Giveaways at Ex Libris
Sunday, 28 February 2010
This morning I was making some cookies and other sweet treats to munch on later while reading, and that's when I got the idea to start this feature. Though I intended this blog to be a reading blog, I think that cookies and other snacks go hand in hand with reading, at least for me. I love to curl up in my big armchair with a plate of cookies and a cup of hot chocolate to have near while I'm reading. And since I don't like Sundays (for the very same reason most people dislike them) the threat of Monday is already looming above me, and I feel the precious weekend slipping away way too fast. At least with these little treats Sundays are made sweeter.
In these Sunday Treats posts I will give you some of my favourite recipes to try out and enjoy while reading your current book.
Initially I wanted to call it Sunday Sweets, but that would exclude any salty snacks, so I'll leave the option open and call it Sunday Treats.
You can find all recipes here:
Chocolate Chip Cookies
And of course I would love to hear from you. Do you like Sundays? Do you like cooking/baking? What are your favourite recipes? I would be glad to make a recipe exchange and feature your recipes here, you can e-mail me at email@example.com.
Friday, 26 February 2010
So far I have read the following books for this challenge:
1. Days to Remember by Rachel Moore
Cream Crackered Status Report:
1 out 8
Publié par Stella Ex Libris à l'adresse 16:17
The Romance Reading Challenge 2010 is hosted by Bookworm.
So far I have read the following books for this challenge:
1. Highland Warrior by Monica McCarty
2. The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks
Amazon appetizer: Is there really such a thing as a good luck charm? Ex-soldier Logan Thibault thinks he just might have found one. Haunted by memories of the friends he lost in Iraq, Logan knows how fortunate he is to be home. He believes that a photograph he carried with him, a picture of a smiling woman he's never met, kept him safe. Even though he knows nothing about this woman, he hopes she might hold the key to his destiny. Resolving to find her, Logan embarks on a journey of startling discovery. Beth, the woman whose picture he holds, is struggling with problems of her own: her volatile ex-husband won't accept their relationship is over and threatens anyone who gets too close to her. And, despite a growing attraction between them, Logan has kept one explosive secret from Beth: how he came across her photograph in the first place ...
My thoughts: This was the second novel I read from Nicholas Sparks, and though after Dear John I concluded his writing was not for me I couldn't resist picking up The Lucky One because of its exciting plot (see above) (as I have already confessed, I'm a huge war-time-romance junkie).
I enjoyed reading The Lucky One, the plot was exactly what the blurb led me to expect, no disappointments there.
The characters were interesting and I loved that Sparks made them complex, he gave them history, memories, backgrounds and thoughts. Ben also became a little 3D kid, so real I could completely picture him in his glasses playing chess seriously. Nana and her sayings sometimes made me wonder, trying to decipher the hidden meaning behind her words and when I did, it made me laugh, she definitely is a character!
My only compliant in the character development compartment is Keith Clayton, the ex-husband of Beth and father of Ben. Sparks made him a true villain: a creepy pervert, a bully who's having anger issues and exploits his child. I'm sorry he made him such a one-dimensional bad character, it would have been better for the novel if he had given him a few qualities to accompany all these faults.
I also loved the structure of the novel, that we got to know Logan and the meaning behind some of his actions and decisions chapter by chapter through flashbacks as he remembered his tours in Iraq and his time with his mates and Victor.
I think one of the strongest trait of the novel was Sparks' vivid description of the southern life: I could feel the heat, the humidity and completely picture the setting, the narrative really transported me to the scene of the story.
My second complaint is regarding the ending of the novel. I felt it too forced, it was Sparks' way to tie up all the loose ends by taking Keith out of the picture, but making amends by making him a hero in the end. I didn't like the end.
Cover: 7/10 (this is a recurring error with Nicholas Sparks' books that the cover girl never matches the description of the heroine: in The Lucky One Beth is blonde with blue eyes, and the cover girl is a brunette..)
Amazon appetizer: March, 1943. On the brink of marrying her childhood sweetheart, Breda's happiness is shattered by the arrival of a telegram, confirming her worst fears: Warren's ship has sunk and her beloved fiance has been killed in action. Heartbroken, she vows never to fall in love again. The unexpected arrival of Warren's cousin Max helps to bring Breda out of herself, but is she ready to let go of her grief? She has a second chance for happiness, if she is willing to take it.My thoughts: I have to confess, I picked up this book to read the blurb because I fell in love at first glimpse with its beautiful pastel-coloured cover, and when I saw that it was the story of a war time romance I knew I had to read it (love stories set in war times are one of my favourites). But I have to say the blurb is misleading: this story is much more a retelling of the Cornish villagers' lives in war time than a love story.
Even though the story is centered around Breda and how she learns to accept that her fiance had been killed and would never return to her, and to continue to live on without him, I found the romance aspect not too well developed or detailed. However I got a very realistic glimpse into the happenings of the local villagers' life, how the teaching and programs go at the infantschool, and the relationship between Breda and her grandmother (who is a wonderful character, one of the highlights of the book!).
My other problem was Breda itself: though I understand that such loss and grief explain her mood swings, I found her at times irritating. Maybe if the descriptive part had been more detailed it would have been more understandable and natural, but I felt we weren't given enough introspection into the workings of her inner turmoil, I would have liked to read more about that.
My complaints about this novel may all be the result of its lenght, or more accurately its shortness: there was not enough time to develop the story and its characters.
- The characters remained simple characters, 2D people, entering the scene, saying their dialogue and exiting the scene. Which was a particular problem regarding the main characters: for example, even though Max is the romantic hero of the story, we do not really get to know him, he remains a shallow shadow character. The character I loved the most was Breda's Gran: she was funny and she got more "flesh and bone" than most of the characters.
- The emotional evolutions (the inner turmoils of the grieving people, the growing love of Breda for Max, etc.) weren't detailed too much, maybe more description at the expense of dialogues would have been better;
- I felt the love story between Breda and Max rushed, as if it had to happen because we were nearing the end of the novel and they had to get together before the last page, which is exectaly what happened! They got together on the very last page!! I missed some ending scene chapter which would have concluded the whole book, and we got to say farewell to the village and its inhabitants, it felt as if the ending was cut and the book ended on the penultimate chapter.
Verdict: All in all a nice read, but I expected more after the blurb. The story and the setting all had great potential which I feel weren't exploited.
Saturday, 20 February 2010
Readers know what they are going to get when they pick up an unfamiliar Alice Munro collection, and yet almost every page carries a bounty of unexpected action, feeling, language, and detail. Her stories are always unique, blazing an invigorating originality out of her seemingly commonplace subjects. Each collection develops her oeuvre in increments, subtly expanding her range.
Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage is, of course, no exception. It is a fairly conservative collection of nine stories, none of which move far beyond Munro's favored settings: the tiny towns and burgeoning cities of southern Ontario and British Columbia. There are glimpses of youth here--in the title story, an epistolary prank by two teenage girls leads to a one-sided cross country elopement and, seemingly, a happy marriage, and in "Nettles," disrupted childhood affection fleetingly returns through a chance meeting--but most of these pieces are stories of aging women and men, confronting the twin travails of death and late love. As is always the case with Munro, their plots are too elegantly elaborate to summarize, and their unsentimental power is a given; baroque praise would be futile. Read these stories--it is the only way to really understand the miracles that Munro so regularly performs. --Jack Illingworth
My thoughts: This collection of short stories was my introduction to Alice Munro's world and writing. It is not light reading material, not ideal if you seek some fluffy escapism, but each novella will stay long with you and make you think. Her short stories are like snapshots of the lives of her characters, this was something that I personally don't like: I prefer a story to have a beginning, a middle and an ending, it bothered me that I didn't get a glipmse of what would happen to the characters after the middle of the story, but it is just a personal preference.
I have read that Alice Munro is called the Canadian Chekhov, and I have to agree, the athmosphere of her stories is very reminiscent of Chekhov: her stories, the repressed tension, all the hidden feelings and reasons behind the peaceful exterior are simmering and make the reader tense up, feeling the progressive build up of tension and unavoidable explosion coming.
This was not a light and enjoyable read but rather an unsettling drama, the storylines and problems kept me thinking long after finishing the story.
* (Please note that this low grade does not reflect the quality of the novel but my reaction to it and how I much I enjoyed reading it.)
Life is perfect for Anna Walsh. She has the "Best Job in the World" as a PR exec for a top-selling urban beauty brand, a lovely apartment in New York, and a perfect husband, the love of her life, Aidan Maddox. Until the morning she wakes up in her mammy's living room in Dublin with her face in stitches, a dislocated knee, and completely smashed-up hands, and no memory of how she got there. While her mammy plays nursemaid, Anna tries to get better and keeps wondering why Aidan won't return her phone calls or emails.
Recuperating from her injuries, a mystified Anna returns to Manhattan. Slowly beginning to remember what happened, she sets off on a search to find Aidan, a hilarious quest involving lilies (she can't stop smelling them), psychics, mediums, and anyone there who can promise her a reunion with her beloved...
Written in her classic style, marrying the darker parts of life with humor and wit, Anybody Out There? is Marian Keyes' best novel to date, wonderfully charming look at love here and ever after.
My thoughts: This was recommended by my best friend, with whom I share a love of chick lit novels, and she also said that it was exceptional and the best Marian Keyes novel she has read so far.
I admit it was great, original (I'm not even sure it could be caracterised as a typical chick lit novel), had its laugh out loud moments so typical of Marian Keyes, I enjoyed it very much but my favourite Marian Keyes novel (maybe because of the romance and happily-ever-after-love story line) remains Lucy Sullivan Is Getting Married.
What I loved about this book was that it was original, full of unexpected turns, and the biggest shock came after about the 90th page, but I won't spoil it for you. At first until that ominous 90th page, I thought it dragging and I was a bit bored, but after that it sped up and I couldn't put it down.
What I love about Marian Keyes' novels is her biting, sarcastic, dry humour which gives a unique and fresh voice to her books. And she didn't disappoint here either, how many writers could make the reader laugh through their tears while reading their novels? But Marian Keyes does it brilliantly.
I would definitely recommend this book, it is funny, yet is dark and has drama. The only warning I will say that do not expect a happily-ever-after ending, this is another kind of story, but hugely enjoyable and very entertaining.
Tuesday, 9 February 2010
Script & Screen is a new feature I plan on doing regularly, in which I will review the original book and then review the movie it was adapted into, and compare the two: did the movie remain true to the atmosphere of the book? was the message of the book changed or lost along the way in the screen adaptation? were the changes in the movie necessary and did they manage to make the story better? And such other thoughts and questions one asks themselves after watching the movie made out of a book read before.
Soon to come: (Book title - Author / Movie title - Director - year of production)
- The Bear Came Over the Mountain by Alice Munro / Away From Her by Sarah Polley (2006)
- Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier / Rebecca by Alfred Hithcock (1940) and Rebecca by Jim O'Brien (1997)
- Atonement by Ian McEwan / Atonement by Joe Wright (2007)
Saturday, 6 February 2010
Readers around the world have fallen for Kelley Armstrong’s intoxicating, sensual and wicked tales of the paranormal, in which demons and witches, werewolves and vampires collide – often hilariously, sometimes violently – with everyday life. In Armstrong’s first six novels, Elena, Paige and Eve have had their way with us. Now get ready for Jaime Vegas, the luscious, lovelorn and haunted necromancer. . .
Jaime, who knows a thing or two about showbiz, is on a television shoot in Los Angeles when weird things start to happen. As a woman whose special talent is raising the dead, her threshold for weirdness is pretty high: she’s used to not only seeing dead people but hearing them speak to her in very emphatic terms. But for the first time in her life – as invisible hands brush her skin, unintelligible fragments of words are whispered into her ears, and beings move just at the corner of her eye–she knows what humans mean when they talk about being haunted.
She is determined to get to the bottom of these manifestations, but as she sets out to solve the mystery she has no idea how scary her investigation will get, or to what depths ordinary humans will sink in their attempts to gain supernatural powers. As she digs into the dark underside of Los Angeles, she’ll need as much Otherworld help as she can get in order to survive, calling on her personal angel, Eve, and Hope, the well-meaning chaos demon. Jeremy, the alpha werewolf, is also by her side offering protection. And, Jaime hopes, maybe a little more than that.
My thoughts: I wasn't looking forward to reading the 7th book in the series, as its narrator was Jaime and I wasn't particularly fond of her in the previous novels, but I have to admit this book was a very nice surprise. Jaime is a nice and cute character, and reading the story through her eyes she didn't come off as incapable and affected, we could see how much it bothers her that all the other supernaturals see her as a weaker being in need of being protected. In the previous novels she sounded glamourous, always dressed and made up like some model, a bit fake with all the show business life, but here we got to see her vulnerablem human side and how hard it affects her that she has to ignore ghosts and not be able to help them. Kelley Armstrong gave us again a 3D character, a character the reader got to like because of her complexity.
I also loved that while the previous books were sizzling with sensuality (especially the Elena narrated ones), Kelley Armstrong stayed true to her characters and didn't force something quite uncharacteristic on them (I'm especially thinking of Jeremy) just to entertain the readers.
But what I love most about Armstrong's writing is that she makes you experience that childlike enthusiasm and excitement when reading her novels: you just want to gobble up her stories in one sitting, living and breathing in her universe while the story lasts. Unfortunately not too many authors are this gifted.
Verdict: The 7th book in the Otherworld series was much much better than the 6th (I'm saying this while having a partiality to Elena): in No Humans Involved, besides Armstrong's brilliant writing style, the plot was exciting and kept you interested until the end. You are in for a ride!
Upon reading the quite comprehensive and long list of all the different sub-genres I decided to join this challenge too hosted by Book Chick City (who said I wasn't a reading challenge junkie..:-p)
I think I will aim for Enthusiastic and read at least 6 speculative fiction books in 2010.
Here are the rules:
Timeline: 1st Jan 2010~31st Dec 2010. Only books started on January 1st count towards this challenge.
1. Anyone can join. You don't need a blog to participate.
2. There are four levels:
• Inquisitive – Read 3 Speculative Fiction novels.
• Enthusiastic – Read 6 Speculative Fiction novels.
• Addicted – Read 12 Speculative Fiction novels.
• Obsessed – Read 24 Speculative Fiction novels.
3. Any book format counts.
4. You don't have to select your books ahead of time, you can just add them as you go. Also if you do list them upfront then you can change them, nothing is set in stone!
5. The books you choose can crossover into other challenges you have on the go.
The Sookie Stackhouse Reading Challenge is hosted by Beth Fish Reads.
Since November I have read these books for the challenge so far:
1. Dead Until Dark
2. Living Dead in Dallas
3. Club Dead
4. Dead to the World
5. Dead as a Doornail
6. Definitely Dead
The Romance Reading Challenge 2010 is hosted by Bookworm.
I have completed my first book for this challenge:
Highland Warrior by Monica McCarty
Timeline: 01 Jan 2010 - 31 Dec 2010
Rules: To read TWELVE (12) thrillers in 2010
The books I read for this challenge:
1. No Humans Involved by Kelley Armstrong
2. Exit Strategy by Kelley Armstrong
3. Deadly Décisions by Kathy Reichs
In one of the wittiest novels of them all, Nancy Mitford casts a finely gauged net to capture perfectly the foibles and fancies of the English upper class. Set in the privileged world of the county house party and the London season, the story of coldly beautiful Polly Hampton and her aristocratic parents is is a comedy of English manners between the wars by one of the most individual, beguiling and creative users of the language.My thoughts:
If Jane Austen had written in the 1940s, she would have been Nancy Mitford.Love in a Cold Climate is the 2nd in the trilogy written by Nancy Mitford (the 1st being The Pursuit of Love and the 3rd Don't Tell Alfred). I read it after The Pursuit of Love, and unfortunately the comparison doesn't favour Love in a Cold Climate: I found The Pursuit of Love wittier, more enteratining and roaring of laughter-funny. I'm sure that if I had read Love in a Cold Climate alone, I would have appreciated it more, because it is a wonderful, witty, funny and incredible book. I enjoyed it very much.
Nancy Mitford's writing style is very unique and highly enjoyable. Her dry wit and sarcastic humour reminded me sometimes of Jane Austen, the way she made fun of some of her ridiculous characters (Mrs. Elton in Emma, Mr. Collins or Lady Catherine de Bourgh in Pride and Prejudice).
Definitely worth reading, but check out The Pursuit of Love also, you won't regret it.
Childhood at Alconleigh is scanty preparation for the realities of the outside world and Linda, sweetest and most aimless of the young Radletts, falls prey to a stuffy banker and a rabid communist before she finds her ideal in a Frenchman...
The year is 1928. On the outskirts of a large German city, three young men are earning a thin and precarious living. Fully armed young storm troopers swagger in the streets. Restlessness, poverty, and violence are everywhere. For these three, friendship is the only refuge from the chaos around them. Then the youngest of them falls in love, and brings into the group a young woman who will become a comrade as well, as they are all tested in ways they can never have imagined.
Written with the same overwhelming simplicity and directness that made All Quiet on the Western Front a classic, Three Comrades portrays the greatness of the human spirit, manifested through characters who must find the inner resources to live in a world they did not make, but must endure.
My thoughts: This book was recommended to me by my best guy friend, as his favourite book. It was my first novel from Remarque, but since then I have read many, and this still remains my favourite. I don't understand why Arch of Triumph is the more praised or famous, when Three Comrades is so pure and raw, the truths and facts of life he tells us about are gripping in his simple presentation.
I love war novels, and this one is one of the best ones I have read, what I particularly love about it is that while reading it I understood guys and how their minds/feelings/thoughts were/worked. An amazing novel about men and male friendship and loyalty. I think Remarque told a love story in its simplest, most poignant, overwhelming way in this novel. Not melodramatic as in Arch of Triumph, but you'll still get chills while reading it, his story, his words, his characters are so powerful because of his realistic and human descriptions.
A novel that will change your life, you'll be more after reading it, I definitely recommend it!!
The ruthless enforcer of Scotland’s most powerful clan, Jamie Campbell is the most feared man in the Highlands. Raw physical strength coupled with cunning political acumen make him a powerful force with whom few men will dare to reckon. Determined to see the Highlands tamed of its lawlessness and unrest, Jamie’s objectives are clear: under the guise of seeking the Chief of Lamont’s daughter’s hand in marriage, discover whether the Lamonts are harboring any outlawed MacGregors. But guise turns to desire when he meets the beautiful spitfire who rules the household with a dainty iron fist. The fierce Highlander never expects that the woman he wants above all others will test his duty and loyalty to his clan to the breaking point.My thoughts: This is the first book in Monica McCarty's 2nd trilogy, and for those who have read her first 3 books, the hero of Highland Warrior, Jamie Campbell is not unknown. We got to know and (even though we didn't root for him to win the heroine) like him in Highlander Unmasked. But since then Jamie has grown up, matured and became a fierce and feared warrior, but of course we, the readers know that underneath that hard and fearsome exterior is a kind hearted and fair man.
Cosseted and adored by her family, Caitrina Lamont has no intention of abandoning her beloved father and doting four older brothers for a husband—especially a Campbell. But Jamie Campbell is nothing like the parade of suitors that Caitrina’s father usually traipses across their hall. His raw masculinity threatens her in a way no man ever had before. But when Caitrina’s idyllic world is shattered, could the man she blames for her tragedy become her only hope for the future?
I wouldn't summarize the plot of the novel, you can read that above, let me just say, that Monica McCarty got even better (if that is possible) since her first trilogy. Both the hero and the heroine are sympathetic and likable characters, Caitrina is a passionate, headstrong and compassionate (and of course strikingly beautiful) heroine, and Jamie is a swoonworthy hero: tall, dark, handsome, loyal, courageous and strong, with a kind heart and strong sense of justice.
McCarty's story telling is gripping and will transport you in the misty green medieval Scotland in no time! Her writing style is exceptional, with such a superior writing quality that I haven't seen for quite some time in other recent romance writers. Her writing is amazingly brilliant and evocative, she paints such a real picture of the scene, of the characters, that you feel you are there witnessing what is happening, or at least watching it like a movie!
The emotions, attractions, friendships, loves, loyalties, hate, betrayals are described very powerfully, they are not just words, but raw, overwhelming or heartwarming emotions. McCarty wove so much sensuality into the whole story, that it keeps simmering all through. I love reading about the H/H inner struggles and thoughts and emotions, and McCarty gave me that to perfection!
If you are a historical romance lover, if you love your heroes to be larger than life, broad, noble, strong, honourable Scots, if you like to read sensual, heartwarming good quality romance, then I think you'll simply love this book!
Thursday, 4 February 2010
Book 6 in Kelley Armstrong's supernatural series marks the return of werewolf Elena Michaels from Bitten and Stolen. When half-demon Xavier calls in the favour Elena owes him, it seems easy enough - steal Jack the Ripper's 'From Hell' letter away from a Toronto collector who had himself stolen it from the Ripper evidence boxes in the Metropolitan Police files. But nothing in the supernatural world is ever as simple as it seems. Elena accidentally triggers a spell placed on the letter, and manages to tear an opening that leads into the nether regions of Victorian London. Toronto may be looking for a tourism boost, but 'Gateway to Hell' isn't quite the new slogan the city had in mind ...
My thoughts: Broken is the sixth in the Women of the Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong. It is narrated again by Elena as the 1st and 2nd book of the series.
I'd give 6 stars for the plot and 9 for the Armstrong storytelling (so that's how the final 7 stars came).
I haven't skipped any books in the series, read them in chronological order, so I wasn't lost when some newer characters or other supernatural species, entities (cabals, interracial council) were mentioned. Still, Bitten is the novel I remember loving and being amazed by it the most, I don't know if that is because it was my first Kelley Armstrong book, or because I love Elena's narrating, so I was very happy and looking forward to Broken, to finally get back to Elena after 3 books narrated by other characters (though I loved the ones narrated by Paige very much also!), but unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed by Broken.
Don't get me wrong, Kelley's writing style is still there and going strong, her sarcastic, bitingly funny dialogues are also there, making you crack up laughing out loud, her characters are still very present in the flesh, and she certainly knows how to build suspense and describe fights, what was underwhelming was the plot, the main mystery. Opening a portal and letting Jack the Ripper out on the loose? it sounds exciting, but somehow, maybe to maintain the mystery until the very last moment, we don't get too much a glimpse of it, all we see and read about are the rotting, decomposing zombies, and that made me feel like the book dragged on, and nothing crucial or terrifying happened (the murders committed weren't described that much, so they couldn't convey the brutality).
But the characters are the very strong and sure skeleton of this novel, Clay is still an irresistible protective macho-man/wolf, Nick is still the charming nice guy, who makes you want to hug him, and new characters get introduced, one of them is especially fantastic: Zoe Takano. She made me laugh so much! And of course, Armstrong didn't lose Elena's voice along the road, so it still is a very enjoyable read.
Monday, 1 February 2010
Elena, heroine of Kelley Armstrong's impressive debut thriller Bitten, never planned that a casual sexual encounter would transform her into a werewolf. Neither did Clay, her lover and one of the leaders of the exclusive werewolf clique known as the Pack; women do not generally change or survive if they do.
Elena's considerable reservations about her new life come to a head and she walks out on the Pack to return to something like normality, finding herself a boyfriend who turns a blind eye to her occasional disappearances in the middle of the night.
She may have done with the infighting of werewolves, but they have not done with her; her former family call her back when they find themselves under threat from those they have excluded and dominated. Kelley Armstrong is very good on the sheer exhilaration of shape-changing, of running on four feet through forests, suburban greenery and urban back alleys; if there is a weakness here, it is that Elena's relationship with the taciturn, untrustworthy Clay is sometimes a little too conventionally romantic--but the dark poetry of the best of the book overcomes this entirely. --Roz Kaveney
If you like urban mystery or paranormal novels, I would definitely recommend this book and author as they are exceptional!