Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Whether they are fond memories or not, everyone remembers their first love. Erin Edwards certainly does. Back in high school she thought she would be with her boyfriend Nate Lawson forever. But after two years of dating their relationship came crashing to an end.
Erin thought she had moved on. She grew up, had a baby who blossomed into a beautiful teenager, and found a demanding but satisfying job as an event planner. Things were sailing along smoothly until her perfect boyfriend Rick proposed. It wasn't the proposal that worried her, it was the fact that the first thing she thought of was Nate. After all these years, what was he doing back in her mind?
Always Something There To Remind Me by Beth Harbison is a tale of teenage love and heartbreak, and what happens when you can't quite get over that first true love. As Erin navigates her adult life, her teenage memories come flooding back to her and she wonders if that intense, head over heels love she felt for Nate was real or just because it was her first. Things become even more complicated when she runs into Nate and he has a few surprises of her own.
The book alternates between the past and present. I found it a little strange that the time periods also alternated between first person and third person. I'm not sure what the point of it was and while it distracted me a bit at the beginning of the book, as it went on it wasn't such a big deal. The alternating of the time periods certainly added to the suspense and need to keep turning the page.
If you're a regular reader of my reviews you know that while I'm not a prude when it comes to sex in novels, I'm not fond of graphic sexual scenes. And this is where this book really turned me off. It wasn't so much the fact that the passages were "well-explained" it was that the passages involved Nate and Erin as teenagers. I get it, teenagers have sex, that's not what I'm complaining about. I just don't think the detail was needed as to what they were doing.
Overall this book is your standard chick lit with depth. It will tug at memories of your teenage years, your first love, and the spots that people hold in your heart and mind even when they're long gone from your life. If you've ever found yourself wondering what happened to your first love or can't get them out of your mind you will really enjoy this book.
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Saturday, November 26, 2011
Thursday, November 24, 2011
Jinx is a woman haunted by her past. Fourteen years ago her mother was brutally murdered in their East London home. She is consumed by the guilt of the part she played in her mothers death and she has let those feelings creep into every part of her life, including her relationship with her five year old son and her estranged husband.
But when Jinx thinks she has a handle on things, living the life she deserves, an old friend of her mothers appears on her doorstep out of nowhere. Lemon wants to talk to Jinx and revisit the events that led up to that horrible night. As they spend the next few days immersed in the past, Jinx realizes that this is her one and only chance to confess what she did. But Lemon also has something to confess and Jinx comes to see what really happened the night that changed her life.
A Cupboard Full of Coats by Yvette Edwards is a family drama full of jealousy, betrayal, violence and passion. Jumping off the page at you is the richness of the East London and West Indian cultures that play a pivotal role in the story. A Booker Prize long list selection, this book is also the debut novel from Edwards and it shows the promise that she has an author.
What I loved about the book was the theme of culture and its influence. West Indian culture plays an important role in the book as does the food. Mmm….the food. I love (and cook) Caribbean food so it's safe to say I was extremely hungry throughout the entire book! The characters dialogue is interspersed with Caribbean dialect but is still easy to understand for readers who are not familiar with it. Edwards paints a beautiful picture with the way she uses culture and food. She also introduces readers to the small island nation of Montserrat, one you don't read much about in literature.
The story of Jinx and her mother is an incredible one and I commend Edwards for tackling this subject. The story is heartbreaking, traumatic and gripping. However, I personally feel that the writing didn't quite live up to the story. As I began reading I was actually pretty surprised that it was a Booker nominee. However, it was still strong enough to make it a page-turner. It held my interest but didn't leave me wowed.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
These aren't your average children's stories. And if the title doesn't warn you of this, then the fact that they are written by Douglas Coupland and illustrated by Graham Roumieu should clue you in. With titles like "Donald the Incredibly Hostile Juice Box," Brandon the Action Figure with Issues," and "Kevin the Hobo Minivan with Extremely Low Morals" you will be wanting to keep this book far away from your children.
Highly Inappropriate Tales for Young People contains seven short stories with weird, crazy, scary, improbable and inappropriate characters, not just for children but for adults as well. Each story has brilliant and vivid drawings to accompany them and add to the inappropriateness.
Marketed as "deliciously wicked" and "completely hilarious" I personally found this book to be anything but. Highly inappropriate, sure, but the laughs were few and far between. Each story definitely pushes boundaries and the characters are definitely beyond expectations. If the only point of the story is to shock the reader, then it achieves that with it's absurdity. But for me, there was nothing else to it.
I just didn't get it. I've read only one of Coupland's other works, nothing of Roumieu's. Perhaps fans of theirs will enjoy this book. If you think this may be of interest to you, check out these favourable reviews:
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Thursday, November 17, 2011
When you set foot in a yoga studio you step into a place where everything in the world is left outside, where life becomes about slowing down and breathing in the moment. You instantly become a part of a community of diverse people all working toward the same goal. Yoga isn't just exercise, it's a life-changing practice.
Rain Mitchell's Tales From the Yoga Studio takes you inside this world and introduces you to the many people whose lives are touched by yoga. Lee is the studio owner who is being courted by a trendy yoga chain. Their offer is to good to be true and Lee struggles with letting down her faithful clients who have flocked to yoga at turning points in their lives.
I began a regular yoga practice six months ago so I instantly gravitated to this novel. Knowing how much it has changed my life and the strength I have found through it, I was thankful that someone wrote a book detailing the life changes and friendships that emerge from yoga centres.
This book is a quick, fun read that captures the yoga experience excellently. It isn't about those perfectly toned, extremely bendy yogi's who seem to be off in some other world (though it does include some hilarious extreme types), it's about real people with real problems who turn to yoga to help them get through. And that is what I greatly appreciated about this novel.
I felt that the book was lacking a bit of depth when it came to the characters, their development felt a bit rushed in order to get everything included and tied up by the end of the novel. As well the friendships that were formed between the ladies seemed a little out of the ordinary and I found it a bit difficult to believe. However, this is just the first book in a series so hopefully this will correct itself and in the books to come we'll be able to go deeper in these areas.
If you have your own your own yoga practice or even if you have just dabbled in it a bit you will enjoy Tales From the Yoga Studio. If you don't think yoga is for you, pick up this book anyway, as you will enjoy the theme of female friendship in a new setting as well as the easy read.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
I can't say enough good things about Jann Arden. Besides being a superstar Canadian singer, eight time Juno winner (think Canadian Grammy's), author and radio host, she is one incredibly cool and hilarious woman. So of course I had to pick up her memoir, Falling Backwards, as soon as I saw it.
In the book, Jann shares her pre-celebrity life with stories from her childhood, tales of teenage ups and downs, and the road to making it in the entertainment industry. The book is full of warmth, brilliant insight and moments that will make you laugh until it hurts. What is evident from the first to the last page is who Jann is as a person. She leaps right off the page at you and makes you feel as though you're sitting in a coffee shop chatting with a friend.
She will have you falling down laughing as she talks about her childhood exploits including her penchant for lighting matches, getting her head stuck in the milk chute and having her mother de-worm her using scotch tape. She will have you smiling with understanding as she fondly remembers the teachers who made a difference in her life, spending her summers outdoor with playmates from down the road, and the bad perm that characterizes many a persons high school years. And she will also have a tear or two falling down your cheek as she discusses her father's struggle with alcohol, her experiences with unwanted sexual advances, and her eldest brothers descent into alcohol and drug addiction culminating in a murder charge.
No matter what the subject matter, light or heavy, Jann recounts it all with brutal honesty. She's not looking for a pity party, she's sharing what she's learned from what life has given her, both the good and the bad. The lessons of Jann's life are lessons for all of us. Her family wasn't perfect (who's is?) and they had their struggles but through it all they remained committed to each other and it shows in the person that Jann is today.
Falling Backwards is easily one of my favourite books of the year. It will probably end up being my favourite. I read the book in one day because I just couldn't put it down. It's also the first book this year that I have given 5 stars to on GoodReads (I'm very picky about this designation.) Any Canadian will find this book enjoyable, Jann Arden is one of ours to be extremely proud of, whether you listen to her music or not. And you don't have to be Canadian or even know who Jann is to find the beauty in this book. Jann Arden lays everything bare on the page, she isn't ashamed to be unflinchingly honest, and she is one of the sassiest women out there. Do I really need to tell you to pick up this book?
Thank you to Random House of Canada for providing me with a copy of this book.
Monday, November 14, 2011
Friday, November 11, 2011
You most likely know Mindy Kaling from The Office, where she stars as Kelly Kapoor and writes several of the show's episodes. Even if you're not a fan of the show, you probably still recognize her from her film roles. If you don't know who she is, you must go find out. A good place to start? Her new book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns).
In essays, Kaling documents her life as the chubby child of immigrant professionals growing up in America, a university comedy actress portraying Ben Affleck in an Off-Broadway play and finally, having achieved her dream of becoming a comedy writer and actress. A quick read of this book will show you why she is so deserving of all the success she has had.
In the book she takes on topics such as karaoke etiquette, the rights and responsibilities of a best friend, romantic comedies, Irish exits, chest hair and comedy roasts among many, many other hilarious topics. I could totally relate to her revenge fantasies while jogging and wanting to know why men take so long to put on their shoes.
This is a fantastically funny book. The collection of essays present moments of seriousness as she shares how she made it in Hollywood, the struggles along the way and so many moments of hilarity as she shares the strange world of fame and her observations on everyday life.
Fans of Mindy Kaling's and The Office are definitely going to want to pick this up (I can't believe you haven't already!) If you don't fall into the above category you will still find this a funny, enjoyable read.
Thank you to Random House of Canada for providing me with a copy of this book.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
In 1940, war had spread throughout Europe. In Paris, a brilliant young jazz musician named Hiero was arrested by the Nazis. He was a German citizen and Black. Hiero was never heard from again.
Fifty years later his friend and fellow musician Sid, who was there the night he was arrested, is at the premiere of a documentary chronicling Hiero's life. The film spurs Sid to relive their time together, a time of brilliant music and culture but also of trouble, racism and war.
Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan is an engaging, stunning and original novel set in a time that continues to haunt our world. It is a unique story to emerge from the time period of World War two, giving a voice to to the many stateless people who were lost during that time. What makes this story so gripping is the way it is woven with the beauty and soul of the jazz scene the time.
The narrative is in an incredible language of the time, a sort of German-American slang, peppered with jazz and flavour. The use of this language really brings the story to life, makes the characters and their emotions jump off the page. Reading the book you can feel the relaxed, expressive energy of the characters while at the same time feeling their troubles and fear. It is a difficult thing to do, to take oppressed people and make the reader feel their joys despite their troubles, and Edugyan does this very well.
Half-Blood Blues was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize as well as the three major Canadian literary prizes. Just yesterday it was announced that the book won Canada's most prestigious prize, the Giller. This book is very deserving of all its praise. This is Esi Edugyan's second novel, and at thirty-four years of age, she has a promising career ahead of her. This was the book I predicted as the Giller winner and I strongly believe that Edugyan has opened wide a path to becoming one of Canada's great literary voices.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Monday, November 7, 2011
The year is 1851 and Charlie and Eli Sisters, the infamous Sisters Brothers, are travelling from Oregon to California to kill a man. This is what they do as professional killers. But this trip isn't going to be an easy one. Along the way there are many unsettling and violent experiences. And when they arrive in California they find that getting their man isn't going to be as easy as they thought.
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt is a fascinating Western taking place in a time when the prospect of gold was enough to make a man abandon all that he has and knows, and when honour and pride are important enough to lead to murder. The book is narrated by Eli, the more sensitive of the two brothers, and chronicles everything whether large or small on their journey.
I'm not sure how much of the book stays true to historical details but that doesn't matter in this story. In fact, it probably makes the book much more accessible to readers who don't consider themselves fans of the Western genre. What matters is the way the reader will be drawn into this distant time in which many of us can't conceive living in. I know for sure that I wouldn't have made it very far in this time and place.
Eli Sisters is a heart-warming character despite his profession. At first the reader can't help but favour Eli over his older brother Charlie but as the book goes on and we are offered glimpses into their lives before they became killers for hire, Charlie becomes a character whom you begin to feel a lot of emotion for. And speaking of emotion, this book will provide it all for you - humour, sadness, empathy, delight.
Written in short chapters, this book is an easy to read, intriguing novel that will transport you to a different time. Right from the start it pulls you in. The Sisters Brothers was not only nominated for the 2011 Man Booker Prize it was nominated for all three of the major Canadian literary prizes, and has already won one, the 2011 Rogers' Writers Trust. It is easy to see why this novel has been hailed as one of the best books of the year.
Friday, November 4, 2011
Gordon "Rank" Rankin, Jr. is the type of guy that people size up immediately upon meeting him. Larger than other kids his age, he comes across as your typical hockey enforcer and most people expect such behaviour from him. As much as he tries to fight this, it soon catches up to him and he finds himself in trouble, putting everything he has worked for in jeopardy.
But it isn't this incident that has Rank all riled up. Decades after a troubling run-in with the law changed his life, Rank discovers that a university friend has written a book based on his life. Painted as a goon and criminal, Rank is angry that his one time friend has betrayed him. And he is determined to set him straight.
The Antagonist by Lynn Coady is an intriguing, unique novel. It is written in the form of Rank's emails to his former friend Adam who has written a novel based on Rank's life. Rank is determined to correct Adam about his life, angry that Adam has left out some crucial biographical information that made him the young man he was - the death of his mother. However, through the course of the emails (never from Adam), Rank comes to see that the book is not really about him, and Rank manages to find a peace about his life as the reader comes to understand why Rank has spent his life feeling so tormented.
I was really impressed by the writing, how the narrative using emails really added to the story. Even as Rank took tangents and began talking about other parts of his life, my interest was kept. The format gives an interesting view of what could be just another story. The character of Rank is misunderstood and heart-wrenching, you can't help but be drawn to him and feel sorry for him. His emails are angry and honest, there is a complete realness to him that jumps from the page.
This book is a great read. It is a page-turner that will grab hold of you emotionally. It is a quick read but one that the reader will also find themselves invested in. Rank is a character that doesn't leave you once you have turned the last page.