Wednesday, April 18, 2012

My 50 Book Pledge: Books 1-12, A Review

Books to the ceiling,
Books to the sky,
My pile of books is a mile high.
How I love them! How I need them!
I'll have a long beard by the time I read them. 
-Arnold Lobels

Hello everyone!

This January, I signed up for HarperCollins Canada's 50 Book Pledge- a pledge to read fifty books this year. Being the bookworm that I am, I took the challenge- only time will tell if I even go beyond it!

For now, I would like to share with you my thoughts of the reads I have read so far.

1. A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews

Opening: "I live with my father, Ray Nickel, in that low brick bungalow out on highway number twelve. Blue shutters, brown door, one shattered window. Nothing great. The furniture keeps disappearing, though. That keeps things interesting."

Thoughts: This book was recommended to me by someone whom I previously worked with- he told me that I might enjoy this, and I took his word for it. I've never read any of Miriam Toews' works but now was the time to do so. I found myself enjoying it immensely  It was terribly witty and bold- by the end of the novel, I wanted to be friends with Nomi and bike off into the sunset towards New York City.

2. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Opening: "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort."

Thoughts: I will never forget the day I came across this book. I was twelve years old when I was taking part of the Summer Reading Club at the local library and for every book that you read, you were eligible to win a prize. Just my luck, I happened to win that time and I had the option to choose a jewellery making kit or a book. The kit did sound pretty enticing, but then The Hobbit caught my eye.
"What's a Hobbit?" I thought to myself.
Curiosity got the better of me, and as soon as my hands touched that book, I knew there was no looking back.
It has been a while since I've last read it- about a few years or so. Now the opportunity arose to refresh my memory and walk down the path with Bilbo once more. It is a classic to be treasured and I cannot wait for the film to arrive later in the year!

3. The Virgin Cure by Ami Mckay

Opening: "I am Moth, a girl from the lowest part of Chrystie Street, born to a slum-house mystic and the man who broke her heart."

Thoughts: This was a Matchbook Book Club's book pick for the month of January of this year. It was a fascinating read of Manhattan in the late nineteenth century, especially when it came to dealing with the subject of  the "virgin cure", where the belief that by if a diseased man deflowers a woman, it would bring about a cure. We follow Moth's struggles and triumphs through a storytelling that immerses the reader deep into her world, and continues to do so until the end.

4. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

Opening: "The boulevard du Cange was a broad, quiet street that marked the eastern flank of the city of Amiens. The wagons that rolled in from Lille and Arras to the north drove directly into the tanneries and mills of the Saint Leu quarter without needing to use this rutted, leafy road."

Thoughts: Beautifully written, where the story haunts you long after you've closed the book.  Faulks portrays the horrors of war to such a way that it cannot be easily cast aside and the love Stephen has for Isabelle can be seen as beautiful. I highly recommend checking out BBC's recent version of Birdsong, which stars Eddie Redmayne and Clemence Poesy.

5. The Plague by Albert Camus

Opening: "The unusual events described in this chronicle occurred in 194- at Oran. Everyone agreed that considering their somewhat extraordinary character, they were out of place there."

Thoughts: Camus pulls you into this isolated and dark world where the human condition is hanging on a piece of thread, when a plague strikes the town of Oran. What strikes me the most was how Camus was able to intimately portray the multi-layered emotions found in every person when facing an unbearable outcome to which there is nothing but uncertainty and death knocking at one's door. The author has wrote many other wonderful titles, but this is certainly one of those novels you must read in your lifetime.

6. Tinkers by Paul Harding

Opening: "George Washington Crosby began to hallucinate eight days before he died. From the rented hospital bed, placed in the middle of his own living room, he saw insects running in and out of imaginary cracks in the ceiling plaster."

Thoughts: Tinkers is a book which needs to be read by many. The story is incredibly moving, where it opens up the life of a dying man through rich details and an almost poetic narrative. I particularly loved the part where the author talks about clockwork mechanics- I've always been fascinated by clocks and the hidden secrets they contained behind its shell. 

7. Tales of the Night by Peter Hoeg

Opening: "On March 18, 1929, a young Dane, David Rehn, was in attendance when the railway line from Cabinda, near the mouth of the Congo, to Kantanga in Central Africa was dedicated to integrity."

Thoughts: I love Hoeg's writing. The way he unravels a story is much like watching an old film noir: slowly but surely with sincerity and grace.

8. The Reinvention of Love by Helen Humphreys

Opening: "It seems that I am to die again."

Thoughts: This book was a Matchbook Book Club's February pick. A wonderful story which took place during Victor Hugo's Paris. It was interesting to hear from Charles Sainte-Beuve point of view when it came to his love for Adele and the eventual downfall of the friendship between Hugo and himself as time went on.

10.  Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer

Opening: "Dom DeLuise, celebrity fat man (and five of clubs), has been implicated in the following unseemly acts in my mind's eye: He has hocked a fat globule of spittle (nine of clubs) on Albert Einstein's thick white mane (three of diamonds) and delivered a devastating karate kick (five of spades) to the groin of Pope Benedict XVI (six of diamonds)."

Thoughts: This was a very interesting read! This book had been my constant companion during all those  mornings when I could sneak in a time before work to stop by the cafe and read a chapter or two. It changed the way I look at memory. What a ride it was to read about the author's transformation from a journalist who has the occasional forgetful ways which we all have been victims of, to becoming U.S. Memory Champion. The fact that anyone can get to that point, is what makes it all the more fascinating.

11. Arctic Chill by Arnaldur Indridason

Opening: "They were able to guess his age, but had more trouble determining which part of the world he came from."

Thoughts: I've always been a fan of Scandinavian literature, but more recently, I became more fascinated with their take on Mystery and Horror. Arctic Chill sinks you in an icy world where a case of murder leaves much to the imagination. Nothing is for certain and where the answers lie, it cannot be easily found. A great night cap read.

Our March 2012 book club pick! Theme: Touching Ground (in light of our non-fiction picks).  Title: Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
12. Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

Opening: "Midnight was closing in, the one-legged woman was grievously burned, and the Mumbai police were coming for Abdul and his father."

Thoughts: This book is our Matchbook Book Club's March pick.
 By the time I finished reading this book, it was hard to imagine that everything the author wrote was not fictitious. It was a complete eye-opener to see what life is like in the slums of Mumbai and to see such contrast between these people and those who are mere steps away from the airport, and the well-off individuals living in the city. Death and suffering are facets of life which the individuals within the book are all too familiar with. I applaud Katherine Boo for being able to venture to such depths in order to capture their stories, for it is of incredible important that these stories are told.

And my current read?

I will continue to post up my reads for my 50 Book Pledge from time to time, so make sure to check back!

Take care!


  1. Wowzers, look at you go! I wish I had the dedication to read 50 books in a year. I've challenged myself to 1 a month. Not much, but it'll be a good challenge for me and one I'm fairly certain I can meet. :)

    Anyhow, found a lot of interesting sounding ones from your reviews above! My to read list is about to groooow. ;)

  2. Definitely it will be! Thanks- happy reading! :)


Thanks for brightening my day! Always love to hear what you have to say.


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