Friday, July 8, 2011

Friday Finds

Posted by Simcha 3:30 AM, under | 7 comments

This week I came across two different books of different genres that have similar themes, and both of which sound very intriguing.

Before I Go to Sleep
by S.J. Watson

As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I'm still a child. Thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me ...' Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love - all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story. Welcome to Christine's life.


by Cat Patrick

Each night when 16 year-old London Lane goes to sleep, her whole world disappears. In the morning, all that's left is a note telling her about a day she can't remember. The whole scenario doesn't exactly make high school or dating that hot guy whose name she can't seem to recall any easier. But when London starts experiencing disturbing visions she can't make sense of, she realizes it's time to learn a little more about the past she keeps forgetting-before it destroys her future.

Part psychological drama, part romance, and part mystery, this thought-provoking novel will inspire readers to consider the what-if's in their own lives and recognize the power they have to control their destinies.


And in a different vein, this book from  new author, Steve Himmer, sounds just like the kind of creative and quirky story that I would enjoy, about a man that gets hired to be a hermit.

The Bee-Loud Glade
by Steve Himmer

When Finch, a recently fired marketer of plastic plants, takes a vow of silence to live as a hermit on an eccentric billionaire's estate, he finds that his attempt to contemplate nature and deeper truths is foiled by his noisy inner thoughts and his new employer's booming demands.


And some of my favorite images from this week:

A Japanese home comprised almost entirely of book shelves.

For those truly concerned about the zombie apocalypse, make sure to jot down this number. (via imgur)

This just made me laugh. I love coming across these odd mistranslations.
(via imagur)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

Posted by Simcha 4:28 PM, under | 9 comments

The women of the Waverley family -- whether they like it or not -- are heirs to an unusual legacy, one that grows in a fenced plot behind their Queen Anne home on Pendland Street in Bascom, North Carolina. There, an apple tree bearing fruit of magical properties looms over a garden filled with herbs and edible flowers that possess the power to affect in curious ways anyone who eats them.

For nearly a decade, 34-year-old Claire Waverley, at peace with her family inheritance, has lived in the house alone, embracing the spirit of the grandmother who raised her, ruing her mother's unfortunate destiny and seemingly unconcerned about the fate of her rebellious sister, Sydney, who freed herself long ago from their small town's constraints. Using her grandmother's mystical culinary traditions, Claire has built a successful catering business -- and a carefully controlled, utterly predictable life -- upon the family's peculiar gift for making life-altering delicacies: lilac jelly to engender humility, for instance, or rose geranium wine to call up fond memories. Garden Spells reveals what happens when Sydney returns to Bascom with her young daughter, turning Claire's routine existence upside down. With Sydney's homecoming, the magic that the quiet caterer has measured into recipes to shape the thoughts and moods of others begins to influence Claire's own emotions in terrifying and delightful ways.

As the sisters reconnect and learn to support one another, each finds romance where she least expects it, while Sydney's child, Bay, discovers both the safe home she has longed for and her own surprising gifts. With the help of their elderly cousin Evanelle, endowed with her own uncanny skills, the Waverley women redeem the past, embrace the present, and take a joyful leap into the future.

When reading through reviews of Allen’s Garden Spells, I couldn’t help but notice how frequently the word “enchanting” was used to describe the book. Now that I’ve read it myself I have to admit that I can’t think of another adjective that fits the book so well. Delightful is also good one. And magical. But definitely enchanting.

In lyrical prose, Allen paints a picture of a unique town in which each of the founding families is known to posses particular characteristics, passed down through the generations. The Hopkin boys are old at heart and therefore always marry older women. The Clark women are known for their skills in satisfying their men and therefore they always marry well. But the Waverly family is seen as being particularly odd due to the almost magical skill that each family member possesses. Claire is able to manipulate people’s emotions through the use of the herbs in her special garden. Claire’s aunt Evanelle is constantly gifting people with items that they will soon find that they need. And everyone knows that one bite from an apple from the Waverly’s tree will give them a vision of the most important event of their lives.

Despite their strange reputation Claire is proud to be a Waverly. After an unstable childhood with an irresponsible mother, Claire now she clings to the safety and reliability of her current life. Claire has even found a way to profit from her unique skills and her catering business is particularly popular with those who know what her cooking can do.

    Business was doing well, because all the locals knew that dishes made from the flowers that grew around the apple tree in the Waverley garden could affect the eater in curious ways. The biscuits with lilac jelly, the lavender tea cookies, and the tea cakes made with nasturtium mayonnaise the Ladies Aid ordered for their meetings once a month gave them the ability to keep secrets.  The fried dandelion buds over marigold-petal rice, stuffed pumpkin blossoms, and rose-hip soup ensured that your company would notice only the beauty of your home and never the flaws.  Anise hyssop honey butter on toast, angelica candy, and cupcakes with crystallized pansies made children thoughtful.   Honeysuckle wine served on the Fourth of July gave you the ability to see in the dark.   The nutty flavor of the dip made from hyacinth bulbs made you feel moody and think of the past, and the salads made with chicory and mint had you believing that something good was about to happen, whether it was true or not.

But Claire’s solitary existence is disturbed by the arrival of her sister, Sydney, who had left home straight after high-school and has not been back since. Unlike Claire, Sydney’s only desire was to escape the small town she grew up in and shed the Waverly name. But the responsibilities of motherhood and the danger of an abusive relationship force Sydney to return to the only home she has ever known, and to a sister she never really got to know.

Meanwhile, the new next-door neighbor is determined to integrate himself into Claire’s life despite Claire’s reluctance to let anyone get close to her. And an old friend from the past may help Sydney begin to heal from some of the hurts of her past.

Garden Spells was a charming and engaging story that I very much enjoyed. I love reading about characters that have unusual quirks, and this book was full of them. Even the apple tree has a personality of its own, throwing its apples at people, tempting them to take a bite. And while I usually find these magical realism books unsatisfying in how they integrate the magic into the story, Allen wove it all together into a seamless and enchanting (there it is again) tale that had me throughly captivated.

While a bit of darkness does slip in, overall Garden Spells is a lighthearted story of relationships, romance and identity that would make a great summer read. This was my first sample of Allen’s writing and I can’t wait to try some more.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Fourth of July in Israel

Posted by Simcha 9:18 PM, under | 6 comments

I've been living in Israel for nearly eight years now and each year I still find myself missing the fourth of July celebrations that I used to enjoy, particularly the elaborate firework displays.

I remember how in Atlanta all the cars would pull over to the side of the highway and drivers would climb on to the hoods of their cars to watch the fireworks. And when we lived in Milwaukee, each year my family would stake out a particular spot where we were able to view three different firework displays at the same time. While we do have some fireworks here for the Israeli Independence Day the displays are not nearly as grand as the ones I used to see in America and each fourth of July I find myself thinking back nostalgically to fourth of Julys of the past.

But even though I no longer live in America doesn't mean I can't still celebrate the holiday and today my children and I went into Jerusalem for the annual AACI (Americans and Canadians in Israel) Fourth of July fair which includes a flea market, games for children and musicians playing popular American songs.

My kids didn't quite get what it was all about and kept asking me why everyone was speaking English, but they had a fantastic time. They ate "American style" ice cream, had American flags painted on their faces and participated in the games and races with the other kids. They also each got a bit of money with which to purchase something in the flea market and they had a great time choosing something for themselves (sadly, when we got home my daughter discovered that she had lost the little change purse that she had bought for herself and she spent the night crying brokenheartedly about it).

My favorite part was definitely the flea market. I used to be a flea market junkie when I lived in America and I have yet to find any experience that matches the thrill of shopping at a flea market.  While I didn't end up buying too much I did pick up a couple of books that I have been wanting to read for a while, Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver and The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, so that was exciting. And for my ten- year old I picked up The Skull of Truth by Bruce Coville, because he has been on a Coville kick lately, and this book looked like fun.

So while this Fourth of July was firework-free my children and I still enoyed celebrating it together, here in Israel, with American games, music, treats and friends.

Hope you have a great Fourth of July!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Interview with Jenny from Jenny's Books

Posted by Simcha 2:47 AM, under | 5 comments

I'm delighted to be able to start off the new week with another fantastic interview with one of my favorite book bloggers, Jenny from Jenny's Books.

This picture is not really of Jenny...

If you wrote a book what would the blurb on the inside back cover (right beside your picture) say about you?

This picture is not really of Jenny, because Jenny does not photograph well and does her level best to steer clear of photographers. She gripes a lot about missing Louisiana while taking advantage of all the awesome things New York offers, including her wonderful job in publishing. She has three sisters and a lot of books.

How long have you been blogging for?

Three yearsish? Three and a half? I started in December 2007, which is a long time ago, though it seems like I’ve only been blogging for about twenty seconds.

How did you come to start a book blog?

I had reached a parlous state where I had read everything my mother recommended to me, and my reading tastes had diverged from the tastes of my reading friends. One day it occurred to me to google “book blog”, and a whole new world of recommendations opened up to me. I started my own book blog because I thought it would be useful to have a record of what I thought of the books I had read in the past, and in order to be able to tell people why I wasn’t going to read anything else ever by Ian McEwan.

Have you always been an avid reader?

Apparently there was a time in my life at which I could not yet read. But I do not remember it. I was at that time also allergic to dairy products. I suppose those were very dark years, and I appreciate my subconscious’s kindness in repressing them.

Was there a particular book that turned you on to reading?


…Yes. My mother started reading the Chronicles of Narnia to me when I was three. I actually don’t remember what I thought of the books upon first listen (apart from that The Silver Chair scared the hell out of me), but the Chronicles of Narnia have always sort of lived in my mind as a sort of Platonic ideal of how books ought to be.

Has being a book reviewer changed the way that you approach reading?

I think being a book blogger has changed the way I approach reading, in that I’m a little more reluctant to start reading great big fat books, lest I fall behind on my posting schedule (behinder than I usually am, which is very very behind indeed). Apart from that, I don’t think I’ve changed my reading strategies much. I read a bigger variety of books, maybe.

You claim to read the end of books first, is that true? And if so, why?

Oh it is so true. I do it because I like having a general outline of the book in my mind when I’m reading it: it gives me somewhere to put the middle bits as they occur. I don’t like the sort of punched-in-the-gut surprise some books enjoy dishing out (*hem*SarahWatersFingersmith*hem*). I did an experiment last September where I didn’t read the end of any of the books I was reading at all; and what I found was that reading the “normal” way was exactly like reading my way, except less fun and awesome.

Book bloggers often find that reviewing books encourages them to read books outside of their regular reading comfort zone. Is there a particular book that you would never have otherwise tried if you weren’t a book reviewer, but you ended up loving?

I think it’s not so much reviewing that makes me read books I wouldn’t normally read, but other bloggers. Being a book blogger sort of puts you in a different conversation stream than ordinary life, so there are times when I will read a book – such as The Hunger Games – just because I want to be able to participate in a conversation that all the other book bloggers are having.

Are there any particular topics or causes that you have discovered a passion for since becoming a book blogger which you might have never thought much about before? (ex. cover whitewashing, banned books)

Hm. Not really. I have thought about topics and causes I never thought about before, including cover whitewashing, but I wouldn’t say that anything’s made me want to get up in arms and go storm the castle gates.

What’s the last book that you read that blew you away?

Persian Fire. Rocked my world. On the fiction side, I’m reading George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series (finally), and although it’s not necessarily blowing me away, it’s one of those really, really absorbing and enjoyable reading experiences that makes me remember why I love reading so much.

If you met someone who was only going to read one book this year which book would you recommend to them?

After about two hours of explaining why they should read way more books than just one a year, I might recommend The Book Thief. It’s just so good.

What’s the most interesting thing has has every happened to you?

Oo, hard! I’ve had a boring life! My mind immediately goes to tales of woe, although even those are pretty tame. The problem is that things that are interesting while they’re happening (like seeing a play at the Globe Theatre, say) are not that interesting to talk about. I don’t know!

Favorite snack while reading?

Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies. Or cheese fries. Or cheese fries and then Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies. Heart health, obviously, is my watchword.

Favorite word?

No idea. I’m very fond of “shabby” but I wouldn’t call it my favorite. I like words with Ts and hard Cs. “Indefatigable” is very good because it feels like running down a hill – once you’ve started saying the word, you can’t stop! That word is coming out.

Favorite quote?

“What emotional storms and oh, what a tiny teacup!” from Tom Stoppard’s The Invention of Love. I want to start naming second and third favorites, but that’s a slippery slope.

Favorite childhood memory

When I was a kid, my family used to spend two weeks at a little cottage on the beach in southern Maine. One of my favorite childhood memories is definitely when we would go out to Nubble Light and climb around the rocks, and then sit down and have a pizza picnic on the rocks, and watch the seagulls and tourists and scuba divers.

Favorite comfort read

Hilary McKay’s Casson family books. They are sweet without being saccharine, and funny, and charming. Also L. M. Montgomery, A Tangled Web and Jane of Lantern Hill. I could read those over and over and over. I don't mind that the storylines are predictable. That is just L. M. Montgomery's way.

If you could spend the day with any book character who would you choose and why?

I would probably answer this differently on any given day, depending on what I’d read lately. Right now I feel like I’d like to spend the day with Septimus Hodge from Arcadia. He could make wry jokes and teach me math, and then I wouldn’t be so stupid about math. Oh, he’s a character in a play, not a book book. Is that still okay?

Thank you Jenny!

Blogiversary Giveaway winner

Posted by Simcha 1:56 AM, under | 1 comment

The winner of my Blogiversary book giveaway is...

Carol T.

Congratulations Carol! 

You will be receiving The Painted Boy by Charles DeLint.  I hope you enjoy it!


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