Tuesday Teaser

Tuesday Teasers is hosted by Should Be Reading. The rules are as follows:

Grab your current read and let the book fall open to a random page. Share two sentences somewhere between lines 7 and 12 and the title of the book that you’re getting the teaser from. Please avoid spoilers! Read the official Tuesday Teaser Rules.

My teaser this week is from The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry. From page 70:
Rats start to breed with a vengeance in early spring, so late winter is a good time to go get them, when they have not expanded in numbers for a while, and the weather is not too murderous to the rat-catcher. I suppose looking back it was a queer thing to bring a young girl on the trail of rodents, but I did take a great interest in it, especially after my father read me the manual, which presented the task as one highly skilled, even verging on the vocational and the magical.

Books Bought!

My friend Cindy hosts this meme profiling books bought recently. You can see her recent purchases here.

Last week I bought the second book in Stieg Larsson's trilogy, The Girl Who Played with Fire. I haven't read the first one yet, but I'm planning to get to it this summer.

In an earlier post, I wrote about a 'tug-of-book' I had with my husband about a novel that was in our bookstore. I wanted it but it was the store copy so I didn't get it. Laura Fabiani generously gave me her copy of The Thirteenth Tale and so I didn't need the store copy any longer. Well, this time around it's my husband who wants The Girl Who Played with Fire. I've told him he's going to have to wait for it!

Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show Giveaway!!!

I recently had the opportunity to read a great new book by the author Frank Delaney called Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show. I really enjoyed this novel for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the story. Set in Ireland during the early 1900's, it breathes a vivid life into that distant time. You can read my review here.

I'm therefore very happy to be able to offer a signed copy of this book! For a chance to win, leave a comment with your email address. For two chances, become a follower (or let me know if you already are and that will count too). Contest closes on April 7 April 11 at 6 p.m. Open to the US and Canada.

Tuesday Teasers

Tuesday Teasers is hosted by Should Be Reading. The rules are as follows:

Grab your current read and let the book fall open to a random page. Share two sentences somewhere between lines 7 and 12 and the title of the book that you’re getting the teaser from. Please avoid spoilers! Read the official Tuesday Teaser Rules.

My teaser this week is from Forest Gate by Peter Akinti. From page 4:

'They encircled their necks with rope, nooses tightened with well-practiced slip knots. And then they held the slack from the rope in the palms of their hands, training their thoughts, allowing for no further doubt.'

Mailbox Monday

This meme is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page and Kristi at The Story Siren.

Last week I was pleasantly surprised to receive Anna Quindlen's new book called Every Last One.

The description from the Random House website reads:

Mary Beth Latham is first and foremost a mother, whose three teenaged children come first, before her career as a landscape gardener, or even her life as the wife of a doctor. Caring for her family and preserving their everyday life is paramount. And so, when one of her sons, Max, becomes depressed, Mary Beth becomes focused on him, and is blindsided by a shocking act of violence. What happens afterwards is a testament to the power of a woman’s love and determination, and to the invisible line of hope and healing that connects one human being with another. Ultimately, in the hands of Anna Quindlen’s mesmerizing prose, Every Last One is a novel about facing every last one of the the things we fear most, about finding ways to navigate a road we never intended to travel, to live a life we never dreamed we’d have to live but must be brave enough to try.

I'm a huge fan of this author and I can't wait to read this one!

Books On My Shelves

This week I'm featuring a book called Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon. It's the first in the Guido Brunetti mystery series. I love mysteries and if they're set in an exotic location (well, anywhere outside of Montreal can be exotic to me!), so much the better.

The description on the back of this book reads:

There is little violent crime in Venice, a serenely beautiful floating city of mystery and magic, history and decay. But the evil that does occasionally rear its head is the jurisdiction of Guido Brunetti, the suave, urbane vice-commissario of police and a genius at detection. Now all of his admirable abilities must come into play in the deadly affair of Maestro Helmut Wellauer, a world-renowned conductor who died painfully from cyanide poisoning during an intermission at La Fenice.

But as the investigation unfolds, a chilling picture slowly begins to take shape -- a detailed portrait of revenge painted with vivid strokes of hatred and shocking depravity. And the dilemma for Guido Brunetti will not be finding a murder suspect, but rather narrowing the choices down to one.

I'm putting this on my TBR pile for the summer!


Thanks to Evelyn for sending me this book to review.

I’ve had Ireland by Frank Delaney on my wish list for some time now and therefore when I was offered Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show to review I was quite excited and felt I was in for a treat.

I found the story to be refreshingly different. Set amid the politics of Ireland in the early twentieth century, the plot revolves around Ben McCarthy and his quest to bring his errant father back home to the family farm. This character, Ben, is imbued with warmth, humour and strength – much more strength than that shown by either of his parents. Other characters, King Kelly and his daughter and granddaughter, seem larger than life and I suppose, a book reminiscent of some of the world’s best-loved fables, are meant to be. I’d always thought people like that were a bit scary and this is confirmed by the slightly sinister feel of these people. I’ve known people like King Kelly I’m related to one – so that character hits close to home.

This book is filled with contrasts: Ben, though just eighteen is loyal, persistent, steadfast and strong; his father, Harry is flighty, weak, unfaithful and easily swayed. His mother too is an eerie foil for the beautiful Venetia Kelly. Where one woman behaves ‘above it all’, the other lives in a world closer to earth.

The history and politics of Ireland also play a role in this novel. While the politicians, local and national, are battling it out for power, a ventriloquist’s dummy is giving them a run for their money. Some of the dialogue from this dummy is not so dumb and the author’s clever use of this character adds to the quirkiness of the plot.

I enjoyed this book for many reasons but probably the most was that it was set in Ireland where my grandparents were born. I can still remember my grandmother calming my baby girl by gently uttering the word ‘whisht’ and I was delighted to see that word actually in print (page 77) in this novel. The characters were wonderfully oddball and the story kept me turning the pages. And for all that Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show looks like a large-ish book (at over 400 pages) it was a pretty quick read with most chapters being relatively short.

You can find all sorts of information on Frank Delaney's upcoming author tour on his Facebook fan page here.

The Canada Reads Winner!

From the Canada Reads website:

"Nicolas Dickner's first novel, Nikolski , was published in 2005 to rave reviews and went on to win Quebec's most prestigious literary awards, including the Prix des libraires du Québec, the Prix littéraire des collegians and the Prix Anne-Hébert. It also won France's Prix Lavinal Printemps des lecteurs.

To date, Nikolski has been published in five languages and seven countries. The English translation, by Lazer Lederhendler, was published in 2008 and won the Governor General's Award for French-to-English translation.

After studying visual arts and literature at university, Nicolas travelled extensively in Europe and Latin America, then settled in Montreal, which continues to be his home base.

In 2000 he published his first book, a collection of short stories entitled L'encyclopédie du petit cercle, which won two awards, including the Prix Adrienne-Choquette, given annually to the best collection of short fiction in French by a Quebec author.

Nicolas is also the author of Boulevard Banquise, a children's book, and a second short story collection, Traité de balistique, both published in 2006. He is currently a literary columnist for the Montreal cultural weekly Voir and is working on his next novel."
I recall Nikolski being offered last year on LibraryThing's early reviewer programme. I likely requested it, but I sure didn't get it. I'll be looking for it now though since it's been brought to my attention once again. On it goes to my gigantic TBR pile!

Tuesday Teaser

Tuesday Teasers is hosted by Should Be Reading. The rules are as follows:

Grab your current read and let the book fall open to a random page. Share two sentences somewhere between lines 7 and 12 and the title of the book that you’re getting the teaser from. Please avoid spoilers! Read the official Tuesday Teaser Rules.

My teaser is from Frank Delaney's Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show. From page 177:
I loved our woodland, and I knew all the residents-they stood there, one-legged, cold in the winter, anxious in the damp and mists. In the coming summer I'd see them relaxed and so pleased with themselves in their new leaves.

Mailbox Monday

This meme is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page and Kristi at The Story Siren.

I received one book last week. It's called Forest Gate and it's written by Peter Akinti. I read the first page as soon as I opened the envelope and I can say without a doubt I'm going to really like this one. The blurb on the back of the book reads:
In a community where poverty is kept close and passed from one generation to the next, two teenage boys, best friends, stand on top of twin tower blocks. Facing each other across the abyss of London's urban sprawl, they say their good-byes and jump. One dies. The other, alternating with the sister of the deceased, narrates this novel.

James gives us a window into the inner city -- his mom is a crack addict, his gang "brothers" force him to kill another black boy. Meina describes with feeling her family history in Somalia: after her parents are killed before her eyes, her village aunt sells her to six husbands -- before she is even a teenager. Desperate to rebuild their lives, James and Meina set out to find the place for which every child longs -- home.

Brutal and shockingly violent in places, rambunctious and lively in others and slyly, dryly witty in yet others, Meina and James's journey toward life through their past is ultimately a powerful story of redemptive love and the debut of an extraordinary literary talent.

Books On My Shelves

From my bookstore shelves this week I'm again featuring an author I haven't read before. It is Susanna Gregory and the book is called Blood on the Strand.

From the publisher's website:

Rebellion is in the air of London in the spring of 1663. Thomas Chaloner, spy for the King's intelligence service, has just returned from thwarting a planned revolt in Dublin, but soon realises that England's capital is no haven of peace. He is ordered to investigate the shooting of a beggar during a royal procession. He soon learns the man is no vagrant, but someone with links to the powerful Company of Barber-Surgeons. He master, the Earl of Clarendon, is locked in a deadly feud with the Earl of Bristol, and an innocent man is about to be hanged in Newgate. Chaloner is embroiled in a desperate race against time to protect Clarendon, to discover the true identity of the beggar's murderer, and to save a blameless man from the executioner's noose.

On the front cover of this book it says this is 'Chalouner's Second Exploit in Restoration London'. So, this is the second book in this historical mystery series. I would have profiled the first book, but this is the one I have on my shelf. I like historical fiction quite a bit so I'm putting the first of this series on my TBR list.

An antique book, bookmarks and more!!!

As some of you may know, my husband and I own a used book store. Some of the books are newer than others. Some of the books that come in are antiques that people bring them to my husband for evaluation purposes.

One such book that came through our door recently was called Annals: The True and Royal History of the Famous Empress Elizabeth. This book is a translation from Latin and was written by William Camden in 1615 under the title Annales rerum Anglicarum et Hibernicarum regnante Elizabetha. The translated copy of the book that I looked at was dated 1625. The front board is detached and the binding is somewhat damaged but otherwise, for a book that's almost 400 years old, it's in pretty good shape. My husband could not find this book for sale anywhere and only found a reference to it in another book. Needless to say it is indeed rare!

I saw some writing inside (it's pictured in the last photo). I couldn't make out what it says but the hand-written date is pretty clear: 1645. Click on the photo to see a closer view.

Our bookstore seems to be continually in flux. My husband, Pierre, always seems to be building more shelves and staining them, moving book genre sections, adjusting book tag locations and lots of other activity that keeps him very busy. Recently a friend asked him if he would like to have a book- mark collection that he's been amassing for the last 30 years. Of course Pierre said yes. Well, we now have hundreds of bookmarks that hail from all over the world, one as far away as Nairobi. Several date from WW II and are, to say the least, politically insensitive for the world we live in today. Some are downright racist and sexist. All are interesting and reflect (mostly) the culture of the western world through last several decades.

Waiting on Wednesday: Once a Spy by Keith Thomson

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

I was web surfing a book selling site and came across Once a Spy by Keith Thomson. The description really appeals to me. It's just been released on March 9th. The book description comes from the chapters/indigo book site.

Drummond Clark was once a spy of legendary proportions. Now Alzheimer''s disease has taken its toll and he''s just a confused old man who''s wandered away from home, waiting for his son to fetch him.

When Charlie Clark takes a break from his colossal losing streak at the track to bring Drummond back to his Brooklyn apartment, they find it blown sky high-and then the bullets start flying in every direction. At first Charlie thinks his Russian "creditors" are employing aggressive collection tactics. But once Drummond effortlessly hot-wires a car as their escape vehicle, Charlie begins to suspect there''s much more to his father than meets the eye. He soon discovers that Drummond''s unremarkable career as an appliance salesman was actually a clever cover-up for an elaborate plan to sell would-be terrorists faulty nuclear detonators. Drummond''s intricate knowledge of the "device" is extremely dangerous information to have rattling around in an Alzheimer''s-addled brain. The CIA wants to "contain" him-and so do some other shady characters who send Charlie and Drummond on a wild chase that gives "father and son quality time" a whole new meaning.

With Once a Spy, Keith Thomson makes his debut on the thriller stage with energy, wit, and style to spare. Once you read it, you''ll eagerly await his follow-up, Twice a Spy.

Tuesday Teasers is hosted by Should Be Reading. The rules are as follows:

Grab your current read and let the book fall open to a random page. Share two sentences somewhere between lines 7 and 12 and the title of the book that you’re getting the teaser from. Please avoid spoilers! Read the official Tuesday Teaser Rules.

My teaser this week is from A Week in December by Sebastian Faulks. From page 121:

'Most of the other guests would probably spend the evening trying not to eat, pushing the food round the plate while offering insincere compliments. Someone had to put the stuff in his mouth, and Gabriel was thin enough to eat three dinners single-handed; a week before, he had bought some braces (from the Oxfam shop, he couldn't help noting) to keep up the trousers of his suit.'

Mailbox Monday

This meme is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page and Kristi at The Story Siren.

I received two books in the mail last week, both from Evelyn at Interpersonal Frequency LLC. Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show by Frank Delaney is the first. The description from the Random House web page for this book reads:
“She sprang from the womb and waved to the crowd. Then smiled and took a bow.” And so we first meet Venetia Kelly, the beguiling actress at the center of this new, spellbinding, and epic novel by Frank Delaney, the bestselling author of Ireland and Shannon.

January 1932: While Ireland roils in the run-up to the most important national election in the Republic’s short history, Ben MacCarthy and his father watch a vagabond variety revue making a stop in the Irish countryside. After a two-hour kaleidoscope of low comedy, Shakespearean recitations, juggling, tumbling, and other entertainments, Ben’s father, mesmerized by Venetia Kelly, the troupe’s magnetic headliner, makes a fateful decision: to abandon his family and set off on the road with Miss Kelly and her caravan. Ben’s mother, shattered by the desertion, exhorts, “Find him and bring him back,” thereby sending the boy on a Homeric voyage into manhood, a quest that traverses the churning currents of Ireland’s fractious society and splinters the MacCarthy family.

Interweaving historical figures including W. B. Yeats, and a host of unforgettable creations—“King” Kelly, Venetia’s violent, Mephistophelean grandfather; Sarah Kelly, Venetia’s mysterious, amoral mother; and even a truth-telling ventriloquist’s dummy named Blarney—Frank Delaney unfurls a splendid narrative that spans half the world and a tumultuous, eventful decade.

Teeming with intrigue, pathos, and humor, Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show explores two of Ireland’s great national passions: theater and politics. Writing with his signature mastery and lyrical prose, Frank Delaney once again delivers an unforgettable story as big and boisterous as the people and events it chronicles.

The second book is an ARC called The Season of Second Chances by Diane Meier. This book was accompanied by a lovely not from the author.

I love the cover of this book - makes me want to dive right in. From Diane Meier's website the description of this book reads:

A world of possibilities opens up for Joy Harkness when she sets out on a journey that’s going to show her the importance of friendship, love, and what makes a house a home.
Coming-of-age can happen at any age. Joy Harkness had built a university career and a safe life in New York, protected and insulated from the intrusions and involvements of other people. When offered a position at Amherst College, she impulsively leaves the city, and along with generations of material belongings, she packs her equally heavy emotional baggage. A tumbledown Victorian house proves an unlikely choice for a woman whose family heirlooms have been boxed away for years. Nevertheless, this white elephant becomes the home that changes Joy forever. As the restoration begins to take shape, so does her outlook on life, and the choices she makes over paint chips, wallpaper samples, and floorboards are reflected in her connection to the co-workers who become friends and friendships that deepen. A brilliant, quirky, town fixture of a handyman guides the renovation of the house and sparks Joy’s interest to encourage his personal and professional growth. Amid the half-wanted attention of the campus’s single, middle-aged men, known as “the Coyotes,”and the legitimate dramas of her close-knit community, Joy learns that the key to the affection of family and friends is being worthy of it, and most important, that second chances are waiting to be discovered within us all.

Mailbox Monday February 7, 2011

In February, Mailbox Monday is being hosted by Laura of Library of Clean Reads.

The description of Jasper Fforde's latest installment of his Thursday Next series, One of our Thursdays is Missing, is from Penguin's website:
Jasper Fforde's exuberant return to the fantastical BookWorld opens during a time of great unrest. All-out Genre war is rumbling, and the BookWorld desperately needs a heroine like Thursday Next. But with the real Thursday apparently retired to the Realworld, the Council of Genres turns to the written Thursday.

The Council wants her to pretend to be the real Thursday and travel as a peacekeeping emissary to the warring factions. A trip up the mighty Metaphoric River beckons-a trip that will reveal a fiendish plot that threatens the very fabric of the BookWorld itself.

Once again New York Times bestselling author Jasper Fforde has a field day gleefully blending satire, romance, and thriller with literary allusions galore in a fantastic adventure through the landscape of a frisky and fertile imagination. Fans will rejoice that their favorite character in the Fforde universe is back.

Books On My Shelves

I found If Today Be Sweet by Thrity Umrigar last weekend while looking around on the tables and shelves in my bookstore. It's the story of a widow, Thmina Sethna, who (taken from the back cover):

'while visiting her son, Sorab, in his suburban Ohio home, she is being asked to choose between continuing her old life in India and starting a new one in this unfamiliar country with her son, his American wife, and their child. Her destiny is uncertain, and soon the plight of two troubled young children next door will force the most difficult decision she has ever faced. Ultimately the journey is one that Tehmina must travel alone.'

This novel sounds a bit different from what I've been reading lately. I've never read any books by this author before but I've put this one on my TBR list.

Review: BLACK HILLS by Dan Simmons

Thanks to Valerie at Hachette for providing this book to me for review!

When I had the chance to read and review this book, I was excited. I’d just finished Drood by this author and loved it. I wasn’t sure what the Black Hills was about but the author’s storytelling style is so great that I just knew I would find the topic interesting. Nevertheless, before I said yes to the review, I did some research to find out more. It turned this novel couldn’t have been more different from Drood! To be capable of writing on two such diverse topics and in such an in-depth style just solidifies my certainty that Dan Simmons is one great writer.

Black Hills is not only a place in the Dakotas but also a person, Paha Sapa, a young Lakota boy growing into manhood who witnesses the changes to his home as North America moves inexorably into the twentieth century. Progress, which often doesn’t translate into a good thing, can’t be stopped. Black Hills, the place and the person, shows how a people cope and sometimes how they don’t.

It took me about fifty pages before I started really getting into the story but after that the plot became very interesting. There is one scene where the characters are caught in a huge dust storm and the manner in which the author described it made me feel like I needed to spit grit out of my own mouth. The narrative is well-written (which is something I was taking for granted even before I started reading given how Drood was written) and the imagery breath-taking. The story goes back and forth in time following the main character’s experiences with his tribe, General George Armstrong Custer and other military and native warriors, as well as at Chicago’s World Fair in the late 1800’s, and other settings. I’m amazed at the amount of research the author must have done to get just the right sense of authenticity to make the story work. The rituals of Native Americans of the Sioux tribe are described with striking beauty and sensitivity.

I don’t think I would have picked up this book on my own, but now I’m so glad I did read it. I learned much and enjoyed a great story at the same time. In the end it’s just what I expected to experience with this author. I’m a confirmed ‘Simmonite’! I highly recommend Black Hills to anyone who enjoys American history or, for that matter, just a really good story.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Girl Who Chased the Moon

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Maybe it's because spring is around the corner but I'm very much in the mood for something light and refreshing. I think that Sarah Addison Allen's new book, The Girl Who Chased the Moon, would be just right. It's being released (in Canada anyway) on March 16th. From the Random House website:

Emily Benedict came to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother’s life. Such as, why did Dulcie Shelby leave her hometown so suddenly? And why did she vow never to return? But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew—a reclusive, real-life gentle giant—she realizes that mysteries aren’t solved in Mullaby, they’re a way of life: Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood. Unexplained lights skip across the yard at midnight. And a neighbor bakes hope in the form of cakes.

Everyone in Mullaby adores Julia Winterson’s cakes—which is a good thing, because Julia can’t seem to stop baking them. She offers them to satisfy the town’s sweet tooth but also in the hope of rekindling the love she fears might be lost forever. Flour, eggs, milk, and sugar . . . Baking is the only language the proud but vulnerable Julia has to communicate what is truly in her heart. But is it enough to call back to her those she’s hurt in the past?

Can a hummingbird cake really bring back a lost love? Is there really a ghost dancing in Emily’s backyard? The answers are never what you expect. But in this town of lovable misfits, the unexpected fits right in.

Teaser Tuesdays

Tuesday Teasers is hosted by Should Be Reading. The rules are as follows:

Grab your current read and let the book fall open to a random page. Share two sentences somewhere between lines 7 and 12 and the title of the book that you’re getting the teaser from. Please avoid spoilers! Read the official Tuesday Teaser Rules.

My teaser is from page 58 of The Seige by Helen Dunmore:

'If they drop a shell on the barn you'll be fine,' goes on Evgenia, 'as long as you've got your blanket round your head. It's just a question of having the correct attitude.'

This book's been around....!

As I've mentioned before on my blog, I own a used bookstore with my husband. He pointed out to me on the weekend that a particular book, Colours Aloft! by Alexander Kent has done the rounds of the bookstores. He knows this because some stores stamp their books (we don't) partly as a marketing strategy and partly to know that a customer is bringing back a book that's already been sold by the store.

I found it a bit funny that this particular book was the British edition and printed there. It made it to Canada and then to a used book store. The first store it landed at (well, of course I can't be sure of the order of the stores) is a store called Nearly New Bookshop. That store's stamp looks a bit outdated so I'm going to assume it went there first. Then it went to La Booktique, twice I presume, since there are two stamps from that store in the book. Then on it travelled to another store called Nova, which is where my husband picked it up to complete a collection he'd already started with this series of nautical stories.

So Colours Aloft! has done quite a bit of traveling which is, I suppose, apropos for a book about traveling - albeit on the high seas and not on the bookstore circuit!

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