Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Circus of Ghosts (Barbara Ewing)

Title: The Circus of Ghosts
Author: Barbara Ewing
Published: 2011
Publisher: Little Brown Paperbacks
Pages: 416
Source: Library
Genres: Historical Fiction
Goodreads  |

Circus of Ghosts is the sequel to Barbara Ewing's fantastic novel The Mesmerist. The Mesmerist was set in London in the 1830s and follows the story of Miss Cordelia Preston, a beautiful, ageing actress who, faced with poverty, reinvents herself as a Lady Phreno-Mesmerist, a practice of entrancing patients for healing purposes that has captivated the city. I read The Mesmerist two years ago and found it an incredibly captivating read. I have always enjoyed Ewing's novels for their strong female character leads and in depth research.

Circus of Ghosts follows Cordelia Preston over 10 years later as she has taken her daughter Gwenlliam and her misfit collection of "family" across to New York and set themselves up with Silas P. Swift's circus. Unknown to them a venomous duke from their past plots with an unscrupulous lawyer against the mother and daughter; to kill one and to abduct the other.

The amount of research that would have gone into this book must have been quite substantial as the descriptions of New York during that time; of the gangs and the docks and the police and the stark contrast between poverty and high class society are simply stunning. That coupled with the incredibly detailed picture of San Francisco during the gold mining era was fascinating. I would love to read more about this time in America's history so if anyone knows some great books to dive into let me know.

Unfortunately that was the best thing I liked about this book. Unlike many of her other books this one simply lacked something in the character relationships that should really engage you into a novel. I found many of the character interactions and drivers to be surface level, the story jumped all over the place and was quite disjointed and it lacked the pace of the first book. This made it just an okay novel instead of a great one.

Skip It

Sunday, 9 June 2013

The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)

Title: The Grapes of Wrath
Author: John Steinbeck
Originally Published: 1939
My Edition Published: 2011
Publisher: Penguin Books
Pages: 536
Source: Book club
Genres: Classics
Goodreads  |

The Grapes of Wrath follows the Joad family during the Great Depression as they are displaced from the land they work in Oklahoma and follow thousands of others as they head west to California with the promise of work and a better life. What they find there is anything but.

This is the first Steinbeck I have read and I think he is an incredible writer. The writing is so vivid and descriptive that you can't help but be transported into the lives of this family and the struggles that they go through. The story is quite simply one of the most harrowing I have read. Tom Joad is released from prison (there because he killed someone defending himself in a fight) and heads home to reunite with his family only to find his family have been kicked off the farm they work due to ecological disasters and the hunt for more and more profits from greedy bankers. There begins a journey across America with 11 other family members and an ex preacher in the back of a truck with all their worldly possessions. They join thousands of others heading west due to the promise of work, a lie used to drive down wages as more and more people demand work on the cotton and fruit fields. Anger, death, hunger, and violence await them at the end of their journey.

This book is not for the faint hearted but it is an incredible story and well worth the read. Steinbeck has been able to capture the human spirit of determination and will to survive when all else is lost, the need to battle and fight no matter what, and the bond that will hold a family together no matter what hardship is thrown at them. It is also a very realistic depiction of what life during the depression would have been like. Steinbeck also tries to overlay the families story with information about how the country ended up in the mess that it was in, and why the families were all on the move. This really helped put a lot of things in context across the story. Steinbeck wrote character speeches phonetically allowing you to pick up accents and colloquialism of various people throughout the story. Some chapters were also written in a stream of consciousness style which can be difficult but I think did enhance the overall story.

I want to talk about the ending but I better not give any spoilers away but I will just say that I found the abrupt ending very difficult to digest and it left me wanting more. I'm now really looking forward to reading some of Steinbeck's other novels as I think he's one of the greatest writers I've had the pleasure of reading. If you haven't picked up The Grapes of Wrath yet I urge you to do so.
"And the failure hangs over the State like a great sorrow. ...and in the eyes of the people there is the failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage."

The Grapes of Wrath was read as part of my 100 book challenge of must read novels.
(22 read. 78 to go!).

Monday, 27 May 2013

It's Monday, what are you reading? 27 May 2013

It's been a busy few months! I started a new job, got engaged and are now planning a wedding and we're looking to buy our first home! On top of that my sister and my best friend are both pregnant with their first children and are due in the next two months. Wow so much going on! No wonder the blog hasn't seen a lot of attention lately. Well we'll have to rectify that now won't we?!

I've had two baby showers in the last month and I had the pleasure of organsing my best friend E's baby shower (along with my very talented other best friend H). E loves books as much as I do so H and I decided that a children's themed baby shower was the perfect way to go. And she had already been gifted so many generous things from family and friends that she was a little nervous about where she would put more gifts so we asked everyone to bring their favourite childhood book for the baby instead. It was a huge hit. All the food was book themed and H did an incredible job making the labels; we had green eggs and ham, charlie and the chocolate factory sweets, alice in wonderland mushroom lollies, the very hungry caterpillar platter full or fruit, cheese, salami and other goodies, peter rabbit carrots and dip and some others too.

The most fun thing was we made a very hungry caterpillar cupcake cake. I made the green cupcakes and H made the head and legs. We were so pleased with how it came out! So if you're ever stuck with an idea for a baby shower or kids party theme I can certainly recommend it, everyone seemed to love the idea.

Our present to her was a nappy cake. I'd never made one before but H had so we thought it'd be a bit of fun. We decided we wanted to work it in with the theme so after searching online I found an example of a couch made out of nappies so we thought we could definitely do something with that. In the end we made a three tier nappy cake and the top tier was a chair with a little soft toy reading a book on it. We were so pleased at how it turned out. The whole thing was made from nappies, wraps, cloths, blankets, baby clothes and a whole lot of rubber bands! To top it off E and her husband have decided to wait to find out the sex of their baby so we had to go with gender neutral colours. Yellow is E's favourite colour so it was mainly yellow, mint green, aqua and grey.

Ok so on to books. I haven't been reading too much sadly because things have been so busy. But this month's theme at my library book club was Country Life, so I decided to pick up and read The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck). It's incredibly descriptive and is the kind of book that you really want to delve into for big chunks of time so progress is a little slow but I am really enjoying it.

New books I have acquired include Look at Me (Jennifer Egan), A Spot of Bother (Mark Haddon) and for something  a little different The Lincoln Lawyer (Michael Connelly). I haven't read any crime books in a very long time but I just felt like something a little different to my usual. 

I also received a review copy of The Ghosts That Come Between Us (Bulbul Bahuguna) so that will be the next book I pick up.

In other fun news I went to my book club at the local library and got a nice little surprise when I showed up, turned out they had an author speaking. Katie Fforde was touring Australia and New Zealand and we had the pleasure of having her speak at our local library. I have to admit I haven't read any of her books however I have no doubt I will over the years, I love a bit of light chick-lit here and there and I've spotted her books around. She is such a nice person and was very funny and really interesting to listen to so if you ever get a chance to hear her speak I can highly recommend you go.

It's Monday. What are you Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Book Journey

Monday, 18 March 2013

Its Monday, what are you reading? 18 March 2013

It's Monday. What are you Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Book Journey to outline what you have been reading and what you plan to read this week.

Wow how does time go past so quickly?! You may have noticed I haven't posted for awhile? That's because things have been a little disrupted in my life lately, I was made redundant at the end of last year and have been looking for work ever since. Funnily enough I thought being unemployed would mean I would be posting all the time, but turns out the stress of the unknown and the changes to your daily routine tends to block creativity and motivation for blogging, who knew? Oh that and it's summer here so why wouldn't I make the most of it and spend as much time outdoors as humanly possible?! Things are looking a lot more positive on the job front so I am hopeful to have a job offer within the next week or two. Yay!

On other even more positive news on Valentines day my boyfriend of 5 years popped the question and I'm getting married! N is going to make me the happiest girl ever! I don't plan on sharing all my wedding planning news on this blog but it's nice to be able to announce it to you all. We have already set the wedding for February next year and have a beautiful garden location all picked out so I'm really excited.

Onto the book front, I haven't been reading too much, I guess the same reason I haven't been blogging too much, it's very hard to relax at the moment. But over the last couple of months I have read The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint (Brady Udall), and then went on to a bit of non-fiction with Outliers: The Story of Success(Malcolm Gladwell) and finally I'm currently reading The Odyssey (Homer).

Picking up that one was a bit weird because I grabbed it just to read a few passages of poetry thinking I needed something a bit different, but the next thing I knew I had read the first two sections and was really enjoying it. I figured I would really struggle with the writing and not understand half of it but I'm enthralled with the adventures and some of the incredible descriptions. I know very little of Greek mythology as I never studied it so I don't know half the people in the book as others would but I still really like it so I'm stoked I began reading it.

And finally I'm sure that many of you have heard about Google dropping Reader in a few months. I use Google Reader so am pretty annoyed at the decision. Anyone want to recommend another great rss reader they use that I should switch to?