Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel

>> Friday, October 29, 2010



Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel

Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 247
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #45
Source: Library





The Short Version:
Leaving, following, disappearing, and obsessing are all elements of the relationships in this story of several lives intertwined over many years.

Why I Read It:
I’d heard great praise for the author’s most recent book and this one was also highly recommended at S. Krishna’s Books.

The Book:
Eli’s girlfriend Lilia leaves to get coffee and never returns. Eli admits that Lilia had some odd habits, but he never saw this disappearance coming at all. While he’s devastated, he also wonders where she is and if she’s safe. When he gets a mysterious postcard from Montreal saying “she’s here” he’d like to feel better, but he doesn’t know who this Michaela is who sent him the card, nor does he have any idea how she knew where to send it.

Eli’s trip to Montreal is interspersed with the story of Lilia’s past. She spent most of her life leaving and disappearing, beginning when she was a child and her father took her away from her mother’s home one snowy night. Pursued by a private detective they spend years on the move changing identities and never really forming long term relationships.

Also in the mix is the story of Michaela’s childhood and her connection to both Lilia and Eli.

My Thoughts:
I really don’t want to say more than that about the plot because it’s the questions of how it would all intersect and connect or not that kept me reading.

I’m having a hard time deciding how I feel about this book. While I thought the writing was beautiful at times, I never really felt any connection to the characters or story. I found myself easily distracted from the book while reading it and it took me longer than most books of this length to read.

Granted, part of the not feeling connected to the characters was that all of them were fairly disconnected from entanglements and relationships themselves, so to that extent the author did an excellent job of portraying them.

There are several minor mysteries that play out as the story progresses in terms of how all the characters became entangled and the truth about events in the past that both Lilia and Michaela are seeking. Some of the answers turned out to be fairly predictable, and while the ending wraps things up, it left me with an unsettled feeling.

The book is full of wonderful moments in writing and fabulous images, but I just never felt connected or invested in the story. I definitely remained detached. I did enjoy the writing enough that I plan to read more by this author.



Rating 3.5/5

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Wordless Wednesday #56

>> Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Along the 804 trail
Yachats, Oregon



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Audiobook - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

>> Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (Audio)

Genre: Fiction
Series: #7 in the Harry Potter series
Publication Date: 2007
Read by: Jim Dale
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #44
Source: Library

The Short Version:
The finale of the series is an exciting, entertaining and thoroughly satisfying conclusion.

Why I Read It:
Obviously I didn’t finish listening to this entire series before the Harry Potter Reading Challenge ended, but I didn’t care and wanted to finish listening to them back to back.

The Book:
As I’ve said before on the re-read via audio posts, I’m not going to bother with any kind of plot summary. By now you either know it or you don’t want to know.

My Thoughts:
Wow. Just Wow. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the series back to back. It took months because I only listen to audiobooks when I’m in the car by myself so it’s a lot of short bits of listening time. I had spread the reading of the books over several years. I found a few advantages to listening to the series as a re-read. First of all, knowing what happens later makes many little small events and mentions early in the series that much more meaningful. Secondly, listening to the books back to back kept me in the mood and world of Harry and his friends. Thirdly, Jim Dale is fabulous. Yes, his Hermione seemed just whiny and all wrong at the beginning of the series but I think that was toned down as the books progressed.

This was such a wonderful way to re-experience an amazing series that I heartily recommend it.

This last book was difficult at times, though. The sad parts of the story almost seemed sadder when I heard them rather than read them. I was a bit weepy several times. I think I came out of this experience with a much greater appreciation and love for both Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood. They both became favorite characters for me this time around.

While I missed the deadiine of the Harry Potter Reading Challenge by a mile (or several), I’m glad I stuck with it. On the other hand, as much as I enjoyed this way of listening to the series, I’m ready for something else in my audio reading. While I’ve been listening to Harry and the gang, I’ve amassed quite the extensive list of audiobooks in waiting in my itunes library. I’ve missed a few of my favorite characters from the other series I only read as audiobooks and I’m definitely looking forward to getting back together with them.


Rating 5/5

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Voting turned out to be funny

>> Friday, October 22, 2010

We live in a state where it's all vote by mail for all elections. In our case it's vote by dropping our ballots in the box at the library because why waste a stamp when I'm at the library anyway.


We usually end up filling out our ballots at the same time so that we can have the voter's pamphlet and all the paperwork out and then gather up what we're done with and get it to the recycling bin all at once.


Then I take our ballot envelopes to drop off at the library the next day.



The other night we were both filling out our ballots and The Hubster got down to the measure that requested a four year renewal of the current library levy.



The Hubster kind of giggled and said "Continue to pay for the libraries? Heck YES! It saves me money!!!"

I just about spit the water I was drinking all over the table.

I told him "Yup! what we pay for the library levy is way less than your wife would spend on books without the library, isn't it?"  So far this year of the books I've read 37 have been from the library and 24 are books I've purchased.  We definitely get our money's worth out of our libraries.

I love my libraries.

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Wordless Wednesday #55

>> Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bucket O'Flowers



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Darkness Be My Friend by John Marsden

>> Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Darkness Be My Friend by John Marsden

Genre: YA Fiction
Series: #4 in the Tomorrow series
Publication Date: 1996
Pages: 269
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #43
Source: Library



The Short Version:
Australia has been invaded and a group of teenagers continue their battle to stay alive and cause trouble for the invaders.

Why I Read It:
This has been an interesting series so far and it had been a while since I read the last one so it was time to continue the story.

The Book
Since this is the fourth book in the series it’s difficult to not give away events from previous books. If you haven’t read through book 3 in this series, you should skip on down to the My Thoughts section now.

Ellie and her friends are still at it. Their families are prisoners of the invading army and even though the kids had been rescued and evacuated to New Zealand, the war at home continues. When they are asked (with little alternative) to return to Australia and the war (only this time with members of the New Zealand army) they find themselves back in Hell.

Their former safe haven in the bush (known as Hell) is still safe, but their mission is to get the New Zealand troops into town so that they can attempt to disable the air base at Wirrawee. Ellie and her friends have a secondary motivation in that their families are still being held prisoner there.

My Thoughts:
This series is an amazing portrayal of a group of teenagers who have their world torn away from them and are forced to grow up and make decisions and take actions that kids this age just should not have to deal with. When their world was torn apart they became renegades waging their own battles against the invading forces.

Ellie is a wonderful narrator. She tells their story with brutal honesty about events as well as the feelings she and her friends deal with. With only a handful of people she truly trusts and facing death or capture nearly every day, Ellie and her friends have had to mature as this series progresses. They face their insecurities at the same time they face the realities of war and survival.

This series is not one that you should read out of order. Start at the beginning and follow the story through. The action and emotions are both well written and while there is violence (it’s a war after all) it really doesn’t get overly gruesome. It’s hard to read this series and not stop to think what I would have done in a similar situation at 16 or 17.


Rating 4/5

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A Marriage Made in . . . Ashland??

>> Friday, October 15, 2010

Or . . . No wonder that voice is so familiar.


Quite a few of the audiobooks I’ve listened to over the years have been by Blackstone Audio and I know that they’re based in Ashland in Southern Oregon. I’m familiar with Ashland because The Hubster and I make one or two trips down there every year. We’ve been attending plays there at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival  for years. The OSF performance season runs from March to October every year so many of the long term members of the acting company live in the area.



It wasn’t until I learned the other day that Kevin Kenerly is the narrator for Blackstone’s audio version of Tom Franklin’s wonderful book Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter that my mind went “Oh, DUH”. Of course Blackstone would seek out actors from OSF for adding to their list of narrators – what a match made in heaven.

Now as for Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, my first thought was “Romeo reading Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter? – OK, I guess that works”. The more I thought about it though, the more I decided it would be perfect, he’d have a wonderful voice for that. I’ve seen Kevin Kenerly in many different roles over the years at OSF, but one of my all time favorites was his performance in Romeo and Juliet a few years ago. This past summer we saw him as Hotspur in Henry IV, Part One.

So this revelation prompted me to browse Blackstone Audiobooks website to see what other familiar names and faces were among their extensive list of narrators. I was pleasantly surprised to see several familiar names and voices. The links below are to each actors list of books at Blackstone.

Here are a few folks I’ve come to know over the years on stage and will certainly look for when choosing audiobooks.








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Wordless Wednesday #54

>> Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Clackamas River Reflections
Estacada, Oregon




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The Report by Jessica Francis Kane

>> Tuesday, October 12, 2010



The Report by Jessica Francis Kane

Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 238
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #42
Source: Library





The Short Version:
An inquiry into a 1943 disaster at a London tube station used as an air-raid shelter looks at both the causes and effects for those involved.

Why I Read It:
Jen at Devourer of Books talked about this one on Twitter with enough enthusiasm to make me look for it at my library.

The Book:
In 1943 London an unfinished tube station is used as an air-raid shelter. On a March night 173 people die at the shelter but no bombs fell that night. It’s a devastating event for a neighborhood already weary of loss after years of war, bombs and death. After initially covering up the disaster, the government responds to an outcry for an inquiry.

Laurence Dunne is the well respected local magistrate who is assigned to conduct the inquiry. His investigation attempts to determine both what exactly happened and why. With conflicting witness reports complicated by the emotional damage suffered by the survivors and the whole neighborhood, Dunne’s task is a daunting one.

30 years after the disaster a young filmmaker is planning a retrospective film about the incident. His interviews with Laurence Dunne in 1973 are interspersed with the events of 1943 throughout the book.

My Thoughts:
This was another fascinating historical fiction book based on an actual event. While I knew before I started that it was a fictional account of a real tragedy, I avoided seeking out any information online about that real event until after I’d finished the book. Even though I don’t think that is necessary, I’m glad I didn’t really know anything ahead of time.

I liked the way the elderly Dunne’s conversations with the young filmmaker in 1973 are interspersed with the events of 1943. There are chapters told from the perspective of many of the people connected with the tragedy as well as chapters portraying Dunne’s formal inquiry and witness testimony.

It’s a story of an already emotionally devastated neighborhood hit with an unimaginable tragedy. While telling a wider story, Kane manages to keep the focus on a handful of individuals and families. The concepts of responsibility and guilt are touched on again and again. The story reads a bit like a mystery as Dunne’s investigation proceeds, but it’s also a thoughtful story of a few people and how this tragic event affected their lives. There are moments of sadness, heroism, love, strength, fear, and anger. There are also moments of peace and grace. Kane’s wonderful way of writing just adds to the story she tells in a beautiful way.



Rating 4.5/5

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Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

>> Thursday, October 7, 2010


Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 272
Challenges: None
Source: Copy provided by publisher through Bookbrowse


The Short Version:
Twenty years ago a two boys in Mississippi had a brief friendship and now their lives are dramatically different yet still connected.

Why I Read It:
I put this book on my to be read list as soon as I heard about it because I’d loved a previous book of his and when I was lucky enough to get an early copy through Bookbrowse, I was thrilled.

The Book
Silas Jones and Larry Ott met as young boys in a small town in Mississippi. Silas and his mother lived in a crude cabin on land owned by Larry’s father. The boys didn’t interact much at school. This was partly because Silas was black and Larry was white but also because Silas became a baseball star and Larry remained the odd nerdy outsider he’d always been. They did spend a lot of time together outside of school with Larry teaching Silas to hunt and fish as they explored the woods around their homes.

When Larry took a girl on a date to a drive-in and she was never seen again, he became the prime suspect in her disappearance and probable murder. While there was not enough evidence to legally accuse him, he was nevertheless punished by the town via ostracism and lived an incredibly lonely life.

Silas left town, went to college and eventually returned to a job as the local constable. He’s still known by his baseball nickname of 32 more than he’s known for his law enforcement reputation.

When a local girl goes missing, Larry becomes the prime suspect and Silas becomes part of the investigation which forces Silas to face things from his past that he’d rather not.

My Thoughts:
This is not a fast paced book that I wanted to read as quickly as possible to get to the resolution of the crime story. It’s a book that I wanted to read slowly and savor the words and images that Franklin paints with them. It’s a thoughtful, slowly building story that shifts back and forth between the present day crime investigation and flashbacks to Larry and Silas as teenagers and how their friendship developed and then broke apart. While it is partly a crime story it’s even more the story of both Larry and Silas.

The descriptions and imagery are the kind of writing that makes me stop on a regular basis and reread a paragraph just for the words. The characters are developed slowly and in small bits and pieces that leave the reader still getting to know some of them as the book winds down. It’s heavy with atmosphere and the tension that gradually builds makes it a quiet thriller. While by the time the investigation is resolved it’s not any surprise the other parts of the story remain enough to keep the interest level high and the story moving along.

The writing had the same magic for me as Franklin’s first novel “Hell at the Breech” without being quite as brutal. There was a paragraph near the end that nearly melted my brain because it was such powerful imagery that struck a chord with me. I can’t quote it here for a couple of reasons. To do so would give away plot elements and while it’s striking in and of itself, it has much more meaning within the context of the story. When you read the book (because you should read this book), pay attention when you get to page 251 (in the hardback edition) to the part about years and trees.

I loved the cover, I loved the story, I loved the writing and I plan to reread it after I pass it along to the two usual recipients of my best reads (The Hubster and my Sister-in-Law).


Rating 5/5

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Wordless Wednesday #53

>> Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Sunset at Autzen Stadium
Eugene, Oregon





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The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin

>> Friday, October 1, 2010



The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin

Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 280
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #41
Source: Library




The Short Version:
When a Nigerian man adds a fourth wife to his family, the tension mounts and secrets are both kept and revealed.

Why I Read It:
I started watching for this book at the library after reading a preview of it in a Bookbrowse newsletter.

The Book:
Baba Segi is an overweight flatulent and crude Nigerian businessman. Over the years his family has grown to three wives and seven children. When he marries a fourth wife, the balance of power in the marriage has to undergo some adjustments. When two years later this fourth wife, Bolanle has not become pregnant, Baba Segi decides it’s time to take some action.

At the same time the other three wives have continued to let their resentment of this new addition to their family build. As a University graduate, they think Bolanle feels she is better than them, when in actuality Bolanle would prefer to find a peaceful way for the family to learn to live together as a family. When the senior wives decide it’s time to take some action of their own despite the potential for unplanned consequences.

My Thoughts:
I thought this book was intriguing. I had been warned ahead of time that the point of view shifts were not always clear so I was prepared ahead of time for that. I think that helped. While some of the chapters are labeled as to who is speaking, that is not the case in most of them. Often I had to read a few paragraphs of a new chapter to figure out whose point of view it was, and then go back and start the page again. That made for some breaks in the flow and transition for me, but I think having been prepared ahead of time I wasn’t totally irked by it.

It was interesting to read a story of a polygamous family that was not the typical FDLS-like group set in North America. The setting in Nigeria and the cultural background of the story were fascinating to me.

As each of the wives story was revealed their varied reasons for marrying Baba Segi in the first place were very moving. That they each gradually reveal their histories I found myself both disliking them and feeling sympathy for what they’d been through all at the same time. I cannot relate to being in a situation where making some of the choices these women made (nor going along with choices made by others for them) is the only real way to go on. The varying secrets and backstories are in some ways predictable, and the outcome didn’t really come as a surprise to me. I read with a certain sense of detachment, though and never felt like any of the characters was wholly sympathetic.

In some ways the stories made me think back to the play “Ruined” by Lynn Nottage which we saw this past summer. That play explores the awful ways that some women in the war torn country of The Congo have to manage to survive. While Baba Segi’s wives are not in the same circumstances as the women Lynn Nottage wrote about in Ruined, they are still forced to make some decisions and keep secrets in order to find a sense of security and stability.

It was a quick read and I was glad I knew before starting it that figuring out who was telling each chapter might be difficult to determine, because in some cases it was. I liked it though and felt it was an interesting look at an unfamiliar setting and culture.


Rating 4/5

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