I don’t read a lot of ebooks – I’m very much a paperback reader. With ebooks I lose some sense of where I am in a book by not being able to look at itI don’t read a lot of ebooks – I’m very much a paperback reader. With ebooks I lose some sense of where I am in a book by not being able to look at it physically. I find it easier to flip back to find some plot point that I want to check or the context in which a character first appeared. So, when I was offered a chance to review Rules of Civility by Amor Towles in an ebook format, I hesitated. But drawn in by the book’s description on the author’s website I took a chance. I am so glad I did. Despite the format, I adored this book!
The setting is Manhattan in the late 1930’s. The threat of the Second World War is in the distant future and life, for the most part, is good. The reader sees what New York City was like during that era through the eyes of a young woman surviving quite well on her own in that large metropolis. The author did a fantastic job describing the culture of the young and carefree in an exciting city - so much so that the city takes on a character all of its own. Cocktails, bars, apartments, neighbourhoods and iconic buildings all figure prominently in this book. If you love the romance and cultural aura of New York City, you’ll find plenty of it here.
I really liked the protagonist, Kate Kontent. She’s a well-written character – smart, sassy, independent and with a good dose of subtle humour thrown in. She’s isn’t perfect; I picked up hints of envy in some situations and loneliness in others. It’s not that much was said, but rather shown (which I think is one of the trickiest talents a writer can develop and Amor Towles has it in spades). But Kate isn’t a wallflower; she acts on her instincts so that when she isn’t happy about something she takes steps to change it. And this is one of the reasons why the story moved along quickly and flowed so well. Dialogue between Kate and her contemporaries was also well done.
I also really liked the portrayal of women in this era. It seems that women in the 1930’s are much further along in society than their later counterparts. The freedom of the earlier era was gone by the 1950’s as the standard of a woman’s worth was depicted with the iconic housedress-wearing female staying home and having babies. But perhaps that was the sign of prosperity. In any case, this freedom surprised me too – I’ve always assumed that any era before the 1950’s had to be a worse one for women in general, but I didn’t pick that up from this novel at all.
I loved this book because I like NYC and I found the 1930’s era so interesting to read about. But to enjoy Rules of Civility you don’t have to like those things too because it offers so much more. This book is a well-written, well-rounded great story from an author that I’ll be putting on my must-read list for future books....more
This was the first time I've read an Amish book and I wasn't sure what to expect. I was surprised to find that except for scattered cultural referenceThis was the first time I've read an Amish book and I wasn't sure what to expect. I was surprised to find that except for scattered cultural references the story follows much the same path as any other book of its genre - that being a coming of age story of an adolescent girl.
Lizzie is fifteen and filled with all the same sorts of feelings any teenager would have, but added to that she's rebellious and willful - something that by definition goes against the Amish belief system. She runs into trouble with family and friends and it's usually of her own (however unintended) making. Some of the situations she gets into are funny and some not so much. But it is usually caused by Lizzie's belief that she is somehow not as loved as her older sister. I found the feeling expressed by this character to be pretty honest and insightful. What I didn't expect was this girl's food issues. Her mother was always making something sweet and rich and while her sisters showed constraint, Lizzie was usually eating too much of it. Food disorders are a serious problem and I don't feel I know enough about them to give an educated opinion about the presentation of this characters problems with food, but I had a gut reaction that her mother did not deal with it in the best possible way. Not sure though. Lizzie's self-image is that she is overweight and not very pretty. I thought it a bit odd that on the cover of the book there is a picture of a very pretty and slim-looking girl with a wide smile. I'm assuming that's Lizzie at a happy and self-confident moment!
Linda Byler has a simple, to-the-point writing style. In each chapter there is a flashback to a related current and in this way the reader is taken through the character's growing pains. I found the Amish lifestyle interesting (so very far removed from my own) and found the glossary at the back of the book useful. I think this would be a good book for any one who enjoys the coming-of-age genre and is tired of those that are the profane, serious mental health issue type books. ...more
Jack and Sadie Rosenbloom emigrated to London, England just before the Second World War. When they arrived in their new country, Jack was given a checJack and Sadie Rosenbloom emigrated to London, England just before the Second World War. When they arrived in their new country, Jack was given a checklist on how a proper English citizen behaves - a cheat sheet on how to blend in to his new home. Following it literally and without knowing all the nuances that any British citizen takes for granted sometimes leaves him puzzled and bewildered, but never daunted. Mr. Rosenbloom Dreams in English is Jack and Sadie's story of how they adapted to their new lives and sometimes how they didn't.
I really enjoyed Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English (called Mr. Rosenblum's List in the UK). I think Natasha Solomon did a fabulous job in relating what it's like to integrate into a new and very alien life. While I'm not Jewish, I found Jack and Sadie's experiences as Jewish immigrants easy to relate to and I recognized Jack's struggle to fit into a new country and its well-established culture very well. The author's light touch in representing the Rosenblum's struggle to blend in made the story a lot less heavy-handed than it might otherwise have been.
Food is used throughout the story to demonstrate how family and family history is cherished and memories held dear. One particular dessert, a baumtorte, is prepared by Sadie during her most challenging days and helps her cope with her feelings of sadness at the lives lost during the war. The author uses the layered cake as a rich metaphor for layers of memories.
The characters in this book are muti-faceted. Jack and Sadie are neither all good nor all bad - a bit of each quality are in both and it is what I believe gives the book depth and richness. The author knows her characters; Jack is normally an optimistic man and I couldn't help but root for him even when he did something that aggravated me. Writing from the perspective of a male character couldn't have been easy but Natasha Solomons succeeded.
I recommend this wonderful novel to anyone who enjoys reading stories about family bonds and true friendship. ...more
The Kitchen House was an absolutely wonderful reading experience.
What I liked best about this book were the characters. They became people I wanted toThe Kitchen House was an absolutely wonderful reading experience.
What I liked best about this book were the characters. They became people I wanted to know. When something good happened I was happy for them and sad when a not-so-great event occurred. The author made fictional characters seem so real that they jumped off the page. More than once I was brought to tears and felt real sympathy for these people. Most of the characters were complex personalities dealing with complex problems. Though the main antagonist (and it could be argued just who the main antagonist is) is not likeable, the character was written with sympathy and while I did not excuse his behavior, I could easily understand the reasons behind his conduct.
The other great thing about The Kitchen House was the plot. My heart was pounding after reading the first page. I didn’t know exactly what was going on but the small bit that I read gave me a powerful sense of fear, anxiety and curiosity. From there on, the story developed into the drama, hardship and joy a close-knit family experiences in the slave quarters of a large plantation. The story moved quickly and I was so engrossed I couldn’t believe it when it ended. I still want to spend time with these people!
I loved The Kitchen House and wholeheartedly recommend it for book clubs – I think it would generate very lively discussions....more
I love cookbooks and obviously I love to read, so when the offer came to review The Book Club Cookbook, I jumped at it. What could be more fun than toI love cookbooks and obviously I love to read, so when the offer came to review The Book Club Cookbook, I jumped at it. What could be more fun than to have available some of the recipes from the most popular book club books? And if it’s your turn to host your book club, well, this book will make choosing a dish so much easier.
This book covers some of my favourite novels: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (Lisa See), The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows), and The Help (Kathryn Stockett) as well as some I have yet to read but are on the top of my towering TBR list: Cutting for Stone (Abraham Verghese) and Water for Elephants (Sara Gruen). Actually, the list of books on my own TBR list overlaps quite a bit with the books featured in this cookbook. Each novel’s recipe is preceded by a description of the source book and some are followed by an explanation of the food, thoughts from the author and/or a book club’s take on the book itself and why they chose a particular food for their club.
So far I’ve made two recipes (I’m planning another this weekend). Both are cookies – Chewy Oatmeal from the book Plainsong by Kent Haruf and Chocolate Chip Shortbread from Bee Season by Myla Goldberg. Both turned out great and were gobbled up by my family in no time. It doesn’t just have cookies or sweets – there are savory dishes as well. There is Zaytoon’s Chicken Shwarma from Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn, Britta’s Crab Casserole from The Hours by Michael Cunningham, Greek Rice Pudding and Tzatziki from Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. There are drinks in here too: Glögg from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as well as soups and salads. An ambitious book club could have an entire meal with several courses if they didn’t mind mixing their books!
Another great thing about this book club cookbook is that the featured novels range from contemporary to classic, so that a club is bound to find something of interest. I could see using this book for future club choice ideas as well. It would also make a great gift for an avid reader, book club member or not. I highly recommend it! ...more
Amy Buckner, a stay-at-home mother in New York, finds herself at loose ends when she realizes that her 10 year old son doesn’t need her so much anymorAmy Buckner, a stay-at-home mother in New York, finds herself at loose ends when she realizes that her 10 year old son doesn’t need her so much anymore and her best friend moves away. She continues to go through the motions, meeting friends for breakfast most mornings at a local café but Amy knows something is missing and she doesn’t know how to find it or how to start looking. Into this growing void falls Penny Ramsey, who she gets to know while both are assigned to ‘safety walk’ around their childrens’ school. Amy discovers that Penny’s life is much more interesting than her own; she’s a museum director and her husband is a wealthy businessman. They have no financial problems and on the surface everything seems great. Amy begins a friendship with Penny that seems to fill the empty holes in her own life.
This novel explores the issues surrounding women at different stages in their lives. Questions arise about decisions to stay at home while one’s children are young and then not so young, friendship, marriage and family and careers. It delves into loyalty and betrayal, shallowness and profundity. The choices aren’t easy to make and mostly not perfect, but are often the best possible solution for the given stage of life.
I found this book to be thought provoking and relevant, as most of us at some time in our lives must decide about one or another of the issues that the various characters deal with. Should we stay at home while the children are young or entrust them to a daycare or babysitter? Can we afford to stay at home? And if we do go for that option, once the children are in school, then what?
The author addresses some of these issues not only in the book but also in an article entitled “Mothers of Contention and the Money Wars”. In it Meg Wolitzer says:
“Women who work full-time or part-time and those who stay home with their kids (as well as those who now spend their days answering help wanted ads on craigslist) may not experience Helen Reddy solidarity. It may be way too soon to speak about the mommy wars in the past tense, for no one has solved the problem of ambivalence about staying home versus working, or the lack of good, cheap daycare; and no one has found a way for some women not to feel they're damned if they do, and damned if they don't. Maybe not even the full-scale meltdown of the economy can keep these particular, familiar wars from raging. But it can try.”
And on the topic of friendships, what does it mean to have a best friend? What are the ground rules? What lines can you and should you not cross?
The Ten Year Nap emphasizes that there is no right or wrong answers, and whatever lifestyle is right for you and your family is probably the best choice to make, but each person can only be responsible for her own choices. This point of view is a refreshing departure from being sold the ‘right way to do things’ at every turn.
This is the first book in the ‘Kitty’ series by Carrie Vaughn. The books I’ve read lately are a little topic-heavy so I was really anxious to start onThis is the first book in the ‘Kitty’ series by Carrie Vaughn. The books I’ve read lately are a little topic-heavy so I was really anxious to start on something lighter and this fit the bill. I’ve not read a lot in the fantasy/paranormal genre but what I have read, I’ve enjoyed.
Kitty is a late night radio talk host and a werewolf. But she’s a good werewolf and does not randomly attack people – but focuses more on wildlife in the woods nearby her pack leader’s home and then only once per month during the full moon. This is the reason that working the night shift at the station suits her so well – she has a nightlife that beats all.
One evening, bored of the usual music, she starts taking calls about whether people believe in creatures such as vampires and werewolves. Suddenly her show is a hit, Kitty is a sensation and she’s got her hands full dealing with callers who have every conceivable question about the nature of the undead, not to mention people who are capable of transforming themselves into large furry animals with very sharp teeth. I know I would have a few questions.
Along with the sudden fame comes a whole host of other issues, however, and Kitty has to deal with an angry pack leader, a rogue werewolf, an secretive government agent as well as her own need to stretch her, uhm, claws, so that she can feel more comfortable in her own skin/fur.
The story is a very fast-paced, easy read. It’s got loads of action, a bit of gory violence and a touch of sex – so not for the younger set – but it wasn’t too over the top. It even had a few sad moments that I wish hadn’t happened, but I suppose you can’t have everything be peachy-keen. I also like that the author added a playlist of the songs she listened to as while writing the book and can see how Creedence Clearwater Revival’s song, ‘Bad Moon Rising’ would fit right in with Kitty and the Midnight Hour!
All in all I really enjoyed this first in the series book and I’m looking forward to reading the next one, Kitty Goes to Washington. ...more