Monthly Archives: April 2011

‘Theodore Boone’ by John Grisham

Whenever John Grisham steps outside of his usual legal drama genre, I pay attention. He has done this before with a Christmas story, a biography, and a few on professional sports. This is his first young adult novel.

Teens generally don’t like reading a book where the main character is younger than they are. So with Theodore Boone being 13, this would be targeting the 9-12 year olds. Theodore Boone is an amateur lawyer kid. He knows alot about the law and likes to help people out.  He is appreciated and respected for what he knows and the connections he has. But because of this, he gets caught up in the middle of a murder trial. If I knew a 9-12 year old who needed to study up on the courts and the law, I would recommend this book – the learning would be effortless, just wrapped up in the story which was not great (not enough action), but was fresh and not cliche.

Grisham leaves the ending wide open and it screams sequel. In fact I’ve seen a title already – Theodore Boone 2, The Abduction. I’ll be reading it when it comes out in June to see what happens!

‘Solar’ by Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan is one of my favourite authors. He is in a special category for me. His books take time to read because I want to savour, not devour. ‘Atonement’  and ‘On Chesil Beach’ were good and I especially appreciated ‘Saturday’.  ‘Solar’ is a bit different; still well written but not as eloquent. Even though Solar is fiction, it has a lot to say about how we view climate change as a planet. We do need to consider alternatives, especially after the incredible nuclear tragedy in Japan. One of the things I find hard to understand about Japan, is how they could build so many nuclear plants after Hiroshima? Wouldn’t they be the people most motivated to avoid this source of energy? Indeed, just today I noticed a report in the news about anti-nuclear protestors there. Perhaps there are no viable alternatives yet, but then it begs these questions: When we are as clever about other forms of technology, why do we continue to destroy the earth and are unable to devise cleaner, more sustainable sources of energy ? Why do we let politics hamper the quest, and why are we unwilling to alter our lifestyles enough to reduce the incredible energy demand? Climate change is complicated and evokes reactions ranging from strong emotions to complete apathy.

‘Solar’ is a brilliant comic novel about a selfish, short, fat, philandering climate change scientist named Michael Beard who doesn’t do much besides coasting on a Nobel prize he won years ago. Like our treatment of the planet, he tends to ignore his own health, postpones dealing with a melanoma, and is addictive and over consumptive. Will Beard’s scientific brilliance win out before his pathological self-destructiveness catches up? So with the species.

McEwan likes science and is knowledgeable about it. This is something that becomes evident in this book and in his novel ‘Saturday’ which is about a neurosurgeon. So if you don’t like science, some of it may seem boring. But hang in there because there also parts which are side-splittingly funny. Global warming is no laughing matter and the humour carries a dark side.  At the heart of the book are sober themes which we cannot ignore.

‘The Lake of Dreams’ by Kim Edwards

This book has gotten mixed reviews. Coasting on the success of her earlier novel ‘The Memory Keeper’s Daughter’, the publishers put a nice looking cover and a magical title on a book that drags. The first two chapters caught my attention and then it began to snag on irrelevant description. I just didn’t care as much about the historical facts Lucy Jarrett was digging up as she did. But I did stick with it and was rewarded by the story suddenly taking off in Chapter 18 (p. 300ff)! How did this book end up as a Heather’s Pick (chapter.ca)? Maybe she just read the beginning and the end!

Looking back in my notes, I did find ‘The Memory Keeper’s Daughter’ (which also inspired a movie) to be very well written.  The whole novel is what follows a split second decision that changes the lives of the characters forever. However, though it starts with a bang, it fizzled for me afterwards as well . Both novels are about family secrets and the impact they can have. And who doesn’t love a family saga?

Let me not dissuade you from reading this book. There are many people who did enjoy it so perhaps it was personal taste. And there are some interesting themes and metaphors like the earthquakes in Japan mirroring the unrest Lucy feels at the beginning of the book and lots of dream parallels.  The book’s description on Amazon says it has “surprises at every turn” and is “brimming with vibrant detail”. So you never know!  Leave me a comment either way, and let me know what you think.

‘Justin Bieber: First Step 2 Forever: My Story’ by Justin Bieber

Celebrities often write books about themselves when they become famous. Why would they take time off from what they love doing to write? Well, it’s probably because they know the books will sell and they end up making way more than any other authors when they publish.

I didn’t read this book (and I’m quite sure I won’t) but I heard a review of it on CBC’s ‘The Next Chapter’ and this reading by Gordon Pinsent from ’22 Minutes’ was mentioned. It’s worth seeing, enjoy!

BBC Book List Challenge

Book lists are one of my favourite things. I keep lists of books I’ve read and want to read. I check lists to see what is new. How smug I feel when I discover I’ve read one of the books on the Macleans Bestseller list! The Globe and Mail produces a bestseller list and so does the New York Times. Book clubs have lists of what they have read and will be reading throughout the year. A daunting task for them is producing the list for next year! What should be on it and how will we decide? People keep lists of recommendations other people have made to accompany them to the library or the bookstore. This is exciting stuff for book lovers! 🙂

Right now there are people taking a quiz called the BBC Book List Challenge to see how many books out of a hundred they have read. If you want to participate you can get involved on facebook or just google it to find the list. It all started with a Big Read book campaign in the UK in 2003 and seems to still surface once a year or so. I only scored 35/100. 😦

Our family has this book at home and we all initial books we have read. Whenever one of us is in the family home, we pick it up and see if we can add an entry. Some of us even read intentionally to be able to get closer to 1001 – a striking reminder of our mortality and how hard it is to keep up with all the books we want to read. In our house it’s right next to the other bucket list book: “1000 Places to See Before You Die”. We can’t do it all folks! We have to make choices and not be bothered by what we don’t get to!

What intrigues me the most is who makes these lists and how are the choices made? Should we be letting other people decide what is important to read?Should it be the old classics or the latest and greatest? These are rhetorical questions, we won’t get an answer. But here’s a interesting one where we do know who made the list and why. Every two weeks since 2007, Yann Martel, author of Life of Pi, has sent Stephen Harper a book with a letter. The books are short because Steve’s a busy guy but they are meant to edify the leader of our country and “expand his stillness”. Check out the website. Click on a book in the list and you can read Martel’s letter and any response he’s gotten from the PM. Not many if any! 🙂

What is Stephen Harper Reading?