#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.

Book Review: The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

What makes a great butler? Mr. Stevens answers this question as he reflects on his life and his chosen profession while driving through the British countryside on his way to meet an old colleague. According to Stevens, one of the characteristics of a great butler is dignity, that elusive trait that seems to allow Englishmen to keep a stiff upper lip while facing adversity and difficult circumstances. A great butler must also serve in a “distinguished household” and this is where Stevens runs into some difficulty. He can cite several examples of his “dignity” in trying situations but he isn’t as convincing when trying to justify his service to the disgraced Lord Darlington.

In this quiet but intense story by Kazuo Ishiguro, a man is dealing with his regrets and life choices. Although not much action takes place, it is a gripping story and you are drawn into the mind of the main character despite his staid and cautious nature.

An excellent read and I look forward to reading the more recent novels by this author.