Sunday, December 31, 2006

Best of 2006

Since I started reviewing books in March I have read 47 books. That works out to a little over one a week. Usually I don't formally rate books against each other, but I thought I would name my favourites and least favourites for the year.

Best Fiction:
Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen
(Runner-up: Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro)

Best Non-Fiction:
The Omnivore's Dilemma - Michael Pollan
(Runner-up: Japanland - Karin Muller)

Worst Fiction:
Nighttime is My Time - Mary Higgins Clark
(Runner-up: jPod - Douglas Coupland)

Worst Non-Fiction:
Confessions of a Video Vixen - Carrine Steffans
(Runner-up: The Oak Island Mystery - Lionel Fanthorpe)

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Little White Lies: A Novel of Love and Good Intentions - Gemma Townley

The Basics: Little White Lies: A Novel of Love and Good Intentions, Gemma Townley, 2005, 320 pages

How I found it: The first night I stayed at the my parents house for the holidays this book was left lying on the night table of the guest room. Since I was too lazy to root through my luggage to find something better to read, I ended up reading it.

What's it about?: Country girl Natalie moves to the city (London) and lives a boring and lonely month by herself. Then she decides to open the previous tenants mail and pretend to be her. This extends to her love life, her job and her friends.

Did I like it?: Like an episode of Full House this book creates all kinds of little problems and misunderstandings and then ties them all up nicely at the end. Natalie starts out in a not too bad situation and ends up all fluffy clouds, kittens and rainbows (Yay!). Like the other similar books in this genre, it revolves around a series of oh-so-predictable misunderstandings. On occaision I don't mind this sort of book (even though they rot your brain) and I got sucked in here too. But I find that the longer it takes me to read these sorts of books the worse I feel about reading them. In this case I had a lovely Jane Urquhart waiting for me so I felt very guilty. So in summary, I liked it a tiny bit, but I also hated myself for liking it even a little since it was such crappy drivel.

Will you like it?: Need a beach book? Have a free afternoon? Enjoy the Shopaholic series? Then read this book. If not stay away or you will be facing your own guilt.

But don't take my word for it: Readers at like drivel too, a review from another book review blogger, and a summary review from

Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius - Dave Eggers

The Basics: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers, 2001, 437 pages, paperback

Where I found it: I ran out of books on a day the library was closed (Quelle horreur!) so I had to rummage around in Greg's section of the bookshelf.

What's it about?: Dave Eggers is now the editor of the literary journal McSweeney's. This book is his memoir about his formative twenties. Both of his parents die within a few weeks of each other and he and his sister are left to care for their 7 year old brother. Eggers has to cope with being a father to his brother as well as becoming an adult and making something of his life.

Did I like it?: This book isn't like any I have ever read before. While reading it I kept having to say to myself: "This really happened to someone" - it was kind of surreal. The book is written in a quirky style that I mostly enjoyed. However, sometimes Eggers uses stream of consciousness narration. That helped to convey the sense of urgency and angst that the character was feeling, but the lack of punctuation drove me insane! Overall however, I thought it was a pretty good book.

Will you like it?: While I like this book I feel it takes a pretty specific sort of person to enjoy it. You need to have the struggles of someone in their twenties trying to make it fairly fresh in your mind or else Eggers will sound a bit like a whiny and self-entitled Gen-Xer (which is he, but in a good way). It is also a fairly literary book and is not for the John Grisham set.

But don't take my word for it: A collection of literary reviews from, some reader reviews that reflect the love-it-or-hate-it nature of the book, one from the UK's Richmond Review, one from the Guardian, and finally one from Salon written by Dan Savage of all people.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Nighttime is My Time - Mary Higgins Clark

The Basics: Nighttime is My Time, Mary Higgins Clark, 2004, 434 pages, paperback

How I found it: Remember how I got How to Win Friends and Influence People from a cereal box giveaway? Well that's where I got this one too.

What's it about?: At a 20th high school reunion Jean discovers that 5 of the 7 girls who used to sit at her lunch table are mysteriously dead. During the course of the reunion weekend the sixth girl goes missing. Jean and a likeable local cop have to solve the mystery of which reunion guest is behind the murders before it is too late for Jean (dum-de-dum-dum DUMMMM!). Surprisingly, it takes over 400 pages to catch the guy even though they only have a few suspects.

Did I like it?: This was pure crap. At first I couldn't believe I was actually going to read the whole thing, but I kept going in the end because I wanted to know who did it. Throughout the book Higgins Clark (the "Queen of Suspense" by the way) throws out little clues about which one of the suspects it might be, but then 50 pages later that clue is proven to be false. I won't tell you whodunnit, obviously, but it was a "shocker"! This book was not well-written, but then again, I didn't expect it to be since it is one of those books where the author's name is larger than the title of the book on the front cover and the author has a reputation as one of those people that churn out the same plot in different forms for years. In the end, it turned out to be one of those books that you read at the beach or at the cabin in a rain storm. Definitely not worthy of bedtime reading during exam period! I'm quite glad it was free!

Will you like it?: If you like suspense/mystery/crime novels, Sugarmilk Falls, which I read recently, was 100 times better than this one. If like me, you manage to get this book for free, are looking for something mindless to read, and are sick of the vapid Bridgit Jones knockoff books (Shopaholic anyone?) this might not be too bad. Otherwise, stay away, far far away.

But don't take my word for it: A mixed bag of reviews on (although I would have to say the one-star reviewers are the only ones who got it right), one from, and another from