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Showing posts from November, 2014

Month In Review

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If there was one major theme in my reading this month, it's Christmas!  I read quite a lot of festive Chick Lit and absolutely enjoyed it.  It definitely got me in a wintery mood, now I just need the snow to start falling!

Here is what I read in November, with Goodreads ratings:

One Hundred Christmas Proposals by Holly Martin *****
The Great Christmas Knit-off by Alexandra Brown *****
The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O'Neill ****
Christmas at the Beach Café by Lucy Diamond ****
Christmas Gifts at the Beach Café by Lucy Diamond ****
A Christmas to Remember by Jenny Hale ****
The Little Christmas Kitchen by Jenny Oliver ****
Christmas Wedding at the Gingerbread Café by Rebecca Raisin****
Pastoral by André Alexis ****
Waiting For the Man by Arjun Basu ***

Challenges
Canadian Book Challenge (3), Diversity in Books (2), TBR Pile (0), Classics Club (0)

What I'm Looking Forward to in December
December is always a month of odds and ends for me reading wise.  Books I bought that I…

"The Great Christmas Knit-Off" by Alexandra Brown

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After being left at the altar, Sybil threw herself into knitting to cope with her heartbreak.  Her house is full of knitted goodies but other than that, her life is a mess.  And she may just be responsible for a major mix-up at work.  What Sybil needs is to get away for a little bit.  
Just a few weeks before Christmas, she sets off for the charming village of Tindledale, where her best friend Cher lives.  And it is there that she discovers the delightful Hettie’s House of Haberdashery, a store dedicated to knitting and needlecraft.  But Hettie, the store’s owner, is struggling and her nephew is doing everything he can to put her in a home and close down the shop.
When Hettie gives Sybil an opportunity to display her beautifully hand-knitted Christmas jumpers in the shop, the community responds in a positive manner.  And the ladies soon realize that together, they may just be able to save Hettie’s store.  All it will take is a bit of community spirit and a whole lot of yarn.
The Great…

"Family Furnishings" by Alice Munro

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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, e…

Top Ten Tuesday: Winter TBR

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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 3.  Christmas Wedding at the Gingerbread Café - Rebecca Raisin 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 8.  A Christmas to Remember - Jenn…

"One Hundred Christmas Proposals" by Holly Martin

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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 b…

"A Christmas to Remember" by Jenny Hale

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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…

"Pastoral" by André Alexis

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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…

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

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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 I…

"The Little Christmas Kitchen" by Jenny Oliver

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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 ab…

"Christmas Wedding at the Gingerbread Café" by Rebecca Raisin

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The snow is falling in Ashford, Connecticut, the Christmas holidays are here, and the wedding of the year is just around the corner!  Lily, owner of the Gingerbread Café, is planning the day of her dreams, a Christmas Eve wedding to her incredible fiancé Damon.
Everything is falling right into place….until her mother-in-law arrives.  Lily can’t figure out why but for some reason, Olivia doesn’t seem to want this wedding to take place.  Already stressed out from planning for the big day and dealing with the bustling festive activity at her café, this is definitely something she doesn’t need.  Will Lily make it down the aisle with her sanity in tact?
Christmas Wedding at the Gingerbread Café is the deliciously festive third book in Rebecca Raisin’s Gingerbread Café series.  Set in a small village, this book is chock full of loveable characters, funny moments, and sweet treats.
I didn’t realize when I picked up this book that it is part of a series (I seem to be doing that a lot lately.)…

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters Who Should Get Their Own Book

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
So this is one list that was difficult for me to come up with ten but of which a few immediately jumped out at me.  Here are the characters that I wish would get their own books:
Eddie from the Carrington's series by Alexandra Brown - Eddie is the fabulous best friend every woman needs, especially at work.  And throughout the series we see him get this fab new life and become a reality star so I think that this entire journey should be chronicled in its own book.
All of the guests in The Guestbook by Holly Martin - In this book, Annie connects with the people who are staying in her guesthouse and they all share little bits of their stories.  It's a wonderful book but the problem is, we don't get the whole story!  So many backstories that could be written, especially of the young family so I want to read about them all.
Charmaine from A Cinderella Christmas by Holly Kingston - not only did I love this book an…

2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize

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Tonight, the Scotiabank Giller Prize will be awarded to one very deserving and talented Canadian writer.  This year, the prize has been super-sized, with each finalist earning $10,000 and the winner taking home $100,000.

Each year I try to read as many of the long listed books as I can before the winner is announced and this year has been my most successful thus far.  I managed to read 11 of the 12 long listed books, this includes all of the short listed books.  And what an incredible list it was.  Here are the nominees, the first 6 being the shortlisted books:

The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis
Tell by Frances Itani
Us Conductors by Sean Michaels
The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill
All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews
The Ever After of Ashwin Rao by Padma Viswanathan

Waiting For the Man by Arjun Basu
American Innovations by Rivka Galchen
Watch How We Walk by Jennifer Lovegrove
Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab by Shani Mootoo
Paradise and Elsewhere by Kathy Page
My October by Cl…

"The Girl Who Was Saturday Night" by Heather O'Neill

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Nineteen-year-old Nouschka Tremblay and her twin brother Nicolas spent their childhood in the Quebec limelight, the only children of famed singer and separatist, Étienne.  He would parade them on talk shows whenever his happy family was needed for his fame and then dumped with their decrepit grandfather Loulou before he disappeared.  For their entire lives, it was the twins against the world.
But now that they are on the cusp of adulthood, Étienne’s fame is gone and the twins are on their own.  Nicolas has turned to a life of petty crime, with every misstep being broadcast on the front pages of the tabloids.  But Nouschka is the one who stands a fighting chance.  She has enrolled in school and is quickly coming to the realization that if she is going to make it in this world, she may need to leave her brother behind.
The Girl Who Was Saturday Night, by Heather O’Neill, is a profound and touching novel about the price of fame and the bonds of family.  Set in Montreal in the days leadin…

"Tell" by Frances Itani

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It is just a few months after the Great War has ended and the people of Deseronto, Ontario are trying to put the pieces back together.  Kenan, a young soldier, confines himself to his house, damaged and disfigured from his time at the Front.  His wife, Tress, is struggling to adjust to the man who has returned and trying to help him deal with his trauma.  She turns to her Aunt Maggie for advice.
But Maggie and her husband, Am, have their own struggles.  An incident from the past lies unspoken between them.  When Maggie begins rehearsing with the Choral Society, she discovers a part of herself she thought was left in the past.  And as this happens, she draws closer to the Music Director, Lukas, a man who has just recently moved to town from Europe.
As these people go about their daily lives, struggling to find a new normal, they find themselves entwined with each other, and figuring out just what they will share and what they will hide from those who are closest to them.
Tell, by Franc…

"Waiting for the Man" by Arjun Basu

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Joe is a very successful advertising copywriter for a very successful New York company.  But despite his success, he is increasingly becoming disillusioned with his job and with life.  When a mysterious man begins to appear in his dreams and then he begins seeing this man on the streets, his life takes a very drastic turn.
The man tells Joe to wait.  And so he does.  Joe sits down on the front steps of his home and waits.  For instructions.  For direction.  He knows that this man will tell him to do, he just needs to find out what he wants him to do.
Soon, people begin to take notice of Joe.  Before he knows it, he’s the new viral sensation.  People are coming from all over the world to see Joe, companies are wanting to sponsor his “wait,” and he is everywhere in the media.  But he continues to wait.  And then the man finally gives him what he is waiting for - “go west.”
Waiting for the Man, by Arjun Basu, is a moving novel about a man who is disillusioned and struggling to find out i…

"Us Conductors" by Sean Michaels

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While locked in a room on a cargo ship journeying from America to Russia, Lev Termen, Russian scientist, inventor, and spy, writes a letter to the love of his life, Clara Rockmore.  Lev, the inventor of the theremin, is telling his life story to Clara, the finest theremin player in the world.  The two would never end up together, but Lev’s love for Clara would never die.
Through this letter, we learn of Lev’s early days as a scientist during the Bolshevik Revolution and the invention of the theremin, the musical instrument which would eventually take him to America in the 1930’s where he would ultimately help Russia spy on the US.  But life after he writes his letter to Clara takes an unfortunate turn.  
When Lev returns to Russia he is imprisoned in a Siberian gulag.  There he toils in harsh conditions doing difficult labour but his background and initiative help to turn things around.  Eventually he finds himself spying on Stalin, the man who gave him so much opportunity in the ear…

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Want to Reread

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
I don't re-read books.  It's not that I don't want to, it's just that there are so many books out there that I want to read, I never feel I have the time to read one for a second time.  It doesn't mean, however, that there aren't a bunch I would love to read again.  Here are the top ten:
1.  The Dating Mr. Darcy series by Katie Oliver (Prada and Prejudice, Love and Liability, Mansfield Lark)
2.  The Midnight Rose by Lucinda Riley
3.  Emancipation Day by Wayne Grady
4.  The Carrington's series by Alexandra Brown (Cupcakes at Carrington's, Christmas at Carrington's, Ice Creams at Carrington's)
5.  Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
6.  The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
7.  The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
8.  Everyone Worth Knowing by Lauren Weisberger
9.  The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella
and the only book that I actually do re-read
10.  1984

"American Innovations" by Rivka Galchen

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American Innovations is novelist Rivka Galchen’s first collection of short stories, a follow-up to her successful debut novel Atmospheric Disturbances.  A collection of stories that are slightly eccentric with a tinge of the supernatural, this book deals with the complexities of life with average people in unique situations.
A few of my favourites:
Once An Empire - a woman returns home late one night to watch all of her furniture climbing out the window.
The Lost Order - a woman receives a telephone call from a man trying to order Chinese food but doesn’t tell the man that she is not the restaurant.  This inability to tell the truth isn’t just with this stranger though.
Wild Berry Blue - the story of a 9 year old girl who develops her first feelings of love for a junkie who works at McDonalds.
Something I didn’t know about this collection because I was reading an e-copy and didn’t read the book jacket :
The tales in this groundbreaking collection are secretly in conversation with canonica…