Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!!!!

Happy New Year to all of my fellow bloggers, my readers and those who stop by once in a while!!
I wish you all the best for the coming year. Health and happiness foremost. This is the time of year when we all swear off excesses, but books are the one excess I have no interest in swearing off! See you all next year!!

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Almost Archer Sisters - Lisa Gabriele

I knew I had a doctor's appointment after work the other day, so I quickly stuck The Almost Archer Sisters in my bag to take with me. My doctor is invariably behind, so an hour and a half later, it was my turn. But honestly, I was so engrossed in this book, I really didn't notice how much time had passed. (I was in a much better place than those stuck reading outdated Sports Illustrated)

Releasing tomorrow from Random House Canada, this second novel from Lisa Gabriele is one of those books that is a found gem - one you have to let your friends know about.

It tells the story of two sisters who were raised on a farm in Ontario. Beth is a wild child who pushed the boundaries of everything growing up and continues to do so as an adult. She fled the farm and moved to New York to pursue a successful career. The other sister Georgia, but known to all as Peachy, stayed at home. She got pregnant and married before she finished her social work degree. Her husband, Beau, was Beth's first lover. Their father, Lou, a draft dodging hairdresser, also lives on the farm in a trailer.

Beth's life seems be unravelling and she is coming home to the farm for more frequent visits. Peachy's life is stressful as well. Her son Sam has severe epilepsy. Her focus lately has been on his health, not on her other son and husband.

Things come to a head during one Beth's visits. Peachy gets up in the night and walks in on her sister and Beau - and they're not playing cards.

What could have precipitated such a betrayal? Can any relationship - the siblings, the husband and wife, the father and daughters - ever recover or be rebuilt after such perfidy?

Gabriele's writing is at turns funny and poignant but above all else it is real. I was captivated by the characters and could not put the book down. It was Peachy who captured my heart - she's someone you would love to really know. The ending isn't cut and dried, leaving you to form your own conclusions. This would be a great selection for a book club. And I have another wonderful Canadian author to put on my favourites list!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy, Merry, Joyful....

However you celebrate, I wish you all a wonderful, joyful time with family and friends!
Merry Christmas!!

The Spy Who came for Christmas - David Morrell

David Morrell is best know for thriller/suspense writing. He created the Rambo character and is the co founder of the International Thriller Writers Organization. Creepers and Scavenger were New York Times bestsellers.
Look closely at the cover - that is a hand holding a gun inside a Christmas ornament. Paul Kagan is an undercover agent for the US government. He has infiltrated the Russian mob and has become a trusted member. Their latest job involves kidnapping a baby. This baby is the son of a world leader who advocates peace. Kagan foils the kidnapping, takes the baby himself and goes on the run. He finds shelter at a home with a woman and her son - the bad guys hot on his heels. Kagan relates "the spy's version of Christmas" to the woman's son.
Lots of big name endorsements on the back cover. Myself - I found it to be another easy cheesy Christmas read - and the last one this year!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Christmas Grace - Anne Perry

The second in my stash of Christmas tales is Anne Perry's A Christmas Grace. Perry is a very successful historical fiction writer. She has three series on the go. Charlotte and Thomas Pitt (25 books), the William Monk series (15 books) and A World War One series (5 books). I couldn't get into the World War One series, but love the Monk and Pitt series. All are set in England in the 1800's and are mysteries. Perry's dialogue,depiction of society and life and research is impeccable.

For the last 6 years she has put out a Christmas novella, featuring one of the series' characters in a mini mystery at Yuletime.

A Christmas Grace sees Charlotte Pitt's sister Emily off to Ireland to care for a dying aunt who has been shunned by her family. There is secrecy and an unsolved murder in the small village and Emily finds herself involved. Again, redemption is a theme - but hey it's the season. Another good read for a couple of hours on a snowy day.

Got one to add?

Monday, December 22, 2008

'Tis the Season - Lorna Landvik

I usually stockpile a few Christmas books to read at this time of the season. None of them are heavy or deep or particularly long, but are perfect for an hour or two of escapist, feel good reading.

Lorna Landvik's best known novel is Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons chosen by many a book club. It's on my bookshelf, but I haven't read it yet.

'Tis the Season is written in a series of emails and gossip column articles. Rich girl Caroline Dixon's drinking is out of control and the gossip rags are having a field day with it. Can she find her way and who will help her? Totally cheesy but perfect for a couple of hours on a snowy day.

Anyone else have one to add?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Flirting With Forty - The Movie

I just watched the movie of Jane Porter's Flirting With Forty. It's always interesting to see a movie after you've read the book. It's never quite the same....
I thought Heather Locklear was a good choice to play Jackie. (She looks wonderful and she's almost 50 - it wasn't a stretch to imagine her at 40 at all.) I found the kids a bit stilted. I really did not like the group of friends. Some changes from the book in this aspect. I did enjoy the movie, but one plotline that I thought was important in the book was completely left out of the movie. I know that it's hard to pare down an entire book into a two hour movie, but this is why I rarely watch a movie after reading the book. I find myself talking to the screen ... hey that's not right....she doesn't do that etc. I did enjoy it, but enjoyed the book more. What did you think?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Blindspot - Jane Kamensky & Jill Lepore

Blindspot, just released from Spiegel and Grau, is an wonderful piece of historical fiction. Wonderful just isn't enough - it's ribald, witty, charming and oh, so much more.

Jane Kamensky and Jill Lepore are both renowned history professors. They've joined together to produce this novel.

Blindspot tells the tale of young Fanny Easton, a 'fallen' woman from a good family. She has been working in the Manufactory in Boston in 1764, barely surviving. When she spies an advertisement for an artist's apprentice, she sees a slim chance to escape her life of poverty. She disguises herself as a boy and applies to Stewart Jameson as Francis Weston. She does possess artistic ability and is taken on. Unbeknownst to her, Stewart Jameson has fled to the colonies from Scotland, where he is wanted for debt evasion. His debt was incurred trying to buy the freedom of his friend, the brilliant, black Dr. Alexander. Boston in 1764 is resisting the heavy hand of England and it's taxes. Slavery is an issue being hotly debated and political unrest is rampant. When a death (or could it be murder) occurs, the three are deeply involved.

Kamensky and Lepore have skillfully woven historical fact with literary license to create an engrossing, clever tale. It is told in alternating viewpoints. Jameson is writing his take on things to "Dear Reader"in his journal, while Fanny (Weston) is writing letters to a childhood friend. I was captured by the language and tone of the book - the puns, plays on words, language used and the social fabric of Boston in 1764. The depth of historical fact woven in adds to an already rich story. Blindspot is a love story as well. Some readers may be offended by some of the sexual scenes, but they are integral to the book.

The authors have created an excellent website for the book as well, providing further insight. Although the book is 500 pages long, it never flagged for me. The storyline was compelling right to the last page. However, I wonder if there will be a sequel? The ending has been left open for one. I hope so!

Fans of Emma Donoghue would enjoy this book.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Winners - Giveaway - Flirting with Forty

And the three lucky winners, chosen using, of a copy of Flirting With Forty, courtesy of Hachette Books are:

Stephanie , Ramya and Wrighty

Congratulations! I'll be contacting you by email for your mailing address.

A totally non book related post...

....and I know there aren't many of them... But I wanted to share the other thing I love (almost) as much as reading. And that is quilting.

Ignore the date on the photo - I did just finish it this week. (Apparently if you change the batteries in the camera you're expected to change the date and time as well...) And the colour is a bit off - it's actually darker. (Hint - do not shoot into direct sunlight)

So my dear husband complains that everyone else has been a beneficiary of a quilt but him. So this is his very own couch quilt and he'll be toasty when he falls asleep in front of the television. He totally avoids the sewing room, so it should be a surprise on Christmas Day!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Winners - Giveaway - I Like You

And the lucky three winners (chosen using of a copy of Amy Sedaris's I Like You, courtesy of Hachette Books are:

Mo, Neverwithoutabook and Kalea_Kane

Congratulations! I will be contacting you via email for your mailing addresses.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Bodies Left Behind - Jeffery Deaver

Jeffery Deaver is one of my favourite thriller/suspense authors.

He is the author of the successful Lincoln Rhyme series, about a paralyzed detective who solves crimes based on the evidence gathered by his protege Amelia Sachs. This was made into a successful movie staring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie.

But I digress. The Bodies Left Behind is a stand alone novel. Deputy Brynn McKenzie is just home for the night with her family when her boss asks her to check out a house on a sparsely populated lake. It could be nothing, but there was a 911 call that got cut off. Maybe it was a misdial. She heads up to the lake, finds the house and walks into a horrific crime scene - and the perpetrators haven't left the area yet. They're still looking for the female houseguest that escaped the carnage. Brynn finds her first and they're on the run into the State Forest that surrounds the lake with the killers hot on their trail. The killers have also called the 911 in as a false alarm. There will be no police help on the way for Brynn and Michelle.

This is a nail biter of a novel, with lots of twists and turns that you don't see coming. Deaver's characters are always more than two dimensional. The bad guys aren't cardboard cut outs - their personalities are developed as much as the protagonists. You'll be turning pages to get in just one more chapter before you turn off the light.

If you like Harlen Coben, John Sandford or Linwood Barclay you'll love Jeffery Deaver.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Customer is Always Wrong - Jeff Martin (Editor)

~~~~~~The Retail Chronicles~~~~~

Well this seems like an appropriate time to post this review. The countdown is on ...only twelve shopping days left until Christmas......

The Customer is Always Wrong, from Soft Skull Press, is an eclectic collection of essays penned by writers who have done time in the retail jungle. I think most of us have "served the public" in a retail capacity at some point in our lives - your first job, putting yourself through university or an extra part time job to make ends meet. For some people it's a fantastic fit, for others - well, it's not. As Jeff Martin says in his introduction, "If this book can help shed a little more light on the often-disregarded retail experience, then we have done our job and done it well."

I was hooked from the first story - a college age student's summer job in a large department store chain, the descriptions of the rah rah manager and the attitudes and antics of the staff had me laughing out loud. The tales cover the gamut - from an upscale spa, a video store, home improvement, coffee shop, porn warehouse plus more. One of the best was Wendy Spero's tale of door to door knife sales, preying on friends and family. The saddest was the porn store, though not for the reasons you might think. The most fascinating was Elaine Viets. She writes a series called The Dead-End Job Mysteries. She actually takes on retail jobs to research her characters.

Having worked in a large retail chain for many years myself, I could appreciate many of the crazy, imperious and downright odd demands made by customers. I often said to the staff that we could write a book based on the almost daily occurrences. However there was good as well, but there aren't that many of those kind of stories in The Customer is Always Wrong. My only complaint - it wasn't long enough! I devoured it in one sitting. Martin himself works in a bookstore - I'm sure that that's a book waiting to be written.......

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The As It Happens Files - Mary Lou Finlay

~~~Radio That May Contain Nuts~~~

I first got hooked on CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)radio when I met my husband over twenty years ago. The wealth and diversity of programming provides something for every listener. The second longest running show - 4o years - is "As It Happens"; on five nights a week at 6:30 p.m. They are an outcall show, broadcasting interviews conducted by telephone, seeking out the 'story behind the story'. It runs the gamut - from talking with world leaders to offbeat human interest stories. Mary Lou Finlay was the co-host of the show from 1997-2005.
The human interest stories are the ones that stand out for Finlay - the 96 year old who took 75 years to get his university degree, brain surgery on pet goldfish or the man who spent twenty years building a bear proof suit. Human interest stories from England have been popular as well - the woman who has a garden gnome sanctuary with over 2000 restored gnomes generated lots of feedback.
But the serious touch us as well. 9/11, the Air India crash, natural disasters and inside interviews from Darfur and Iran to name a few.
The book includes transcripts from many of these interviews.
Reading and remembering some of the stories from over the years just reminds me why this show is a Canadian icon - and why I love it.
You can peek inside this new release from Random House here.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Winners - Giveaway - Katie Brown Celebrates

Just in time for seasonal celebrating! The three winners (picked using random. org) of a copy of Katie Brown Celebrates courtesy of Hachette Books are;

Julie, Anna and Jeanette J.

I'll be contacting you by email for mailing information. If I don't hear from you in 48 hours, I will go to the next name on the list. Sorry Stephanie you were one of the original three but you didn't leave an email address and your blog doesn't seem to list one either......

Congratulations! Check the sidebar for other great giveaways!

Dating da Vinci - Malena Lott

Thirty five year old Ramona Elise has been widowed for two years. Her two young sons have been the reason she keeps getting up every day. Ramona teaches English to new immigrants. She impetuously offers to rent the studio behind her home to a young new student from Italy named Leonardo da Vinci.

"La vita allegra. Joyful living. His eyes danced with excitement and awe and insatiable curiosity. Not just for America. For life. I ached to feel that again."

Lott's depiction and characterization of a grief stricken family still coming to terms with the loss of their husband/father is realistically written and sensitively portrayed.

Da Vinci becomes more than just a tenant. He becomes friends with the boys and closer and closer to Ramona. Is she ready to act on the attraction she feels towards this younger man? Or would it be a betrayal of her love for her husband Joel? She has unanwered questions about Joel's relationship with an old flame that still haunt her as well.

"I wished I could wear red lipstick, but much like the red suit, you have to have the red inside of you to wear it on the outside."

I had the idea that this would be a 'chick lit' book when I first picked it up. I found it to have more depth than just a beach read. Lott has also done her research - I found the origins of words and love fascinating as well as the details of an Indian wedding ceremony. As I interact with immigrants on a daily basis, I appreciated her positive outlook towards new citizens.

The book is populated with some fun supporting characters. I found the best friend Anh particularly appealing. The sister and mothers are a bit stereotypical and overdone, but fulfill their role in the book quite well. I did find that taking da Vinci into her bed when her boys home a bit rash. Quite honestly she put up with a bit more than I would have. (the new mattress story springs to mind)

Although the ending of the book is predictable and neatly wrapped up, it was an enjoyable journey to get there. I was happy to discover this new (for me) author. Check out Malena's website for contests, recipes and reading group guides. One of my favourite new authors, Jess Riley, just posted a great interview with Malena here.

Dating da Vinci was just released last month from Sourcebooks.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Flirting with Forty - Jane Porter

Flirting with Forty tells the story of Jackie. It's her second year as a divorced woman. Her two kids live with her and she loves them to death, but there's something definitely lacking in her life. It's bad enough that her husband left her for a younger woman, but her fortieth birthday is looming. Her friend Anne takes decisive action - she books them into a resort in Hawaii for a getaway. But when the time comes, Anne can't go. Jackie takes a deep breath and decides to going alone.

"I remember loving my husband and children. I remember loving them, and somewhere I must have stopped loving me... "

After sitting by the pool alone and watching movies in her room, she makes a decision.....

"I want more. More happiness. More love. More laughter. More sex. More of everything. I want to be everything I know I am.

It is at a surfboarding lesson that she meets Kai - a young, sexy, muscular, laid back, surfer kind of guy. She is very attracted to him, but he's younger and lives life to a different rhythm. What would he see in her?

Does she or doesn't she? Does she find happiness? Or answers with heartache? What about her ex?- after all the kids want them to get back together. And her friends - what would they think? I had to force myself not to flip to the back of the book and read the last chapter midway through.

Jane Porter has put to paper many questions I think a lot of women have asked themselves at some point in their lives. Written with humor and empathy, Jackie's character is true to life. The idea for this novel came when Porter was on holiday in Hawaii. (Did I mention she's dating a surfer?) It's a delicious read combining chick lit, romance and some thought provoking ideas all in one. I loved it and I'm sure you will too. You can enter a giveaway for a copy here. You can also join Grand Central Publish Blog Talk Radio for an interview with Jane on Friday, December 5th at 1pm/ET. Join in here.


You can watch the movie on Saturday December 6th at 9ET/8C on the Lifetime Channel. Yep - that's Heather Locklear as Jackie. Why not make it a girlfriend's movie night? With an island theme? Here's a recipe for Pineapple Upside-Down Cake from Amy Sedaris's book I Like You.(You can win a copy here!)

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
(reprinted with permission)

12 tbsp butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup pineapple juice
5 whole pineapple rings
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup white sugar
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Melt 4 tbsp of butter in the bottom of an 8 or 9 inch pan or ovenproof skillet. Stir in the brown sugar and stir until it dissolves. Take off burner and add your pineapple juice. Arrange the 5 whole pineapple rings in one layer in the pan. Set aside. Melt the rest of the butter. Remove from heat and stir in the ilk and egg, beating well. Add all the dry ingredients together in another bowl and add the milk mixture t that and beat until smooth. Pour overt the pineapple slices and bake for 35 minutes . Let cool in pan for 10 minutes and flip over onto a plate, pineapple side up. Serve with whipped cream.

Check out what my fellow Early Bird Bloggers - Amy, Kathy, Sharon, Carey , Marcia, Sally , Deborah, Allison, S.Krishna, Shana, Julie , Cheryl, Cindy , Tamara , Bethany , Sheri S , Wendi , Tracee, Carrie , Sherri, Toni , Book Maniac , Lisa, Kalea and Alyce thought of the book and some other recipes!

Giveaway - Flirting with Forty - Jane Porter

Here's your chance to win one of three copies of Flirting with Forty courtesy of Hachette Books. A great book and movie! You can read my review here.

Open to both Canada and the US. No PO Boxes please. Simply comment to be entered. An extra entry for linking. And a third entry for becoming a follower of this blog. Giveaway runs until Thursday December 18th at 6 pm/EST.

Thanks for stopping by. Check the sidebar for other great giveaways!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I Like You - Amy Sedaris

I had heard of this book when it spent twelve weeks on the New York Times non fiction bestseller list as a hardcover book in 2006. It has just been released as a softcover by Hachette Books in October this year.

I couldn't wait to open this one up and find the surprises inside that the cover seems to promise. I was not disappointed!

First - where did that title come from? Well, Amy's philosophy on hospitality is - "Hello, and I like you. This is what you're saying when you invite someone into your home."

I Like You is full of quirky, hilarious information couched in perfectly reasonable tones. The beginning of the book covers the basics - making invitations, accepting invitations, keeping a party log. It also covers the wacky - why not hold an indoor garage sale at your party to get rid of some stuff when you have a captive crowd? Put some marbles in your medicine cabinet so you know what guest is snooping when the marbles fall into the sink. Planning for auspicious occasions such as 'Blind Date', 'Rich Uncle Comes to Visit', and 'Lumberjack Lunch' (plus lots more) are all covered. Everything you need is provided - invitations, decorations, table setting and most important - a themed menu. All fun aside - the recipes are actually really good! (Loved the Cinnamon Sour Cream Coffee Cake!)

The book is chock full of kitschy photos using some funky dishes and props. Sedaris also has a predilection for googly eyes and they are featured throughout. A gift section at the end gives directions to duplicate many of her creations.

Amy Sedaris is a very funny woman, and so is this book! Want a chance to win a copy? Enter my giveaway here!

Giveaway - I Like You - Amy Sedaris

Here's a chance to win one of three copies of I Like You by Amy Sedaris courtesy of Hachette Books.
It's lots of fun - my review is here. Or you can have a peek inside here.
Contest is open to both Canada and the U.S., no PO Boxes please. Just leave a comment to be entered, an extra entry for a link. Contest closes Tuesday December 16th at 6 pm EST.
Good luck and thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Winners - Confetti Cakes for Kids - Elisa Strauss

And the three lucky winners of copies of Confetti Cakes for Kids courtesy of Hachette Books and chosen by are:

Christyjan, Allison and Trish

I'll be contacting you for your mailing information. Thanks for entering and check the sidebar for other giveaways!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Phraseology - Barbara Ann Kipfer

~The Definitive Compendium~
~Thousands of Bizarre Origins, Unexpected Connections and Fascinating Facts about English's Best Expressions~

Oh, Phraseology is a trivia buff's dream. Or anyone who loves words and language. My son is of the first persuasion. He loves books like this and promptly snagged it.
Phraseology is one of those books you want to share. I had just as much fun listening to him quiz me on phrases as he did reading it. Some I knew, but some were complete surprises.

Here's a few to whet your appetite -

"To skin a cat" - comes from removing the tough skin from a catfish prior to cooking.

"Fit to be tied" - refers to being insane and bound, as in a straight jacket tied to the body.

This is a great book to leave on the coffee table - it can be picked up and read at whim.

I enjoyed the origin phrases, such as those listed above, the most. Some entries read more like dictionary entries that most people would already know, such as lie detector and celery seed. Some of the facts I found a bit uninspiring - "Asian elephants are smaller than African elephants". Based on the subtitle, I was looking for entries that were more 'bizarre', 'unexpected' and 'fascinating'. Still, this is a fun book to have around the house.

Dr. Barbara Ann Kipfer has been a lexicographer and linguist for 25 years and is the author of more than 30 books. Word Nerd is also from Sourcebooks.