Book review – Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas by Nicholas Pileggi

Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas is based on the true story of the rise and fall of Tony “The Ant” Spilotro — a legendary mob hitman in the early ’70s. The Ant was a cold and effective mobster whose primary objective was to protect the gambling businesses and interests of Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal.

Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas by Nicholas Pileggi

via www.bol.com

This book shows how the mob operated in the past – how it was back then, from the glamorous casinos that entertained the well-dressed elite to the brutal assassinations initiated by the mob in Sin City. Guests weren’t protected back then, and were encouraged to gamble as hard as they could, compared to now, where each gaming provider is required to offer a “Responsible Gaming” service to its patrons. PocketFruity, a leading online operator in the UK, describes the service as their responsibility to provide an environment in which players can have fun while playing in a safe, fair and above all responsible manner.

Before businessmen could freely operate in Las Vegas, the Chicago mob pretty much controlled everything, including Stardust – which the book’s movie-tie up cleverly disguised as The Tangier. Skimming profits was the mob’s main business, and Lefty had a specialty of being the “best handicapper of all time.” Everything operated like a well-oiled machine until Lefty’s most trusted muscle, The Ant, became entangled in a horrible mess that dragged not only Lefty in the entire mess, but all of the mob-controlled casinos in Sin City. Rosenthal still lived up to 2008, and has a website of pretty much everything that went on in his life as a mob boss. Spilotro, on the other hand, meets his demise at the end of the book, and learns the hard way that messing around with the mob, and skimming their skim, has very deadly consequences.

Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas is a great read before watching the film. Although, as with most book-to-movie adaptation, the book has a better way of detailing the shady business dealings, betrayals, politics, and the personal lives of the mob.

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Little Free Libraries!

I was walking with my husband and one-year-old through our neighbourhood a few days ago, when we went down a street I had not taken before. Knowing how much I love reading and books, my husband pointed this out to me:

I immediately ran up to it and looked through the titles – obviously. However, I did not take a book since I didn’t have a book with me to leave in return.

Then I got to thinking about it, and decided what an awesome idea! It reminded me of the “take a book, leave a book” shelves that you can find in most youth hostels for backpackers.

Setting one of these up allows neighbours quick, easy, and FREE access if they need a new read, and offers an option closer to their home than the public library to those with limited mobility. I would like on my property; however, based on my location it is doubtful the City would allow such a construction.

Finding this little jewel near me made me wonder if there were others. A quick Google search directed me to Little Free Library. A non-profit organization, Little Free Library supports anyone who wishes to set-up one of these small community libraries! They have a blog and provide all the information necessary for setting up your own Little Free Library. As for the structure itself – you can either build your own or purchase a prefabricated option from their online catalog. If you build your own, you can register with them and your Little Free Library will show up on their map online! This registration is automatic for the pre-fabricated options.

When you register your Little Free Library, you also receive a Steward’s Packet: including a Steward’s Guide full of tips and outreach tools; eligibility for new books donated by publishers for the cost of shipping and handling only; access to brand new, deeply discounted books through First Book for registered stewards in low-income areas; a How Does This Library Work? flier to post on your Little Library; monthly E-newsletter; access to a private Facebook group to swap ideas and connect with other stewards (information from www.littlefreelibrary.org).

The organization is based in Hudson, Wisconsin, and as of January 2014 (most recent stat I could find) they have assisted in creating over 15,000 Little Free Libraries worldwide.

Although the Little Free Library near me is not registered with this group, I wanted to make sure bring attention to this organization and the great work they do in promoting literacy and love of reading for all ages!

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Book of the month – Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

We have good news – we’re re-committing to blogging!

After a bit of a hiatus, Sarah pointed out that this little blog is just too neat of a thing to let slide. And we agree – it’s so special! How many collaborative book blogs do you know of, that stand the test of time?

Our little book club is still going strong, with almost five years under our belt. That means 55 books! It’s amazing.

We haven’t really updated the blog since February, so here’s what’s been happening in our world:

We died with laughter at Jimmy Kimmel’s book club. Adorable, and a must-watch.

This hilarious graphic. I especially like “intending to read” and “read, but can’t remember a single thing about it”.

My Library by Tom Gauld

 

 

We made it to the big leagues! Not really, but we are finally listed on CanadianBookClubs.com – check us out here!

Erin finally shared her much-anticipated list of her favourite books from 2014. It’s a tradition! More things to add to you reading list – you’re welcome🙂

We found the best Instagram account to follow for book lovers. This girls’ life is amazing!

So, we went a little nuts over Canada Reads this year because not only was When Everything Feels Like The Movies a contender, but it was defended by Lainey Lui who I chatted about books with on The Social in September 2013. She was the most fierce, even though it finished second. We love this video of her!

What it wasn’t a official UBC pick, many of us have read the uber-popular novel The Girl on the Train to mixed reviews. If you’re into that sort of thing, here are other novels just like it.

We did read A House in The Sky by Amanda Lindhout and had some awesome discussions about it. We were all fascinated by the story, and her choice to enter such dangerous countries with virtually no protection. If you’ve read it, you might be interested in what Nigel and Amanda are up to now. We also found this amazing Instagram account, which portrays a different view of Somalia.

This is funny – with Grey by E.L. James just announced, and the first movie released, we were surprised when our friends over at Grammarly dissected 50 Shades of Grey only to discover isn’t actually not that poorly written. Come again, you might ask? In fact, they found that many other popular novels make the same number of mistakes, like A Moveable Feast, The Age of Innocence and Tender is the Night. Hmmm…

On April Fool’s, Goodreads got us good. Okay, maybe only for a second.

BuzzFeed is always our go-to for a list of interesting ways to bookify your home.

Bill Gates just shared his “beach reads” for 2015… none of which are probably classified as “beachy”, but still.

Anyway, on to the business of the day… our June book! It was Yvonne’s turn to pick and she chose Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, which is super hot right now and has received much critical acclaim. The Globe & Mail says it  has “suspense, science fiction and elements of horrors – but [it] is undoubtedly a literary work.” It’s been on my reading list for months so I am really excited to get into it!

What are you reading this summer?

 

 

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Book of the month – Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

The Unputdownable Book Club’s May pick is Cannery Row by John Steinbeck!
Cannery Row

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Book of the month – Flash Boys by Michael Lewis

And our April book club pick, chosen by Kristina, is Flash Boys by Michael Lewis!

We’re excited to read a novel by the same author as The Blind Side and Moneyball. Have you ready anything by Michael Lewis before?

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Book of the month – A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout

We’ve been busy, but we just wanted to say that our March book club pick was A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout!

Have you read it? We loved it. What did you think?

 

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Book review – The Martian by Andy Weir

martianI’m pretty much f*#@ed. That’s my considered opinion. F*#@ed.

Has a better opening ever been written for a book? Not that I have read!

The Martian is the debut novel from author Andy Weir. It follows the fictional American astronaut, Mark Watney, when he is stranded alone on Mars after a storm forces his team to abandon their mission. Weir, with his background in computer science, researched orbital mechanics, astronomy, and the history of manned space travel to ensure it was as realistic as possible and based on existing technology.

The novel was originally self-published online in 2011 for free in serial format, one chapter at a time, following previous rebuffs by publishers. An Amazon Kindle version was subsequently made available and rose to the top of Amazon’s best-selling science-fiction list, which provided the attention necessary to get it published.

And man am I glad it was published. The Martian is HILARIOUS. Seriously, here are some quotes:

NASA: please watch your language, everything you type is being broadcast all over the world.
Watney: Look! A pair of boobs! -> (.Y.)

***

There’s an international treaty saying no country can lay claim to anything that’s not on Earth. And by another treaty, if you’re not in any country’s territory, maritime law applies. So Mars is ‘international waters’. Here’s the cool part: I will eventually go… and commandeer the Ares 4 lander. Nobody gave me explicit permission to do this, and they can’t until I’m aboard Ares 4 and operating the communication system. After I board Ares 4, before talking to NASA, I will take control of a craft in international waters without permission. That makes me a pirate! A space pirate!

***

Watney: You fucking kidding me?
NASA: Admittedly they are very invasice modifications, but they have to be done”
Watney: You’re sending me into space in a convertible.
NASA: There will be canvas covering the holes. It will provide enough aerodynamics in Mars’s atmosphere.
Watney: So it’s a ragtop. Much better.

The Martian is technically a science fiction novel; however, in my opinion, the witty writing and adventure/thriller storyline make it appealing to even those with no interest in that genre. I am not a huge Sci-Fi fan, but I loved this book – I would definitely call it unputdownable, I always wanted to know what would happen to Watney next and how he would deal with it.

The plot is very character driven – it is very much about the mental and emotional state of Watney, as well as his former team members and NASA staff, throughout this 18 month-long ordeal, as well as Watney’s ability to improvise to survive.

My only complaint would be that it can be a little too technical at times when describing the equipment modifications and engineering he was performing (communications, IT, vehicle, hab/living structure, life support, etc.). I sometimes couldn’t follow it – but I could always follow the gist of the storyline surrounding the details.

I am very excited that this novel is being made into a movie – I think it will make a really great movie. It is not one of those novels that when you hear a movie is being made you think “WTF – that will make a terrible movie”. Even more exciting is the film adaptation will be directed by Ridley Scott and star Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels and Sean Bean. The film is scheduled for release in November 2015.

As a final note I am going to share a quote that Commander Chris Hadfield made about the novel, because what better praise could there be from this book than a rave review from one of Canada’s most successful astronauts!

A book I just couldn’t put down! It has the very rare combination of a good, original story, interestingly real characters, and fascinating technical accuracy. Reads like McGyver meets Mysterious Island.

 

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Erin’s Favourite Books in 2014

It is mid-March now, so I know this is a little late, but I did not want to ruin Julia’s and my tradition to share our favourite books from the previous year. This is our third year in a row, and are our past favourites can be found here:

So in 2014 I was on maternity leave for 10 months of the year, so I was a little pre-occupied much of the time. However, I still managed to read 41 books! Many of them were YA fiction, because they were easier to follow on very little sleep and with constant interruptions. Here are the five that I enjoyed the most:

The-Testing-TrilogyThe Testing Trilogy by Joelle Charbonneau

For fans of The Hunger Games, I strongly recommend this trilogy. The story is set in a dystopian future after the world was basically destroyed and left a wasteland by a devastating world war. Each year 20 students are chosen to attend University to be the leaders of the future and help rebuild the world. To get to University, however, they must go through a testing process that is not what it seems – which is what the first book focuses on. The second two books follow the same group characters (at least those who made it) through University and real world placements – as well as their struggle to end the Testing. I thoroughly enjoyed the books; almost more than The Hunger Games!

 

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison  The Bluest Eye

The Bluest Eye was Toni Morrison’s first novel about a young, black girl, Pecola Breedlove, who wishes for her eyes to turn blue so that she will be as beautiful as the blond, blue-eyed children in her town. Set in the 1940s in Ohio, Pecola’s life is far from easy – it is painful and devastating – even more difficult than that of most black children considering the prevalence of racism at that time. The story is about fear and loneliness and yearning to fit in. I found The Bluest Eye powerful, despite the sometimes disturbing content. It was one of those novels you think about for weeks after you finish.

Columbine by Dave Cullen

ColumbineI was in Grade 10 when the events at Columbine High School occurred, and the events of April 20, 1999 affected me profusely as a high school student and as one who was certainly not going to be voted most popular. There were many myths and untruths that were reported in the days, months and years after Columbine and many are still believed today by a significant portion of the population. Acknowledged as an “expert” on the Columbine events, Cullen speaks to almost everyone who had any involvement in that day – he talks to the untruths spread by the media, the real motivations of the two boys who carried out this horrific crime, and the aftermath on the town and school. I found this book to be incredibly insightful, objective and informative, as well as well written and engaging.

Ragged Company by Richard Wagamese

Ragged CompanyRagged company follows the lives of four chronically homeless people–Amelia One Sky, Timber, Double Dick and Digger. The foursome seek refuge in a warm movie theatre when a severe cold front hits their city and ultimately they fall in love with the movies. During one of their trips, they meet Granite, a lonely journalist who also uses movies as an escape, and begin an unlikely friendship. After finding a winning $13.5-million lottery ticket, it seems their fortunes have changed, however each struggles with their past, present and future in different ways.  The book is emotional – devastating and hopeful all at the same time. I loved that you learned the background of each character and how it affected their lives both past and present. The book touches on various social problems – homelessness, alcoholism, drug abuse, poverty – and sheds
some light on the many shades of gray involved. Nothing is
black and white.

Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum

Thsoe Who Save Us“For fifty years, Anna Schlemmer has refused to talk about her life in Germany during World War II. Her daughter, Trudy, was only three when she and her mother were liberated by an American soldier and went to live with him in Minnesota. Trudy’s sole evidence of the past is an old photograph: a family portrait showing Anna, Trudy, and a Nazi officer, the Obersturmfuhrer of Buchenwald. Driven by the guilt of her heritage, Trudy, now a professor of German history, begins investigating the past and finally unearths the dramatic and heartbreaking truth of her mother’s life” (from the back of the book). I really enjoy books set during World War 2 and find those set from the perspective of Germans very interesting – as I believe that we often forget they suffered too and that the majority                                                                   were not Nazis. This particular novel was well-written and                                                           focused on the things humans are willing to endure to                                                                   survive and the legacy those choices leave.

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Book of the month – When Everything Feels Like The Movies by Raziel Reid

It’s freezing February! Thankfully it’s almost over.

Canada Reads final 5

Let’s see… what’s happened lately? Well, we voted on our favourite books of 2014, so you can check that out.

We got super excited about To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee releasing a new novel. 

Our Kindle lovers are pumped about Kindle Unlimited coming to Canada (this almost makes me want a Kindle… almost.

And that’s about it. Basically, we’re been freezing our butts off in Ottawa and dreaming of spring. Or just any temperature above -10 degrees Celsius.

I realize the month if almost over, but our February book (chosen by yours truly) is When Everything Feels Like The Movies by Canadian author Raziel Reid. The book won the young adult Governor General’s award for literature in 2014 and was just named one of CBC Canada Read’s 2015 books, to be defended by our friend at The Social Lainey Lui.

It’s short (170 pages) and super controversial because of its very graphic language. It’s based on a true story – here’s an excerpt from this National Post story describing the basis for Reid’s novel:

On February 11, 2008, a 15-year-old boy asked another boy to be his valentine. The next day his crush, 14-year-old Brandon McInerney, came to class and shot him, twice, in the head, at point blank range. Larry Fobes King started wearing make-up in the eighth grade. High heels, too. He never made it out of junior high. His killer graduated while in prison, where he is serving a 21-year sentence.

Yup, that actually happened. And that’s what Reid’s novel is based on. We should also mention that, at 24, he’s the youngest author ever to win a GG award, which is pretty cool. Sadly, there is a petition going around demanding for his award to be rescinded because some Canadian authors feel the novel’s content is inappropriate for the “children’s lit” audience. The Canada Council for the Arts has refused, predictably.

It’s a juicy one! Check back for the review in the coming month.

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Our favourite books in 2014

I can’t believe this is the third time I’ve done a post like this!

Year after year,  it’s so much fun to look back on the 12 books we read and choose our favourites. Unfortunately I only read half the books this year, but I did manage to read our #1 choice… and it was in my top five too!

  1. January 2014 – Dear Life – Alice Munro
  2. February 2014 – Annabel – Kathleen Winter
  3. March 2014 – Where’d You Go, Bernadette – Maria Semple
  4. April 2014 – Jitterbug Perfume – Tom Robbins
  5. May 2014 – Attachments – Rainbow Rowell
  6. June 2014 – A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
  7. July 2014 – The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  8. August 2014 – The Bell Jar by Sarah Plath
  9. September 2014 – The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
  10. October 2014 – In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  11. November 2014 – The Plum Tree by Ellen Marie Wiseman
  12. December 2014 – The Best Plaid Plans by Terry Fallis

In 2012, we shared our top three books. In 2013, we shared our top 4 because of some ties. This year, we’re back with our top three, but it was a close one – #4 and #5 weren’t far behind!

1. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Personally, I was obsessed with this book. It took you along for the ride as the protagonist spiraled into depression… or did she? It’s for you to decide!

2. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

I didn’t get the chance to read this one, but it’s super short and apparently similar to The Color Purple, which I loved, so I’ll definitely been tackling it soon. The girls raved about it!

3. A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby

Apparently the book is great and the movie is just so-so. The premise is neat – five people meet on a rooftop on New Year’s Eve, determined to commit suicide, but they talk each other out of it. The novel follows their lives after that night.

What were your favourite books in 2014?

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