Thursday, March 31, 2011

My new favourite author... Book #22: One Sunday Morning

Amy Ephron is, without a doubt, my new favourite author! It's a wonderful feeling coming across a new author that just captures you - I can't get enough of her work! Granted there are many wonderful authors out there, and I have been fortunate enough to read their works, but every now and then, one comes along that ticks all the boxes, and for me right now - that's Ephron.

My introduction to Ephron was A Cup of Tea. The very book I was going to borrow from the library, yet managed to read before I'd even got my library card out, let alone issued the books and left the building. But One Sunday Morning I did manage to get into the library bag, home, and read... quite fittingly, on one Sunday morning.

Set in 1920s New York - that in itself is hard to beat! - this story is of a group of women, who one Sunday morning while meeting over a game of bridge, happen to look out of the window, only to see one of the single elite in the city leaving the hotel with a fiancé of their friend. To tell or not to tell? The problem is - do they know the whole story of what really went on? Although the women make a pact not to tell what they have just seen, emotions run high, morality is tested, and a secret can no longer be kept.

I should really have used this as a Friday book beginning with an opening like this:
"She never did understand what it meant to be proper," said Betsy Owen as she turned away from the window in a sweeping motion as though her skirt alone propelled her across the floor. And there it was, in that one understated sentence, an indictment of all that Lizzy Carswell had ever hoped to be and an acknowledgement that there was a story behind the seemingly innocent act they had all witnessed."
p1: One Sunday Morning, by Amy Ephron

I just love the way Ephron captures so much in so few pages, never overwhelming the reader with too much information, nor leaving them desperate for more. She has this incredible ability to provide enough description that sets the scene, yet allows you to feel as if you're sitting there one Sunday morning holding a handful of cards.

My love affair with Ephron has only just begun, but I'm sure it's going to endure the test of time!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wednesday's walk in: My own house!

Running out of space!
It seems ages since I've walked into a new bookstore. I keep retracing my steps to the good old ones, and yesterday I even managed to walk in - and out - without a new purchase. I think I've suddenly realised that perhaps I have rather enough books at home on the shelves, currently unread by yours truely, that I should perhaps really get around to reading.

I think this situation came to light over the last week when I proceeded to open 59 boxes of London possessions that had been shipped to Canada, half of which contained books. It was like Christmas had come at once, that and as if I'd stepped into the world's best book sale! All these fabulous books were mine, mine, mine.

What's more, I've looked at my shelves of books in a whole new light since joining the book blogging world. So many books that you all mention are currently sitting on my shelves - and I had no idea!

But as you'll be able to see from the images - I'm fast running out of space! Most of my shelves are two rows deep, and this doesn't even include the books on my nightstand. Is this a love of books I wonder, or an unhealthy obsession.

Meanwhile, I've started keeping track of them. I bought a little address book, with A-Z down the side and I now keep a record of books on my shelf (they get a red tick if I've read them) and also books I see mentioned that I really, really want!

I'm not sure this is really a fail safe method but it's working for now. So I'm intrigued... how do you all manage to keep track of your books?

WWW Wednesdays

WWW Wednesdays is a weekly meme hosted by Miz B of Should Be Reading

To play along, just answer the following three questions: 
• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading? 
• What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading? I'm all over the place at the moment, with bookmarks in several books but not really reading any of them. The one I am is Millie's Fling, by Jill Mansell - I knew when I got it out of the library last week I wouldn't be able to save it. What I should really be reading is something old for LazyGirl Reads Mini Challenge - I only have until the end of the month to finish something...eeekkk!

What did you recently finish reading? I don't think I've finished one since last week - now that's a sad state of affairs! I did, however, read 84 Charing Cross Road, by Helene Hanff, but I didn't read the entire book - I've still got The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street to go, but at least there's a short story complete in that!

What do you think you'll read next? I really don't know where to start. I've just been given Water for Elephants which I really want to read. But I've also just been given Never Let Me Go. Then of course on my TBR pile is Anita Shreve, and don't get me started on my library pile. I think this week I might just stick to reading Jamie Oliver and try out a few new dishes instead!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Like a magpie drawn to sparkles... Book #21: Girls of Riyadh

Like a magpie drawn to a sparkling object, I picked this book up because I simply couldn’t resist the cover. Lashings of hot purple, on a black background, with beautiful gold swirls beckoned me to the story within. And what a story it was.

Girls of Riyadh is written by a 25-year-old Saudi Arabian woman, Rajaa Alsanea. She takes us into the lives of her girlfriends, hidden under a veil of dark cloth, to reveal love, loss and learning. Cleverly emailing a Yahoo email group every Friday, our narrator tells the stories of four young women in the Arabian city of Riyadh – a city of wealth, oil and religion. Where a Western business philosophy works side by side with ancient traditions, and where technology in the way of dating websites and text messages is the sole form of communication allowed during traditional wedding arrangements.
Yet the book itself has its own story. From the inside dust jacket: It was released in Lebanon in Arabic in September 2005 and immediately became a sensation all over the Arab world. Apparently some considered the author, who had since become a celebrity overnight, to be courageous in writing so openly about the conflict of educated modern Saudi women growing up in the 21st century in a culture firmly rooted in an ancient way of life. While others believed that the novel was disrespectful to Saudi women by exposing their closely guarded private live to the public! Meanwhile, scholars and critics throughout the Arab world hailed the book as a breakthrough in Arabic literature, some going so far as to label it “the first modern Arab novel.”

I found this book gave a fascinating, yet light hearted, insight into the lives of these young 20-something-year-olds in such an intriguing part of the world. My geographic knowledge of Saudi Arabia is pretty minimal I’d have to admit but this book has certainly sparked an interest. And while reading it, the latest movie on at the local IMAX theatre was none other than... Arabia! What a coincidence!

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading

Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
--Grab your current read
--Open to a random page
--share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
Be sure NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
--Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!

"Thank you for wanting to send us more dried egg, but we still have a bit left to see us through until spring. Some time between April and September we usually manage all right for eggs, as they go off ration for a time and then we do a bit of trading with the tins, as once for a special occasion I traded a tin of dried egg for a pair of nylons."
p39: 84 Charing Cross Road, by Helene Hanff

Monday, March 28, 2011

You can't argue with your mouth full

A traditional first wedding anniversary present is paper, so what better present to give – and receive – than a book! This weekend past, husband was given a book on fishing. He spent the first 8 days of married life out on the water, bringing home fresh fish each day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’ll admit I did join him on a few occasions – and was able to hunt and gather my own fare (although I left him with the filleting!).

One year on and the first 8 days of his second year of marriage looks like it will be spent in suit and tie in the office. So a book on all the best fishing spots around is the closest he’s going to get to the big one.

However, when have I ever stopped at just the one book? And our first wedding anniversary was no exception. Just an excuse to buy two books if you really want to know.

The second book husband unwrapped was “Now you’re cooking - Starters”. He’s a whizz in the kitchen and enjoys it as well (I think that’s my downfall... it’s just no fun burning pizza!).  But this book came with a challenge.

Friends of ours, who regularly provided us with delicious home cooked meals and fine conversation on both sides of the world, told us soon after we were married that they didn't pretend to know the secret to a good marriage, but that it was much harder to argue with your mouth full.

So, having flicked through such recipes as ‘caramelized shallot and asparagus toast’, ‘butternut-squash ravioli with sun-dried tomatoes’, and ‘olive scones with thyme-cured beef’ I decided no page of this book should be left unturned.

Hence the challenge – by our second anniversary husband and I must have made, shared and enjoyed each recipe together. Now that may well involve husband cooking while I supervise with vino in hand, but we’d still be together in the kitchen right?

10 good things on a Monday... things I love about spring

Ten Good Things on a Monday 
Ten Good Things on a Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Nina and ArghIt's dedicated to every person's compulsive list-writing. Every Monday I'll make a list of ten things that will cheer us up and help us tide over the whole week.

This week, a real change has been occurring here in Victoria. Spring has arrived, and it's the inspiration for my 10 good things on this Monday... things I love about spring.

1. Blossoms
Beautiful pink and white blossoms are out in full force on the trees lining the streets in our neighbourhood. They look so soft and fluffy - edible almost!

2. Daffodils
It wouldn't be springtime without daffodils. Adding their vibrant yellow colour to sidewalks and front gardens - I love a good healthy bunch.

3. Longer days
It's still a little too dark for me in the mornings, but the longer evenings are just lovely. I'm just waiting for it to warm up a tad then I can sit out on the deck with an evening vino in hand, and of course a good book!

4. Laughter
There's something about the turn of the season that has brought a lighter atmosphere to the city. Tourists have started arriving,  people are sitting at outdoor tables of their favourite cafes, and I hear laughter everywhere. Admittedly, from people still wrapped in scarves & coats keeping warm, but they're outside!

5. A new wardrobe
It's away with the winter jackets, hats and gloves - hello springtime. And shoes, glorious shoes. How I love my winter boots, but now my high heels can come out to play!

6. Hot X Buns
I had some really yummy hot x buns yesterday with dried fruit and cherries in them. Lovely and light with that delicious glazed top. Could be the first of many I consume over the coming weeks I think.

7. Easter eggs
No list is complete without chocolate...right?! Easter eggs, easter eggs, easter eggs

8. Tulips
Even more so than daffodils, these are spring for me. In fact, tulips would be my spring flower of choice!

9. Mint
I'm no cook, I'm no gardener...but I am a lover of that wonderful herb known as mint. And spring is the season for it.

10. Summer
We're a season closer!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Favourite: The Food of Love

This Sunday is our first wedding anniversary so I thought it seemed fitting to have a romantic theme for this week’s Friday favourite.
My wonderfully wacky – and now official – ma-in-law gave this book to me as I was recovering from an operation several years ago (that's what playing a social game of sport will do!). Holed up on the couch for two weeks, with hubby-to-be tending to my every need (no I am not making this up – he really is the best nurse!), The Food of Love, by Anthony Capella was exactly the tonic I was looking for.
Tommaso is a humble Italian waiter, working in Rome. He has laid eyes on Laura – an art history student who has vowed she will only date men who can cook. The problem is, Tammaso can’t... but his friend Bruno can. As a love triangle quickly develops, these two handsome Italian men charm Laura, devour food, get caught up in antics only lovestruck Italian men could possibly get caught up in, and through it all, test their friendship.

The author describes it as a delicious comedy of errors, a romance as light and dazzling as one of Bruno’s own chocolate desserts, in which Laura has to choose between beauty and passion, Bruno has to decide between friendship and love, and Tommaso realises he’s bitten off more than he can chew.

The Sunday Times reviewed it as “Delicious in every way” and I’d have to agree. The Food of Love was mouth-wateringly good. It will have you dreaming of pizza and pasta for days!

Add a splash of wine, savour every page, and enjoy.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Library Thursday

Library Thursday is a weekly blog hop hosted by LazyGirl Reads.
The purpose? 
1. Encourage people to support their libraries when they can
2. Meet new bloggy friends and grow your following

This was my second visit to the library here in Victoria - and about my second visit to a library in as many years! - so I thought I'd add an extra post on this Thursday to reveal a few of my finds!

1. Millie's Fling, by Jill Mansell
At my last visit, I managed to walk away with two Mansell's tucked into my bag. This time, I decided to leave at least one other on the shelves for different readers to enjoy, so I've got the one - Millie's Fling. I'll either devour it tomorrow, or will save it for later. Jill Mansell is an author I just can't resist!

And aren't the covers of her books just delightful!

2. Thanks for the Memories, by Cecelia Ahern
I picked this one up because I'm determined to give Cecelia Ahern another go. Inspired by The Turn of the Page's review on The Book of Tomorrow, which I didn't enjoy nearly as much, I thought I had better give this author another chance.... so Cecelia... this is it!

3. Queen of Babble in the Big City, by Meg Cabot
Since joining the blogging world I've seen so many booklovers comment, review, and talk about Meg Cabot I thought it was about time I joined them!

4. The Bean Trees, by Barbara Kingsolver
Much the same as Ahern, my first Barbara Kingsolver book was a struggle. I took The Poisonwood Bible away on holiday with me last year and didn't even finish it. But upon recommendation, I am going to see if I can make it through The Bean Trees.

I also picked up:
*The Autograph Man, by Zadie Smith
*The Jewel of Gresham Green, by Lawana Blackwell
*The Gathering, by Anne Enright - a book I have seen so often but never actually picked up off the shelves let alone read it!

And, the one I am most taken by:

Let the Lion Eat Straw, by Ellease Southerland
The story  of Abeba Williams, whose mother abandons the poverty of the South - and her daughter - for opportunities in the North.

Then, just as I was walking out the door I noticed the sale table - and how could I resist that. So, add to the collection Little Women and Absolutely Positively, by Heather Webber!

Had best start reading I think!

This one gets five stars... Book #20: A Cup of Tea

A few weeks ago, I ventured to my local library to peruse the shelves for favourite authors, interesting book jackets and something new that would tickle my fancy. Well it wasn’t hard to find!

On that day, I came across an author I had never heard of, let alone read, before – Amy Ephron. The three books of hers that were sitting on the shelves were small, dainty, and wonderfully inviting.

So much so, that only two came home with me that day – the third, I’d read before even leaving the library. Just 200 pages in length, A Cup of Tea, is set in New York (1917). The story of well-to-do socialite, Rosemary Fell, who not lacking in social privileges, money, a handsome fiancé or status in the Big Apple, takes a lone woman on the street home for a cup of tea one wet afternoon.

The story then becomes one of the street woman, Eleanor Smith, who after meeting Rosemary - and Rosemary’s fiancé (yes, such eye contact does indeed spell trouble!) – she begins working in a hat shop, the very same hat shop that is making Rosemary’s wedding attire. As war impacts on the people of New York, so too does this impromptu act of daring kindness impact on Rosemary, who finds herself caught in a love triangle that doesn’t promise a happy ending.

I was absolutely captivated by this book – hence finishing it before even getting my library card out! It was a simple, but incredibly clever story, written succinctly but without ever losing pace or plot. There was enough description of characters, feelings, environments and tension without endless details, and before I knew it I was swept up in both Rosemary and Eleanor’s lives.

I’ve since learnt that A Cup of Tea was Ephron’s national bestseller, which spent 37 weeks on the LA Times bestsellers list and has since been bought by film producer Jerry Bruckheimer. It also won the 2005 Southern California Booksellers Association award for fiction, received the Booklist Best Fiction of the Year 2005 award and was a Barnes and Noble Book Club selection – thanks Wikipedia!

I haven’t tended to rate books since blogging, but this one definitely gets 5 stars!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

WWW Wednesdays

WWW Wednesdays is a weekly meme hosted by Miz B of Should Be Reading
To play along, just answer the following three questions: 

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading? 
• What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?: I have a few books on the go at the moment, just waiting for one to grab me so I can put the others down. I started with 84 Charing Cross Road, by Helene Hanff  - but have realised that it's only half the book. The other half is The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street, so now I'm trying to work out whether this constitutes one book - or two?!

What did you recently finish reading? I've just finished The Cry of the Go-Away Bird, by Andrea Eames... and it was brilliant. I really enjoyed it. Written from the voice of a 12-year-old white girl in Zimbabwe, living under Mugabe when the takeover of farms first began. I'll eventually sync my reviews with what I've just finished (rather than still reviewing books I read weeks ago!), but this should definitely go on your TBR piles!

What do you think you'll read next?: Well I have just started Body Surfing, by Anita Shreve - I've never read any of her work. But then I@ve also picked up, and admittedly put down, two of Joanne Harris' books: Blackberry Wine and Coastliners. Then, the end of March is frighteningly close and I still haven't read anything old for Lazy Girl's Mini Challenge so it could be either Treasure Island or Animal Farm...oh the decisions!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Husband as guest reviewer on Book #19: Tamburlaine Must Die

Oh dear... I think I have totally misunderstood a book that ought to be appreciated.  In fact, I think I could probably go so far as to say I have just read a complete book, thankfully only 150 pages, and not taken a single word in. So, it’s back to the beginning for me... or maybe it will be placed at the bottom of the TBR pile instead (for now at least).

I picked up a copy of Tamburlaine Must Die, by Louise Welsh for the bargain price of $2 on the Chapters sale table. I’m fast becoming a regular to that corner of the bookstore, just “popping in” as I walk past enroute to the bank, the pharmacy, the gym, or Starbucks!

The year 1593, London caught my eye, brief mentions of English countryside, Tower Bridge, playwrights, double agents and the Queen sounded to me like the make up of an interesting read. I just wish I could tell you what it was about! 

Fortunately, my guest reviewer can. (He’s also known as my husband!)...

“This book was a little bit different. An intriguing take on the darker side of life in Shakespearean London.  Tamburlaine Must Die is about Christopher Marlowe – a fictional tale set around the lead up to Marlowe’s death, and one possible reason why this London playwright was killed. It’s about someone who has taken one of Marlowe’s characters from a play and bought him to life.
The story has sexual encounters, murder and mystery, drunkenness and debauchery and provides the reader with an insight into how playwrights and their patrons interacted in the 16th century. 
It’s about a mystery that to this day, is still unsolved. Why did Christopher Marlowe die? Was he killed by a character of his own creation?”

Husband says he’d recommend this book to others who enjoy reading murder-mysteries. “It’s quite good and an easy read,” he says. “A good three stars out of five!”

A husband who cooks and reviews books - he's a keeper

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading

Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
--Grab your current read
--Open to a random page
--share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
Be sure NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
--Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!

"We had a perfect life here, in this perfect weather, with our servants and sunshine and silver teapots, and we were determined to make the most of it while we could. If we were going down, we were going down with a gin and tonic in one hand and a cigarette in the other!"
From The Cry of the Go-Away Bird, by Andrea Eames

Monday, March 21, 2011

Top 10 tunes that get my toes tapping

Ten Good Things on a Monday 
Ten Good Things on a Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Nina and Argh

It's dedicated to every person's compulsive list-writing. Every Monday I'll make a list of ten things that will cheer us up and help us tide over the whole week. 

This week is a musical theme - the top 10 tunes that get my toes tapping
1. Living on a Prayer, Bon Jovi
Yep - there's a rocking groupie deep inside
2. Suddenly I See, KT Tunstall
Takes me back to that wonderful scene in Devil Wears Prada
3. Walking on Sunshine, Katrina and the Waves 
What can I say - I just love this one!
4. Happy Together, The Turtles
It was the one I walked down the aisle to
5. Working Class Man, Jimmy Barnes
Not quite sure why, but this song moves me every time
6. Do you hear the people sing, Les Miserables
My favourite musical!
7. You raise me up, Lovland & Graham
Brings tears to my eyes every time
8. Eye of the Tiger, Survivour
Takes me back to my childhood rollerskating days!
9. Loyal, Dave Dobbyn
Whenever I'm in need of some Kiwiana (and I've overdosed on Flight of the Concords!)
10. The Final Countdown, Europe
The song hubby made his entrance to at our wedding!