Tuesday, July 22, 2014

LIST: Books I'm very excited about

Remember Gods Behaving Badly?

 I read this back in 2008 and it was a great read - the first time I kind of 'got' how the Greek gods worked, and why they were fun. It was a funny, great book. Well, Marie Phillips has a new book coming out, The Table of Less Valued Knights and I (and Random House) am very excited.  It sounds like the same kind of fun, easy read, but with Arthur, or some version of the knights. Maybe Monty Python-esque? Merely a flesh wound!

For even more fun, there is even a Less Valued Knight Name Generator. 

You may now refer to me as Sir Flarn Deathstorm, Ruiner of Maps.

Other upcoming books that I am very excited about - so excited, I might even buy the hard-cover copy when they come out on September 2. Both on the same date? That's not fair!

 Sarah Waters - The Paying Guest

1920s London.
After WW1.
The changing class structure.

As a Downton Abbey fan, I'd be excited by the setting, but it's Sarah Waters! Fingersmith, The Little Stranger, Night Watch

It's already mentioned as a Booker Prize candidate.

Tana French - The Secret Place

This series, The Dublin Murder Squad has been getting better and better with each book. The main character changes in each book but is connected some how to a previous cop.

In the Woods
The Likeness
Faithful Place
Broken Harbour

One of my favourite mystery series on the go.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

BOOK: Longbourn by Jo Baker

Longbourn by Jo Baker, 331 pages

review copy from Random House Canada

I was telling my (Pride & Prejudice loving) friend I had this book I was looking forward to for the summer, called Longbourn. She stopped, looked at me with a frisson of recognition, and said, "Who lives at Longbourn?" She knew it was a  literature reference to a house, the house where Elizabeth Bennett lived. It only took a minute, but she was as hooked by the premise as I was. And I'm not even a P&P freak like her.

I wanted a great book to start the summer, and it was as wonderful as I'd hoped. Historical fiction, with the Pride and Prejudice plot happening parallel, and a dear love story. Upstairs, Downstairs, and Downton Abbey have shown the fascination for both the aristocrats and the servants and this book gives us a look at the lives below Lizzie and Jane and Lydia. Mrs Bennett is as tiring for the servants as you could imagine; Wickham even more of an ass.

Sarah is the orphaned housegirl, James arrives as the mysterious footman, but there is definitely more to his story than is originally let on. I liked how Baker structured the book; two thirds in the now, and then the background history of the servants and how they ended up where they did, especially James. The characters of Sarah and James, (and the black footman, Ptolemy Bingley) were well developed, and showed the frustration of, while  not being a slave, having very few options for living or loving.

The characters and plot are compelling enough that I don't think you would have to have read Pride and Prejudice to enjoy this on its own as historical fiction, but naturally, having the background of Lizzie and Mr Darcy adds another level of enjoyment. I had been picking away at the book for a few weeks, but last night I reached the point of no return and could not put it down. I had to read to the end. And now I must run this wonderful book out to my friend. She's going to love it!

Friday, July 18, 2014

BOOK: The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan (12 h, 16 min)

Three sisters in 1880s Paris trying to survive. Their father has died, the mother is a laundress (when she isn't drunk). Antoinette is seventeen and trying to look after her younger sisters, but she also wants a life and is drawn to a bad fellow, Emil. She gets her sisters into the Paris Opera to study ballet, even after she herself got kicked out. Marie, who alternates narrating with Antoinette, gets noticed by Edgar Degas and begins to pose for him. Marie was the real-life model for the statuette, 'Little Dancer Aged Fourteen.'

It's a rough world for the girls in Paris, and many bad things happen to them - the brothels, jails, taverns, and men who 'support' the petit-rats, ballet dancers in training. Listening, I couldn't determine where the story was going for a long time; just survival and the girls. Eventually, boyfriend Emil gets charged with some crimes and this trial comes between the sisters. The quote from Le Figaro sums it up "No social being is less protected than the young Parisian girl -- by laws, regulations, and social customs."

Much art work is referenced in this well researched book. In fact, this page has a picture of each piece of art mentioned, and the quote that goes with it. It's things like this, even after the fact, that can improve a book's experience for me. I didn't realize that many of the characters are based on real people, including the van Goethem sisters, and Emil and his buddy who are put on trial. There is another level of the book which references a theory at the time that physiology and facial features determined a person's destiny. Between the art incorporated, the real life characters, the city of Paris in the 1880s as a character, the ballet experience, and the specific sisters' relationship, this was a great read for Paris in July.

Monday, July 14, 2014

CHALLENGE: Cook it Up!

Here's Trish's big idea: (taken from Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity)

What: Pull those cookbooks off the shelves–you know, the ones with pages you can turn–and use them! You can outline how you’d like to proceed–one cookbook a month? Or three recipes a month from any cookbook? Or even check out new cookbooks from the library. You make the rules!
When: I will put up a linky on the first Saturday of the month (I meant for this post to publish last Saturday…). Write your post whenever you’d like (and if you’d like), but don’t forget to come link up.
Where/How: Presumably your blogs but no worries if you’d rather just post on twitter or instagram (Tag me! @TriniCapini). Or just come back here at the beginning of the month and comment. I think you’ll have better luck if you blog but I also don’t want anyone to stress.
Why: Because if you’re like me, you have a giant stack of cookbooks that are collecting dust. I’m bad about searching the internet for a specific recipe rather than looking at my own cookbooks. Let’s put our cookbooks to use!

This sounds like a grand idea, and corresponds well with my 'summer is when I try to do things since I don't have to correct and I got a good night's sleep'. I don't have any great plan, but we moved to a new house in April, and now have a lovely big kitchen, with a place for everything, and even still some empty cupboards in the kitchen, it's that big! I have many lovely cookbooks, so I am just going to try to open some up and make some things over the summer.

I even started today.

I decided I wanted to make fajitas for supper tonight and got out my Mexican Recipes book by Better Homes and Gardens. I keep the marinade recipe that I cut out of the newspaper in the front. While browsing, I decided to make guacamole for the first time. Blend that avacado up in my fake magic bullet! Cool. (I'm a new eater of avacado.)

Since this was early this morning I made these plans (early around here is 11 am - we enjoy our summer), I thought I'd try out the new griddle my husband bought last week and make my own tortillas. We bought the griddle because we have lots of storage space and it even took me a few minutes to even find where my husband put it away.

While most of my tortillas look more like Africa than a circle, I felt I was getting my rolling technique by the last one. They tasted fine, even though I mixed up by baking soda and powder so ended up putting both in. I'd definitely make both guacamole and the tortillas again.

So, two new recipes and I used two different appliances. Score.

The only thing missing from this lovely supper was a homemade margarita. Next time.

Here's a few pictures from my new kitchen. I can't seem to get a good picture of the sink in the corner because of the light from the windows. Another time.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

CHALLENGE: Canadian Book Challenge 8

First time I didn't complete the Canadian Book Challenge! I read 11 (all of which were excellent!) and reviewed six. I did manage to read one Douglas Coupland, and doubled up on Margaret Atwood. New last year was the number of audiobooks, which I am finding a great way to get some more reading (and housekeeping) done. (As long as I get posted before Independence Day, I'm not late!)

Read for CBC 7
1.  Indian Horse - Richard Wagamese
2.  The Woman Upstairs - Claire Messud (audiobook)
3.  Cockroach - Rawi Hage
4.  How the Light Gets In - Louise Penny (audiobook)
5. Dead in Their Vaulted Arches - Alan Bradley
6. The Bear - Claire Cameron
7. An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth - Chris Hadfield
8. The Penelopiad - Margaret Atwood
9. MaddAddam - Margaret Atwood (audiobook)
10. Highly Inappropriate Tales for Young People - Douglas Coupland
11. The Silent Wife - ASA Harrison (audiobook)

Same rules as last year: read at least 13 books, by or about Canadians, and review them, linking up at The Book Mine Set. I shall try again, with the exact same list of books I had last year.

Pool of Books (left over from last year or the year before)
Microserfs by Douglas Coupland
Diamond Dreams by Stephen Brunt
Getting Over Edgar by Joan Barfoot
The Age of Longing by Richard B Wright
The Republic of Love by Carol Shields
 Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro
 The Fire-Dwellers by Margaret Laurence
 Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel
 In the Skin of the Lion by Michael Ondaatje

1. The Painted Girls - Cathy Marie Buchanan (audiobook)
2. Frog Music - Emma Donaghue
3. Road Ends - Mary Lawson
4. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery (audiobook)
5. Anne of Avonlea - LM Montgomery (audiobook)
6. Anne of the Island - LM Montgomery (audiobook)
7. The Other Side of the Bridge - Mary Lawson
8. The Long Way Home - Louise Penny (audiobook)
9. Station Eleven - Emily St John Mandel
10. Walt - Russell Wangersky
11. What We All Long For - Dionne Brand
12. Strange Heaven - Lynn Coady
13. Lives of Girls and Women - Alice Munro
14. Anne's House of Dreams - LM Montgomery (audiobook)
15. As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust - Alan Bradley (audiobook)
16. I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend - Martin Short (audiobook)