We’re moving …

…And so are the book reviews.

Despite best intentions, this has stopped being a weekly book blog. And it is only going to get worse.  I am about to move across the country. I will be either getting a new job or going back to school. In either case, the blog is likely to drop further down the priority list.

So I made a decision last night: One book Per Week is being merged into my personal blog, http://nataliejoan.wordpress.com/. I have changed up the format, and added a secondary menu so Book Reviews have their own tag in the navigation bar. I may rename/rebrand the whole blog, but haven’t decided that for sure.

For the next while I will post an update here, with links back to the new location . Eventually I will phase out this site all together. Thanks for reading, and see you on the other site.


2013 To Be Read (TBR) Challenge

book pileWell, I performed rather abysmally with last year’s challenge. I read and reviewed 6 of 12 books. I did read, but not review one other: Uncle Tom’s Cabin. I just didn’t get into last year’s list that much. Guess that’s why the books had sat in the pile for so long already.

The time has come (arguably, the time has passed) to make my 2013 list. I am late putting it together, so not officially registering the list with Roof Beam Reader’s blog to be eligible for prizes. Just making the list for my own purposes.

Remember the details. The goal is to finally read 12 books from my “to be read” pile, within the next 12 months. Each of the 12 books must have been on my bookshelf or “To Be Read” list for at least one full year. This means the book cannot have a publication date of 1/1/2012 or later. Two (2) alternates are allowed, just in case one or two of the books end up in the “can’t get through” pile. And so.

My Twelve Chosen:

  1. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  2. Annabel by Kathleen Winter
  3. Dubliners by James Joyce
  4. A Short History of Progress by Ronald B. Wright
  5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  6. A Fair Country by John Ralston Saul
  7. The Sentimentalists by Johanna Skibsrud

  8. Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
  9. Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood
  10. The Navigator of New York by Wayne Johnson
  11. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
  12. Robert The Bruce: Steps to the Empty Throne by Nigel Tranter

Two Alternates:

  1. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
  2. Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe

In addition, I also pleadge to read at least 40 books this year. Do you have a reading challenge for 2013? What’s on your list?

Read local!

ImageMy friend Kat will soon have her first novel The Night Has Teeth published by a new local publisher: Fierce Ink Press. As part of the process, they are running a crowdfunding campaign to support a limited edition print run.

Are you a fan of young adult novels? Love stories about werewolves and other monsters? Have a thing for books set in Paris? If you answered yes to any of the above, you need to check out The Night Has Teeth, and consider supporting the campaign.


The Night Has Teeth by Kat Kruger

There’s a darkness that lurks in the City of Light

Seventeen-year-old Connor Lewis is chased by a memory. On his first day of kindergarten he bit a boy hard enough to scar the kid for life. Since then he’s been a social outcast at a New York private school.

Through an unexpected turn of good fortune, he lands a scholarship to study in Paris, where everything starts to look up. On the first day he befriends two military brats, and he may finally get a taste of what it’s like to be a normal teenager.

It doesn’t last.

His host family — an alluring young tattoo artist and her moody, handsome boyfriend — inadvertently introduce him to the underworld of werewolves where there are two types: the born and the bitten. Those born to it take the form of elegant wolves, while the latter are cursed to transform into the half-man, half-beast creatures of horror movies. The bitten rarely survive. Unfortunately, Connor is on the wanted list of a four hundred-year-old bitten human who’s searching for both a cure and a means of wiping out werewolves for good.

Connor’s loyalties are tested as he becomes embroiled in a conflict where werewolves, mad science and teen angst collide.

Author Biography
Kat Kruger is a freelance writer and social media consultant with a degree in public relations from Mount Saint Vincent University. The Night Has Teeth is her first novel and won the 34th Atlantic Writing Competition. She splits her time between Toronto and Halifax with her husband.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Death first meets Liesel Meminger when he comes to take her brother away, and he visits her again many times before he comes to claim her. Death doesn’t make a habit of observing the living, he is generally too busy – and never more so than in Nazi Germany. The book thief is an exception. She cannot be ignored.

“Where are my manners? I could introduce myself properly, but it’s not really necessary. You will know me well enough and soon enough, depending on a diverse range of variables. It suffices to say that at some point in time, I will be standing over you, as genially as possible. Your soul will be in my arms. A colour will be perched on my shoulder. I will carry you gently away.”

When I discovered that the narrator of our next book club selection was Death – and that the main character was a young girl – I was not looking forward to the read. I wanted something a little… well, easier. This just sounded like too much. Once again, I was glad to be proven wrong.

 “It’s a small story really, about, among other things:
* A girl
* Some words
* An accordionist
* Some fanatical Germans
* A Jewish fist fighter
* And quite a lot of thievery”

The Book Thief tells the story of Liesel, an eleven year old girl whose younger brother dies beside her on the train as they are being delivered to the home of foster parents by a mother who she will never see again. Liesel steals her first book at her brother’s funeral: The Grave Digger’s Handbook – A Twelve-Step Guide to Grave-Digging Success. With the help of her new foster-father, she learns to read with this strange muse, and goes on to liberate books from burnings and under-used libraries.

The Book Thief shows a less explored aspect of war history – that of a child growing up in Germany under the Nazi regime. A child whose family does not agree with Nazi principles, but is powerless to do anything about it. Liesel and her family live in Molching, a small town outside Munich, and on the road to Dachau. A parade of Jews on their way to the concentration camp is a common sight. Liesel must join the Hitler Youth. Her town is in constant threat of air raids. Life is a struggle, and yet children will be children.

“He was the crazy one who had painted himself black and defeated the world.
She was the book thief without the words.
Trust me, though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived, Liesel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like rain.” 

Having had a year when I am disappointed by books far more often than I enjoy them, I found myself in the awkward position of describing a book narrated by Death as a “breath of fresh air.” The Book Thief covers dark subject matter, yet it is whimsical, fantastical and uplifting. Liesel is a plucky heroine of the Anne Shirley sort, always able to rise above her circumstances. Death is a surprisingly clever and astute narrator. Word-nerds will rejoice in the descriptions of  a ‘soft, yellow-dressed afternoon’ or the aptly put “I am haunted by humans.”

Paperback: 576 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (Sep 11 2007)
ISBN-10: 0375842209
ISBN-13: 978-0375842207

The Pirate Rebel by Elizabeth Peirce

Ned Jordan just can’t seem to get a break. After participating in the failed Irish rebellion against the English in 1798, he faces execution for treason, but trades information about other rebel organizers for his freedom and a pardon. While this buys him a few years, eventually, the friends and family of those he betrayed catch up to him and he escapes to North America with his young family, including his wife Margaret.

Ned dreams big, but his execution is somewhat lacking. All he finds in  New York, Quebec City and Gaspe is failure and petty crime. Convincing Margaret to trust him on one last move, he brings his still growing family to Halifax.  Here, he puts all his remaining resources, and an extensive amount of credit, into building his ship Three Sisters and when his debtors come to collect, his desperation turns deadly.

The Pirate Rebel: The Story of Notorious Ned Jordan is a fascinating story of piracy, murder and desperation – one that takes place in our own backyard, yet is surprisingly unheard of locally. Ned’s story is shocking, yet Peirce tells it in such a way that I found myself sympathizing with him, desperately hoping against all logic that things might finally go his way.

Even more interesting is the story of Margaret Jordan – who was she? what was the full extent of her involvement in her husbands murderous actions? The answers are long since lost to history.

Paperback: 160 pages

Publisher: Nimbus Publishing, 2009

ISBN-10: 1551096242

ISBN-13: 978-1551096247


Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

ImageThere’s a shipwreck, a murder, some treason and rebellion, and yes of course, a kidnapping. All in less than 250 pages.

I had no idea when I picked this up that it was actually written for children/young adults (I bought the Kobo version, not one of the classic paperbacks that look like kids books). As I read a lot of YA anyway it mattered little. What I wanted was a good story set in Jacobite Scotland, and that’s what I got.

After the death of his father, young David Balfour learns of an uncle he never knew and a family fortune that is rightfully is. He sets of on a solo trek through the highlands of Scotland to find an uncle who is far from welcoming, and instead arranges to have him kidnapped into servitude on a ship. He escapes this terrible fate only through more bad luck – a shipwreck. Finally, David finds himself teamed up with a Jacobite adventurer, Alan Breck Stewart, who is wanted for the murder of a prominent Scot.

The two forge an unlikely friendship as they trek the Scottish countryside, and through their adventures, David transforms from a scared and uncertain young orphaned boy into a confident and experienced young man.

Overall, a charming book in the classic Romantic style (classic adventure-Romance, not love story romance). Note: You will want to be confident in your Scottish history – or keep Wikipedia handy – to follow the politics of the time.

Publisher: Cassell and Company Ltd

Publication date: 1886

Pages: 136

ISBN: 0-486-41026-9

Way to Go by Tom Ryan

It’s the summer of 1994, and Danny’s friends have a mission: he is going to get laid before he starts grade twelve in the fall. Danny however, is just not-that-into girls. Determined to prove once and for all that he is not gay, Danny decides to find a girl to set him straight, and when he suddenly finds himself working at the town’s new restaurant with Lisa, who is visiting from New York City for the summer, Danny thinks his problems might be over.

Maybe Lisa had appeared out of nowhere for a reason. I was kind of like a frog in a fairy tale who needed a kiss from a princess so he could turn into a prince. Only, instead of a frog, I was a might-be-gay kid who needed straightening out, and instead of a princess, she was a cigarette-smoking tattooed city girl with a bag full of mix tapes. I figured that was close enough.

But of course it is not that simple. Lisa is awesome and they have a great time together, but Danny just doesn’t see her that way. And his friends, especially Kierce, with all his rules about life and partying and girls, do not let up. Life-long friendships are strained, some will not fully recover.

Set in small town Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Way to Go is a serious look at the loneliness and isolation encountered growing up gay, but manages to stay light-hearted, with characters who make mistakes yet refuse to wallow in their troubles.

I found myself wanting to know more about Danny and Lisa when the book ended. Does Danny go to cooking school, or is it perhaps a passing inspiration, but not the end goal? Does he see Lisa again, perhaps years down the road? How does his friendship with Jay change after he admits he’s gay (or does it)? How will he tell his father, and will his father ever accept it? I am not saying these are things that Ryan ought to have addressed, but rather I think a good book should leave you wondering and wanting more. This one did. I look forward to more from Tom Ryan – and hear he has a new one coming in Spring of 2013!

Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Orca Book Publishers (April 1 2012)
ISBN-10: 145980077X
ISBN-13: 978-1459800779