Wednesday, May 30, 2012

"The Jane Austen Marriage Manual" by Kim Izzo


Kate Shaw has always been happy with her life.  She has a fantastic career, great friends, and a loving grandmother.  A lover of all things Jane Austen, she is content with her single life, not looking for marriage or anything that comes with it, even as she nears forty.  But when her life takes a quick turn, she finds herself facing a crisis of Austen proportions.

Kate's grandmother has fallen ill, the family home has been lost and Kate has now lost her job.  So Kate takes on a freelance writing job that will give Austen's heroines a run for their money - she is going undercover to find out if in these tough economic times it's better to marry for money than love.  But what starts as a story turns into a fabulous opportunity for Kate, one that may be too good to be true.

The Jane Austen Marriage Manual by Kim Izzo is smart, sassy and fabulously fun chick lit.  It is the perfect novel to kick back with in the summer warmth when you need to escape the whirlwind around you.  

The character of Kate is wonderfully written.  As she sets out to immerse herself in the world of the rich and tries her hand at gold-digging, readers will be laughing and cringing.  Yes, the plot is dream-like, but the writing is effortless and keeps the reader hooked right to the end, believing (hoping?) that such a thing could really happen.

The book does follow the typical route of books this genre, but it is set apart by Izzo's intelligent and engaging writing.  The plot is never rushed, especially at the end which often occurs in chick lit novels, and everything unfolds with perfect timing.   If you have ever, even for just a second, entertained the fantasy of landing in the world of the rich and famous you will find yourself turning every page in anticipation of what is going to happen next.  Fans of the chick lit genre should definitely pick up this debut novel from Kim Izzo.  

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

An Evening With Malcolm Gladwell at the Toronto Public Library



Last night I attended An Evening With Malcolm Gladwell at the Toronto Reference Library as part of the Jamaica 50 celebrations.  2012 marks 50 years of independence of Jamaica and the Jamaican-Canadian community is celebrating in style.  Last night Gladwell spoke of his Jamaican heritage and the influence it has had on his life and work.

It was an incredible talk.  Gladwell is both incredibly smart and hilarious.  He had the audience laughing as he told stories and shared his views on the world.  I thoroughly enjoyed the way he would begin speaking on one topic then drift into another, then another.  He probably could have talked for hours and we all would have enjoyed if he could.  

He told the poignant story of a young African woman being taken as the mistress of the slave master and bearing children, thus setting in place the privilege his family would enjoy as part of middle class Jamaica.   He spoke of the immigrant experience, putting forth the not often thought of idea that when an immigrant  not only changes the country they are going to but also the one they have left behind.  And of course, no talk would be complete without pointing out the differences between Canadians and Americans ;)

During the question period Gladwell was asked what he thinks of new media and blogging and how it fits into the media as a whole.  He was asked if he thought blogs would be replacing print media.  His answer was that they wouldn't replace but add and that blogs provide "opportunities to follow the thinking of people who otherwise wouldn't be published." He showed a deep appreciation for what blogs do, how they fit, and the world that they open up to us.

Last night was fantastic.  Tickets sold out quick and many of us watched the talk on a screen in the library atrium.  I wish I could share everything he said.  I rushed home from the talk eager to tell my husband everything that was said, but unfortunately it wasn't as funny or poignant (or didn't make sense) when I told it.  So if you ever have a chance to hear him speak, I highly recommend going.

A special thank you to Malcolm Gladwell, Eleanor Wachtel, Toronto Public Library, CBC and Jamaica50 for this amazing evening.

For more information about Jamaica50 check out www.jamaica50.ca

Monday, May 28, 2012

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

 It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.  It's a fantastic way to share what you are reading with readers and fellow bloggers and also to help keep a book blogger such as myself organized!  This past week wasn't full of much reading, the weather here has been absolutely beautiful and the kids and I have been outside soaking it up!  Only one month of school left, and then we'll have much more time to be outside and I'll have more free time for reading!

Here's what happened last week:


Read The Jane Austen Marriage Manual by Kim Izzo (review to come soon.)  Loved it!  Was just what I needed to read last week, and I didn't realize until I started reading that Kim Izzo is Canadian!  I love Canadian authors!

Here is what's happening this week:


 

I plan to finish The Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam.  I started it about two weeks ago and have been working away nicely at it.  It's one of those books that you really need to devote time to, you can't just pick it up and read a few pages at a time when you have the chance.
I also plan to start Everybody Has Everything by Katrina Onstad.
This past week I picked up three books from the library, all from Canadian authors and I'm loving this little binge of Canada reading I'm on right now.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Book Blogger Hop

It's Friday and it's time for the Book Blogger Hop, hosted by Jennifer at Crazy For Books.  It's a weekly gathering of book bloggers and has recently come back from hiatus!  Check it out and find some fabulous book blogs.

This weeks question is a good one:

How do you handle the writing of a negative review?

Unfortunately I've had to write about a few not so great books.   We all have some books that we just don't connect with.  I always try to keep my reviews balanced, with both the positives and negatives.  If I find that there are a lot more negatives, I'll explain why I personally feel that way.  I recognize that obviously there are other people out there who like the book so in this case I will read other reviews of the book and in my review point out what other people like about the book.  I would rather not publish a review of a book than write an entirely negative review.  

How about you?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" by Amy Chua


Last year a book burst on the scene that had everyone talking, not all good though.  Amy Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother had people heated up over her discussion of Eastern versus Western parenting.  Chua, an American born to Chinese immigrant parents, had set out to raise her children in the Chinese way.  For her this meant her kids had to spend long hours playing the violin and piano, studying, and pretty much doing nothing else.  In return, she felt her children would have all of the skills they needed to be the most successful adults.  But along the way, Chua learns a lot about her children as well as herself and finds that it's not about the particular way in which you raise your children, but about the lessons learned along the way.

When I first heard all about this book in the media Amy Chua came off as a know-it-all "we're better than you" type of person.  And it's true, she does come across as that in the book, however, by the end of the book Chua herself recognizes this and is completely honest about the lessons she learned along the way, as taught to her by her own children.  

I can understand where she was coming from.  I'm the child of an immigrant and married to an immigrant.  I see the desire for success and the difference in parenting from Western culture.  I grew up in an immigrant neighbourhood, mostly Chinese.  I've seen these Tiger Mothers and their children in action.  So there were no shockers in this book for me.  Yes, she doesn't let her children have playmates or sleepovers.  They are forced to play their instruments for hours on end and driven hours for lessons from top teachers.  But along the way Chua learned that when you instill good character in your children and teach them responsibility from an early age, they'll be able to make the decisions in their lives and still turn out successful.  

My issue with this book, and this is what may have given it the bad rap it received in the media, is Chua's unfortunate attempts at humour in this book.  A lot of assertions and observations came across as her trying to make light of the situation or make fun of herself, but instead came across as half-jokes.  You're fairly certain she can't actually be serious, but it just wasn't funny enough to know for sure.  

I'm glad I read this book despite the negativity that surrounded it.  I think you can always learn something from other people even if you disagree with everything they say.  This is a fascinating look at a way of parenting that is very different from what we are used to in North America, but that is occurring elsewhere in the world.  The fact is many parents are like this and Chua is probably one of a few who will tell it like it is.  We may not agree with it, we may think it borders on insanity, but it is still interesting to read about.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

It's (Monday was a holiday so now it's) Tuesday, What Are You Reading?


It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.  Yesterday was Victoria Day, a holiday in which we honour Queen Victoria's birthday and recognize the current sovereign's birthday.  Also known as May two-four, it's the unofficial start of summer season and so we celebrated wonderfully with barbecues and fireworks.  And thus, I'm posting this a day late!

Last week was the Bout of Books readathon, and I did pretty well.  I read two of my three goal books and read one additional book as well as finished one I started long ago and then put aside.  Here is what I accomplished:

 

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua (review coming soon)
Redemption by Bryan Clay (review here)
The Walking Dead Book One by Robert Kirkman et. al (review here)
Love Wins by Rob Bell (review coming soon)

Here is what I plan to read this week:

The Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam (currently reading)
Percival Chen is the headmaster of the most respected English school in Saigon. He is also a bon vivant, a compulsive gambler and an incorrigible womanizer. He is well accustomed to bribing forever changing lists of government officials in order to maintain the elite status of the Chen Academy. He is fiercely proud of his Chinese heritage, and quick to spot the business opportunities rife in a divided country. He devotedly ignores all news of the fighting that swirls around him, choosing instead to read the faces of his opponents at high-stakes mahjong tables.
But when his only son gets in trouble with the Vietnamese authorities, Percival faces the limits of his connections and wealth and is forced to send him away. In the loneliness that follows, Percival finds solace in Jacqueline, a beautiful woman of mixed French and Vietnamese heritage, and Laing Jai, a son born to them on the eve of the Tet offensive. Percival's new-found happiness is precarious, and as the complexities of war encroach further and further into his world, he must confront the tragedy of all he has refused to see.



 Everybody Has Everything by Katrina Onstad
What happens when the tidy, prosperous life of an urban couple is turned inside out by a tragedy with unexpected consequences? After a car crash leaves their friend Marcus dead and his wife Sarah in a coma, Ana and James are shocked to discover that they have become the legal guardians of a 2½-year-old, Finn. Finn’s crash-landing in their lives throws into high relief deeply rooted, and sometimes long-hidden, truths about themselves, both individually and as a couple. Several chaotic, poignant, and life-changing weeks as a most unusual family give rise to an often unasked question: Can everyone be a parent?

The Jane Austen Marriage Manual by Kim Izzo
It is Fall 2008, the recession is in full swing and Kate Shaw is about to turn forty. As an acting beauty editor for a fashion magazine, Kate has glided from contract to contract only to be told that, due to cutbacks, her services are no longer required. Through no fault of her own she finds herself single, homeless and desperate to help her family survive its own financial and emotional crises. Known for her love of all things Jane Austen, Kate is given a freelance gig that changes everything: is it possible, in these modern times—and at a certain age—to marry well?
What starts as an article quickly turns into Kate’s real-life quest. From the polo fields of West Palm Beach to the slopes of St. Moritz and the glamour of London’s social scene, Kate, who gets mistaken for an aristocrat—Lady Kate—chases the man of her dreams, a charming and elegant older financier. But she keeps running into a brooding Englishman, Griffith Kent, who works at an impeccably Austenesque estate called Penwick Manor. Caught between Mr. Rich and maybe Mr. Right, Kate must choose what she really wants out of life: to marry for money or marry for love.

I'm excited to read the first two Canadian books but I'm especially excited to read The Jane Austen Marriage Manual as I haven't read any good chick lit in a while and this one looks promising!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Book Blogger Hop

It's Friday!  And that means it's time for the Book Blogger Hop, hosted by Jennifer at Crazy For Books.  I'm looking forward to this weekend, it's a long weekend as Monday is Victoria Day and the weather is supposed to be beautiful!!!  So definitely lots of fun outside.  And I'm participating in the Bout of Books readathon, so I look forward to wrapping up an awesome reading week.

This weeks question is: How many books do you own?  This can include books in your to be read pile and books you have already read that are on your keep shelf.

I don't know.  I have about 100 books sitting on the bookshelves in my bedroom.  But I live in an apartment and don't have a whole lot of space so those are only my most recent acquisitions.  I also have tons of books in boxes in my storage space and at my mom's house that are waiting patiently for me to get a bigger place so they can be liberated and restored to shelves where they belong.  I have no clue how many are in those boxes.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

"The Walking Dead Book One" by Robert Kirkman et. al


Rick Grimes awakes from a coma to find that he is the only patient in the hospital and there are no doctors or nurses.  However, he quickly learns that he is not alone.  The hospital, and the world, has been overcome by zombies and Rick must think quick if he wants to survive.  When he meets a group of fellow survivors they band together in hopes of finding a safe place to live and learn along the way that nowhere is safe from the zombies.

The Walking Dead Book One by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, Charlie Adlard, and Cliff Rathburn contains the first 12 issues of the graphic novels that spawned the successful television series.  The artwork is fantastic and realistic (or as realistic as you can be about a zombie apocalypse) and the story is character driven and well written.  There is the perfect balance of zombie attacks and character development.

I decided to read the graphic novels after watching the television show.  I absolutely love the show and needed something to hold me over until the next season starts.  Fans of the show will thoroughly enjoy this.  There are actually a lot of differences between the book and the show, in terms of events and characters, which makes it fun to read.  It also gives you a new appreciation for the television series and shows the work it took to translate the story from the page to the screen.

I'm not a reader of graphic novels so I don't have much to compare this one to.  However, my husband is a big reader of them and he's impressed by this one so far.  So I think readers and non-readers of graphic novels will enjoy this one.  There is strong language and obviously a lot of zombie killing so it's not for everyone.  But I believe that a lot of people who think this might not be their cup of tea will find that they really enjoy this book.  I can't wait to get started on the next volume.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"Home" by Toni Morrison


Frank Money has returned to America from the Korean War a scarred and angry man, traumatized by what he experienced on the front lines.  When he learns that his sister is being medically abused, he must do what he always vowed never to do - return to the small Georgia town he came from and holds a deep hatred for.  As Frank travels to rescue his sister, he questions his sense of self and along the way discovers in himself a man he didn't think could ever live again.

Home is Toni Morrison's tenth novel and the first of hers that I have read.  I have always wanted to read her works, hearing such great things about her writing and I can now see why she has the reputation she does.

Without getting into the graphic or the sensational, Morrison paints a haunting picture of a man scarred by the horrors of war.  While it is set in the 1950's, it could easily take place today.  It isn't a long novel and while that doesn't allow for major development of characters, there are many voices represented through different narrators.  The chapters in which Frank addresses the reader directly are outstanding.

Home paints a stark picture of what life was like in the 1950's.  It touches on war, racism, poverty and eugenics in a clear way that isn't in your face but doesn't beat around the bush either.  Morrison is skilled at walking the fine line that divides the two.  

I was a little surprised at this book.  Given the status that Toni Morrison has in the literary world (and I'm sure is very deserving), this book didn't seem to live up to that reputation.  The plot felt like it deserved more development, the characters felt like you only knew half of them. I was definitely expecting a lot more story. 

I have heard that if you are fan of Morrison's you will enjoy this book, but this is not the book to start with if you haven't read any of her previous works.  So I will take that into account and say that while I enjoyed the story but wasn't blown away, I will definitely try reading one of her earlier works to get a better feel of her writing.  

Monday, May 14, 2012

It's Monday What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.  I love this meme as it gets me set up for the week reading-wise, helps me set reading goals and motivates me to work my way through my to read pile.

Last week I read:
The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones (click on title for review)
Wait No More by Kelly and John Rosati (review coming soon)
Home by Toni Morrison (review coming soon)

This week I am:

Bout of Books Read-a-Thon
Participating in the bout of books read-a-thon.  It's a week long readathon, which is right up my alley!  For it I will be reading:
 The Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam
Redemption by Brian Clay 
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua.

I'm feeling really good about this week, how about you?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A readathon? Yes please!

Bout of Books Read-a-Thon

I have signed up to participate in the bout of books read-a-thon that is happening from May 14 to May 20.  I love a good readathon, but sometimes (most times) it's hard for me to dedicate a weekend to just reading.  But a whole week works for me.  This will motivate me to make my way through my to read pile!

Want to participate?  Head over to here and check it out.  
  • Bout of Books is a week long read-a-thon, run from 12:01am on Monday, May 14th through 11:59pm Sunday, May 20th in whatever time zone you are in.
  • Bout of Books is low pressure, meaning participants are only asked to push themselves to read more than they normally would during any given week. There is no competition between readers.
  • How much time a reader wants, and can commit, to read, tweet, or network with fellow bloggers is left to individual preference. All challenges and giveaways are optional.
  • Networking with fellow bloggers is actively encouraged, though never required. Co-hosts are there to facilitate blog hopping and interaction between participants.
  • Use Twitter to post updates throughout the read-a-thon. Everyone will be tweeting with the #boutofbooks hashtag.

I'll be participating mostly through Twitter (@goodbooksandtea).  I'll do a wrap-up post here to see if I met my goals.  Speaking of goals, here is what I plan to read:

 

Will you be joining in?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Book Blogger Hop

 It's Friday and it's time for the Book Blogger Hop!  Hosted by Jen at Crazy For Books, it's a weekly gathering of book bloggers to get to know each other and discuss all things bookish!

This weeks question is: Who is your favourite book character?
You know, I have quite a few favourite characters from the chick lit genre.  I love Sophie Kinsella's Becky Bloomwood (Shopaholic series), Meg Cabot's Lizzie Nicholls (Queen of Babble series) and Carmen Reid's Annie Valentine (Personal Shopper series).  But I think my favourite character goes to....

Precious Ramotswe from The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith.

Precious is an irresistible heroine who sets up the first all ladies detective agency in Botswana.  She is warm, compassionate, thoughtful, and for her it's not about solving crimes but helping people with personal problems.  Every book I have read in the series I am just taken in by Precious.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"The Uninvited Guests" by Sadie Jones


It is Emerald Torrington's twentieth birthday and her life is about to be turned upside down.  Sterne, the house she lives in with her mother Charlotte, stepfather Edward and siblings Clovis and Smudge, is on its last legs and due to financial crisis may not be theirs for much longer.  Edward has departed to the city to see if he can save the family home while the rest of the family prepare for the party.

But just as her guests begin to arrive, a terrible train wreck occurs nearby and a group of mysterious survivors have made their way to Sterne.  They need a place to stay until the Railway comes for them and while the family gives them shelter and food strange things begin to happen throughout the house.  And when one survivor - a figure from the family's past - decides to make himself a part of the birthday celebrations, things take a very strange turn for the worse.  

Set in rural England at the turn of the last century, The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones, is a dark and strange tale full of drama and humour.  Wonderfully written, you don't feel like you're reading a current novel set in the past, you feel like you're reading a classic novel that has survived the test of time.   

This was a page turner for me, I just couldn't put it down.  Even though I kind of guessed what was going on early on in the book, I wanted to keep reading to see how it all played out.   The book isn't just about trying to figure out the mystery, the characters are well developed and Jones paints the time and place so wonderfully, that you find yourself immersed in all that is going on.

By the time I reached the end of the book, I was a little unsure of it.  The "wrap-up" of the story was a little bit of a let-down for me.  So as I closed the book, I sat and thought about whether or not I actually liked the book.  And the decision I have arrived at is that I did like the book.  It is eccentric, wonderfully quirky and definitely held my interest.  However, I wasn't blown away in the manner I thought I would be at the beginning of the novel.  Overall, this is a book I would recommend, as it is something different and written in a wonderful voice.

I received this book courtesy of Random House of Canada.  The opinions expressed above are purely my own.


Monday, May 7, 2012

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's been a while since I have participated in this meme!  Lately my reading and review posting has been pretty spotty and I need some more organization and motivation to keep reading.  I have a pile of fantastic books I want to get to, and this meme should definitely help me get back on track.  Check out all of the other participants at Book Journey by Sheila.

Right now I'm reading two books:

The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones
Set in rural England just after the turn of the last century, Emerald is preparing to celebrate her 20th birthday when a train crash brings a crowd of mysterious travellers to her home for shelter.  I just started this one this weekend, and it's a page turner!

Sarai by Jill Eileen Smith
This book tells the story of Sarah and Abraham from the Bible, from Sarah's perspective.  I started this a while ago and put it down but am looking forward to finishing it.  It's always interesting to read a Biblical story in fictional form.

The next two books in my pile are:
Wait No More by Kelly & John Rosati
This book is about the Rosati's family adoption journey, adopting four children from the American foster care system.  I am really looking forward to this one as adoption is something that our family hopes to do one day.  It's also a great time to read it as May is Foster Care Month.  In Canada there are over 76,000 children in the foster care system and in the US, over 400,000 children.

Home by Toni Morrison
In Toni Morrison's latest novel, Frank Money is veteran of the Korean War who went through traumatic experiences and is now back home facing the trials of racist America.  When he rescues his medically abused sister and takes her back to their childhood home he faces childhood memories and the horrors of war head on.






Saturday, May 5, 2012

"Where We Have to Go" by Lauren Kirshner


For Lucy Bloom, the transition from childhood into adulthood isn't going to be easy.  As an awkward eleven-year-old, she is a devotee of cats and televisions most famous extraterrestrial, ALF.  Her father is a failed glamour studio photographer who currently divides his time between a dead end job at a travel agency and AA meetings.  Her mother is a former beauty queen from Bulgaria and current ESL teacher who tends to a family of mannequins in the backyard.

As Lucy tries to navigate adolescence in Toronto during the 1990's, readers witness a sweet and quirky coming of age in Lauren Krishner's debut novel Where We Have To Go.  Lucy grows from a young girl into a university student and along the way we watch her deal with the loss of friendship, bullying, eating disorders and the discovery of what it really means to be a young woman.

This is a cute novel with quite a few laughs.  It is easily relatable, especially to those who came of age during the 1990's.  Lucy Bloom is a character who will quickly grab hold of you. Her voice is smart and quirky and she gives you a new way of seeing the world.

I found that the book started off very strong, with me not wanting to put it down.  But through the middle it lagged a bit and I had some difficulty staying attached to the story.   However, once Lucy began her struggle with an eating disorder, it felt like it was no longer about setting up a story and the book picked again for me and I found myself heavily invested in it.  The last bit of the book was beautiful and touching.

Anyone who remembers the awkwardness of the pre-teen and teenage years will definitely relate to this book.  Lucy Bloom is a heroine for every young woman who struggled to be accepted and to find who she is and how she fits in this world.  Lauren Kirshner has done a great job in her debut novel.

I received this book courtesy of Random House of Canada.  The opinions expressed above are purely my own.