March 16, 2016

Short & Sweet: The Silver Linings Playbook, The Undomestic Goddess, and Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore (Adult)

These are just my Goodreads reactions, since I don't know if/when I will actually get around to writing an actual review of them. But you get a general idea of what I thought of them :)

The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

Probably 2~2.5 stars. This book was approximately 80% football (watching live, watching on TV, talking about...) and 20% actually interesting stuff. Definitely a case of 'the movie was better', at least for me.

Below is literally every Goodreads status update I posted while reading this book. As you can see, there was a pattern:

I don't think anything more needs to be said.

The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella

A light, enjoyable read that gave me a few chuckles. Samantha's exploits in the kitchen (and other housekeeper domains) are highly entertaining, as is watching while she tries to bluff her way through things. Plus, I totally related to her ineptitude at all things domestic! This book kind of reminded me of a cross between the 1980s movies Maid to Order and Baby Boom :)

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Probably around 3.5 stars. I quite enjoyed the first half of it, but found the second half dragged somewhat and wasn't keeping my interest as well. I did really like Clay's voice, and there were some very funny lines in here too.

March 15, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Spring TBR (+ A Poll!)

The Top Ten Tuesday meme is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. This week's topic is books on our spring TBR list.

So guess what? I am on spring break right now, which means I will actually have some time for reading! Hopefully I'll get to some of the books on this list — in fact, I've created a poll at the end for you guys to vote for your top book from this list that you recommend I read...because there are a lot of books and sadly I'm not going to get to all of them over the break.

1.) Deathsworn by Leah Cypess

2.) Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

3.) Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

4.) The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

5.) All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

6.) Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers (I read & enjoyed the first in the series)

7.) Outpost by Ann Aguirre (ditto)

8.) A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty

9.) Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

10.) The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

 These are literally waiting on my shelves to be picked up...which should I crack open first? Vote! (Try to just pick ONE, but if you really can't decide, you can pick your top two :P)

February 19, 2016

A Call for Book Recs!

Hey everyone,

Sorry I have been totally MIA on the blog lately! I started a new job about a month ago and it's been taking up all my time and energy. Hopefully once I get used to the pace of things I'll have a bit more time for blogging.

In the meantime, this post is actually related to my work... in that I need to find a book (or even better, a series) that a girl in Grade 5 who reads at about a Grade 2 level would enjoy. I'd like the interest level of the book to be for her age (e.g. the characters in the book are in Grade 4/5/6-ish) but the reading level should be no higher than Grade 3.

It's a bit of a tricky conundrum so I am turning to you, dear readers! ;P Any suggestions?

January 19, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Recently Added To My TBR List

The Top Ten Tuesday meme is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. This week's topic is books we recently added to our TBR list. It's an easy one this week! 

The 10 most recent books I added to my to-read Goodreads shelf, from most to least recent:

1.) Caraval by Stephanie Garber — no cover, but here's part of the blurb (from Goodreads): 

"An original world. A legendary competition. A mesmerizing romance. An unbreakable bond between two sisters.

Welcome to Caraval—the spell-casting first book in a fantasy series that’s perfect for fans of Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series and The Night Circus.

Before you enter the world of Caraval, you must remember that it’s all a game . . .

2.) The Cresswell Plot by Eliza Wass — this one sounds like a creepy YA psychological thriller, involving some sort of cult-like family?


3.) Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler — this is an adult contemporary retelling of The Taming of the Shrew, which I discovered in a WoW post at Through Raspberry-Coloured Glasses.


4.) An Inheritance of Ashes by Leah Bobet – I added this one because I read Cecelia's awesome review and it convinced me!

5.) The Sweet, Terrible, Glorious Year I Truly, Completely, Lost It by Lisa Shanahan — I actually have a copy of this one (which I still need to read), but somehow it hadn't gotten added to my Goodreads until the other day.

6.) Beside Myself by Ann Morgan — another psychological thriller, but this one's adult. Plus it involves twins, which are one of the bookish elements that float my boat


7.) The Midnight Spy by Kiki Hamilton — I read The Faerie Ring a few years ago, but although I enjoyed it for the most part, I haven't continued with the series. (I would like to check out the next book at some point.) This is the first book in a new series, which looks to be a fantasy set in another world.


8.) Replica by Lauren Oliver — No cover yet, but here's the Goodreads blurb: "Replica, the first of the two books, tells the story of Lyra, known by the number 24, a replica – human model – who was born, raised, and observed in a clandestine research facility called the Haven Institute. When Lyra escapes from Haven and meets Gemma, a stranger on a quest of her own, earth-shattering secrets are revealed."

9.) The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary — I don't tend to read much MG, but this one caught my eye because it's a fantasy set in Japan. And I couldn't really say no to that, could I?


10.)  Life After Life by Kate Atkinson — this is an adult novel involving reincarnation of the protagonist. It seems to get very mixed reactions, so if/when I read it, we'll see which side I fall on.


January 18, 2016

Bitter Greens: A Panoramic Review (Adult)

16595208"A Library Journal Best Book of 2014: Historical Fiction

The amazing power and truth of the Rapunzel fairy tale comes alive for the first time in this breathtaking tale of desire, black magic and the redemptive power of love

French novelist Charlotte-Rose de la Force has been banished from the court of Versailles by the Sun King, Louis XIV, after a series of scandalous love affairs. At the convent, she is comforted by an old nun, Sœur Seraphina, who tells her the tale of a young girl who, a hundred years earlier, is sold by her parents for a handful of bitter greens...

After Margherita's father steals parsley from the walled garden of the courtesan Selena Leonelli, he is threatened with having both hands cut off, unless he and his wife relinquish their precious little girl. Selena is the famous red-haired muse of the artist Tiziano, first painted by him in 1512 and still inspiring him at the time of his death. She is at the center of Renaissance life in Venice, a world of beauty and danger, seduction and betrayal, love and superstition.

Locked away in a tower, Margherita sings in the hope that someone will hear her. One day, a young man does.

Award-winning author Kate Forsyth braids together the stories of Margherita, Selena, and Charlotte-Rose, the woman who penned Rapunzel as we now know it, to create what is a sumptuous historical novel, an enchanting fairy tale retelling, and a loving tribute to the imagination of one remarkable woman.
" (from Goodreads)
Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

My reaction: I really enjoyed this one. This is essentially the Rapunzel fairytale embedded within the narrative of the writer, Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de la Force, who is telling how she came to hear the story of Rapunzel (and Charlotte-Rose really is one of the authors of the versions of Rapunzel we know today). I definitely found the Rapunzel portion more interesting overall; the writer Charlotte-Rose's story involved a lot of gossip in the Sun King's court and trying to keep track of so many people who are related to each other in various ways (which I mostly failed at). A list of characters to refer to would have been very helpful!

Best aspect: the way the writing transports the reader into the historical setting. The portrayal of 17th-century French society feels very real — the fashions, the behaviour. It was quite educational, too, learning about what it was like to live in the Sun King's court, and about the persecution of Huguenots that happened at that time. (And also a little eye-opening to discover how much time the Sun King spent in...amorous relations with his mistresses. When he wasn't banishing Huguenots or shutting them up in nunneries, of course.) 

On the fairytale side of things, I very much appreciated getting the POV not just of the Rapunzel character, but also a snippet of her mother's story, as well as a richly developed backstory for the Mother Gothel character. 
If I could change something... I'd explain a few of the plot points better. There were some that just seemed too convenient, brushed off with a half-hearted attempt at explanation that didn't satisfy me (spoilers, highlight to read: like when Margherita could suddenly perform magic, explained away because she prayed to the Goddess, and so conveniently snoods were turning into nets and what have you) or stretching the bounds of credulity until they snapped (spoilers: Margherita not realizing she was pregnant — with TWINS — until she was giving birth??? Seriously? And the witch didn't realize either???). 

There was also a central element in the original Rapunzel tale (spoiler: Rapunzel's healing tears) that became almost an afterthought in this retelling, and I didn't like the way that it was done here. Maybe the author was trying to turn this element into something more realistic, but it just ended up making both Margherita, and especially Lucio, look foolish. Spoilers: his eyes were dried shut with blood, so he thought he was blind, and so did Margherita when she saw him (but really he just needed to wet his eyes so that he could open them again). I mean... huh?

If you haven't read it: and you're looking for a mature, dark, historical take on Rapunzel, you're going to want to read Bitter Greens.  

If you have read it: what did you think of the reveal at the end? I wasn't surprised since it had crossed my mind, but I still liked it because it made sense in connecting the narratives together. I also enjoyed the allusion to another version of Rapunzel and its author, and how Forsyth fit that into her retelling. 

Just one more thing I wanted to mention: I thought one of the ending scenes — what really should have been a higher-tension moment — fell short. In particular, I just didn't buy the change that happened in a certain character; it happened too quickly and without (to my mind) sufficient motivation. Spoilers: Selena suddenly repents, and I wish we had seen this from her perspective; it would've helped to have been inside her head, because as it was, I didn't understand what was triggering this apparent change of heart, and so I had a hard time believing it was genuine. Not to mention, Margherita and Lucio let her go and blithely expected she wouldn't do any more nasty stuff (without any guarantee), which hardly seems smart. 

Final verdict: 4 shooting stars. A captivating, engrossing retelling and expansion of the Rapunzel tale that made it feel very real to me. In particular, I thought it was a neat premise to go about giving a possible explanation for the mystery of how a particular writer came to pen the fairytale that we all know so well (or at least, think we do...). 

I'm definitely going to be looking into other books by Kate Forsyth! (In particular, she has written a Beauty & the Beast retelling. I know I'm going to try to get my hands on that one!) 

Note: this is an adult novel, and contains mature content (including explicit sexual and violent content). 

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