Books I Have Read

Inspired by a blogger I follow - I'll write short remarks about the books I read (when I remember). As Shelfari has now amalgamated with Goodreads, I no longer have my "book shelf" displaying. You can also explore the site I maintain for a book club in which I am a member.

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Norwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller
This is not usually my genre. While I like light mysteries (like Louise Penny), I don't like the violence and suspense of a thriller. This one is not quite a thriller and there is a lot of humour and philosophy thrown in via the protagonist, the unlikely Sheldon Horowitz. Worth a read
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Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
I saw the film and wanted to know more. This book needed serious editing. I did get a broader sense of the lives of these black mathematicians / engineers and saw the many ways the movie changed the actual facts. I don't really recommend this.
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The Children Act by Ian McEwan
It is always a pleasure to read Ian McEwan - his prose flows well. I enjoyed this book - lots to ponder which is always a good thing.
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The Hero's Walk by Anita Rau Badami
A disappointment - I did not particularly like the characters and admit I read most but finally gave up.
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The Little Red Chairs by Edna O'Brien
A powerful storyteller - a difficult story.
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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lachs by Rebecca Skloot
An interesting story (non- fiction) of how the cells of cancer patient, Henrietta Lachs, were the first to be able to be cloned in a lab. It follows both the scientific research that was done as a result as well as the story of the Lachs family. I found it somewhat invasive of the latter. The saddest part of the book for me was that cells, once shared by the original researcher to further science have led to drug companies patenting genes etc. making drugs and genetic testing extremely expensive.
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Sweetland by Michael Crummey
Newfoundland author, Michael Crummey tells the story of people who live in an outport off the coast of Newfoundland who are being coerced into relocating. Wonderful characters, especially the main protagonist.
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The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis
A humourous look at Canadian politics with an unlikely candidate who allows his name to be put up as a candidate to get out of teaching a course.
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Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
A quirky and original way of telling a story - I enjoyed it.
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Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien
A powerful book about people who went through the cultural revolution in China and its after effects. It's a tough subject but well worth reading.
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Afterimage by Helen Humphreys
I do not recommend this book - I read two books by her before, one of which I liked and the other I found weak. This is the weakest of the three. It was inspired by the photography of Julia Margaret Cameron whose life seems much more interesting that the lives of the characters in this book.
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Tell by Frances Itani
An interesting character study. The novel takes place in 1919 in small town Ontario and deals mainly with two couples who have difficulty talking and thus build walls in terms of relationships. One, Kenan is just back from fighting in World War One. He has sustained some disfiguring injuries as well as PTSD. A good read but not a great one.
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The Watch That Ends the Night by Hugh McLennan
I really enjoyed this novel which dates from the early fifties. It takes place in Montreal - fun to look back to that time and sheds light on relationships and the complicated politics of the time.
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The Nature of the Beast(Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #11) by Louise Penny
Good escapist mystery of the gentler sort. I particularly enjoy it as it takes place in the province where I live, Quebec, but Penny is an award-winning mystery writer.
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Colour Bar: The Triumph of Seretse Khama and His Nation by Susan Williams
I really enjoyed this - a bit academic but extremely well researched. A movie, A United Kingdom, (saw it at TIFF) is based on it. Well worth seeing, even if you don't read the book.
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Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forster
Not a great read. My book group chose it after reading Vanessa and her Sister. We were mostly disappointed. The consensus was that it was probably understood better as satire by those who lived in the early twentieth century.
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Remains of the Day 
by Kazuo Ishiguro
This was a re-read for a study group. I loved it even more the second time around. It always helps to discuss a book with others, to hear different ideas and discover things you may not have noticed.
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Conversations with a Dead Man: The Legacy of Duncan Campbell Scott by Mark Abley
Excellent - it really opens one's eyes to the abuses of Canada's ministry of Indian Affairs in the first half of the twentieth century and earlier and legacy this has left.
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The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
Very disappointing. I enjoyed two other books he wrote. This one left me cold.
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The Illuminations by Andrew O'Hagan
An OK read - but not a real recommendation.
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Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley by Charlotte Gordon
I enjoyed reading about these remarkable women. The book could have used some editing. I did not need every detail, but I do think if you don't know anything about Mary Wollstonecraft, you should. It was interesting to see the parallels between her life and her daughter's.
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The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
I don't recommend this book. I did not like the writing style.
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Vanessa and her Sister by Priya Parmar
I quite enjoyed this fictionalized account to the years 1905-1911 in the lives of Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsburg Group
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River Music by Mary Sodertrom
A not quite believable story about a pianist and the sacrifices women make when trying to have a career and family
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The Reason We Walk by Wab Kinew
Autobiographical - account of his father and his own life - their struggles post residential schools and the way they healed
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The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng
A beautiful book - slow moving in a positive way - contemplative but with lots to think about - memory, forgiveness...
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How to Be Both by Ali Smith
A very interesting read. - humour, sadness and unique
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The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
a fascinating look at the U.S. rowing team of the 1936 Olympics. It was not something I would have picked up but it was recommended to me. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I have huge respect for rowers now.
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Persuasion by Jane Austen
I loved it
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The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler
trite - not worth reading
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They Called Me Number One by Bev Sellars
a personal account of growing up native in Canada - from a nurturing environment to residential schools and beyond. The book needed serious editing and it would have been more powerful. Canada has much to account for.
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Emma a modern retelling by Alexander McCall Smith
nowhere near as good as the original!
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Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
a novel about the experience of Japanese people in the US during the second world war. Enjoyable

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Emma by Jane Austen
I had seen the movie but never read the book. I was participating in a study group (McGill Community for Lifelong Learning) about the novel. I then plunged into more Austen.
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Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese
by a native writer - an incite into life in the residential schools and how they affected the children who lived there both during and after. And about hockey. I highly recommend it.

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All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
A good read - interesting to read about WW2 from the perspective of how civilians dealt with it as well as moving from the French protagonist to the German (who was in the army)
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A Wall of Light by Edeet Ravel
by a Canadian / Israeli author - it takes place in Israel. Not fantastic but worth reading

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Street Gang by Michael Davis
a history of Sesame Street and children's television in general - an interesting look back
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Old Filth by Jane Gardam
Some of my book group loved it - I was indifferent.
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The Vikings: A Very Short Introduction by Julian D. Richards
I've been fascinated by these seafaring people, the distances they travelled and the discoveries they made. This book filled in some holes in my knowledge.

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Us Conductors by Sean Michaels
a fictionalized version of Leon Theremin's life - quite interesting both to learn about him and the theremin. I got to hear him speak at the local library as well as see and hear a theramin played.

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Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
a mystery with a young protagonist - not my speed

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Green Grass Running Water by Thomas King
A humourous book by a native writer. Worth the read.
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The Painted Girls by Kathy Marie Buchanan
A novel about the girls who posed for Dégas. OK- not the greatest writer, but it does give a picture of life for the poor of that time.

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Together Tea by Marjan Kamali
a light read
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The Roundhouse by Louise Erdrich
A very powerful novel about how Native Peoples and white people are treated differently by the law
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Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
A decent read - not very deep
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Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon
Interested look at how individuals and families deal with differences from severe cognitive issues to deafness to rape. A look at the strong survivors.
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The Long Way Home by Louise Penny
I have become a big Louise Penny fan. This is her latest in her series of mystery stories. A good read - escapist, but well-written. It is fun to follow her characters through the books - they continue to develop.
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Njal's Saga
I was reading this while in Iceland. I did not finish it (it is about 800 pages) but it was an interesting look at the time around 1000 CE in Iceland. It gave me a peek at the past of some of the places we visited.
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The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich
This is a pleasant read. I got through it quickly. I am a fan of historical novels, and always like when a book sends me looking for corroboration of historical facts, or searching to learn more about the era. It's not a must read, but a good one if you are just looking for a good story.


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The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
I am still puzzling as to why this book won a Pulitzer Prize. I did not like it at all. I found the writing needed serious editing. The book rambled. I could not feel anything for the characters. It seems to be one of those books you either love or hate. I'm in the latter category.


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The Greenhouse by Audur Ava Olafsdottir
I was heading to Iceland and someone recommended this novel by an Icelandic author. I thought it would give me a flavour of the country. After about 40 pages, the protagonist leaves the country for somewhere in Europe. The book was good - but not about Iceland!
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Eustis Circle by Paul C. Howell
This book (the first of 5) was written by the husband of a friend of mine and was self-published. It deals with some interesting subjects from the 1950s from the point of view of children.
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The Importance of Being Seven by Alexander McCall Smith
Good escapist reading when the brain is in need of fluff. I started reading this series when I went to Scotland in 2011. It gives a flavour of Edinburgh with a cast of particular characters.
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Essentialism: The Disciplined Approach of Less by Greg McKeown
Interesting ideas about how we try to do so much that we actually accomplish less. By committing to less we actually accomplish more. I liked the ideas but found the text very repetitive.
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Ru by Kim Thúy (translated by Sheila Fischman)
A short poetic autobiographical novel about being a Vietnamese boat person who settled with her family in the province of Quebec. Her language is luminous.
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Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon
I have been slogging through this for a while and finally finished it.  He deals with parents of children with differences - what he calls horizontal groups that are different from their vertical identity (their genes). Chapters deal with deafness, autism, schizophrenia, and many more. It is extremely well researched but I think it could have done with some editing. It is an interesting look at families, differences and the changes in society.
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How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny
I just had to see what happens next. Series is best if read in order.
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Dear Life by Alice Monroe
A book of short stories by the Nobel Prize winner. She is not my favourite author, but a number of these stories spoke to me. For any Canadians - they remind me a bit of an Alex Colville painting. You know you are headed to something ominous. Certainly worth reading. She is a master of language and of using it sparingly.
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The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny
She got me hooked. Louise Penny always leaves some unfinished business. I just had to keep reading to see where her plots were going. This is one of her darker books. It takes place in a monastery. I found myself looking up historical information. I love when books do that to me.
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A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny
This is the seventh of Louise Penny's Armand Gamache mysteries. They are a light read, but well-written. She has won numerous awards for her books. A bonus for me is that they take place in the province of Quebec so I recognize many of the places. Worth a read.

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Orphan Train: A Novel by Christina Baker Kline
The book grew on me. A fast read, about a time when orphans were put on trains in New York and given away in the mid-West. Not a happy ending for many of them. The book goes from that time to 2011 and another young person. Worth a read, but not great literature.

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Lessons from the Life of Alice Herz-Sommer, the World's Oldest Holocaust Survivor: A Century of Wisdom by Caroline Stoessinger
About 4 years ago I came across a short video about Alice Herz-Sommer and was captivated. I started to follow the film-maker of the documentary, The Lady in No. 6, which recently won an academy award. When they were close to finishing, I pre-ordered a copy and have since shared it with friends and family. She is/was an inspiration, someone who could always find the positives in life. This book was written a couple of years earlier. While there were some interesting bits, I much preferred the film which captures her personality so much better. She was a remarkable woman in every respect. I highly recommend seeing the film - the book much less so.
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The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
This is a sweet book - a good fast read for when you don't want to be too serious. It is about a man who has Asperger's and who is on a voyage of self-discovery as he tries to see if he can find a suitable wife.

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February by Lisa Moore
I was disappointed in this book. The story is about a woman who lost her husband in the Ocean Ranger sinking. Some things rang very true for me (I became a widow the same year as the accident and her description of the feelings of the main character, Helen, rang true). I did not like the constant jumping in time and from character to character. It was just too disjointed. This book was the winner of Canada Reads - I hope the others were better.

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Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
A light read - village life in England. Characters are a bit stock. It is a read for when you need something mindless.

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Starting with a picture book
Northwest Passage based on the song by Stan Rogers with additional text and illustrations by Matt James.
I love the way James interwove the song lyrics with the historical facts behind the lyrics. In addition he comments on the current state of the Arctic. Brings together history, music and beautiful illustration!

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