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Chocolat

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I think most people have seen the movie version of Chocolat with Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche. Although that is one of my favourite movies, I actually think I much prefer the book which it was based upon.There is something really beautiful about the way Ms. Harris writes. Every phrase is lyrical and enticing. I love how her fiction creates a perfect balance between fiction and magic. When I say magic though, I don't mean magic like Harry Potter, but like the excitement of growing your own herbs, seeing a beautiful sunrise, or listening to the wind in the cliffs. She writes about the magic underlying everyday life, with a bit more thrown in of course.I assume most know the plot of the novel. A young single mother and her daughter move to a oppressive french village where they open a chocolate shop. The local priest tries to get rid of them as they inspire liberty and freedom amongst the villagers.The biggest difference between the novel and movie is the protagonist. In the movie, the bad guy is a local aristocrat instead of the local priest. The change makes sense though as the movie doesn't place as strong an influence on religion as the novel. Regardless, they both serve their purpose and play the role in a similar way in each medium. The familial relationship is better explored in the novel version as well, in particular Vivianne's background with her own mother. I do feel that this added a level to her character that the movie lacked. Nonetheless, both are incredible!I cannot recommend this novel more highly. I have read it a half a dozen times, and love it a little more each time. I also love the sequel The Lollipop Shoes, where we re-encounter the family living in Paris.
Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe: A Novel with Recipes

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Light and frothy, perfect for the summer or a head-cold (which is what I've been suffering from). Who else gets a head-cold in the middle of summer??In any case, this was a fun novel, and it included a slew of really great sounding recipes! The novel is set in London, where a thirty-year-old women has realized what we all realize at one point. We're getting older and unhappy with our safe course. Issy has a boyfriend she likes, but who doesn't like her. She has an ok job, but it doesn't make her happy. Her mother is distant, her grandfather is sick, and her friends are all settling down. When she gets laid off in a crap economy with no job prospects, she takes a crazy chance and follows her passion - making cupcakes!Opening a cupcake cafe may seem a little nuts, and maybe it is, but she's so sweet and passionate for baking that you cannot help but be swept up and want her to win. Naturally, there are a few bumps along the road. Should she go back to the jerk boyfriend or give a new guy a chance? How will she run this cafe without her grandpa's guidance? Can she settle into the community?Issy is a sweet character. She's so innocent, even though, at times, you wish she should could see the true character of her jerk boyfriend. On the other hand, I think most young women have had a relationship like this at some point, so it's not that terrible a flaw. The supporting cast adds a great comedic element, and I liked that none of the characters felt too...typical. They were quirky and adorable!
Isis

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The novella concerns a young girl living in a manor in England with her family. After a horrible tragedy, the young girl tries to call up the forces of the dead to solve her life, and to see a loved one again. As the book says numerous times 'death has a price', and she finds out deaths price in a fairly gruesome way.It was marked as a suspense, though to be honest I didn't find it all that scary. A younger audience would probably be more frightened by the cautionary tale.Regardless, I thought it was a really interesting little story. It was imaginative and there were some great supernatural elements. As I said, I didn't find the book to be scary, however it was thoroughly entertaining. It was also beautifully illustrated throughout. The whole novella was actually quite visually beautiful.So, while a younger audience might be frightened by the story, I think an older audience would appreciate this novella as an unusual fairy tale about consequences and death. I absolutely recommend this novella.
A Thames Moment

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The final of Gordon Cope's memoirs, for your reading pleasure. I truly hope that this is not the end of writing for him though, I honestly love his style/voice.So, this time Mr. Cope and his wife have moved to England, into a small town along the Thames. Mr. Cope is playing househusband again while dodging eccentrics in the English countryside.When I say that he's dodging eccentrics, I really mean it. There seems to be an unusually large number of older gentlemen wandering around in wellies talking to their dogs. Makes me yearn for home a bit actually, although our prairie eccentrics wear work boots and occasionally talk to cows.Mr. Cope and his wife wandered a bit of the countryside, but not as much as you might expect. I was surprised to see that they did not go to Hay-on-Wye to see all of the books. If I was going to be living in the area, that's the first place I would try to visit. Regardless, they did make a few interesting stops and I am disappointed to say that I no longer wish to visit Reading, until this point a life-long dream, as it just seems to be a city. Damn it!As usual, the sarcasm and fun never stops. His second book is probably still my favourite, though mostly because I love Paris. Nonetheless, this is a fantastic memoir of a tiny little area of England. Why not give it a try?
Sixpence House

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Hay-on-Wye is my idea of the ideal vacation place! 1500 people, 40 bookstores, millions of books to discover!! Plus, they do a book festival every spring which I'm really hoping to get to next year.Sixpence House is a memoir written by a British-American who decides, along with his wife and young son, to move to Hay-on-Wye to pursue an ideal countryside life and work on his novels. Unfortunately, they realize that it's hard to break into the housing market there, and ultimately some dreams are best left as dreams. Although they end up moving back to the USA, it still gives me hope that my crazy dream of moving to the South of France and opening a bookstore might come true!Sixpence House is even better however because of Mr. Collins writing. He's funny and observant, and the little bits of literary trivia make this one of the most interesting books I've read in quite awhile! I think I've added about thirty new books now to my wishlist thanks to this book, including Mr. Collins first novel about people who disappeared into the footnotes of history.This is a great little travel memoir. I've read it a few times, and yet I still love to come back to it. I absolutely recommend you give this book a try!!
Sexually, I'm More of a Switzerland: More Personal Ads from the London Review of Books

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We have all wished at some point that the person we are supposed to be would show up – myself included! For the supremely brave among us, there is the appeal of a personal add. Sexually, I’m more of a Switzerland is a collection of the craziest and most inspiring personal ads placed in the London Review of Books over the years. Actually, it’s the second collection but I haven’t been able to find a copy of They Call Me Naughty Lola yet. These are not the typical personal ads with a simple searching for message. WLTM man to 45 who enjoys a walk on the beach – this will not be found here. What you will find is the most normal (and crazy) readers of the London Review of Books placing all of their feelings on the table. Take it or leave it, at least these people are being honest. My favourite section of the book was entitled “You know who you are.” A product of failed past personal adverts, these people were a lot clearer about who they did not want to contact them. The utter insanity of it all will have you laughing out loud wherever you are when reading this book. In my case, I had made the unfortunate decision to start this while waiting on a bench for friends to arrive. They found me giggling manically and generally scaring off children, but utterly delighted with my latest find. This is certainly a short book, but it falls under the category of reality being stranger than fiction. Maybe it will inspire you to put yourself out there – who knows that the result may be!
Voyage to Enchantment

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I'm finding it quite hard to review this book. My difficulty with reviewing this book is not the fault of the author. The book was wonderfully written. The descriptions of the landscape were particularly evocative. If it weren't for the death and destruction there, I might be tempted to visit!My issue is with the bookseller himself. I went into this book really quite excited. I love books (clearly) and the thought of someone skirting the law in order to spread knowledge and literature gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling! However, this bookseller was an issue. Although I admired what he was doing (with some exception to his views on commerce, even if I understand that everyone must make a living), I could not admire the way he treated his family.He treated his sons like they were no better than work donkey's. He treated his first wife like she was a forgotten piece of garbage. I understand that it would be tough to run a business in this economy and in that country, but sometimes there must be limits. In any case, even though I really really really didn't like the bookseller and felt bad for the women in his family, the was a fantastic nonfiction book. It looks at a place in the world with which most of us are unfamiliar. It allows us a glimpse into a life very much unlike our own. If this is what you're looking for, give this book a chance!
Brokeback Mountain: Now a Major Motion Picture

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I am a huge fan of the movie version of Ms. Proulx's short story, however there was something quite hauntingly beautiful about reading the story behind the script.The imagery was amazing - you could easily picture all the events occurring in a sweeping landscape. Of course, it might help that I live in the prairies.More importantly, the love story between these two men is what sticks with you long after you finish reading. Days later, I was still turning some of their conversations over and over in my mind, torn up inside that they could never be in love with one another. There was something about their quick recoil from the label of homosexual that made me terribly sad. They were both so closed up inside that they couldn't even come to terms with their sexual orientation, because admitting it would be detrimental to their social image. What should have been a beautiful love affair become something dirty. The times and their inability to come to terms with their sexual orientation resulted in their life long unhappiness. Nothing upsets me more than that.If you enjoyed the movie or are interested in a short social commentary, take the time to read this story. I promise it will stay with you long after the last page is turned.
Sultana: A Novel of Moorish Spain: Sultana, #1

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Normally, I have few complaints when it comes to historical fiction. A little embellishment here and there is just fine, particularly since we really never know what happened in the past.I have to say, though, that this was one historical fiction novel that I'm not crazy for. It's not a terrible novel, but I found the plot elements very difficult to follow. I also found it hard to believe that love came so easy to the main characters.The novel is set in the 1200's, where the young daughter of a Sultan is married off to her cousin as a pre-teen. The period is one of much turmoil. There is constantly some battle occurring, or a political fine-line to walk. Realistic to the period perhaps, but not always that interesting to read. The personal interactions were the best part, even if I found the main relationship hard to believe.Regardless, like I said, this isn't a terrible novel. I just didn't particularly enjoy it unfortunately. I found myself skimming the long parts describing the various battles, and half the time I wasn't sure what was going on since all of the names were the same and the relations were far too complicated. I won't be seeking out the sequel when it's released later this year.
If You Go Into The Woods

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The first short story featured a man wandering in a diabolical forest. Instead of real birds, he keeps finding mechanical birds. Just as you're about to find out why though, the story ends. I have to say I really liked the premise of this story, but I felt like it ended too soon. It really left me wanting more, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.The second story was about a man who drifts through everyone's lives. Even though he goes to the same places everyday, no one remembers him. Although I loved the ending (I don't want to spoil the surprise!) I was again left wanting more!Both of these stories were intriguing. The author has a really unusual way of expressing himself which I thought was fantastic. I'm looking forward to seeing what this author comes up with next!
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