Friday, July 30, 2010

Review: Hidden Wives by Claire Avery

Hidden Wives by Claire Avery is the story of half-sisters Sara and Rachel, who are members of the Blood of the Lamb polygamous community. At 15, both are of an age to be married: Sara has been promised to her uncle (as his fifth wife), while the prophet is still praying about the fate of beautiful Rachel.

One of the joys of reading is immersing yourself in a book to the point where you forget you’re reading. Hidden Wives started off promisingly, hooking me with the following sentences:
“For as long as Sara could remember, she jolted awake every morning, startled to be alive. Whenever her father looked at her, she imagined him calculating the width of her neck and the degree of pressure he would have to exert in order to snap it.” (p. 11)
Unfortunately, almost immediately, Avery’s writing style tripped me up, so I felt I couldn’t get past the words into Sara and Rachel’s world. Over and over, the odd imagery took me out of the story (“It was a big, toothy grin that split his cheeks in two like a cracked egg” [pp. 11-12]; “Her arms would drip over the ends of her chair like wet diapers . . .” [p. 114]; “His teeth were a gallery of grays and yellows . . . splayed outward like badly hung paintings” [pp. 130-131]). I read the first third of the book with a notebook nearby, jotting down all the strange turns of phrases and incorrectly used words. The middle of the book picked up, and I found myself more drawn into the story, wanting to know what would happen to the sisters; however, I still couldn’t shake the feeling that the book’s message—that polygamy hurts women and children, and that something should be done about it—trumped the storytelling. The clearest example of this is the subplot involving Sara’s best friend, Ruth, who appears at one point in the novel so Sara (and the reader) can learn something about the dangers of close-kin marriages; once the point has been made, Ruth promptly disappears as a character in the book. I also unfortunately anticipated many of the plot twists (several were foreshadowed only moments before they happened), and the ending struck me as wishful thinking rather than a likely outcome to this story.

There is no question that it’s shocking that the type of human rights abuses detailed in this book are tolerated in the name of religious freedom in North America today. However, if you want to learn more about polygamy, I would recommend that you read Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer, The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff (read my review) or The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams instead.

I am very much in the minority in not liking this book; every single one of the reviews mentioned below is positive!

Thank you to Forge Books for sending me this book to review.

Hidden Wives was on blog tour with TLC Book Tours in July. Visit these other blogs for reviews:

RundpinneLuxury ReadingNovel WhoreSimply StacieTrisha’s Book BlogThoughts from an Evil OverlordBibliofreakBook Club ClassicsCrazy for BooksS. Krishna’s BooksIt’s All about BooksAll about {n}Life in the ThumbScraps of LifeStiletto StorytimeJoyfully Retired

Other reviews:

Amy’s Book Obsession Life Is Short. Read Fast. Lu’s Raves and RantsQueen of Happy EndingsReading on a Rainy Day

Interview with the authors, Michelle Poche and Mari Hilburn (who write under the pen name Claire Avery): Life Is Short. Read Fast.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Very Belated, Better-Late-Than-Never BEA 2010 Post: Photos

I had every intention of doing a proper write-up of my BEA/BBC experiences, but since I got back from New York two months ago now, I’m (finally) going to give you the brief version, in photos. (Click on any photo to enlarge.)

My first day at the Javits Center was overwhelming...

The autograph area was completely mad... (I only ventured there on the second day, when there were fewer people.)

Amy (Amy Reads), Trish (eclectic/eccentric), Megan (Leafing Through Life), Amanda (The Zen Leaf) and I had dinner at an Indian place near Times Square...

Later that same evening, I met Wendy (Caribousmom) and her husband, along with a great many other bloggers, at the Celebration of Book Bloggers hosted by Harper Collins at the Algonquin Hotel (where the famous Algonquin Round Table used to meet)...

The following night, Cindy (Cindy’s Love of Books), Linda (Better with Books) and I had dinner with Kathy (Bermudaonion’s Weblog)... (This is not a great picture of Kathy and me, but it’s the best of the lot!)

After dinner, we wandered around Times Square, where Kathy took this picture of Cindy, Linda and me...

It’s shameful that I didn’t take more pictures! (I don’t know what I was thinking.) After Book Blogger Con, as I was heading back towards my hotel with Melissa (The Betty and Boo Chronicles), I took this final picture of the Javits Center...

There are so many bloggers* I met but didn’t get pictures of:

Next time, I’ll try to write my posts while I’m still in New York!

*If I’ve omitted you from my list, please forgive me (and let me know, so I can add you)!

With thanks to Amanda and Trisha for inspiring the layout of this post!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Similar Covers: Dogs

Here’s another trio of similar covers, all of which have been published relatively recently: A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron (published by Forge Books in July 2010), Stay by Allie Larkin (published by Dutton in June 2010) and The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein (published by Harper Collins in June 2009).

Jacket Why also recently posted about dogs on covers in a post entitled “A Pack of Dogs.”

Edited to add:
It turns out that the dog on the cover of Stay is actually the author’s dog, Argo, who was the inspiration for the main character’s dog. Read about the cover on Allie’s blog, Incidents and Accidents.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Mailbox Monday (July 26) + Bookstore Loot!

Mailbox Monday buttonI just got a box of books in the mail this morning from Scholastic Canada, which was very exciting. I generally don’t like receiving unsolicited books (because I feel guilty when I don’t want to read them), but in this case I’m at least as excited about the two unsolicited books I received as I am about the one I requested!

I first came across Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve in a similar covers post called “Red Riding Hoods” at Jacket Whys, who linked to a rave review at Bookends: A Booklist Blog. After reading the review, I wanted to read this book, but then promptly forgot about it (my wish list is too long as it is!). Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork, on the other hand, is a book I’d seen mentioned on various blogs, but for some reason I hadn’t paid much attention to it. It turns out the wraparound cover art is even more gorgeous in person, and I’m very intrigued by the quote in the front flap: “The term ‘cognitive disorder’ implies there is something wrong with the way I think or the way I perceive reality. I perceive reality just fine. Sometimes I perceive more of reality than others.” (The book is about a high-functioning autistic boy.) Finally, Rose Sees Red by Cecil Castellucci is the book I requested: Castellucci is going to be in Montreal at the end of August, and Cindy and I are planning to go see her. So far I’ve only read Castellucci’s graphic novels (The Plains Janes [read my review] and Janes in Love [read my review]), so I’m hoping I’ll love her YA as well.

Fever Crumb by Philip ReeveMarcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. StorkRose Sees Red by Cecil Castellucci

I also finally finally went to Beazley Books, the bookstore owned by Donna and her husband, Pierre. It’s a lovely shop—the books are obviously picked with care—and I couldn’t resist buying a few more books: Generation Loss by Elizabeth Hand, Live Through This: On Creativity and Self-Destruction edited by Sabrina Chapadjiev and Write from the Heart: Inspiration and Exercises for Women Who Want to Write by Lesléa Newman.

Generation Loss by Elizabeth HandLive Through This edited by Sabrina ChapadjievWriting from the Heart by Leslea Newman

What did you find in your mailbox this past week? For other Mailbox Monday posts, head over to Marcia’s blog, The Printed Page.

Note that Mailbox Monday is on blog tour as of next week: The August host will be Chick Loves Lit.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Library Loot (July 22)

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva at A Striped Armchair and Marg at The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post—feel free to steal the button—and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries! Want to share your loot? Marg has the Mr. Linky this week!

How crazy is it for me to take seven books out of the library when I’ve got hundreds of books at home that I haven’t yet read? It feels a bit crazy, but it’s cheaper than buying books, which I’ve been itching to do recently (call it book therapy). So these are the books I couldn’t resist taking home with me this week...

Two graphic novels: A Few Perfect Hours and Other Stories from Southeast Asia & Central Europe by Josh Neufeld and Pilules Bleues (translated as Blue Pills: A Positive Love Story) by Frederik Peeters.

It’s highly unlikely that I’ll read all these books before I have to return them to the library, but such is life!

Do you take books out of the library despite teetering TBR piles? (Please tell me I’m not the only one!)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Happy Blogiversary to Me + Giveaway!

It’s hard to believe, but I’ve now been blogging for two whole years! (I technically started my blog on July 15, but I posted my first real blog post on July 21.) What an adventure blogging has been: I had no idea when I started that it would be so addictive, nor did I expect to meet so many other folks (both virtually and in real life) who are as crazy as I am about books!

To celebrate my 2nd blogiversary, I’m giving away one book of your choice to two of my readers (one book each). The only criteria are:
- The books must have been mentioned on my blog somewhere (anywhere except the “similar covers” posts).
- They must be available from The Book Depository for under $15 US.

For one entry, please let me know which book you’d like to win!

+1 if you give me some feedback on my blog: What do you like? What do you want more of or less of? Do you have any suggestions for improvement?

+1 if you are a follower or subscriber (please let me know).

Giveaway is open worldwide (as long as The Book Depository will mail to you) and ends on August 25 at 11:59 PM Eastern Time. I will pick the two winners using

Don’t forget to (a) let me know which book you’d like to win and (b) make sure there’s some way for me to get in touch with you if you do win. Failure to comply with either of these rules will disqualify you from this giveaway.

Thanks for reading my blog!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Mailbox Monday (July 19) + Blogger Meet-Up

Mailbox Monday buttonI didn’t actually receive any books in the mail this week; however, I did get together with the usual Montreal gang (Cindy, Donna, Linda and Tina) at the tea shop yesterday and scored two books: Cindy gave me The School of Possibilities by Seita Parkkola (translated by Annira Silver and Marja Grass) and Tina passed on The Worst Thing She Ever Did by Alice Kuipers (published as Lost for Words in the US). I was introduced to Kuipers’s writing in the anthology Piece by Piece: Stories about Fitting into Canada edited by Teresa Toten (read my review), so I’m particularly looking forward to reading that one.

The School of Possibilities by Seita ParkkolaThe Worst Thing She Ever Did by Alice Kuipers

What did you find in your mailbox this past week? For other Mailbox Monday posts, head over to Marcia’s blog, The Printed Page.

Note that, starting next month, Mailbox Monday is going on a blog tour. I will be hosting this meme in October 2010.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Review: Not That Kind of Girl: A Memoir by Carlene Bauer

Not That Kind of Girl by Carlene Bauer is a memoir of a young woman raised in evangelical churches who decides in high school that she wants to grow up to be a writer and live in New York. Torn between her ambition and her love of God, she struggles to stay true to herself and figure out what she really believes.

I wanted to love this book—and did love parts of it—but mostly I found it hard-going, like reading Sylvia Plath’s journals or Virginia Woolf’s novels. I generally enjoy introspective writing, but I found Bauer maddeningly cryptic at times—more than once I had to reread a passage to try to understand what was actually happening (and rereading didn’t always help). Sometimes, the images Bauer paints are luminous and evocative, as when she describes the boys her sister’s friends dated: “They seemed to me like khaki-clad redwoods with girls curled up like ferns, or foxes, against their sturdy bark. There might be whole forests of them somewhere” (p. 52). However, many of her references sailed over my head (and made me feel woefully unread). For example, she says of a boy she had a crush on: “In the end [he] might be the type who’d leave girls like me up in a barn loft with a suitcase of unwanted Bibles and a bum leg with no way to get down” (p. 57). This was clearly a reference to something, but I had no idea what. (I looked it up—it appears she’s referring to a Flannery O’Connor story, “Good Country People.”) I also found that most of her friends seemed fairly interchangeable, and I had trouble keeping the men straight. (Who was Tom? Did I forget or does she not bother to tell us?) At one point she spends seven pages working up to the moment when she meets a particular man at a party, only to run through their entire relationship in less than two pages. It ends with him saying he will woo her until she marries him; by the next paragraph, he has met someone else who wants to get married immediately. I was left feeling like I was missing something. I was frustrated too that Bauer spent so long talking about and thinking about the fact that she didn’t drink and was a virgin, and then suddenly she’s drinking and having sex, and what made the difference? Her loss of faith, in the end, is nearly as inexplicable to me.

On the other hand, there are passages in Not That Kind of Girl that shine: her crank against normal girls (“To describe someone as a normal girl was our lowest blow” [p. 53]); her identification with Sylvia Plath; the moment when her story with Caroline ends; the revelation she has in her cubicle when God speaks to her through the words of Iris Murdoch. One of my favourite passages is when she describes her childhood experience of libraries (while reflecting on the loneliness she currently feels at not being able to share her love of books with the man she cares about):
“I’d kneel on the carpet to look through the books on bottom shelves, creeping around the aisles, a calm growing inside me as the pile of books on the floor grew taller—a calm like that of church, but better than church, because here I was free to roam and circle back among possibilities, to choose and reject as I like. . . . And then coming out in the sun to my mother in the car, keeping all that I’d thought to myself— . . . was it silly to visit the juvenile section to make sure the books I’d checked out years ago were still there, taking them down off the shelves to feel the grain of the mid-century paper, run my fingers over the grooves of the ink-and-pen illustrations, and sniff them the way you’d sniff a baby’s head when I thought no one was looking? And then back to our house, which had only one bookshelf, filled with study guides to the Bible and the unread biographies I’d given my parents, and up to my bedroom to splay myself out under some author’s spell until dinner.” (pp. 252-253)
That Bauer is a talented writer is undeniable, and I’m curious to see what she writes next, but I can’t say I recommend this book.

Thank you to Harper Perennial for sending me this book to review.

Not That Kind of Girl is on blog tour with TLC Book Tours in July and August. Visit these other blogs for reviews:

Literate Housewife
Capricious ReaderThe Book NestDrey’s LibraryAs Usual, I Need More BookshelvesKnowing the DifferenceBookshipper Life in Pink Sukos Notebook A Fair Substitute for HeavenA Certain Bent Appealmy books. my life.Saras Organized Chaos

Other reviews:

Book ReporterLittle Pink BookReligion DispatchesScathing Reviews, Bitchy People (a positive review, despite the name of the blog)

Interview with the author: More Intelligent Life

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Similar Covers: Bra/Cleavage Shot

It is perhaps not surprising that I should have found a lookalike cover for It Had to Be You by Susan Elizabeth Philips, since according to Jessica at Read, React, Review this is one of 25 iconic romance novel covers. I spotted The Washingtonienne by Jessica Cutler on Rebecca’s blog, Lost in Books (in a review that turned into a rant).

Have you seen any other covers that match these two?

Edited to add:

Many thanks to Tina at Bookshipper for pointing out a third similar cover: Theodora Twist by Melissa Senate, which I’ve added above.

I also found a fourth cover that matches this set (with an admittedly offensive sounding title): Good Christian Bitches by Kim Gatlin.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Mailbox Monday + Booksale Loot (July 12)

Mailbox Monday buttonA couple more books arrived in the mail this week: Is Anybody Out There? edited by Nick Gevers and Marty Halpern (courtesy of Marty Halpern, who blogs at More Red Ink) and The Great Lover by Jill Dawson, which Sarah from Reading the Past kindly sent me (for some reason, I didn’t get a copy of this one in my Book Blogger Con swag bag).

I also went to my local library’s lawn sale (as they called it) with Tina (Bookshipper), which turned out to be a bit disappointing: the pickings were limited to two tablefulls of books. I still managed to grab three (for a total of $2!): The Listening Eye by Patricia Wentworth (sorry about the terrible cover image), Off Limits: Tales of Alien Sex edited by Ellen Datlow and The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. Plus Tina gave me The Truth about Delilah Blue by Tish Cohen.

What did you find in your mailbox this past week? For other Mailbox Monday posts, head over to Marcia’s blog, The Printed Page.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Impostor’s Daughter by Laurie Sandell Out in Paperback + Giveaway!

The Impostor's Daughter by Laurie SandellThe Impostor’s Daughter: A True Memoir by Laurie Sandell is a graphic memoir I reviewed last year—not only did I love it, but it sparked my interest in graphic novels/memoirs in general.

To celebrate the release of this book in paperback on July 12, Hachette is sponsoring a giveaway of 5 copies of The Impostor’s Daughter on my blog. The giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian residents only (no P.O. boxes). I will accept entries until 11:59 PM Eastern Time on Thursday, July 29. I will select the winners using

For one entry, please tell me the title of one of your favourite graphic novels/memoirs. If you haven’t read any yet, let me know why you want to read this one. Please be sure to provide me with a way of getting in touch with you. Entries that do not answer one of these questions or do not provide a blog link or email address will be disqualified.

Other ways to earn entries:
+1 if you comment on my review of The Impostor’s Daughter (if you’ve already done so, that counts too)
+1 if you are a follower or subscriber (please let me know)

Best of luck!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

In Which I Nominate Myself for a BBAW Award

My mum was in town this week, which is why I’ve been absent from blogland and am only now registering (on the very last day) for Book Blogger Appreciation Week, which is coming up soon (September 13-17).

It feels a bit weird to nominate myself for an award, but that’s the way it’s being done this year, so I figured why not? Here are my five posts for the Best Eclectic Book Blog category:

Review: Simon’s Cat by Simon Tofield (with cat pics) (comics)
Review: i am neurotic (and so are you) by Lianne Wong (humour)
On (Not Always) Finishing Mysteries (Two Reviews of Sorts) (mysteries)
Review: Piece by Piece: Stories about Fitting into Canada edited by Teresa Toten (YA essays)
Review: Getting a Grip 2: Clarity, Creativity and Courage for the World We Really Want by Frances Moore Lappé (politics)