Friday, July 31, 2009

A Wedding in December by Anita Shreve

This is the kind of story I would hope for by Anita Shreve. She has carefully crafted a set of characters (former high school best friends) that reunite for a wedding some 27 years after high school. Most of them do not see each other anymore so this is a true reunion. They also share a painful memory of Stephen, the golden boy of their group who died a month before graduation.
Paralleled in between is a short story that one of the group (Agnes) is writing. The story is set at the time of the Halifax Explosion. At first I was put off by the interruption of the main story, but then I really got into it and wanted to know what happened to these secondary characters.
Shreve does a great job of twisting the lines and lives of each and every one of her characters. I walked away feeling satisfied.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Lady Raised High, A Novel of Anne Boleyn by Laurien Gardner

Sometimes I wonder, do I really need to read another book about one of the wives of Henry VIII? Well, yes I do. I love the era. Anne Boleyn is one of those historical characters that everyone seems to have an opinion on. She has been pegged as everything from a scheming witch, to a martyr. She has been called ambitious, brilliant and a whore. Which Anne do you think is really representative of who the real person was? Each story I read about her sets a slightly different picture. Anne Boleyn in Margaret George's take was a shrieky, flighty, nasty woman. Anne Boleyn in Phillipa Gregory's book was a bit of a crass, ambitious feminist. In this book, Anne Boleyn is a much more sympathetic character. She is charming and it is easy to see how Henry VIII would have fallen for her.
The story itself centres around a young girl named Frances who comes to Lady Boleyn's rescue. The timing is before the marriage of Boleyn and Henry VIII. In return, Anne Boleyn takes Frances into her court. She trains Frances, raising her stature (paralleling how Anne herself comes from nothing and is raised up in stature). Along the way Frances meets a man of Henry's court, Jack Carlyle, who watches out for the naive girl. Though Frances is annoyed, she can't get Jack out of her mind. The rest of the novel follow Frances as Anne Boleyn goes on to marriage, motherhood and ultimately meets her tragic end.
Is this the best book I've read in this time period? No. But it is a nice take on Anne Boleyn's life. I like that she has more sympathy in this story. I do believe that she was ambitious. She was smart. Unfortunately, nature and the ways of court got her in the end. (I really hope no one reading this echos a young woman I heard commenting after seeing The Other Boleyn Girl, "I knew she'd get it in the end" - ummm, yep, kind of a given really, can't change history that much).

Monday, July 27, 2009

100+ Reading Challenge Check-in

I reached 50 books today! I'm happy with this, but a little disappointed too. I figure I'm a month behind if I want to get to 100 by the end of this year. So I'm just debating where to go from here. I've had a great month of reading, but summer is usually good for me as I have my 2 months off. Once the end of August hits, I'll be back full swing at work. I wonder too if there's any other authors out there who write well enough to enjoy and whose books I can read quickly, like I've been doing lately. Any suggestions?

Salaam, Paris by Kavita Daswani

I'm a little sad tonight as I usually am when I've discovered a new to me authour I've enjoyed and realise that I've just read all of the books they have to offer. Okay, that isn't quite true in the sense that Daswani has one YA book out I can look at, but I've finished her adult fiction (I hope she writes some more soon). I've really been enjoying this blend of chick lit and India.
Salaam, Paris is slightly different than the other 2 of Daswani's books I've read in that there is a hint of sadness behind the story. Like the main characters of her other books, this main character, Tanaya, is an Indian girl struggling to find her own identity. Unlike the other main characters who were Hindi, Tanaya is Muslim. Tanaya's story brings a huge clash of cultures when she falls into modelling (a big no-no in Muslim culture). You see the struggle she has between finding herself and yet not losing herself either. Very interesting read and much enjoyed by me.

It's Monday

Today I'm reading Salaam, Paris by Kavita Daswani. I've really enjoyed her books so far. This is the last book she's written for adults, she does have a YA book out that I'm going to look for when I'm finished.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Giveaway News

I found a giveaway that is just too good to not tell others about it. TeddyRee at The Eclectic Reader is giving her followers the opportunity to win one of 3 books. There's one I have my eye on, but I thought I'd pass it along for others to check out too! You can find her post here. Cheers!

The Village Bride of Beverly Hills by Kavita Daswani

So I really couldn't wait to open up the next offering my Daswani. The Village Bride of Beverly Hills looks at 24 year old bride, Priya, transplanted to Los Angeles from India after her arranged marriage to Sanjay, an Indian man who has lived most of his life in the U.S.A. Priya begins her marriage in the traditional Hindi way. She and her husband live in his parents home with them and his younger sister. Priya does everything that she can to please her new family, but often finds herself lost and fumbling. Daswani does a marvelous take as to how an immigrant would view life in the States.
Priya's life becomes further complicated when her mother-in-law insists that Priya find a job (as well as continue the house keeping and cooking). Priya finds a job at a Hollywood magazine, but becomes conflicted between the demands of her western job and her traditional home and upbringing.
I flew through this book, enjoying it immensely. I found the story interesting and worth sticking around for the ending. I look forward to my next read by Daswani.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Weekly Geeks - Go

I've really pondered this week's Weekly Geeks Challenge and wondered if it was something I could do. I would want to do it well and not half-heartedly. Have a read through, then I'll give you my take on it:




Just kidding. Here's your assignment:

1. Go to Creativity Tools' random word generator.
2. Get yourself a random word. Write it down. Then click "new word" to get yourself two more random words, and write them down, too. You should have three words written down.
3. Now find the random sentence generator and get yourself a sentence, write it down underneath the three words. If you don't like that sentence it's okay to click "new sentence" until you get one you like.
4. Use the Random Phrase Generator to generate a phrase. Write it down. You may not need this, but keep it handy, just in case. Again, it's okay to go through a couple of phrases before settling on one that works for you.
5. Now, using the three words from Step 2 and the sentence from Step 3, write one of the following, (but don't tell us which!):

(a) A book review (if you have an obscure book that many of us won't recognize by the title, this would be a great time to do it--or you could omit or replace the title [see -d- below] just for this week)
(b) A scene from a book (you'll need to replace some of the words and a phrase with the random ones).
(c) A scene you make up completely from scratch
(d) A review of a fake book, using the Random Phrase from Step 4 as your book title

6. Send me an email at Worducopia/at/gmail/dot/com, with the subject heading Random Post, letting me know if your review or scene was from a real or fake book and what your random words, sentence, and phrase were.
7. As always, go visit other Weekly Geeks. Try to guess which Geeks have posted fake reviews or scenes, and which used actual books. No fair Googling the phrase as a hint. In the Round-up on Friday, I'll post which were real and which were fake, and you can see how you did.

I've decided to go with the option of writing out part of a book. It's up to you to decide if it's something I wrote or something I've read and re-typed. Let me know in the comments if this is a real or fake part of a book :o) only.

I rode hastily until I turned in the gates of my father's house. The redbrick manor crouched at the end of the lane, its windows small and dark, the dirt stable yard like a wound in the green. What I had once thought fine now seemed small and disappointing. My heart was sinking.
I gave the reins of my horse to our stableboy, who looked over the the mare with awe. The servants I'd brought from court openly sneered at the house. The maid lifted her skirts modeling disdain as she stepped over the threshold.
Inside, I found everything much as usual. Two maids argued as they scraped the trestle boards of the table in the hall. A boy crushed herbs for the rushes (a somewhat furry mixture), and another maid clumped across the gallery with her arms full of linen, taking care not to crush any. Dobbin, my mother's housekeeper, was lumbering down the stairs, keys clanking at her waist. The reckless stair weds.

For Matrimonial Purposes by Kavita Daswani

This was just the book I was looking for. I had the great fortune of hanging out for an hour or so at Indigo today, by myself. This is a rare treat, as usually I am pulled by a small child to the children's section and get just a small look through at books I would be interested in. I picked up 4 books and a journal. Three of the books were by Daswani. I had never heard of her before, but the write ups and recommendations sounded good (one was by Jennifer Weiner, an authour I enjoy). I'm glad I found them. This first book is chick lit with the flavour of India. I've mentioned before my love of India and Indian culture. So I really didn't know how I could go wrong (unless it turned out to be horribly written, which it wasn't). The premise of this story centres on Anju, a single Indian lady into her 30's and not married. A Hindi mother's nightmare. To compound her problem (or perhaps to solve it), Anju ventures out of India to New York. Much of the story focuses on the obsession in the Hindu culture for a woman to be married and well matched. It also tells Anju's story of living unmarried, torn between the live she loves in New York and the family and their wishes for her back in India. I very much enjoyed this book and look forward to my next read by Daswani.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Book Blogger Appreciation Week 2009

I love blog world. I love that we all love and support each other in our common interests. Over on my food blog, we all read and appreciate each others recipes. Here on my book blog we read reviews and recommendations and have some fun with themes. Today, over at Chronicles of an Infant Bibliophile (one of my favorites), there was a post about Book Blogger Appreciation Week. I was intrigued. I have learned that their goal is to join all book bloggers together. There are categories to nominate your favorite blogs into for awards. There are giveaways and basically just a good time to celebrate the world of books. Check it out here to register!

The Queen's Lady by Barbara Kyle

This was a case of the cover looked good, so I bought it. I generally enjoy stories set in the time of King Henry VIII and his many wives. This story centres around Honour Larke, a young girl who becomes a ward of Sir Thomas More and eventually becomes a lady in waiting to Queen Catherine of Aragon. I found this book highly readable (if somewhat implausible as to what happens to Honor over the course of her life). It's a book that is good enough to escape into for an afternoon, just don't take it too seriously.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

All He Ever Wanted by Anita Shreve

Anita Shreve continues to surprise me in her writing. This book was written in such a completely different way than the others of hers I read, yet I was completely captivated. The entire story is narrated in the first person of Nicholas Van Tassel. An English professor in the turn of century (1800's-1900's). The language is consistant both in time and in male voice. Prof. Van Tassel is recounting his first meeting with the woman he would claim for his wife, Etna Bliss and her realtionship with her. The narrative reminded me a lot of Jeremy Irons performance as Claus von Bulow in Reversal of Fortune. Not the stories are the same, just reminiscent to me. I have to admit that I had a difficult time putting this one down and could have read it in one sitting, had small children not prevented me from doing so.

Monday, July 20, 2009

An Award!

Thank you to Kim at Metro Reader for my first award to my book blog! This is the Kreative Blogger award and the idea is that you list 7 of your favorite things and then pass the award along to 7 other bloggers.

My 7 favorite things:

1. my relationship with God
2. my family
3. trying a new recipe
4. being in the middle of a good book
5. a good cup of tea
6. a rainy day spend on the couch with an old movie and bowl of popcorn
7. date night with my husband

My 7 nominated blogs:

1. Bookfan Mary
2. Aline, Queen of Happy Endings
3. Chronicle of an Infant Bibliofile
4. Peeking Between the Pages
5. Becky's Book Reviews
6. A Bookish Mom
7. Bloody Bad Book Blog

I also realised while doing this that I haven't added some of my favorite book blogs to my list, must update that soon!

It's Monday

I'm back at Anita Shreve with All He Ever Wanted.

Finger Lickin' Fifteen by Janet Evanovich

Here it is, the long awaited 15th Stephanie Plum book! Well, it's long awaited if you are me and read through the 1st 14 + extras last summer and fall. It's also long awaited if you've been looking for a Plum book featuring Ranger, because he's all over this one. I just really enjoyed this one. It had all the goods you'd want in a Plum book, you know murder, explosions, fire bombs and food. A great beach novel, or just escape from your day novel.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Weekly Geeks at the Movies

OOOH, I just love this week's Weekly Geek topic:

With the release of Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince this past week, I thought it would be good to turn once again to movie adaptations. In March, with the release of Watchmen (using that as a jumping off point for discussion), I brought up the subject of worst movie adaptations. This time, I'd like to bring up best movie adaptations (not saying if the recent Harry Potter movie is or isn't faithful to the book since I'll be honest I haven't read the book, but using the subject as a jumping off point for discussion).

So what are some of your favorite movie adaptations of books? Include trailers or scenes from Youtube if you'd like.

Also along with that question, or instead of that question, what book or series would you like to see be made into a movie or movies? Tell us why you think it or they would work as a movie. If the book already has a book trailer, include that, to help make your point.

Some of my very favorite movies were also wonderful books.

Oh Anne! How we love you. How we wanted to be you. How we wanted to marry Gilbert too. If you've never seen it, this was a CBC made for TV movie done by Sullivan Productions. This was the first that came out in 1985 (and the best). The sequel based on the next 3 Anne books, was very good too.

I know, another made for TV special, but it was done so well! I love this version of Pride and Predjudice more than any other. It was so perfect, the casting, the dialogue, the settings, the costumes...I couldn't imagine better.

Honestly, it's hard to find a better favorite movie and book when you discover Gone With the Wind by the time you are 11. I still watch this each year. Just watching the trailer made me want to dig my DVD out for yet another viewing. They just don't make movies like this anymore!

As for a book I'd love to see turned into a movie, that's easy (and I've posted about it previously) - I'd love to see the Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich on film. Here's how I would cast it (everyone who loves these books has a take on this I know)
Stephanie: Brittany Murphy
Morelli: Balthazaar Getty
Ranger: Mario Lopez
Lula: Mo'nique
Connie: Marissa Tomei
Vinnie: Steve Buscemi
Grandma: Cloris Leachman
Stephanie's Mom: Rita Wilson
Valerie: Judy Greer
If its going to be done, then please let it be done well! There's nothing worse than going to a movie based on books you love and having the movie let you down (exactly why I wait for video for most of them).

Happy reading and movie viewing!

Belly Laughs by Jenny McCarthy

If you are pregnant, or have ever been pregnant you need to read this book. This is the funniest most joyful, wonderful, honest pregnant read I have ever read. When I was expecting my first child I read the Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy which did the trick. Having had 2 children, this book just made me laugh and nod in agreement many times. It's a rare book that I will read out loud to my husband...well, I couldn't with this one because of little ears listening (she's crass), but I did make him read certain pages. I also laughed out loud, many times, which rarely happens for me. Very much enjoyed and very much recommend this one.

Sea Glass by Anita Shreve

Sea Glass is a book that I probably would not have read had it not been for the author. Nothing about this book interested me. Not the cover picture, not the jacket description. But, because I'm reading through Shreve's books right now, I thought I'd give it a go. It turns out to be a case of don't judge a book by its cover because I'd place this in the top 3 of books I've read by Shreve. I think the book was so much more interesting than the description. What I thought would be a collection of intersecting vignettes of people who live in the same area turned into a real capturing of history relating to Mill Strikes in the late 1920's/early 1930's. The characters were interesting and likable. The story was fascinating. There's also a throwback to and earlier story of hers, Fortune's Rocks. I'd definitely recommend picking this one up.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Where or When by Anita Shreve

If nothing else, Anita Shreve is a gifted writer of details. You know where you are, who you are with and all the little nuances that accompany the people and places of her books. I was especially aware of that reading Where or When.
The premise of the story brings to mind if you could reunite with your first love, what would it be like? Would you fall in love again? Would you be given a second chance? Sian and Charles first met 31 years ago at summer camp. They were 14 and camp lasted a week. I think most of us can relate to a romance like that. Young and in love for the first time. Surely many have even googled a name from the past just to see where they are now. The question is would you act on it?
I struggle with stories like this that empathize with the notion of an affair. Both characters in this story are married. Both have children. Very often our world glamorizes affairs and promotes love at all costs. But what of the love in the marriages? What of the sanctity of it? We so often forget that love and marriage is a lot of work. We have to choose to love and continue to love each other. The newness of love fades over time. The bonds that you create with your spouse needs to stay strong, even when you aren't feeling particularly loving toward them. The spouses in this story have done nothing wrong towards the main characters. They are just being in their marriages. These are questions I would pose in a discussion group for this book. Do you root for Sian and Charles and their lost love? Or, do you root for Harriet and Stephen and their marriages? Can you be entirely satisfied with a book like this? Is there a right answer? Do you throw away everything you have with your family? Change it permanently? Interesting questions. What are your thoughts?

Monday, July 13, 2009

It's Monday

I'm done with Candace Bushnell and back into Anita Shreve. Today I'm reading, Where or When.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Where in the World? Weekly Geeks Week

I love, love, love this week's Weekly Geeks topic:

This week's Weekly Geeks asks you to tell us about your globe trotting via books. Are you a global reader? How many countries have you "visited" in your reading? What are your favorite places or cultures to read about? Can you recommend particularly good books about certain regions, countries or continents? How do you find out about books from other countries? What countries would you like to read that you haven't yet?

Use your own criteria about what you consider to be "visiting" -- whether a book is written about the country or by a native or resident of the country.

Those who know me know I've been bitten by the travel bug. From a young age my parents had us trotting around from place to place and we've certainly started that tradition with our children.

I'm trying to think of the best for me country to feature in this. I could cheat and say the States (because I'm Canadian), but somehow that doesn't have the same effect. I also read a lot of books from Great Britain, but that doesn't seem foreign enough for me either. My husband is English and we've been there a few times visiting relatives.

So I'm going to look at one of my favorite authors and one of my favorite countries to read about that I've never been to.

First focus on the author I adore, Maeve Binchy. Maeve Binchy is Irish and reading a book of hers is like sitting down with a good friend over a cup of tea. I've never been to Ireland (yet!), but I feel as though I know it a bit from reading her books. She has written books ranging in era from the 1950's to present times, so you really get a sense of how Ireland has changed over recent time. Her stories set both in rural Ireland and contemporary Dublin (quite a contrast). I had read once that she was looking to retire from writing, but thank goodness I've seen at least 2 more publications since then and I look forward to more that she has to offer.

Now onto the country I love to read about but have never been to, India. Ahh India, I've visited you many times in many eras. It's such a fascinating place for me. I attribute this in part to my hometown of Abbotsford, BC. Abbotsford boasts the highest concentration of immigrants from India to Canada. I taught in schools where my students were mostly Indo-Canadian. They are lovely people.

I really got into reading about India from an Indo-Canadian author, Rohinton Mistry. He is phenominal. The first book of his I read was 'A Fine Balance' and if you haven't read it, I whole heartedly reccommend it. I've never read another book that quite captures the notion of being in a place that you've never been and being able to see, taste, smell, touch and hear it so accurately. I've enjoyed many more of Mistry's books too. He is an author worth checking out. I've read other stories set in India, but none so good.

The map below highlights countries I've read of, but not necessarily visited. I know that I've probably left out some and I apologise to that country!

create your own visited country map
or check our Venice travel guide

Friday, July 10, 2009

One Fifth Avenue by Candace Bushnell

One thing I've learned by reading almost all of Candace Bushnell's books in succession is how much an author can change over time. This last offering is completely different than the first of hers that I read (4 Blondes). One Fifth Avenue gives more of a cross-section of New York society. There is a contrast between the old and new. I think a lot of us are fascinated by the old school socialites. Those that lived New York through the 20th Century and now have very few left. New York is such a fascinating city. It is a world of contrasts. I really enjoy being there myself, having travelled twice on mission trips working in soup kitchens and outreach programs. This New York is a different one than I experienced. This is the one of the high life. The fashionistas, the trying to be famous, the famous without trying, the very wealthy, the illusion of wealth. It's a world known to few of us. I'm glad I picked up this book. I like the way it folds back the layers of high society. It's well done.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Weekly Geeks - It's Canadian Eh?

So my American friends are celebrating their independance and we here in Canada celebrated Canada Day a few days prior (July 1). Canada became a nation on July 1st 1867, uniting Upper and Lower Canada, Nova Scotia and PEI into a country. The CPR Railway connected east to west joining more British Colonies into this big, big nation.

There are many, many authours that do Canada justice. Some of those I recommend are Rohinton Mistry, Alice Munro, and L.M. Montgomery. My favorite reads if you really want a sense of who we are here in Canada (if you can take the humour, because that's really an important part of who we are) I recommend Why I Hate Canadians and How to Be Canadian by Will and Ian Ferguson. One is by both, one is by just Will. I laughed my way through both. Very Enjoyable!

It's Monday

So it's been a while since I've joined in. Here's what I'm reading today: One Fifth Avenue by Candace Bushnell. Coming up on my list are 3 by Anita Shreve: Where or When, Sea Glass and All He Ever Wanted. Happy Reading!

Lipstick Jungle by Candace Bushnell

Okay, I'm glad I stuck with Bushnell if only for this book. This is more of what I was expecting when I first set out to read Bushnell. Nothing here is gratutious (though the sex stuff is still more graphic than I would want in a book). And the story (or stories as we are looking at the lives of 3 friends) are well developed and believable. We read books like this to get a peek inside the lives of the wealthy and successful of the world. And she delivers with this story. These are characters that I liked. They are not perfect (just successful in their careers). And I enjoyed it.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Trading Up by Candace Bushnell

Here we go, 2nd attempt at Bushnell. This time in a novel format. The main character is Janie Wilcox, a model who was featured in one of the short stories of 4 Blondes. The story starts a few months after we last saw Janie. She has become a successful Victoria's Secret model. We get to see how she embraces her fame and her somewhat altered view of the world. We also get to see how she became the way she is. Some back story gets filled in as the novel goes on.
I'm still not in love with Bushnell's stories the way I know some people are. While the book certainly kept my attention, I still found many parts to be crude and unnecessary. And I still walked away feeling sorry for the people in the book. I think Janie is a good character to focus on. She's certainly very interesting. I guess I was just misinformed about what kind of a writer Bushnell is, thinking she was a lot more lighthearted. She's not.