The Man Who Forgot How to Read – Review

2nd Canadian Book Challenge, Eh?
The Man Who Forgot How to ReadThe Man Who Forgot How to Read

by Howard Engel

genre: Non-Fiction

I read this book as part of the CBC Book Club and the day the book came I decided to read it for the 24 Hour Read-a-Thon.  I really wanted to get as much out of this book as possible but I had difficulty enjoying it.  There came a point about half way through that I made the decision I needed to keep reading to make sure I got it done.  The Man Who Forgot How to Read was not as interesting as I had hoped it would be.  

Howard Engel is a mystery writer of the Benny Cooperman series.  One morning Engel woke up and found the world was different than it was the night before.  Upon going to the hospital and getting things checked out it turned out Engel had a stroke and it had some lasting effects on his ability to read.  When he tried to read the paper he could recognize the individual letters but when they were put together to form words and sentences he had no idea what was going on.

The other day I got an email from Hannah Sung and I responded to it.  I want to pass it our conversation on to you:How’s it going? Hope you aren’t too headache-y today. I’m not stalking you – just read your blog, which is how I know that about you….

…also, I know that you couldn’t stand Howard Engel’s book. Sorry to hear that! But I’m dying to know….why?

Bye for now,
H

I sent her the following message in response:

Hi Hannah!

Today isn’t too bad, I wish it was better than it is but I can live with how things are going today.  Thanks for asking.  Come now, I know you’re stalking me lol!  It’s actually funny you mention that, there are two people in Stratford I see regularly and all my friends and I refer to them as my stalkers, perhaps I’ll need to add you to the list now too!  hahaha. Anyway, I’m glad to see you’re stopping by my blog and reading things.  

As you saw I read The Man Who Forgot How to Read for the 24 hour Read-a-Thon and I didn’t really like it.  There are a couple of reasons for not liking this book.  I guess the number one reason I didn’t like it is because I felt the book was quite repetitive, it was already a short book and I think he could/should have gone into more detail in several aspects of his life (before and after the stroke). The other aspect that bothered me was the fact that I still don’t really know how he’s worked through the problem.  Well, I guess that’s still a lack of detail issue because he touched on it but I was expecting a lot more about that.  

Now I think I should also say that I’ve read a book by Oliver Sacks (The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat) and I didn’t like that very much either.  I didn’t like his book for the same reasons I didn’t like this one.  

Perhaps if I’ve read one of Howard Engel’s books I may have a different perspective on this book.  I may even enjoy it more if I read a book from before and one from after.  I haven’t read one of his books because I really have difficulty reading that particular genre.  And sadly this book didn’t inspire me to want to read anything else he’s written.

Thank for email, I’m really looking forward to what may be next on the list of books.  It’s been an interesting discussion this month.

Aaron

Advertisements

The Cellist of Sarajevo – Review

2456928072_52e0779c22
sarajevo1The Cellist of Sarajevo

by: Steven Galloway

Genre: Historical Fiction

This is one of the few books I’ve already read for The 2nd Canadian Book Challenge.  I’ve read several reviews out there about Steven Galloway’s The Cellist of Sarajevo and couldn’t resist reading it any longer.  This is a wonderful book and was very glad I picked it up.  It’s one of those books that have the potential of altering the way a person thinks and lives.

This is a story that surrounds an actual event.  During the conflict 22 people were murdered while waiting for bread in the local square.  Because of this famed cellist, Vedrin Smailovic, risked his life to play his cello for 22 days in honor of the 22 people that were killed.  

Galloway tells the story through the eyes of three different characters.  Each of which has a different relationship with the situation and the cellist.  Personally my favourite story was that of Arrow who needed to protect the cellist during the time he played, to help keep moral up.  

There were so many touching moments and the end brought tears to my eyes.  In the world we currently live in there are many times we live without hope.  This novel is full of inspiration and above all hope.  It’s not a difficult read and deals with the subject of war as well as it can be dealt with.  There was never a moment I wanted to stop reading, I just devoured this novel and I’m already of thinking of reading it a second time.  And I’m not one to read novels several times, the only two I’ve ever read multiple times were: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and George Orwell’s Animal Farm.  

If you haven’t read The Cellist of Sarajevo yet you are definitely missing out.  This is definitely a novel not to be missed.  

 

Vedrin Smailovic, The Cellist of Sarajevo
Vedrin Smailovic, The Cellist of Sarajevo

Here some others that have reviewed The Cellist of Sarajevo:

Farm Lane Books Blog seems to have enjoyed the book as much as I did.
http://www.farmlanebooks.co.uk/?p=712

As usual B&b ex libris has a wonderful review of this book.

http://exlibrisbb.blogspot.com/2009/04/cellist-of-sarajevo.html

If you would like to have your review added to this list send me an email with the link to your review and it will be added.

The Gargoyle – Review

2456928072_52e0779c22

thegargoyleThe Gargoyle

By Andrew Davidson

Genre: Fiction/Historical Fiction

I think I may have a new favourite book! The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson is a book that had me captivated from the very first sentence, “Accidents ambush the unsuspecting, often violently, just like love.” Davidson is very eloquent making it very difficult to set the book down. I actually ended up staying up rather late last night to finish this amazing novel.

The story is of a man severely burned from an accident in his vehicle and Marianne. There are various aspects of their lives that are revealed throughout the novel. As their time together progresses Marianne tells him stories of love and of their past lives. Marianne deals with several bouts of a mental disorder that isn’t exactly clear and because of it she has manic moments of carving gargoyles.

I will say that I rarely get so emotionally involved in books that I read but it an option while reading this one. The last 50 or so pages were difficult to read because of the welling of tears. I was actually quite shocked to that this happened because I cannot even remember the last time I became so emotionally involved in a book. But I would say it was a great aspect of this novel.

To top everything else off it was great to find out that Andrew Davidson is from Winnipeg. Another great Canadian novel. I must thank those of you that suggested I read this when putting down you favourite Canadian novels in my giveaway. I am very excited to see what will come from Andrew Davidson next because his writing is beautiful. And for those of you that like to read about food the description of their feasts are enough to make you drool.

Get your hands on a copy of this novel as soon as you can!

Here are some others that have also reviewed the book:

The Book Lady’s Blog has a wonderful review.
http://thebookladysblog.com/2008/07/02/book-review-the-gargoyle-by-andrew-davidson/

Devourer of Books focuses more on the beginning of the novel but it’s what drew her into this fantastic novel.
http://www.devourerofbooks.com/2008/05/the-gargoyle-book-review/

Joy’s Blog seems to have enjoyed the novel as well.
http://jlshall.blogspot.com/2008/09/review-gargoyle.html

Over at Fresh Ink Books you can see a little on the novel.
http://freshinkbooks.blogspot.com/2009/03/tss-books-read-this-week.html

The Raabe Review has an amazing review of this book.
http://theraabereview.com/book-reviews/the-gargoyle-by-andrew-davidson/#comment-677

Another review can be found at Reading Adventures.
http://readingadventures.blogspot.com/2008/11/gargoyle-by-andrew-davidson.html

If you would like your review added send me an email and I’ll be more than happy to add your review as well.

The Fat Woman Next Door is Pregnant – Review

2456928072_52e0779c22

ladynextdoorThe Fat Woman Next Door is Pregnant

By Michel Tremblay

Genre: Fiction

My first encounter with the genius that is Michel Tremblay came in the theatre while watching Les Belles Soeurs and from the moment the curtain rose. His characters are quirky and often very witty, they are women that you wish you shared a neighborhood. Once the “BINGO” scene happened I could do nothing but love Tremblay and his cornucopia of Quebecois women.

The next time I encountered Tremblay it was a beautiful tribute to his mother that passed away before she had the opportunity to any of Michel Tramblay’s works enacted on the stage. For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again is a stellar work of art that shows a man’s love for his mother. Since seeing this show I’ve wanted to read a novel composed by Tremblay. If you ever get the opportunity to see anything by Tremblay take it…at any cost (if I can out to the Shaw Festival this summer I will be seeing Albertine in Five Times).

When I saw that The Fat Woman Next Door is Pregnant was going to be a part Canada Reads 2009 I was thrilled to read the novel. It was full of the same wonderful characters I came to love on the stage. I will admit that there were times that I had difficulty getting with the novel but once I got over the barrier I devoured the novel. I enjoyed the novel but I wouldn’t say it should your first encounter with Canadian literature because there is better stuff out there.

Michel Tremblay is one of Canada’s often forgot literary treasures and shouldn’t be left behind with other great Canadian French writers like Roch Carrier. The Fat Woman Next Door is Pregnant is a novel that should have been part of Canada Reads many times over but it’s not the novel that should get the accolades of THE novel all Canadians should read but the author is someone everyone should, no needs, to discover.

What others are say about The Fat Woman Next Door is Pregnant:

Roughing it in the Books gives info on the cover and a review worth reading.
http://www.roughingitinthebooks.com/?p=262

The Keepin’ it Real Book Club seems to have similar thoughts as I did on this novel.
http://kirbc.wordpress.com/2009/01/19/the-fat-woman-next-door-is-pregnant-by-michel-tremblay/

Reader of the Stack has some insightful comments on the novel.
http://www.readerofthestack.com/tag/sheila-fischman

As usual if you’re interested in having your reviewed listed here send an email to thatsthebook@gmail.com

The Book of Negroes – Review

2456928072_52e0779c22

bookofnegroesThe Book of Negroes

By Lawrence Hill

Genre: Historical fiction

Winner of Canada Reads 2009, The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize

This is the book of conversation this month for the new CBC Book Club, it’s no wonder why this book was selected since it did win Canada Reads 2009. This was the book that I said would win the competition before it even began. I knew it would win because it entered the competition with lots of literary cred because it was already the winner of the Commonwealth Prize and it was up for Giller Prize.

Now, I will admit here that I didn’t want to enjoy the book because I like to see the underdog win and I also like to think that part of Canada Reads is to bring people to new novels. But once I started reading the novel I couldn’t help but like it. There are times that I really enjoy this genre but other times I just find it to be too cumbersome. This novel was a great read and I found myself constantly looking forward to what would happen to Aminata next.

The one downside of this particular novel was actually how good Aminata had it while a slave in America. It seemed like, for the most part, he owners were quite good to her. She was taught to read and became rather influential with her second owner. This part made me rather sceptical about the novel but this is a rather minor complaint given the first owner did demean her. I was surprised how well read she became over the course of her years in America. It seemed to me that her time in Nova Scotia was worse than her time in America which I found rather shocking. I had no idea this is what life was like for an African at that time in Canada and even more surprised they helped setup the first colony of free slaves in Africa.

If for nothing else this novel is full of history, with many new insights of the time. I didn’t know where the title came from and had no idea such a document existed. And the idea (I don’t know how factual this part is) that such a document would have been recorded by an African even more shocking.

The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill is a wonderful novel that should not only be read by all Canadians but all people. The novel is full of history and it has the ability to entertain as well which is a great feat the author accomplished. Great novel and if you get the chance to read The Book of Negroes go for it.

Here are others that have reviewed the book, if you’d like to be included in this list feel free to send me an email with a link to your post:

kiss a cloud seem takes a wonderful look at this book.
http://kissacloud.blogspot.com/2009/02/book-of-negroes-by-lawrence-hill.html

Beattie’s Book Blog looks at the historical side of this novel.
http://beattiesbookblog.blogspot.com/2009/02/book-of-negroes-lawrence-hill-doubleday.html

I didn’t mention in my review that book can found by a different name outside of Canada. If you aren’t from Canada and want to read The Book of Negroes look for Someone Knows My Name.

Readers in the Mist give a great summary of the novel with some thoughts on the book.
http://readersinthemist.blogspot.com/2008/12/someone-knows-my-name-published-in.html

Pickle Me This has a great review of this novel.
http://picklemethis.blogspot.com/2009/01/pickle-me-this-reads-canada-reads-book.htm

Weekly Review # 10

This past was a rather eventful week in the Canadian book work with Canada Reads 2009 having taken place.  As usual I had a lot of fun listening to the panelists discuss the books up for the top prize.  Now I’m sure many people are hitting the book stores and local libraries for copies to the winning novel, The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill.  Now that Canada Reads is over for another year CBC has finally come to their senses and have started a book club, which so far seems fantastic!

While being engrossed with the Canada Reads contest I also got some reading completed this week.  I finished Michel Tremblay’s The Fat Woman Next Door is Pregnant which I had difficulties getting into but in the end I’ve enjoyed the novel.  That makes for three books completed for the 2nd Canadian Book Challenge.  I also have the other two novels that were on the Canada Reads 2009 short list.

I also finished my first giveaway and there were some great novels suggested by those that entered the giveaway.  From that list I’ve already gone out and purchased one of the books on the list, The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson and I’m really excited to get reading this book.  But before I get to that one I have a couple other books that I’m reading right now for book club purposes, Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh and An Abundance of Katherines by John Green.

This past week I also managed to finish the graphic novel Watchmen.  It was alright but I’m sure I’ll give a more substantial review than that later this week.  I wanted to finish it before I watched the movie this weekend.  And I found the movie to be mediocre at best but that’s also for another time.

This week I hope to get An Abundance of Katherines finished as well as finishing John Updike’s Rabbit Run, which has been put on the back burner for a while so I hope to get the last few pages finished this week.

Until next time happy reading.

Fruit – Review

2456928072_52e0779c22I’ve been really slow on the uptake here. I’ve finally read my first book for The 2nd Canadian Book Challenge, Eh! Not only have I read this book for this particular challenge but I’m also reading this for Canada Reads 2009. I hope to get all the Canada Reads 2009 books but I know they probably won’t be finished before the winner is selected but that’s alright.

fruitFruit

By Brian Francis

Genre: Fiction/Humor

I’m not really sure what to say about this book. It was amazing and I laughed out loud several times while reading this. It got so much attention that people at work have been asking to borrow the book. So it’ll start making its rounds, in fact someone else has the novel already.

The story is told by the teen aged Peter Paddington who is over weight and believes his nipples are evil. Peter is such a well developed character I could see him and hear his voice from the opening statements in the novel, “My name is Peter Paddington. I just started grade 8 at Clarkedale Elementary School. Six days a week, I deliver the Sarnia Observer and the other day, my nipples popped out.” Throughout the novel Peter tells us everything that is going on and what he thinks about the people and situations.

It’s no wonder that this book was one of the selections for Canada Reads 2009. I’m really keen to see what Jen Sookfong Lee (the defender of Fruit by Brian Francis) and the others on the panel have to say about this wildly humors novel. This was a great choice for my first book to read in the Canada Reads 2009 competition. I’ve also started The Book of Negroes and it’s fantastic but not even close to being in the same category as Fruit.

I’ve decided to do a google search to find some fellow reviewers of the books I’m reviewing and will be posting links to their review. If you’re interested in checking out their reviews just click the link. Also, if you’re interested in having you’re review added to the list this can be done by emailing the link to your review to thatsthebook@gmail.com. Here are the reviews I’ve come across on my google search for Fruit:

The Book Zombie a fellow Canadian reviewed this book for Canada Reads 2009 as well.
http://bookzombie.blogspot.com/2009/01/tss-canada-reads-highlight-on-fruit-by.html

The Keepin’ It Real Book Club has a witty review of the book.
http://kirbc.wordpress.com/2008/11/30/fruit-by-brian-francis/

Reader of the Stack is another blogger that’s read Fruit for Canada Reads 2009
http://www.readerofthestack.com/canada-reads%20/canada-reads-2009-fruit-by-brian-francis

Pickle Me This is yet another Canada Reads 2009 reader.
http://picklemethis.blogspot.com/2009/02/pickle-me-this-reads-canada-reads-fruit.html

If this a book that’s been of interest to you remember you could be the winner of the winner of the Canada Reads 2009 novel by entering my giveaway.