Saturday, April 30, 2011

Book #33: Whitethorn Woods

I always enjoy reading Maeve Binchy's books. I can never read too many of them in too short a space of time, but every now and then, a Maeve Binchy book hits the spot.

I hadn't read any of her books for a while, and I don't know why I suddenly had a desire to immerse myself in the pages and stories of another Irish village, but I did, and found great enjoyment in Whitethorn Woods.

The story of Rossmore and all its villagers, the underlying theme running through this book was the possibility of a bypass that would not only impact on the Rossmore community, but be built through the woods where a special shrine to St Anne rested. A shrine that believers, non-believers, and those who didn't know what to believe, traipsed to at some point in the story.

Such a development will always divide a community, which is possibly why I enjoy a Maeve Binchy read - her stories could actually happen! But this story was totally and utterly bizarre. This road never eventuated, nor was it really talked about, there was no development, nor did it grow to be a talking point in the story. In fact, I have absolutely no idea why it was part of the book at all.

Yet, I turned page after page of Whitethorn Woods. Each chapter was divided into two parts, and recounted life in the village from two different characters. I kept waiting and waiting for each of the characters throughout the chapters to somehow become connected - after all, there was always mention of Rossmore at some point in their lives... but I eventually realised that there was simply no way so many characters could link together to reach a conclusion. There were too many stories .

Despite this, I wasn't disappointed. It was Maeve Binchy to a T. And although it was a very different Maeve Binchy from those I've read before, such a story could only be crafted, written, and pulled off by this author. Fortunately, I've still got quite a few of hers yet to read... and enjoy! for zzz

Z... is for zzz
I love a good sleep in. Nothing beats a few extra zzz's on a Saturday or Sunday morning... or even better, mid week!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Book Beginnings...on a Friday

A little bit of fun on a Friday, this weekly meme is hosted by A Few More Pages
I'll share the first line (or two) of the book I'm currently reading (including the title and author) and let you know what my first impressions are - good or bad!

"It was so dark that Cecila could hardly see her. Rather, she intuited her silhouette behind the small table next to the wall, beside the photos of the sacred dead: Beny More, the genius of the bolero; Rita Montaner, adored diva of Cuban composers; the night-black chansonnier Bola de Nieve, with his smile, white and sweet as sugar... The dimness of the place, nearly empty at that time of night, was already becoming contaminated by the smoke of Marloboros, Dunhills, and the occasional Cohiba cigar."
The Island of Eternal Love, by Daina Chaviano

I was actually more taken by the cover of this book, but having opened the first few pages (after I bought it of course!) to share with you this beginning, I'm really looking forward to reading it.

    Y... is for...

    Y... is for...
    Well, I'll be honest with you, of all the letters in the alphabet this month, it was the second to last letter, the 25th letter of the alphabet so the Oxford English Dictionary (and years of singing the alphabet song) inform me, that stumped me.

    I couldn't for the life of me think of something beginning with "Y" that would classify as one of my favourite things. So, it turned to the big blue book, and found a few things, I would include in a list of my favourites.

    Starting with...
    1. Yoghurt
    I love yoghurt, guaranteed to have it at least once a day, usually over cereal and/or fresh fruit (think melons, bananas). It's the food that can be eaten at any time of the day - breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper... even midnight! And my favourite of all yoghurts? Why Fresh n Fruity of course!

    2. YMCA
    This has yet to become a real favourite, but I'm hoping it will as I've just signed up to a membership at the local "Y"' gym. I managed 50 lengths of the pool yesterday morning but after getting up in the early hours to watch the royal wedding, I haven't quite made it back there again today!

    3. Yeoman Warder
    Speaking of the royal wedding, and all things London, the term Yeoman Warder also popped up in the dictionary, and yep - I'd have to add it to the list. The Tower of London was one of the first places we visited on our arrival to the city and I still remember the jolly men in their uniforms, the ravens in the grounds, and of course the jewels.

    4. Yoga
    Now I've tried my hand a few times at this activity but have never quite managed to make practising the downward dog something of a routine. It's never too late though, right?

    5. Yummy
    Finally, yes anything "yummy" would certainly be on my list of favourite things: chocolate, ice cream, pumpkin soup, champagne, strawberries, pimms & lemonade, lamb burgers, persimmons, kiwifruit and fish (yes, a rather eclectic list there but I was doing my best to try and thing of yummy things that weren't simply chocolate versions of chocolate!). But one thing is for certain, Yorkshire pudding will never be added to the favourites list!

    Thursday, April 28, 2011

    Book #32: Hannah Waters and the daughter of Johann Sebastian Bach

    I grew up playing the piano. Every Wednesday afternoon, Mum would pick us up from school, a treat from the bakery would be waiting for us in the car (mmm... cream donuts!) and across town we would go for our half hour piano lesson.

    I wasn't a natural, but after 10 years on the piano stool, I'd managed to reach Grade 8 Suzuki (for those to whom that means anything!). And for those of you who know the Suzuki method, you'll no doubt take a trip down memory lane when I mention "Go Tell Aunt Rhody" - it was one of the first songs we'd learn in book two (having graduated from Twinkle Twinkle Little Star).

    I no longer play the piano - frustration levels are simply too high when I sit down at the ivory keys and the memory no longer connects to the fingers to make a sound worth listening to  - but at times I do miss it. Piano definitely was, and still is, my instrument of choice.

    However, in  Hannah Waters and the daughter of Johann Sebastian Bach, by Barbara Nickel, the instrument of choice is the violin, and the song in question is that of Bach's Concerto for Two Violins. This little book intrigued me when I found it in the thriftstore and I was curious to know how Nickel was going to combine the stories of two girls, three centuries apart. I figured it was either going to work - or it wasn't!

    Fortunately, it did. There was no real connection between the two girls: present day high school student Hannah Waters, and Johann Sebastian Bach's own daughter Catharina - in fact they each had a story of their own to tell through the chapters, and both were as enjoyable to read as the other.

    I don't think this is a book that's going to stay with me forever, nor would it be first on my list of ones to recommend to friends, but for 14-year-old musicians, I'd say go for it! In between music lessons, practices, and recitals, this would be light relief!

    X... is for XOX

    X... is for XOX

    Nothing beats hugs and kisses - they're definitely a few of my favourite things!

    Wednesday, April 27, 2011

    A right royal splurge

    I hadn't quite intended to shop up a storm yesterday, but the sunshine was simply too nice to resist, so I decided a lunch time walk into town was much needed. (And yes, I was also trying to ignore all emails and the deadlines that will no doubt quickly pile upon me this week!)

    But what was a relatively innocent walk into town (although I did happen to walk the way that would allow me to go past the most bookshops!), turned out to be a right royal splurge. But then, if this isn't the week to do so, I don't know when is.

    I came away with books from the thrift shop, books from the bargain table, cookbooks, classics, and the trilogy I was desperately seeking. So here's a look at my purchases:

    From the $2 table at Chapters bookstore:

    For all of $1.50 at my local thrift store

    Another bargain from Chapters. These two Gordon Ramsay cookbooks were only $15... total! 
    What's more, husband cooked a recipe from them last night for dinner. Now that's what I call a good investment!

    And then my trilogy:

    I'm already halfway through the second one - I can't put them down!

    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? "Kamchatka" by Marcelo Figueras. I haven't read many - if any! - South American books, and my knowledge of that part of the world is pretty limited I have to admit, so this is  a great introduction. 
    From the inside front cover: The story of a young boy forced to square fantasy with a reality in which family, politics, history and even time itself have become more improbably than any fiction.
    But I've also just picked up the second book in the Dakota Born Trilogy, "Dakota Home", by Debbie Macomber, so it might be a race to see which I finish first!

    What did you recently finish reading? I started "Dakota Born" on the weekend, but didn't finish it and had to leave the book behind at my booklovers B&B. What a parting! But on the plus side - I had an excuse to go out and buy the trilogy. Which is exactly what I did yesterday - found it, AND finished it! 
    I also recently finished "Whitethorn Woods" by Maeve Binchy. I suddenly had a craving for Maeve's writing and she didn't disappoint - although it was the most unusual book. Each chapter was dedicated to a couple of the "village folk" and you always got two sides to each couple, but the underlying plot related to a highway that was going to be developed through the town, and that never eventuated. Really rather odd!

    What do you think you'll read next? Well, seeing as I now have all three of the Dakota Born Trilogy by Debbie Macomber, it will probably be number three, "Always Dakota." 

    W... is for Wellington

    W... is for Wellington
    Of all the cities in my home country of New Zealand, Wellington is my favourite! The capital of NZ, home to the beehive Parliament Building, yes it's known for its wind and rain, but Wellington has everything you could possibly want in a city: culture,concerts, and cuisine, arts, sporting events, shopping, and wineries.

    But most of all, Wellington has a heart. The city centre converges on the harbour, and whether you're coming into town for a walk along the waterfront, a day trip to the national museum Te Papa, a week of commuting to the office, or simply to meet friends for a coffee, you make your way into the city centre which bubbles with energy and makes you feel welcome every single time.

    So, if you fancy a trip to Wellington, these would be my recommendations of things to do:

    1. Wholley Bagels
    Order an "everything" bagel with sundried tomato cream cheese. Whatever activity you have planned for the day, this will be sure to set you up!

    2. Visit Te Papa
    It's NZ's national museum for a reason!

    3. Rollerblade along Oriental Parade
    Or, if rollerblading isn't quite your thing, walking or running shoes will also do the trick. Just be sure to take note of the beautiful literary inscriptions along the way!

    4. Watch the buckets in Cuba Mall
    This colourful fountain will splash tourists every time, so admire from a distance

    5. Mt Victoria
    Walk, bus, or drive to the top of Mt Victoria - you'll get the best view of the city... even if you do come away slightly windswept!

    Tuesday, April 26, 2011

    Book #31: The Secret Life of Josephine

    I remember picking up this book from a book box at work - it hadn't made the cut for review I think is the reason it was lying there, waiting for someone else to take it home... but I'm glad it was me. 

    The Secret Life of Josephine, by Carolly Erickson is the story of the woman who became Napoleon's wife. I'll admit I knew nothing at all of Josephine (which, as an aside, isn't her 'real' name, but the name Napoleon gave to her). She led an incredibly interesting life, up until the time she met and married Napoleon, having been married before, with two children to her previous husband. And then an equally interesting, but incredibly hard, life as Napoleon's wife.

    I'm absolutely fascinated by women in history, and this book, written as "historical entertainment" gave a great account of mostly fact, although quite a bit of fiction, surrounding this particular woman - lets just say, she was certainly a character, and very much her own woman!!

    I've spent enough years at university, reading text books, theory books, non-fiction books, so reading for me nowadays is an escape into the unreal, the fictional, the make believe - and I love it! But at the same time, I want to find out more about people and events that shaped the past - and indeed the future - so this historical entertainment, a combination of both fact and fiction, yet set in a readable, enjoyable, and light hearted tone, was the perfect read to satisfy both my interest in the non-fiction and my love of the fiction!

    I have another of Carolly Erickson's books on my shelf, The Tsarina's Daughter, the story of Grand Duchess Tatiana, the daughter of Tsar Nicholas ll and Tsarina Alexandra. It won't be long until this one's on my night table!

    (This book also meets my Cover Love Challenge for April - cover colour = green!)

    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!

    "In a hushed whisper, papa told mama to try to sleep for a while, even if it was only a couple of hours, because she would need to be clear-headed in the morning. It was going to be a long day, there was a lot to do and then there was us. 'We have to try not to spook the boys.'
    p49 Kamchatka, by Marcelo Figueras

    Kamchatka is the story of a 10-year-old boy, set in 1970s Buenos Aires - I'm really enjoying it!