The September Book Blogger Meet Up!

This past Sunday, the BBAM (Book Bloggers Association of Montreal, Verdun Division) got together at our favourite tea shop to discuss all sorts of important things. Avis, Cindy, Linda, Tina and our newest member, Amanda and I talked about what tea we should order, living arrangements, our ages, husbands, the weather and firemen.

There were a few things in there about books and blogging too. And of course our book exchange took place.

I picked up The Book of Lies by Brad Meltzer from Avis.

Off Season by Anne Rivers Siddons and The Late, Lameneted Molly Marx by Sally Koslow was from Linda.

And finally, Cindy gave me Numbers by Rachel Ward, Dangerous Neighbors by Beth Kephart and The Weight of a Mustard Seed by Wendell Steavenson.

Thanks for the books, ladies!

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday is on tour and Kathy at Bermudaonion's weblog is the host this month. This meme was created by Marcia at The Printed Page and Kristi at The Story Siren.

Last week I received two books. The first is The False Friend by Myla Goldberg. I like the cover of this bound galley. The following description of this book is from the Random House website:

Leaders of a mercurial clique of girls, Celia and Djuna reigned mercilessly over their three followers. One after­noon, they decided to walk home along a forbidden road. Djuna disappeared, and for twenty years Celia blocked out how it happened.

The lie Celia told to conceal her misdeed became the accepted truth: everyone assumed Djuna had been abducted, though neither she nor her abductor was ever found. Celia’s unconscious avoidance of this has meant that while she and her longtime boyfriend, Huck, are professionally successful, they’ve been unable to move forward, their relationship falling into a rut that threatens to bury them both.

Celia returns to her hometown to confess the truth, but her family and childhood friends don’t believe her. Huck wants to be supportive, but his love can’t blind him to all that contra­dicts Celia’s version of the past.

Celia’s desperate search to understand what happened to Djuna has powerful consequences. A deeply resonant and emotionally charged story, The False Friend explores the adults that children become—leading us to question the truths that we accept or reject, as well as the lies to which we succumb.

The second book I received is Running the Books by Avi Steinberg. It's subtitled The Adventures of an Accidental Librarian. Also from Random House, I really like the sound of this one:

Avi Steinberg is stumped. After defecting from yeshiva to Harvard, he has only a senior thesis essay on Bugs Bunny to show for his effort. While his friends and classmates advance in the world, he remains stuck at a crossroads, unable to meet the lofty expectations of his Orthodox Jewish upbringing. And his romantic existence as a freelance obituary writer just isn’t cutting it. Seeking direction—and dental insurance—Steinberg takes a job as a librarian in a tough Boston prison.

The prison library counter, his new post, attracts con men, minor prophets, ghosts, and an assortment of quirky regulars searching for the perfect book and a connection to the outside world. There’s an anxious pimp who solicits Steinberg’s help in writing a memoir. A passionate gangster who dreams of hosting a cooking show titled Thug Sizzle. A disgruntled officer who instigates a major feud over a Post-it note. A doomed ex-stripper who asks Steinberg to orchestrate a reunion with her estranged son, himself an inmate. Over time, Steinberg is drawn into the accidental community of outcasts that has formed among his bookshelves — a drama he recounts with heartbreak and humor. But when the struggles of the prison library — between life and death, love and loyalty — become personal, Steinberg is forced to take sides.

Review: Running Around (and such) by Linda Byler

This was the first time I’ve read an Amish book and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was surprised to find that except for scattered cultural references the story followed much the same path as any other book of its genre – the coming of age story of an adolescent girl.

Lizzie is fifteen and filled with all the same sorts of feelings any teenager has, but she’s also rebellious and willful – characteristics that go against the Amish belief system. She runs into trouble with family and friends and it’s usually of her own (however unintended) making. Some of the situations she gets into are funny and some not so much. But it is usually caused by Lizzie’s belief that she is not as loved as her older sister. I found the feelings she expressed to be honest and insightful. What I didn’t expect was this girl’s food issues. Her mother was always making something sweet and rich and while her sisters showed constraint, Lizzie was usually eating too much of it. Food disorders are a serious problem and I don’t feel I know enough about them to give an educated opinion about the presentation of this characters problems with food, but I had a gut reaction that her mother did not deal with it in the best possible way. Not sure though. Lizzie’s self-image is that she is overweight and not very pretty. I thought it a bit odd that on the cover of the book there is a picture of a very pretty and slim-looking girl with a wide smile. I’m assuming that’s Lizzie at a happy and self-confident moment!

Linda Byler has a simple, to-the-point writing style. In each chapter there is a flashback to a related current event and in this way the reader is taken through the character’s growing pains. I found the Amish lifestyle interesting (so very far removed from my own) and found the glossary at the back of the book useful. I think this would be a good book for any one who enjoys the coming-of-age genre and is tired of those that are the profane, serious mental health issue type books.

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 from somewhere on that page 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 taken from A Better Quality of Murder by Ann Granger. From page 83:

By the following morning, much to Superintendent Dunn's anger, the gentlemen of the press had found out about the River Wraith. Together with the discovery of the body of a beautiful woman, lying strangled in Green Park (and one whose husband owned a gallery in Piccadilly), it must have given them more material than they could have dreamed of in their wildest moments.

Mailbox Monday

This meme was created by Marcia at The Printed Page and Kristi at The Story Siren. This month, Kathy at bermudaonion's weblog is standing in for Marcia.

I received three books in the mail last week - two were from LibraryThing wins and the third was from Simon and Schuster.

From LibraryThing I received A Secret Kept by Tatiana de Rosnay (July's win) and The Case Against Owen Williams by Allan Donaldson.

The third book, Zombies vs Unicorns, is an anthology of short stories edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier.

I admit I don't care too much for that cover! My copy has another band of blue with a running unicorn across the bottom of the book but it still doesn't look much better than the one depicted here. Why are the unicorn and zombie figures so small in the surrounding black? That cover just doesn't work for me. I have read the first two stories (The Highest Justice by Garth Nix and Love Will Tear Us Apart by Alaya Dawn Johnson) and though they are wildly different, they were good reading.

Review: Good Enough to Eat by Stacey Ballis

Melanie Hoffman, the heroine of Good Enough to Eat by Stacey Ballis, tackles what could be some very depressing challenges in her life: divorce, food issues, entrepreneurship (she owns a gourmet take-out café) and relationships. She manages (and sometimes mismanages) it all with pluck and support from family and friends.

Each chapter in this novel begins with Melanie’s reminisces about how certain foods relate to events in her life, be they large or small. Quite a variety of food is covered – mashed potatoes, chocolate cupcakes, peanut butter; I liked how the author was able to place them just so - they all have a place in the story. Also, all the food mentioned as the story chapters are included twice in recipes at the back of the book. The first recipe for cupcakes is a health conscious variation of the second which are called Decadent Dark Chocolate Cupcakes, and from reading through the ingredients they are, well, more decadent than the lighter version. I haven’t tried any of the recipes yet but I definitely plan to.

The author describes some of Melanie’s preparations in getting the café’s food ready for customers and the interaction between employees makes it sound like fun – I’d like to work there! I imagine though, that no matter how much fun it is, and how much help Melanie has from her employees, running a café is a lot of work. I didn’t (mostly) get that impression from reading this book. I mention this because I used to own an ice cream shoppe and though we only sold ice cream (in all its forms) it was time-consuming and intensive.

Good Enough to Eat is well-written and I enjoyed the story. I liked Melanie. She was written with both good and bad character traits – always a plus with me when an author doesn’t make a character all good or bad. The only bit that I didn’t much care for was a particular scene during a party with Melanie and her friends. The love and caring attitude that everyone showed for each other was slightly too much for me. Not that that doesn’t happen in real life – I’m sure it does; but somehow it just rang a bit hollow. It’s like those movies you see where campers sitting around the campfire are singing and toasting marshmallows and everyone’s mellow and happy. Perhaps I found it a bit corny, I’m not sure, but it overall it wasn't that distracting. Aside from that small bit though, I can honestly say this book is worth the read and the recipes!

Mailbox Monday

This meme was started by Marcia at The Printed Page and Kristi at The Story Siren. In September, Kathy at bermudaonion's weblog will be hosting Mailbox Monday for Marcia.

I received Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick last week. It'll be published on October 19th. Crescendo is the sequel to Hush Hush so I've bought that one to read first. From the author's website, the description of this book reads:

Nora should have known her life was far from perfect. Despite starting a relationship with her guardian angel, Patch (who, title aside, can be described as anything but angelic), and surviving an attempt on her life, things are not looking up. Patch is starting to pull away and Nora can't figure out if it's for her best interest or if his interest has shifted to her arch-enemy, Marcie Millar. Not to mention that Nora is haunted by images of her father and she becomes obsessed with finding out what really happened to him that night he left for Portland and never came home.

The further Nora delves into the mystery of her father's death, the more she comes to question if her Nephilim bloodline has something to do with it as well as why she seems to be in danger more than the average girl. Since Patch isn't answering her questions and seems to be standing in her way, she has to start finding the answers on her own. Relying too heavily on the fact that she has a guardian angel puts Nora at risk again and again. But can she really count on Patch or is he hiding secrets darker than she can even imagine?

I'm so looking forward to reading these books!

Review: Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Shadowhunters, warlocks, vampires, shape-changers, demons and even some humans have been keeping me company the last couple of days and now that they’ve left, I miss them. Yes, you read that right – I even miss those demented demons.

Cassandra Clare's new book, Clockwork Angel, begins when Tessa Gray, sixteen and orphaned, leaves America to join her brother in London to begin a new life. It turns out that London is not quite what she expected. The story follows Tessa as she navigates London’s Downworld. It’s replete with creatures that don’t exactly have her best interests at heart, but also some that, surprisingly, do. The author has a knack for imbibing her characters with distinct personalities that convey humour, anger, bewilderment and many other traits. Interaction between the characters is one of things I enjoyed most about this novel.

The pace of the story is perfect. It starts out with an action sequence and drew me right in. The book is well over 400 pages but it took me just two days to read it – and I didn’t want it to end. The action took place in settings that were well-described: Victorian London with mysterious fogs; horse-drawn carriages; gothic dwellings. It set an atmosphere that I wanted to stay in. I would love to see these books turned into movies! Why not? They did it with Harry Potter and Twilight after all.

Clockwork Angel is the first book in the Infernal Devices series and is the prequel to the Mortal Instruments series, which I have not read yet. I do have it though (actually I have a signed copy of one of the books so, being the book nerd that I am, I need to get a reading copy to read it instead of the signed one). There is nothing in Clockwork Angel that made me think I should have read the Mortal Instruments series first – it stands on its own quite well but is so much fun it just makes me want to read the Infernal Devices books now. The only drawback to having finished Clockwork Angel is that I have to wait an entire year to read the next book!

Review: The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory

The more I read about Tudor England, the more fascinating I discover it to be. I’ve read historical books about royalty before and enjoyed them – Reay Tannahill’s Fatal Majesty (about Mary, Queen of Scots) and The Seventh Son are just two, (I enjoyed the former more than the latter) but this book is different. Maybe because I recently started watching The Tudors and I'd just read The King’s Mistress by Emma Campion (you can read my review of The King's Mistress here). They both piqued my interest and I wanted more. Then along came The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory and now I can’t get enough!

The first in this historical series is called The White Queen (which I have not read yet) and is the story of Elizabeth Woodville, Queen of England and wife to King Edward IV. The Red Queen is Margaret Beaufort. She is born into the house of Lancaster and from an early age is raised to believe that she has one purpose – to bear a son who will one day rule England as the one true king. Her life is therefore dedicated to achieving this goal for her son, Henry Tudor, born when Margaret is just fourteen. She is blocked by the Yorks who want the kingdom for their line and so battles rage back and forth over the years. Never does she waver from her belief that her son is the only rightful heir to the crown.

I enjoyed this book tremendously for several reasons. It fed my growing addiction to historical novels about the royals and it was well-written and not overly romanticized. I found the writing to-the- point in that there was little description of gowns, styles, cloth, not to mention the various activities such as hunting and hawking that people spent time doing in that century. Depiction of life in the 1400’s was shown rather than described.

My favourite character in The Red Queen was Margaret Beaufort’s second husband, Henry Stafford. I found him very sympathetic and he was the only one I could relate to. Margaret thought him weak and a coward but the way he was written showed he had character and didn’t buckle under prevailing opinions. During stressful events, he showed maturity while she displayed anger. And that brings me to Mary. I would say that the author did not write this character to be liked at all. Her one-track mind – getting her son on the throne – was unpleasant. Granted, her mother taught Mary that her only raison d’etre was to bear a son, and so I can see where she would have learned this righteous attitude. Still, the added distraction of this character using her piety and belief that God had ordained her son to be the one true king, just made her unlikeable. And now I’m curious – was her arch enemy, the white queen, equally unlikeable? Or was she a more sympathetic woman? Either way, the facts are known – I just have to read them!

The Red Queen is a must read for anyone who loves historical novels and it’s a stand-alone book - you don’t need to read The White Queen first to enjoy it. And for anyone who hasn’t tried this genre yet – I’d say go for it!

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