's story and convinces himself that his grandfather's grim life is reason itself to commit a little forgery. Soon, Sasha is writing letters and hearing snippets of stories from many elderly Russians. The guilt that Sasha considers is layered with the realization that those who did immigrate from the Soviet Union have a very different set of morals and lifestyles in South Brooklyn. It is not an assimilated American way of life not is it a totally Soviet life. The contrast is best shown through Sasha's dealings with Arianna and Vera. His grandfather says of Vera- she would defend you like a tank and would take the rap for anything that Sasha did. Hardly a compliment to life in America but Vera lives a very Russian way of life. Arianna is more of a free spirit but doesn't understand Sasha's ties to the ideas of his relatives. Sasha and the author seem to debate what is truth and what is loyalty is this very moving story.

47torontoc
mar 16, 2015, 9:41pm

26. Love & Treasure by Ayelet Waldman This is a many layered story about Hungarian treasure that was taken from Jews during the second world war. The author takes the reader through the stories of Jack Wiseman, an American soldier charged with guarding the Hungarian " Gold Train" at the end of the war in Salzburg. He helps smuggle Jews out of Austria on their way to Palestine. Jack had a relationship with a survivor, Ilona, that did not end well for him. The story shifts to the adventures of Jack's grand daughter Natalie and Amitai, an art dealer, as they trace the owner of a necklace that Jack had taken from the gold train.The story of the owners then takes the reader back to 1913 and the lives of those Hungarian women who were involved in the world of early suffragettes and their protest against the boundaries of their family life. I learned a lot about Hungarian society, and the attitudes of American soldiers and army just after the war towards the survivors. The story had interesting developments although I wanted some more information on some of the characters who disappeared and were never mentioned in the rest of the novel.

48torontoc
mar 19, 2015, 8:13pm

27. My October by Claire Holden Rothman Rothman writes about a dysfunctional family living in Montreal in the early 2000's. The father , Luc Levesque is a famous Quebec writer who has separatist views and a big following in literary circles. His wife, Hannah expertly translates his books into English and has won awards for doing so. Hannah comes from an Anglo background but has embraced her husband's culture. She has had little contact with her parents in Toronto.Their son, Hugo, is a fourteen year old who is alienated from his parents and in trouble at school. Luc and Hannah have little personal communication as they try to help their son. Hugo discovers his grandfather's background as a prosecutor after the 1967 October crisis in Quebec. The family crisis does eventually get settled at the conclusion of the novel. I found that the extremes of behaviour on the part of the main characters and the changes that occur, happens a little too fast. The tensions set up throughout the story did draw me into the drama.This is a very interesting book.

49torontoc
mar 31, 2015, 9:49am

28. Canadian Haggadah Canadienne edited and complied by Rabbi Adam Scheier and Richard Marceau As the Passover holiday is this week, I decided to buy a newly published Haggadah. This particular one is trilingual-English French and Hebrew. The illustrations are not about the story of Passover but show the history of Jews in Canada from coast to coast. What I liked are the many commentaries on the Passover story and rituals by Rabbi from across Canada. This volume satisfied my needs of new thoughts on Passover and the recognition of the history of Jews in Canada.

50torontoc
apr 7, 2015, 10:53am

29. Midnight in Europe by Alan Furst This is the latest Alan Furst- I love his stories that all take place in and around Europe before and during the Second World War. Every book he writes also has a mention of the particular shooting at a Paris bistro.It is fun to figure out where and how the event will figure into the story. In this case the reader follows lawyer Cristian Ferrar, who works in Paris for an American firm. He also helps the embassy of the Spanish Republic acquire arms for their civil war fight against Franco. Ferrar works with a shady character by the name of Max De Lyon. The two men have adventures in Poland, Odessa and more places across Europe as they smuggle arms to the Spanish army. There is a seductive spy and more in this novel. I enjoyed the read.

51torontoc
apr 7, 2015, 1:07pm

30. Frankenstink Garbage Gone Bad by Ron Lightburn I really don't remember asking for this children's book on pollution- but there has been very little choice given to Canadian readers on Early Reviewers in the past couple of months- April's listings for Canada are minimal. However the illustrations are excellent in this story about garbage becoming a monster that keeps on getting bigger. The author starts with the mess under one boy's bed that takes on a life of it's own. The garbage monster travels and absorbs more garbage until it explodes. There is a moral for children- clean up your mess. I think that for younger children the story will be scary but it should appeal to the 7 to 10 year old set. The idea of starting a conversation about garbage and mess for a young generation is a good one. ( I think of my grand nieces who should appreciate this story and learn from it eventually) Besides being well illustrated, the story is told in simple poetry that makes the message very clear. The subject is a good choice for a children's book when a child is ready to take responsibility for their surroundings.

52torontoc
apr 9, 2015, 8:56pm

31. Lamentation by C. J. Sansom Lawyer Matthew Shardlake continues to practice law in the dying days of Henry the Eight's reign. He is called to help Queen Catherine Parr . A book that she has written and subsequently hidden was stolen from her quarters. This book is dangerous as it could be used by various groups either reformist or traditionalist in promoting their own cause. The author presents the different groups who are looking for power- the extremist Anabaptists and those who want to align more with the Pope. Various events that really took place- the burning of Anne Askew, the pageantry of the alliances with France and the rivalry between the nobles who are trying to gain control of the throne- are depicted as Matthew looks for those who have committed murder as well as being a threat to Queen Catherine. I think that in this novel, Shardlake sacrifices friendships as he works for the Queen and her family. He also puts several key people in his life in danger. This was a very interesting story in this latest book in the series by Sansom.

53torontoc
Redigeret: apr 11, 2015, 6:35pm

32. A Man Lies Dreaming by Lavie Tidhar. This is a very compelling and strange novel. There are two major strands. In one , a down and out private detective named Wolf barely makes a living in 1939 London. Little by little the reader will make the discovery that this man is really Adolf Hitler- living in an alternate world where the Nazi takeover in Germany failed and communists are in power in Germany. Wolf looks into the disappearance of a Jewish girl whose father is a notorious criminal in London. He also is involved with Oswald Mosley- a British neo Nazi running for office in Britain. There are also a series of killings of prostitutes happening that are in some way linked to Wolf. The second major strand follows the world of an Auschwitz concentration camp inhabitant named Shomer ( or the watcher) who was a writer of Yiddish pulp fiction. The story is either in Shomer's imagination or maybe not. Wolf's story is infused with sex and violence. The words and people of both stories contain real references. The storyline is sometimes pornographic and disturbing. But this is a fascinating read- not for everyone as some of the imaginings may be hard to take.

54torontoc
apr 16, 2015, 9:03pm

33. I Always Loved You by Robin Oliveira I read this novel about four Impressionist painters for my book club. I do think that the author " invented" some of the relationships as real evidence doesn't not seem to exist. Did Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt become lovers as well as friends? Was there a love story with Edouard Manet and his sister-in-law Berthe Morisot? The story is mainly about Mary Cassatt. The information about her family and their lives in Paris seems faithful to the facts. I did find the prose to be overly dramatic at times. I began to think about historical fiction and how the author might change or alter facts in order to create a story. One example is the treatment of Thomas More- a saint in A Man for All Seasons and not so admirable in Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall. But there is still a question-how much leeway can an author take and still be faithful to the person in question? The material about the tensions surrounding the Impressionist shows was interesting. I found the love plots to be a little overdone

55torontoc
apr 17, 2015, 4:52pm

34. A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor The author is the director of the British Museum and this book is a record of a series of broadcasts on BBC. I found the choices from the British Museum's collections interesting although I noticed that there were none from the "northern" North American continent ( i.e. Canada - o.k. I am Canadian and took an interest in seeing whether there were any notable artifacts). MacGregor covers not only major civilizations but also world religions as well. Each chapter has a photo of the objects and some comments by the author and selected experts. It is an interesting book not only for the scope of the collection but also for the choices made.

56torontoc
apr 21, 2015, 9:03am

35. Transit by Anna Seghers I did like this novel but sometimes felt as if I was in a Kafka-esque place. A young man has escaped from a German and later a French concentration camp in the early days of World War Two. He reaches Paris and is asked by an acquaintance to leave a letter at a Paris hotel. The young man, calling himself Seidler, finds out that the recipient of the letter, the writer Weidel, has committed suicide. Seidler, takes the writer's papers and belongings and makes his way to Marseille. The city is filled with refugees trying to get out of France. Here, the author , who apparently was able to escape to Mexico herself. uses the narrative to show how impossible the barriers were to the refugees. ( a timely read considering what is happening in the Mediterranean now) People needed an exit visa, a transit visa and a ticket on a ship. Complicating matters were the other papers needed and correct timing for all these documents. Seidler uses Weidel's papers and support to get a ticket to leave although he really did not want to leave the country. In fact his nonchalant attitude towards the situation contrasts with the desperation of others who were trying to leave. Seidler actually revives the hopes of Weidel's wife who appears in Marseille and hears about her husband's attempts to leave although she never sees him. Marie has a complicated history with her husband and really wants to leave with a doctor who helped leave Paris. Seidler meets all these people as he alternatively helps and sabotages the escapes of other refugees. A very interesting novel concerned with escape and exile.

57torontoc
apr 29, 2015, 4:44pm

36. Arctic Summer by Damon Galgut. This is a really beautifully written book. Galgut has written a novel about the life of E.M. Forster. He has concentrated on Forster's influences as he writes A Passage to India over quite a long period of time. Forster wanted both a relationship as well as sexual relations. His difficulty achieving both are chronicled as Galgut writes about Forster's time in India and Egypt. Forster does meet two men- one in India and one in Egypt who he does love. The story of their meetings and the barriers of class, nationality and native countries play an important role in this novel. The political conflicts of the early 20th century and role of Britain combine with Forster's place in society to influence what he does. A really skillful novel.

58torontoc
maj 1, 2015, 8:51pm

37. As It Is Written Judaic Treasures from the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library by Barry Dov Walfish. I actually went on a tour of this exhibit this week. A friend arranged this event for number of her friends. We toured the manuscripts with the author of this catalogue. All the works on display are in the collections of the rare book library at the University of Toronto. The book describes the exhibit and the books displayed as well as having selected illustrations of the manuscripts. The range of the exhibit was extensive- from the earliest books and scrolls to more recent pamphlets and art works. The catalogue gives me a review of the history of the books displayed and a nice reminder of the material that I saw in the showcases

59torontoc
maj 6, 2015, 4:22pm

38. The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman This novel is another read for my book club and I did like this story. Hoffman writes about New York and Coney Island during the 1911 time period. The narrative has two main characters. Coralee is a young woman who grows up in the Museum of Extraordinary Things- the show that her father runs with people who have deformities that he exploits for his side show. Coralee is trained to swim in cold water as a young girl and she, too, becomes part of the sideshow as a mermaid. She also has webbed hands that mark her as different. Eddie Cohen is a photographer who ran way from his life with his father as an immigrant in the needle trade. The two eventually meet ( perhaps the only part of the story that seems a little overly dramatic). In the course of the many plot lines Eddie takes photos of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and is asked to find out what happened to one of the young women who worked there and who disappeared. The details about immigrant life, the freak shows and the side shows of Dreamland were really interesting. The story is also about adventure- I think that this novel is an example of good historical fiction.

60torontoc
maj 11, 2015, 10:03am

39. Defying Hitler by Sebastian Haffner. This memoir was translated by the author's son Oliver Pretzel. The manuscript was written and ends in 1933.It was unpublished until 2000. The author tries to explain the politics of Germany before and after the first world war. Haffner is the name that the author uses in his later writing career. He tries to show how the political parties and various movements failed to stop the Nazis. Haffner's account of his own life as a young man in Berlin shows his own encounter with the power of the Nazi establishment . Haffner is not Jewish but he is very much against the Nazi regime, He has been training as a lawyer although he plans to leave Germany. Before he can take his exams, Haffner is required to go to a Nazi " camp" for training. His story about the quasi- military camp and how it changes the men he meets is fascinating. At times the theory is a little dense and the reader wants more of the memoir. In fact the afterword story of his father's life by the son is far more adventurous and interesting as Haffner moves to Britain just before the second world war. He later returns to Germany and becomes a noted journalist and historian.

61torontoc
maj 13, 2015, 1:00pm

40. The Weed that Strings The Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley. This is the second book in the series featuring girl sleuth Flavia de Luce. The story of Flavia's late mother, her largely absent father and two not-so nice sisters provide the background to this story. Flavia meets the puppeteer. Rupert Porson and later solves the mystery surrounding not only his murder but that of a young boy found 5 years early. Flavia is determined and fearless as she hunts for clues in her small village in 1950's England. I like this series and find them to be great summer reading.

62torontoc
Redigeret: maj 15, 2015, 9:38am

41. A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley. I just had to read the next book in this series. ( I bought a book with the first three)
Flavia solves the mystery of three murders and learns a little more about her dead mother. I like the way the author not only presents the details of a complicated murder case but also introduces the reader to a slice of 1950's British life. In this case, the gypsy caravan and some obscure religious sects. The estate where Flavia lives, Buckshaw, plays a central role in this mystery.

63torontoc
maj 18, 2015, 8:15pm

42. Honeydew by Edith Pearlman It is such a pleasure to read finely crafted short stories. I think that I am more aware of the right word and phrase when I read short stories. I found out about this author thanks to LT readers-thank you! The stories for the most part take place near or in a small town in Massachusetts. The characters are quirky or put into unusual situations. I must read more of this author's work.

64torontoc
maj 19, 2015, 8:03pm

43. The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O"Neill. This book was shortlisted for the Giller Prize and I understand why. O'Neill is a great storyteller. She has created nineteen year old twins, Nicolas and Nouschka Trembly who live in Montreal with their grandfather, Loulou. Their father, Etienne, was a famous Quebecois singer who had his children perform with him when they were young. He was now out of the picture , having been to prison three times. The mother had abandoned the twins when they were born. Narrated by Nouschka, the lives of the twins and their friends are incredibly dysfunctional. In fact, although Nouschka seems to be the one one in the family who has a sense of planning for the future, she will go along with the bizarre plans of her brother. The story takes plan during the time of the second referendum on Quebec independence. Nouschka and her family represent the French Canadians who see themselves as having the chance to assert their differences from the rest of Canada. Beautifully written, the story has both tragedy and hope. An excellent read.

65torontoc
maj 20, 2015, 6:39pm


44. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins I like to read books that seem to be really popular. I guess that I am curious to see "why"? This is a little like Gone Girl- a lot of suspense,and unlikeable characters. The entries or narratives by Rachel, Megan and Anna show people who have a lot of troubles and make bad decisions. There is suspense and I am glad that I read the book but it is not one of my favourites.

66torontoc
maj 23, 2015, 2:07pm

45. The Ward: The Life and Loss of Toronto's First Immigrant Neighbourhood edited by John Lorinc, Michael Mcclelland, Ellen Scheinberg, and Tatum Taylor. I do know one of the editors, Ellen Scheinberg. and I went to the book launch. This book is composed of many articles by many historians and people interested in the St. John's Ward area of Toronto.The area was home to African- Canadians and Irish in the mid nineteenth century and later to the first Italian, Jewish and Chinese immigrants living in Toronto. The articles talk about bootleggers, Chinese laundries, public health initiatives in the area and more. Eventually the small run down houses and structures were torn down and today the area holds the new city hall and square as well as major hospitals and hotels. The range of authors shows the diversity of interest in this first immigrant neighbourhood. An excellent book on the history of an important part of Toronto's past.

67torontoc
maj 25, 2015, 9:37am

46. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and The Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell Gladwell's books always present situations where the author takes a hard look at assumed theories. In this book he examines the story of the battle between the Goliath, the giant who should have won and David -who seemed to be disadvantaged. In fact Gladwell shows how a disability might not be one and what happens to many "Davids" in society. Selected studies show that choosing a so-called second tier college might be an advantage to students, and how a disability might spur people on to excellence. Gladwell looks at a think tank that totally misread the Vietnam War and why the people of London survived the German bombing during World War Two when establishment thinking believe the opposite would happen. A provocative book and worth reading.

68torontoc
maj 28, 2015, 2:47pm


47. The Rise & Fall of Great Powers by Tom Rachman. This is a very accomplished piece of writing. The story of Tooly Zylberberg is told in three time periods- 1988, 1999 and 2011. In a way the reader is looking not at Tooly's future but at deciphering her past. Tooly in the present owns a bookstore in an isolated part of Wales. She is called to New York as her father, Humphey is dying. However , Humphrey is not her real father although they travelled throughout the world when she was growing up. Tooly was raised by tricksters and a trio of mysterious characters. In each time period the reader wonders how she became the wanderer. Tooly believes that her childhood was an adventure although as the reader finds ( spoiler) out that Tooly's assumptions about her life are false. Great characters and comments about society of the beginning of the 21st century. I did find the " reveal" a little disappointing.

69torontoc
jun 1, 2015, 10:29am

48. A Complicated Marriage My Life with Clement Greenberg by Janice Van Horne Janice Van Horne was an inexperienced young woman who had just come to New York City in the 1950's. She met the older and famous art essayist Clement Greenberg and they married. This memoir really tells the story of Janice as she recounts her own growth. The story of Clement Greenberg is not really told as Janice was not part of the conversations in art. She did meet famous artists who were part of the American Expressionist group and provides several chapters with stories of their social involvement. The marriage of Clement and Janice was an " open" one so they each had lovers although Clement always considered their marriage important- even when Janice moved out and lived on the West coast with her boyfriend and later divorced. Janice Van Horne became an actress and a writer. These accomplishments are detailed in the book- the reader only learns that Clement Greenberg was writing his books. I found some of this memoir really interesting -especially in the material on Jackson Pollock and his wife Lee. I wish that there was more on the actual work of Clement Greenberg.

70torontoc
Redigeret: jun 3, 2015, 2:01pm

49. Mount Pleasant by Don Gillmor A friend loaned me this book- she loved it. I am not as enthusiastic but did find it interesting. Gillmor writes about a man who was born into privilege in term of money and society in Toronto. Harry Salter finds out that his father has left him practically no money when he died. Harry is living on debt with a precarious job as a university lecturer and a life in an expensive house. He is going to through a difficult time with his wife and son. The story takes Harry on a hunt for his father's money as he discovers that the investment firm that his father worked for probably was a front for some dubious practices. Throughout the story the author pokes fun at the children of the wealthy and the society that promotes the idea of privilege of birth.Not a great novel but fun to read.

71torontoc
jun 9, 2015, 11:13am

50. And Home Was Kariakoo A memoir of East Africa by M.G. Vassanji I must admit that I really like to read travel memoirs. M.G. Vassanji is a very accomplished writer who has won the Giller Prize twice! An earlier memoir won the Governor General's( of Canada) Literary Award for Non- Fiction. In this book Vassanji travels throughout Tanzania and Zanzibar to revisit the towns of his youth. His family moved from Nairobi to Dar es Salaam when he was very young. In addition to travelling with old friends to places that have meaning for him, Vassanji writes about the tension of being Asian in Africa. He looks at the problems and issues of identity for Asians who lived and live presently in Africa. After giving the reader a sense of the history, he does give some thought to the view of Africa through the eyes of Westerners- both good and bad. A very interesting compendium of memory, history and personal experience.

72torontoc
jun 14, 2015, 9:55pm

51. A Spy Among Friends Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal by Ben Macintyre. I really liked this account of Kim Philby and his friend Nicholas Elliott, spies working for MI6. The author describes the upbringing and background of both men and how the influence of their class and connections led them to their positions. However, Macintyre also shows how this same sense of entitlement by the British establishment led to Philby's success as a double agent for the Soviet Union. After the defection of Guy Burgess and Donald Mclean to Russia (after they had been unmasked as spies), Kim Philby's friends rallied around him rejecting claims that he, too, was a double agent. The realization that Philby probably sent many agents to their deaths with his transmission of American and English undercover operations came after twenty to thirty years of deception. Macintyre presents a theory that Philby's escape from Beirut to Moscow was almost encouraged by the British who really didn't want to prosecute him. A very engaging story of betrayal.

73torontoc
jun 16, 2015, 11:21pm

52. Daydreams of Angels by Heather O'Neill i am a fan of this author. Her last book The Girl Who Was Saturday Night was so good- this book of short stories does pick up some themes about being poor in Montreal. Many of the stories combine storytelling, fantasy and bizarre happenings. I enjoyed all of them. O'Neill uses some of the history of Canadian soldiers in the second world war in a few of her stories. In some cases she successfully combines both whimsy and horror. This is a well crafted collection

74torontoc
jun 21, 2015, 10:26am

53. Scattered Among The Peoples The Jewish Diaspora in Ten Portraits by Allan Levine This history was written as a series of biographies of key people in Jewish history. Each person is from a specific city. The author does use this format to give the reader a sense of other key personalities as well. So we follow the Abravanel family from Spain and Portugal to Italy and then Constantinople. I found the early chapters on the histories in Spain, Italy, and Turkey to be very informative. The style of writing is strait forward and I would give this book to a young adult as the stories are easy to follow. The histories are about cities as well- the story of the Jewish community in Vilna is particularly heartbreaking as Levine outlines the destruction of this vibrant secular culture.

75torontoc
jun 24, 2015, 4:03pm

54. Longbourn by Jo Baker- This is reread for my book club. One of our members will be comparing this book to Pride and Prejudice- I still think that the story is compelling and really gives the reader a view of "below stairs' and the plight of the servants. Baker has imagined some very interesting situations that could have taken place in a remote country house. Her description of the chores -the cleaning and above all the laundry- is very realistic. I think that the story of the servants, Sarah and James works within the confines of the Pride and Prejudice plot.

76torontoc
jun 26, 2015, 10:15am

55. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. This is a reread for my book club- I still reread this after I read a really bad book- it restores my faith in writing

77torontoc
jun 30, 2015, 7:32pm

56. The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore. I have read Moore's books and this one is fun although a little heavy handed on the satire. Canadians will understand when I say that this novel is a combination of Monty Python and Trailer Park Boys. Moore combines the plays of The Merchant of Venice, Othello and the story The Cask of Amontillado. His main character is Fool or Pocket who was the star of Moore's novel Fool. So, this mashup of Shakespeare's characters and reworking of the plot tries to rework history-adding a very interesting vengeful water dragon.

78torontoc
jul 4, 2015, 11:29am

57. Paris 1919 by Margaret MacMillan I thoroughly enjoyed reading this blow by blow account of the negotiations and politics behind the creation of the treaty that ended the first world war. MacMillan charts the attitudes of the major powers- France, Britain and the United States- as their leaders worked towards what they thought was a just peace. The U.S. president,Woodrow Wilson brought to the table his Fourteen Points- a document that was meant to create a better world for all nations and establish a League of Nations. How the various powers compromised and changed boundaries of countries and indeed established new ones makes for great reading. Some of the decisions would have repercussions for later events. MacMillan also shows what really happened to the enforcement of the treaty. This was a very evenhanded analysis of the events and forces that led to the final document. A must read for those interested in the history of the 20th century.

79torontoc
jul 8, 2015, 10:30am

58. The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler. I really like a good story and this book kept me glued to the pages ( sorry for the cliche but it is true) until the end. Librarian Simon Watson lives in his family's old house by the sea. The house is slowly falling apart but history keeps him there-Simon's mother drowned either by accident or by intent many years ago. His father never kept the house up, died of a heart attack and Simon and his sister, Enola, really raised themselves alone. The story revolves around the mystery of a damaged book that Simon is sent by a book seller from the Midwest. Simon soon discovers that his mother, grandmother and great grandmother were circus performers who all died by drowning on a certain date. All the women were " mermaids" in travelling carnivals. Simon immediately thinks of his sister Enola and her life as fortune teller. The events of the present contrast to the second element in the novel- the story of mute Amos and his love Evangeline who travel with a carnival in the 1700's. The practice of reading Tarot cards, the curses set up by tragic events and the effect of catastrophic storms are key factors in both threads of the story. Simon deals with his love for Alice , the daughter of neighbour Frank, his job loss and the invasion into his life of his dysfunctional sister and her boyfriend. The challenge of unsettling knowledge about his parents and their relationship as well as the learning about the real story of past lives keep Simon focused on the truth.
A really good story!

80torontoc
jul 8, 2015, 4:01pm

59. Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie I stopped reading this book a few months ago- I found that I didn't like the plot after the first section ( although I really liked the story of Hiroko and her life in Nagasaki. ) I picked up the book today and continued to read about Hiroko's life with her husband in Pakistan and later the story of her son Raza. I did find the conclusion somewhat melodramatic. That's all I don't want to write any more - I think that some readers here have liked this novel.

81torontoc
jul 10, 2015, 3:39pm

60. The Boat by Nam Le.The author has written a number of powerful short stories. They are all very different- from a harrowing account of a teenager's time aboard a boat fleeing Vietnam to a confused women visiting her friend in Iran. Nam Le does use a technique in some of the work that is very unsettling- the plot reaches a point at the end of the story where there is no resolving of the given situation. The characters are left in an untenable position- the reader wonders where the story can go next. The makes the work strong but sometimes leaves the reader wondering.An interesting book to read. The author does not seem to have publish anything ( although I don't read periodicals) since 2008- hopefully this will change.

82torontoc
jul 12, 2015, 11:51am

61. Stones on a Grave by Kathy Kacer. This is an ER and Young Adult book that is part of an interesting series. Seven young women had been living in an orphanage in a small town in Canada in 1964- the building burned down and all seven then set out on journeys to find out about a specific secret relating to their backgrounds. There are seven novels that can be read independently. Sara, the key figure in this book travels to Germany to look for information about her mother. All she has is a few documents with her mother's name, the name of the doctor who signed a certificate and a Star of David necklace. Sara had not known that she was Jewish and her discovery of her history coincides with the story of the Holocaust and concentration camps. The story shows Sara's growth and maturity as a young adult. She resists the temptations of a boyfriend with questionable values in her home town. In Germany Sara finds out what happened to her parents and learns why she faced barriers to discovering the truth. Sara begins to live with some uncomfortable facts about her past and make plans for her future. This book was written for a maturing young audience. The themes are presented in a way that explains some difficult situations that a young person may have to explore with relationships that they make. This is a very interesting series and I think that I all try to read the rest of the books.

83torontoc
jul 13, 2015, 9:51pm

62. The Matter with Morris by David Bergen. Morris Schutt wrote a column that was printed in many newspapers and used his family as the source for many of his stories. In this novel, Morris is asked to take a brake from writing by his agent as his work has become too dark and personal. The reader learns that Morris's son Martin, a soldier in the Canadian army had been killed by friendly fire. Although as the narrator, Morris seems to be a rational man, he has separated from his wife and has taken all his money out of the bank and put it a safe in his condo. In addition, Lucille, Morris's wife found out that he had had a relationship of sorts ( all in writing) with a married woman from the United States. The story of how Morris tries to mend the relationship with his older daughter and later Lucille as well how he exhibits some trying and irrational behaviours is interesting. I think that the writing style is excellent . As the lead protagonist, Morris is not quite the unreliable narrator but gets dangerous close to becoming one. I did like the book but in comparison to his earlier novel, I liked that one better.

84torontoc
jul 17, 2015, 7:50pm

63. Maps and Legends Reading and Writing Along the Borderlands by Michael Chabon Chabon has written a group of essays on popular culture and a series of short memoirs on his influences and snippets of his life. He also gives the reader a sense of what led him to write some of his books. I really liked his writing in the chapter " Imaginary Homelands where his essay on the travel book "Say it in Yiddish" led to " The Yiddish Policemen's Union".Chabon covers history, his own life as a writer and appreciations of various writers and graphic novelists. A great read.

85torontoc
jul 22, 2015, 1:55pm

64. The Children Act by Ian McEwan. This novel covers issues that a British family court judge has to consider in her work. The key case that Fiona Maye has to give a judgement on involves a young man, Adam, just short of the age of consent , who is refusing a blood transfusion. He and his parents are members of Jehovah's Witnesses and are in conflict with the hospital where Adam is being treated for leukemia. Fiona' s judgement and her work on other cases take a toll on her personal life. Fiona's husband , Jack, wants to have an affair( not really a spoiler as their conversation happens at the beginning of the novel) as he feels that the couple have not had any intimacy for a long time. Fiona does not share her thoughts about the emotional turmoil that her cases bring to her personally. The plight of the young man,Adam and fiona's response are the main themes in this work. Extremely well written and I really enjoyed reading this work.

86torontoc
jul 23, 2015, 2:02pm

65. Daddy Lenin and other stories by Guy Vanderhaeghe. I have read two of this author's novels and really liked them. This book of short stories is very well written. The characters in the stories are for the most part doomed to a bad life. Small towns on the Canadian Prairies are the main settings. People living unsettled lives and making bad decisions provide the plot lines. The good thing about short stories is that the action moves quickly and the reader learns about the resolutions in quick fashion. The story that I liked the most was "Daddy Lenin". A retired high school teacher happens to see his former PHD supervisor , a man nicknamed Daddy Lenin. The back stories about betrayal and ruined careers provide the impetus for the narrator to revisit his past and think about the present. I am glad that I read this book although I now want to turn to something happy. ( Hey, it is summer!)

87torontoc
jul 27, 2015, 8:49pm

66. Granta 66 Truth and Lies edited by Ian Jack. I used to read Granta before I discovered LT. Granta was more of a book than a magazine. I discovered new authors and upcoming books that I was interested in reading. But after a number of years I somehow lost interest in the publication. I was looking at my TBR piles ( some encased in big plastic bins ) and found this issue. I might have started it and put it down as some of the stories seems familiar. Bur rereading issue 66 ( from 1999) showed me how wonderful I found this magazine of new writing. I read chapters from books by Jayne Anne Phillips, Claire Messud and Javier Marias. The lead story by Elena Lappin was about a man who may have falsified a Holocaust past. Fascinating reading

88torontoc
jul 29, 2015, 9:45am

67.The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton. I do like good books for children. It is also good for an adult to see what kind of values this literature is promoting, Recently, princesses have had a make over. No longer waiting for a prince charming to save the day, princesses have taken charge of their own lives. The author, Kate Beaton wrote one of my favourite books- Hark! A Vagrant- a hilarious collection of cartoons( can I say that word) that skewer literary and historical figures and situations. In this book for children, a princess is anxious to have a horse that will help her win battles. Unfortunately, her parents give her a very cute and chubby little pony. How this pony turns around the battle is a nice change to see in the story. Beaton looks at promoting gentleness instead of heroic battles. A fun read and great visuals.

89torontoc
Redigeret: jul 31, 2015, 11:26am

68. The Way We Are by Margaret Visser. I loved the author's book Much Depends on Dinner and found this book in my oldest TBR pile( or bin). I was a little disappointed as the pieces were all very short. I know that they originated as columns for a magazine. Visser writes about the origins of the Easter Rabbit and Santa Claus as well as wedding cakes and the process of taking a shower. Her subjects are varied and I guess that I wanted more. Still, a very readable book that was published 20 years ago.

90torontoc
aug 3, 2015, 11:55am

69. Tales for an Unknown City Stories from 1001 Friday Nights of Storytelling collected by Dan Yashinsky I was looking through my TBR pile and found this collection of stories told by a group of storytellers every Friday night in Toronto. They first met in a cafe in Kensington Market and moved to other places over the years-there is still a storytelling festival held every year in Toronto. The works are from different cultures from Canadian Aboriginal, Ukrainian, Jewish,American, German, Russian and Icelandic to name a few. Each storyteller relates the history of the story as well. A great book for very different stories.

91torontoc
Redigeret: aug 9, 2015, 9:09pm

70. Tel Aviv Noir edited by Etgar Keret and Assaf Gavron. I have read a number of books by Israeli authors and was interested to see this book of short stories edited by two of my favourite authors. I was pleased and disappointed at the same time. Some of the stories were great ( the ones by the editors-Gavron, Keret, and Shimon Adaf, Lavie Tidhar, Silje Bekeng, and Matan Hermoni- and some I really didn't like. The introduction by Etgar Keret did set the stage for stories that explored the underbelly of Tel Aviv However, the stories that explored the absurd were more successful in my opinion. There was both humour (the Yiddish speaking ghost ) and tragedy. An interesting but uneven book.

92torontoc
aug 12, 2015, 10:56am

71. Touch by Alexi Zentner I have had this novel in my TBR pile for a number of years. I am glad that I decided to read it. Zentner has given the reader a multi-generation story about a family that pioneered living and working in the far Canadian north in a fictional town named Sawgamet. The story depicts the hardships of surviving through killing snow storms that lasted for months, riding logs down a treacherous river to the sawmill, and the hazards of ice on that same river. The narrator is a minister,Stephen, newly arrived in Sawgamet. He will take over the job that has been held by his stepfather. The stories of Stephen's grandfather, his father and his own early life in the town are told with a reverence for the strength of this family and the tragedies that they faced. This is a really beautifully written novel.

93torontoc
aug 14, 2015, 11:11am

72. The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon A friend gave me this book- she heard the author speak. The book relates the history of a remarkable family and one of the daughters, Kamila, as they live under the rule of the Taliban in Kabul, Afghanistan in the late 1990's. Kamila is charged with keeping her family safe after her father has to leave Kabul. He was allied with a group that was no longer in power. Kamila creates a dressmaking concern in her house that employes her sisters and eventually many young women. The dressmaking business becomes a sewing school that the Taliban do not touch. Kamila does go on to create many other businesses and work for international agencies that try to improve the lot of women. The story is inspirational although not dramatic. Kamila fills the need of the many women who have to earn a living and support their families after the Taliban forbid women to work. By creating a " micro business " in her home, Kamila presents a model that helped many women survive in the time of the Taliban rule,

94torontoc
aug 17, 2015, 9:46am

73. The Confabulist by Steven Galloway Galloway had written The Cellist of Sarajevo a few years ago. I found this current book to be not as engrossing. In fact, it took a while to get into the story- I found the first few chapter somewhat confusing. The novel alternates between the stories of Harry Houdini and the man who set off the incident that killed him- Martin Strauss. We see Strauss at various points in his life as well as that of Houdini. There are elements of conspiracies with spiritualists, spies, false memories, hidden stories, and more., In fact, the main themes of debunking the world of spiritualism and the stories of Houdini's life are obscured by the escapes and plots of the government spies-both British and American. An interesting read for the subject matter.

95torontoc
aug 20, 2015, 6:28pm

74. How to be both by Ali Smith I didn't realize that the two parts of this novel were published in a different order in half of the books printed . I am glad that I first read the part about the young girl, Georgie, and how she copes with the death of her mother. I was getting interested in her story and that of her family when the focus changed in the second half of the book. Although Georgie becomes obsessed with an unknown Renaissance Painter and his work, in the second part of the novel the reader learns about the life and work of this same artist. I liked both parts separately and there was a " meshing" of the stories in the end of the book for me. Was this a brilliant plot and story? Hmm- I was not as impressed as the judges of the various award who nominated this book( it won the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction) An interesting read but not my favourite.

96torontoc
aug 24, 2015, 10:47am

75. Invisible City by Julia Dahl. I found this great mystery series-read about it in the Toronto Star book page- and look forward to the next one ( which was just published). Rebekah Roberts is a reporter in New York City with an unusual history. Her mother was a Hasidic Jew who left her family, had a relationship with Rebekah's non- Jewish father and after the birth of their child abandoned them and returned to her ultra Orthodox family. Rebekah has not seen her and she really does not know much about the Jewish religion or culture. A terrible murder that Rebekah is covering leads her to a community of Ultra-orthodox Jews who seem to cover up misdeeds from the outside world. She meet a detective who knew her mother and learns more about her own history as she helps solves two murders. Great beginning for a series.

This is my 75th book of the year!

97torontoc
aug 31, 2015, 12:56pm

76. Dead Wake The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson I must admit that I found this book to be not interesting as some the author's previous works. This is very detailed account of the last voyage of the liner Lusitania during the first World War. Larson takes the reader through the ship and it's workings. As well, the book informs the reader about specific passengers and their own accounts. Larson asks some questions about the care or lack of it given to this ship. Germany had publicly warned the public about travelling on what it considered enemy vessels. Not only did the German u-boats target navy ships, it also took down passenger ships of British and neutral countries. Larson describes the secret department of British intelligence and how it had more information that showed that the Lusitania was in danger of being targeted. Larson also writes about the "almost official non- rescue" of the survivors and how the government tried to put the blame on the Captain for the sinking. There are no definitive answers. The view that the sinking of this ship directly led to the United States into the war effort are shown to be false although the event did alert the Americans and President Wilson to Germany's intent. I think that this history is a meticulous telling of the events that led up to the sinking and the repercussions in later years.

98torontoc
sep 10, 2015, 1:16pm

77. A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson. I really liked this novel about Teddy Todd- the brother of Ursula inLife after Life. This story is not so much a "prequel" or sequel but another possibility in the life of one man. Atkinson mixes her time periods as the story jumps from the present to many pasts in a puzzle like form. Ideas about character changes as the reader learns about motivation in later segments. Ted, his life as a captain of a RAF bomber in World War 2, the life of his wife Nancy, his daughter Viola and her children Sonny and Bertie are all revealed in a manner that keeps the reader connected to the story. Ted's life seems boring at first until the history of his war work is described. Simple becomes complex and the easy to understand- not so. I do like Atkinson's writing!

99torontoc
sep 15, 2015, 10:29pm

78. Jack of Spies by David Downing. This book is the first in the author's new series on a world war one spy- Jack McColl. McColl's facility with language leads him from Tsingtau, China to San Francisco, Mexico and New York on behalf of the British secret service. This first book is et just before the start of the war. The British government is concerned with the actions of Germany as German agents try to forge alliances with Mexico, Ireland and India. Much of Jack's work seems mundane but there is danger and near misses as agents try to kill him. I don't think that this series is as interesting as his John Russell stories but I will give the next novel a try.

100torontoc
sep 21, 2015, 9:39am

79. Troubles by J.G. Farrell This novel is about the conflicts in Ireland just after the First World War. However the format is interesting as Farrell writes from the point of view of a man who has come back from the battlefields of the war. Major Brendan Archer goes to visit a woman who he thinks he is engaged to-Angela Spencer. Angela lives in a hotel that her father, Edmund, runs in Kilnalough , Ireland. The Majestic Hotle has seen better days- it is falling apart slowly having very few guests- mainly very old ladies who are there permanently. The story is very humorous- as the Major never sees Angela or seems to talk to her. He becomes involved with the many eccentric people who visit and live in the area. Edmund represents the Anglo- Irish who have strong ties to both the land and British rule.The stories of the hapless Major's encounters with women, and other characters contrast with the descriptions of the fighting and conflicts that happen in Ireland. Yet, with the humour of the antics of the inhabitants of the village and the guests at the Majestic, the narrative gives the reader a good sense of the problems of British rule in Ireland.

101torontoc
sep 24, 2015, 10:57am

80. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce This was a re-read for my book club- I appreciated the themes this read- still a lovely and touching story.

102torontoc
sep 29, 2015, 1:45pm

81. The Seven Good Years by Etgar Keret Keret writes a memoir of the time in his life between the birth of his son and the death of his father. Of course , the brief chapters are very much in the style of the writer's fiction. Incidents are described with references to past history. The reader learns about Keret's brother and sister as well as the stories about his parents first meeting. Keret is funny and wry in his descriptions of his life as a writer- he doesn't hesitate to point out the contradictions in Israeli society and the " outside" world. He shares his own feelings about politics in his work and his relationships with his family. A very insightful book and worth reading.

103torontoc
sep 29, 2015, 4:19pm

82. The Kill Artist by Daniel Silva This is the last of my " summer reading"- spies and deception. In fact this plot was more convoluted than most of the Silva novels. It is an earlier book in the series about restorer and master spy Gabriel Allon. In fact I had stopped reading it a month ago and decided that today was a good time to finish and pass the book on.( I give books that I won't read again to a number of sources)

104torontoc
okt 6, 2015, 10:53am

83. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante Count me as one of the readers entranced by the first book by Ferrante in a four part series. The story of two friends-Elena and Lila- is set in a very poor neighbourhood of Naples and begins in the 1950's. Elena and her friend Lila negotiate the complex relationship of their family and friends. There are feuds and fights with the families and their children in their part of Naples. One interesting theme that runs through the book is the complete insularity of this very tight knit group of storekeepers. Lila doesn't know what high school is or the recent history of Italian Fascists. Elena learns that she should be reading newspapers to find out what is happening around her. The reader follows Elena and her complete fascination with her childhood friend Lila. Elena considers Lila to be the brilliant friend and constantly measures her own considerable success in learning against her friend's accomplishments. Elena is lucky enough to be kept in school and go on to high school. She is supported by her teachers. Lila has to leave school before middle school but she has the amazing ability to learn on her own. Elena's insecurity is compared to the worth of Lila as she achieves what the neighbourhood considers to be success. I hung on every word and can hardly wait to read the second book. Great reading!

105torontoc
okt 11, 2015, 2:27pm

84. The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro. I really loved this novel. There was so much to think about. In post Roman Britain an elderly couple leave their settlement and journey to the village of their son. However, there is a tendency to forget past history because of a mist. The couple, Axl and Beatrice meet a number of interesting people who shape what happens to them. There is still tension between the Britons and the Saxons. Axl and Beatrice meet two knights on very different quests. Sir Gawain is old and perhaps the last of the knights associated with the late King Arthur. There is what could be the last dragon whose breath produces the mist of forgetfulness. This mist has prevented the two peoples from remembering terrible atrocities. The story show the last of an era and perhaps the end of the magic of Merlin as a force. Change is coming and Axl and Beatrice have their own bad memories to think about as more is revealed through the story. There is killing and a connection to the end of the people known as the Britons. This has become one of my favourite books by Ishiguro.

106torontoc
okt 11, 2015, 5:11pm

85. The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg Sigh! My book club wanted to read this novel and another on the same topic this month. Maybe my inner grouch is coming out but I thought that this story would be better as a TV series. Parts were funny but the book was too long. I liked some of the characters but really I would rather read something else- I will do that next.

107torontoc
okt 15, 2015, 8:30am


86. Four Queens The Provencal Sisters Who Ruled Europe by Nancy Goldstone. I really liked good history books- especially about times and people that I really don't know much about- and this biography worked for me. The author relates the stories of four sisters, Marguerite, Eleanor, Sanchia and Beatrice from Provence during the 1200's who became queens in England, France, Germany and Sicily. They all were married well because of the plans of their parents, Beatrice of Savoy and Raymond Berenger V , the count and countess of Provence. Goldstone gives the reader a good sense of the politics and events in Europe during this time. The two elder sisters, Marguerite of France and Eleanor of England were much more involved in the management of events in their countries. One important factor was the close family ties of those in power from Provence and Savoy. How they influenced power in England and France was fascinating. A really good read.

108torontoc
okt 18, 2015, 10:41am

87. Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis/ This is an amazing book. The premise is unusual but it does work for me. This book is on the Giller Prize shortlist. The gods Hermes and Apollo are drinking at a tavern in Toronto and make a bet. If they gave some dogs human intelligence, would they be happy at the end of their lives? Fifteen dogs at a clinic are given this gift or curse and escape. Alexis follows this group as they confront newly acquired traits. One dog, Prince becomes a poet. Groups are formed that accept or reject this gift. There is a lot of casual brutality as the dogs do not loose their " dog" or animal instincts. In a way there is a battle between those who explore those new sensations and those who want to establish their old ways again. Aliexis follows both groups and their destinies. There are discussions about the nature of humanity and memory. I found the end very touching. A very good read for me.

109torontoc
okt 22, 2015, 4:41pm

88. The 100-Year- Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson I read this for my book club.Double sigh! I know that some readers really liked this book but I was annoyed. ( I will agree that I may be a grouch) It was not really funny to me as the story relates the history of 100 year old Allan Karlsson and his adventures. He met almost every world leader, and survived the prisons of a number of dictatorships. In the present he escapes from his old folks home and meets a variety of interesting people and their adventures. I found the story to be longwinded and not funny.

110torontoc
okt 26, 2015, 4:03pm

89. The Story of a New Name by Elena FerranteThis is the second book in the four part series of the " Neapolitan Novels". I loved the first book and have to say the same for the second. The reader takes up the story of Elena Greco and her friend Lila just after Lila marries Stefano. Lila seems to be the one in the impoverished Naples neighbourhood who has achieved success- marriage, a modern apartment and money. Elena continues her studies at high school although she has much self doubt about her skills and ability. How Lila involves herself in the many plans and skirmishes with rival families does drive much of the plot in this account. Lila seems to be on a suicide mission- not caring about the relationships that she destroys. She even takes away a valued friend from Elena. The reader sees how Elena achieves much and how Lila seems to have altered her life for the worst. But the story does continue!

111torontoc
okt 27, 2015, 7:16pm

90.Chez L'Arabe by Mireille Silcoff I enjoyed this set of short stories. I had heard the author interviewed on the CBC a month ago. Silcoff had a rare condition where her spinal fluid was leaking and she had no cushion around her brain. She used this condition in some of her stories. She did recover ( although I think that it could happen again at some point) and I did see her accept a literary award for this book. The stories are clever and show the frailty of human relationships. Many of them take place in Montreal. I did enjoy this book.

112torontoc
nov 1, 2015, 8:13pm

91.The Impossible Exile: Stefan Zweig at the End of the World by George Prochnik I think that a reader should have read Zweig's autobiography The World of Yesterday before reading this book. Prochnik concentrates on Zweig's last years. although he does refer to some elements of Zweig's early life. The book is more than a biography as Prochnik does write about his own family's history and how they escaped from Europe.The author tries to analyze the why of Zweig's actions and his thoughts on his upbringing in Austria, and how his society shaped his beliefs on civilization and European intellectual life. Zweig found himself exiled both physically from Europe and emotionally from the kind of society that he was an integral part of for most of his life. Prochnik presented Zweig's views in a fair way although he did show how Zweig's thoughts on the role of culture were terribly out of date in the 20th century. An interesting read.

113torontoc
nov 8, 2015, 10:56am

92. The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses and the Rise of the Tudors by Dan Jones. I like a good history book and this one was very good. i hadn't realized that in the struggle for the crown in England during the fifteenth century there was so much bloodletting and beheading! Jones details the large number of slaughters very clearly in this account. The stories of the rivalry between so many of the powerful families in England and their control ( and loss ) of land certainly wasn't a factor that I had thought about. The relationships between France, Brittany and Burgundy played a significant role in the struggles between the York and Lancaster families. Thank goodness the author had a series of clear family trees that helped identify the players. This history book casts Richard lll as a villain. I have to look out for an earlier book by Jones on the Plantagenets.

114torontoc
nov 17, 2015, 7:25pm

93. The Lives of the Kings and Queens of England edited by Antonia Fraser This is a re-read of a good reference book on the lives of the Kings and Queens of England. There are some basic family trees that are helpful in sorting out who is related to whom. Also the capsule biographies serve to give an overview of the various families and especially in the early group, all the feuds. I read it because I was reading The Hollow Crown and wanted some more background information.

115torontoc
nov 20, 2015, 2:42pm

94. Mr. Mani by A.B. Yehoshua This is a reread for my book club. I found that the story- a series of five conversations working backward from 1983- 1848 about the Mani family- has so many layers to it. The interesting theme that was new to me was the idea that Yehoshua was creating a reverse on the biblical Abraham/Isaac sacrifice story. In this book the father seems to sacrifice for the son. I was still fascinated and enjoyed the reread. There are unreliable narrators and not very admirable main characters.

116torontoc
nov 28, 2015, 3:03pm

95. The Vienna Melody by Ernst Lothar. This very long (594 pages) historical novel follows the family of Christopher Alt, a manufacturer of pianos in Vienna from 1888 to the beginning of the second world war. Alt's will determined that all his family had to live the family house (divided into a series of apartments. The story follows the son Franz, his wife , Henriette and their son Hans with occasional references to other relatives. Henriette had been involved secretly with the crown prince , Rudolf, before he committed suicide with a mistress. The story really shows the Viennese society and it's place in arts and culture, reactions to World War I and the coming of Hitler. The author was born in Vienna and wrote the book and a translation in 1944. Apparently there were films made in both English and German. I think that the attitudes expressed in the novel reveal the Viennese and their ideas on their lives in a very unique city and culture.

117torontoc
dec 1, 2015, 9:11am

96. The Scent of Secrets by Jane Thynne Hmm- the title on the touchstones is different. i do think that this is not the first book in this spy series. However, it is the first published in North America- I will have to look out for more books published in England. Actress Clara Vine has been working in Germany for about 6 years. Half English and German, she also spies for the British government. The year is 1938. Clara is asked to befriend Hitler's girlfriend, Eva Braun. The story also follows a murder of a young woman on a German cruise ship. The plot is a little complex with with many stories intersecting. I do like the series and will follow the next book.

97. Hilda and the Troll by Luke Pearson. I like to see what children's book authors are doing. ( an interest in seeing what my young great nieces will be reading) This graphic novel is well designed and has some interesting characteristics. The young girl , Hilda is fearless, takes a leadership role and solve problems with trolls and other creatures. ( I like the woodman) There is a mother ( nice to see that a parent is present ) and she is trusting and cheerful. This story is a nice change from old stereotypes of the past.

118torontoc
Redigeret: dec 8, 2015, 9:57am

98. A Question of Return by Robert Carr I must admit that I know the author. but that didn't stop me from enjoying this second novel from the author. The story has two threads. A Russian poet, Art Laukhin, defected from Russia and now lives and works in Toronto. He has been involved in translating and organizing the diaries of his late novelist father, Pavel, so that they can be published. He is helped by his graduate students at the University of Toronto. The diaries describe the life of writers in Stalinist Russia. One particular writer and her story is that of late Marina Tsvetayeva. Tsvetayeva and her famhttp://www.librarything.com/catalog/torontocily had escaped Russia and lived in Paris. Her husband and then her daughter went back to the Soviet Union in the late 1930's. She did the same- both her husband and daughter were arrested and Tsvetayava committed suicide. Laukhin's father learned more about the story of this poet's death from Boris Pasternack and described it in his diary. The novel alternates between passages in the diary from the 1930's and 1950's and Laukhin's very messy personal life in 1980's Toronto. He is involved with a younger woman, Audrey , who works for an art dealer, Jean Lezzard. Lezzard wants to read the manuscript of Laukhin's father's diary. There is also a suspicion that he is dealing in Russian art confiscated by the Soviet secret police. The positioning of real writers-Tsvetayeva and Pasternack- with the story of exile worked as a story for me. I liked the pace of the plot and how the two stories of past and present connected. A great read for those interested in fiction about Russian writers and Soviet history.

99. Winnie The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh by Sally M. Walker and illustrated by Jonathan D. Voss. This book has a nice combination of illustration and print for a young reader. ( the book is a gift for my young great niece) The author describes how a veterinarian who had joined the Canadian army in World War 1 bought a young bear in Northern Ontario, named him Winnie ( after the city of Winnipeg) and took him overseas to England. When the soldier had to go to battle in France, he left Winnie in the care of the London Zoo.When the war was over, the veterinarian realized that Winnie should remain at the zoo. And this is where an author and his son found the bear and named him "Winnie-the -Pooh". A lovely book to start a young reader with before going to the Winnie-the-Pooh stories.

119torontoc
dec 8, 2015, 9:56am

and yay!
100. Step Aside, Pops a Hark! A Vagrant Collection by Kate Beaton. Kate Beaton's comics are wonderful. This second collection includes a number of her favourite targets. Fairy tales, comic book heroines, the US founding Fathers and of course Jane Austen vs the Brontes are all put in unlikely and funny situations. Cinderella works out with the Prince, Lois Lane is bugged by both Superman and Clark Kent, and Julius Caesar is reminded to wear pyjamas to the Senate. Chopin and Liszt are rivals in everything. Avenging Feminists and women bicycle riders are both given a prominent place in this collection of funny and acute observations on literature and politics.

120torontoc
dec 9, 2015, 4:36pm

101. Women Without Men :a Novel of Modern Iran by Shahrnush Parsipur. This novel was translated by Kamran Talatoff and Jocelyn Sharlet with a very interesting afterward by Persis M. Karim on a brief history of the revolution in Iran in the last half century. The author was imprisoned for her writings and she now lives in the U.S. This brief story describe the lives of five women and how they come to live in a garden near Tehran. The author uses allegory to describe how the women lived previously and how they changed their lives. Parsipur writes about topics that the government in Iran didn't want anyone to talk about- virginity, sexuality,and the role of women and their subservience to men. The brief histories remind me of some of Italo Calvino's work- a woman turns herself into a tree, and a another woman dies and revives herself twice. I liked the historical background and biography of the author that was part of the afterward.

121torontoc
dec 15, 2015, 11:04pm

102. Princes at War by Deborah Cadbury The subtitle is " The Bitter War Inside Britain's Royal Family in the Darkest Days of WWII." I think that the premise of the book is not as lurid as the title. The author relates the activities of the four sons of George V of England during the second world war. Edward does abdicate and the author does have it in for him-she uses what evidence she found to state that he was probably a traitor and in communication with the Nazis in 1940. The activities of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor contrast with the work that the other princes did in support of England. George VI overcame a crippling stutter to lead his country. The Duke of Gloucester toured battlefields in France and eventually became the Governor-General of Australia. The youngest brother, the Duke of Kent was involved in work with the RAF and died in a mysterious air crash in 1942. The material covered in the book was very interesting. I believe that there were no new discoveries made in this book about the role of the Duke of Windsor or the crash involving the Duke of Kent. Still, it was a good read.

122torontoc
dec 18, 2015, 8:49am

103. Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick The author uses the same technique that he developed so successfully in The Invention of Hugo Cabret. There are two stories in this novel. One -about Ben in 1977- is told in print. The other -about Rose in 1927- is illustrated beautifully in pencil or graphite drawings. This story highlights the story of two young people who are deaf and how the education for the deaf has changed over the years. As well, there is a different perception of those who cannot hear and how they have to learn different kinds of communication. The story involves the collections of the American Museum of Natural History. The stories do come together in the end and weave the themes of Deaf culture, discoveries in natural sciences and family.This is a lovely book for adults and young adults.

123torontoc
dec 19, 2015, 4:58pm

104. UnderMajorDomo Minor by Patrick DeWitt DeWitt tells a good story. I did like The Sisters Brothers better but this fable or surreal fairy tale was still interesting. A young man, Lucien ( Lucy) Minor is out of place in his home village and is sent to work at the Castle Von Aux for the Baron. There are indeed many sinister secrets in this story. Lucy has a habit of either lying or telling the truth in the worst situations. He meets a family of thieves, and falls in love with Klara, a young woman with another boyfriend, the soldier Adolphus who ives to fight. The Baron and Baroness Von Aux have their own deprived secrets that Lucy discovers. Lucy has many adventures and this story reads as a surreal fairytale. An interesting read!

124torontoc
dec 21, 2015, 7:43pm

105. This is Happy by Camilla Gibb Accomplished novel writer Camilla Gibb has written a memoir about her life. Coming from a dysfunctional family, Gibb struggles with depression. She gives the reader the story of her early years, her academic history and then, briefly, her life as a writer. Gibb , after a number of relationships that broke up, meets a woman,Anna, who she marries. Unfortunately and tragically Anna leaves Camilla Gibb abruptly just as she becomes pregnant. This book is then the author's account of how she copes and really creates a new family for her and her little girl. A wise nanny, a good friend, her mother and step-father and her errant brother help Camilla Gibb renew her life. The book deals with Gibb's fears and how she works thorough her problems to create a good life for herself and her daughter.

125torontoc
dec 24, 2015, 10:03am

106. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe This slim book is really fascinating as the author tells the story of one man- Okonkwo- and his family and their life in an Ibo village just before contact with white men. The reader learns of the customs and religion as well as daily life in a small village. Achebe works in most rituals in the times of birth, marriage and death in this story. Tragedy occurs when missionaries build a church in one of these villages. The life of Okonkwo mirrors the events that would affect most of the African people who lived in this area. This novel is both dramatically and historically interesting to me.

126torontoc
dec 26, 2015, 9:36am

I saw a very smart movie yesterday that I recommend highly
The Big Short- it really explains some of the financial corruption regarding mortgages ( I know- is this a topic for a film?) a few years ago in the US.

107. Behind the Beautiful Forevers Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo The journalist/ author writes about the lives of a group of people living in a slum just near the airport in Mumbai. Boo details the lives of a number of families involved in processing garbage for resale, and the incredible ( to my eyes) corruption in the political and municipal systems in India. One family is targeted by another and there is a murder charge and subsequent trial. There are a number of unsolved murders and suicides as well. The details of life in this slum are horrifying. The wholesale mismanagement of funds for development so that too much money lands in the hands of politicians and developers is astounding. A very thoughtful study of the underclass in India society and their struggles.

127torontoc
dec 26, 2015, 5:29pm

108. Granta 84 Over There: How America Sees the World. I have said the following too many times - but here I go again. I used to read Granta all the time. The book or magazine that is published about four times a year was my introduction to new authors and great themes. I read this issue from my TBR pile and was disappointed. Although the issue was published in 2003- it did not stand up to the "test of time". Various authors wrote brief pieces on their experiences as American in other countries.This was the time of the Iraq war and there was a lot of debate on the US position in the world. The fiction was not to my liking. The best pieces in my opinion were written by Gary Shteyngart and by Paul Theroux. I don't look to this magazine for new writing any more. And my used book store won't take any of these issues as no one will buy them any more. Sad.

128torontoc
dec 28, 2015, 8:21am

109. The Painted Kiss by Elizabeth Hickey You know, sometimes I read a book and then go to google to see what is true and what was made up. I know that historical fiction that follows the life of a famed artist will sometimes take liberties. Still, this novel about the relationship between Emilie Flogie and Gustave Klimt doesn't quite satisfy. I want more about her career as a dress designer and his work as an artist. There was too much about Emilie's youth and not enough about her life as a grownup. There were scenes with notable people that that Klimt and Flogie knew. I found what information there was in the story interesting but wanted more.

129jfetting
dec 28, 2015, 8:33pm

>126 torontoc: The book version of The Big Short is really good too.

130torontoc
dec 29, 2015, 9:35am

Oh, thanks!

131torontoc
dec 30, 2015, 9:10am

and my last book of 2015
110. The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville Grenville writes a beautiful story about a young lieutenant assigned to record a comet in Australia in 1788. He is assigned, as an astronomer to a company that is setting a colony in an isolated part of this new territory with a group of convicts. Daniel Rookie manages to convince his superior officer that he needs to live on a high spot overlooking the settlement so that he can record the stars. He finds that the native people visit and in particular , one young girl befriend him. He starts to learn their language. The treatment of the native people lead Daniel to realize that the values of the conquering the British army are not his. A very sensitive view of how the British settled in Australia.