Tag Archive | 2009

A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome

Alberto Angela — Europa Editions, 2009 — 9781933372716

I really enjoyed this book. As the title states, you spend a day in ancient Rome and see the city through the eyes of its inhabitants, be they slaves, plebs, or patricians. All aspects of daily life are explored, from the waking up in the morning, to going to the market, to throwing a feast. The most interesting thing I learned was probably the fact that Roman houses had hardly any kitchens — just small stoves tucked away in corners. All the more remarkable when you consider their reputation for throwing feasts!

However, as great as the content of the book was, the typesetting left much to be desired. Perhaps the publisher was facing an unbelievably short deadline and didn’t have time to proof another pass, or maybe the wrong files were sent to press, but there were just too many mistakes for them to have been missed. When words are typesettootightlylikethis or spaced     out     too     much     like     this, it undeniably distracts you from the reading experience.


A is for Alice

George Walker — Procupine’s Quill, 2009 — 9780889843233

Wonderful wood engravings, by a wonderful artist, set to a wonderful story.


The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Alan Bradley — Doubleday Canada, 2009 — 9780385665834

I loved this mystery, and was excited to find out it is the first in a series. The main character, Flavia de Luce, is excellent as an eleven year old chemist enthusiast turned sleuth. And what a character! I knew the book would be great the moment I read the following, on p9:

The book’s title was An Elementary Study of Chemistry, and within moments it had taught me that the word iodine comes from a word meaning “violet,” and that the name bromine was derived from a Greek word meaning “a stench.” These were the sorts of things I needed to know!

Flavia’s love of poison, her precociousness, and her strong personality make this book what it is: a cozy British murder mystery with a lovely twist. I found myself looking forward toward her next zinger more than the solution to the mystery!


The Book of Negroes

Lawrence Hill — HarperCollinsCanada, 2007 — 9781554681563

I liked it overall, but found the story to be just too fantastic to be considered realistic. This kept distracting me while I read it and I suppose I didn’t find the writing great enough to overcome this (though it was by no means bad). But, suspending my disbelief, it is a good story, though harrowing (especially any scene involving a ship).


The Golden Mean

Annabel Lyon — Random House Canada, 2009 — 9780307356208

I liked the classical history aspect of this — Aristotle goes to Macedon to tutor Alexander (soon to be the Great), son of the king. I think I also enjoyed the writing. I certainly had no problem with the cover.


Fables v1: Legends in Exile

Bill Willingham — Vertigo, 2002 — 9781563899423

The first in a series of graphic novels about fairytale characters that have to leave their world and exist in secret in our own. I read this quite a while ago now, but I remember liking it. I’ll probably re-read it before I read volumes 2-4 (which I also own — I have a bad habit of buying multiple books in a series before even having read the first one), so more impressions to come.


Oryx and Crake

Margaret Atwood — Vintage Canada, 2009 — 9780307398482

This is the third Margaret Atwood book I’ve read, the second novel, and the first that is science-fiction. The only other novel I’ve read by her was Alias Grace, which I suppose can be called historical speculative fiction. I liked that book very much, but was always wary of reading more by Atwood. (Or any other Canadian literary author. Or whomever Oprah is telling me to read.) I feel like I didn’t give this book the attention it deserved — I remember taking a really long time to read it, and even pausing for quite a bit in the middle. I don’t think this was a negative reaction to the book — I just wasn’t in the mood for it. That being said, I did like it (nothing like good ol’ dystopian fiction), and I plan to read The Year of the Flood at some point.


The Lost Symbol

Dan Brown — Doubleday, 2009 — 9780385504424

This is the first book I’ve read that actually made me mad when I thought of all the time I wasted on it. (Although I suppose my tolerance for this kind of crap is pretty high, since I’ve read all his other books.) Did he just stop trying? It seems to go only for supposed shock value — I mean, nothing is resolved in the end! (Oh… spoiler alert, I guess?)

I like to think The Da Vinci Code marks a sort of nascent awareness for me when it comes to books. I read it just before I started working in a bookstore, during which time I was exposed to a wide variety of books and opinions. I suppose The Lost Symbol marks an end to a good chunk of my naiveté when it comes to books (be they low-brow or high). That’s why it stayed at my parents’ place after I moved out. Yeah, The Da Vinci Code moved with me. SO WHAT?!


The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World

Wade Davis — House of Anansi Press, 2009 — 9780887848421

I’ve read the Massey Lectures every year since 2004 (although I missed the 2005 title by accident and the 2006 on purpose). My goal is to read all the titles in this annual lecture series.


The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Muriel Barbery — Europa Editions, 2008 — 978193337260

A wonderful novel, and another book I know I will read again. I tend to like most books where the characters exhibit a love of reading, but this one is so much more than that. The author discusses literature and philosophy throughout, including one dense chunk that was a bit over my head but that I hope to understand more of one day. I won’t be able to properly articulate all that is fantastic about this novel, so you should probably just go out and read it yourself.



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