Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday favourite: The Very Thought of You

Marylebone High Street... I've never been able to pronounce Marylebone, despite landing on it multiple times around the Monopoly Board. Fortunately, I never needed to ask for directions in how to get to the actual Marylebone High Street while living in London - I knew it was just across the other side of Regents Park from that glorious lookout point of Primrose Hill. That, and I could literally smell the books in the Oxfam Shop, just awaiting my attention - and my wallet.

It was in the Oxfam Shop that I came across The Very Thought of You, by Rosie Alison. It's her debut novel about an eight-year-old girl, set in London and Yorkshire during World War ll. I was instantly intrigued. It also looked like a delightful little book - I could almost hold it in the palm of my hand. So, without further ado, a purchase was made, and I trekked back through Regents Park in search of a suitable park bench.

It didn't take me long to be swept up into the story of Anna, relocated along with hundreds of other children of war, to the relative safety of a large Yorkshire estate. There she resides in the home of Thomas and Elizabeth Ashton, who have opened their home to these children. Yet, there are other reasons why children are welcome - and not so welcome - in this home, and Anna, an inquisitive, yet sensitive child, quickly becomes aware that not all is as it seems.

As described on the dust jacket, it's a story of love, loss and complicated loyalties, however, I was only just appreciating each of these when the story came to an abrupt end. Little did I realise, but I'd picked up a sample copy which contained the first 12 chapters and that was it!! I'm not sure how and why this copy came to be on Oxfam's shelves, or what the purpose of it was, but if it was to ensure the reader bought the full copy, it certainly worked!

And what's more, the remaining 44 chapters are just as good as the first 12!

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!

I've blogged a little bit about my current book this week so I was going to share a beginning from one on my TBR pile, however, when I went back to the first page of The Little Giant of Aberdeen County it suddenly added a whole lot more to the story, even though I'm already two thirds of the way through! So here it is...

"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."
p1, Prologue, The Little Giant of Aberdeen County, by Tiffany Baker

I'm really enjoying this read. It's slightly different, a rather slow story, but beautifully written and the author has given us time to really grow with the characters. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Thursday Tea

Thursday Tea is a little meme hosted at BirdBrain[ed] Book Blog

The Book: I'm currently reading The Little Giant of Aberdeen County, by Tiffany Baker and absolutely loving it. This little giant is such a sweetie, despite the horrible people around her. I'm about two thirds of the way through - it's either going to be an all nighter tonight to finish it, or I'm going to savour it for a little longer and finish it tomorrow. Can highly recommend it though.

The Tea: Chamomile... with a touch of honey. I love chamomile tea, but sometimes it can taste a bit like muddy river water. However, I've found a solution to that. Just add a teaspoon of honey to it. Sweetens it up in an instant... particularly when it's honey from my dad's own bees. Yum!

Do they go together?: I don't usually drink chamomile tea in the afternoon, instead I tend to save it for the evenings when I'm just wanting a nice relaxing cuppa before I go to bed. However, I thought chamomile would go absolutely perfectly with this book - and it does. The calming sense of chamomile seems to somehow reflect the gentle giant's character and her sweetness is reflected in the addition of honey.

Theme Thursday

Theme ThursdaysTheme Thursdays is a fun weekly event, hosted byReading Between Pagesthat will be open from one Thursday to the next. Anyone can participate in it. The rules are simple:

  • A theme will be posted each week (on Thursday’s)
  • Select a conversation/snippet/sentence from the current book you are reading
  • Mention the author and the title of the book along with your post
  • It is important that the theme is conveyed in the sentence (you don’t necessarily need to have the word)

This week’s theme is

ANACTION (go, walk, close, clap etc)

"I ripped off the bandage and applied a generous blob, wincing against the heat that started to build up. I smeared more on and then more again and even daubed the burn on my forearm, then wrapped my hand in a clean dish towel, setting the empty bowl in the sink for the morning."
p199, The Little Giant of Aberdeen County, by Tiffany Baker

Book #48: Letters from Home

This book was always going to end up on my TBR pile - a World War ll love story - how could it not?

Letters from Home, by Kristina McMorris is the story of a love triangle - of sorts. The main character is Liz, a sweet yet strong woman, with relationship issues she tackles with such dignity, I was really drawn to her and her experiences throughout the novel.

She's also a loyal friend to both Betty and Julia, and it's through Betty that we are introduced to Morgan.

From the author's website:

Chicago, 1944. Liz Stephens has little interest in attending a USO club dance with her friends Betty and Julia. She doesn't need a flirtation with a lonely serviceman when she's set to marry her childhood sweetheart. Yet something happens the moment Liz glimpses Morgan McClain. They share only a brief conversation - cut short by the soldier's evident interest in Betty - but Liz can't forget him. Thus, when Betty asks her to ghostwrite a letter to Morgan, stationed overseas, Liz reluctantly agrees. 

Thousands of miles away, Morgan struggles to adjust to the brutality of war. His letters from "Betty" are a comfort, their soul-baring correspondence a revelation to them both. While Liz is torn by her feelings for a man who doesn't know her true identity, Betty and Julia each become immersed in their own romantic entanglements. And as the war draws to a close, all three will face heart-wrenching choices, painful losses, and the bittersweet joy of new beginnings.

There is a happy ending to this book, how could there not be - although it does take a while to reach. And the story itself, is much like its main character Liz - it's sweet. However, unlike Liz, I just found the book to be a little weak in places. Plot wise - great, a really lovely story that flowed well, had a few twists and turns, and left you wanting to read on to the next chapter. But I felt the whole time I was looking into the novel, rather than being a part of it, and I think this was due to not developing the characters enough. I also thought there was perhaps an extra storyline within the book that didn't need to be there, and thus took away from the central theme.

Perhaps I'm being a little too critical - it's not that I didn't enjoy the book, I think I just expected more from it, and where I thought it was going to be one I'd highly recommend, it instead became one I'd have to say, if you need something for the beach go for it, but there are probably others to read before this one.

Funnily enough, it's actually the story behind the story, explained on McMorris' websit, that intrigued me more than the novel itself!

Wednesday, July 27, 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've just started reading The Little Giant of Aberdeen County, by Tiffany Baker and really enjoying it.

What did you recently finish reading?
When God was a Rabbit, by Sarah Winman. Another easy summer read but I'm really enjoying reading some of the new books that are coming out lately that are slightly out of left field. This was one of them. A really simple story, quite slow moving, but utterly compelling at the same time.  

And I can also say (finally) that I've read Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone!

What do you think you’ll read next?
I'm thinking I might go for  book by Joanne Harris. I read Chocolate years and years ago, but haven't picked one of hers up since. Blackberry Wine and Coastliners are currently staring at me from the bookshelf. 

If it's not those two, then it might be the second Harry Potter!

Book #47: The Mermaid Chair

Nothing beats the feeling of a good read. Well almost nothing. A feeling that would rival it is finding out that the author of said good read, has written another one (or two!) and you didn't even know about it!

It was how I came to add The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd to my bookshelf. Years ago I had utterly devoured and thoroughly enjoyed - yes, the book was as sweet as honey itself - The Secret Life of Bees. In fact, it has been so long ago that I may just have to put it on the TBre-read pile. But I hadn't realised Kidd had another book to her name, and after seeing it on a fellow book blogger's site - thank you Lucy at The Secret Life of Books (how apt is the name of her blog!) - it immediately went to the top of the pile.

The Mermaid Chair is very different to The Secret Life of Bees. It's the story of Jessie Sullivan, a mother, wife, daughter, friend and woman who is desperately seeking that extra 'something'. And, as the opening line of the story reveals, she finds it in a rather unusual place:

"In the middle of my marriage, when I was above all Hugh's wife and Dee's mother, one of those unambiguous women with no desire to disturb the universe, I fell in love with a Benedictine monk."
p1, Prologue, The Mermaid Chair

Jessie finds her Benedictine monk on Egret Island, the place she grew up in and the place she returns to in order to look after her increasingly frail - and slightly disturbed - mother. But it's also here that she returns to memories of her childhood and discovers the truth about an event that shaped much of her younger years.

It's an easy read, but not one I'd place high on my list of books I've most enjoyed. I got a little frustrated with what I deemed to be the selfish acts of Jessie, but then perhaps in a voyage of self-discovery one needs to put themselves first. I just didn't enjoy the fact that in doing so she was hurting loved ones around her.

This is the only catch with finding another book written by an author who's work you've already enjoyed. Can they live up to expectations? Produce another novel that captures you in the same way their previous one did?

Which authors have done that for you?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

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!

"Certain years I'd closed doors on them, as if it had been about preventing them from knowing that damaged part of me, the part that once, only they could have put right."
p315, When God Was a Rabbit, by Sarah Winman

This is a book about a brother and a sister. It's a book about childhood and growing up, friendships and families, triumph and tragedy and everything in between. More than anything, it's a book about love in all its forms.

I've just finished reading this little gem of a book - if you haven't picked it up yet, put it on your TBR pile immediately! Perfect for the summer (or winter, whichever hemisphere you're in)!

A character in her own right and book #46: Emily Carr

It's always interesting moving, particularly when it's moving to a new country! There's always so much to explore - new towns, cities, and in Canada of course, there is the great outdoors. But I'm a people person, when I don't have my nose in a book that is, so it's the characters of any new town or city that really intrigue me - particularly those who have shaped the city itself.

Here in Victoria, on Vancouver Island, one such character is Emily Carr. I first came across her in the form of a statue. She's sitting outside the Fairmont Empress Hotel, complete with a pet monkey on her shoulder. My next encounter with her was inside the Royal BC Museum, where an exhibition depicting her artwork is currently on display. Yet I still had absolutely no idea who she was, and why she was such an icon to this Canadian province. 

Fortunately, the answers were in Emily Carr: The Incredible Life and Adventures of a West Coast Artist, by Cat Klerks. A short, 100-page, biography of this remarkable, yet rather eccentric woman, who finally found fame at 70-years-old. 

One of six children, Emily travelled to London in pursuit of her artistic dreams, spent time in Paris, Vancouver and San Francisco, before returning to Vancouver Island to sketch indigenous totem poles. She had few friends, a sister she was close to, established a boarding house called "The House of Allsorts" and eventually turned to writing selections of short stories, most of which were published posthumously.

This little book had everything I wanted to know about Emily. I've since visited Emily Carr House, now a heritage site in James Bay, and still on my to do list is the art gallery, named in her honour. A lonesome individual, she seemed to spend her time searching for solace in painting and writing, yet has left a legacy and in doing so become a character in her own right.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

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!

"Brenda paused. 'I don't put it on my CV. It's not a nice quality. But I lip-read. I heard you telling your mother.'
p98, Quentins, by Maeve Binchy

I've just started this and true to form I think it's going to be unputdownable. Binchy has introduced all the characters and now we're getting to the next layer of everyone's stories and hidden secrets!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Book #45: Never Let Me Go

I'm a little stumped for words, to be honest. It's not that I have 'writers' block' (or bloggers' block!), it's just I really don't know what to say about this book, Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro. Interesting? Yes somewhat. Boring? Yes, that too. Captivating? Yes, but I'm not sure in a good way. Frustrating? Yes, yes, yes... I wanted something to happen. Different? Most certainly.

I was given Never Let Me Go earlier in the year, and despite it being an international best seller, and having been turned into a major motion picture, I hadn't actually ever heard of it! Now I may have been living under a rock, but having since read it - and seen the movie - I think I'd happily crawl back under that rock and go on living in ignorant bliss. 

It's not that I disliked the book. I certainly don't feel strongly enough to 'dislike it' - but the book was just a bit bland really. Three non-descriptive characters, continuing through their rather odd, yet uneventful life, to do nothing but "complete" at the end of it all.

But I'm wondering if I'm missing something here? Is there an underlying theme that I have completely read and watched over altogether? Was I meant to read further into each of the chapters to find a hidden meaning in there? Were the characters something else entirely that I didn't understand? I'm truly mystified as to how this has become such a talking point.

I've ticked it off the list, added it to the books I've now read (but wondering if I actually needed to read it at all) pile, and now know what people are talking about when they mention Never Let Me Go. Whether or not I have anything to say about it should they ask me is another story, but for now, I'm going to go in search of a captivating, utterly enthralling, highly entertaining, un-put-down-able book because I'm in need!

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!

"Among those other girls I was no longer a grand duchess, fussed over by nursemaids and servants. I was just one of forty identical girls, treated no differently from the others just because I was the emperor's daughter."
p5, The Tsarina's Daughter, by Carolly Erickson

I've just started this one but can't wait to get stuck into it. I'm fascinated by Russian history and love any books set in this incredible country (think The Bronze Horseman, The Red Scarf, The Russian Concubine). And if this "historical entertainment" of Carolly Erickson's is anything like the last one of hers I read (The Secret Life of Josephine) it's going to be good!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Ten Good Things on a Monday... lines from a classic

Well I did it! I finally got around to reading Anne of Green Gables, the childhood classic by L. M. Montgomery. Not sure how I missed out on this one growing up, but then who says such stories can't be enjoyed later in life (she says at the ripe old age of 30!).

So, in honour of this milestone, I thought I'd share some of my favourite lines delivered by this mischievous, but kind hearted red head! What's more, I can now say I have completed Lazy Girl's Mini Challenge (finally!)

1. "Well, my mother was a teacher in the High School, too, but when she married Father she gave up teaching, of course. A husband was enough responsibility."

2. "You'd find it easier to be bad than good if you had red hair."

3. "I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I've never been able to believe it. I don't believe a rose would be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk-cabbage."

4." Redheaded people can't wear pink, not even in imagination."

5. "But am I talking too much? People are always telling me I do. Would you rather I didn't talk? If you say so, I'll stop. I can stop when I make up my mind to it, although it's difficult."

6. "There are so many things to be thought over and decided when you're beginning to grow up. It keeps me busy all the time thinking them over and deciding what is right. It's a serious thing to grow up, isn't it, Marilla?"

7. "There are so many things in this room and all so splendid that there is no scope for imagination. That is one consolation when you are poor - there are so many more things you an imagine about."

8. "Some people are naturally good, you know, and others are not. I'm one of the others."

9. "I am well in body although considerably rumpled up in spirit, thank you, ma'am,"

And my favourite, given the fact that I share the name (although not the hair colour) of this character of characters...

10. "When you hear a name pronounced can't you always see it in your mind, just as if it was printed out? I can; and A-N-N looks dreadful, but A-N-N-E looks so much more distinguished."

And for the record, I spell my name without an "e" How unromantic!

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

Friday, July 8, 2011

Friday favourite: My forbidden face

It's been a while since I've talked about a favourite book of mine, but one that really left an impact on me a few years back was My Forbidden Face, by Latifa. It's the autobiography of a 16-year-old girl growing up under the Taliban.

From the back cover: Latifa was born in Kabul in 1980, into an educated middle-class Afghan family, at once liberal and religious. As a teenager, she was interested in fashion and cinema and going out with her friends, and she longed to become a journalist. Her mother, a doctor and her father, a businessman, encouraged her dreams.

Then in 1996, the Taliban seized power. From that moment, Latifa, 16-years-old, became a prisoner in her own home. Her school was closed; her mother was banned from working. The simplest ad most basic freedoms - walking down the street, looking out of a window - were no longer hers. She was now forced to cover herself entirely with a burqa.

With painful honesty and clarity, Latifa describes the way her world fell apart in the name of a fanatical interpretation of a faith. Her story goes to the heart of a people caught up in a terrible tragedy in a brutalised country. But Latifa is determined to survive - and live in freedom and hope.

Latifa is the same age as I am and I remember just being absolutely transfixed as to how completely different her life is to mine. I was fascinated to read about her experiences - both pleasant and unpleasant - and finished the book in awe of this woman with such a strong spirit and character.

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!

"A few weeks before the main events of this story disturbed forever the life of its protagonist, Ivan Andreqevich Ozolin, he had believe himself to be in love with an older woman, Tanya Trepova."
The Jester of Astapovo, by Rose Tremain

The Jester of AstapovoWell, this beginning was quite a mouthful, not least because I had absolutely no idea how to go about pronouncing Ivan's surnames! But it still captured my attention. After all, I wanted to know what these "main events" were. I've since read the book (it's only a sweet 50 page read) and the story was so enjoyable. Ivan is the station master in the little town of Astapovo, and one day the train that pulls up is carrying a passenger who needs help. It turns out that passenger is Leo Tolstoy!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Thursday Tea

Thursday Tea is a little meme hosted at BirdBrain[ed] Book Blog

The Book
Well, I'm currently reading - finally - Anne of Green Gables. It has taken me three decades to get around to reading this all time childrens' classic, and I only wish I had picked it up sooner. It's great fun. I love Anne's fieriness and her endless chatter. I'm only a third of the way through the book, so have plenty more of the story to enjoy, so it's perfect timing to sit down on a Thursday afternoon with a cuppa!

The Tea
Oh, I've been trying to work out which tea would go best. Camomile is too relaxing, ordinary tea is too bland, what I really need is a spicy red tea of some sort. I think that would be most fitting. The closest I can get through from my only little tea supply is "Orange and Cinnamon" 

Do they go together?
Yes, I think they do. The orange provides a lovely fruity flavour and goes perfectly with the spicy cinnamon. And as the little red-headed girl  is providing much spice to the other characters in Avonlea, I think I've got a match!

New meme: Behind the Screen #1

Behind the Screen is a cool new meme hosted by Inga @ Me and Reading It's where we talk about some of the things going on "Behind the Screen" that week. Hop over to her blog to check out her first post!

On the shelf
Well, my bookshelf doesn't quite look like this but it's getting close to it. I've slowly been pottering away at it, trying to tidy it up, rearrange it, and bring some of those books at the back of the shelves (yes I have to double shelf) to the fore - it's just like finding a whole lot of treasure (and dust!)

On the blog
My blog has been a bit neglected of late. I haven't had the headspace to write anything relevant, so I've just stuck to easy peasy memes, but hey, at least that means I'm still blogging right? I've got deadlines coming out my ears at the moment: think articles on investing in antique jewellery, financing business degrees, and sourcing product images for Autumn/Winter interior trends and you'll get an idea of where my attention is going.

On reading

With work and visitors, not only has blogging been put on the backburner, so too has reading (gosh I'm full of excuses this week aren't I!!) But I am now on a roll. Finished my 750page Jeffrey Archer book yesterday, knocked off a couple of sweet 50 page books in between a spot of retail therapy (although I am still feeling very guilty at the length of those books and not sure I can really count them as books towards my goal this year... will see how close I get and whether I need to make up the numbers!). And now I'm back in the flow thanks to Anne of Green Gables.

I think this week is going to be a good one!