Thursday, December 15, 2011

Even Silence Has An End: My Six Years in Captivity in the Colombian Jungle

Even Silence Has an End: My Six Years in Captivity in the Colombian Jungle
Author: Ingrid Betancourt
Source: My friend Ali B
Days to Read: 10
Ali and I frequently exchange books and I am always excited to read a book that has been recommended by a fellow reader. When I began reading Even Silence Has an End, I was immediately interested. The book is a true story of a woman's experience as a hostage of the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia in Colombia. Prior to her kidnapping and six and a half years spent in captivity, Ingrid Betancourt was a Colombian presidential candidate. Knowing practically nothing of politics in Colombia the initial back story of Ingrid's life was easy to follow. Her description of life in the jungle is chilling. The conditions of how she lived and how she was treated are appalling. However there were instances throughout the book when a small kindness was shown to her by a fellow hostage or she was able to establish a human connection with one of the guards, and these infrequent happenings resonated loudly against the many pages of depressing details.
However after about half way through the book, I became frustrated with the circle of events; prepare for escape, talk about escape, escape, get captured, repeat. I am sure Ms. Betancourt wanted to include everything that she went through and to really drive home how awful being a hostage was but I feel that the point was clearly made and then dragged on and as a result, lost its impact.
Overall I give this book a 6.
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Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Pro Archia Poeta (In Defense of Aulus Licinius Archias the poet)

My dad drew my attention to this speech and in particular an excerpt that, as an avid reader, I relate to. The opinion of Cicero in 62 B.C., I'm sure, still strikes a chord with many. I just love this quote!

"And yet let us leave aside for a moment any practical advantage that literary studies may bring. For even if their aim were pure enjoyment and nothing else, you would still, I am sure, feel obliged to agree that no other activity of the mind could possibly have such a broadening and enlightening effect. For there is no other occupation upon earth which is so appropriate to every time and every age and every place. Reading stimulates the young and diverts the old, increases one's satisfaction when things are going well, and when they are going badly provides refuge and solace. It is a delight in the home; it can be fitted in with public life; throughout the night, on journeys, in the country, it is a companion which never lets me down."

On to the next book!
Stay tuned for my reviews of Even Silence Has An End by Ingrid Betancourt and Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah
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Friday, December 02, 2011

The Pillars of the Earth

The Pillars of the Earth
Author: Ken Follett
Source: My friend Charlie from work
Days to Read: 9
Before reading this book I had mixed feelings. I had heard from someone that it was difficult to get into and that there was a lot of description so certain passages could be quite boring. However, Charlie assured me that it was a great book and that I should give it a try. I am very glad that I did because it is just my cup of tea!
My favourite genre to read are historical novels. One of my all-time favourite books is The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George. Like The Memoirs of Cleopatra, The Pillars of the Earth has everything you could want in a book; love, history, adventure, and action.
The basic premise of the book details the building of a cathedral and all the lives of the people involved. A master builder and his family pass through village after village looking for work. The father’s dream is to build a cathedral bigger and more beautiful than any other in England. They settle in Kingsbridge, England and the priory that eventually hires the master builder, Tom, is struggling against the more powerful Prior and Nobleman of the area. It is a constant battle between good and evil, every man wanting more for themselves and manipulating their way to the top.
Another prominent character, the daughter of the ousted Earl of Shiring, Aliena, is a strong female character that you grow to love and respect. Aliena’s perseverance as not only a lady who has fallen to peasantry, but also as a business woman in a world dominated by men, is empowering.
There are many characters in the book with different story lines that intertwine with one another. All the story lines keep the book interesting and they work together quite well in following the main story line.
I have returned the book to Charlie and two days later received the sequel, World Without End. This is now on my stack of books to read and I only hope it is as good as The Pillars of the Earth!
* One thing to note however is there are some graphic scenes that I was not expecting and thus took me by surprise at their vulgarity.
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Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Author: Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Source: Loved her first book, Infidel
Days to Read: 10

You know that feeling when you start a book and just know that it is going to be good? That was my initial thought when I started reading Nomad. I believe I sent a message to my friend, who had also read Infidel, that she should pick up the book.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali writes Nomad in the form of an essay. The introduction provides the reader with some background information on her life for those who have not read her first book as well as outlining the course of the book and the points she is going to argue.  Infidel is a story of Ayaan’s life and Nomad is a reflection on her life’s journey thus far.  I preferred Nomad as it raised a lot of questions and provided information and insight into the life and culture of a Muslim woman. I felt so strongly about this book that I wrote an email to Ayaan. That very day there was an article in the paper about a father, son and mother being accused of killing their 3 daughters and the husband’s former wife. It came as a shock to me after reading the book and hearing many stories of violence against Muslim woman the sheer lack of any action being taken. Furthermore this type of violence was happening in Canada, a place where we respect one another and look after each other.

I urge everyone to read this book, to make yourself aware of the violence and mistreatment of women occurring all over the world. Visit Ayaan’s foundation for more information at

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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Through Black Spruce

Through Black Spruce
Author: Joseph Boyden
Source: Picked it up at Chapters
Days to Read: 14

I bought this book at Chapters in part because it was on sale and also because it sounded like something different written by a Canadian author. 

The book tells two stories; one about a Cree hunter and bush pilot living in Northern Ontario and the other about his niece and her adventures in Toronto. I really liked this book because I learned a lot about life in Northern Ontario and some of the customs of the Cree people. It was also really interesting to read about a Cree youth and her experiences and perspective of life in the North versus life in a big city like Toronto. The timing of me reading this book is pretty funny because my parents just took a road trip to Inukjuak, Quebec and visited some Cree villages. I think they will both highly enjoy this book!

 The book alternates between Will’s story and his niece Annie’s story and both keep you interested and turning the pages. Will has had a hard life and is the victim of gang violence in his town. He takes action and flees to a secluded area on James Bay.  He ends up in a coma and narrates his part of the book recalling the events leading up to his injury.

Annie visits Will frequently and at her friend and nurse's suggestion, tells him her stories from when she travelled south to Toronto in search of her younger sister who had left with her boy friend months before.  Annie ends up in New York City living the life of a young moderately successful model but never gives up hope of finding her sister.  Her uncle’s coma is what brings Annie home and through their time together they are able to find peace.

The book touches on many topics such as substance abuse, family, love, friendship, poverty, and gang violence to name a few.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Not My Daughter

Not My Daughter
Author: Barbara Delinsky
Source: My friend, Ali Bettger
Days to Complete: 6

My friend Ali and I always discuss and recommend books to one another. A few weeks ago I was at her house and had mentioned I was looking for a new book to start and she passed this one along to me. This book kept me reading but I thought the story line was a little farfetched. It is definitely a "light and fluffy" read as I like to call it.

The story is about a mother, principal and friend who had a daughter when she was a teenager. She struggled through her 20s, her parents cut her out of their lives and she refused to marry the father of her child. She worked hard and became a principal at the school which her daughter attends. Her daughter Lily is your typical good student, good girl, so when she tells her mother she is pregnant it comes as a big shock to Susan. The story unfolds as the reader learns that Lily's two best friends are also pregnant and they had a pact to become pregnant at the same time. Lily's situation parallels that of her mother's in that she is still in high school when she becomes pregnant and has a group of 4 friends who are all very close. Susan happens to be best friends with the 2 other mothers whose daughters also become pregnant. Did you follow all that? This is where I began to feel the book was a little bit of a stretch. No doubt that this type of situation could happen, but for me it just didn't provide enough depth to carry it along. It was somewhat predictable and I never felt emotionally drawn to any of the characters. That being said, I would classify it as a good, light summer read.

On to the next!

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Rainy Day Frustration!

I meant to post this yesterday but as luck would have it my computer decided to freeze every time I tried to open the internet. Extremely frustrating!  For those of you in the GTA, yesterday was a rainy day for us. Thankfully I am a weather network enthusiast and was therefore prepared with my trusty, albeit slightly tattered, umbrella. On a side note, I must have learned my weather network behaviour from my brother who, when we were in grade school, would watch the weather network every morning while eating breakfast before school. Now, I consult my app at least 3 times a day to stay on top of it. 

But enough about the weather network. I was on my lunch break yesterday and was going to head to the bank a few blocks away. I quickly realized that walking on the streets in the city on a rainy day with 90% of the people holding an umbrella is stressful task for someone who naturally is a fast paced walker. I typically just weave my way through the crowds with relative ease. However, throw in the umbrellas and it’s a whole new ball game. Some people don’t get out of your way so you’re bound to poke out their eyes with the little spokes. Others shield their faces with the umbrella and thus don’t see anything but the pavement in front of them. And others who are angry at the world because they forgot their umbrellas at home refuse to move out of the way and you have to either stumble onto the street or into a side walk stand of shoes. Next time it rains I think I will wear a rain coat with a hood so I can weave through the crowds unobstructed!
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Thursday, September 08, 2011


Author: Emma Donoghue
Source: Another book picked up at Chapters while on a book buying spree!
Days to Read: 6

My first thought when I started this book was "this is awkward and I am not going to be able to get into it". It starts with a 5 year old boy describing his day to day activities with his mom in Room. Notice the awkwardness of the previous sentence? Jack, the little boy, refers to everything by it’s names but in the context of a pronoun. So the rug is Rug, as in I played on Rug this morning. The book is about a mother that was kidnapped when she was 19 and has been held in a 11x11 foot room. She has a child, Jack, who has never been outside the Room. He doesn't know there is an outside; his reality is the small, square room. His mother has created a world for him inside the Room. The story begins slowly, establishing life within the four walls, but it quickly turns exciting and the innocence of Jack and his fascination with the Outside is refreshing. For a book based around a very depressing and heavy subject, the characters journey and Jack's enlightenment of the outside world leaves you feeling touched and entertained, not sad and depressed. This is unlike any book I have read and I think the author does a great job of illustrating how a five year old child would view the world having never before experienced it. I like the ending as well as it provides good closure which is so key to a good book!

Definitely worth a read, I highly recommend The Room.
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Island Beneath the Sea

Island Beneath the Sea
Author: Isabel Allende
Source: Reading the back of the book at Chapters
Days to Complete:7

This book took me a little longer to read but it was pretty interesting. I feel like I usually say that about books that I'm not crazy about. But I was reading one evening on my subway ride home and missed my stop because I was so into a particular part of the book! This was how I found the book; a page turner at some points while at others it seemed to drag a bit. The story is about a young girl living in Saint-Domingue who is bought at a young age by an older white master who owns a plantation.  She has a rough life but makes the best of it. There is a lot of history intertwined with the book and ups and downs for Tete, the main character. I thought this book was okay but it isn't one of my favourites. I like a good love story, either romantic or platonic, and I found this book lacked that. Tete does fall in love but it is only referenced a few times in the book, not enough to make you care about the relationship. The book is so-so, I don't know what else to say!
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Monday, August 15, 2011

Left Neglected

Left Neglected
Author: Lisa Genova
Source: Danielle (My friend from work)
Days to Complete: 5

I picked up this book at Chapters awhile ago and read the back but didn’t end up buying it. My friend Danielle from work told me she had started reading it and that she was enjoying it so I went back to re-read the synopsis and bought the book! I prefer to buy my books instead of borrowing them. I love building my collection; I have never gone into a book store and left empty handed. 

I loved this book. It made me laugh and, yes I admit, it made me tear up a bit! Lisa Genova, who also wrote Still Alice, has her PhD in neuroscience and wrote about what she knows. The book is about a successful wife and mother of 3, Sarah, who works as a VP for a big firm in Boston. Basically she has no time for herself and lives her life in hyper speed.  An unfortunate accident changes her life in many ways. The novel follows her journey both physically and mentally as she deals with a traumatic brain injury. I really liked this book because it was able to paint a pretty clear picture of a specific mental deficit. It took me awhile to wrap my head around what the character was feeling and going through but once I did it was great. The character makes light of the sometimes sticky situations she finds herself in which adds some good and needed humour to the otherwise heavy content of the book. I also loved the relationship between Sarah and her husband Bob, they are so in love and grow with each other which keeps a solid element of hope throughout the novel.

If you’re looking for an inspiring story about love and personal strength then read this book!
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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Midnight at the Dragon Cafe

Author:  Judy Fong Bates
Source: My mom
Days to Complete: 7

While I was up at my parent’s house over the long weekend my mom passed along Midnight at the Dragon CafĂ©. I read the insert and it sounded interesting enough.

 I was pleasantly surprised with this book by Canadian author Judy Fong Bates.  This spring it was selected for the 2011 Keep Toronto Reading One Book community reads program. The book is an easy read and keeps you interested from start to finish.  I enjoy reading about different cultures and this book has a good contrast between two generations.  The parents have their old Chinese traditions and beliefs and speak very little English. They are raising a daughter who attends an English speaking school and is one of the only Chinese students.  As she grows up she identifies with her small town and the lifestyles and culture of Canadians while at home she feels a disconnect with her parents as she is not able to express herself as colourfully in their first language. Within the family there is a big secret that is never spoken about and causes great tension.

If you’re looking for a great story about family that isn’t too heavy a read then give this one a try!

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Tuesday, August 09, 2011


So this is my blog! I am starting it because I love to read. I mean I really love to read. I come from a family who has a small library in the basement where the books are catalogued using the dewey decimal system. I have a list of all the books I have read starting from when I was maybe 15 when I had the brilliant idea. When I am on the subway and see people reading a book I have read, my first instinct is to ask how they liked it and what they think.

My friends are always asking me to recommend them good books to read which lead me to the idea of starting this blog.

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