Thursday, 22 August 2013

Review: The End Of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

RATING: 4.5 napkins

During her treatment for cancer, Mary Anne Schwalbe and her son Will spent many hours sitting in waiting rooms together. To pass the time, they would talk about the books they were reading. Once, by chance, they read the same book at the same time—and an informal book club of two was born. Through their wide-ranging reading, Will and Mary Anne—and we, their fellow readers—are reminded how books can be comforting, astonishing, and illuminating, changing the way that we feel about and interact with the world around us. A profoundly moving memoir of caregiving, mourning, and love—The End of Your Life Book Club is also about the joy of reading, and the ways that joy is multiplied when we share it with others. (courtesy of

(courtesy of Goodreads)

Color me oblivious but I didn't realize this is non-fiction when I first started reading this, even after having read the blurb at the back of the book somewhere. All I remembered was that it was a book club that a son and a mother started, just between the 2 of them, after the mother got seriously ill. Something in my brain must have blocked out the part that it was actually Will and his mother's story. And I purposely didn't read any reviews prior to reading this as I want to know as little as possible about the book to not taint my reading experience. Yes that's how much I was looking forward to it.

So imagine my surprise when I realized it was non-fiction after I started reading it. Yes, yes, I know, crazy! Needless to say, my reading experience took a different turn after. It took me a while to finish this book, not because it was poorly written. It was more like me only being able to take a small dose of it at a time.

For a book lover like myself, I loved the connection between Will and his mother over their love of books. The number of books they covered was varied as they can get; from the classics to literary to spiritual to contemporary. Some of the books they talked about almost felt like it came out of an English lit syllabus that one's professor hands out in the beginning of the term. Because they're both highly educated with varied careers, their choices of books almost felt intimidating at times and can almost make one feel just ignorant, couple that with the fact that one can clearly tell that the Schwalbes inhabit a more privileged strata in our North American society. Nevertheless, every book they touched on are, or at least appeared to be, worth looking into and reading.

I loved how Mary's life story came alive in the book. For all the luxuries afforded her, her entire life, she sounded really down-to-earth, and with all the amazing things she has accomplished, her humanitarian deeds, we all can learn a lesson or 2, or 20, from the way she lived her life. She was a progressive thinker thru and thru, with a gentle soul. I didn't get the feeling that she actually considered herself a feminist, but I think, women, in general, should be thankful for women like her who showed what we are capable of doing if we put our minds to it. Actually, both men and women can learn something from her life.

I also loved how Will got to know her mother more thru their so-called book club, and anyone who's lost a loved one to an illness can certainly appreciate the opportunity that he had to connect with his mother and did something that they both truly enjoyed right to the end.

This is one touching memoir, a loving ode from a child to a parent. I'm pretty sure Mary, where ever she may be, feels that Will did her proud with this story.


Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Review: The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman

RATING: 4 napkins

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.
Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.
A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly's wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark. (courtesy of

(courtesy of Goodreads)

(Originally posted on Goodreads)

My only exposure to Mr. Gaiman's work, embarrassingly enough, is from the 2 movies that were made from his books; Stardust, which as far as I can glean, is only a Disney version of the book but I did end up liking, and Coraline, which I did like as well. Whether it's a good thing that this is a first Gaiman read for me or not, I'm not really sure. All I know is that I enjoyed this a lot for the vivid story-telling. And this may not make complete sense, but I almost likened the experience to watching the movie, Big Fish, a movie I truly enjoyed. 

It's such a simple story, and yet, not really. It's a childhood story from a memory of an older man. It's a mixture of reality and fantasy (or is it?). The viewpoint of the main character's 7-year old self is older for his age in some regards but then again, it's appropriate in some, keeping in mind this coming from the memory of an older version of the main character.

"What you remembered? Probably. More or less. Different people remember things differently, and you'll not get any two people to remember anything the same, whether they were there or not. You stand two of you lot next to each other, and you could be continents away for all it means anything."

I'm not even sure if there were lessons to be learned, if not learned at all, but I don't think that was the point of the story (or is it? hmmm...). All I know is that I was engrossed with the story the whole time...

"Adults follow paths. Children explore..." 


Saturday, 10 August 2013

Review: The Opportunist by Tarryn Fisher

RATING: 5 napkins

Olivia Kaspen is a sharp tongued manipulator used to always getting what she wants. With just one exception-Caleb Drake, the one she foolishly let slip away. After a chance encounter brings Caleb back into her life, Olivia finds herself wanting a second chance with her first love, and asking herself how far she is willing to go to get him back. Her only problem is a red head named Leah, Caleb’s new love. Olivia must fight for what was once hers, and in the process discover that sometimes love falls short of redemption. (courtesy of

(courtesy of Goodreads)

(Originally posted on Goodreads... with minor editing:p)

2 words for Ms. Fisher, WELL DONE!!!

After all the reviews I've read about this book, I knew I had to be ready for it, knowing myself. Having read it, I agree, for the most part, with the reviewers who talked about the feelings that this book will evoke out of a reader. It is definitely one heck of a ride! I'm embarrassed (or not) to say it but the ending had me in tears, yes, TEARS. And I don't even like reading about love triangles!

A while back, I told myself that I'm not really that keen on New Adult (NA) books since almost always, drama abounds unnecessarily just for the sake of drama. Well, without me realizing it, my reads have slowly started teeming with them, call me oblivious. Then afterwards, I realized why I'm reading more in this genre now. When well written, I found it does not really feel that NA anymore. It just becomes a well written story, period. And to me, this book is a perfect example. 

The way Ms. Fisher wrote, I got to know Olivia, the heroine, understood her motivation even if I didn't agree with it, went thru whatever she's going thru even though I couldn't fully relate to her, and by the end of it, only wanted the best for her because I think I finally got her. Then there's Caleb, the hero, who in my mind can do no wrong from the beginning, even despite some of the things he did, yes, because, again, the way Ms. Fisher wrote, I understood. It doesn't make it right, but I understood. Not exactly sure what it was, but I just adore him. Now Leah, the 3rd side in their triangle of a mess? I don't like her, but neither do I dislike her completely. She did what she felt she needed to do. Again, in a sad convoluted way, I understood. How about that! 

I know I'm repeating myself, but to me, that's how well written this is, that I was able to sympathize, if not empathize, with the characters, whether I like them or not, whether I can relate to them or not. 

I get it why the other readers couldn't put this book down once they started. You get enmeshed in the story from the beginning, the going back and forth in time flowed smoothly, and you just want to know what happens basically. And funnily enough, because I felt I've given myself sufficient warning about the roller coaster of a ride that this book will take me along, I really thought I was prepared for and ready to shrug off whatever angst it throws at me. But no, I still wasn't. Oh, the emotions, and the twists in the story!!! Maybe it was just me, but I didn't see some of the stuff coming at all! And the ending! I want to say it's almost fitting, given the situation. Such is life, I suppose, fictional or real... sigh...

Wouldn't necessarily jump right in to read the next 2 in this series, just to give my reading emotions a break. Besides, I'm not prepared to read Leah's story, and crazy or not, I'm even thinking of skipping it just because I want to get to Caleb's story right after Olivia's. Ok, no, I won't skip. But I do know that I need to be ready for Caleb's because if Olivia's had me in tears, I can only imagine what it would be like reading Caleb's...

Needless to say, a new Tarryn Fisher fan here indeed!


Thursday, 1 August 2013

Top 5 Favourite Ukulele Books

I know...I know....This is a book blog, and not a music-oriented one. Since I love both books and ukuleles, however, I thought I'd do a post that combines both of my obsessions. Makes sense, right?...Right?

I would admit that this post is partly to encourage anyone reading this to pick up a ukulele and start playing (if you haven't done so). It really is the easiest and the most fun instrument to play:) With that being said, here are my fave books on the topic.

(Background: I'm self-taught, and picked the uke for the first time in 2009. My ukulele book collection is by no means extensive. These are just the ones I love.:) The books I have are for beginners to more advanced players.)

5) The Complete What Ukulele Players Really Want To Know by Barry Maz
This is a great introductory e-book for the beginners who want to know the basics, such as what to look for when buying an ukulele, what strings are good and how to change them, and all that fun stuff. This doesn't teach you chords or anything like that, but does have a small section on music theory. Great read even for intermediate players. Barry Maz wrote this book as if he's talking to you as a friend:)

4) Ukulele Method Books 1 and 2 by Lil' Rev
Great beginner's books for the self-learner. Clear explanation of chords and strumming patterns, with songs to go along with the lessons.. Highly recommend these two.

3) Ukulele Fretboard Roadmaps by Fred Sokolow and Jim Beloff
Bought this when I first just started playing, but I'm still working through this book. I honestly think that if you can master this book, you are an Ukulele Jedi.

2)) 101 Ukulele Tips: Stuff All the Pros Know and Use by Fred Sokolow and Ronny Schiff
So much info in less than 100 pages. Cannot rave enough about this book. Not only does it have great tips (ie.#52 Record yourself.), but I finally understood a bit about the whole Circle of Fifths because of this book.

1) Ukulele Exercises for Dummies by Brett McQueen

My current #1 fave because this book has improved my finger-picking a lot! The book is divided into three sections, and you can pick and choose which part you want to concentrate on. First part deals with strumming, second deals with finger-picking and last section deals with mastering the fretboard. So many great exercises, and I love the fact that you get to listen to the samples online.

And there you have it. My top ukulele books. I purposely didn't include song books coz that's really very subjective (depending on what music you like).

If you're a uke player, drop us a comment below. :) Would love to hear from you!

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