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The 'B' List. A look at the beautiful things in life. This blog is devoted to that list. Join me on the journey, why don't you?

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Book of Tomorrow and Getting Over Mr. Right

I've had a productive week - 2 books read! The first, The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern is no joke, so far the best book read all summer (well, beside Marian Keyes). It stars sixteen year old Tamara Goodwin, who lived a life of privilege until her father's untimely death - she and her mum have to go and live with her uncle and aunt in a small hamlet for the summer, and their house is right next to the famous (and ruined) Kilsaney castle. There's not much for Tamara to do around there, until a travelling library appears one day, and Tamara takes out a book, a locked, leather-bounded journal. What turns out to be in those pages will change Tamara's life, and the way she looks at life, forever.

The book was amazing - it held me captive from start to finish, and Ahern's prose is sheer poetry. She's young too - 30 I think, and she's already written like 7 books. This is a strong recommendation - and since it takes place on summer holiday, a perfect summer read. Ahern has a way of making you (seriously) laugh out loud, and on the next page, bring tears to your eyes. This book also deals a lot with grief and the death of a loved one, but not in a preachy or inaccessible way - it's like having a friend to talk with.

Second, I read Getting Over Mr. Right by Chrissy Manby. I mentioned in a previous post how much I enjoyed her other book, Kate's Wedding, and so I thought I'd read another of hers. Ashleigh and Michael have been going together for a couple years, and she thinks he is ready for the next step (maybe not marriage, but moving in together) until she finds out she has been dumped. Publicly. On Facebook. The rest of the book takes Ashleigh through the five stages of grief (denial, bargaining, anger, depression, acceptance), in utterly funny ways. Through it all, she begins to find herself again, and ultimately comes out doing just fine. A really light read - very quick and fun, and probably very good if you've just come out of a break-up yourself (I could have used this book 4 or 5 years ago!)

It's the end of July, and I'm 2/3 of the way through my summer of chick lit. So far, I'm really enjoying how much I've been able to read, and it's been a great antidote to my academic reading and writing, or times when I just need to chill out.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Regency break and cutbacks to libraries!

This week I branched out slightly from chick lit, and sort of went on a Regency bender. For the longest time, I've been wanted to read the book What Would Jane Austen Do? (romantic fiction), as it involved traveling back in time to the Regency. And I found it at the library with no holds so I could get it right away. At the same time, I found Lost in Austen - this was a short series on t.v. a few years ago and that came immediately from the library as well.

So on Sunday I watched Lost in Austen from start to finish (it's about 3 hours) and it was fantastic. I've always dreamt about what it would be like to go back in time through a book, and that is what happens here (Amanda Price goes through Pride and Prejudice) and it is intriguing, heartwarming and humorous - in many cases I think they hit the nail on the head when it comes to what might happen should competing centuries clash. Case in point, when Amanda lets it slip how much money she has (in 21st century terms of course), the Regency inhabitants are momentarily startled (as that money would be worth a lot more in their time), but then a rumour starts her father was a fishmonger and thus her money is worthless as she has no class (they couldn't fathom how someone who didn't come from money or who didn't have a recognizable last name could make that much). Anyway - if you like Jane Austen at all, this is a great series to watch.

Going to the book, What would Jane Austen Do? follows Eleanor Pottinger through time as she meets a pair of friendly ghosts and agrees to go back in time to help them in exchange for meeting Jane Austen. She also meets some beefcake in the form of Lord Shermont, who has some secrets of his own. But when Eleanor goes back to the present, must she leave the past behind?

Overall the book was a pretty good read, especially the depictions of country society in England at that time, and the characters were like able and well-rounded. However, the end of the book was a bit of a let down, as I felt it tied up loose ends too quickly and was a bit silly - living happily ever after and all that. But it is more of a romance so I guess I should have expected it. The part at the end that really bothered me had really nothing much to do with the story - just a footnote, how one of the main characters had "his doctoral thesis published to critical acclaim, and he had even turned his research into three successful historical novels". All in the span of two years. Now, this is probably because I am working on my doctorate, and currently trying to publish a paper, but, quite simply, it 'aint that easy. But otherwise, the story was not bad.

Before I finish this week's post, on a separate note, if you are in the Toronto area and use the Toronto Public Library (as I do), consider signing this petition to keep city council from making cuts to the library that threatens to close branches or privatize operations. As of today, there are over 12, 000 signatures, and it is one cause I think is especially important, as any library system should never suffer from cutbacks in today's day and age. http://ourpubliclibrary.to/

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Summer and the City

This book has reinforced why Candace Bushnell is one of my favorite authors. Her writing is unique and refreshing, and her characters I can just swear are real, and that I'll bump into them if I ever go back to New York. I also love how she crafts the story, but doesn't push fake dialogue or unnecessary scenes on the reader so that it rings untrue - it is just like peeking into the lives of people for a moment, in this case, Carrie Bradshaw's summer after high school in New York City.

Carrie goes to New York in the late 1980's to attend the New School - a school for writers to hone their craft. Even though she is supposed to attend Brown in the fall, she tries to plot how she can stay in New York; once there, she realizes she is home. Helped along by a colourful cast of characters (most notably Samantha and Miranda) Carrie grows and defines herself, and what she wants to be, during this Summer in the City. I've noticed that not all of the little details from the Sex and the City t.v. series are the same (e.g. when/where Carrie loses her virginity; that she can actually cook and cook well in the novel version) but it doesn't matter, as this is Bushnell's vision and interpretation and it will probably be slightly different than how it was represented in the t.v. show.

It helps to have read the previous book, The Carrie Diaries, before this one, but it isn't absolutely necessary. Either way, read together they enhance each other, but can also stand on their own. I'm actually hoping for a third installment of this series, but wherever Bushnell decides to go next, I'll probably follow her. I don't know why I don't actually buy more of her books right away; I always seem to get them out of the library first, read them, love them and then buy them for my keeper shelf. However, there ain't much room on my shelves anymore, as anyone who knows me knows I have WAY too many books, so maybe the library is still a good idea. I've already got some more books on hold there that I'll pick up this week.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Wedding Girl

Keeping on the wedding theme, this week's read was The Wedding Girl by Madeleine Wickham (a.k.a Sophie Kinsella). I have read almost all of Sophie Kinsella's books (except the last few Shopaholic books) and I love her humorous writing style. I knew that she wrote books previously under her real name, Madeleine Wickham, but I've only ever read Cocktails for Three (and from what I remember it was pretty good). So I thought I'd try another one of hers.

The Wedding Girl focuses on Milly, who had a quickie marriage at 18, in order to help her friend stay in the country. But now she's 28, and with her friend long forgotten, she is ready to marry the love of her life, Simon. Although, with only a few days to go to the wedding, technically, she's still married. Isn't she?

What I had to get past initially is the feeling that Sophie Kinsella would be writing the novel; I guess this is why writers sometimes use pen names - to write in different styles and voices. The book is definitely enjoyable and a page-turner, but Madeleine writes a bit darker and is not as humorous as Sophie. Also, it was at times confusing jumping to and from the point of view's of different characters, but this did help keep a bit of a mystery about the story.

Overall, I would recommend this book; I have another one of Wickham's (The Gatecrasher) on my list as well. However, that will have to wait, as my library book came in(!!!!) so I've got a three-week loan on Summer and the City (sequel to the Carrie Diaries), which I mentioned in a post from last year, and absolutely loved.