Friday, June 29, 2012

Book Blogger Hop

Schools. Out. For. Summer!!!  Yes, that song has been in my head since yesterday.  The summer is officially here.  I'm looking forward to a bit of travel and a lot of reading over the next two months.

The Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Jennifer at Crazy For Books.  It's a weekly book blogger gathering, a great way to get to know your fellow bloggers and find great new blogs and books.

This weeks question is: Do you have a keeper shelf for the books you loved?  What books are on your shelf and why?


I put every book I read on my bookshelves.  I want to have my own little library one day.  I don't have the room yet, but when I started blogging I put two bookcases into my bedroom and began collecting that way.  I'm now in need of a new bookcase.

I do however keep the top two shelves for the books I absolutely loved.  One for my favourite fiction and one for my favourite Christian books.

How about you?


Half Year In Review


School is done, the weather is warm, we're already halfway through 2012.  I have to say this year is flying by.  No complaints though, it's been a wonderful year so far.  I thought I would take a look at my reading over the last few years and check in with how I'm doing on the challenges I set forth for this year.

Read 100 Books
Right now I'm at 39.  This time last year I had already 44, so I'm a little behind.  And considering I didn't make it to 100 last year (I think I was somewhere in the 80s) I need to stay focused.  I think I'll do it this year though, I have a good feeling about it.

Canadian Book Challenge
The goal is to read 13 books by Canadian authors or with Canadian themes.  This year I read 20 (the contest runs from Canada Day to the day before Canada Day - or July 1 to June 30.)  Last year I read 28.  I'm surprised to see I read less this year, I was hoping to improve on that.  But the CBC 6 starts tomorrow so this year I'll set myself the goal of 25.  If you'd like to check out the challenge head on over to Book Mine Set.

Mixing It Up Challenge
This one is all about trying out different genres and as someone who often finds herself stuck to a few, but wonderfully surprised when she tries out a new one, I thought I'd go full in and aim for 16 books read.  So far I have read 5.  Not too bad, I'm confident I can finish this one.  I've read a few books I hadn't originally planned on reading but as long as I get the boxes ticked off, it doesn't matter.

Back to Classics and Speculative Fiction Challenges
I am so shocked with myself to say that I have read 0 books for each of these challenges!


Classics - I have to read 9 books from different criteria.  I was hoping this would get me into the love of Classics and I'd breeze through my shelf of them but no such luck so far.  However, this summer I am participating in the Rebecca read-along and I plan to re-read 1984 so hopefully that will get me going.  I have quite a few books already downloaded to my Kindle app, it's just a matter of getting to them now.

Speculative Fiction - I was really excited for this one as this is a genre I typically stay away from.  I was (still am) hoping to use this challenge of reading 6 books to really explore the genre and all it offers.  I'm still confident I can do.  I've got The Parable of the Sower coming in to the library soon and I'll be looking for some Margaret Atwood which can overlap with the CBC challenge.  Plus 1984 should count towards this right?

Looking back at the half year I see that I'm not quite on my way to completing many of the challenges I've set out for myself.  However, I have read some great books this year and I'm confident that at my end of the year review I will be putting a big check mark beside all of my challenges.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Winner!


I would like to thank Judith at Leeswamme's Blog for hosting The Literary Blog Hop.  If you weren't able to participate this time around, be sure to keep an eye out in the fall for another hop.  It's run three times a year so there are plenty of opportunities to win some great books.

For the third time, I was giving away fantastic Canadian books.  I strive to share with the world the amazing books that come out of this wonderful country of mine.  And the winner of my giveaway is.....

Sara Katherine!

She wins a copy of A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews.

Thanks to everyone who entered and I'll see you all the at the next hop!

"Born to be Brad" by Brad Goreski


Brad Goreski was a small town boy living in Port Perry, Ontario dreaming of a bigger and better life.  But he didn't quite know how big his life was going to become.

As a child, Brad was different from the other boys in his town.  He loved fashion and dressing up Barbie dolls, all things glitz, glamour and Marilyn Monroe.  And because others didn't understand his fascination, he was bullied during his school years.  But Brad didn't let this stop him and upon leaving his small town and heading to Toronto he discovered a world where he could be himself and explore his passions.  Toronto took him to Greece, Greece to Los Angeles, LA to New York and so on.  And before he knew it, people everywhere were getting to know him as a celebrity stylist on the television show The Rachel Zoe Project.  

In Born to be Brad: My Life and Style, So Far, Brad Goreski shares the story of his success, a journey that had its tough times with bullying, drug abuse, and heartbreak but was ultimately turned into a successful life in the glamorous fashion world.  

I picked this book up because I'm a Rachel Zoe Project fan and I loved Brad on the show.  And I always love a good story about a Canadian who followed their dreams.  I learned a lot about Brad from this book and am impressed with his determination and his strength in the face of bullying.  Brad is open and honest about all of his struggles and in this book he shares what gave him strength and how others can get through the tough times too.

This book is part memoir, part style guide.  Brad shares all of his tips for developing your personal style and always looking your best.  And thankfully Brad recognizes that true personal style goes beyond the clothes.  Fans of The Rachel Zoe Project and Brad's own show It's a Brad, Brad World will love this book.  It's like sitting on the couch, hanging out with Brad and having him dish his best advice.  He also gives great insight into the fashion industry and all that goes on behind the scenes.

And if you don't watch the shows, or you aren't familiar with who Brad is, I'm sure you're wondering how this would be a book for you.  This isn't just a fashion book, it's a book about a young boy following his dreams and overcoming the obstacles in the way.  It's a lesson on taking risks and listening to your heart.  It's a quick read but full of substance.  It's also the perfect book for any young person who is dealing with the difficulties of being different.  This book has something for everyone.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

"The Red House" by Mark Haddon


Richard and Angela are estranged siblings who have a long-standing grudge between them resulting from the care of their mother in her last years.  They've shared little in their lives with each other and just don't know the other very well.  So no one quite knows why Richard invites Angela and her family to join Richard's family at a house in the English countryside for a week or why Angela accepts the invitation.

It's not just their relationship that threatens to ruin the week.  Richard and his wife Louisa are adjusting to their new marriage and the effects of their old lives.  Louisa's daughter Melissa is in trouble back home but hiding it from her parents.  Angela is haunted by the loss of a baby 18 years earlier.  Her husband Dominic is in the midst of a relationship outside of his marriage.  Their children Alex, Daisy and Benjy, are all distanced from their parents, dealing with their own identity issues.  The next seven days will be a test of strength, a family gathering for the ages.

The Red House, by Mark Haddon, is a story about contemporary family life, one that exemplifies how even though we share the same blood, we are never really able to fully understand the other.  It's a simple story, no major plot, no big thread to tie all of the eight lives together other than the fact that they are staying in the same house.  It's just about the lives of the individuals and the effects they have on the people around them.

I couldn't get into this book.  I had high hopes for it, given the fact that I loved one of Haddon's previous books, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.  One of my biggest issues was that I didn't enjoy the technique Haddon used of alternating between the view points of characters.  Normally I'm okay with this, but Haddon jumps back and forth between characters on the same page, sometimes even in the same paragraph.  WIth eight characters, this became a lot.  Too often I found myself going back over what I was reading or to a previous page to figure out who was talking or what was going on.

It's probably due to this that I found myself unable to relate to or feel for any of the characters.  I think if there was more to do with the characters struggles and the lives they were escaping from for a week I would have liked them more.  Instead I found myself reading about what music they were listening to, what they were reading and a whole bunch of walking around the countryside.  Eventually, I tuned out and found myself speed-reading through to the end.  And it's unfortunate that I found myself finally becoming attached to the characters at the end.

One thing I will give this book is that it is definitely a snapshot of how families can fall into dysfunction.  There is a lesson in the book of how the family dynamic disintegrates and fails when each member is caught up in their own struggles without communicating their needs to the others.  There is so much potential within a family but so easy for it all to fall apart.

Reviews on The Red House seem to be mixed.  A lot of people love it, a lot of people are very disappointed.  I personally feel I may have enjoyed this one more had I not gone into with the anticipation of another Curious Incident.  There is definitely a lot to think about here with the issues of family dynamic and self discovery, but in the end it wasn't to overcome the writing style and blow me away.

I received this book courtesy of Random House of Canada.  The opinions expressed above are my own and I have received no compensation.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

It's Monday What Are You Reading?

It's Monday!  It's the last week before school lets out for summer!  Happy dances all around in my home.

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.   It's a great place to meet book bloggers and find out what they are reading.

Last week I read:
The Red House by Mark Haddon
No Greater Love by Levi Benkert
Born to Be Brad by Brad Goreski
Breakdown by Sara Paretsky

(Reviews coming soon)

I am currently reading:

 Gathering of Waters by Bernice L. McFadden

I am reading next:
 

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
Swim by Jennifer Weiner
Starring Me by Krista McGee

I have a few other books in my pile I'm hoping to get to but they're due back at the library this week so I'm not sure I'll get to them.  So we'll see how this week goes.

What are you reading this week?

Sunday Bookish Round-up


Here are a few bookish headlines that caught my eye this week!  I'd love to hear your thoughts on them.

*Looking for a summer book?  This flowchart from Teach.com will help you find the perfect book for you, whether you want recent or classic, fiction or non-fiction, light or dark.

*A recent study shows that only 12 per cent of e-book users have downloaded from the library.  Because of this some major publishers are limiting the books they're making available to the library.
I haven't borrowed one from the library yet, though I've checked it out.  Have you borrowed an e-book from your library?  Do you think it will pick up in time?  Do you think what the publishers are doing is a good idea?


*The Canadian Women in the Literary Arts numbers are out and it's not good.  As Jennifer Weiner has pointed out, women are reviewed less than their male counterparts and these numbers paint the same picture of gender inequality here in Canada.

*Reading Rainbow is back!  But not to your television screen, to your iPad.  At $9.99 a month or $29.99 for six months, it's a little pricey.  
My children enjoy using our tablet but since they broke the volume button off, they haven't been allowed near it.  So I don't think I would pay this much money for an app for them.  But boy does this bring back memories.  Would you buy this app for your child?


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Literary Blog Hop Giveaway!


It's time for The Literary Blog Hop Giveaway hosted by Judith at Leeswammes' Blog.  Between now and 27 June, 64 blogs are hosting a giveaway and you can hop by them all to enter!  What's more awesome than 64 chances to win books?

For this giveaway I like to offer books by fantastic Canadian authors.  I'm a fiercely proud Canadian and we have amazing writers with unique voices that I want the world to hear!  So the winner of the giveaway will be able to choose one of the three following books (click on the title to find out more about the book):

 A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews
Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Each book is well loved (the first two were bought at a library sale) but still in good reading condition.  Want to win?  Here are the details:

Giveaway is open worldwide.  To enter, please leave a comment below with your email address book and which book you would like to win.  Contest closes at 11:59pm on the 27th of June.  Winner will be announced here and notified by email.

And when you are done entering be sure to hop around and visit the other participating blogs:


  1. Leeswammes
  2. Candle Beam Book Blog
  3. Musings of a Bookshop Girl
  4. The Book Whisperer
  5. Book Journey (US/CA)
  6. breieninpeking (Dutch readers)
  7. bibliosue
  8. heavenali
  9. I Read That Once...
  10. The Parrish Lantern
  11. The Bibliomouse (Europe)
  12. Tell Me A Story
  13. Seaside Book Nook
  14. Rikki's Teleidoscope
  15. Sam Still Reading
  16. Nishita's Rants and Raves
  17. Readerbuzz
  18. Books Thoughts Adventures (North America)
  19. 2,606 Books and Counting
  20. Laurie Here (US/CA)
  21. Literary Winner (US)
  22. Dolce Bellezza
  23. The House of the Seven Tails
  24. The Book Diva's Reads (US)
  25. Colorimetry
  26. Roof Beam Reader
  27. Kate's Library
  28. Minding Spot (US)
  29. Silver's Reviews (US)
  30. Book'd Out
  31. Fingers & Prose (US)
  32. Chocolate and Croissants
  33. Scattered Figments
  34. Lucybird's Book Blog
  35. The Book Club Blog
  1. Lizzy's Literary Life
  2. The Book Stop
  3. Reflections from the Hinterland (US)
  4. Lena Sledge's Blog
  5. Read in a Single Sitting
  6. The Little Reader Library (UK)
  7. The Blue Bookcase (US)
  8. 1morechapter (US)
  9. The Reading and Life of a Bookworm
  10. Curled Up with a Good Book and a Cup of Tea
  11. My Sweepstakes City (US)
  12. De Boekblogger (Europe, Dutch readers)
  13. Exurbanis
  14. Sweeping Me (US/CA)
  15. Living, Learning, and Loving Life (US)
  16. Beauty Balm
  17. Uniflame Creates
  18. Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book (US/CA)
  19. Curiosity Killed The Bookworm
  20. Nose in a book (Europe)
  21. Sharon's Garden of Book Reviews (US)
  22. Giraffe Days
  23. Page Plucker
  24. Based on a True Story
  25. Read, Write & Live
  26. Devin Berglund (N. America)
  27. Ephemeral Digest
  28. Under My Apple Tree (US)
  29. Annette Berglund (US)
  30. Book Nympho
  31. A Book Crazy, Jane Austen Lovin' Gal (US)
  32. Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Book Blogger Hop

It's Friday!  Today my daughter is graduating from Kindergarten.  The school year doesn't end until next week, but it's the ceremony today.  It's exciting to see her make it through her first year of schooling in French and the best part is she really enjoyed it!

It's also time for the Book Blogger Hop hosted by Jennifer at Crazy For Books.  It's a great place for book bloggers and readers to connect!

This weeks question is: Do you immediately write a review upon finishing a book or do you wait and write multiple reviews at once?


I prefer to put down a book and think about the review for a little bit before I actually write it.  However, if I don't get to it within a day or two I will get backed up writing reviews and I don't like having to do multiple reviews at a time.  If I'm on a roll with my reading, I usually have a week between when I'm done reading and when I post a review, so I take a little bit of time to get the review done.  If I'm in a hurry to get the review up, then I will write it right away.  I like to give myself some time and not feel rushed with anything.

How about you?  Do you write reviews right away?

"Ru" by Kim Thuy


In Vietnamese, the word "ru" means lullaby.  In French, it means small stream, but also signifies a flow - of tears, blood, or money.  In Kim Thuy's book Ru, it symbolizes the flow of life across waters, in the form of a beautiful lullaby.

The book follows a young woman on a journey from a well to do life in Saigon to a Malaysian refugee camp and then on to a new life in Quebec.  As she adapts to her new life, the American Dream life, she is thrown a curve as she must learn to love in a new way with her autistic son.

Each page of this beautifully written book is its own heartfelt memory.  Kim Thuy draws on the memories of her own life in short, emotional clips, jumping back and forth between time and place to paint the bigger picture.  This isn't a book that builds a story from beginning to end or that takes the time to develop characters and give them back stories.   This is a short novel that weaves pieces together to create a life.

It wasn't what I expected.  I loved the sense of a lullaby it created, a song of love and memory to a homeland, to love and to life.  But after a while, the one page vignettes - some a few a paragraphs, some a few sentences - failed to create a strong story for me.  I found myself going back pages to see if I missed something or to remember a name, because I just couldn't find a deep enough connection to the book and wasn't taking it all in.

The French version of Ru has won tons of praise.  Published in 2009 it went on to with the Governor General's award for French-language fiction among quite a few other awards and foreign rights were sold to 15 countries.  The translation to English by Sheila Fischman is well done.  The writing is beautiful and haunting, and it certainly feels like a lullaby.  It's an interesting book and I'm glad that I read it shortly after reading The Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam, unfortunately it didn't have the same quality of story as Lam's offering.

It's hard for me to say whether I recommend this book or I don't.  If you're looking for something that is emotionally stunning and a little bit different in terms of the typical story-telling of a novel, this is a good choice.  But if you're looking for a novel with depth, this may not be your first pick.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter" by Carmen Aguirre


When Carmen Aguirre was six years old, a violent coup unseated the President of her home country Chile and replaced him with the repressive regime of General Augusto Pinochet.  Carmen, her parents, and her younger sister Ale fled the country and headed for Canada, where they carved out a suburban life dedicated to educating people about the injustices in their homeland. 

Then, in 1978 the Chilean resistance put out a call for the exiled activists, including Carmen's parents, to return to Latin America and fight to give back rights to the people.  Carmen's parents took up the call and the family returned, travelling through Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile, setting up safe houses, gathering intelligence and devoting their lives to the resistance. 

Carmen and her sister lived double lives, spending their days as middle class school girls but privy to the inner workings of the resistance.  They lived in fear of their neighbours or friends finding out who they really were and of their parents being caught or kidnapped by the government.  Eventually they returned to Canada due to the threatening nature of their work.  But Carmen found herself feeling the pull back to Latin America and at the age of 18 she moved back to Argentina to join the resistance herself.

Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter is a funny, dark, and thoughtful look at the life Carmen Aguirre lived, at the struggles her family and countless others went through to bring justice and equality to Latin America.  It's hard to believe that a young girl could live such an incredible and terrifying life and Aguirre relates the story with the maturity and humour of a woman looking back fondly at a turbulent life.

I love how natural and down to the earth the writing in this book is.  At times you felt that Aguirre was relaying the story as though everyone grew up as a member of a political resistance movement.  The understanding is there that fighting against injustice is a natural thing to do no matter how big your opponent is.  There are no overt attempts to convert the reader to her beliefs as the writing and easy story-telling tells you exactly why the cause was necessary.  There are also no apologies to the people who may disagree with her life.  Carmen and her family were committed to the resistance and this is a fascinating first-hand account of what people put on the line to bring democracy to their homelands.

While I know of what happened in Latin America in the between 1973 and the early 1990's, it surprised and shocked me to read of what was happening in the not so distant past.  Aguirre's story illustrates the beauty of the makeup of Canada, the people who populate our country with stories of struggle and the desire to make this world a better place.  It really makes you appreciate what we have in our own countries, the people who have fought to get us here and the people around the world who are fighting for the same rights we enjoy.

Anyone who has in interest in Latin America or social justice will really enjoy this book.   And anyone who wants to read a good story and is looking for a fascinating, well-written memoir should definitely pick this one up.  There is no surprise to see that this book was a Canada Reads 2012 True Stories contender as well as long-listed for the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday!  What Are You Reading?  It's a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where book bloggers come together to discuss what's on the top of their to read pile.  It's a fabulous look ahead at the reading week.

I'm currently recovering from the Dutch football teams loss in the Euro Cup.  I'm not sure how long it will take me to recover, if it's even possible.  But things will definitely brighten up on Friday when it's my daughters Kindergarten graduation ceremony!!!

Last week I read:
Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter by Carmen Aguirre - such an interesting read!
Ru by Kim Thuy - a beautifully written novel
Stand By Me by Neta Jackson - lovely Christian fiction novel

Reviews coming this week for all.

I am currently reading:
 

The Red House by Mark Haddon - estranged family members spend a week together in a country house


No Greater Love by Levi Benkert - Levi and his family move to Ethiopia to work in an orphanage for children nearly killed due to superstition

Next I'm Going To Read:

 

Breakdown by Sara Paretsky - tweens from powerful Chicago families stumble across a dead body, stabbed through the heart vampire style and V.I. Warshawski investigates


Born to Be Brad by Brad Goreski - celebrity stylist Brad, of The Rachel Zoe Project fame shares his childhood in Port Perry, Ontario and what life as a fashion stylist is like.

What are you reading this week?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Book Blogger Hop

Happy Friday!  The 2012 Euro Cup is heating up and it is all about Football in our household!  Well, football and reading.  There's always reading :)

The Book Blogger Hop is a weekly meme hosted by Jennifer at Crazy For Books.  Each week book bloggers get together to visit and get to know each other.  It's a great way to find fantastic blogs.

This weeks question is:  Do you belong to a book club, either online or in real life?


Currently I don't.  I've never really participated in a a full-fledged book club.  I joined one in school, read the book, but then I couldn't make it to the meeting.  And the club didn't continue after that because things at school got too busy!

Last year Joy at Edgy Inspirational Romance ran an online Christian Fiction Book Club and I participated in a couple of the books, the ones I could manage to get my hands on.

But I've never been a part of a book club that meets regularly and that I've been able to read all the books. Maybe I should start one....

Do you belong to a book club?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

"Gold" by Chris Cleave


Kate Argall and Zoe Castle have been friends and rivals since they met at the age of nineteen when they made the national program in track cycling.  At the age of thirty-two they are now facing the biggest, and last, race of their lives - the 2012 Olympics in their home country.  

Zoe has won gold at the past two Olympics games and she cannot fathom what will happen if she doesn't win a third.  Kate has missed the last two Olympic games because of the demands of motherhood, Athens in 2004 after her daughter was born and and Beijing in 2008 after her daughter was diagnosed with the leukemia that almost killed her.

Each woman has the drive and desire to win the gold medal.  But each woman has off the track trials that are pulling their attention in a different direction.  And when the Olympic committee makes the decision that only one woman can race at the Games, Zoe and Kate's friendship will be put to its biggest test.

Gold, by Chris Cleave, is about two very different women, thrown into a friendship through competitive sport, who have dedicated every moment of their lives to the pursuit of Olympic gold.  It is a fascinating look at the high training level of Olympic athletes while at the same time a heart-tugging story about how life intersects with our dreams and the lengths to which we will go to make them happen.

Jack, Kate's husband, is also an elite cyclist who has won Olympic gold and who also knows first hand what Zoe will do to win.  Sophie is Jack and Kate's eight-year-old daughter who is battling leukemia and trying her hardest to hide from her parents just how ill she is feeling.  Sophie escapes from her illness by retreating to a fantasy world in which she helps the Star Wars rebels fight the Empire.  And Tom is the aging cycling coach, himself an elite athlete who missed out on Olympic gold by one-tenth of a second.  Together, this group is determined to get Zoe and Kate to the Olympics, to have them achieve their dreams but who also inhabit the world that diverts their attention away from the track.

The first half of the book was a little slow for me.  It is a fantastic look at the world of Olympic sports and definitely gives you a new perspective on the sport of cycling.  The book jumps throughout time, between when Jack, Kate and Zoe meet at the age of nineteen and the current day, setting up the story with just enough suspense.  But I felt that during the first half of the book I just couldn't connect with any of the characters, with the exception of Sophie.

However, by the second half of the book, as events begin to unfold and you come to understand the history between Jack, Kate and Zoe the story really picked up for me.  I was finally able to feel for guarded and tough Zoe, a character I thought I wouldn't feel any attachment to at all.  And as Cleave unfolds how the competition between Zoe and Kate isn't just on the track, the book begins to gain some emotion.

Gold is an intricate story, full of twists and turns, set in an exciting world, that lacks just a bit of emotion.  It is an interesting look at friendship pushed to the brink under the stress of elite competition and where life takes us in the pursuit of our dreams.  There is nothing earth-shattering, but still a worthy read.

I received this book courtesy of Random House of Canada.  The opinions expressed above are my own and I have received no compensation for this review.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"The Headmaster's Wager" by Vincent Lam


Percival Chen, a Chinese immigrant, is the headmaster of the most respected English School in Saigon.  He is also a father, gambler, and womanizer.  Fiercely proud of his Chinese heritage, he has devoted himself to building his business, including bribing government officials to maintain the status of his school, and ignoring the horrors of the violence that are unfolding around him.  

But when his son gets into trouble with the Vietnamese authorities, Percival is forced to acknowledge what is taking place around him.  He must send his son back to China to keep him from the war and puts himself in debt to do so.  Percival takes solace in Jacqueline, a woman of mixed French and Vietnamese heritage, and their whirlwind union produces a son.  But on the eve of the Tet offensive, the war lands on Percival's doorstep and he must confront all that he has desperately tried to avoid.  

The Headmaster's Wager by Giller Prize winner Vincent Lam is a beautiful story of love, sacrifice, and family set during the Vietnam War.  Well-written, the characters are wonderfully developed and deeply loveable despite their flaws.  What you read remains with you long after you finish the book.

Though I have a degree in History, this part of history is something I'm not very familiar with.  But that familiarity is not needed with this book.  Lam does an excellent job of giving historical perspective to clearly paint a picture of what is happening and teach the reader about what life was like for those living in Vietnam at the time.  Lam himself is the child of Chinese immigrants to Vietnam and this book truly feels like it was written from the first person perspective.

This book also stands out because it is the story of a father and son.  While there are female characters, mothers and acquaintances, it is a story about male relationships and the dynamic between fathers and their children.

This is a book that demands time to read it and absorb everything that is occurring.  The history of it all is just a fraction of the beauty that is held in the book.  Lam's writing is rich, the characters are complex and the time it takes to set up the story is much needed. 

This is a beautiful novel, haunting and heartbreaking.  Allow yourself to be taken in by this book and give it the time it deserves.  I will be surprised if Vincent Lam isn't nominated for another Giller Prize with this book.  

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

Monday, June 11, 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 always great to start off the week with my reading planned and knowing which books to look forward to!

Last week was a pretty busy one with kids soccer and gymnastics, field trips and gorgeous weather.  Not to mention the start of the Euro Cup (go Oranje!)  So I only read one book but I'm looking forward to getting back into things.

Last week I read:
Gold by Chris Cleave.  A story about Olympic cyclists, their friendship and rivalry, and life with a little bit of Star Wars thrown in.  Review to come soon.

Right now I am reading:
Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter by Carmen Aguirre.  Carmen's mother and stepfather were South American resistance fighters and Carmen recounts her childhood and how she decided to join the resistance herself.

Next I am going to read:
 Ru by Kim Thuy.  Follows the journey of a young woman from a palatial residence in Saigon, to a Malaysian refugee camp and onto a new life in Quebec where she must deal with her youngest son's autism.
The Red House by Mark Haddon.  Over the course of a week a man, his new wife and willful stepdaughter stay in the English countryside with his estranged sister, her husband and three children.  Long-held grudges, hopes and dreams all rise to the surface in this novel about the family dynamic.

What are you reading?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

What My Child Is Reading


What My Child is Reading is a weekly meme hosted by Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns.  I thought this would be a fun meme to join in.  Even though I don't review children's books here on my blog, I think it's a still a good idea to share what my little ones are reading!

My daughter is five and in Kindergarten.  She is in the French Immersion program at school which means all of her learning is in French, so we read both French and English books at home, as you will see in my posts.  My son is almost three and he enjoys listening to any book we're reading no matter what the language!

So here are a few of the books we read this week:
 La coccinelle mal lunĂ©e by Eric Carle - also known as The Grouchy Ladybug.  Great for teaching kids about telling time and fabulous illustrations.  My daughter loves how the size of the page grows with the animal size, especially the blue whale fin.
 Wynken, Blynken, and Nod by Eugene Field.  Three little fishermen go sailing in a wooden shoe into the sky to go fishing.  The original title was Dutch Lullaby.  This book was picked to represent the Netherlands as we learn about different countries....and because I'm Dutch.

Where are you Bear? by Frieda Wishinsky.  This is a Canadian Alphabet Adventure, in which a teddy bear loses his little girl and goes on a search across the country for her.  I bought this book for my daughter from Scholastic because a) the little girl looks just like my daughter; b) my daughter is inseparable from her teddy bear; and c) it's Canadian!  It's a cute little book though it's more suited to my little guy as there is not much story but one word a page (a Canadian word for that letter.)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Armchair BEA Day Five: Ask the Experts


It's the last day of Armchair BEA and I have thoroughly enjoyed.  Visiting new blogs, engaging in Twitter conversations, "meeting" bloggers...it's all been great.  I'm so thankful to all the people who have stopped by my blog this week.  And on the last day we get to Ask the Experts.  Anything you want to know (or share) about blogging, now is the time.

So I have a question that has been bugging me for a while and I would love to get other book bloggers opinions on it.

If you have a policy stated on your blog that you are NOT currently accepting review copies, but publishers and authors send you an email pitch for their blog, how do you respond?  Do you ignore it and not give them a response?  Do you reply saying you aren't accepting copies right now?  


I look forward to hearing your responses!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

"Thank You Notes" by Jimmy Fallon


Only recently have I been able to stay up late enough to catch Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and one of my favourite segments of the show is Thank You Notes.  After watching for a few weeks, I said to my husband, "you know he has a book right?" and as soon as I said it we rushed to get it.


Thank You Notes by Jimmy Fallon with The Writers of Late Night is a compilation of the some of the funniest notes from the television segment.  My husband and I sat down together, and I read the entire book doing my best Jimmy Fallon impression (not so great, but by the end of the book I had the delivery working well.)  We laughed our heads off and our teenage nephew gave us strange looks.

Some of our favourites:

"Thank you… guy with the $10,000 sound system in his $800 car, for driving down Broadway this afternoon.  You're loud.  You're proud.  You're in a '91 Tercel.  Thank you."

"Thank you…gym, for being exactly like my grandpa - always there for me, even though I only visit you twice a year."

"Thank you…the name Lloyd, for starting with two Ls.  I'm glad both this Ls  were there, because otherwise I would have called you 'Loyd.'"

"Thank you…Febreeze, for allowing dirt and filth to live freely among us in total secrecy."

"Thank you…receipts from Best Buy, for being unnecessarily long.  'Hey, thanks for purchasing season four of Lost - here's an entire rain forest.'"

The book is full of fabulously funny thank you's that will have you laughing and nodding your head in agreement.  It's all the things we're thinking as we go about our daily lives.  If you're not familiar with the Thank You Notes segment on Jimmy Fallon's show, be sure to check it out on Friday nights and grab this book.  You don't have to be a viewer to find the humour in this book.

"Armchair BEA Day Four: Beyond the Blog


Today's topic for Armchair BEA is Beyond the Blog.  Specifically it is about opportunities our blogs have presented us beyond getting free books.

I have always enjoyed writing.  My university degree in History and Political Science pretty much guaranteed me a whole lot of writing and I loved writing all of those papers.  After that I went on to get a graduate degree in Public Relations.  More opportunities to write, though usually confined to just a few pages!

I never actually went to work in the field as my daughter was born right after I finished that degree.  So part of the reason why I started this blog was to be able to keep up my writing skills in the years that I spend at home with my kids.  Who knows when I'll end up back in the workforce!

During this time I've managed to do some freelance writing and editing not related to this blog.  However, once a friend saw my blog and what I was doing, she asked for permission to repost some of my reviews in a column on a website for women that she runs.  It's not paying gig but it's an honour to be a part of the site from the beginning.

I look forward to any opportunities I have to go beyond the blog.  Anything I can do to spread the word about good books is a dream of mine!  I'm thrilled that my blog has given me the chance to do this while I stay at home with my kids.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Armchair BEA Day Three: Networking


Todays post is all about Networking.  Both online and off, how do you do it?

Offline, it's a bit difficult for me.  My kids and other commitments keep me very busy and I often don't have the time to get out there and attend lots of opportunities for meeting face to face.  I know that there is a very large book blogger community in my fabulous city of Toronto and I do hope to meet up with some of the book bloggers one day.

I do try to attend Word on the Street, a yearly book festival here in the city.  It's an awesome opportunity to get out and celebrate books with other book lovers.  And I recently attended an author talk, with Malcolm Gladwell, and I hope to attend many more in the future.

I have struck up lots of conversations with people through books because I always have one on me when I go out.  I talk to people at the park, on the bus, at the doctors office because they see me reading books.  And I have had a lot of interesting conversations because of them.  I love that books have the power to bring people of all walks of life together.

Online, I network through memes, giveaways, twitter and participating in readathons and other fantastic opportunities like Armchair BEA.  In the beginning of blogging I wasn't sure how much I wanted to get out involved in these things, how much time I had to do so, but the more I network the more I realize what a fabulous community is out there and I thoroughly enjoy being a part of it.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

"Everybody Has Everything" by Katrina Onstad


What happens when two people become parents in an instant?  Ana and James are about to find out.  

When a car crash kills their friend Marcus and leaves his wife Sarah in a coma, Ana and James instantly become legal guardians of their son, two year old Finn.  While all four were friends, Ana and James never thought they were close enough to be given such a monumental role and they are shocked as they are thrown into parenthood.  Though they had once tried for a child of their own it wasn't meant to be.  While they considered adoption, they settled into a life without children as they contemplated what to do next.  

When Ana and James' lives are turned upside down by the sudden arrival of Finn, they discover the truth about themselves and the notion that not everyone may cut out to be a parent.

Everyone Has Everything by Katrina Onstad is a smart, deeply poignant novel that tackles the tough subject of parenthood and the taboo notion that not everyone wants to, or can, be a parent.  It's a touching novel about a haunting subject.

Raising a two year old is a tough job, especially when you become a parent to a two year old in a matter of hours.  Ana and James struggle to support Finn in a difficult time while integrating him into their busy lives, ones that aren't quite conducive to the situation.  They are forced to examine who they are, how they got to where they are and whether or not they are the right parents for Finn, or any child.  And they are forced to confront the effect parenthood is having on their marriage.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  Which is strange to say given the nature of the novel and how the tragedy of the orphaning of Finn stays with you through every page.  It is such a heartbreaking situation.  However, that's not really the subject matter of the book.  Finn is a strong and capable boy who is comfortable with his new life, even though he may not understand much of it.  Instead the book is about Ana and James in their role as parents, something they thought they wanted but only find out the truth when they are confronted with it.

It's a touchy subject in our society today.  A lot of people find it difficult to admit that they do not want to be parents or are not cut out to be parents.  A lot of people feel pressure to have children even when they are not sure of it.  And a lot of people struggle to have children.  Parenthood isn't a once size fits all thing.  And it can often take a toll on people's lives and relationships.  Katrina Onstad does a fabulous job of putting all of this into novel form and it makes for a page-turning read.

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

Armchair BEA Day Two: Favourite Books of 2012


Day two of Armchair BEA is all about our favourite books of 2012.  I've read 32 books thus far and while a bunch of them have been fantastic, nothing has been far and away the best.  So here are three that I have enjoyed this year:

 

(click on title for review)
419 by Will Ferguson
The Beach Cafe by Lucy Diamond
Sinners and Saints by Victoria Christopher Murray and ReShonda Tate Billingsley

What books am I hoping will end up favourites this year?  Here's two:

 

What are your favourite books this year?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Armchair BEA Day One

It's Day One of Armchair BEA.  This is my first time participating and I'm very excited.  I wish I could go  to something like BEA, but considering it would involve crossing a border for me, it's a little difficult.  So I'm glad to be here!  Day One is all about introductions and getting to know fellow book bloggers.  So here is a little bit about Shan:

1) Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging?


My name is Shan, I'm 30 years old, a wife, a mother to two beautiful little kids, a girl age 5 and a boy age 3.  I'm a stay at home mom, married to a wonderful man who teaches high school math.  I love Bikram yoga, knitting, and the Dutch soccer team.  I'm a fiercely proud Canadian and have the red maple leaf tattooed on my back.

I have been blogging for 2.5 years.  I started because my friends were also asking me what I was reading and no one could ever keep up!  I thought that starting a blog would be a good way to share my thoughts on books and I was excited when I saw the book blogging community that exists.

2) Where do you see your blog in five years?
Still here I hope!  I love blogging, but life seems to be getting busier and busier as time goes on and my reading suffers.  I hope to be blogging for as long as I possibly can and I hope this blog will still be putting out reviews and as well promoting Canadian books as much as I can.

3) If you could eat dinner with any author or character, who would it be and why?
I would love to sit down to eat with Rachel Adams and Lady Jasmine from Sinners and Saints by ReShonda Tate Billingsley and Victoria Christopher Murray.  Both characters have their own series and are prominent pastors wives.  They came together in Sinners and Saints when their husbands were running for the same position and ooooh girl was there some drama! And yes, I would love to sit down with them at the same time!

4) What is your favourite feature on your blog?
It isn't a feature but my favourite thing going on my blog is my participation in the Canadian Book Challenge.  Starting on July 1 (Canada Day!) the goal is to read 13 books in one year (13 for the number of provinces and territories.)  Before I joined the challenge I didn't read much Canadian fiction, but that has changed and I hope that through my blog I can introduce a lot of readers to the fabulousness that is Canadian literature.

5) Have your reading tastes changed since you started blogging?  How?
Definitely!  Since I started blogging I have stepped out of my reading comfort zone and jumped into genres I never thought I would enjoy.  This includes mystery, historical fiction, and speculative fiction.  I'm definitely not as limited in my choices when I'm reading now, however it has it's downside as now my to read list is much, MUCH longer.

Thanks for stopping by Curled Up With a Good Book and a Cup of Tea!  I hope you'll stop by more this week and I look forward to spending Armchair BEA with you!

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?


Happy Monday!  It's the first Monday of June, less than one month until summer vacation!  Everyone in my house is looking forward to it.
It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.  Warning - it will make your to read list grow by leaps and bounds.

Last week I:


Read (reviews coming soon)
Everybody Has Everything by Katrina Onstad
The Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam


Saw
Malcolm Gladwell at the Toronto Reference Library.  Fantastic night, excellent interview, great guy.  Check out my thoughts on the night here.

This week I am:


Reading

Gold by Chris Cleave 
Katie and Zoe met at age nineteen while in training as competitive cyclists.  Now at the age of 32, they are both fighting to make it to the London Olympics and win the gold medal.  But with the stress of life and maintaining relationships and their friendship, they will be pushed to the limit in their quest for Gold.

Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter by Carmen Aguirre
Carmen Aguirre was a young girl when Augusto Pinochet overthrew the regime in her home country of Chile.  Her family fled but returned to become resistance members and at the age of 18 she joined herself. This memoir takes readers inside the resistance fights that occurred in South America in the 80's.