Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet


Daniel Tammet is a high functioning autistic savant. Similar to the main character from Rainmain, he can calculate huge sums in his head, tell you what day of the week you were born, and recite pi to 22,000 and something digits. Daniel wasn't diagnosed as autistic until late in life, which had him and his parents questioning some of his behaviour as a child. Daniel takes us through his life, how he sees words and numbers, how he functions in the world, and what has happened to him since people became aware of his condition and he was featured in a tv show.

Daniel himself says that he has trouble expressing his emotions and at times this comes across in the book. While describing his adult life, things are rather cold and it's hard to connect with what Daniel is saying. He goes on for pages and pages about language and how words are formed in different languages but it has absolutely nothing to do with him or his story. It's just him describing something, and is completely out of place in the book. These parts I found difficult to get through.

The most interesting part of the book was him describing his years as a child. He goes through all the troubles he had with social settings but also how much his parents loved and helped him.

Daniel seems like a pretty interesting guy. I found a TED talk of him and listened to most of it though it seemed like similar material from the book.

First Line: "I was born on January 31, 1979 - a Wednesday."


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Book of Awesome by Neil Pasricha


From the blogger of, comes this book that talks, ad nauseam, of things that are AWESOME! This book can be fun when you digest it in small chunks. As gross as this is going to sound, it would actually make a good bathroom book. Do your business, read a few awesome things, and go on your merry way. This isn't the way I read it though, and about half way through just skipped the descriptions of items I wasn't that interested in.

Some of these items have way more description than necessary. For example, 'When there's leftover cake in the office kitchen' has a three page description! What is there to describe about cake being left in the kitchen. Grab a fork and chow down, that's all you need!

There were some awesome things that you smile and agree with. Popping bubble wrap, a long hug when you really need it, and snow days. I'm surprised that finding a parking spot at the front of the mall isn't one... especially during Christmas that's always a favourite of mine!

If you do pick up this book, take your time with it.

First Line: "So what's this all about?"


Monday, December 28, 2015

Life on the Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers


Claire and her mother exchange notes on the refrigerator door because with their busy schedules that's sometimes the only way they can communicate. Claire is a typical teenager with boy troubles and her mom is a working single mother that's on call frequently as a doctor. At first the notes are trivial: groceries to get, allowance needed, don't forget your keys! Then they become more serious as Claire's mother learns she has cancer.

This book is a quick and sad read. You know what's coming but it's still like a punch in the gut when you get there. As someone who has lost a mom to cancer, I was tearing up at the end of this book as it brought back many memories.

This book is sad for another reason too, which is how little Claire and her mom were able to communicate with each other. It seems that they were having major conversations on paper, which should have been had in person. It's too bad that many of these conversations took place on paper and I'm sure by the end of the book Claire regrets many of the decisions that she made. As she should.

First Line: "Hey Claire-Bear."


Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Night Country by Bryce Courtenay


This book is described as "A little boy witnesses the ugliness of apartheid", which is as good of a description as I can give because it's a very short book and you sort of wonder where Courtenay is going with it since he has so little space. It's set in South Africa, on a farm when a boy is taken away from his mother once she comes down with malaria.

I've never read a Bryce Courtenay before but my mom was always a huge fan. This book allowed me to get a taste of his writing without having to sit down to a 1000 page book. His writing style flows very nicely which makes this book incredibly easy to digest. However, once I came to the end of the book, I wasn't really sure what I should be taking away from it.

First Line: "At the tag end of the Great Depression, the three of us, my mother, Majorie-Ann and I, lived in a single room with a make-shift kitchenette without running water."


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Die Trying by Lee Child


In the second novel of the Jack Reacher series, Reacher finds himself in Chicago, though not for long. He spots a woman on crutches struggling with her dry cleaning and attempts to help her out. The women ends up being an FBI agent, and daughter of a prominent member of government. Just as Reacher starts to help her, three men pop out of a car and abduct the two of them. Reacher and Holly get to know each other as they spend long days in the back of a truck, being transported away from Chicago.

What results is a completely unrealistic series of events. With each page, things seem to get more and more ridiculous. Including forced chemistry between Reacher and Holly (sorry, I just wasn't feeling it), and the two of them making love beside the grave of a double agent. WHAT!?

Jack Reacher seems to suffer from being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Always. While his books are still engaging and fun to read, I'm hoping that the next book in the series is a bit more realistic and doesn't fall in to the same trap as the first two.

First Line: "Nathan Rubin died because he got brave."


Monday, December 21, 2015

Amsterdam by Ian McEwan


When Molly passes away, her lovers meet at her funeral to remember. There's Clive, a composer that's currently working on a symphony, Vernon, a newspaper editor, and the disliked Garmony, an up-and-coming politician. Molly's husband finds photos of Garmony in compromising positions and hands them off to Vernon to publish them. Vernon doesn't really think twice but does get Clive's opinion. Clive doesn't agree that those photos should be published and the two fight. But Clive isn't lily-white either. While on a hike to clear his mind from his work, he witnessed a man attacking a woman and didn't do anything about it because he didn't want it to impact his work.

This book is a short one. The beginning is a bit boring as the characters are introduced. The middle is interesting as the ethical dilemma is weighed on how to handle Garmony's photos. Then the story descends in to madness and stupidity. At the end of the book I want to know what the point was? What am I to take away from this novel? I still have no idea.

First Line: "Two former lovers of Molly Lane stood waiting outside the crematorium chapel with their backs to the February chill."


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Deception Point by Dan Brown


Rachel Sexton is a White House intelligence analyst who also has an estranged father running to become president. Her father has based his campaign on NASA over-spending and the need to privatize the space industry. Meanwhile, NASA is ready to come out with their most important announcement ever, something found up on the Milne ice shelf. Third parties have authenticated the find and Rachel is brought up to brief the White House staff. Rachel soon wonders if this is all too good to be true and whether NASA may have manufactured evidence to try to save themselves.

This book took a lot of time to get to the 'what'. What was it that NASA found up on the Milne ice shelf? I was intrigued though, wanting to know what it was, and blew through the beginning of the book rather quickly. Once this has been told, the remainder of the book pretty much requires you to suspend belief. Not because of what NASA found, but because of how it all unravels and who is responsible.

Beyond this, my main problem with the book is geography. It's only mentioned once, but the Milne ice shelf is off of Ellesmere Island. And guess where Ellesmere Island is? CANADA. Do you really think that the Canadian government would let NASA and the US government waltz in to Canada because they found something historic, have only US government employees and American scientists there, and take credit for the finding? If you said yes, you should switch America and Canada in that sentence and ask yourself the question again. Canada finds something of significant historical value in the USA. Would the USA let them on American land without any American supervision or credit? I think not.

First Line: "Toulos Restaurant, adjacent to Capitol Hill, boasts a politically incorrect menu of baby veal and horse carpaccio, making it an ironic hotspot for the quintessential Washingtonian power breakfast."


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Smokin' Seventeen by Janet Evanovich


Stephanie Plum, bounty hunter extraordinaire is back for another round of crazy. Two bodies were found in the lot where Vinnie is building the new bond office after it blew up. It's not good for business so Stephanie tries to bring in the last few bonds before there's no business left. Given that she's a pretty bad bond enforcement officer, this doesn't work out too well and eventually, one of them is looking to kill her.

This book was as fun as expected. I always find that the endings wrap up too quickly in this series. The mystery is solved and then bam the book is over.

I also feel bad for Morelli, with Stephanie being so wishy-washy on who she loves and what she wants to do with their relationship.

First Line: "My Grandma Mazur called me early this morning."


Sunday, December 06, 2015

Killing the Shadows by Val McDermid


Fiona Cameron is a psychologist that uses data to come up with geographies and theories on crimes. The police regularly call on her for help, though with a recent rape and murder case decided to call one of Fiona's colleagues who ended up botching the case. Fiona vows that she won't work with the Met again. Except they need her help and she needs them when a killer starts to murder mystery writers. Fiona's boyfriend is a mystery writer and she wants to make sure the police catch the killer before anything happens to him.

The description of what Fiona does was rather interesting, however when she describes it, it begins sounding like common sense. It made me wonder why the police need to bring in someone to explain these things. The only item that analysis was really needed for was geographies of where the killer may live or work.

Fiona isn't my favourite McDermid character, but she's not the worst either. She was a bit self-righteous and treated one of her best mates pretty shitty but got angry at him for her stupidity.

I wondered for a while why McDermid was putting so many crimes in to a single book with different killers. It was difficult to keep straight at first but eventually worked itself out and made sense.

First Line: "The haar moves up from the steel-grey waters of the Firth of Forth, a solid wall of mist the colour of cumulus."