Friday, March 16, 2018


Beartown (Björnstad, #1)Beartown by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“There are few words that are harder to explain than "loyalty." It's always regarded as a positive characteristic, because a lot of people would say that many of the best things people do for each other occur precisely because of loyalty. The only problem is that many of the very worst things we do to each other occur because of the same thing.”
I had to read this for work (yes, this is a benefit of being a librarian) and didn't expect to like it. It is, according to the blurb, about people in a small town in the middle of nowhere that is obsessed with hockey. It is much more than that though and I was impressed. The writing is great, the characters were complex and interesting (though I found many of them unlikable), and the structure of the novel was brilliant. The first page tells you that someone (it doesn't say who) is going to hold a gun to someone else's head and pull the trigger. You spend the rest of the book headed for that moment, still not knowing who the people are.
I am counting this book toward the European Reading Challenge because it is set in Sweden and the author is Swedish. Oddly I didn't realize this until well into the book when someone gives somebody a kronor. Initially I thought the book was set in a tiny Canadian community (it reminds me in some ways of the town in Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World) but when someone mentioned having moved back from Canada I figured it must be set in Minnesota until I got to the kronor thing. Clearly this novel speaks to a broader truth about small town life. I loved the jokes about the people from the next town over and the reality that no matter how lame the place you are from there is somewhere else you will look down on. It is sad, but it is so human.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018


GritGrit by Angela Duckworth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“as much as talent counts, effort counts twice.” 

I heard Angela Duckworth on the TED Radio podcast and was intrigued by the idea of grit, a combination of passion and perseverance that high achievers exhibit. Duckworth is a psychologist and developed a grit scale to measure this quality. The book is full of stories about people in a wide variety of fields who she thinks are especially "gritty" and how they came to be that way. Grit is a combination of research, interviews, and how-to-apply-this info. The chapter on practice--how the quality of the practice and focusing on your weaknesses is more important to the value of the practice than quantity of time spent--was particularly interesting. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Lisa' Review: Modern Selvage Quilting

Modern Selvage Quilting by Riel Nason

My Rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I was reading a work of fiction by Riel Nason a while ago, I was curious to see what other books she had written and pleasantly discovered that she is a quilter and had authored a book on selvage quilting. I had never heard of selvage quilting, but was intrigued by the idea, so the book went on my wish list.

What a great book! Nason's instructions for how to work with selvages, the three methods for how to sew with selvages, and the 17 projects were very well organized and described, making them very easy to follow. The supporting illustrations are helpful, and the pictures are definitely a quilters 'eye candy' - or at least they are for me as I am a sucker for bright fabrics. I also really enjoyed looking at all of the various interesting selvages featured in the projects.

I would love to make a project from selvages, but not sure if I will ever get to it. If I find myself with fabrics that have interesting selvages, I may start to save some, and someday might have enough to make a project, but will need to remember to cut the selvages with 1/4 - 1 inch into the fabric to make and end result that is interesting - that is not always feasible.

On my list of projects I'd be interested in making from this book are the Make Every Scrap Count Pincushion, Pick a Color Pillow, Sewing Room Valance (super cute!), and You're a Selvage Superstar Wall Quilt. 

I now also want to check out Nason's Sew a Modern Halloween book (I love her 'Mummy Wants Fabric' mummy selvage quilt on her blog quilt gallery).

This is my seventh book read for the 11th Annual Canadian Book Challenge.

Lisa's Review: Bellevue Square

Bellevue Square by Michael Redhill

My Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Bellevue Square is the winner of the 2017 Giller Prize. My mother-in-law gave me a gift card to Chapters when I was in Canada for Christmas, and this was one of the books I picked up.

Jean Mason has a seemingly normal life - she is married, has two children and runs a bookstore in downtown Toronto. But as customers tell Jean they've seen her twin (or think they have actually seen her in places she has not been), Jean soon becomes obsessed with finding her doppelganger, and spends much of her time hanging around Kensington Market & the park of Bellevue Square to see if she can find her. From there, strange things happen.

I really enjoyed Redhill's writing...easy reading and I especially liked getting to know the different characters Jean meets in her 'stake-outs' in the park. I have to say when I got to the end, I was left with a confused 'did I love it or did I hate it?' feeling. The fact that I was having that debate with myself leans me towards a 'strong like'. A part of me wants to go back and read it again right away to see if there are other things I would pick up on now that I've finished it. It's a short enough book, that I think I will.

In the closing Acknowledgements, Redhill mentions this is a part one of a triptych of novels. I will give the next one a read when it comes out.

This is my sixth book read for the 11th Annual Canadian Book Challenge.

Monday, March 5, 2018


CelineCeline by Peter Heller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really liked the main character and her husband. And she is totally right about GPS.
“I think its a terrible invention. Nobody knows how to read a map anymore. You chase down a blue line but you have no idea where you are in the world. Like a rat in a maze. How do I ever know where I am in relation to Pikes Peak, or the South Platte? Or God?” (p. 76)
I thought the story wandered back and forth in time a bit too much though and the ending wasn't entirely satisfactory. If Heller writes them I would definitely read more Celine mysteries.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

The Ministry of Utmost HappinessThe Ministry of Utmost Happiness 
by Arundhati Roy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“And yet , the burden of perpetual apprehension that she had carried around for years - of suddenly receiving news of death - had lightened somewhat. Not because she loved him any less, but because the battered angels in the graveyard that kept watch over their battered charges held open the doors between worlds (illegally, just a crack), so that the souls of the present and the departed could mingle, like guests at the same party. It made life less determinate and death less conclusive. Somehow everything became a little easier to bear.” ― Arundhati RoyThe Ministry of Utmost Happiness

Roy braids together the stories of many people (mostly in India and Kashmir) into a stunning novel filled with horror and love and the intimate struggles of facing each day as it comes. 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Grave's a Fine and Private Place

The Grave's a Fine and Private Place (Flavia de Luce, #9)The Grave's a Fine and Private Place
by Alan Bradley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
“There are, in fact, no halos in the Bible—just as there are no cats or accordions.” 
Flavia is as indomitable as always in this latest adventure. We learn a bit about Dogger which was good, and Ms. De Luce considers what her future may bring as she untangles a mystery in a small town the family visits on holiday.
I don't think I had listened to one of these before, but this was an excellent audiobook, especially when Flavia decides that the only possible solution to a problem is to sing God Save the Queen as loudly as she can.
Set in England this is the creation of Canadian Alan Bradley and counts toward the Canadian Book Challenge

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

History of the American Suffragist Movement

History of the American Suffragist MovementHistory of the American Suffragist Movement
by Doris Weatherford
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In 1848 three hundred men and women gathered at Seneca Falls, NY and begin the work of getting American women the right to vote. The 19th amendment, which finally grants this basic democratic right to half of America's citizens, won't be ratified until 1920. This volume tells the stories of that battle and the women (and a few men) who fought it. The passion of the opposition and the internal squabbling and questionable choices of the organizations working toward votes for women make it clear why it took so long for this to happen. It seems like a miracle that it happened at all.
I am counting this book toward the 2018 non-fiction reading challenge.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

If on a Winter's Night a Traveler

If on a Winter's Night a TravelerIf on a Winter's Night a Traveler
by Italo Calvino
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
"But how to establish the exact moment in which a story begins? Everything has already begun before, the first line of the first page of every novel refers to something that has already happened outside the book. Or else the real story is the one that begins ten or a hundred pages further on, and everything that precedes it is only prologue. The lives of individuals of the human race form a constant plot, in which every attempt to isolate one piece of living that has a meaning separate from the rest--for example the meeting of two people, which will become decisive for both--must bear in mind that each of the two brings with himself a texture of events, environments, other people, and that from the meeting, in turn, other stories will be derived which will break off from their common story." (p. 153)
This book was tremendously clever and was definitely the most meta book I have ever read. It is about a reader, you, who is reading a book that is being written by another character in the book, and possibly translated by yet another, but it keeps ending abruptly and when the reader finds another copy it is another book. There is another reader also reading the same book as you. In the capable hands of Calvino this isn't confusing.

Back in 2013 Avid Reader's Musings hosted a readalong of this novel, so check out those posts for more points of view about this book.

This book is from my classics club list, but was written in 1979 so isn't old enough to qualify for the back-to-the-classics challenge. It does count toward the What's in a Name challenge as the title contains a season.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...