Sunday, March 29, 2015

Month In Review: Non-Bookish Things

Watching

This month I watched very little television live and watched it all on Netflix , YouTube or what I had already recorded.  

The first show I watched was Scott & Bailey, a British crime show.  I absolutely loved it.  If you like detective shows, I recommend this one (the first three seasons are on Netflix, I’m really hoping they put up season 4 soon.)  This is written by Sally Wainwright, who also wrote Happy Valley on Netflix.  Watch them both I say.

The second show I watched was Empire.  When it first aired I didn’t watch because I was already watching Black-ish in that time slot and I’m not one to stop watching a show I already like for another one, no matter how much people are talking about.  So I recorded the episodes and decided to binge-watch them.  And that I did.  I watched the first 8 episodes one day, and the other 4 the next day.  And wow.  What a show!  I’m in love.  Everything - the drama, the music, Cookie’s fabulous wardrobe, yes, I’m loving this show.

And right at the end of this month, I started watching season 3 of The Mindy Project.  As soon as it went up on Netflix, I started watching.  Mindy Kaling is a-mazing and I love everything about this show.  I’m so glad that Netflix is putting up shows as soon as their season has finished on television.

I’ve also been watching season 12 of QI on YouTube.  It’s a British comedy panel show hosted by Stephen Fry and is quite funny.

Listening

This month, the Junos (Canadian music awards aired) and so in the lead-up I was listening to a few albums by Canadian artists, mainly Arkells and Hedley.  Arkells is new to me and though they aren’t the genre of music I usually listen to it, it’s a great album.  


Usually I listen to a lot of music or podcasts when I’m on my walks but lately I’ve always had company so I haven’t been listening to much.  But I always make sure I have time for The News Quiz from BBC Radio 4’s Friday Night Comedy.

What were you watching and listening to this month?

Friday, March 27, 2015

Book Blast: "Teardrops Know My Name" by Dalia Florea


About the Book

Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Romance
Recommended Age Group: 18+

Someone is stalking, fashion photographer, Linda McNair and turning her world upside down. She has no idea who it could be. Is it an old boyfriend? Someone in the industry? A complete stranger? The only thing Linda knows for sure is her stalker has to be stopped. Her life may depend on it.

When Linda meets Detective Sean Gregory, one of New York’s finest in more ways than one, stories unravel, revealing secrets, lies and betrayal that nearly destroy her, breaking her heart into a million tiny pieces. 


Linda tries to resist Sean’s affection, but she can’t help wondering if he’s the right man who can put the shattered pieces of her heart back to together.

About the Author

Dalia Florea is a novelist and native New Yorker. Her debut book “Mirrored” recently reached the top 100 Best Sellers list in Women’s Detective Fiction and rated favorably on both Amazon and Goodreads. When she isn’t crafting suspenseful romance, Dalia enjoys solving Sudoku and cryptogram quotes, attending jazz concerts and visiting wineries.  Dalia currently lives in Northern Virginia and is hard at work on her next two novels.



Links
Buy the e-Book
Website  
Facebook
Twitter

Contest

Dalia is giving away one $10.00 Amazon Gift Card

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the author Dalia Florea and is hosted and managed by Paulette from Write Now Literary Book Tours. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send an email to Paulette @ pharperjohnson@gmail.com

Tour hosted by WNL Book Tours 


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

"A Bit of Difference" by Sefi Atta

Deola Bello is a Nigerian expatriate in London, working as a financial reviewer for an international charity.  At the age of thirty-nine, she is becoming increasingly restless with both her work and her personal life.  When she returns to Nigeria for work and to attend her father’s five-year memorial service, she begins to look at her life through different eyes.

As she views her family and home through a new lens, she finds herself on a journey of self-discovery.  A chance encounter with a stranger ends up leading to decisions that will make her want to change her life entirely.  

A Bit of Difference by Sefi Atta is an incredible novel that touches on many different themes of expatriate life as well as the difference between the foreign ideas and realities of life in Africa.

This is the first book by Sefi Atta I have read and I was very impressed by her story-telling abilities.  Right from the beginning, Deola jumped off the page and I really felt as though I could hear her voice, rather than just reading it.  

I very much enjoy reading about different cultures and countries, especially through the eyes of an expatriate character.  It is a very unique take to be able to see the country through someone who has the experience of both living there and living away from it.  There wasn’t very much in Deola’s story that I could see in my own life, so what I really needed was strong writing to make me understand the world, and Atta definitely gets that right.  

I particularly enjoyed the parts of the book that centred around Deola’s work at the charity.  The book does spend time looking at the work that NGO’s are doing in foreign countries, the politics behind the work, and the people doing the work on both sides.  There is also a lot of strength in the commentary that Atta has on Nigerian society, especially when it comes to family and culture. 

There were so many moments that made me chuckle.  Atta has a very keen eye for people and the little things that make them up.  All of her characters were well-written and I like how she got to smaller pieces of who they are rather than the superficial things.  I’m especially thinking of Deola’s writer friend in London when I mention this.  The comments about what the publishing industry is looking for from African writers were clever (I captured some on my instagram account if you want to see what I’m talking about.)  

The book did fall off a bit for me in the second half.  I was much more interested in when Deola is in London as well as her trip back to Nigeria.  Once she returned to London, I began to lose interest a bit, but it was still compelling enough for me to keep reading. 


If you’re looking for African literature, I would definitely recommend this book.  Its exploration of the middle class in Nigeria is something that I don’t come across in my reading all that often.  I’m looking forward to reading more of Sefi Atta’s work, especially her debut novel, Everything Good Will Come, which won the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa.

Friday, March 20, 2015

"The Evening Chorus" by Helen Humphreys

James Hunter is an English officer who spends much of the Second World War in a German prisoner of war camp.  The men in the camp all find their own way to deal with the boredom day in and day out, and James is no different.  He decides to study a pair of birds, redstarts, he finds near the camp.  But when his interest in the birds is noticed by the Kommandant he begins to fear for his life.

James’ wife Rose, is back in England, doing the work of a dutiful wife whose husband is off at war.  But her attention is held by another young man with whom she is having an affair.  When James’ sister Enid comes to stay after being bombed out of her home in London, it puts Rose in an awkward situation.  The women form an unlikely friendship but their lives are about to be changed forever.

The Evening Chorus, by Helen Humphreys, is a beautiful and easy tale, a story about political history and natural history, love and war.

There is such an incredible lightness to this book, a beautiful read, a gentle story that packs a punch.  I have to admit that when I first took a look at the book, I wasn’t sure that it would be for me.  It was the birds that threw me off.  But I read the book because of my love for CanLit.  And I am very glad that I gave it that chance.

I think it takes incredible writing talent to tell a simple story in a simple manner and have it remain with readers long after the long page.  That is what this book is all about.  I adored the stories of Rose and Enid and found myself so invested in these two women who are living lives in which they can’t be open and honest about themselves.  Against the backdrop of war, these are incredible stories.  And while I was unsure of it at first, James’ story held me tight, whether the horrors of the camp or the gentleness of the birds.  


It’s not often we get a quiet novel about war, one that doesn’t focus on the politics or the front lines, but the beauty and hope that lies in this world.  I was so amazed by how this book touched me when I wasn’t expecting it at all.  This book is incredibly touching and thought-provoking.  It’s not in your face but in your thoughts, and gets you thinking about how we live our lives.  It is such a contrast to the busy lives we lead.  The strength of this book lies in its writing, one feels as though they are floating through the story.  It makes me happy to be able to recommend a book that I didn’t think would be for me at all.  

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

"March: Book One" by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

One of the key people of the Civil Rights movement and now an American Congressman, John Lewis has spent his life fighting for civil rights in America.  Born on a sharecropper’s farm in Alabama, educated in a segregated classroom, Lewis was on the frontline of the biggest events of the 1960’s.  Now he is sharing his story in stunning graphic novel form.

March: Book One is the first in a series of three graphic novels telling the life story of Congressman John Lewis.  Written in collaboration with co-writer Andrew Aydin and award-winning artist Nate Powell, the book is an incredible way of bringing history to the new generations.

This book focuses on Lewis’ early life - his birth, childhood, and education.  It shows Lewis’ motivation for becoming heavily involved in the Civil Rights movement, including his first meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  The book also covers the sit-in movement that swept the south and the birth of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC.)

The life of John Lewis is one that is truly inspiring and a must-read for people of all ages and walks of life.  He is the only speaker of the 1963 March on Washington still alive and it is so important that his story is preserved for all.  His life is a history lesson, covering the major events of the Civil Rights movement and taking you right to the heart of it all.  

I am so excited to see that he has decided to share his story in the form of a graphic novel.  I think that this will bring the story to kids who may not want to read a history book and it’s important that this history remains alive in our younger generations.  In the book, we see a comic book that was handed out during the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story, that inspired many young men of the time.  This was used to teach the concepts of nonviolent action that were central to the movement.  It inspired Lewis and is a major reason why he agreed with the idea to tell his story in this form.

I’m such a fan of writing history books and memoirs in graphic novel form.  I think this should be done for classroom books.  Even as a person who majored in history in university, I can say that sometime history books are boring or overwhelming.  Graphic novels bring these stories to life and are a great way to engage younger readers.  


March: Book Two is currently out but I’m unsure of when Book Three is being released.  And that’s the only downside of the book, that I have to wait for the final instalment.  

Monday, March 16, 2015

"If You're Not the One" by Jemma Forte

On the outside, Jennifer has the perfect life.  She has a husband, two wonderful kids, a lovely house, good friends.  But she’s not completely happy and lately, she’s been wondering if maybe she married the wrong man.  What if she got it wrong and was meant to be with someone else?

When a fight with her husband leads to a terrible accident, Jennifer is able to face this question head on.  While lying in a coma, she has the opportunity to see just what life would have been like if she had stayed with one of her ex-boyfriends.  What if she had jetted off to Australia with Aidan, the sexy and carefree guy she met on a beach in Greece?  Or what if she had stayed with Tim, the man who created a networking website that everyone in the world was using?  Or Steve, the sweet, loving, and doting DIY guy?  

Was she really supposed to marry one of those guys, rather than her husband Max?  And more importantly, what will she do about it if she ever wakes from her coma?

If You’re Not the One, by Jemma Forte, is a novel that honestly and realistically addresses that question many of us have at times in our lives, the “what-if?” 

This is a very interesting book and one I very much enjoyed reading.  At first, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the subject or how it would play out.  The whole “what-if” is a very dangerous question and I thought that this book was going to be too light to deal with it.  But this ended up being different than I expected.  It takes the subject very seriously, and Forte does a great job of portraying an unhappy woman in a difficult marriage without being down about the whole institution in general.  In other words, she very honestly captures what many women go through in their marriages.

My big criticism of the book is the way that it is structured.  The book jumps around from past and present, and even in the present it jumps between a week before the accident and when Jennifer is in the coma.  When it goes into the past, it jumps between the different men which are obviously at different times.  

I would have preferred the book to have a bit more continuity.  What would have been perfect for me is if it started with the week that led up to the accident then started to look at the past.  It could have gone to Aidan, then the present, Tim, then the present, Steve, then the present, then how she met Max.  And then to her decision of what to do.  If it had occurred this way, it probably would have been a 5 star book for me.


This book is easy to read but will definitely get you thinking.  All throughout the book I thought, I don’t think I would want to know.  Maybe that has to do with how I feel about life right now, but who knows what would have been.  And I definitely want to leave it at that - who knows!  This is a very unique premise for a book though and that definitely makes it a worthwhile read.  Some people may hope for a different ending, but I think the rest of the book makes up for it.

I received a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley.  The opinions expressed above are my own.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Canada Reads


The 14th edition of CBC’s Canada Reads starts this Monday with the debates taking place March 16-19.  Hosted by Wab Kinew, this years focus is the one book to break barriers.  It is about the books that “can change perspectives, challenge stereotypes, and illuminate issues.

This years contenders are:

Ru by Kim Thuy, defended by Cameron Bailey
Intolerable by Kamal al-Solaylee, defended by Kristin Kreuk
The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King, defended by Craig Kielburger
When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid, defended by Elaine “Lainey” Lui
And the Birds Rained Down by Jocelyne Saucier, defended by Martha Wainwright

(click on the titles for my reviews of the books.)

What an amazing lineup of books.  LGBT issues, immigration, aging, First Nations, Canadian history and contemporary culture, all covered.  These novels were written in different languages and for different age groups, but they are all make up what Canada is about, the good and the bad.  

Previous winners of Canada Reads includes:

In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje (2002)
A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews (2006)
The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill (2009)
The Orenda by Joseph Boyden (2014)

My choice for the one book that Canada should read this year?  The Inconvenient Indian. 

What is your choice this year? Have you read all of the books?