Thursday, September 29, 2011

Book Blogger Hop!

It's Friday and that means it's time for the Book Blogger Hop! Hosted by Jennifer at Crazy For Books it's a fun, weekly gathering of over 200 book bloggers and a great way to get to know the community. This weeks question is in honour of Banned Book Week:
What is your favourite banned or frequently challenged book?

One of my favourite books is The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. I read it in high school and at the time didn't see anything wrong with it, and I still don't. In fact, it was one of only two books that I read in high school that I enjoyed and was interested in. One book from the 2010-2011 list that I really enjoyed is Push by Sapphire. I wouldn't have a problem with my children reading it in their teens.

I am against banning books. There may be some that I feel are inappropriate for certain age levels, but I think that's the responsibility of parents to pay attention to what their children are reading and talk to them about it. I'm especially against banning books that are classics just because they present values that go against the ones we have today.

Example - here is the listing for Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird (which I haven't read) - A resident had objected to the novel's depiction of how blacks are treated by members of a racist white community in an Alabama town during the depression. The resident feared the book would upset black children reading it.

I would have no problem with my children reading this book and I doubt it would upset them. The reason for this is, we've already explained to my four year old how things once were. This summer we visited the Martin Luther King Jr Historical Site in Atlanta and sat down to explain everything to her. And over the years we will continue to explain things to her as she matures and has a better understanding of things. A book like this shouldn't upset her when she's in high school because she will already know that this is how things really were. We're not going to sugarcoat what is history.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

"The Baby Planner" by Josie Brown

Katie Johnson wants nothing more than a baby of her own. But her husband Alex, who says he'll keep an open mind, doesn't want a child. What makes this really difficult for Katie is the fact that as San Francisco's premier baby planner, she is surrounded all day by pregnant women and everything baby.

When Katie takes on a new client, single father Seth Harris, she gets more than she bargained for. Seth needs all the help he can get with his newborn daughter and Katie is more than willing to step in to fill that role. Will she end up with the family she has always dreamed of or will her job as a baby planner remind her too much of what she doesn't have?

The Baby Planner by Josie Brown takes you inside a brand new world, the upscale baby planner. Having a baby is a very busy time so why not let someone else do the work for you? They will take care of all your shopping needs, help you get the nursery ready, help you find a drag queen to be the nanny for your child….you'll just have to read the book to find out what that is all about!

This is a fun novel that takes a look at motherhood from many angles - those who have a bunch of kids, those who can't have kids, those who find themselves unexpectedly pregnant and those who find their lives in big upheaval with the arrival of baby. One thing is common amongst these women, they need the help of Katie Johnson, baby planner, to navigate them through these times.

The book goes beyond the shopping, baby showers and cute baby clothing. It looks at relationships and especially at what happens when life doesn't go the way you have planned. My only criticism about this book is the nature of the passages involving sex. I'm not a prude and I can handle when characters have sex in books but I don't think that graphic description is necessary. If you feel the same way, then you are hereby warned.

Monday, September 26, 2011

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey that lets book bloggers share what books are making their way through the to-read pile. I am still in the midst of reading through the Giller Longlist, although I seem to be going pretty slow (not the fault of the books but my time management skills!)

What I Read Last Week:
A World Elsewhere by Wayne Johnston

What I'm Currently Reading:
Into The Heart of the Country by Pauline Holdstock

What I Plan to Read Next:

Have you read any books from this years Giller list?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Fall Into Reading 2011

Fall Into Reading 2011 is a low-pressure reading challenge hosted by Callapidder Days. Here is what you do to participate:

  • Create a list of some books you’d like to read or finish this fall. This is the only real requirement for participating in the challenge.
  • Feel free to set some additional reading goals (such as reading to your kids two hours per week, getting through your pile of magazines, etc.). However, this is not required; setting additional goals is completely optional.
  • Write a blog post that includes the list of books you want to read (and any additional goals you’ve set), and get ready to post it on your blog on September 23rd.
  • Visit Callapidder Days on September 23rd to sign up for the challenge. I’ll have an official launch post up that morning, complete with an area for you to submit a link to your personal Fall Into Reading post, where it will be added to the master list of participants.
  • Read! Work on your goals throughout Fall 2011.
  • Report your results. Write another blog post in December to let everyone know how you did. (I’ll post an official wrap-up to the challenge on December 22nd, where you’ll be able to share your results.)
  • Have fun! Visit other participants to see what they’re reading. Write reviews if you’re so inclined. But most of all, enjoy your fall reading!
This is a great challenge for me, I have tons of books sitting on my bookshelves that are begging to be read, but I keep getting books from the library. So here are the books from my shelf that I have chosen for this challenge:

Baggage - Emily Barr

Children of the Waters - Carleen Brice

How to Be Married - Polly Williams

Cocktails for Three - Madeleine Wickham

Busy Woman Seeks Wife - Annie Sanders

Slightly Suburban - Wendy Markham

A Complicated Kindness - Miriam Toews

Tales from the Yoga Studio - Rain Mitchell

These aren't all the books on my shelf that I need to read, but it's a start!

When it comes to reading with my kids I've decided that I would like to commit to reading 50 french storybooks with my 4 year old daughter. She just started French Immersion and I want to keep the french going at home.

Will you be joining the challenge?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

"Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea" and "Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang" by Chelsea Handler

Chelsea Handler is hilarious. I say that as someone who has just recently discovered her. I had heard of her television show but I don't have cable so I had never seen it. I had seen her books all over the place but never picked one up since I didn't know anything about her. But on a whim I thought they might be good summer reading so I picked up two of them - Are you There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea and Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang.

I am so glad I picked up the books. They are fast paced reads as I couldn't put either of them down, except for when I was laughing so hard, which was often. Each book is a collection of essays about Chelsea's life that are so funny, you'll find yourself thinking they can't possibly true because no one's life can be that crazy.

In Are You There Vodka, It's Me Chelsea? she takes on such topics as going to prison, dating a red-head, dining in the dark, re-gifting, vacationing with her father and getting attacked by fourteen-year-old girls.

In Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang she talks about discovering masturbation at a sleepover when she was eight-years-old, faking the death of a friends dog to play a prank on her boyfriend, attempting to get her driver laid while on vacation and trying to get her parents to buy her a Cabbage Patch doll as a child. This book seems a bit more disjointed and rushed than the first one but Handler still takes you on a crazy ride.

If these stories are true, you'll understand why Chelsea is such a comedienne because you would have to look at things with humour with a life like that. If they aren't true then Chelsea is an incredible storyteller. Either way, she writes hilarious books. Perfect reading for the beach, but be warned, Handler is vulgar and raunchy so think about how much you can tolerate before you decide to read either of these books.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Canadian Awards News

It's an exciting time of year for authors, publishers and readers as there are quite a few book prizes being handed out. Here's a look at two Canadian awards I'm following:

Giller Prize
The Scotiabank Giller Prize is Canada's most distinguished literary prize. Past winners include Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, Alice Munro, Mordecai Richler and Rohinton Mistry. Last years winner Johanna Skibsrud caused quite a stir as her book was put out by a very small Canadian publisher and it was difficult to get your hands on her book before and after the win.

This years longlist is:

The Free World - David Bezmozgis
The Meagre Tarmac - Clark Blaise
The Beggar's Garden - Michael Christie
The Antagonist - Lynn Coady
The Sisters Brothers - Patrick deWitt
Extensions - Myrna Dey (Readers' Choice Winner)
Half-Blood Blues - Esi Edugyan
The Little Shadows - Marina Endicott
Solitaria - Genni Gunn
Into the Heart of the Country - Pauline Holdstock
A World Elsewhere - Wayne Johnston
The Return - Dany Laferriere (translated by David Homel)
Monoceros - Suzette Mayr
The Cat's Table - Michael Ondaatje
A Good Man - Guy Vanderhaeghe
Touch - Alexi Zentner

The shortlist will be announced on October 4th and the winner will be announced on November 8th.

Toronto Book Awards
The Toronto Book Awards is an opportunity for readers to discover the beautiful diversity of the City of Toronto through the eyes of authors. This is the 37th year the award has been presented.

The five finalists are:

What Disturbs Our Blood - James FitzGerald
Etienne's Alphabet - James King
The Amazing Absorbing Boy - Rabindranath Maharaj
The Parabolist - Nicholas Ruddock
Fauna - Alissa York

The winner will be announced on October 13.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"Wild Abandon" by Joe Dunthorne

Seventeen-year-old Kate and eleven-year-old Albert have spent their entire lives on a secluded Welsh commune led by their father. What was once a vibrant community full of potential is now disintegrating, just like their parents marriage. To escape, Kate heads off for school and suburban life with her boyfriend. Albert stays on the commune and begins preparations for the end of the world, something he is sure is coming soon.

But their father Don isn't going to let the community break up so easily. He decides that the best way to keep his family together and attract new wwoofers (those looking to volunteer on an organic farm) to the commune is to throw a rave complete with a 10k soundsystem. The last day on earth is coming. Bring Your Own Booze.

Wild Abandon is Joe Dunthorne's second novel. It is a typical coming of age story set in very untypical territory. It contains a colourful cast of characters who together make a perfect comedic combination. Suburban life and the middle class are expertly played out against the idealistic group of the commune.

Wild Abandon is a comic novel, one of understated humour, one that doesn't go for cheap laughs but is smart and darkly funny. The character of Albert was my favourite. That kid had me laughing in spots I probably wasn't supposed to. His wit and maturity were wonderfully written. Dunthorne expertly crafted each character so that they seemed like a real person you could meet on the street.

That being said this novel wasn't quite what I was expecting. There isn't too much to the plot, no major ups and downs, goings-on. Rather it is a commentary, a story of people and how they come to be who they are, how they interact and respond to their surroundings. However, Dunthorne's writing was more than enough to keep me turning the pages. While it started a bit slow for me personally, his characters soon had me wrapped up and wondering how I too could spend some time on the commune as a wwoofer.

I would like to thank Penguin Canada for providing me with a copy of this book.

Monday, September 19, 2011

It's Monday What Are You Reading?

It's Monday What Are You Reading? is my favourite meme. That's because I love getting organized, making lists, planning what I'm going to do and this meme does just that for my reading. It's hosted by Sheila at Book Journey and be warned, it's going to add to your to read list dramatically!!!

My list this week is all CanLit as I'm currently reading my way through the Giller Prize longlist.

What I Read Last Week:

The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje

In the early 1950s, an eleven-year-old boy boards a huge liner bound for England. At mealtimes, he is placed at the lowly "Cat's Table" with an eccentric and unforgettable group of grownups and two other boys. As the ship makes its way across the Indian Ocean, through the Suez Canal, into the Mediterranean, the boys find themselves immersed in the worlds and stories of the adults around them. At night they spy on a shackled prisoner -- his crime and fate a galvanizing mystery that will haunt them forever.

Looking back from deep within adulthood, and gradually moving back and forth from the decks and holds of the ship to the years that follow the narrator unfolds a spellbinding and layered tale about the magical, often forbidden discoveries of childhood and the burdens of earned understanding, about a life-long journey that began unexpectedly with a sea voyage.

What I'm Currently Reading:

A World Elsewhere by Wayne Johnston

A World Elsewhere has all the hallmarks of Wayne Johnston's most beloved and acclaimed novels: outsiders yearning for acceptance, dreams that threaten to overpower their makers, and unlikely romance. It is an astounding work of literature that questions the loyalties of friends, family and the heart. At the centre of this story is a mystery: the suspected murder of a child. This sweeping tale immerses us in St. John's, Princeton and North Carolina at the close of the nineteenth century. Landish Druken is a formidable figure: broader than most doorways, quick-witted and sharp-tongued. As a student at Princeton, he is befriended by George Vanderluyden, son of one of the wealthiest men in America. Years later, when Landish and his adopted son turn to Vanderluyden for help, he invites them to his self-constructed castle and pulls them into his web of lies and deceit.

What I Plan to Read Next:
Into The Heart of the Country by Pauline Holdstock

Set in eighteenth-century Churchill, this compelling new novel takes the reader deep into unexplored territory. Appearing only fleetingly in the historical record of the Hudson's Bay Company are the Native women who lived at the company's Prince of Wales Fort and served as country wives to theEuropean traders and whose survival was bound, for better or worse, to the fortunes of those men.

Across more than two centuries, the mixed-blood woman Mary Norton, daughter of Governor Moses and personal favourite of the explorer Samuel Hearne, speaks to us from her dreams. As the story of her liaison with Hearne unfolds, we move toward its tragic consequences. When their small society is torn apart by a French attack on the fort, Mary and the other women find themselves and their children abandoned by their British masters. Now in one of history's cruel ironies they must fend for themselves in the harsh country from which their own ancestors sprang.

Happy Reading!!!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Light Sunday Reading

Reading. It never goes out of style and it's always in the news. Here are a few news pieces that caught my eye this week.

*One of my favourite books I have read with my kids is Please Baby Please by Spike Lee. We also love the follow-up Please Puppy Please. I was pretty surprised to learn that Spike Lee has written children's books but he's not the only celebrity jumping on the trend. Would you believe that Tyra Banks, Terrell Owens, John Travolta and Julianne Moore have all written children's books? What do you think? Can Celebrities Write Good Children's Books?

*If you're a book blogger you no doubt have overflowing bookshelves in your home. But according to Ikea, you're in the minority. People are no longer keeping books on the shelves, they're using them more as display cases. And for that, Ikea is changing the depth of their bookshelves to better suit their new uses. Personally, I think it's a great idea, it means I can probably fit more books on my shelves. What do you use your bookshelves for?

*Not enough editing staff and the pressure to get books to market can make for poorly edited books. In most books a typo is just a typo, not a big deal, but for this author, it changed the entire tone of the book!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

"Then Came You" by Jennifer Weiner

In Jennifer Weiner's latest novel, Then Came You, four very different women are about to find their lives crashing head on.

Jules is a senior at Princeton, beautiful, smart and focused. When she is offered a large sum of money to donate her "pedigree" eggs, she takes the opportunity in the hopes of helping her addict father get into rehab.

Annie is a young mother of two boys, married to her high school sweetheart. As a stay at home mom she finds herself struggling to support her family on her husbands sole income. When she discovers she can earn extra money as a surrogate, she jumps in despite her husbands hesitations.

India Bishop has started life over at age forty-three (though she tells people she is thirty-eight.) She has changed her name, her face and her past and is now married to Marcus Croft, a wealthy older New York City businessman. When her attempts at pregnancy fail she turns to Annie, Jules and a fertility clinic to help make her dreams come true.

Things seem to be perfect until Marcus' daughter Bettina becomes involved. A promising university student, she is convinced that India isn't who she says she is and Bettina will protect her father at all costs.

Jennifer Weiner is a master storyteller. She expertly crafts engaging, endearing female characters and straight from the headlines topics into unforgettable stories. In this novel she looks at the issue of surrogacy from every perspective and delves deep into the issues of parental rights and motherhood.

I've been a fan of Weiner's from the first book of hers that I picked up. I love the way she tells a story with the right blend of warmth, emotion and humour. I was slightly disappointed in her last novel but feel that with Then Came You she is back to what I love most about her. If you are a fan of women's fiction then this is definitely a book you should pick up.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fall Preview

Fall is definitely my favourite season. I love getting out the warm sweaters and scarves, the colours of the leaves, sitting on the balcony wrapped in a blanket sipping a warm cup of tea. Not to mention the excitement of back to school, the season premieres of favourite television shows (Big Bang Theory anyone?) and cooking meals that warm you up from the inside out.

Fall is an exciting time for readers as it is when many of the major awards are given. This year the Man Booker Prize for fiction will be announced on Tuesday 18 October. The Scotiabank Giller Prize for Canadian fiction will be announced on Tuesday 8 November. Join me as I try to read through all of the books on the Giller longlist and hopefully many of the books on the Booker longlist.

Here at Curled Up With a Good Book and a Cup of Tea I look forward to reading a lot of Canadian literature, blogging and tweeting about books in the news, and pretty soon a giveaway. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"Summer and the City" by Candace Bushnell

Through six seasons and two movies we laughed, cried, celebrated and hurt with the ladies of Sex and the City. They were more than characters on the television and movie screen, they were friends, alter-egos, role models. When we met them, they were successful women with homes, careers and love lives.

In The Carrie Diaries, we were introduced to teenage Carrie Bradshaw. We discovered where she came from and how she ended up in New York City. And now, in Summer and the City, we see how she met Samantha and Miranda and how she came to settle in NYC.

Summer and the City by Candace Bushnell is a young adult novel that fans of Sex and the City will enjoy no matter what their age. While the intent of the novel is to discover who the women we love so much are and what made them the women we know, the book itself is a great stand-alone novel, a story of young women taking New York City by storm in the 1980's.

Carrie has arrived in NYC to take a summer writing class at The New School. After a rough start she is taken in by Samantha Jones, who is working her way up in the advertising field and planning her wedding to one of the city's most eligible bachelors. As Carrie falls in love with an older man and finds herself immersed in the city's fast-paced society culture she learns lessons of love, heartbreak and discovering your voice. When she meets Miranda Hobbes outside of Saks, where the hardcore feminist is protesting pornography, she discovers the importance of female friendship and the power it has in her life.

Meeting the women in their late teens and early twenties is such a trip. Whatever idea you had of them, you can forget. They are not the same women we met in the show, but you see glimpses of who they are to become. And when we get a very brief glimpse of young Charlotte you can't help but smile with nostalgia for a brilliant television show that so greatly influenced the lives of many women.

Don't let the young adult designation steer you away from this book if you are a fan of the show, it is written in a voice that acknowledges readers of all ages. And if you are wondering if your teenage daughter should read the book, don't let the sexual nature of the show worry you, it's not in the book.

Summer and the City is another great book by Candace Bushnell and will be loved by all fans of the show. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go re-watch the entire series.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Book Blogger Hop!

Are you a book blogger? Are you a reader? Then welcome to the place where all of us connect over the weekend and chat about books!

The Book Blogger Hop is a fun meme where you can meet almost 200 book bloggers each week! Hop along and you can find out more about your favourite bloggers, meet new ones and most definitely find some great new books to read! To join in, check things out here.

This is my first Hop back since taking the entire summer of from blogging. I managed to get some reading done, though not as much as I had hoped. And I definitely missed blogging, so it is great to be back!

This weeks question is: As a book blogger, how do you introduce yourself in your profile?

My answer: I know when I started blogging, I wanted to keep things kind of anonymous. I was a little unsure of this whole blogging world and how much of me I wanted to put out there. But as I became comfortable in this world over time I began to share my profile. I shared the most important things to me - my family and what I like to do when I'm not reading. Now that I look at it, I think there is probably more I can share especially now that I'm making such wonderful connections in the book blogger world!

Thanks for hopping by my blog. If this is your first time here, welcome and hope you take a look around. You'll find an eclectic mix of reviews, there should be something here for everyone. If you're a return visitor, thanks for stopping by again and I hope you are enjoying your hop!

Back to Blogging!!!

I am so very happy to say that I am back to blogging!!! I decided to take the summer off from blogging and that was a good decision because I honestly did not get much reading done. We had a wonderful summer full of trips, theme parks, barbecues, baseball games and sleepovers. It was sad to see it come to an end but it also brought new beginnings including my daughters start at a new school (in French!) And now that we have settled in and are back to our routine it's definitely time I get back to the books myself.

I had a huge list of books prepared to read during the summer and unfortunately I barely made a dent in the list. I made the decision that the warm weather was too precious to waste on books that weren't really grabbing me so there were a lot more DNF's than I was used to. Some of them were quite surprising, I was really looking forward to both Untold Story by Monica Ali and The Kid by Sapphire, but I just couldn't get into them.

The books I did finish were wonderful treats. It was great visiting the SATC ladies in Summer and the City by Candace Bushnell. Chelsea Handler had me in stitches with the stories she tells in Are You There Vodka? It's Me Chelsea and Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang. And Jennifer Weiner has another fabulous work with Then Came You. Reviews are soon to come!

I am also now on Twitter! I think I have held out long enough. Come follow me @goodbooksandtea. I look forward to being able to to discuss books further with you.

How was your summer?