Reading Challenge: I’ve already found my 2018 book of the year

All things considering, I’m actually pretty impressed I’ve managed to read 10 books so far this year. Even though I’m torn between work and the hospital most of the time, I still try to schedule at least an hour of reading every morning. It’s crucial to happiness. <3  I’m about 3 books behind in my reading challenge, but here’s what I have so far!

The Only Cafe by Linden MacIntyre

Quick summary

Pierre Cormier had secrets. Though he married twice, became a high-flying lawyer and a father, he didn’t let anyone really know him. And he was especially silent about what had happened to him in Lebanon, the country he fled during civil war to come to Canada as a refugee. When, in the midst of a corporate scandal, he went missing after his boat exploded, his teenaged son Cyril didn’t know how to mourn him. But five years later, a single bone and a distinctive gold chain are recovered, and Pierre is at last declared dead. Which changes everything. Soon Cyril’s personal investigation is entangled in the larger news story, all of it twining into a fabric of lies and deception that stretches from contemporary Toronto back to the massacre at the Sabra and Shatila camps in Lebanon in September 1982.

Three-line review

I wasn’t thrilled about the ending, and it got a little politically tedious midway, but overall a great read. The characters were extremely well developed, and the plot is sharp and smart. If you have any interest in international conflict at all, you should read this book.

☆☆☆☆ / ☆☆☆☆
 

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield

Quick summary

Colonel Chris Hadfield has spent decades training as an astronaut and has logged nearly 4000 hours in space. During this time he has broken into a Space Station with a Swiss army knife, disposed of a live snake while piloting a plane, and been temporarily blinded while clinging to the exterior of an orbiting spacecraft. The secret to Col. Hadfield’s success-and survival-is an unconventional philosophy he learned at NASA: prepare for the worst-and enjoy every moment of it. Through eye-opening, entertaining stories filled with the adrenaline of launch, the mesmerizing wonder of spacewalks, and the measured, calm responses mandated by crises, he explains how conventional wisdom can get in the way of achievement-and happiness.

Three-line review

I’m the biggest Hadfield fan girl and I absolutely loved this book (other than the fact I now feel significantly unaccomplished). Such a good, inspiring read. And the space life is so fascinating! I am constantly amazed by Hadfield’s ability to stay humble and down to earth (lol punz).

☆☆☆☆☆ / ☆☆☆☆☆
 

Me Before You
 by Jojo Moyes

Quick summary
Louisa Clark is an ordinary young woman living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has never been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex-Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair-bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is. Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.

Three-line review

Mixed feelings. A unique and compelling story, but with lots of troublesome underlying themes. I can understand how this would offend some. Also, Lou’s family is the absolute fucking worst. I did not enjoy a single one of them. I also thought the random chapters from someone else’s POV were garbage.

☆☆☆ / ☆☆☆☆☆


A Wrinkle in Time
by Madeleine L’Engle

Quick summary

It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.

Meg’s father had been experimenting with this fifth dimension of time travel when he mysteriously disappeared. Now the time has come for Meg, her friend Calvin, and Charles Wallace to rescue him. But can they outwit the forces of evil they will encounter on their heart-stopping journey through space?

Three-line review

I first read this book as a child, and I LOVED it. It was one of my all-time favourites. But then I had to reread it for a book club I’m involved in, and suddenly it’s all kind of…meh. I guess my tastes have changed. I’m glad I first read this book when I still believed in magic.

☆☆☆ / ☆☆☆☆☆

 

Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat

Quick summary

More than a half-century ago the naturalist Farley Mowat was sent to investigate why wolves were killing arctic caribou. Mowat’s account of the summer he lived in the frozen tundra alone — studying the wolf population and developing a deep affection for the wolves (who were of no threat to caribou or man) — is today celebrated as a classic of nature writing, at once a tale of remarkable adventures and indelible record of myths and magic of wolves.

Three-line review

So, apparently there’s quite a bit of controversy around this book…as in, apparently Mowat made it all up. I’m not too sure on specifics. If it’s true, that’s too bad — this book is a great read. Light-hearted, humorous, and an insight look at the Canadian North. Mowat’s braggadocious tone does get annoying after awhile though.

☆☆☆☆ / ☆☆☆☆☆

 

 

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

Quick summary

Many hundreds of years ago, the city of Ember was created by the Builders to contain everything needed for human survival. It worked…but now the storerooms are almost out of food, crops are blighted, corruption is spreading through the city and worst of all—the lights are failing. Soon Ember could be engulfed by darkness…

But when two children, Lina and Doon, discover fragments of an ancient parchment, they begin to wonder if there could be a way out of Ember. Can they decipher the words from long ago and find a new future for everyone? Will the people of Ember listen to them?

Three-line review

Ungh cliff hangers!! Why?! This is why I don’t start series. But I picked this one up because of my book club, so now I’m reading this series until I die, I guess. Easy read; fun story-telling. Gotta love a good apocalyptic setting. Goes well with my obsession for Last Man on Earth.

☆☆☆☆ / ☆☆☆☆☆
 

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Quick summary

Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed in her old bedroom in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story—and survive this homecoming.

Three-line review

My god, this book was bleak. I honestly don’t know what to think about it. I read through it fairly quick, but it was disturbing and there were too many questions left unanswered for me. So much of the language was beautiful, though. It really was the strangest, most unsettling book I’ve read since Bird Box.

☆☆☆ / ☆☆☆☆☆
 

The Dogs of Nam by Christopher K. Oldfield

Quick summary

The Dogs of Nam is a collection of short stories from over a decade of world travel. Part clueless comedy, part poetic observation, The Dogs of Nam is a meditation on what it means to be a traveller. Follow along as Chris fumbles his way through life as a budget backpacker, illuminating the lessons he has learned along the way. This is no glamorous tale of #wanderlust, but a true and honest accounting of what it means to be a traveller – to connect, to explore, to let go. With tales of being stalked by a jaguar in Costa Rica to living at a Buddhist monastery in Japan, The Dogs of Nam will, at worst, entertain you, and at best, it will prod you into an adventure of your own.

Three-line review

Full disclosure: My colleague wrote this book. But I could NOT put it down! I had no idea Chris had such hilarious tales up his sleeves. It was laugh out loud funny, and the stories were well paced (and often jarring). An excellent read, although sometimes a touch too introspective for me. Highly recommend.

☆☆☆☆☆ / ☆☆☆☆☆

 

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Quick summary

Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

Three-line review

YOU GUYS this book blew me away!! I mean it. I almost NEVER pick up celebrity memoirs anymore because I’m just so sick of all the self indulgence (ahem, Mindy Kahling). But I could NOT put this book down! Noah’s brilliant story gives us an incredible glimpse of growing up in post-apartheid South Africa. But his mother is the star attraction of this entire read. This book is about his life, but I walked away from it unable to get his mother out of my head.  I could not recommend this book enough.

☆☆☆☆☆ / ☆☆☆☆☆

Have you read anything amazing lately?
  • May 29 2018
    crw

    I push Trevor Noah’s book on everyone! I did the audiobook version which he narrates. It was unbelievable and so amazing to hear him share the unbelievable stories of his life. Just wild. One of my favourite reads in a very, very long time.

    • May 30 2018
      Candice

      I remember you commenting about the audiobook! That would have been an awesome experience. I think an audiobook can make or break the story experience for me, haha. I just read The Deep End of the Ocean on audiobook and hated it.

  • May 29 2018
    Heather

    I was also amazed by Trevor Noah’s book! I hesitated at reading it for a bit because I’ve found celebrity memoirs underwhelming and some shticks on his show a tad annoying. But his book is absolutely amazing! I’ve told everyone to read it

    • May 30 2018
      Candice

      Agreed! I wasn’t a huge fan of his or anything — it was a selection for my book club. Now I’m slightly obsessed, Lol.

  • May 29 2018

    Me and my sister seem to have a book club going for years now… We live 700K apart. We were both listening to CBC radio the next chapter couple weeks ago and inadvertantly both picked up The Illuminators from the library unbeknownst to each other. And started reading it together. Its the first time in all these many years I think we’ve actually read the same book at the same time and spent the days texting each other 24/7. We have been suggesting books to each other, we have the same tastes… It’s a TOME but it’s also a must read. So read it.

    Another one I’ve read recently is War Stories by Ann MacMillan (CBC foreign reporter) and The History of Canada in Ten Maps, Alan Doyle’s latest, Full Disclosure by Beverly McLachlin of the supreme Court, ….I picked up Fire and Fury all about Trump I started reading it but suddenly felt dirty and smarmy so I returned it to the library unfinished.

    • May 30 2018
      Candice

      Hahaha “felt dirty and smarmy.” I’ll look into those! Who wrote The Illuminators?

  • May 29 2018

    Totally agree about Trevor Noah’s book! I enjoyed it SO much and also felt like I learned a lot. Almost every celebrity memoir has been disappointing in my opinion – Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling, Ellen Degeneres – but Trevor Noah’s was incredible.

    • May 30 2018
      Candice

      I agree, I rarely EVER like celebrity memoirs (maybe Bourdain’s), but this was gold. So wonderfully written and so insightful.

  • May 29 2018

    Sharp Objects was insane. It’s about to be an HBO series (filmed in my city!) so it should be interesting to see how they adapt it.
    Caroline Eubanks recently posted…Caroline in the City Guide to Charleston

    • May 30 2018
      Candice

      Ohhh wow that WILL be interesting!

  • May 29 2018
    Tharani

    Loved (and was creeped out by) Sharp Things – Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is even better! Also loved Never Cry Wolf. If you’re looking for a good next read, I just finished A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki for my book club and really enjoyed it!

  • May 30 2018
    Tharani

    Thanks for the reviews! Loved (in a horrified way) Sharp Objects – Gone Girl by the same author is also good. I just read A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki for my book club and highly recommend!

    • May 30 2018
      Candice

      I really liked Gone Girl, and A Tale For the Time Being is on my to-read list! Haha. Seems we have similar tastes!

  • July 22 2018

    So many interesting books to look into! Think I will purchase “Born a crime”! It sound really interesting :)

    • August 10 2018
      Candice

      You will not regret it, I promise!

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