Saturday, July 31, 2010

July 31st 2010

You would think by now I would know better then to give a date on stuff when blogging but no.  I haven't learned my lesson yet.

I know, I promised three book reviews that I have not posted yet,  and I am behind on one right now.

I'm currently reading Emma and the Vampires for review.   I will have it up shortly.

PLUS  I was lucky enough to get an interview with Liane Shaw the author of thin and beautiful . com 

I will post that soon.  

And you're wondering what my hold up is?  Well, I have been suffering from a back injury.   Yes, I'm a mess.   Just sitting here for this last 5 minutes is torture.   Sitting is torture.  I've been in and out of the hospital all week.  

So fear not, the reviews and interviews are coming.  Just not as fast as I was hoping.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory

This is book two in the Cousins' War series

Plot: Margaret Beaufort has been enchanted since she can remember with the idea of Joan of Arc and feels that she was meant for greatness.  First believing that she is meant for a holy life, Margaret is sent with great disappointment to be married at age twelve.  After nearly dying in childbirth, she is widowed and sent to be remarried.  Her one goal is to see her only son and heir Henry be crowned king. Years pass and her second husband leaves her a widow, forcing her to marry a third time.  This time around as Lady Stanley, she lives her life as close to being a nun as she's allowed, serving as advisor to a queen she would rather see dead. Can she pull herself out of her own shadow and see her own heir king or will she have to bow down to a woman known to be a witch?

There is a lot of ground to cover in this novel.  The first part takes you solidly through the life of Margaret Beaufort and her quest for divinity, before switching to a more common view of royal ruling.  Set mostly on the battlefields, this story slithers in and out of the lead's narration and having been  done beautifully with letters making you feel as if you are truly looking over the shoulder of Margaret.   I found myself towards the end feeling the hurried frustration that Margaret was, as she was being forced to play her hand silently, never knowing who was telling her the truth and who was spying on her.  It's rare for an author to give you the sense of urgency like this while reading their words.

As you grow with the character of Margaret, you feel both pity for her and in time distaste.  Her ever present desire for control which is supplied first under the disguise of her visions from God then begin to show their true colours as being jealousy for a more adored woman.

There is a small segment where upon Margaret has lost favour with the court and is sentenced to both house arrest and to be the guardian of the future queen. You feel the full weight of her character here the most, as she is still plotting revenge while in denial about her situation. Ever flaunting her religious devotion in the face of her ward, increasing the divide between the two women. This is the standoff that tells more about the future of things then even the final battle scene. The Princess Elizabeth never bends to the will of Margaret once during her stay with her, ever holding onto her own truth.

Margaret is both cunning and cruel in her sense of self and her loyalty to the house of Lancaster. Stopping at nothing to secure her name and her place in the royal line, letting her own vanity cross out the weakness in herself, seeing it (vanity) only in her rivals.  There are moments when you are not sure if she is mad or just so blinded by her own upbringing and devotion to both her religion and her greed.
Either way, the idea of a woman keeping to her choices and her show of faith in them is refreshing.

There were moments when reading this when I wished her third husband had been expanded on as a character.  As strong as he was, Lord Stanley was left short in actual personality. Easily the most interesting of the three husbands, I kept waiting to see more direction from him.

The character of Jasper Tudor, the brother -in-law from the first marriage, at times seems like a half forgotten element.  The first part of the novel has him a prime player in the plot, but he tappers out a little too much and is nearly used as a means to bridge the shift from one husband to the other.  At times very one dimensional,  at other times, you feel the hopelessness he is balancing on the edge of.

This is not just a story about power but a story about devotion. What you are willing to sacrifice for your visions and how you are able to stand for the choices you make.

As someone walking in on this series at the second book, it does indeed make me want to go out and find the first book in the series The White Queen, to see what I've missed.

Saturday, July 10, 2010 by Laine Shaw

I know I've said recently that books I've read have been emotional,  but this was a roller coaster.

Plot: Maddie is worried about her weight after visiting the doctor.  She is fifteen when she starts to "diet" and soon is being both praised and punished for her rapid weight loss.  Feeling as if no one understands her, she turns to the internet for help.  Website after website list the ways one can diet and quickly loose weight, but only one lets her chat about it.  Almost two years pass before Maddie's family and friends make her get help for her eating disorder and Maddie ends up in a rehab clinic.  The people she meets here help her realize that she's more then just her shadow. 

I could not put this book down. It left me needing a few deep breaths and a little shaky.  It's listed as being semi-biographical, as the author herself has dealt with eating disorders.  

Okay, this really hit home. I've admitted in the past that at one point I suffered from Bulimia and have had issues with my weight my whole life.  I only publicly talked about it in the last few years, but I also grew up in a time when internet was not available everywhere at all hours.   This novel uses the internet as a co-star, showing that just because the information and so called support is at your fingertips, does not mean it's good advice. 

The group of girls Maddie ends up finding are all under 90 pounds and still thinking they are fat. 
One scene had me caught between anger and tears, when Maddie is shopping for jeans with her mother and the sales lady keeps telling her how thin she looks.   

  Given that the novel is seen mostly through the eyes of a teenager suffering from the disorder, there are moments when it almost seems pro-disorder,  ALMOST but not completely.  Then it switches gears very quickly as you get moments of the story as seen through the eyes of the rest of the characters and it is clearly anti-.   is a hard pill to swallow,  as it should be.  This is not a pretty topic and it is laid out very vividly in all of it's harshness. I have to give a big nod to the fact the author did not limit her research to just women having this disorder, men fall victim to this as well.  Lots of men. I think she made a brave and smart move adding a male character who not only had the disorder, but was aware of it and seeking help.   
The fact Maddie has fallen into paranoia over her life shows a level of normalness that all teenagers no matter if they are suffering from an illness or not, go through was another sub-plot that added extra texture to the story.  Feeling of betrayal,  confusion, low self esteem, and simply being misunderstood flows through the entire novel with a serpentine grace that manages to weave you up inside itself.  

The journey we are taken on with Maddie and her Girls Without Shadows, is a bumpy one that points the finger where it belongs, on the individual and the media in a joint effort to expose the rawness of the illness. Not enough is ever said on the topic of eating disorders and this novel serves up a cold mirrored image that is needed. 

This is a book I feel needs to be standard reading in high school. 

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Books I've been reading lately

Between the one's I've been doing for review,  I've been doing a book club.

So far, we've had two selections

  1. Jane Slayre  (April 's book of the month)
  2. Eat Pray Love (June's book of the month)
With summer, we've sort of slowed down.  Hoping that things will pick up soon though.

I've also read for just myself  Bergdorf Blondes 

I will have reviews on these in the next few days.  The book club is still in the middle of Eat Pray Love     You can find us on Facebook too

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Mail July 2010

I have a nice stack of books that have arrived in the last week from a few different places.

The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory, which came from Simon and Schuster Canada.

As well as  by Liane Shaw and Fearless Female Journalists by Joy Crysdale  both of which came from Second Story Press


Friday, July 2, 2010

Jessica Z by Shawn Klomparens

I was asked by Catherine McKenzie to take part in a great new thing.  "I bet we can make a book a bestseller"   (which can be found on both Facebook and Goodreads)

I'm a little behind the rest of the gang but I'll get to that in a minute.

First book on the list was  Jessica Z  by Shawn Kloparens.

Plot:  Jessica writes for online ads, her sister Katie is working towards her PhD, and their lives are smooth until Jessica meets Josh, an artist.   Agreeing to work with him on a still life project, Jessica ends up becoming more then just his muse.  Meanwhile, their city has become the base of political upheaval as bombs are being set off everywhere.  Can she really trust her new friends or will they lead her down the wrong path?

Now, let me tell you why I'm like two weeks behind the rest of the group on this book.   It's just too real. 
I was commenting to friends that the first half was as if pieces of my life were there in this story.
The lead character has a job working online doing promos and ads, she has a younger sister, survivor of a broken family,  worked a few times as a model, and the three main men in her life are named Patrick, Josh and Danny.   I was un-nerved a little with the similarities to my own life and had to step away from this novel.

There are two plot twists I did not see coming. We're set up with a rival co-worker/love interest of her sort of boyfriend Patrick, who you're not really sure that you should be trusting.  I thought it was a beautiful use of the modern Frenemy element.
The character of Josh was also a great elemental plot twist.  A rich character who straddles the line between lost little boy and mesmerizing control freak. The idea that he's breaking through the modern scope of what is considered art and science lends to a subplot all its own that weaves you up like a cocoon.
The addition of Emily, Josh's sister midway through suggests a thread of Jane Austen in it's Victorian sensibilities.  Secrets exposed and loves revised.
This is another very modern novel that could easily translate into any decade or century. Communication being the key element through out in all it's forms.
The decisions Jessica has to make are ones that seem to plague every modern woman right now, lest of all how much freedom to give up to her new life as it seems to blast away her old one.

This novel drew me in and gripped me wholly, leaving me smiling and agreeing and at times in shock. I had to keep reminding myself that these three women, (Jessica, Katie and Emily) who are so real at times, were written by a man.  I have rarely found novels where this formula has worked so well.

Jessica Z  was a surprising story that left me breathless.