Thursday, December 31, 2009

Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby

In Juliet, Naked, Duncan is obsessed with a singer-songwriter, Tucker Crowe, who hasn't recorded or even been seen in years. Annie, Duncan's girlfriend, has learned to live with this obsession. That is, until one day she decides she wants her own life. When Duncan moves out to live with another woman, Annie contacts Tucker Crowe through email. Remarkably he answers back and a relationship ensues.

This book was great. The story follows the various relationships some of which are more interesting than others. It starts off with Duncan and Annie's relationship, then progresses through Duncan's relationship with Gina, Annie's relationship with Tucker, and Tucker's relationship with Jackson. There are also Tucker's relationships (or in some cases non-relationship) with his other children and ex-wives and a few interesting side stories that keep things moving.

I enjoyed the music aspect of the book, but Duncan's obsession has him spending a great deal of time analyzing Crowe's music with other Crowologists, which was honestly lost on me. I'm amazed that people can read so much into music; I can't. I can tell you how a song makes me feel, but I generally leave the analyzing of lyrics or musical qualities to others. Having said that, I found it all interesting and the fact that I was lost didn't stop me from enjoying the book.

I loved the scenes about Fake Tucker or Fucker, as everyone called him. His antics, the situation, the mistaken identity; it seemed so absurd. It was a little jarring when little Jackson spoke his name, though. No one in the book seemed to think it was odd.

I don't know if I liked the characters all that much. I loved reading about them, but I don't think they'd be my friends. Maybe a bit too sullen for my liking. Maybe a bit too much like me. It seemed to me that most of them were lonely and looking for something more to enhance their lives. The exception being Gav and Barnsey, who were certainly an odd pair and the life of the party. Even though the characters were a bit gloomy, there's a great deal of wit in the story and it fun to read.

I really loved the ending, especially the last few pages. It took me a few minutes to figure out what was going on, but then I laughed out loud.

I haven't read any other book by Hornby, but of course I'd heard of him. I love discovering new-to-me authors who have a few books under their belt. That way I have more of their work to read should I like the one I'm reading. I'm definitely going to check out his other books.


For more information about this book, please visit the Penguin website.

For more information about the author or her other book, please visit Nick Hornby's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Penguin Canada for this review copy.

Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby, Riverhead Books (Penguin Group), ©2009. ISBN 9781594488870(Uncorrect Proof), 405p.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sand Sharks by Margaret Maron

In Sand Sharks, Judge Deborah Knott is attending a conference for district court judges. While there she discovers the body of one of her colleagues. She soon finds out that he isn't well liked making the suspect list very long. She wishes that her husband Dwight, a Sheriff's Deputy, was here to help, but he's off taking care of some family matters. Deborah has her work cut out for her if she hopes to solve this mystery and bring the culprit to justice.

I really enjoyed this book. A suspenseful story with interesting characters keeps the readers guessing until the end. This book is part of a long-standing series, but I think it can be enjoyed on its own. Having said that, I haven't read any of the other books and a few times I wish I had, especially when past events were discussed. I don't think I missed anything to do with this mystery, though.

As the book progressed, I gradually became more fond of the Judge Knott character. Not that I didn't start out liking her, it's just that the more I read about her, the more I wanted to read. I would have liked to see how she interacted with Dwight, but I'll see that when I read other books in the series. ;)

I particularly enjoyed the ancient quotes that preceded each chapter. They served as a nice introduction to each section. The legal jargon and conversations were less interesting and lost me a few times.

I've read lots of books where the point of view shifts around from character to character and from first person to third and I enjoyed them very much. In fact, I think it's an interesting approach. However, here it was introduced so late in the book (more than half way), it was jarring and seemed a little unnatural. I'm not sure why the author chose to write the story this way. I'm now curious to see if her other books were written similarly.

Recommended. I'd like to read more books from this series and perhaps some of Maron's other books.

For more information about this book, please visit the Hachette Book Group website.

For more information about the author, please visit Margaret Maron's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Hachette Book Group for this review copy.

Sand Sharks by Margaret Maron, Grand Central Publishing, ©2009. ISBN 9780446196116(Advance Reading Copy), 291p.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Best of 2009

It's fun reading all of the "best of" lists each year, so once again I've decided to create my own. Just to be a little different, I've created some categories. Hopefully, next year I'll be a little more creative with these. Note that these are books I read this year and not necessarily published this year.

In no particular order, here's Daisy's Best of 2009.

Books that I will remember for a long time:
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
The Housekeeper and the Professor: A Novel by Yoko Ogawa
Ravens by George Dawes Green
Six Suspects by Vikas Swarup
Slumdog Millionaire by Vikas Swarup
Library of the Dead by Glenn Cooper
We Need to Talk About Kevin: A Novel by Lionel Shriver

Excellent books that I thoroughly enjoyed reading, but were not quite as memorable as those above:
Any Known Blood by Lawrence Hill
The Castaways: A Novel by Elin Hilderbrand
Home by Marilynne Robinson
The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly
The Girl Next Door by Elizabeth Noble
A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
An Accidental Light by Elizabeth Diamond
Addition by Toni Jordan
The House at Midnight by Lucie Whitehouse
Into the Beautiful North: A Novel by Luis Alberto Urrea
La's Orchestra Saves the World by Alexander McCall Smith

The one book that scared me so much that I'd rather not remember all of the details:
Afraid by Jack Kilborn

Books that changed the way I look at my life and the world:
How to Be an Explorer of the World: Portable Life Museum by Keri Smith
Going Gray: How to Embrace Your Authentic Self with Grace and Style by Anne Kreamer
My Little Red Book by Rachel Kauder Nalebuff
The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food by Jennifer 8 Lee

Well, that's it. I'd definitely recommend all of these. Do you have a "best of" list or a book to recommend?

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Opposite of Love by Julie Buxbaum

In The Opposite of Love, Emily Haxby breaks up with her boyfriend just as she thinks he's about to propose. However, after awhile, she begins to think she's made a mistake. It doesn't take long for other things in her life to start falling apart and Emily must face her fears, rejection and the loss of Grandpa Jack before things can turn around for her.

I admit I let this book sit on my bookshelf because I thought it was going to be another bubbly chick-lit book with a heroine who's her own worst enemy in the shopping/dating/marriage/work world. I was so wrong. It was great! I enjoyed every minute of it. All of my preconceived (and incorrect) notions were thrown out the window after the first chapter or two. I'm glad something finally spurred me to pick this one up.

There was an overall sense of sadness to the book, but I didn't find it depressing. I worried about Emily when I wasn't reading the book. It didn't seem like anything was going to go her way and I kept hoping for a glimmer of hope or something to keep her going. Of course, the ending had me in tears, but I wouldn't have wanted to see it end any other way.

As for characters, I liked them all, but I loved both Grandpa Jack and ever-so-lively Ruth. I could see why they were friends. I could also see why Emily cared deeply for Grandpa Jack and eventually for Ruth.

My favourite quote from this book appears on page 57, when Emily lists the things she's learned from Grandpa Jack:
To tie my shoes, to always carry a book, to say please and thank you and follow up with a card, to daydream as a hobby, to tip big, to question the existence of God, to grin through pain. To show up.

Recommended. I can't wait to read After You which has also been sitting on my bookshelf. I hope to get to it sooner rather than later.

Want to see what others have said about this book? Here's one from Jonita at The Book Chick.

For more information about this book, please visit the Penguin website.

For more information about the author or her other book, please visit Julie Buxbaum's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Penguin Canada for this review copy.

The Opposite of Love by Julie Buxbaum, Penguin, ©2009. ISBN 9780143054795(Paperback), 303p.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

One Hundred Butterflies by Harold Feinstein

In One Hundred Butterflies, Harold Feinstein presents a collection of photographs of butterflies and moths from around the world. Quotes and information about the insects accompany the images.

This an absolutely gorgeous book. The photographs are exquisite. The layout with one butterfly/photograph per page is an ideal way to view these beauties. All of the glorious colours and shapes really standout against the black backgrounds. Even the endpapers are beautiful.

Inside, you'll find butterflies with odd names, such as: Welling's Gaudy Checkerspot, page18; Anna's Eighty-Eight, page 52; Drury Callicore, page 53; Painted Jezebel, page 84; Stinky Leaf Wing Butterfly, page 91; and the African Blue Salamis, page 99. I was amazed and surprised by the butterflies that have very different colouring on their top and bottom sides. I had no idea these existed. Examples include: Owl Butterfly, page 34-35, which is yellow and blue on the top, but has owl-like features on the underside; Blue Morpho, page 37; and the Variable Cracker, page 38. I was also taken aback by the unique shapes of the Indian Leaf, page 92-93, and the Dead-Leaf, page 98; the luminous beauty of the Jungle Queen page 94-95; the batik-dyed quality of the Lacewing, page 118-119; and the stained glass effect on the Glasswing page 124.

There are lovely quotes scattered throughout the book, which make a great addition to the images. Some of these quotes have to do with butterflies; others with nature and beauty. I loved them as well as the interesting and relevant information about the butterflies and moths.

Of all of the photographs, I'd be hard pressed to pick a favourite. I'll just say that my favourite is the one I looked at last. ;)

One nice addition for the book would have been a scale of some kind to give me and other the viewers an idea of the size of these marvellous creatures. I found this especially true of the Pandora Sphinx Moth. As first I thought it was not only unusual, but also quite beautiful. As I wondered about it more, I thought it could also look quite scary if it was shown full size (which I hope it's not.)

I loved the following line from the author's note at the beginning of the book:
The earth laughs with flowers, but it dances with butterflies (page 7).

Recommended. This book would make a lovely gift and/or coffee table book. Butterfly lovers, nature photographers, artists and those interested in these subjects would especially love this book. I'll be on the lookout for Feinstein's other books.

For more information about this book, please visit the Hachette Book Group website.

For more information about the author and his other works, please visit Harold Feinstein's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Hachette Book Group for this book.

One Hundred Butterflies by Harold Feinstein, Little, Brown and Company, ©2009. ISBN 9780316033633(Hardcover), 128p.