Archive for the ‘Book Love’ Category

Favourite Books of 2014  

How to Be a Heroine

Samantha Ellis

How to Be Both

Ali Smith

How to Build a Girl

Caitlin Moran

[Perhaps this list should be called Favourite Books That Begin with How!!]

Among Others

Jo Walton


Elizabeth McCracken

Boy, Snow, Bird

Helen Oyeyemi

The Goldfinch

Donna Tartt

Station Eleven

Emily St. John Mandel


Max Barry

Tenth of December

George Saunders

The Victoria Vanishes

Christopher Fowler

Best Books About Books

How to Be a Heroine

Samantha Ellis

This is the story of Samantha Ellis looking for a role model in the heroines of books she read as a child and young woman.  I adored every page.  Not only did this book entertain and delight from beginning to end, Ellis sent me back to the books she discusses, prolonging the enjoyment, engaging me for weeks.


Max Barry

A fascinating fantasy of how the brain and its operations might be compromised by a person in possession of the right words to override the brain’s normal operating system, the right words being a proto-language with enormous power.   A mysterious society of “poets,” led by the nefarious Yeats, recruits people who have a natural gift of persuasion, then trains them in the use of secret words that can control others’ behaviour.  Some of these recruits get out of hand.  Thrills ensue. Delightfully inventive, this book reminded me a lot of The Magicians trilogy by Lev Grossman because the new recruits have to work really hard at mastering this magical ability.

Among Others

Jo Walton

My second read, after reading her book about her favourite SF and Fantasy books, What Makes This Book So Great? I think her fiction is more persuasive than her prose at persuading me which SF and Fantasy to pick up and try.  This book is absolutely full to the brim with love for the books of both the author’s and the protagonist’s youth.

Lost for Words

Edward St. Aubyn

Biting satire about a jury for a book prize.

Script & Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting

Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog

Kitty Burns Florey

I love how the author combines autobiography with history in these books about handwriting and sentence diagramming.  Thoroughly entertaining reads.

The Murdstone Trilogy

Mal Peet

I laughed a lot while reading this satirical metafictional adult novel about an author of young adult fiction who is struggling with writer’s block.  He makes a pact with the devil to get out of it.  The dialogue with the devil in question is so wonderfully inventive, and his voice single-handedly makes the book.  Chapter Two, in which Philip Murdstone’s agent spells out exactly how to write a successful Phantasy novel, with a P Haitch, had me in stitches.  My only criticism is that sometimes the humour was too earthy.  Toilet humour does not do it for me.

Best Interviews with Authors

from The Guardian Books Podcast

Ali Smith

How to Be Both

Isabel Greenberg

Encyclopedia of Early Earth

James Frey


Eleanor Wachtel interviewing

P.D. James

Colm Toibin

Ali Smith

Others Raved and So Did I

The Goldfinch

Donna Tartt

My favourite thing about Tartt’s abilities as a writer is how she manages to depict characters from extraordinary privilege who find themselves utterly powerless to control their own lives.

Tenth of December

George Saunders

This made many best of lists for 2013, and I did not catch up until this year.

Did Not Have High Hopes, But It Was a Surprisingly Good Read

We’ll Always Have Paris

Jennifer Coburn

This book was sent to me for review for my parenting blog, and I really did not have high hopes but ended up reading it in one sitting.  It’s a memoir of a mother-daughter trip to Paris, and the narrating mother is a control freak who learns to let go and be mindful in the extraordinary moments of travel and discovery.

In Praise of Messy Lives

Katie Roiphe

We are not supposed to like her because she blamed date rape on women in The Morning After.  She’s an obnoxious cross between Margaret Wente and Leah McLaren, but she’s whip smart and in very good form in this collection of essays.  I enjoyed them all.


The Opposite of Loneliness

Marina Keegan

Anne Fadiman blurbed it, praising it highly.  She was Keegan’s instructor at Yale, and when Keegan died in a car crash, this collection of essays and short fiction was published posthumously.  I found the collection to be too spotty and felt that the promise she obviously had is not adequately showcased here.


Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö

The series written by this couple became the ur-texts for police procedurals.  The problem with going back to the ur-text after having read a lot of police procedurals, is that the original can feel stale and half-formed.

Howl’s Moving Castle

Diana Wynne-Jones

I read it aloud to the kids, and it was a bit of a slog.  I had such high hopes, but we all found it just too disjointed.


Diana Gabaldon

A case of “it’s not you, it’s me.”  Historical fiction and time travel just do not often work for me.  But this book does stand out for one of the best exchanges I read all year.  The time-travelling (and married) Claire is about to be married off to a hottie in the past:

“Does it bother you that I’m not a virgin?” He hesitated a moment before answering. “Well, no,” he said slowly, “so long as it doesna bother you that I am.” He grinned at my drop-jawed expression, and backed toward the door. “Reckon one of us should know what they’re doing,” he said.


John Williams

Again, it’s not you, it’s me.  I don’t like passive characters whose fates flow over them.

Elizabeth is Missing

Emma Healy

Transparent from the beginning.

Must Read Everything Authors

(with thanks to Buried in Print for the category)


Alan Bradley

His latest Flavia de Luce mystery, The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, confirmed that Flavia is a sleuth to love.  I wait obsessively for the next books to come out.


Helen Oyeyemi

Boy, Snow, Bird kept me on the edge of my seat.  I had to track down all her other books after reading it.

Ali Smith

I loved How to Be Both so much that I did not pick this book for my book club choice; I did not want to hear anyone disagree with me about how absolutely wonderful it is.  I re-read First Person, then went out to get all her other books.  I read Hotel World and The Accidental as soon as I could get my hands on them.

Elizabeth McCracken

New to me with Thunderstruck, and so wonderful was it that I had to have more.

Mysteries to Fall For

The Word Exchange

Alena Graedon

Humans begin to lose the ability to speak because of a deliberately-released virus.  A gripping bibliophilic thriller.

Northanger Abbey

Val McDermid

She rewrites Austen’s classic by substituting vampire fiction for the gothic novel.  Hilarious, timely and pitch-perfect.

The Victoria Vanishes

Christopher Fowler

I can’t remember how I found him, but I did something very unusual for me and began his series of Bryant and May and the Peculiar Crimes Unit books in the middle, with The Victoria Vanishes, and fell head over heels in love.  In addition to being very well plotted, with well-rounded characters, it’s chock full of trivia about London’s pubs.  Other books in the series deal with London’s underground tunnels and theaters.  Fascinating reads for both the whodunit and the trivia.

Young Adult  

Half Bad

Sally Green

Half Bad is all good.  Harry Potter and Twilight meet Divergent.  I think the guilty pleasure of reading these books is the good vs evil plot, the clearly drawn lines.  The protagonist, though, does not know what he will be, White or Black witch.  He exposes the hypocrisy of the first, and is seduced by the mystery of the second.  So, not so black and white after all.

We Were Liars

E. Lockhart

A loose retelling of the story of King Lear and his daughters.  The narrator spends her summers on the family island off of Martha’s Vineyard with her grandparents, aunts and cousins.  She has an accident and cannot remember the events around it.  The novel is her piecing it all together with a great twist at the end.

Blood Red Road, Rebel Heart and Raging Star

Moira Young

I’ll say right from the start that the narrative voice annoyed the hell out of me (first person, present tense narration in the drawl of a cowboy: nuthin, haveta), but once past that, I found this Canadian trilogy gripping.  Strong female characters in a post-apocalyptic world.  I loved that the women are so strong, although, in the end, there does seem something of a patriarchal, hetero-normative resolution.  Not entirely, but I was getting a bit uncomfortable with the excessive use of the word “family.”

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Liani Taylor

Jenny recommended this, and I loved this, the first in a trilogy about angels and demons.  The world building is so assured and the eroticism is simply pulsing.  I found the next two disappointing, however.

Fabulous Nonfiction

The Perfect Scent

Chandler Burr

Burr is the first curator of olfactory art at MOMA, a position he created for himself with a view to encouraging the growth of a body of intelligent criticism for the art of making perfume.  In this book, he follows two perfumers through the process of creating and bringing to market a new perfume: Jean Claude Ellena for Hermes, and Sarah Jessica Parker.  This was my second reading of the book, and I loved it.

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Books Read 2014 Summary

Books Read: 138

62% female



76% fiction

24% nonfiction


47% fiction

17%  mystery

13% young adult

13% children’s

10% graphic novels


How I Count: I do not count abandoned books.  I count books I read aloud to kids because that’s reading time for me, too, and I won’t read anything to them that I don’t like.  I do not count picture books read to kids or to self.  I know I missed some.  I keep a list of and notes on books I read throughout the year.  Sometimes I forget to update the list.  I bought some books that I did not read.  Mea culpa.

Analysis: no surprise on the fiction to nonfiction ratio, but I thought I read more like 75% women.  I gave up reading challenges a while back, but I feel like I might be ready to try them again.  I need to read more internationally; I need to read more nonfiction; I need to write more often on this blog.


Perfume (1)

Patrick Suskind

Proust’s Overcoat (2)

Lorenza Foschini

Make Good Art (3)

Neil Gaiman

The Reluctant Journal of Henry K Larsen (4)

Susin Nielsen

The Silent Wife (5)

ASA Harrison

The Goldfinch (6)

Donna Tartt

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches (7)

Alan Bradley

The Breadwinner (8)

Deborah Ellis

Cat’s Cradle (9)

Jo Rioux

Jane, the Fox and Me (10)

Fanny Britt

The Rules of Civility (11)

Amor Towles

Christine Falls (12)

Benjamin Black

The Perfect Scent (13)

Chandler Burr


February 2014

Perfumes: The A-Z Guide (14)

Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez

The Emperor of Scent (15)

Chandler Burr

Colossus (16)

Sylvia Plath

Sense and Sensibility (17)

Jane Austen

Sense and Sensibility (18)

Joanna Trollope

84, Charing Cross Road (19)

Helene Hanff

Herring on the Nile (20)

L.C. Tyler

Dancing Fish and Ammonites (21)

Penelope Lively

How to Be a Heroine (22)

Samantha Ellis

Wuthering Heights (23)

Charlotte Bronte


March 2014

Cold Comfort Farm (24)

Stella Gibbons

The End of the Beginning (25)


Raising Great Parents: How to Become the Parent Your Child Needs You to Be (26)

Doone Estey and Beverley Cathcart-Ross

Jane Eyre (27)

Charlotte Bronte, read by Juliet Stevenson

Why I Read (28)

Wendy Lesser

We’ll Always Have Paris (29)

Jennifer Coburn

The Silver Swan (30)

Benjamin Black

Elegy for April (31)

Benjamin Black

Canterbury Tales (32)

Retold by Marcia Williams

Canterbury Tales (33)

Retold by Kent Hieatt and Constance Hieatt


April 2014

A Death in Summer (34)

Benjamin Black

The ABC with Honora Lee (35)

Kate Di Goldi

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (36)

Karen Joy Fowler

The M Word: Conversations about Motherhood (37)

Edited by Kerry Clare

Don’t Pigeonhole Me! (38)

Mo Willems

Amazing Everything: The Art of Scott C.  (39-41)

The Great Showdowns

Great Showdowns: The Return

Scott Campbell

The Encyclopedia of Early Earth (42)

Isabel Greenberg

Rooftoppers (43)

Katherine Rundell

The Opposite of Loneliness (44)

Marina Keegan

Northanger Abbey (45)

Val McDermid

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time (46)

Mark Haddon

In Praise of Messy Lives (47)

Katie Roiphe

Half Bad (48)

Sally Green

The Late Scholar (49)

Jill Paton Walsh

Daughter of Smoke and Bone (50)

Liani Taylor


May 2014

Days of Blood and Starlight (51)

Laini Taylor

The Rosie Project (52)

Graeme Simsion

Dreams of Gods & Monsters (53)

Laini Taylor

Dreaming of Elsewhere: Observations on Home (54)

Esi Edugyan

Tenth of December (55)

George Saunders

Lexicon (56)

Max Barry

If I Were a Book (57)

José Jorge Letria

Call the Midwife (58)

Jennifer Worth

The Norfolk Mystery (59)

Ian Sansom

Roseanna (60)

Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö

Mr Dixon Disappears (61)

Ian Sansom

A Siege of Bitterns (62)

Steve Burrows

Birding with Yeats: A Memoir (63)

Lynn Thomson

This One Summer

Jillian and Mariko Tamaki (64)


June 2014

Boy, Snow, Bird (65)

Helen Oyeyemi

Among Others (66)

Jo Walton

What Makes This Book So Great? (67)

Jo Walton

All My Children (68)

Jo Walton

The Interior Life (69)

Katherine Blake

The Willoughbys (70)

Lois Lowry

The Shelf: Adventures in Extreme Reading (71)

Phyllis Rose

The Sun Also Rises (72)

Ernest Hemmingway

All Saints (73)

K.D. Miller


July 2014

Elizabeth is Missing (74)

Emma Healy

We Were Liars (75)

L. Lockhart

Juliet Was a Surprise (76)

Bill Gaston

Divergent (77)

Veronica Roth

Howl’s Moving Castle (78)

Diana Wynne Jones

Insurgent (79)

Veronica Roth

Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms (80)

Lissa Evans

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (81)

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (82)

J.K. Rowling

Allegiant (83)

Veronica Roth

Outlander (84)

Diana Gabaldon

Orkney (85)

Amy Sackville

All Souls (86)

Javier Marias


August 2014

The Word Exchange (87)

Alena Graedon

Lost for Words (88)

Edward St. Aubyn

The Rise and Fall of Great Powers (89)

Tom Rachman

Thunderstruck (90)

Elizabeth McCracken

Blood Red Road (91)

Moira Young

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (92)

J.K. Rowling

Rebel  Heart (93)

Moira Young

Beyond the Page (94)

Words and Pictures (95)

Quentin Blake

Raging Star (96)

Moira Young

Virgin (97)

Amulet Books 1-6 (98-103)

Kazu Kibuishi

Claudine (104)

Barbara Palmer


September  2014

Girl Runner (105)

Carrie Snyder

Ellen in Pieces (106)

Caroline Adderson

All the Broken Things (107)

Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer

What Now? (108)

Ann Patchett

A Reliable Wife (109)

Robert Goolrick


October  2014

The Element (110)

Ken Robbins

Interference (111)

Michelle Berry

Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative (112)

Ken Robinson

How to Build a Girl (113)

Caitlin Moran

Station Eleven (114)

Emily St. John Mandel

The Stone Mattress (115)

Margaret Atwood

The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher (116)

Hilary Mantel

Stoner (117)

John Williams

Script & Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting (118)

Kitty Burns Florey

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (119)

J.K. Rowling

Through the Woods (120)

Emily Carroll

Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog (121)

Kitty Burns Florey

The Victoria Vanishes (122)

Christopher Fowler

Celtic Pattern (123)

Adam Tetlow

Designa (124)

Wooden Books

How to Be Both (125)

Ali Smith


November  2014

The First Person (126)

Ali Smith

The Water Room (127)

Christopher Fowler

Hotel World (128)

Ali Smith

Seventy Seven Clocks (129)

Christopher Fowler

Joy in the Morning (130)

P.G. Wodehouse

Ten Second Staircase (131)

Christopher Fowler

Station Eleven (132)

Emily St. John Mandel

The Murdstone Trilogy (133)

Mal Peet


December  2014

Gregor the Overlander (134)

Suzanne Collins

An Unsuitable Job for a Woman (135)

P.D. James

Last Friends (136)

Jane Gardham

Adult Onset (137)

Ann-Marie MacDonald

Twelve Drummers Drumming (138)

C.C. Benison

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Aroma-Chemistry-The-Smell-of-Books-724x1024from Compound Interest

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if-i-were-a-book_9781452121444_largeIf I Were a Book

Jose Jeorge Letria, illustrated by Andre Letria

San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2014.

This was my Mother’s Day gift to myself on our trip to Type Books.   Though this was housed in the children’s section, and though it appears to be a picture book, it really does appeal to book lovers of all ages.  In fact, it probably appeals more to adults than to kids.  While the illustrations by Andre Letria are marvellously accessible, the simple words by his father Jose Jeorge Letria are almost too gnomic to be perfectly suited to children.

“If I were a book, I wouldn’t want people to only pretend to have read me.”

Then again, if only the adults can pick up the irony, anyone can understand the sentiment, “If I were a book, I’d crush violence with knowledge.”

As for me, if I were a book, I’d want someone to read me and love me and write a blog post about me.



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I love to read (and write) in my dressing gown.  It reminds me of a time when I was twelve and I feigned a three-day illness so I could stay off school and read The Lord of the Rings.  Not getting dressed makes a nice statement of intentions–I’m staying in with my book.

Gavin Extence, author of The Universe Versus Alex Wood

in an Indigo flyer from the summer

I hope you all had a chance to spend some time in pjs with a book this Thanksgiving weekend.


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Surprise Packages

I received in the mail today a lovely surprise: a letter and a gift from The Folio Society.

I write to express my warmest thanks for your support of The Folio Society.  We do hope you are enjoying the editions you’ve ordered this year.  As one of our most valued members in North America, your enthusiasm for our books is especially important to us.

We wish to express our gratitude in a tangible way and are pleased to enclose a gift of special edition Folio [letterpress] notecards, each one featuring a different quotation from Shakespeare.

(We needn’t dwell on their sense that I am one of their most valued members in North America.  I’m quite certain that my bibliophilia is not in the least extraordinary.  At least it’s not shoes, at least it’s not shoes, at least it’s not shoes…..)

But, honestly, there could be no more fitting a gift of thanks than a set of letterpress cards on deliciously heavy stock.  I’m thrilled to have received them.

Thank you, Folio Society.  Long may you reign as quality publishers of covetable books.


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There’s a Word for It!

But the way it’s translated….  It makes it sound like it’s a bad thing….

via Changing Hands Bookstore and Tanis MacDonald 

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Nora Ephron on Reading

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