Thursday, November 27, 2014

"Family Furnishings" by Alice Munro

I have a terrible confession to make.  I, Shan, lover of Canadian literature and really all things Canadian, have never read anything by Alice Munro.  That’s right, celebrated writer of stories that scream Canada, our first winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, Alice Munro.  But I can proudly say that I am now able to change that statement.

Family Furnishings is the newest collection of short stories by Munro, twenty-four stories selected from the last two decades.  It is a companion volume to her previous Selected Stories (1964-1994.) At 640 pages, this is a book you will treasure and devour slowly.  Most short story collections you can read straight through, this is one you will spend a lot of valuable time with.

I’m a big fan of CanLit that takes you inside the treasury of quaint small-towns we have.  Munro situates most of her stories here, presenting a uniquely Canadian way of life.  Her writing is flawless and beautiful.  I was blown away by how consistent her stories are, each one as good as the next.  Most of the time when I read short story collections there are stories I love and stories I can do without, but that is not the case here.  I felt the same way about every story, and for me, that is a pretty big deal.

Munro’s stories are about real people.  People we know in our everyday lives.  People who are trying to find their way just like us.  It doesn’t get any more real this.  Munro captures our world just as it is in her writing and you feel fulfilled when you read it.

In her video shown at the Nobel Prize award ceremony, Munro said, 

“Oh, well, I want my stories to move people, I don't care if they are men or women or children. I want my stories to be something about life that causes people to say, not, oh, isn't that the truth, but to feel some kind of reward from the writing, and that doesn't mean that it has to be a happy ending or anything, but just that everything the story tells moves the reader in such a way that you feel you are a different person when you finish.”

I would say that she has accomplished this.  

(Read the transcript of the video here or watch it here.)

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

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Winter TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week we are talking about Winter TBR's.  And I wanted to share all of the Christmas books I had on my TBR list this year.  In the past I've never really read many Christmas novels but last year we went on away to ski country for the winter holidays and I took a few Christmas chick-lit books with me.  The whole scene was perfect and I enjoyed the books so much so I thought this year I would read more.  And they are definitely getting me into the holiday spirit.  So here is my list (with links to the reviews I have already posted):

1.  A Proper Family Christmas - Chrissie Manby
2.  How the In-Laws Wrecked Christmas - Fiona Gibson
4.  Difficult Husbands - Mary de Laszlo
5.  One Hundred Christmas Proposals - Holly Martin
6.  Hello From the Gillespies - Monica McInnerney
7.  The Great Christmas Knit-Off - Alexandra Brown
9.  The Little Christmas Kitchen - Jenny Oliver
10.  Christmas at the Beach Café and Christmas Gifts at the Beach Café - Lucy Diamond

What is on your winter TBR?

Monday, November 24, 2014

"One Hundred Christmas Proposals" by Holly Martin

The last time we saw Harry and Suzie, he had set out on the mission to find the perfect proposal for Suzie, organizing one hundred proposals taking place around the world.  Suzie thought it was all just for their business, Perfect Proposals, but Harry was serious about marrying Suzie.  When we left them, they had just gotten engaged.

Now Harry and Suzie are back with a bigger task - organizing one hundred proposals in the month of December alone.  Add to this the task of planning their first Christmas together as a couple and a surprise visit from the parents, and they quickly find themselves wondering if their relationship can make it through the holidays in tact.

One Hundred Christmas Proposals by Holly Martin is the delightful holiday novella to follow-up the incredible One Hundred Proposals.  Fans of the first book will be very excited to see what Harry and Suzie are getting up to following Harry’s incredible proposal.

I was so excited when I heard about this novella.  The first book left me wanting so much more (in a good way) and I was secretly wishing that Martin would be re-visiting these characters.  I didn’t realize that it was going to happen so soon.

The only thing better than a Christmas story set in England is one that involves marriage proposals!  Harry and Suzie have outdone themselves, planning one hundred romantic proposals in the month of December.  It is absolutely lovely to read about the various ways that people can propose around England.  Holly Martin has such a unique idea here and it makes for very romantic books.

If there is ever a time for a romantic story, Christmas is it.  And this book will have you melting despite the cold weather outside.  Martin is a very talented writer and if you are a fan of sweet, romantic reads you need to pick up one of her books.  

Friday, November 21, 2014

"A Christmas to Remember" by Jenny Hale

Carrie Blake loves her job.  As a nanny, she spends all day nurturing and playing with children.  But they are other people’s children.  In her thirties, she’s starting to feel the pain of not being able to share these wonderful moments with her own family.  She is about to take on one more job for the Christmas holiday and then her mission will be to find a new career and a love life.

Single-dad Adam Fletcher is handsome and successful, but he is always working.  And his children are missing out because of it.  Even though his children are with him for the holidays, work comes first, and so he hires a highly recommended nanny to care for the children.

When Carrie arrives at the Fletcher household, she is dismayed at what she sees. Polite, adorable children, who need more than what money can buy.  And so she sets out on a mission to make Adam see that it’s time for him to put his family first.  But what she doesn’t expect to happen is to find herself falling not just for the children, but for their father.

A Christmas to Remember by Jenny Hale is a lovely story about the romantic and miraculous nature of Christmas.  If you’re looking for a beautifully festive read this holiday season, this is a great choice.

I really enjoyed this book.  Carrie is a nanny who is taking on a short-term job over the Christmas holidays.  She is surprised when she arrives to find that the children have very little in the way of a relationship with their father and she sets out to change that.  Which I have to admit, in the beginning made me think that I wasn’t going to like Carrie very much.  I mean, who is she to just walk into the home and tell people that how they are living their life is wrong.  

But with the introduction of Adam’s family, the dynamic in the house changes and Carrie soon becomes like a part of the family.  And this is where the story really develops and it’s easy to fall for character likes Carrie and Adam.

Christmas, romance, warmth, and family, this book has everything you need for a good book to curl up with when the wind is howling outside.  There are times in the book where it may seem like it is going to become predictable but trust me, read on.  If you love a good holiday romance, pick this one up.

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

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"Pastoral" by André Alexis

Father Christopher Pennant has been sent to his very first parish, the sleepy little town of Barrow, Ontario.  A town that has more sheep than people, it looks to be a great place to start out.  But for some people, Barrow isn’t as idyllic as it seems.  Elizabeth Denny is a young woman whose fiancé can’t choose between the sweet woman he is engaged to and the more worldly Jane.  Elizabeth turns to Father Pennant for advice, but he is dealing with a crisis of faith when he witnesses three miracles of nature, including a mayor who walks on water.  

Pastoral, by André Alexis, is a beautiful and simple novel that looks at the simplicity of rural life through a fresh lens.  Based on Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, the Pastoral, it is a definite stand out from the pack.  

This is a wonderful book to read, a book of simplicity yet with so much underneath, just like the town itself.  Alexis said that he wrote this as an ode to Lambton Country in Ontario, where he lived after immigrating to Canada from Trinidad, and his affection shows.  What absolutely drew me in about this book was the fact that you could not tell what time period you are in.  Sure there are cars and telephones, but that could span numerous decades.  Either way, if you’re reading this book in the city, you are magically transported to a much easier place.

This is a short book, 160 pages, but it is packed full of interesting characters.  It is great to discover these people and what they are about along with Father Pennant, and the Father himself is a great character as he finds his beliefs and his faith tested.  

Over the past two months I have read a lot of Canadian Literature and this is one of the books that shines bright in the crowd.  It’s depiction of life in small-town Ontario is simple, to the point, lovely, and lyrical.  This is Can Lit.

Pastoral was shortlisted for the 2014 Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and is very deserving of this nod.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Sequels I Can't Wait to Get

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week is all about sequels, and since we're coming up on a new year I've got a list of books I can't wait to get.  But few of them are sequels.  There are definitely 5 books (actually 6, two are from the same series) that I'm absolutely looking forward to.

1. China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan - the sequel to Crazy Rich Asians, the book is about a woman who is about to marry Asia's most eligible bachelor.  I love reading about the incredible social circle these people travel in.

2. Marrying Mr. Darcy series by Katie Oliver - this is the follow up to the Dating Mr. Darcy series.  This one includes And the Bride Wore Prada and Love, Lies, and Louboutins.

3. A Proper Family Christmas by Chrissie Manby - the sequel to A Proper Family Holiday.  I loved the Benson family can't wait to see how things go with the introduction of a long-lost family member.

4. The Hungry Ghosts by Peggy Blair - the Inspector Ramirez series is fantastic. I thoroughly enjoyed The Beggar's Opera and The Poisoned Pawn and I've been looking forward to this book for quite a while now.

5. A Blessing & A Curse by Victoria Christopher Murray and ReShonda Tate Billingsley - First Ladies Jasmine Cox Larson Bush and Rachel Jackson Adams are back.  It’s always a scandalously good time when these ladies get together.

What sequels are you looking forward to? 

Monday, November 17, 2014

"The Little Christmas Kitchen" by Jenny Oliver

When sisters Ella and Maddy were young, their parents divorced and the girls were split up.  Ella grew up in London with their father and Maddy in Greece with their mother.  Over the years, the family grew apart, with the girls becoming two very different people.  But this Christmas, the family is going to be thrown back together.

When Ella finds out that her husband is cheating on her, she makes a quick escape to the only place she can think of, her mothers taverna in Greece.  Maddy is dreaming of a white Christmas and jets off to London to take a singing gig, but that leads her right into the path of her father.  It may seem like the sisters have done a life swap but it becomes much, much more.  As the girls each find themselves cooking up a storm in the others kitchen for Christmas, they find themselves coming to terms with the past.  And they both realize that the only thing missing this Christmas is each other.

The Little Christmas Kitchen by Jenny Oliver is a delightful novel about food, family, and the magic of both at Christmastime.  An absolutely delightful read, this book will get you right into the Christmas spirit.

I loved this sweet book.  I’m a sucker for a book that takes place in England at Christmas and discovering it all at the same time as Maddy is absolutely enjoyable.  But just in case you’re already tired of the cold and the snow, you also get the sun and sea of Greece.  It is two magical Christmas holidays in one.

The book alternates back and forth between Ella and Maddy, England and Greece.  I really enjoyed that method in this book.  With the girls being so different, you expect that you would like one more than the other, especially Ella who at first comes across as cold and distant. But both of these characters were wonderful as were all of the supporting characters.

The book does have a bit of a slow start but don’t let that put you off.  Once the girls are back in each others lives and then swapping lives, the book is very enjoyable.  If you’re looking for a sweet Christmas read, I definitely recommend this one.

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