Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"The Other Wes Moore" by Wes Moore

In December 2000 a small story ran in the Baltimore Sun about a local student named Wes Moore who had received a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. In that same paper was a large story about four men who killed a police officer in a botched armed robbery. The police were searching for two of the suspects, one of whom was named Wes Moore.

The student Wes Moore couldn't shake off the coincidence and wrote a letter to the other Wes who was by then serving a life sentence in jail as a convicted murderer. This led to continued correspondence and a friendship that has lasted years. Over time they came to realize that they had grown up in similar neighbourhoods, were both fatherless, in and out of school and had run into trouble with the police at an early age. So how did their lives take such different paths?

Wes Moore writes both stories in alternating narratives, comparing the crucial stages of their childhoods and adult lives. The similarities are incredible. They both had opportunities to choose a life of crime or a life of success. But they didn't make the same choice.

This book is more than just the story of two young men named Wes Moore. It is the story of a whole generation of boys who have to make the same choices. Every young black male has the opportunity to become the Wes Moore who is a Rhodes Scholar, combat veteran of Afghanistan, and was a featured speaker at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Unfortunately, too many young men are instead choosing to become the Wes Moore who is imprisoned for life.

In addition to telling the stories of both men, this book is a call to action. To support and educate our young men, to not let them fall through the cracks. The epilogue of the book is heartbreaking, to see the staggering differences not just between the two men but between their entire families. Too many people are allowing themselves to be victimized by their circumstances rather than rising above them. Because of this, Moore includes a substantial resource guide in the back of the book to help draw attention to the numerous organizations in the United States dedicated to helping young men and women.

The Other Wes Moore is a must read for everyone. Anyone who finds themselves up against difficult circumstances needs to meet these two young men and realize how important it is to make the right decisions to rise out of your circumstances rather than succumb to them.

Monday, June 28, 2010

"Love Letters" by Katie Forde

With the bookshop where she works about to close, Laura Horsley has found herself unemployed and unsure of her future. Then, a chance encounter at a store event brings about an interesting opportunity, a job organizing a literary festival in the heart of the English countryside. Excited but nervous Laura agrees to the job.

But soon she finds herself in over her head. Somehow she has led the committee to believe that she is a personal friend of the author they most want to appear at the festival, an author who is famous for being a recluse and who never leaves Ireland.

A big fan of Dermot Flynn and not wanting to disappoint her new employers, Laura sets off to Ireland to convince Flynn to come out of hiding. But what awaits her is a temperamental and mad writer who is suffering from a severe case of writer's block. On top of that Flynn seems to take a liking to Laura, a little too much of a liking. Can Laura convince Dermot to come out of hiding? And can she keep a comfortable distance between the two of them or will she fall for his advances?

Love Letters is a cute story. Any fan of books will be delighted to read a book that is set within the writing world and revolves around a literary festival. There is a great cast of characters with all sorts of personalities to make for great relationships and interactions. However, I did find the story to be a little slow. The plot moves along without many dramatics and is a touch predictable. However, it is still a light and enjoyable read.

Katie Fforde's website

Sunday, June 27, 2010


I am excited to be giving away a copy of Sins of the Mother by Victoria Christopher Murray!

A quick synopsis:

Jasmine Larson Bush is finally living a drama-free life. She’s left her lying, cheating, stealing stripper days behind and is standing by her husband’s side as the first lady of one of the largest churches in New York City. The Bushes have been blessed with the best of everything—including two lovely children.

But just when Jasmine has committed her life completely to God, her daughter Jacqueline is kidnapped from a mall the day after Thanksgiving. The police and the church community join in the frantic search to find the four-year-old. As the days pass without any sign of her daughter, Jasmine begins to crack under the strain and turns to Brian Lewis, Jacqueline’s biological father, for solace. Has Jasmine’s past finally caught up to her? Will her daughter be found or will Jasmine pay the ultimate price?

You can also check out my review here.

This giveaway will run until midnight, ET on Sunday July 4. It is open to residents of Canada and the US only. Winner will be selected by random draw.

To enter, leave your name and email address in the comments section of this post. Let me know if you are familiar with the Urban Christian genre, and if so who your favourite authors or books are.

Thanks for entering!

In My Mailbox #7

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren and designed to show others what books have come into our homes in the past week. Here is what I received from the library this week:

On A Dollar a Day by Christopher Greenslate

"On a Dollar a Day" examines how Americans eat and at what cost. Sections on eating the food stamp diet, what it really costs to eat healthfully and organically, and how to find the best buys at the grocery store make it an ideal book for these challenging economic times.

Here's the Deal Don't Touch Me by Howie Mandel

A frank, funny, no-holds-barred memoir that reveals the Deal or No Deal host's ongoing struggle with OCD and ADHD-and how it has shaped his life and career.

Friday, June 25, 2010

"A Paradise Built in Hell" by Rebecca Solnit

In A Paradise Built in Hell Rebecca Solnit states that what we believe happens and what actually happens in the wake of a major disaster are two very different things. The media, movies and government will have us believe that disasters turn our society into a chaotic and dangerous place. But Solnit argues that instead there is a wave of altruism in which people come together rather than divide.

Using five major disasters - the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, 1917 Halifax explosion, 1985 Mexico City earthquake, September 11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina - to support her argument, Solnit tells the stories of every day people who rose to the occasion and did so with joy. The hope of the book is to show that the utopias that emerge following disasters can be inspirational and provide a new vision of what our every day society could be.

The book is more of an academic work than an inspirational one. There are numerous stories to support Solnit's argument. The first two parts, the San Francisco earthquake and Halifax explosion, are not as in depth as the other three, obviously because of the time. The final two parts, 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, evoke more emotion and inspiration because these are two disasters in which the reader will be familiar with in some way.

Solnit does a good job of showing the difference between what we think happens and what actually happens. Unless we are experiencing the disaster directly, we really only know what we see on the television screen. Hurricane Katrina is an excellent example of how rumours can get out of control and even the respected news outlets will help to spread these rumours.

Solnit's recounting of the violence and murders that did follow Hurricane Katrina do seem a little out of place in the book, since her focus is on the good work that is done, and showing that the media and government blew things out of proportion. She does go on to show that there were numerous good works done, but for me personally, I don't think the first part helped her argument.

Overall, this is a very interesting book. What Solnit says, that out of disasters come a sense of community, a wave of altruism and the good in people, is very true. However, how this can translate into every day society and influence us from day to day isn't fully developed and thus left me looking for a little more.

Rebecca Solnit's Penguin Group website

Book Blogger Hop

It's Friday and it's time for the hop! If you're hopping by my blog for the first time, welcome! You'll find a variety of books here - fiction, non-fiction, chick lit, biography, Christian. I finally saw Sex and the City 2 last night so I'm even going to branch out into YA and pick up The Carrie Diaries this week!

Check out the hop at Crazy For Books. There you will find over 200 blogs dedicated to the wonderful world of books.

Also, check back here on Sunday, I will be starting my first ever giveaway! I have a copy of Sins of the Mother by Victoria Christopher Murray to give away. You can read my review of the book here. I love Victoria Christopher Murray's writing and I'm thrilled that I can share her books with someone.

Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

"The Point of Rescue" by Sophie Hannah

Sally Thorning is an over-worked and tired mother of two young children who is desperate for a break. So when a business trip is cancelled, she doesn't tell her husband Nick and instead she books the week off and takes a secret holiday on her own. But she doesn't get much time to herself, because she meets a man named Mark Bretherick and spends the week with him.

A year later Sally is back to her hectic life when she hears the name Mark Bretherick on the news. The details that are given are all the same - his address, his job, his wife Geraldine and daughter Lucy. When she looks closer she finds out that Geraldine and Lucy are dead. And the Mark Bretherick that is on the television is someone she has never seen before.

The Point of Rescue is outstanding. It is thrilling and chilling with the right amount of suspense. As the story grows larger, Hannah keeps all of the pieces together and weaves an intense tale.

This is a great book. Often, thrillers can become too drawn out or throw in too many twists and turns but this book has it just right. It doesn't drag at any point and keeps the reader guessing, right until the end where there is a twist that most readers will not see coming.

Monday, June 21, 2010

"Nomad" by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born in Somalia and raised throughout Africa and Saudi Arabia. As a young woman she found herself on a plane to Canada, being forced by her father into a marriage to a cousin she had never met. When her plane had a stopover in Germany, she left the airport, boarded a train to the Netherlands and became a refugee.

After gaining asylum, she became an interpreter for other Somalis at battered women's shelters and abortion clinics. Seeing the difficulty her fellow people had in adapting to Western culture, she began studying political science at a Dutch university and then became a member of Dutch Parliament, fighting for the rights of Muslim women and the integration of Islam into the West.

Following the September 11 attacks on the United States, Ayaan denounced Islam. She went on to create works that were critical of Islam, including a short film about the status of Muslim women entitled "Submission." When her co-filmaker, Theo Van Gogh, was murdered by a radical young Muslim, Ayaan found that her life was being threatened as well. She was forced to live with round the clock security details and left behind "normal life." She left Dutch politics and moved to the United States, continuing her work of fighting crimes against women, including female genital mutilation, forced marriages and honour violence.

Nomad is the follow-up to Ayaan's 2007 memoir, Infidel. Nomad picks up from when she moved to the United States, and begins with details of those closest to her, and how their lives influenced hers. She speaks of how Islam clashed with Western culture in their lives, and for many led to poverty, violence and for some, death. She looks at how most were forced to make a decision between Islam or Western culture and how very few were able to find a balance.

This leads to her current work and views on Islam and the West. She writes of the mistakes that European countries have made in underestimating radical Islam and calls upon pillars of the West to become involved assisting Muslim immigrants to overcome the challenges they face. She gives specific action points that she feels will help to fight fundamentalism and terrorism.

In looking at three specific issues - sex, money, violence - Ayaan helps readers to understand why Muslims face the specific challenges they do when entering Western society. But she doesn't just call on the West to solve these problems, she calls on Muslim cultures and people to look at their faith and culture from a Western view, not the other way around. Her own story illustrates how Islam clashes with Western society and what needs to be done to make the two compatible.

When one thinks of the right to freedom of speech, they should think about Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She is risking her life to get out a message that many don't want the world to hear. But at the same time, she receives validation from the many Muslim women who appreciate her work and agree with her, but don't feel that they could speak out the way she does. Many Muslims feel that apostasy is punishable by death, which is why Ayaan remains under constant watch of security.

No matter what your faith or political alignments, Ayaan's story is one to read. Her words will challenge you to examine your beliefs and what you can do to help oppressed people around the world. It is Ayaan's firm belief that minds need to be changed in order to keep our world and every person safe.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Random House Author Website

AHA Foundation

Sunday, June 20, 2010

World Refugee Day

Today is the UNHCR's World Refugee Day. The theme this year is "They have taken my home, but they can't take my future." What beautiful words.

From the UNHCR website - "While most refugees want to go home, some cannot safely return. But wherever they are, refugees will always strive to pick up the pieces and start over. The courage and determination demonstrated during their darkest hours will serve them well in rebuilding a new life. On World Refugee Day, let us honour them for these qualities and recognise the richness and diversity they bring to our societies."

Here is my suggested reading for this day:

Infidel - Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Left To Tell and Led by Faith - Immaculee Ilibagiza
The Bite of the Mango - Mariatu Kamara
What Is The What - Dave Eggers

Are there any books you recommend on this subject?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

In My Mailbox #6

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren. It's purpose is to share what books came into your home this week.

Here is what I picked up from the library:

The Ex-Mrs. Hedgefund by Jill Kargman (2009)

Married to the founder of Comet Capital, Holly Talbott is slowing becoming a reluctant Mrs. Hedgefund. Sure, it's great to be a stay-at-home mom to her son Miles and to have a rolodex of eager donors when she is fundraising for the local hospital. But, the lunches are called luncheons because they take eons, even botox can't stop her mother-in-law's withering stares, and her husband, Tim, is away so often it feels like she's single again.

I Know I Am But What Are You? by Samantha Bee (2010)
Candid, outspoken, laugh-out-loud funny essays from the much-loved Samantha Bee, the Most Senior Correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart .

Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende (2010
Born on the island of Saint-Domingue, Zarité-known as Tété-is the daughter of an African mother she never knew and one of the white sailors who brought her into bondage. When twenty-year-old Toulouse Valmorain arrives on the island in 1770, he purchases young Tété for his bride. Yet it is he who will become dependent on the services of his teenaged slave.

And for review I received:

The Last River Child by Lori Ann Bloomfield (2009)
In the summer of 1900, a meteorite lands on the day of Peg Staynor''s baptism, barely missing the small church in rural Ontario. This, along with Peg''s almost colorless eyes, is enough to resurrect a local superstition that will haunt Peg and her family for years. Many believe Peg to be a "river child," taken over by an evil spirit from the Magurvey River that winds its way through the town. Feared and shunned throughout her childhood, Peg is blamed for every misfortune, from drought to ailing livestock. When her mother, her fiercest protector, dies suddenly on the same day WWI is declared, young Peg must face not only the mistrust of the villagers, but of her father.

Sins of the Mother by Victoria Christopher Murray (2010)
Jasmine Larson Bush is finally living a drama-free life. She's left her lying, cheating, stealing stripper days behind and is standing by her husband's side as the first lady of one of the largest churches in New York City. The Bushes have been blessed with the best of everything-including two lovely children. But just when Jasmine has committed her life completely to God, her daughter Jacqueline is kidnapped from a mall the day after Thanksgiving. The police and the church community join in the frantic search to find the four-year-old. As the days pass without any sign of her daughter, Jasmine begins to crack under the strain and turns to Brian Lewis, Jacqueline's biological father, for solace.

Friday, June 18, 2010

"Sins of the Mother" by Victoria Christopher Murray

Jasmine Larson Bush is finally living a drama-free life. She’s left her lying, cheating, stealing stripper days behind and is standing by her husband’s side as the first lady of one of the largest churches in New York City. The Bushes have been blessed with the best of everything—including two lovely children.

But just when Jasmine has committed her life completely to God, her daughter Jacqueline is kidnapped from a mall the day after Thanksgiving. The police and the church community join in the frantic search to find the four-year-old. As the days pass without any sign of her daughter, Jasmine begins to crack under the strain and turns to Brian Lewis, Jacqueline’s biological father, for solace.

Has Jasmine’s past finally caught up to her? Will her daughter be found or will Jasmine pay the ultimate price?

Sins of the Mother is Urban Christian fiction at it's best. The story is gripping, chilling and heartbreaking while at the same time faithful, encouraging and inspirational. Victoria Christopher Murray has created characters who have depth and are real. The characters and story bring out every emotion in the reader.

Though Sins of the Mother is the fourth book in the saga of Jasmine Bush it is excellent as a stand alone book. Murray provides just enough detail to catch up the reader on the previous books, but doesn't take away from the novel by spending too much time in the past. The subject matter is especially difficult, and a bit deeper than most Urban Christian fiction, but throughout the book the reader is comforted by the knowledge that God is at work, hears our prayers, and protects His children.

Victoria Christopher Murray is a consistent story-teller through all of her books. Her works invite readers into the worlds of her characters and readers cannot help but experience the heartbreak, love, faithfulness and hope that her characters experience. Sins of the Mother remains true to this and is another great work.

About the Author: Victoria Christopher Murray is the bestselling author of several novels, including Lady Jasmine; Too Little, Too Late; and The Ex-Files. Murray is also the author of a teen inspiration series, DIVINE DIVA. She lives with her family in Inglewood, California and Washington, DC.

Victoria Christopher Murray's website

Thank you to Tywebbin Creations Virtual Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book to review.

Book Blogger Hop

It's Friday and it's time for the Book Blogger Hop! Hop on over to Crazy For Books and check out some great book blogs. If you are into Young Adult books, there is a wealth of amazing blogs for you to find there. No matter what genre you're into, you'll find great blogs.

Well, World Cup action is starting for today, so I must go watch!

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"Late Night Shopping" by Carmen Reid

In this sequel to The Personal Shopper Annie Valentine is back and learning a few lessons about relationships. Now that she is living with Ed, a teacher from her children's school, she has to learn how to keep spending under check (or at least under wraps.) But soon this proves too difficult.

Annie has ordered 500 pairs of shoes from a Hong Kong designer, in the hopes of starting a retail business of her own. But right now, they're hiding in the spare room. On top of that, on a spur of the moment romantic trip to Italy (with the entire family in tow) she has bought 50 handbags to sell back home. If Ed doesn't approve of this, he certainly won't approve of the fact that she got all of the money for this by borrowing against her mortgage. Will Annie and Ed's relationship survive these secrets?

Late Night Shopping is a fun novel, just as The Personal Shopper was. Annie Valentine is great series character, following in the footsteps of Bridget Jones and Becky Bloomwood (Confessions of a Shopaholic.) Annie's antics may be over the top but that is what we love about those characters.

The book could have done without the descriptiveness of the intimate moments between Annie and Ed. They are brief, but may be more than some readers appreciate in their chick lit.

Late Night Shopping is the second novel in what looks to become an addictive series. Romance, fun and shopping are a great combination and Carmen Reid has it perfected. This is fun, easy reading for any fan of British chick lit.

Carmen Reid's website

Monday, June 14, 2010

"The World Is a Ball" by John Doyle

The World Cup has begun and around the world people are glued to their television sets, cheering for their favourite team and enjoying what is known as the beautiful game. In The World Is a Ball: The Joy, Madness and Meaning of Soccer, John Doyle examines the global appeal of soccer and how the realities of life are played out on the pitch.

The book is written from Doyle's perspective as a journalist covering recent major soccer tournaments. Though he is a television critic, soccer was influential in his life starting as a young boy growing up in Ireland. But then his Canadian newspaper sends him to cover the World Cup in 2002 and from there he begins his account of exciting games, crazy fans, and the grip that soccer has on the world.

Doyle not only covers the tournaments and games in-depth, but he takes you behind the scenes, introducing you to fans, players, journalists, taxi drivers and everyone who is touched by soccer fever.

If you are a die-hard soccer fan and you have watched the major tournaments of the last eight years, you will thoroughly enjoy this book. If you are new to the sport or a casual fan, you may find yourself a little lost through the book, but this is one book that will definitely give you the background and knowledge you need going into the 2010 World Cup.

John Doyle's Random House Author Website

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Bloggiesta Wrap-Up

On Friday, as I was looking through the blogs I read, I noticed a lot of people had signed up for Bloggiesta. I was curious, so I checked it out. Usually I'm not online on the weekends, but this sounded too good to pass up. My blog needed some work and updating, so why not sign up? But, this weekend was also the first weekend of the World Cup! I wasn't sure just how much I would get accomplished with so much football to watch (thankfully, my team plays tomorrow.)

So here is what I accomplished this weekend:
1. I have a new background and header, lighter and brighter reflecting the fact that summer is here!
2. I set up an email address, wrote a review policy, posted them to my blog and even contacted a publishing company.
3. I learned TONS about RSS Feeds and Subscriptions and got them set up on my blog.
4. I cleaned up my labels
5. I responded to comments that needed responding to.
6. I discovered some fabulous book blogs, got to know the book blogging community better, and of course, added to my to read list!

I also completed 5 of the mini challenges posted at Maw Books Blog. These really helped me to realize that I was doing pretty much the basics when it comes to blogging and that there is a whole lot about it that I did not know.

Overall, this was a great weekend. I spent about 6 hours working on my blog and was able to get done everything I wanted to.

Now back to the reviews!

In My Mailbox #5

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren to show which books have entered our homes in the past week.

Two books arrived at the library for me this week. That's good because it means I'll be able to make progress on my to read pile rather than making it bigger! Here is what I got.

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
In December 2000, the Baltimore Sun ran a small piece about Wes Moore, a local student who had just received a Rhodes Scholarship. The same paper also ran a huge story about four young men who had allegedly killed a police officer in a spectacularly botched armed robbery. The police were still hunting for two of the suspects who had gone on the lam, a pair of brothers. One was named Wes Moore. Wes just couldn't shake off the unsettling coincidence, or the inkling that the two shared much more than space in the same newspaper. After following the story of the robbery, the manhunt, and the trial to its conclusion, he wrote a letter to the other Wes, now a convicted murderer serving a life sentence with the possibility of parole. That letter led to a correspondence and relationship that have lasted for several years. Over dozen of letters and prison visits, Wes discovered that the other Wes had had a life not unlike his own: Both had grown up in similar neighbourhoods and had had difficult child-hoods, both were father-less, both were in and out of school; they'd hung out on similar corners with similar crews, and both had run into trouble with the police. At each stage of their young lives they had come across similar moments of decision, yet their choices would lead them to astonishingly different destinies.

Nomad by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
In Nomad, Hirsi Ali tells of coming to America to build a new life, an ocean away from the death threats made to her by Islamic fanatics, from the strife she had witnessed and the inner conflict she had suffered. In these pages, she recounts the many turns her life took after breaking with her family and how she struggled to throw off restrictive superstitions and misconceptions that initially hobbled her ability to assimilate into Western society. She writes movingly of her reconciliation, on his deathbed, with her devout father, who had disowned her when she renounced Islam after the September 11 attacks, as well as with her mother and cousins in Somalia and Europe. Nomad is a portrait of a family literally torn apart by the clash of civilizations. But it is also a touching, uplifting, and often funny account of one woman's discovery of our Western world. While Hirsi Ali loves much of what she encounters, she fears we are repeating the European mistake of underestimating radical Islam. She calls on women and key institutions of the West - including universities, and the Christian churches - to enact specific, innovative remedies that would help other Muslim immigrants overcome the challenges she has experienced - and resist the fatal allure of fundamentalism and terrorism. This is the story of her emotional journey to freedom as well as her physical journey - her transition from a tribal mindset that restricts women's every thought and action to a life as a free, equal citizen in an open society. Through her own story, she shows the difficulty of reconciling the contradictions of Islam with Western values.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Bloggiesta Update!

I am so glad that I joined in the Bloggiesta fun! I've accomplished a lot with my blog and learned so much about more about blogging than I ever knew!

On Friday, I spent a total of two hours working. This includes networking around to other blogs involved, as well as the first two mini challenges.

Through these mini challenges I managed to:
-make a thorough list of what I want to do (thank you Kim and Jackie for getting me started and giving me a lot of great ideas.)
-get my blog listed in a couple of directories
-create an email signature with my blog link
-create a separate email account for my blog
-write my review policy (thank you Jennifer, I recently realized the need for this and your post was very helpful.)

Today is Saturday and so far I have spent two hours working. Today I:
-added a new, lighter background to my blog
-learned about RSS feeds and set up a subscribe to feature through both a reader and email (thanks Puss Reboots for this, I had absolutely no knowledge of this!)

At this rate I will definitely be able to achieve all of my goals this weekend.

Friday, June 11, 2010


I've been thinking about making a few changes to my blog lately. When I first started it, I was totally new to the blog world and not quite sure what I was doing! But now that I've been around for 6 months, I figured I'd fix things up a bit. And when better to do it than during the Bloggiesta!

Bloggiesta is new to me, but this is the third time it's been happening and it's hosted by Maw Books Blog.

So what do I want to do to my blog?
1. I'm thinking of a new background and header to reflect upon the fact that summer is here!
2. I need a review policy (and with this comes setting up an email address specifically for it.)
3. I want to learn more about RSS Feeds and Subscriptions
4. I need to clean up my labels
5. I need to get in there and respond to some comments.
6. I want to discover more fabulous book blogs, and branch out into the community.

I think that is doable this weekend. I'm looking forward to it!

Book Blogger Hop

It's Friday which means that it's the Book Blogger Hop, hosted by Crazy-for-books. Check it out, each week I find amazing book bloggers to follow.

Everyone in my house is very excited, the World Cup starts today! We're big soccer fans and whenever the World Cup, or Euro, is on it's all we are focused on for the month. This year we're looking forward to a Netherlands victory!!!

I'm also very excited for my reading this coming week. I just picked up Ayaan Hirsi Ali's "Nomad." She is such an incredible writer with an amazing story to tell. If you have not read her book "Submission" I highly recommend it.

Happy weekend, happy reading, and happy World Cup.
Hup Holland Hup!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

"The Thirty-Nine Steps" by John Buchan

It is May of 1914 and Europe is close to war. Richard Hannay has recently returned to London from Africa to build a new life when he comes home one night to find his neighbour waiting for him at his door. His neighbour, a freelance spy, informs Hannay that he has uncovered a German plot to assassinate the Greek Premier during a visit to London and steal British war plans. With these people on to him, the spy has faked his own death and must stay alive until the plot is put into action so Hannay allows him to hide in his flat. But when Hannay returns home the next day to find the spy has been murdered, he soon finds himself caught up in the plot and on the run.

Hannay decides to take up where the spy left off, and he goes on the run through Scotland pursued by both the German spies and the police. He plans to alert the authorities of the plot at the last possible minute and thus has three weeks to stay alive in the Scottish terrain. When the time comes to alert the authorities, it becomes a race against time to find the German spies and thwart their plans.

The Thirty-Nine Steps is a classic "man on the run" thriller. The events of the book are shocking and pretty much unbelievable, which was Buchan's intent. Hannay is an "everyday man" who is caught up in an extreme situation and is a very likeable character.

There are some parts of the book in which the language or references may not be familiar to the reader, however the Oxford World's Classic edition provides notes and explanations to assist the reader.

This book is made up of personal and political drama, mystery and intrigue. Any reader who loves mystery and thrillers will enjoy this classic espionage tale.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

"The Baby Trail" by Sinead Moriarty

Make-up artist Emma Hamilton and her rugby trainer husband James have decided that it is time to have a baby. At the age of 33 and married for two years, Emma is constantly facing the questions of "when are you going to have kids?" With her friends and family members having children, she figures it will be easy and has it all planned out - she'll go off the pill in December, get pregnant in January, have the baby in September and be back in shape by Christmas.

But things don't happen that way for Emma. And soon she finds herself immersed in a world of post-coital headstands, ovulation kits, hormone-inducing drugs, probing specialists, and in vitro fertilization. Combined with the continuing "when are you going to have a baby" questions and other criticisms about her lack of children, it all begins to drive Emma mad and the fact that she is alienating her friends and family is the least of her worries.

The Baby Trail is a smart and humorous look at a very real and difficult situation for many women. At first, one wonders if this topic can dealt with in a funny manner and still be sensitive at the same time. Sinead Moriarty has achieved that balance wonderfully in this book. While the reader laughs at Emma's obsessiveness and nuttiness, they also find themselves emotionally attached and sympathetic. The characters are well-developed and represent a variety of understanding and emotions that are involved in the fertility process. The Baby Trail is a fun and charming read that many women will find relatable.

Monday, June 7, 2010

"I am Hutterite" by Mary-Ann Kirkby

Ann-Marie Dornn grew up in a Hutterite colony near Portage la Prairie, Manitoba with her parents and six siblings. Her life revolved around community - meals, work, church - every aspect of her life involved the rest of the community. But when Ann-Marie was 10-years-old her family decided to leave and make their way into the "English" world.

Her new life was a serious shock to the system. She couldn't be more different from the other kids at school. She and her siblings were teased and ridiculed for their Hutterite ways and no matter how hard they tried, they just couldn't seem to blend in with their new society. On top of that Ann-Marie was struggling with being torn from her old community and she missed the communal way of life she was used to.

I am Hutterite is a fascinating look at Hutterite culture, communal living, and what happens when someone parts ways with their community and must find their way in the world. Leaving a Hutterite community is no easy task, in any situation how does one adapt easily to an entirely new way of life? This book shows the difficulties one faces, how their old community always remains a part of them and how it is possible to move forward through the difficulty.

The Hutterite faith began in the sixteenth century when Jacob Hutter, an Austrian hatmaker, had a vision of a new Christian community. In Hutterite communities property is shared and people work together for a common good. However, the Hutterites found intolerance in Europe from the state and other religions and they began settling in the US in the 1800's. World War I brought a wave of Hutterite communities to Canada as they were conscientious objectors to the war. There are now more than 40,000 Hutterites living on 400 colonies throughout the Canadian Prairies and the US.

There is an incredible message of forgiveness in this book. Though Ann-Marie's parents had intense disagreements with the leaders of their community which ultimately led them to leave, they remained committed to forgiving those they argued with and rebuilding the relationship. Though it was not reciprocated until too late it shows that no matter how difficult the situation, forgiveness is always possible and something to be shown.

I am Hutterite is a great first-hand account of life in a Hutterite community. It examines faith, trust, intolerance, understanding and acceptance and how deeply this affects all people, no matter what culture or community they grew up in.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

In My Mailbox #4

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren. Book bloggers share what books came into their house that week by mail or from a bookstore or the library.

Last week, I didn't participate because I didn't get any new books! That was a first for me. I think it was because of our long weekend and the library being closed for two days that none of the books came in time for my Tuesday visit. That's okay though, it gave me time to work through my pile!

Here is what I got from the library this week:

A Paradise Built In Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster by Rebecca Solnit
What most people believe and what actually happens in the aftermath of a disaster are two different things. The movies, the media, and the authorities have too often insisted that we are a chaotic, selfish species and ought to fear each other. Yet in the wake of almost every major disaster a wave of altruistic and brave improvisation saves lives, forms communities, and shapes many survivors' experiences. The most startling thing about disasters, according to award-winning author Rebecca Solnit in her new book A Paradise Built in Hell, is not merely that so many people rise to the occasion, but that they do so with joy.

Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin
Tessa Russo is the mother of two young children and the wife of a renowned pediatric surgeon. Despite her own misgivings, Tessa has recently given up her career to focus on her family and the pursuit of domestic happiness. From the outside, she seems destined to live a charmed life. Valerie Anderson is an attorney and single mother to six-year-old Charlie, a boy who has never known his father. After too many disappointments, she has given up on romance - and even, to some degree, friendships - believing that it is always safer not to expect too much. Although both women live in the same Boston suburb, the two have relatively little in common, aside from a fierce love for their children. But one night, a tragic accident causes their lives to converge in ways no one could have imagined.

The World is a Ball: The Joy, Madness and Meaning of Soccer by John Doyle
He fel in love with the game as a child and never looked back. And as a grown-up journalist, John Doyle has been offered opportunities he could not have imagined years before: to moonlight from his day job as The Globe and Mail's television critic and travel the world of soccer. This is the enchanting story of that odyssey so far. It begins with the first game John saw, in repressed 1960's-era Ireland, through soccer in the 21st century - the World Cups in 2002 and '06, the European Championships in '04 and '08 - and on to a detailed chronicle of the key games leading to World Cup 2010. In dispatches from Italy to Ireland, from Buenos Aires to Bratislava, and between encounters with the crazed taxi drivers and drunken fans dressed as leprechauns or in lederhosen, Doyle beholds, celebrates and explains the evolution of soccer as a global phenomenon. He shows a sport where for 90 minutes on the pitch anything seems possible - a game of athletic art where colonized nations can conquer their colonizers, where the oppressed can triumph and the poor are rich in the pleasure of play.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Book Blogger Hop

As my husband said this morning as he was leaving for work - TGIF!

It's Friday and it's time for the Book Blogger Hop. The Hop is hosted by Jennifer at Crazy-for-Books and it's a great way to find book blogs to follow. Over the past few weeks I've found some amazing blogs, some new, some well-established, and my to read list has grown very long!

So if you're hopping by, welcome to Curled up with a good book and a cup of tea. (Though the weather has been so hot here I'm thinking of changing the name of my blog to Curled up with a good book and an ice cold glass of water.) I hope that you all find some good reads!

Happy Friday,

"Heart of the Matter" by Emily Giffin

Tessa is a stay at home mother of two young children and wife of a renowned paediatric surgeon. While she has given up her career to focus on her family and she seems to have the perfect life she is struggling in her pursuit of happiness.

Valerie Anderson is the single mother of six-year-old Charlie and an attorney. Charlie's father has never known him and Valerie has given up on love and friendship, believing it's better to do everything for herself.

Both women live in the same Boston suburb and run in the same circles, but have never met and have very little in common. But when Charlie has an accident, and Tessa's husband Nick is his doctor, Tessa and Valerie become a part of each others lives in ways no one imagined.

Heart of the Matter is a story of good people caught up in tragic circumstances and how the decisions they make can affect the lives of everyone around them. It is a story of love, disappointment, heartbreak, and whether second chances can and should be granted.

The book alternates between the points of view of Tessa and Valerie. Each chapter is fairly short to keep the story flowing and give the right amount of perspective to the story. All of the characters are real and believable. Giffin has perfectly created a community of characters who all add to the story, but do not make it seem overcrowded.

Heart of the Matter is a great read. Giffin has taken a very relatable situation and played it out perfectly. Readers will find themselves involved in story, becoming attached to the characters and hoping for a happy but believable outcome, of which they will not be disappointed.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

"Between Two Worlds" by Roxana Saberi

For six years American Roxana Saberi, who is of Iranian and Japanese descent, lived in Iran working as a reporter. When her press pass was taken away from her she decided to stay on and write a book about the everyday lives of Iranians. But then on January 31, 2009, four intelligence agents forced her from her home and detained her in the notorious Evin prison on charges of espionage. For several days she was held in solitary confinement and eventually was coerced into making false statements about spying for the United States.

She spent weeks locked up in the prison, her family and friends not knowing where she was. She was finally granted access to them, and just when she thought her freedom was near she was convicted in a sham trial and sentenced to eight years in prison. Her story made headlines around the world, and as international pressure grew, she was finally released on appeal on May 11, 2009.

Between Two Worlds is an incredible story of resilience and determination. It is also an eye-opening story of Iranian society from the inside. Saberi does an excellent job of weaving the story of Iranian citizens into her own story. Many books have been written of experiences in the harsh and brutal Evin prison and this book is among the best. Saberi is able to bring both an Iranian and Western perspective to the book.

One of the best features of this book is that among its dramatic tale it is respectful of the Iranian people. It shows the difference between the hard-liners in the government and the average citizen of Iran. Saberi also presents the stories of many women she met in the prison who are fighting to bring about change in Iran.

Between Two Worlds is an honest portrait of Iran and the clash between politics and religion. It gives a voice to the Iranian people, something that the government often tries to prevent the West from hearing. It is also an incredible inside look at Evin prison, where inmates are detained on false charges and denied the most basic of human rights. Saberi's story and the strength and wisdom she gained while imprisoned will touch and inspire every reader.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

"The Long Song" by Andrea Levy

Born to a field slave on the Amity sugar plantation in Jamaica, July spends her days with her mother in the cane fields. This is until a recently transplanted English widow decides to take eight-year-old July from her mother, move her into the great house, rename her Marguerite and make her a lady's maid. July spends her days taking care of her mistress and remains close to her throughout the Baptist War and eventually, the end of slavery. Even when granted her "freedom" July remains on the plantation with her mistress. But when her mistress leaves the island along with July's lover and young child, she finds herself on her own and starting over as a free woman.

The Long Song is an incredible tale of slavery in Jamaica. It encompasses all of the heartbreak, horrors, and tragedies of slavery and yet is a tale of love, determination and resilience. It is told from the perspective of July later in her life, recounting her story as her son has asked her to do. The book jumps between July's present and past but is easy to follow. In the present July speaks directly to the reader. In the past, any dialogue spoken by the slaves is done in Jamaican patois. However, this is pretty easy to understand for the non-Jamaican and only adds to the richness of the story.

At times it does feel as though some characters or emotions are not as fully developed as they could be. However, the book seems honest in its writing of the characters and rather than using the stereotypical master or slave, it gives a wider portrayal of those involved.

The best thing about this book is it is told in a believable, authentic Jamaican voice. It is written in the style of Jamaican story-telling and this gives the story a rich voice and truly brings it to life.