Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Read Along for TKAM: Chapter 2 and 3

I totally forgot about Scout's first day at school and Miss. Caroline! I couldn't help but laugh out loud when Scout tried to tell her teacher that she can already read and write, and is told promptly it must be in a wrong way.  First graders are not supposed to come to school already knowing how to read and write and this makes Scout not want to go back to school as reading with Atticus is important to her.  I wonder what Miss. Caroline would think if she knew who taught Scout to write? Scout and her classmates also try to inform their new to Maycomb teacher about the Ewells and Cunninghams.  The way that Lee writes these scenes are both humourous and descriptive of the people in the scenes.

Sissy Spacek is not reading this like a play (doing different voices and with dramatic flair).  This way of reading actually works as Harper Lee's words on their own provide enough of drama and clear and distinct characters.

k (My Novelesque Life)

P.S. Tomorrow on the agenda after work is to watch "Lillies of the Field" as I read the book a few weeks ago, and wanted to see how the adaptation works.  So the TBT review(s) is posted today in hopes of getting to the movie and writing a post on Watch or Read?

TBT Review II: Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker

I really enjoyed Jennifer Chiaverini's Mrs Lincoln's Rival that I decided to see if there was another book was available on audio...

Written by Jennifer Chiaverini
Narrated by Christina Moore
2013, 368 Pages (14 Hours and 4 Minutes)
Genre: historical fiction, american history, politics, fashion

Rating: ★★★

Mrs. Lincoln dressmaker is Elizabeth "Lizzie" Keckley a freed slave with her own dress shop frequented by all the women in Washington high society. When Abraham Lincoln becomes President his wife Mary looks to Lizzie to dress her for every event. Mary is a nervous woman afraid that everyone is looking down on her and is easily agitated. Lizzie soon discovers more about the First Lady and become her confidant. In fact, Mary greatly relies on Lizzie.

First half of the novel is Lizzie getting to know Mary and is living a good life. When the President is assassinated Mary is left alone and becomes more unstable. Mary now has less pull and even less wealth but has not come to terms with it. Once her debts get out of control she asks Lizzie to help sell the dresses Lizzie made for her.

Mary's debts and instability brings Lizzie down as well. She leaves her shop to help Mary and loses revenue and clients. Her association with the former First Lady also brings her down socially. Lizzie seems to be Mary's maid more than a friend that she says she is. When Lizzie is pushed into writing a memoir she thinks this may restore her and Mary's reputation instead this breaks their friendship and Mary spirals down mentally.

Elizabeth "Lizzie" Keckley does in fact write a memoir and this seems to be the basis of this novel. Again Chiaverini gives a lot of information and some of it is not useful to the story. Rather it seems like a random trivia bit. I did not like this novel as much as Mrs. Lincoln's Rival. Mary and Lizzie were not overly likeable but also seemed to lack the engaging characteristics.  I did enjoy the audiobook format for Chiaverini's novels.  I feel like I take in more of the facts than I would reading it (as I totally would have skimmed...okay skipped).

k (My Novelesque Life) 

TBT Review: Mrs. Lincoln's Rival

I read Mrs. Lincoln's Rival by Jennifer Chiaverini in January 2014...

Written by Jennifer Chiaverini
Narrated by Christina Moore
2014; 435 Pages (17 Hours and 23 Minutes)
Genre: historical fiction, american history

(I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review).

Rating: ★★★★

Kate Chase Sprague is the eldest daughter of an ambitious lawyer, Salmon P. Chase who had his eye on the Presidential seat. With the death of his second wife, Kate becomes Salmon's hostess. She was at his side to attend parties and threw parties on his behalf. Kate saw herself as the First Lady as her father rose in politics. Unfortunately for Kate and Salmon, Abraham Lincoln would become President and thus putting Kate and Mary Todd Lincoln at odds.

While Kate liked Mr. Lincoln she felt snubbed by his dull wife. Mary on the other hand thought Kate was snubbing her because Kate felt she was the rightful First Lady. The two would try to outdo the other through proper social circles.

Kate then focuses on her own life and falls for an ambitious Rhode Island politician, William Sprague. The two political minds seem perfect for one another or do they?

I enjoyed this novel but it is a bit overly descriptive in the day to day activities I appreciated most of them as I did not know too much about Lincoln's presidency or the key players. At the time I found the main character, Kate Chase, to be arrogant but she did not turn me off reading the book. Other than Lincoln and Kate's younger sister most of the characters seemed unlikeable - very flawed but realistic characters. I really enjoyed listening to this novel in audiobook format.

k (My Novelesque Life)

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Read Along for TKAM: Chapter One

Last night I was ready for bed by ten o'clock.  I tried to finish my eBook (Friction by Sandra Brown - review to come in a later post) but my eyes would not stay open so I had to give up halfway into the novel.  As I snuggled under the covers, despite the heat, I pushed in my earbuds and clicked on "play".  Sissy Spacek's smooth slow drawl filled my ears...

"When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow. When it healed, and Jem’s fears of never being able to play football were assuaged, he was seldom self-conscious about his injury. His left arm was somewhat shorter than his right; when he stood or walked, the back of his hand was at right angles to his body, his thumb parallel to his thigh."
 Ah, these words floated into mind like my mom's food fills my belly.  A mere paragraph, minutes, into the story and I the images play in my mind like my own film.  I only finished the first chapter before sleep picked me up.  I am enjoying Scout's sassy and insightful view of Dill and Boo Radley and his family.  I forgot how the opening descriptions of Maycomb bring me right into the town.  Calpurnia, for me at least, has been a favourite character as her wisdom is just as important as Atticus  and often times more realistic.  I am hoping to listen to more than one chapter tonight but will definitely finish Chapter two!

For a list of characters please see the following link.

k (My Novelesque Life)

Sunday, 16 August 2015

First Read Along: To Kill a Mockingbird

As I stated in a previous post I will be doing a reread of To Kill a Mockingbird (written by Lee Harper) this month...and have asked you to join me in reading along.  I will be starting the book tomorrow (Sunday, August 16, 2015) with the first few chapters.  This time around, my third or fourth reread, I will be listening to the audiobook read by actress, Sissy Spacek.  I will discuss my progress every other day starting on Monday.  Please note, all comments are my own opinion, and my aim is to to give my thoughts and to entertain.

I first saw the movie in the fifth grade for an unit on Law and Justice.  At that time black and white movies made me fall asleep during the credits (jokes on 10 year old me because just 5 years later I would become an avid classic films fan and know trivia that would bring a tear to Robert Osbourne's eye), but this movie had me mesmerized from the opening shot.  In the dark classroom I started gaining a sense of future myself...what I believed in and that there was a world outside of my life.

That summer I would check out the book from the library and try and read a novel that was over my ten year old mind. I read the book literally and I was shocked that everyone wasn't treated equally, and that the truth and what was right was not clear to everyone.  I think it was then I shed my Leave to Beaver image of life and grasped a little bit of the "real" world.  Also, that year I read Iggy's House (by Judy Blume) and again this sense of other and segregating the other just tripped my mind.  It definitely made me look at things differently.  I started to learn at that age is that you have to pick your battles; and when you do pick them, fight like hell and stand your ground because it may just be you on your side.  It's a lesson that has served me well.  (My classmates never treated me any different than others and I was never bullied for any reasons so my battles have been very few.) 

The second time I would read this book (that I remember) is when I was attending University.  I was working at a bookstore and saw that the paperback was on sale (plus my 30% discount) and knew I was meant to read it again.  This time I read the book as Atticus would have advised - looking from each character's point of view.  Taking in the time, the norms, how people grew up and that it was the South I still could not shake the views of the ten year old me.  Looking at it historically I get the setting of time and place...and Lee's great words had me rah-rah over justice and fighting for what it is right even though it's the hardest decision.

My parents and my maternal grandmother instilled in me a lot of Atticus' views.  I was to look at a person for who they are inside and the decisions they make, instead of looking at a person's outside and judging things about them they cannot change. While I have not wanted to be a lawyer I've always felt this lean towards finding something that helps people...and I have done that, to some extent, in some of my jobs.  I treat people as I would want to be treated and try (though it can be difficult) to walk in another person's shoes.

 Now, in my thirties I wonder if that ten year old and 20-something will still appear when I read TKAM again.  I kind of hope so. I also hope you will join me in this journey and share your own thoughts and experiences.

k (My Novelesque Life)

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Tuesday Night Theatre Reviews

On Sunday, I went to see Les Miserables at one of my local theatre (Arts Club, Vancouver) with a good friend of mine, and tonight we both went and saw The Importance of Being Earnest (Beach House Theatre, White Rock).  The former was a novel (by the same name, written by Victor Hugo)  adapted to a musical and the latter is actually written as a play (written by Mr. Oscar Wilde).

Other than seeing the 2012 version of the film, I knew very little of the story of Les Miserables other than it is about a thief, a Revolution and it is set in France.  I enjoyed the film but was mesmerized by this version of the play.  The actors of the Arts Club were great with singing, acting and keeping me thoroughly entertained - whether it was laughing or crying.  The authentic looking costumes and beautiful sets just added to the experience.  I highly recommend Les Miserables if you are able to see it!

Mr. Oscar Wilde is  a genius of words and wit.  His quotes from prose, plays and other works are always so funny and true.  I love his writing and reading his plays.  A few years back the Arts Club did a version of The Importance of Being Earnest and I thought it was brilliant and worth Wilde's expectations.  So I was excited to see Beach House Theatre chose to do Wilde this year instead of their usual Shakespeare play.  I have been to a middle of the run and last show of the season and thought it would be cool to try opening night.  Unfortunately, they started out a bit rocky and not very confident in their roles.  Algernon was a bit overplayed and Lady Bracknell was flat and spoke to low.  In the second act they started to fall in place as Cecily  and Miss. Prism were introduced and their acting was spot on.  Actor, Paul Richardson, stole the show with his portrayal of Lane, Moulton and Grisby.   I think those with tickets for closing night will be very happy.

I am hoping to do at least ONE Bard on the Beach (Vancouver) later this month.  I will keep you posted!

k (MyNovelesque Life)

Monday, 10 August 2015

Mystery Monday: Memorable Memory Man

Looking for something a bit different in a suspense thriller....TRY

(Amos Decker: #1)
Written by David Baldacci
2015; 405 Pages
Genre: mystery, suspense, thriller, psychological
Rating: ★★★★1/2

(I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review).

Amos Decker has already died twice - once on the football field that ended his pro-ball career and left him with a side-effect of never being able to forget anything; then as a detective he comes home to find his wife, young daughter and brother-in-law brutally murdered and is unable to forget any details.  A year later, Amos is now working as a PI and a man has come forward to confess to the triple homicide.  Before the police can delve into this investigation there is a shooting at the school.  If Amos wants his family’s case solve he must join forces with his former partner and boss and use his special gift.
Drop Everything And Read -- Now!

Right off, I enjoyed The Memory Man’s unique plot.  It really made the suspense pop off the page along with good writing.  Amos is already a favourite character and I am so excited this will be a series.  Baldacci not only writes characters that are interesting, realistic, memorable but also characters that are endearing and familiar.  While you could read this as a standalone thriller suspense I doubt you will as Baldacci sets up the series and has you clamoring for more Amos Decker.  I am keeping this review short so that I do not reveal any spoilers.

k (My Novelesque Life)

Friday, 7 August 2015

TBT: Disturbed...just not enough

Written by Kevin O'Brien
2011, 528 Pages
Genre: mystery, suspense, thriller

Rating: ★★★

Molly is newly married to a divorced man with two children still living in the home his ex decorated. When her stepson's guidance counsellor is murdered things start to come apart for everyone living in the cul-de-scac. Secrets, lies and revenge are all in play while there is also a serial killer loose killing families who live in cul-de-sacs.

First of I liked this novel but found much wrong with it at the same time. After finishing the novel I still have no clue what

the prologue was supposed to explain to me. After a few chapters I figured out the murderer but the author was clever enough to keep me intrigued and reading. Molly was a but annoying as she always seemed steps behind everything in her life, but I liked her stepson, Chris as a character. 

I am finding myself debating on whether to read any more of O'Brien's books.

k (My Novelesque Life) 

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Review: No One Needs to Know - Really!

Written by Kevin O'Brien
2015; 419 Pages 
Genre: mystery, suspense, thriller

(I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest reviw).

Rating: ★★★ 

The first book I finished for August 2015 turned out to be a bit disappointing.  No One Needs to Know is a suspense thriller written by Seattle writer Kevin O'Brien. The premise of the novel was right up my alley, but the execution of the plot fell a bit flat.

First, we meet Laurie Trotter - a widowed single mother working as a cook/waitress at the local diner, has a stalker.  Not just any stalker, but the man who she had a brief fling with 2 years ago, while her husband was off fighting for his family and country.  To escape the situation she moves to Seattle and manages to get a catering job with Cheryl.  Cheryl, meantime, has lost her former employee to an explosion of her food truck that was really not an accident.  Insert a hitwoman, cult leader and a very large set of secondary characters that don't always fit in the plot. Oh, and did I mention the Holbrooks? They come later and I'm still wondering about them.

In the 1970s an actress, her musician husband, son and nanny are brutally murdered by a cult that later commits mass suicide.  (Nope, not the Manson Family.) Now, some 40 years later a writer puts out a screenplay about the "truth" behind the murders that will "blow the lid off" everything!  The movie, like many other horror films, is fraught with bad luck and Laurie is starting to believe she may have put herself, and young son, further in danger.

I don't think this was a horrible book but it seemed to lack a bit cohesion and ran on a bit too long.  We are given so many suspects and red herrings that when we get to the climax we already have it figured out.  Too many characters, story lines and uneven pacing often had me putting down the book to try and figure out what's happening (and so I lost a bit of the scary thriller and edge of your seat suspense feeling). I just felt by 2/3 of the book I didn't care as there was too much going on but enough loose ties beginning to come together. I do like what O'Brien was trying to do (cold case mystery tying in with the present) and enjoyed parts of the novel where he was able to create suspense. 

Honestly, for great West Coast suspense I would recommend a Rick Mofina novel. 

k (My Novelesque Life)

Please Read Along!

Tonight I have been working on my August reading plan and I noticed that:

1. My monthly reading plan is the size of other people's yearly reading plan

2. I have the most eclectic taste - from picture books to history to suspense, etc

3. I really should be smarter than I feel I am

4. I am glad I own a library card and have generous friends

5. I should probably be reading right now if I want to even make a dent in that list.

I would post my entire reading plan BUT I change it so many times that the initial list only partly resembles the finished reading list.  I have this tendency...need to rebel against this list and read whatever moves me (or what cover looks pretty at the moment). One of my goals in blogging about books is sticking a little more closely to the monthly reading plan.

So here is what I HAVE to read:

For my face to face Book Club  (meeting in late August or early September) I have to read:
-Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

 I am determined to catch up in the In Death series (with the audiobooks I have my hands on so far) and am currently listening to:
-Festive in Death (Book 49) JD Robb

I want to reread TKAM before I read the "newest" GSAW as do some others so am leading a discussion for a monthly read (for a group on GR I co-moderate) and am going to listen to Sissy Spacek narrate:
-To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I am hoping that I can squeeze in another audiobook for another monthly read (for another group on GR) :
-Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury
AND, also for that same group, read:
-The Prime of Miss. Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

Also, for challenges on GR (more on my challenges later this week!) I hope to read:
-Lilies of the Field by William E. Barrett
-Kill For Me (Book 9) Karen Rose-Gone Missing (Book 4) Linda Castillo

Then there are books I have asked or been asked to review (usually via NetGalley):
-No One Needs to Know by Kevin O’Brien (read and review to come!)
-Jars of Hope by Jennifer Roy
-Friction by Sandra Brown-Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy by Dinty W. Moore
-My Family Tree and Me by Dušan Petričić -Broken Promise (Book 1) Linwood Barclay
-The Escape by Hannah Jayne

Last, but certainly not the least, are my library books.  Books I have picked up or put holds on because the cover, description or author spoke to my book soul.  This is the list, due to time orbad first impression, often does not get finished:

-Alfred Hitchcock: The Man Who Knew Too Much by Michael Woods
-Swerve by Vicki Pettersson
-The Little Free Library Book: Take a Book Return a Book by Margaret Aldrich
-Murder Stone by Charles Todd-Sisters in the Wilderness: The Lives of Susanna Moosie and Catherine Parr Traill by Charlotte Gray
-Our Auntie Rosa: The Family of Rosa Parks Remembers Her Life and Lessons

How do I even read 10% of this list? Stay tuned and find out!

For those with book clubs and kids please watch for special posts for you!

k (My Novelesque Life)

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

What about the badges?

Brownie badge
When I was in the first grade I (read: my mom made me) joined the Brownies (Canada) and the best thing ever was earning badges.  I still have my Brownie sash with my badges and have to admit I do regret not trying to earn more.  I did have the personality that follows the Brownie honour; though I hated camping (as being outdoors for me meant reading on the deck with lemonade, bug repellent and indoor plumbing), had a fear of all animals (as you can't talk them down with pleading and little girl tears) and was too shy for fundraising (ie: my dad would sell my cookies at work, while my mom sold the rest to family).   Since then most of the badges I have earned have been for participating in sports (ie: showing up) as speed reading still hasn't been accepted as a sports activity (rapid eye movement and straining of the brain, I guess are still unappreciated).

A few years ago I joined NetGalley (NG)  (a service that provides ARCs to "professional readers and helps promote new and upcoming titles. Professional readers refers to reviewers, media, journalists, bloggers, librarians, booksellers and educators") that has helped me try new books and let other readers know what I think.  I believe a year or so ago they provided/rewarded many of their professional readers with badges.  I am lucky to have been awarded 3 out of 4 badges, plus a badge for a 2015 challenge.

So what exactly is on my reader sash? I am glad you asked!

My first badge - and is basically a participation badge (ie: signing up) - was provided to me so I may let my readers know that I am a professional reader.  I am reading - advanced, new or reissued- books in exchange for my honest review.  You may think that I may feel obligated to give positive reviews as I am getting FREE books to read.  The Brownie in me will never allow me to write a favourable review in exchange for free books.  I will always give my honest opinion on a book (and try to give you enough examples on why I feel that away about a book) so you can take that review to make your own decision.

The first badge I earned was my Frequently Auto-Approved badge.  Auto-Approved is when a publisher allows a reviewer to select any of their books that are available on NG.  The badge is awarded when a reviewer has been Auto-Approved by four or more publishers.

The second badge I earned was my Top Reviewer badge.  This badge is awarded to reviewers whose reviews have been published by the publishers (you must have at least three reviews published for this badge).

My goal for 2016 is to earn my 80% badge.  To earn this I have to at least complete 80% of reviews.  From all the books I have been approved to read I have to review 80% of those. ( I am at the 60% range)

Lastly, the badge for Book Advocate 2015 was given out this month to those who are serious about advocating books through reviews, and in having this badge you express your pride in books and reading. More on this later (other than accepting this challenge I have not delved into this challenge).

 I want to thank all of you have supported me by just reading my blog and reviews so that I can continue to do what I love - read and write :)

k (My Novelesque Life)

Monday, 3 August 2015

Happy August!

I am sorry for not posting in a few days but we suffered a sudden and very unexpected death in our family.  My cousin-in-law was a private person so I will keep to her wishes.  I will just say that this has left me a bit flustered and angry on my niece's behalf for losing her mother so young. On my mom's side, for our immediate family, we have not lost anyone (other than my grandma a few years ago due to dementia and before her our grandfather when my mom was only twelve) or even had a divorce.  We've been lucky but also left us unprepared.

I will return on Monday, August 3, with my regular blog.  Thank you for your patience and understanding.

k (My Novelesque Life)