Friday, September 30, 2016

At The Water's Edge

I didn't think I was going to like this book...but I LOVED it!  And I think you willtoo!

At the Water's Edge Book Review
Amazon |  Book Depository
Summary (via Goodreads): After embarrassing themselves at the social event of the year in high society Philadelphia on New Year’s Eve of 1942, Maddie and Ellis Hyde are cut off financially by Ellis’s father, a former army Colonel who is already embarrassed by his son’s inability to serve in WWII due to his being colorblind. 

To Maddie’s horror, Ellis decides that the only way to regain his father’s favor is to succeed in a venture his father attempted and very publicly failed at: he will hunt the famous Loch Ness monster and when he finds it he will restore his father’s name and return to his father’s good graces (and pocketbook). Joined by their friend Hank, a wealthy socialite, the three make their way to Scotland in the midst of war. 

Each day the two men go off to hunt the monster, while another monster, Hitler, is devastating Europe. And Maddie, now alone in a foreign country, must begin to figure out who she is and what she wants. 

The novel tells of Maddie’s social awakening: to the harsh realities of life, to the beauties of nature, to a connection with forces larger than herself, to female friendship, and finally, to love.



Did you know that the photo above turned out to be deemed an elaborate hoax
just like the one that Ellis' father carried out?
Review (5/5 Stars): I think the mark of a good book is when you can't stop thinking about the characters, long after you've finished reading the book. Maddie and her Scottish friends pop into my head every few hours and then I'm suddenly sad because I remember that I finished the book and it's time for me to move on.

Yes, Ellis and Hank are horrible people that you will hate, but that's what they're there for. The story grows, the characters learn and grow, there are twists and turns, there's forbidden romance, and even a little paranormal stuff thrown in for good measure.

I listened to the audio version and it was wonderfully performed. All of the accents brought each of the characters to life so vividly and I could see the entire novel play out before my eyes.

I usually save 5 stars for books that are life changing in some way. I'd prefer a 4.5 but don't mind bumping it up to a 5 just this once.



Check out the author's gorgeous website here.  You'll find a great book club guide along with a free excerpt of the book!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

TBT: The Signature of All Things

I just started reading Elizabeth Gilbert's latest book,Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear , so I thought it would be a good time to revisit her last fictional novel while I'm at it~


Amazon  |  Book Depository

Summary from Goodreads.comIn The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert returns to fiction, inserting her inimitable voice into an enthralling story of love, adventure and discovery. Spanning much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the novel follows the fortunes of the extraordinary Whittaker family as led by the enterprising Henry Whittaker—a poor-born Englishman who makes a great fortune in the South American quinine trade, eventually becoming the richest man in Philadelphia. Born in 1800, Henry's brilliant daughter, Alma (who inherits both her father's money and his mind), ultimately becomes a botanist of considerable gifts herself. As Alma's research takes her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, she falls in love with a man named Ambrose Pike who makes incomparable paintings of orchids and who draws her in the exact opposite direction — into the realm of the spiritual, the divine, and the magical. Alma is a clear-minded scientist; Ambrose a utopian artist — but what unites this unlikely couple is a desperate need to understand the workings of this world and the mechanisms behind all life.

Exquisitely researched and told at a galloping pace, The Signature of All Things soars across the globe—from London to Peru to Philadelphia to Tahiti to Amsterdam, and beyond. Along the way, the story is peopled with unforgettable characters: missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, astronomers, sea captains, geniuses, and the quite mad. But most memorable of all, it is the story of Alma Whittaker, who — born in the Age of Enlightenment, but living well into the Industrial Revolution — bears witness to that extraordinary moment in human history when all the old assumptions about science, religion, commerce, and class were exploding into dangerous new ideas. Written in the bold, questing spirit of that singular time, Gilbert's wise, deep, and spellbinding tale is certain to capture the hearts and minds of readers.

Believe it or not, moss like this plays a major role in this book~


ReviewIt's hard to believe the same author who wrote Eat Pray Love and Committed wrote this book. I knew well enough not to expect the same type of semi-autobiographical musings but this is about as far away from that as you can possibly get.

I listened to this book on audio, and although it seemed to be never-ending, I gradually came to enjoy it. However, throughout most of the book I just found myself astounded by the amount of research that must've been conducted by Gilbert to come up with the background details of this story. Which, in the end, aren't background details at all but are really quite central to the final chapters.

It took much of the first half of the book for me to begin to like any of the characters but eventually they did grow on me. A book like this is usually about the relationships between all of the characters but I felt that in this book those relationships were merely a tool to get us to the end so that Alma's theories could finally be revealed.

There's a great deal of lead up until we meet Alma, who I would consider the main character of the book. I wonder how much of that was necessary but I guess if you want to write an epic, you might as well tell as much as you possibly can.

Overall I liked this book. It's not something I'll ever pick up again but it has given me a lot to think about in terms of a life well lived, which I think Alma did in the end, even if it wasn't conventional or what was expected at that time (or now for that matter). In fact, I think that was what I liked best about her and the book~

Tahiti: just one of the locations that Alma visits

What do you think of authors who change their genre and writing styles completely?  Are you able to get past it to enjoy the story?  Leave a comment below~

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Read Anything Book Club

Here we go, we're going to try one more time to see if anyone shows up for the Read Anything Book Club Meeting!  Don't be shy, share your latest favourite book that you've read so we can read it too!



Party Every Tuesday


Just link up your latest favourite read~

Book Club Linky Party-EtcetorizeReads

Don't be a wallflower...join the party!


Friday, September 23, 2016

The Lost Art of Mixing

The delicious follow up to The School of Essential Ingredients...

The Lost Art of Mixing Book Review-EtcetorizeReads
Amazon  |  Book Depository

Summary (via Goodreads.com): Lillian and her restaurant have a way of drawing people together. There’s Al, the accountant who finds meaning in numbers and ritual; Chloe, a budding chef who hasn’t learned to trust after heartbreak; Finnegan, quiet and steady as a tree, who can disappear into the background despite his massive height; Louise, Al’s wife, whose anger simmers just below the boiling point; and Isabelle, whose memories are slowly slipping from her grasp. And there’s Lillian herself, whose life has taken a turn she didn’t expect. . . .

Their lives collide and mix with those around them, sometimes joining in effortless connections, at other times sifting together and separating again, creating a family that is chosen, not given. A beautifully imagined novel about the ties that bind—and links that break—The Lost Art of Mixing is a captivating meditation on the power of love, food, and companionship.

Lost Art of Mixing Quote


Review (4/5 stars): Wow! This is my first time reading this author, even though this is the second book in this series, and I was thoroughly impressed!

Erica Bauermeister certainly knows her way around a metaphor. The writing is so beautiful, so lush, and so descriptive that you will fall in love the book in a matter of pages.

There are numerous characters but their story lines are all fairly simple so it's not too confusing. And the author will always drop little hints here and there as gentle reminders to help you along in case you do happen to forget who someone is.

As you're reading you might feel like not a whole lot is happening, even though each of the characters goes through some pretty major life changes. It's gentle though, which I think is why this is such an easy read. I listened to the audio version and was performed wonderfully.

I'll definitely be looking this author up again, and may even read book # 1 just to see what I missed.

The First Book in the Series
(Goodreads says it's "Reminiscent of "Like Water for Chocolate" -
one of my favourite books!)

Still not sure if you want to pick up this book?  You can read an excerpt HERE for free on the author's website~


Think you can pass a test on basic cooking ingredients?  How about exotic ingredients?  Take the tests and come back and tell us how you did!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Parlor Games

Travel back 100 years and see what life as a single woman was like~

Parlor Games Book Review-EtcetorizeReads
Book Depository

Summary (from Goodreads.com)A sweeping historical novel based on the true story of a beautiful con artist whose turn-of-the-century escapades take her around the world as she's doggedly pursued by a Pinkerton Agency detective.
 
The novel opens in 1917 with our cunning protagonist, May Dugas, standing trial for extortion. As the trial unfolds, May tells her version of events.
 
In 1887, at the tender age of eighteen, May ventures to Chicago in hopes of earning enough money to support her family. Circumstances force her to take up residence at the city’s most infamous bordello, but May soon learns to employ her considerable feminine wiles to extract not only sidelong looks but also large sums of money from the men she encounters.  Insinuating herself into Chicago’s high society, May lands a well-to-do fiancĂ©—until, that is, a Pinkerton Agency detective named Reed Doherty intervenes and summarily foils the engagement. 
 
Unflappable May quickly rebounds, elevating seduction and social climbing to an art form as she travels the world, eventually marrying a wealthy Dutch Baron. Unfortunately, Reed Doherty is never far behind and continues to track May in a delicious cat-and-mouse game as the newly-minted Baroness’s misadventures take her from San Francisco to Shanghai to London and points in between.
 
The Pinkerton Agency really did dub May the “Most Dangerous Woman,” branding her a crafty blackmailer and ruthless seductress.  To many, though, she was the most glamorous woman to grace high society. Was the real May Dugas a cold-hearted swindler or simply a resourceful provider for her poor family?
 
As the narrative bounces back and forth between the trial taking place in 1917 and May’s devious but undeniably entertaining path to the courtroom—hoodwinking and waltzing her way through the gilded age and into the twentieth century—we're left to ponder her guilt as we move closer to finding out what fate ultimately has in store for our irresistible adventuress. 



Review (4/5 stars): Now this was an enjoyable book. I listened to the audio version and while I had a few issues with some of the voices that the narrator came up with I really enjoyed the story line and the characters.

The main character, May (who goes by various other names depending which part of her life you meet her in) endears herself to the reader instantly by constantly referring to us as "Dear Readers". You can feel yourself falling for her con but you can't help yourself, just like everyone else, you want to be around her and get to know her better.

I'm not sure that I would ever want to live the life that May lives but I would probably want to be friends with someone who has the guts to go out and get exactly what she wants just like May.

The plot starts out in a court setting so you know that at some point in time she was finally called out for her behaviour but the fun part is finding out how she got herself into the mess she's in. I liked how the story flipped from her past to her present conundrum in the courtroom.

The only thing I had trouble with was visualizing May in the late 1800's. She just seemed far too independent and free thinking for the time. I could easily see her in the 30's or 40's and had to keep reminding myself of the time period. This is probably just my own (mis)understanding of women's standing in society at the time.

Other than that, I recommend this book as a fun trip into the life of someone who thinks drama and adventure are the norm.

You can read more about May Dugas here.

May has a weakness for yellow diamonds
Have you read this book?  Did you know that it's based on a true story?  (I had no idea until after I read it and started writing this post!)  

On a side note, check out this list of hilarious parlor games that people played before we all became couch potatoes.  Does your family have a favourite game you play when you're all together?  Leave a comment below~


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Imagination Library

Last week I put on my cowboy boots and took a VERY special trip down south so that I could see one of my main musical idols and inspirations....DOLLY PARTON!!!

We had amazing seats but at first my camera had a hard time navigating all the sequins and rhinestones~

Dolly Parton Live


She sang all my favourites plus a few new songs from her new Album "Pure and Simple", which already sound like classics~

Dolly Parton Concert

Her voice is as strong and pure as it ever has been!  She did several acapella numbers that blew my mind...and she looked great doing them all

Dolly Parton Concert

So what does Dolly Parton have to do with books and reading???  Well, did you know that through her Imagination Library, Dolly Parton has given away more than 60,000,000 books to children to get them on the right start towards literacy?!?!  That's a lot of books!


The Imagination Library was inspired by Dolly's dad, Lee Parker.  She talked about her 'Momma and Daddy' a lot throughout the whole concert.  And even though her dad wasn't able to read or write she still thinks of him as one of the smartest men she ever knew.


You can learn more about the Imagination Library HERE~

And did you also know, Dolly Parton isn't just an incredible singer, songwriter, musician, actress, and philanthropist...she's also a writer!!

Dream More: Celebrate the Dreamer in You

This book is definitely going on my Christmas List!

Are you a Dolly fan?  Leave a comment below!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Read Anything Book Club


Time for our next Book Club Meeting!  Don't be shy, share your latest favourite book that you've read so we can read it too!

Party Every Tuesday

Just link up your latest favourite read~

Book Club Linky Party-EtcetorizeReads

Don't be a wallflower...join the party!




Monday, September 19, 2016

Bookmarks to Colour

I didn't have any time for crafting this week (I'm going to tell you why on Wednesday!), so I'll just share some links to places you can find FREE Bookmarks to colour.  Make sure to go directly to the sites listed to download the files at the best quality.

Visit kurld.com for pages and pages of more bookmarks to download and colour~

You can find lots of fun free Autumn bookmarks at activityvillage.co.uk

For the kid in you, go to classroomdoodles.com, for lots of fun free bookmarks
Have fun!  Happy colouring!

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Scarlet Contessa

Yesterday I told you about a Rebel Queen who lived in India...now learn about the warrior queen from Italy!

Amazon  |   Book Depository

Summary (via Goodreads): Daughter of the Duke of Milan and wife of the conniving Count Girolamo Riario, Caterina Sforza was the bravest warrior Renaissance Italy ever knew. She ruled her own lands, fought her own battles, and openly took lovers whenever she pleased.
Her remarkable tale is told by her lady-in-waiting, Dea, a woman knowledgeable in reading the "triumph cards," the predecessor of modern-day Tarot. As Dea tries to unravel the truth about her husband's murder, Caterina single-handedly holds off invaders who would steal her title and lands. However, Dea's reading of the cards reveals that Caterina cannot withstand a third and final invader—none other than Cesare Borgia, son of the corrupt Pope Alexander VI, who has an old score to settle with Caterina. Trapped inside the Fortress at Ravaldino as Borgia's cannons pound the walls, Dea reviews Caterina's scandalous past and struggles to understand their joint destiny, while Caterina valiantly tries to fight off Borgia's unconquerable army.
The Castel Sant'Angelo that Caterina is well known for taking over still stands today in Rome

Review (5/4 stars): It was time for an epic historical fiction novel and this one fit the bill perfectly. Caterina Sforza is one of those historical figures who you can barely believe actually lived such an incredibly full, adventurous, and dangerous life. She was most definitely not typical of the women of her time, and really even by today's standards, she would probably be considered a little overconfident. 

The story is told by the fictional character of her attendant/sister. I'm so glad that the author created Dea to help us visualize Caterina's life. It always bothers me when author's take liberties with real life characters, but with Dea, Kalogridis could be as outlandish as she wanted without changing the main historical facts.

I listened to the audio version, which was masterfully performed. Even though it was well over 14 hours long, it kept my interest throughout. I've read other books by Jeanne Kalogridis and have never been disappointed. If you're looking for a story about a strong woman who persevered despite every obstacle that was thrown in her path, then you'll enjoy this book.

Caterina Sforza in Botticelli Paintings
Caterina Sforza was well known for not only her brains and her courage, but also for her beauty.  There are hundreds of portaits of her still available today (often portayed as the Virgin Mary!!).  Did you know that Andrea Botticelli was so taken with her that he often used her likeness in his paintings?


Still not sure this book is for you?  You can read the first chapter on Jeanne Kalogridis' site HERE for free!  This is not a new book.  It was published in 2010.  Have you read it?  What are your thoughts?  Leave a comment below!