Russian Literature 2014

As I’ve tried to read more diversely and of course make up for the disaster of not reading very many classics last year, I’ve jus decided to take part in the The Russian Literature Challenge.  I’ve been dying to read Russian novels, however the closest I’ve gotten to that is Lolita, and technically that doesn’t count since Nabokov wrote it in English. So here I am signing on the dotted line to complete level 1 of the challenge which is to read 1-3 Russian novels.  Here are the other levels for those who might be interested in joining the challenge:

  • Level one: 1 – 3 books
  • Level two: 4 – 6 books
  • Level three: 7 – 12 books
  • Level four: 12 + books

Now as far as Russian novels go, I’d love to commit to War and Peace but let’s be serious.  That might be just a bit more than I can chew for a first Russian read. Although, it’s been on my TBR since I was in college (a long time ago!).  One day….  After giving it a thought, I’ve decided to read something or all of the following if possible:

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If any of you have read these let me know where I should go after Crime & Punishment.  Let me know what you thought of any of these and what I should look out for.  I know Russian Literature is challenging but I’m up for it! Classics are cool right?!  If you’d like to join in this challenge head over to  Behold the Stars book blog for more details.  You don’t have to be a blogger to join in.  There will be other interesting book bloggers participating and posting after each completed novel.  This should keep me on the straight and narrow, hopefully.  So what Russian novels have you read and loved?  What Russian novel would you love to pick up this year?

The Best Books of 2013

Well now that we’ve started 2014 and I’ve had the time to really reflect on my reading experience of 2013, I feel that it was pretty darn mediocre.  I’d hoped to read more books that would wow me but that wasn’t the case.  It was if I chose my books because they just fell in my lap.  That’s not how I want to proceed with my book choices this year.  You’ve already seen a select few of the big books I plan on reading this year, but just know that there will be more engaging and thought-provoking titles added to that list.

My reading goals of 2013 comprised:

1. reading more works of people of color

2. reading more classics

3. reading graphic novels

4. reading out of my comfort zone

I guess two out of four ain’t bad.  I managed to do one and three, but only really read one book that was a little out of my comfort zone.  So I know now what I need to concentrate on this year.  I’d like to have a well-rounded reading year but most of all I want to read more books that really speak to me, move me.  2014 is the year of quality! I hope.

So, in no particular order, let’s take a look at my top ten best books of 2013:

Firstly we have the books by authors of colour or about people of color:

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Well as you can see that’s half of my favourites list.  All I can say is these five books really stuck with me and enlightened my reading experience as well as taught me some things.  I was taken aback by the passages in Black Like Me.  The descriptions written by John Howard Griffin, a white man who was just being a black man for a few months struck me to my core.                                   If Beale 

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Street Could Talk weighed on me heavily as well reading about the injustices of the seventies, while in the back of my mind knowing these situations are still happening today.  Cutting for Stone was that epic African novel that surprised me at every page.  I really couldn’t anticipate what was going to happen next or where the author was leading me.  I felt like I’d traveled stretches of kilometres to Africa to  meet and follow Marion and Shiva from their beginnings to adulthood.  That was a rich and informative reading experience that taught me a lot about Ethiopia, a country that I almost visited over sixteen years ago.  Kindred took me back to the days of slavery, filling me with fear and disorienting me in a world where the codes didn’t correspond to me or Dana the main character.  Lastly, but not least The Cutting Season brought me back to my home state of Louisiana. The story brought out anticipation and fear of the unknown – who killed that young woman on the plantation grounds called Belle Vie?  I could feel the heat, the humidity, and smell the earth.  Darkness engulfed me and Caren the main character.  Running through it for fear of what she might find or worse what or who might be waiting for her.

The French Lieutenant’s Woman was the only classic I read last year.  That is if you don’t count Harry Potter and the Philosopher’ Stone and If Beale Street Could Talk.  Those two could technically be considered modern classics.  Ok enough of me trying to stretch my non-existent list of read classics.  In spite of it all,  I can thank my 56034book club for choosing this one.  For without them, I’m not really sure when I would have read it, in spite of it being on my physical and mental TBR for aeons.  I could also place this one under number four of my reading goals because it definitely got me out of my comfort zone.  In the beginning I didn’t think I’d make it through, but at the halfway mark something changed.  I became more invested in the story, not to mention that the writing style changed for the better.  I also started to get used to those omniscient footnotes that lead me through the story that was going on above like a dog on a leash.  Undeterred by it all I finished and loved it!  Now that doesn’t often happen to me.  I usually give up if I can’t get into a book by page 150.  It was a worthwhile reading experience and I persevered to the end!  So I definitely have to read more classics this year.

1261125351GiFItYmkLThe next two novels were my comic relief of the year.  I don’t often pick up comical books and that’s probably because it’s not a genre that I’m really familiar with.  I was compelled to pick up Where’d You Go Bernadette  since everybody was talking about it in the blogosphere and about its unorthodox style of being written in email and letter form.  I like epistolary so I thought why not.  It turned out to be a great choice.  I read it in one afternoon and laughed out loud a bit.  Oh Bernadette! She was a mess!  I liked her though.  Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff Christ’s Childhood Pal was the same.  It took me longer to read but boy did I have some laughs.  The wittiness of that novel is just simply brilliant!  It’s a must read if you haven’t gotten to it yet.

Now you know I’m not that over the moon about Young Adult novels and any time I read one it’s so that I can41WvR8-CBUL suggest it to the students I tutor in English or to my daughters, and of course because I suspect it might be good.  I ran across Speak because I saw a couple of bloggers talking about it.  I read it in one sitting and fell in love with the way the story was told but most of all with Melinda’s voice.  Superb!  A reader couldn’t ask for a better narrator, especially a young adult reader.

12280827Last but not least, my absolute favourite and best read of 2013 was The Sense of an Ending.  What a fantastic way to talk about memory!  I got so much from this little tiny 150-page book.  Unbelievable! There are so many themes packed into this book.  I was asking myself what took me so long to pick up a novel by Julian Barnes.  Nevertheless, I finally did and it was also thanks to my book club.  Book clubs can bring out the best and sometimes the worst in one’s reading however in my experience it’s been great at 100%.  Check out this wonderfully woven story of middle-aged Tony after school, marriage, children, and divorce.  Memory can be deceiving after the fact and at times spot on…

Well that’s my wrap up of my top ten books of 2013.  I hope you enjoyed reviewing some of them with me.  Clicking the titles will take you to the reviews.  So how about you guys?  Was your reading year a 3.0-3.5 like mine or better?  Let me know below and don’t forget to include your favourite books of the year.  I love getting recommendations from you!  Happy reading y’all!

The Brief Wondrous Life of Osacar Wao

Entering the world of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao was like going for a ride on that extremely high and  swirling roller coaster ride at a theme park.  As the roller coaster bumps, grinds, and plunges us to the depth of fear, we recuperate while wanting more.  That’s the same intensity I felt while reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

So who is this Oscar character? Well he is a likeable, naive, obese, Latino nerd who’s looking for the purist love out there.  He just wants to be 4961777loved and to love someone else. His exterior doesn’t help find it in the beginning of the story, but true love can’t be someone loving you for your body and good looks only, right?  This is starting to sound like a fairytale, but it isn’t.  It ‘s almost reality.  Oscar spend his time playing video games, reading sic-fi and fantasy novels and writing them.  It’s almost as if he delves into fantasy and sic-fi to forget his own reality.  It’s like a sanctuary.

The novel centers mainly around Oscar, his sister and mother.  These three characters are developed from adolescence to adulthood and this is an astounding character development because usually as readers we aren’t allowed to see so many characters develop to such a degree.  In doing so, the reader is catapulted into the complex harsh reality of Oscar’s family.  I say reality because the story is structured in that way.  In spite of the novel being fiction, Diaz has the story be recounted by several narrators with one of the narrator’s telling the majority of the story.  Not only that but the usage of footnotes through the story gives it an overall look of a non-fiction book.  These footnotes give us a lot on the Dominican Republic history and is sometimes just funny.  The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is very similar to having sneaked a peak into someone’s diary.  This may also explain the heavy usage of Spanish throughout the novel.  This technique may put off the readers that aren’t Spanish speakers because understanding some scenes of the book are difficult if you don’t speak Spanish.  However, for me personally not speaking Spanish, it didn’t bother me one bit.  I just went with the flow.  The Spanish parts just made me realise I was no longer in my world but in Oscar’s and that I was just going to have to contend with it.  Everything in his world was colourful, intense, and genuine.

Besides the characters of Beli, Oscar’s mother and Lola, his sister, there are an array of other characters who revolve around them that give the story movement and layers.  The settings added to this as well.  We switch between New Jersey and the Dominican Republic and the juxtaposition of the two provides the reader with many cultural differences.  The Dominican Republic is passionate, free, colourful, and dangerous.  New Jersey is contained, regulated, almost predictable.  The men in this book are detestable and either commit violent acts and/or treat women disrespectfully.  Some may even say that Diaz’s male characters are mere stereotypes.  I think these are men that represent maybe men from Diaz’s life or people he may have had contact with throughout his life.  If he made them all nice he would have been accused of making unrealistic male characters for such a setting.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao has a variety of themes and levels to it that it’s hard to believe it only has 335 pages.  Some of the themes running through the novel are love, racism, superstition, sex, and foreignness among others, all wrapped up with a hint of magical realism.  It’s almost a perfect book.  Diaz took lots of risk structuring the book the way he did.  It could have been a disaster adding so many different storytelling elements together but it was the perfect combination.  So, if you’re looking for something different to read,  a new sort of American novel, pick up The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.  It’s a worthwhile reading experience, will make you think about many things, and ill stay with you for a while.  Moreover, Junot Diaz won the Pulitzer Prize for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao in 2008.  Now if that doesn’t convince you to pick it up maybe this clip of Diaz talking about the book will.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lD44jmeAHJY]

The Rainy Day Killer

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The blog tour’s official site is:
http://therainydaykiller.blogspot.com/

The Rainy Day Killer Book Summary:

A man in a business suit offers the protection of his umbrella to an unsuspecting woman, and several days later 18669147she turns up dead on a river bank, raped and strangled. The terrifying serial killer known in the press as the Rainy Day Killer is now hunting new victims in the city of Glendale … whenever it rains.Homicide Lieutenant Hank Donaghue leads the investigation as the killer begins to communicate directly to him through phone calls and grisly packages containing body parts of his victims. Assisted by FBI profiler Ed Griffin, Donaghue and Detective Karen Stainer pursue an elusive predator who leaves no physical evidence behind.The timing couldn’t be worse, however, as Karen Stainer’s attention is divided between the investigation and preparations for her upcoming wedding. Distracted and uncertain about her future, Stainer is furious when she learns that the Rainy Day Killer has followed her to Virginia, where the wedding will take place, and that he intends to make her his next victim!
 
The Review:
I don’t often pick up thrillers/detective novels because they don’t really move me, but occasionally for a bit of fast pace I do.  The Rainy Day Killer is the fourth installment in the Donaghue and Stainer crime series.  I’m not sure if that’s the problem with getting into the story, but for me I think it was.  The characters were just too one-dimensional and typical for me.  Donaghue was reflective and quiet and Stainer was a bit of a feisty hot-headed woman.  In this book we don’t learn that much about them, so I’m assuming the readers will learn more about them if they began reading with book one.
The story contained its quantity of descriptive gore and a serial killer with lots of issues that we never get explanations for.  Lots of clues and near miss searches are given that don’t help the reader solve the crime but I figured out who it was before he showed his face.  This was not a true who dunnit.  I would have liked to know more about the serial killer and maybe had some perspective from his point of view.
The Rainy Day Killer really read like any CSI show on American television.  The descriptions, settings and situations are similar to those shows.  I was hoping for a more complex thriller but that wasn’t the case.  There wasn’t all bad guys.  It was obvious that McCann had thoroughly researched to be able to write the book and that was refreshing.   Even the cop language was spot on.  At no point did I think things weren’t true to life.  On the contrary, they were very real, down to the detailed descriptions of certain aspects like using stun guns for example.  Nevertheless, I gave the Rainy Day Killer 2 stars since It wasn’t for me, but if you enjoy thrillers you just might like it.
Author photo Amazon profile copyMichael J. McCann‘s Bio: 

Michael J. McCann was born and raised in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada. He earned a B.A. (Hons.) in English from Trent University and an M.A. in English from Queen’s University. He has worked as an editor and a project and training consultant and manager with the federal government. He is an author of crime fiction and supernatural thrillers. His Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel series includes Blood Passage, Marcie’s Murder, The Fregoli Delusion, and The Rainy Day Killer. He is also the author of the supernatural thriller The Ghost Man and is currently working on another supernatural novel.
Prices/Formats: $3.99 ebook, $19.99 paperback
Pages: 290
ISBN: 9780987708786
Publisher: Plaid Raccoon Press
Release: August 30, 2013
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Michael J. McCann‘s Web Site: 
http://www.mjmccann.com/

Michael J. McCann‘s Facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Michael-J-McCann/130617140389341

Michael J. McCann‘s Twitter:
https://twitter.com/MichaelJMcCann1

Michael J. McCann‘s Goodreads:
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4724806.Michael_J_McCann

Michael J. McCann‘s Mystery Blog:
http://michaeljmccannsblog.blogspot.com/

Michael J. McCann‘s Paranormal Blog:
http://wallsofnightmare.blogspot.ca/

Michael J. McCann‘s Pinterest: 
http://www.pinterest.com/michaeljmccann/

The Rainy Day Killer Goodreads:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18669147-the-rainy-day-killer

Tribute Books Blog Tours Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tribute-Books-Blog-Tours/242431245775186
Kindle ebook buy link
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00EWQT8Z6?tag=tributebooks-20
Amazon paperback buy link
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0987708783?tag=tributebooks-20Barnes and Noble buy link
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-rainy-day-killer-michael-j-mccann/1117105043
iBookstore buy link
https://itunes.apple.com/ca/book/the-rainy-day-killer/id723233597?mt=11Sony buy link
https://ebookstore.sony.com/ebook/michael-j-mccann/the-rainy-day-killer/_/R-400000000000001138555Kobo buy link
http://store.kobobooks.com/en-CA/ebook/the-rainy-day-killerSmashwords buy link
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/363571Powells buy link
http://www.powells.com/s?kw=the+rainy+day+killer&class=Amazon UK buy link
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Amazon CAN buy link
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Fishpond AUS buy link
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Fishpond NZ buy link

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2014 Reading Resolutions

Hello all! Firstly I’d like to wish you all a very Happy New Year full of loads of excellent reading and book connecting.  I’ve been reflecting quite a bit these days on my reading resolutions for this year, while reading of course.  I’ve decided to be practical and throw out some titles that I’d like to pick up this year.  Last year I wanted to read more varied and I think I attempted that but I wouldn’t say it was a total success, but not bad.  I also wanted to read more classics.  Well that was a bomb!  However, I did read more Afo Literature, which I will continue to do this year.  I did read some graphic novels and thoroughly enjoyed all of them.  Now enough of last year and on to what is happening and what you and I have to look forward to.  The following books have been on my shelves now since about the month of November.  The main reading goal of this year is to read as many of those big books that are hanging around on the shelves that I’ve been passing over.  The next big goal is to try to read quality.  That doesn’t mean that I can’t get in a little Walking Dead or something else light now and then.

These first 3 are called The Australian trilogy and it’s by Bryce Courtney.  Now I’ve read The Power of One and Tandia and enjoyed them immensely.  I saw these three on Goodreads and I thought they would help me fulfill the Australian reading challenge over on Booklover Book Reviews.  I’m aspiring to take part in and to succeed at the Wallaroo challenge.  If you guys have any titles to recommend, drop them in a few lines below.

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The next trilogy I’d like to attempt is MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood.  Now I’ve only had the pleasure of reading two of her books The Robber Bride and The Handmaid’s Tale and they both left me reflecting for some time there after.  They were excellent!  So, I figured since MaddAddam came out in September 2013, why not check out the entire series.  I hate nothing more than reading book one and then having to wait 2 years for the next bit to be published.  Having the entire trilogy in my possession is sparking my interest  even more.

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Now the next books are my prize winners/finalists for something.  I can’t help it but I just fall for those kinds of books.  Pulitzer, Man Booker, Nobel Prize in Literature, Women’s Prize,etc. you name it and I’m checking it out.  One of these is and oldie and hopefully a goodie and the other two were finalists for the Man Booker.  I’ve been dying to read them and I’m sure some of you already have.  I received these books in November for my birthday and couldn’t make the shift to get started on any of them. 2014 is the moment!

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The next two are epic novels that are being talked about and raved over all over the net, in newspapers, and literary magazines for a few months now.  They have been on my TBR since I heard they were being released at the end of last year.  I absolutely have to read these two books this year.  One is from the young new Booker prize winner and the other is from an astounding author whose last book was published in 2002 and whose first book was a hit that her fans can’t stop talking about, The Secret History.

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These last three novels were picked up toward the end of last year as well.  Curiosity is the best way to describe why I picked them up.  This will be my first time  trying these authors but I’ve heard so many good things about the first 2.  The last one I discovered while reading a Goodreads pitch about it.  I couldn’t resist.  They say curiosity killed the cat but I prefer to use Stephen King’s variation “Curiosity killed the cat, satisfaction brought him back”.  That’s definitely going to be me in 2014.

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Well that’s all I have for reading goals in 2014.  I want to read loads of big books and most of all good books.  I’m participating in the 2014 Big Book Challenge where we read books over 400 pages.  I’ve challenged myself to 10 books this year.  Last year I challenged myself to 5 and I read 7 which was pretty good because I didn’t really read that many big books. I felt like I was subconsciously avoiding them.  This year a big book is going to be the go to book.  My Goodreads 2014 reading challenge is 55 books just like last year.  I succeeded in reading 58 books in 2013 and stayed at least 1 book ahead on my reading challenge the entire year.  I was pretty proud of myself for that.  I’m looking forward to bringing you more reviews and maybe even introducing you to some books you wouldn’t normally read.  I’ll be continuing Teacher Feature as I find more interesting teachers that you’ll enjoy reading about.  I also hope to do some more book spine poetry and some hauls.  There may be more surprises throughout the year as well so sit tight, keep reading, and commenting. 🙂

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,900 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.