#50BookPledge 2011 – Update

I’ve been busy with work and school these past few weeks so I haven’t had much time to read or update my blog. But school’s out for the summer and it’s time to get some reading done!

To get back on track, I decided to update my 2011 reading list with a few comments on my favourite reads so far. Here goes:

1. Impact by Douglas Preston

2. A Midnight Summer’s Dream by William Shakespeare

My first Shakespeare play! I read this for my intro to literature class and enjoyed it. I think this one of Shakespeare’s lighter plays and it’s a great introduction to Shakespearean English.

3. Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Wonderful book. Heart-wrenching story. I cried. A lot.

4. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

I went to see an exposition on the German painter Otto Dix at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Otto Dix fought in WWI and some of his paintings and drawings portray the horrors he saw as a soldier. A quote from All Quiet on the Western Front was used in the exposition and it made me want to read the book. From the point-of-view of a young German soldier, Remarque’s tale depicts the futility of war. The Otto Dix exposition was amazing by the way.

5. The Raven’s Gift by Don Rearden

Amazing debut by Alaskan author Don Rearden. You can check out my review here and you can follow the author on Twitter here.

6. Turn of the Screw by Henry James (+ Literary Criticism Essays)

After reading the Turn of the Screw and many essays by literary critics in which this novella is analyzed to death, I don’t care if the governess is insane, I don’t know if the ghosts are real and I doubt the children are evil. My opinion is that this is Henry James’s idea of a practical joke. The man purposely made the story as ambiguous as possible and then laughed quietly to himself as the critics tried to make sense of it.

7. The Rossetti Letter by Christi Phillips

8.  Altar of Eden by James Rollins

9. The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly

10. The Sentimentalists by Johanna Skibsrud

11. In the Company of Angels by Thomas E. Kennedy

12. Gideon’s Sword by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

13. Little Princes by Conor Grennan

Ladies, I dare you to read Little Princes without falling a bit for Conor Grennan. Dudes, if you want to impress the ladies, you should do some volunteering in a remote country and save a bunch of orphans.

Kidding aside, you have to check out this book. Child trafficking is a reality and Conor’s story is very inspiring. Plus some of the proceeds from the book go to his foundation Next Generation Nepal. Check out my post.

14. The Dead by James Joyce (+ Literary Criticism Essays)

15. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

I loved this book. Wonderful story-telling and great characters and setting. You can check out my post here. I haven’t seen the film adaptation yet, I pray that it’s as good as the book.

16. Fever Dream by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

17. Better Living Through Plastic Explosives by Zsuzsi Gartner

Gartner’s short stories are weird…in a good way. My thoughts on them here.

18. Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill

O’Neill’s book is simple amazing. Baby’s story is pretty unsettling but it’s not without beauty and humour. My post.

19. Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir by Matthew Logelin

Check out Matthew Logelin’s blog and then read his book.

Disclaimer: Keep a box of tissues handy when you do.

20. Bullet Work by Steve O’Brien

21.  Bottle Rocket Hearts by Zoe Whittall

Great coming of age story that is set in Montreal around the time of the 1995 referendum in Quebec. Themes: homosexuality, homophobia, activism, English-French relations in contemporary Montreal.

22. La chaise bercante by A.M. Klein

23. They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children by Romeo Dallaire

Another sad reality affecting children. L. Gen Romeo Dallaire writes about his experience with child soldiers during the conflict in Rwanda and the efforts of the international community to stop the use of child soldiers in armed conflicts around the world. My thoughts

24. Arranged by Catherine McKenzie

I picked up this book after a crappy day and read it one sitting. I LOVED IT. It’s smart, funny, well-written, and romantic without being corny. Follow the author on Twitter @CEMcKenzie1

25. Annabel by Kathleen Winter

I think once you’ve read this book your thoughts on what defines gender will change.

26. Standing Wave by Robert Allen

27. Ape House by Sara Gruen

Another fun read by Sara Gruen. My post here.

28. Vanished by Joseph Finder

Joseph Finder introduces super spy Nick Heller. My post here.

29. Stranger Music: Selected Songs and Poems by Leonard Cohen

30. Buried Secrets by Joseph Finder

Fast-paced sequel to Vanished. Post to come soon.

31. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Another wonderful book from Kazuo Ishiguro with a subtle sci-fi story line that raises many questions on the ethics of human cloning.

Re-reads:

Sometimes I’m not in the mood for something new so I return to some of my  favourites.

After reading Fever Dream by Douglas Preston and Lincold Child I was in the mood for some more of Agent Pendergast so I re-read the Cabinet of Curiosities and Brimstone. I’ll make some time to read Dance of Death and The Book of the Dead before their next book comes out in the fall.

I also re-read Barney’s Version by Mordecai Richler for class and I probably enjoyed it more this time around because I know more about Richler and more about Montreal. I took a walk through the Mile End to explore some of the places mentioned in the novel for an assignment for my English class. I told my family about my little trip and after looking at the photos I took, my Dad asked to read the essay I wrote.  As I’m writing this post, I received an e-mail from my Dad. He monitors the Montreal Gazette website just because I live here and he sent me the link to the article announcing that the gazebo/speaker’s corner on Côte Placide on Mount Royal will be named after Mordecai Richler. My Dad rocks.

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Book Review: Fever Dream by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Cover of
Cover of Fever Dream

The latest book in the Pendergast series by writing duo Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child is the first part of a trilogy that deals with the death of Pendergast’s wife Helen. In Fever Dream, Pendergast discovers that his wife’s death was not an accident and he set outs to find the murderers with the help of Vincent D’Agosta and a reluctant Captain Laura Hayward.

As usual, Douglas and Preston have provided us with a fun and thrilling read. I noticed that our hero Pendergast is different in this book. This Pendergast is much more emotional, unrestrained and at the same time ruthless.  I felt the story lacked a bit of the mystery and surprise of previous efforts but since it’s the start of the trilogy I figure the authors have decided to keep a few shockers for the upcoming books. Fever Dream is an entertaining book but not my favourite of the series.

Book Review: Gideon’s Sword by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

I’ve been a huge fan of writing duo Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child ever since I read Cabinet of Curiosities featuring the brilliant and eccentric FBI agent Aloysius X. L. Pendergast. I’ve since read all the books in the Pendergast series, most of their stand alone books and a few of the authors’ solo projects.

In Gideon’s Sword, the authors introduce their new character Gideon Crew.  Gideon witnesses the death of his father when he’s a teenager. Years later at his mother’s deathbed, he learns the real circumstances of his father’s death and promises his mother that he will revenge his father. Gideon completes his mission to avenge his father but he’s then approached by a mysterious outfit that wants to hire him for a dangerous op. Gideon takes the job and the roller coaster ride begins!

I enjoyed the book and fans will certainly have fun with the appearance of familiar characters but I don’t think it’s up to par with their previous efforts. The book is fast-paced but I felt most of the plot was taken up by the main character making rash decisions with sometimes dubious results that I felt didn’t move the story along. I’s surprised that the revenge story line wasn’t more prominent in the book.  I also would have liked more background information on Gideon Crew but of course this is a calculated move by the authors to entice us to read any future books in the series.

Bottom-line, if you are already a fan of Preston & Child, it’s worth a read. If you’ve never read any of the Preston & Child books, I suggest you start with the books featuring Agent Pendergast.