Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson

Title: Treasure Island
Author: Robert Louis Stevenson
Publisher: free on iBooks
Published date: 1883
FTC: read for free on iBooks

One of my favorite classic authors is Robert Louis Stevenson.    In high school I read this awesome little compilation of short stories called The New Arabian Nights.  While I still haven't found that same compilation, I did snag a copy of Stevenson's works that include his novels, The New Arabian Nights, and a bunch of poetry I didn't know he wrote.  Seriously, if you have time, check out the short stories The Suicide Club and The Rajah's Diamond.  Anyway, for those of you less familiar, you might have heard of his novels Kidnapped or The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Anyway, I'm not sure why it took me so long to read his classic story Treasure Island. We all pretty much know the basics of the story: boy Jim Hawkins goes on an adventure to Treasure Island to get said treasure and has a bunch of shenanigans with a pirate named Long John Silver who has a parrot on his shoulder and a wooden leg.

"Fifteen men on the dead man's chest- 
Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!"

Anyway, when I was asked if I wanted to read Andrew Motion's recent novel Silver I jumped at the chance.  It's a novel about Jim Hawkin's son who returns to Treasure Island.  If you've read the original, and it's really not a huge spoiler, there's a bit of treasure left behind on the island - bar silver.  I was excited to finally have an excuse to read the original and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Is it silly to think that someday I'll read this book to my boys?  Or maybe they'll snag it up and read it for themselves?  While it does have some older language, I'd like to think my kids will be smart enough to read this classic.  

Now I'm going to have to read more of Stevenson's works: The Master of Ballantrae, Kidnapped, and The Arrow.   


Head over to the official Robert Louis Stevenson website and look at the beautiful original artwork from the novel. I'd love a copy of the book with the original artwork. I hope it's ok I post a photo:

Scrolling through Netflix streaming I found the TV movie Treasure Island (2012) starring Eddie Izzard (awesome!), Rupert Penry-Jones, Donald Sutherland and Elijah Woods.  I haven't watched it yet but the trailer looks awesome.  

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Where'd You Go, Bernadette - Maria Semple

Title: Where'd You Go, Bernadette
Author: Maria Semple
Audiobook: 9 hours, 39 minutes
Narrator: Kathleen Wilhoite
Publisher: Hachette
Published date: 2012
FTC: Checked out from library

What a fun book!  I like to check out audiobooks from my library which help me enjoy doing chores around my house.   I thought the narrator, Kathleen Wilhoite, did such a fabulous job telling this story.  She made the story extremely engaging fun with the different characters' voices.  A definite recommend whether you read or listen to this book.

The synopsis from GoodReads:

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle—and people in general—has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence—creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world.

My thoughts:

I'm not sure how Bernadette's character comes off while reading, but I found her absolutely hilarious and adored her.  The narrator did a wonderful job - with all her complaining and irritations with others, she comes off more comedic than annoying.  That's a fine line to walk.  I couldn't help but loving her character.

I love the way the story is told through emails and letters.  We hear snippets from Bernadette, Bee (who is also just an awesome and smart girl), Elgin Branch - Bernadette's husband and Bee's father, Elgin's assistant Soo-Lin, and Soo-Lin's friend Audrey.  Don't worry, it works and it's explained as Bee compiling all these snippets to try to find her mother and explain how and why she left.

I thought it was funny as well as poignant that Bernadette's sanity was put into question because of her increasingly reclusive and agoraphobic tendencies.  Because, in all honesty, don't we all walk that fine line between irritation and annoyance and craziness?  I also loved her outsider's description of Seattle because having lived for years in Alaska and understanding some of the Seattle nuances it just cracked me up.

It's refreshing to find characters that, while they don't always make the right decisions and often really horrible ones, I found them to be realistic and didn't feel like slapping them.  Even Elgin.  Again, my only gripe with the book's narrator in the audio version is that sometimes Bee sounded a bit younger than her 15 years - especially being a smart 15 year old.  I kept imaging her more like a smart 8 year old.  I'm not sure why, but sometimes Bernadette's voice made me think New York and not L.A.  Other than that...

Oh, I almost forgot to mention: I love that the story took us to Antarctica.  That's right.  How's that for a tad bit of armchair travel?  And it was realistic too. (I knew it! Maria Semple did go to Antarctica. I thought so.)  It reminded me a bit of the ferry ride down from Alaska but in a much colder and exotic locale.  I've got a book on Antarctica by James McClintock on my shelf right now which is calling to me.  I love when one book inspires me to read another book.

Extra stuff:

It looks like Where'd You Go, Bernadette is going to be made into a movie!  I always love envisioning the actors and actresses who'd play the parts in books.  There's some interesting ideas of Judy Davis or Helena Bonham Carter as Bernadette.  Who would you cast?

About the author:

Interesting note, Maria Semple wrote for shows like Arrested Development, Mad About You, Ellen, and Saturday Night Live.  You can definitely see this in her writing - vivid and funny.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Lavender Garden - Lucinda Riley

Title: The Lavender Garden
Author: Lucinda Riley
Paperback: 399 pages
Publisher: Atria
Published date: June 2013
FTC: Received from Atria Galley Alley

When I saw The Lavender Garden offered on Atria's Galley Alley I eagerly snapped it up.  Last year I reviewed her novel The Orchid House and thoroughly enjoyed her writing which mixes stories of the past and the present.  This novel tells the story of present day Emilie, a French woman who's inherited her family's chateau, and Constance, a British woman who is dropped behind enemy lines in occupied France during WWII.  If you like Susanna Kearsley, Kate Morton, or any story which weaves the past and present, you'll enjoy Lucinda Riley's novels.

Synopsis from GoodReads:

La Côte d’Azur, 1998: In the sun-dappled south of France, Emilie de la Martinières, the last of her gilded line, inherits her childhood home, a magnificent château and vineyard. With the property comes a mountain of debt—and almost as many questions . . .

Paris, 1944: A bright, young British office clerk, Constance Carruthers, is sent undercover to Paris to be part of Churchill’s Special Operations Executive during the climax of the Nazi occupation. Separated from her contacts in the Resistance, she soon stumbles into the heart of a prominent family who regularly entertain elite members of the German military even as they plot to liberate France. But in a city rife with collaborators and rebels, Constance’s most difficult decision may be determining whom to trust with her heart.

As Emilie discovers what really happened to her family during the war and finds a connection to Constance much closer than she suspects, the château itself may provide the clues that unlock the mysteries of her past, present, and future. Here is a dazzling novel of intrigue and passion from one of the world’s most beloved storytellers.

My thoughts:

Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed reading The Lavender Garden.    But...ok there are a few buts.  Since I've only read one other Riley novel it's hard not to compare the two.  I didn't think the writing was as smooth in The Lavender Garden as The Orchid House.  My main issue was the modern day story of Emilie.  For growing up in a wealthy French family, Emilie is such a wallflower.  It was hard for me to find her sympathetic or believable.  She falls for a guy named Sebastian and the way he talks is so unrealistic and I immediately got that yuck feeling for him.  For loving both modern and past stories in The Orchid House, I was a bit disappointed with the modern story in this novel.  That said, Ms Riley can really describe her environment and I totally picture the French countryside with Emilie's chateau.  I definitely did some armchair traveling.

The novel picks up quickly though with Constance's story.  I'm such a sucker for WWII French Resistance stories.  This is where the writing gets better, the characters are deeper and less annoying, and I thoroughly enjoyed this part of the book.  My only complaint is that the bad guys in both time periods are just a little too evil bad.  I like my evil characters to be a bit more realistic and human.  Most people aren't just pure evil and I didn't completely buy their reasons for being bad guys.

While I didn't enjoy The Lavender Garden as much as The Orchid House, I'm still a fan of Lucinda Riley's novels and really want to pick up a copy of The Girl on the Cliff.  I've read great reviews of that one.  I think Lucinda Riley is fast becoming one of my go-to authors for curl up and read books.

Other versions:

In the UK this book is called The Light Behind the Window.  I think it's a more appropriate title  I even like the cover a bit more.  What do you think?

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Crown - Nancy Bilyeau (Paperback) Giveaway

Thanks to Touchstone publisher, I received a copy of The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau along with a copy of The Chalice to review for TLC Book Tours.  Since I already owned The Crown, I'm giving away my paperback copy to one lucky winner!  Yes, you too can join the awesome bandwagon that is Nancy  Bilyeau's series.

Check out my review of The Crown (#1) and The Chalice (#2)

Giveaway is open US residents only (sorry I'm a stay-at-home mom) and open through Monday, August 19th.

Good luck!

Contest is closed!

The winner is: ANNE!!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Chalice - Nancy Bilyeau

Title: The Chalice
Author: Nancy Bilyeau
Hardcover: 482 pages
Publisher: Touchstone
Published date: March 2013
FTC: Received to review for TLC Book Tours

Remember how I recently raved about Nancy Bilyeau's first novel The Crown?  I was so excited when TLC Book Tours asked if I wanted to be on tour for her second in the series novel, The Chalice.  I am so addicted to this series.  I heard from TLC Book Tours that book #3 The Covenant is going to be out at the end of 2014.  Arg!  I have to wait so long!  If you haven't read this series yet, seriously what are you waiting for?  Good news! Tomorrow I'll be hosting a giveaway for the paperback version of The Crown so one lucky person will be able to get as addicted to this series as I am.

The synopsis:

'The Chalice' is a historical thriller told from the point of view of a young woman caught in the crosswinds of time: She has pledged to become a Dominican nun in an England ruled by Henry VIII, who has ruthlessly smashed his country's allegiance to Rome. By 1538, the bloody power struggles between crown and cross threaten to tear the country apart. Joanna Stafford has seen what lies inside the king’s torture rooms and risks imprisonment again, when she is caught up in a shadowy international plot targeting the King. As the power plays turn vicious, Joanna understands she may have to assume her role in a prophecy foretold by three different seers, each more omniscient than the last. The life of Henry VIII as well as the future of Christendom are in her hands—hands that must someday hold the chalice that lays at the center of these deadly prophecies. As she struggles to forge a life for herself in a country that rejects her faith, she must also decide if her future should be shared with a man--and if so, which of the two men who love her should be chosen.

My Thoughts:

First of all, The Chalice is book #2 in a series starting with The Crown.  Do you have to read The Crown to enjoy The Chalice?  I've read quite a few reviews where the reviewer raved about The Chalice without having read the first book.  I also noticed that Ms Bilyeau did a pretty darn good job about explaining a bit of the back story in a way that would catch you up pretty well if you haven't read any of her books without being tedious if you have.  But The Crown is seriously awesome so just go read it first. It won't take you long.

The Chalice starts out with Joanna Stafford and her fellow nuns and monks left in the aftermath of Henry VIII and Cromwell's closure of her abbey and other monasteries.  Again, Joanna gets caught up in the political intrigues of protecting her faith against Henry VIII's destruction.  She is also torn between her love and admiration of two men in her life: fellow monk and brother Edmund Sommerville and Constable Geoffrey Scovill.  This part is done really well without you feeling like your reading a romance novel, feeling that it's not historically realistic, or feeling like the love triangle is overdone.

I gave The Crown five stars on GoodReads but only four stars for The Chalice.  The only reasons is because like second books I'm kind of stuck in that limbo of "what happens next??!!"  That and Joanna Stafford kind of disappointed me -- just a tad.  In The Crown she is such a strong and noble character while in The Chalice she makes a few mistakes that just make you want to yell at her a bit.  But I loved that she acknowledges those mistakes and definitely has to atone for them.  So while I wanted to shake her, I love that she became a bit more human, a bit less nun perfect.

Do you also remember how in my review of The Crown, I thought that I knew the reasoning behind Ms Bilyeau's titles?  I was totally wrong.  I loved that I was surprised.  The Chalice was not in reference to what I thought it was going to be.  So I am so excited to see where Ms Bilyeau takes Joanna in book #3.  We got a brief glimpse of Henry VIII towards the end of the book so I wonder if he and his court will be more prominent in the last book.  I also love Joanna's connection to Mary Tudor.  I think that in history Mary is a bit maligned since the adoration usually always goes to her half sister Elizabeth.

I love this series because while historically I know what happens in Tudor era England, she still leaves me excited to know what happens next.

Here's the book trailer for The Chalice:

Nancy Bilyeau’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Sunday, June 30th:  Booktalk & More – review of The Crown
Monday, July 1st:  Tiffany’s Bookshelf - review of The Crown
Monday, July 15th:  Bookish Whimsy - review of The Crown
Wednesday, July 17th:  A Chick Who Reads
Thursday, July 18th:  Tiffany’s Bookshelf
Friday, July 19th:  Col Reads
Monday, July 22nd:  No More Grumpy Bookseller
Wednesday, July 24th:  Lit and Life
Thursday, July 25th:  Books Without Any Pictures – review of The Crown
Thursday, July 25th:  Book Addict Katie
Monday, July 29th:  Scandalous Women
Tuesday, July 30th:  Laura’s Reviews - review of The Crown and The Chalice
Tuesday, July 30th:  Fiction Addict
Thursday, August 1st:  Bookish Whimsy
Monday, August 5th:  Read Lately
Wednesday, August 7th:  A Library of My Own
Thursday, August 8th:  Literally Jen
Friday, August 9th:  A Reader of Fictions
Monday, August 12th:  Books Without Any Pictures
Tuesday, August 13th:  Booktalk & More
Wednesday, August 14th:  2 Kids and Tired
Thursday, August 15th:  Patricia’s Wisdom
Date TBD:  Royal Reviews

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Now that Google Reader is kaput I'm switching over to following the blogs I read on Bloglovin'.  I actually really like it because it pops me to everyone's actual blog instead of reading the posts in the reader.

What I don't like is I can't search all the blog posts like I could in Google Reader.  I don't know how many of you utilize that feature, but I like to add links to other people's reviews so you can get more that just my opinion.  I'm not sure how much I'll be able to do that any more.

Mainly, I have to write this post to claim my blog on Bloglovin'.  However you follow my blog, thanks for reading my posts!  Cheers!