Friday, January 30, 2009
"An exhilarating novel of romance, art, and food in Florence, featuring the beloved Margot Harrington, who graced Robert Hellenga's The Sixteen Pleasures. Margot Harrington's memoir about her discovery in Florence of a priceless masterwork of Renaissance erotica - and the misguided love affair it inspired - is now, 25 years later, being made into a movie.Margot, with the help of her lover, Woody, writes a script that she thinks will validate her life. Of course their script is not used, but never mind - happy endings are the best endings for movies, as Margot eventually comes to see.At the former convent in Florence where "The Sixteen Pleasures" - now called "The Italian Lover," - is being filmed, Margot enters into a drama she never imagined, where her ideas of home, love, art, and aging collide with the imperatives of commerce and the unknowability of other cultures and other people.
Giveaway is open to US and Canada, sorry - no po boxes. Simply comment to be entered. An extra entry for blogging/tweeting about this giveaway. PLEASE make sure you include contact info. Contest closes Saturday Feb 21 at 6 pm EST.
Congratulations - I will contact you by email for your mailing address. Thanks to all who entered.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Richard LeMieux had it all. He had been a successful sportswriter and owned a small publishing company. He had raised three children and travelled extensively with his partner of seventeen years. He lived the 'good life', eating out, spending lots on material goods. Until the bottom fell out - his business failed, his partner left and his adult children and former friends wanted nothing more to do with him. On Christmas Day 2002, despondent and suffering from severe depression, LeMieux attempted suicide. Thankfully he was unsuccessful.
For the next year and a half, he lives with his faithful companion Willow (the Wonder Dog) in his van. Taking many of his meals at the Salvation Army, (hence the title) we meet many of the other homeless and working poor that populate the city of Bremerton, Washington.
Drawing on his writing background and a donated typewriter, LeMieux begins to write a book about his journey. Families living in church parking lots in their cars, camps of young people living peacefully on the outskirts of town, the mentally ill, the addicted. But it is the caring and compassion shown by these downtrodden to each other that strikes such a chord with me. In particular a man only identified as C, who is so responsive to the needs of those in his neighbourhood. There are many, many other stories within this book.
With the economy the way it is, I am sure there will be many more people forced into situations that they would never have forseen or imagined. I am always inspired by memoirs such as Breakfast at Sally's. Not just by the authors, but those who choose to make a difference.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Kim, Anya, Larkspur and Janice. One of the winners already had a copy so the next person in line is Molly.
I will be contacting you by email. If I don't hear from you within 48 hours, I will have to go to the next name on the list. (Just a reminder to make sure you either leave a contact email or have it listed on your blog or website. I had to skip a number of people who left no way for me to contact them!)
Thanks to all who entered and congratulations to the winners.
Monday, January 26, 2009
"When I was a boy I had little interest in freedom, but my father did, so when I was seven years old he freed me, and I was sent across the sea with a change of clothing in a little black maw and a rolled-up copy of the Declaration of Independence that I could not read".
Jimmy Gates is sent to England for an education and to escape the racial constraints of the States. However when his father dies, he is sent to the workhouse. He passes some years in the company of thieves and prostitutes. He listens to the speeches of an Irish revolutionary named O'Keefe and dreams of returning to the States as a warrior himself, to find and rescue his mother.
The young Jimmy Gates is an innocent, completely unaware of slavery and what the colour of his skin means to some. He is a gentle, thoughtful boy. As he grows into a young man, his personality changes and he displays a violent, calculating, angry demeanour. At this point I didn't like him very much.
Upon his arrival back in the States, he is surprised to find himself held in such low regard, even though he is a free man. Violence, anger and intolerance is visited upon him. He ends up 'enlisted' in the Civil War, still hoping to find his mother.
He crosses paths with the Irishman O'Keefe again. Their futures seem to be inextricably intertwined. Jimmy Gates renames himself Freeman Walker.
I had expected this novel to be more historical in tone. Although it certainly uses historical events and attitudes, they are simply the vehicle. It is the characters and their dreams, ideas and passions that drive the novel. Freeman Walker is a memorable protagonist, discovering the harsh price paid for freedom.
However, I found my interest waning in the latter part of the novel. An element of magic, faeires and ghost armies is introduced which I felt detracted from what I had already read. I was looking for more about the search for his mother. This is reduced to almost a footnote at the end of a chapter.
The ending is satisfying though.
"Yet out here there was nobody left to see me, nobody left to name me but me."
Friday, January 23, 2009
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
I always enjoy discovering the first in a new series. The Chalk Circle Man is the first Adamsberg novel.
Commissionaire Adamsberg has recently been posted to Paris. His new Inspectors are not quite sure what to make of him. Quite frankly no one is. He always seems distracted, constantly doodles and often just sits there staring into space. And yet -
"...he had solved , one after another, four murders in a way that his colleagues had found uncanny..."
The local press has taken note of chalked blue circles that are popping up accross the city. They encircle discarded rubbish- hats, lighters, whatever seems to be lying around. Adamsberg has a feeling about these circles and instructs his team to photograph and note all of them. His premonition is proven right when a woman's body is found circled in blue chalk.
A local oceanographer and her lodgers - a blind man and an older woman obsessed with personal ads seem to have some connection to the mysterious circles, but they are less than forthcoming. And this is where the character of Adamsberg shines. He waits for things to happen, for connections to show themselves, all to the consternation of his Inspectors.
The Chalk Circle Man is populated by odd and unsettling characters whose minds operate in distinctly non linear fashion. The conversations between these characters is nimble and thought provoking. I was captivated throughout the entire novel. Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg is a delightful, quirky, outside the lines sleuth. I will be waiting for the second in this series.
Oh, and Fred Vargas is an award winning female author!
Monday, January 19, 2009
A Long Stone's Throw is the autobiography of Alphie McCourt. He's the youngest brother of Frank (Angela's Ashes) McCourt and Malachy (A Monk Swimming) McCourt. Both older brothers have written memoirs detailing their impoverished upbringing in Ireland and immigration to the United States and Alphie adds his voice to the memories.
You can listen to an excerpt here and read my review here.
Courtesy of Hachette Books, I have three audiobook copies to giveaway! Simply comment to be entered! Extra entry for linking. Open to both Canada and the US - no po boxes please. Ends Monday Feb. 9/09 at 6 pm EST.
Both older brothers have written memoirs detailing their impoverished upbringing in Limerick, Ireland, their emigration to the United States and the success they both found.
I listened to this in audio format. It was read by the author. It opens with-
"I often don't talk much. There is a rhythm to talk, a definite beat, sometimes my mind wanders and I lose the cadence of the conversation."
During the first disc I found McCourt's manner and rhythm of speaking to be slow and dull with little inflection. However, McCourt's Irish lilt is pleasant and I was soon caught up in his tale. He often breaks into song as well.
He begins telling his story when he is in his twenties and living in New York. The tale heads back to Ireland for childhood memories and then back to the U.S. Much of the childhood was something I had heard before, having read his brothers' memoirs.
I found some of the stories to be so detailed that I wondered if McCourt had kept comprehensive journals or diaries or he was embellishing his memories. Although interesting, I found some of the minutiae to be a bit boring at times.
Alphie McCourt struggled with alcohol through much of his adult life. He worked a variety of jobs, eventually finding success in the restaurant and bar business.
You can listen to an excerpt here. Want a chance to own your own copy? Enter the giveaway here!
Friday, January 16, 2009
Covers are often enough to make me want to read a book. I loved this one. But the opening paragraph cinched the deal...
"The day I laid Robert Morgan to rest was remarkable for two reasons. First, even though it was August, the sky overhead was as rough and cold as a January lake; and second, it was the day I started to shrink."
We know the ending, but what led to this point?
The entire town is gathered outside her parent's home the day Truly Plaice is born. Her mother had grown so big, bets were being laid on the size of what would surely be a strapping boy. The local doctor Robert Morgan delivers a girl and she is abnormally large. Her mother dies in childbirth. Her father isn't quite sure what to make of her - she is much different from her delicate sister Serena Jane. Truly continues to grow and grow. She is teased and scorned and just never 'fits'. She does make two friends - others who don't fit the mold either - Marcus and Amelia
This Dr. Robert Morgan is the fourth in his family to be the town's doctor. He is descended from Tabitha Dyerson, who was the town's original healer. Her book of cures is mythical in the town and never was found. Without giving away too much of the plot, circumstances lead to inextricable intertwinings between the Morgans and the Plaices.
The book is written from Truly's point of view - detailing her hurt, anger and desires. Although this led me to know Truly very well, it only gave one viewpoint of events and other characters. I would have enjoyed hearing what Marcus, Amelia and Serena Jane actually thought, not Truly's take on things.
The tone of this book is almost magical and fairy tale in feel. Baker has a gift with words, painting vivid descriptions.
"Even his narrow prowling walk told you he was a man of limitless appetite- hungry all the time and yet never filled all the way up."
I started this book and really could not put it down. It's unique and captivating. Baker is a fresh new voice on the fiction front. I look forward to her second novel.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
This month, the selection is Love and Other Natural Disasters by Holly Shumas.
At a family Thanksgiving dinner, eight months pregnant Eve goes to check on her husband, who been on the phone for quite awhile. She overhears him "speaking to someone with great tenderness." When she questions him on who it was, he replies....just a friend. Eve ends the dinner and pursues the question further. Her husband Jon admits that he has been emailing and talking on the phone almost daily to a woman for almost a year, but there has been no physical intimacy. She asks him to leave.
" Did I believe that Jon loved me? Yes. But the value of his love - our love - changed that night. And what do you do with devalued love?"
Her family and friends are all relieved that he hasn't had sex with this woman - surely it's not so bad then?
What an interesting question. Is a physical affair worse than an emotional affair? How can they be compared or measured? Both are betrayals.
I found myself greatly disliking the husband at first, immediately branding him the wrongdoer. It was cut and dried as far as I could see. Eve goes through many stages. Some of them I had difficulty with, especially at the end, which left me somewhat conflicted. I enjoyed the supporting cast of characters, especially the brother Charlie, who moves in with Eve and faces his own growing pains. Eve's friends are somewhat predictable, but are used to present both sides of the equation.
Shumas, who is a practicing family and marriage therapist, has created believable characters faced with real life dilemmas. She explores the anatomy of a marriage. What led up to this emotional affair? Can this perfidy be forgiven? Can a marriage survive this? Would you want it to? Thought provoking and sure to engender discussion, this would be a great choice for a book club.
As part of the giveaway ( still open until January 29th!) for copies of Love and Other Natural Disasters AND Holly's first book Five Things I Can't Live Without, readers were invited to leave a relationship question for Holly to answer. Holly has graciously answered three questions below.
Q & A:
Q: What would be the warning sign of a spouse having an 'emotional affair'? the same or different from regular flavor affair? I think maybe it would be harder to detect since there wouldn't be 'physical' evidence.
A: That’s a really good point. There is a lack of the traditional, film-noir kind of evidence (lipstick on the collar, the smell of perfume, etc.) I think that’s part of why the person who’s having an emotional affair can deny to himself or herself that anything is going on. They can point to other people and say, “Now that’s an affair.” But I think some of the more subtle signs are the same: Your partner seems unusually distracted, and it’s gone quieter between you. There might be changes in your sex life—either more sex, because the other person might be nursing a fantasy of someone else, or less sex, because there’s a sense of disconnection between you. There’s just a different level of intimacy. Intimacy is hard to define, but you know it when you feel it (or when you’ve stopped feeling it.) It’s important to go with your gut, and be communicative.
Q: I seem to be terribly critical of lots of things hubby does that are really petty. For example, how he loads the dishwasher. What should I do to get over these incredibly stupid things?
A: Start by asking yourself if the stupid things are an indicator of some bigger complaint you have about him. Does the way he loads the dishwasher remind you of something about his character that’s really bothersome to you? (Just as an example, if he’s sloppy with that, do you feel he’s often sloppy about things that are truly important to you?) If that’s the case, you’d want to address the underlying stuff with him, figure out what he needs to change and what you need to accept (it’ll usually be some of both, but acceptance comes easier when you see the other person trying.)
If a dishwasher really is just a dishwasher, then you’d have to look within yourself. Do you feel a strong desire to control your environment, or the people in it? Or are you dissatisfied with other things about your life and you’re just taking them out on him? It seems like you need to dig around for the root cause so that you can decide what to do about it.
Q: What are the most effective communication tools/skills in a marriage?
I think trust is an often overlooked aspect of communication. When we trust our partner to take us seriously and to have our best interest at heart, we speak and listen differently. It’s the foundation for a productive conversation. So that’s the first thing to consider. The best tool in my mind is a classic: the “I” message. Instead of saying, “You did x wrong,” you say, “I felt x when you did y.” That way, you take responsibility for your reaction, instead of just blaming. Good skills to practice are: being able to articulate feelings besides just anger (beneath the anger is usually disappointment, hurt, or some other pain), not backing down from something you really care about or pretending it’s okay when it isn’t, and truly listening and not just waiting for your chance to talk again. So much of effective communication comes down to owning our feelings, stating them respectfully, and respecting the other person’s perspective. Easy to say, sometimes hard to do. But it gets easier the more you practice.
Check out some of the other stops on the tour!
Write for a Reader
What Have I Read Lately
Cafe of Dreams
A Blog of BooksFor You
A Circle of Books
At Home With Books
My Friend Amy
The Tome Traveller's Weblog
2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews
S. Krishna's Books
Enroute to Life
A Novel Menagerie
The Printed Page
Cindy's Love of Books
B & b ex libris
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Quoz - n. - referring to anything strange, incongruous or peculiar, at it's heart is the unknown, the mysterious. Rhymes with Oz.
I've had this book for a little bit now, but it isn't one you want to race through at all. It's a fairly hefty book at 550 pages plus, but you need to stop and savour each and every tale.
William Least Heat-Moon landed on the New York Times bestseller list in the early 80's with his first book Blue Highways. Heat-Moon had lost both his job and his wife and decided to travel the back roads of America to see who he would meet and what he would find.
Heat-Moon is discovering hidden gems again with his female companion, Q, in Roads to Quoz - An American Mosey from Hachette Books.
"If you leave a journey exactly who you were before you departed, the trip has been much wasted, even if it's just to the Quickee-Mart."
This journey begins in Arkansas following the path of the Ouachita River. Heat-Moon's inherent curiosity about anything and everything is infectious. What are the origins of such placenames as Smackover, Hog Jaw and Possum Grape? I drove through a small town I'd never been to before the other day and found myself wondering how it came to be named Harmony. That's the captivating thing about Roads to Quoz - once you read of Heat-Moon's travels and interactions you look at things just a little bit differently - and from my point of view, that's a good thing.
This book covers a series of trips taken to various states. The history of each town or place is discussed in fascinating detail. But it is the human stories that captured me the most. Meeting Jean Ingold, with whom he has corresponded by letter for many years. Jean lives in a home of 117 sq.ft. She supports herself minimally, restricting her carbon footprint as much as possible. Her philosophy of life is engrossing. Travelling to the town where his great grandfather was murdered. The Goat Woman of Smackover Creek, who lived for fifty years in a 6x20 travelling medicine show truck. Meeting the caretaker of Jack Kerouac's original scroll manuscript of On The Road. The everyday people who stop in a diner and share part of their lives with him. There are numerous other stories, all equally compelling.
How does he find these tales? He opens himself to 'letting himself be found.' Heat-Moon's gift is his view of life and the ability to put to paper and share his curiousity.
I haven't read Blue Highways, but will be seeking it out after reading this book. And taking the lesser travelled road a little more....
Monday, January 12, 2009
Let's start off the week again with another giveaway!
I have three copies of James Patterson's latest - Cross Country- in audio format to giveaway courtesy of Hachette Books!
I enjoyed both the book and listening in audio format. You can read my review here!
Open to both the US and Canada - no po boxes please. Simply comment to be entered, an extra entry for linking. A third for becoming a follower ( let me know if you already are!) Giveaway runs til Monday February 2nd, 6 pm EST. Winner will be chosen using random.org.!
Cross Country finds Detective Cross called in to a home invasion where the entire family was murdered, butchered really. It is someone from Alex's past. And then the unthinkable - it happens again..... There are rumours of a shadowy figure called the Tiger who is systematically targeting entire families - all who seem to have a connection to Africa. Most frightening is that the Tiger's gang is made up of teenage boys. Alex follows the Tiger to Africa. Cross is completely unprepared for what he finds. Pulling from today's headlines Patterson has detailed atrocities that are all too real.
Cross Country stays true to Patterson's trademark short chapters with cliff hanger endings. They are numerous - I found myself predicting how many the narrator would announce by the end of the book ( 150 something!) I enjoyed listening to this book in audio format and would most likely choose to do it again. It made the drive to work go faster!
Want a copy for yourself? Enter the giveaway here!
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Gary is a washed up tennis player. He lands in a small Nebraska town and ends up as the high school janitor. He joins Randy Quaid as a tennis coach and attempts to take a team of misfits to the state championships.
This is definitely not a family movie. There are lots of sexual jokes, drug use, bathroom humour, some nudity and completely un-politically correct dialogue. But if you're looking for a totally irreverant, raunchy adult version of Bad News Bears, you'll find some laughs here.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
(I do have this mad urge to try and change the wording
...I've ever known, I ever knew ... I wonder where this originated?!)
Anyway this is a “meme” award, so it gets passed on. The rules for passing it on are:
1. Put the logo on your blog.
2. Add a link to the person who awarded you.
3. Award up to ten other blogs.
4. Add links to those blogs on yours.
5. Leave a message for your awardees on their blogs.
And trying not to duplicate, I'm passing on to:
Ruth at Bookish Ruth
Lauren at Shooting Stars Mag
Cindy at Cindy's Love of Books
Jeanne at Necromancy Never Pays
Book Maniac at A Blog of Books
And I'm going to stop at 5, because it seems to be everywhere I go already! Spread the bloggy love!
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Georgia Walker is a single mother to a biracial child - Dakota. She has a successful little knitting store. The Friday Night Knitting Club is the stories of many of the women who come theoretically to knit, but more for the companionship and support. At first I thought this would be too saccharine for me, but was soon caught up in everyone's story. There is a sequel out as well - Knit Two - that I think I'll listen to in audio as well. I did enjoy the reader's voice, but found her child's voice a bit annoying and the Scottish granny was at times East Indian or Irish it seemed. All in all one of those feel good hen lit novels. Oh, and I now have a mad desire to knit something.....
Monday, January 5, 2009
Let's start the week off right - with a new giveaway!!
I have five copies of Sundays at Tiffany's by James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet to giveaway courtesy of Hachette Books!
"As a little girl, Jane has no one. Her mother, the powerful head of a Broadway theater company, has no time for her. She does have one friend-a handsome, comforting, funny man named Michael-but only she can see him. Years later, Jane is in her thirties and just as alone as ever. Then she meets Michael again-as handsome, smart and perfect as she remembers him to be. But not even Michael knows the reason they've really been reunited.SUNDAYS AT TIFFANY'S is a love story with an irresistible twist, a novel about the child inside all of us-and the boundary-crossing power of love."
You can browse inside the book here.
Just comment to be entered. An extra entry for linking and a third entry for becoming a follower! (Let me know if you already are!) Open to both US and Canada, no po boxes please. Giveaway ends Monday January 26th at 6 pm EST. Please make sure I have a way to contact you!
I read Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code when it came out and enjoyed it. But then I discovered Steve Berry and haven't looked back. As far as I'm concerned he's the master of this genre, combining historical fact with suspense, intrigue and non stop action.
Berry's recurring character is Cotton Malone, a 'retired' government agent. His father Forrest died in a submarine accident in 1971. For years he has tried to find out details, but has been stymied by the Navy. He pulls in a favour and gains access to highly classified documents - his father's sub was on a secret mission to the Antarctic. When he is contacted by the German family members of another of the doomed submariners, he agrees to embark on a search for the truth. And that truth is a shocker. The other family holds documents that show the submarine was out to prove the existance of a 'First Civilization' - a culture that evolved long before history as we know it. There seems to be evidence that Charlemagne had knowledge gained from this advanced culture. The Nazis looked for it in 1938 and the Americans went back in 1971.
The Charlemagne Pursuit is a thrilling read. The plot is intricate and involved, with many seemingly disparate stories converging at the end in a gripping climax. Berry's research is intriguing. I found myself stopping and actually looking up some of the events and history he refers to. One example is the Piri Reis Map. Much of it is true and thought provoking. There is a writer's note at the end indicating what is fact and what he has taken fictional liberty with.
Cotton Malone is an engaging character, one I've enjoyed following the previous six novels. The supporting characters are also well written, but I did find the German sisters a bit over the top at times.
Any of his books can be read alone. Read one and I guarantee you'll be looking for others in the series!
Friday, January 2, 2009
Anyone that hadn't read the last novel - The Book of the Dead - would be lost starting to read this novel. It pretty much picks up where that one left off. There are numerous allusions but no real recap for new readers.
Scarpetta had given up the South and moved to New York City to work as a consultant for the NYPD. She is asked to examine a patient at Bellevue who will only see Scarpetta. The police suspect him of murdering his lover, but he denies it. He claims there is someone electronically tracking him. Another storyline is abruptly inserted - a web administrator of an online gossip page that seems to be out 'to get' Kay Scarpetta.
I found the first half of the book to be disjointed and awkward. As much as I love forensic novels, I think Cornwell just tries too hard too blend personal stories of the characters with sensational crimes. It never seems to find balance and neither is overly well done.
I did finish it, but was disappointed with the ending and loose ends not really incorporated or dealt with.
Thursday, January 1, 2009
The author, Holly Shumas, is also a licensed relationship therapist
"As a practicing marriage and family therapist, the issues of emotional intimacy and fidelity are close to my heart. I’m convinced that one of the toughest things in the world is remaining emotionally connected to another person for the long haul, and it’s a subject that I love exploring in my writing, in my practice, and in my life."
Do you have a relationship question you'd like Holly to answer? Or a comment on relationships or love? That will be your entry for this giveaway!
So, here's your chance to win not just her new book, but also her first novel, Five Things I Can't Live Without! Three pairs of books to be won, courtesy of Hachette Books, open to US and Canada, no po boxes please. Make sure I have a way to contact you! Giveaway contest runs until midnight January 29th.