January 31, 2012

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, by David Sedaris

It’s not uncommon for me to have more than one book on the go. Different moods call for different reading material. Unless of course, I start reading an amazing novel and am unable to put it down. In those cases, I invest all my attention to that book. 

I find it really difficult to go to sleep without having read at least a few pages of a book. But lately I have been finding myself heading to bed at obscenely late times, and I’m lucky if my husband will let me read a quick page or two before insisting “lights out!” The last thing I want to do is read “a page or two” of a really good book, especially when most chapters are many pages long. (I have issues where I can't stop reading mid-chapter.) Therefore, I always like to have an “easy” read on the go, a book that you can pick up and be satisfied in only reading a few pages. 

Enter: Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim (DYFCD).  A compilation of personal essays, this is the perfect book for quick bed time reading, where you don’t want to be sucked into the story and end up staying up all night reading. I also have a tendency for reading well past the point of being tired, which ultimately results in my having to backtrack several pages in the book the following night to re-read what I already read, but can’t actually recall. With DYFCD, each chapter (essay) stands alone which makes this the perfect book to just pick up whenever you have a few extra minutes. No recalling necessary! 

This particular book I picked up last fall at a charity book sale a friend was having. Naturally, I couldn’t walk away empty handed and it seemed I had read everything else that was for sale. I’ve never before read anything by David Sedaris, so I cannot compare this piece of work to any of his others and I went in with no expectations. 

That being said, I did expect to laugh more. Not necessarily laugh-out-loud laugh, but at least a little chuckle here and there. If anything, most of the stories made me slightly uncomfortable out of shear embarrassment for Sedaris and his siblings. I also couldn’t stop thinking how if Sedaris were my brother and was writing some of these stories about me, I’d probably never speak to him again! (And maybe they don’t...) The book started out promising. The best (and funniest) story was the first one, in which Sedaris recalls a Halloween from his childhood. On this particular Halloween, one of the families on his block missed it and
proceeded to trick-or-treat on November 1st, oblivious to their error. Sedaris’s mother, not wanting to embarrass these children, hurriedly tells Sedaris and his siblings to go and get some of their own candy. Sedaris is horrified that his own mother would even suggest such a thing:

“...Had I been thinking straight, I would have hidden the most valuable items in my dresser drawer, but instead, panicked by the thought of her hand on my doorknob, I tore off the wrappers and began cramming the candy bars into my mouth, desperately, like someone in a contest. Most were miniature, which made them easier to accommodate, but still there was only so much room, and it was hard to chew and fit more in at the same time. The headache began immediately, and I chalked it up to tension.”

Okay, So I did laugh-out-loud at this point.   In my opinion, some of the best humour and best comedians out there are the ones where we can relate to their jokes/anecdotes. While this was true in the first essay, I quickly found myself unable to find any relevancy in the rest. Had this book been classified more as a memoir as opposed to humour, I may have felt differently about it. People’s lives and often, misfortunes, can be fascinating to read about (think: Glass Castle), but I kept waiting to laugh or come across a part I wanted to read out loud to my husband... it never happened.

January 26, 2012

The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick

The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick has been in my TBR (to be read) pile for a few months now. Which is silly, because although it is a large book spanning more than 500 pages, it only takes a few hours to read. This book first called to me from the shelves because it’s beautiful to look at. Remove the dust jacket, and you will be further amazed at its beauty, the smooth, black cover with white detail.

(Side note: I can’t help but think how lovely this book would look on this guy’s ‘black, white and grey books only’ book shelf: Mr. Waterbury)

Inside, you will find an amazing story about a 12-year old orphan boy, Hugo, who lives in the walls of a Parisian train station. (Why are all good stories about orphan children?) Hugo, having learnt everything there is to know about clocks from his now absent uncle, secretly maintains all 27 of the station’s clocks. Having nowhere else to go, Hugo has another reason for living this life of secrecy: his deceased father has left behind a broken automaton and Hugo is determined to fix it, positive that it holds a secret message from his father.  Throw in a secret notebook, a cranky old toy store salesman (with a secret of his own!) and a young girl named Isabelle, and you’ve got yourself a mystery you won’t be able to put down.

The first 50 or so pages of the book is entirely pictures; beautiful black and white pencil sketches and Brian Selznick literally paints us a story with his art work which is used throughout the book. While Hugo feels like part picture-book, part graphic novel, part still film, this book is one of a kind. While there are only around 2700 words in this book, Mr. Selznick proves a picture is worth a thousand words.

This book was worth reading for this one quote alone:
“I like to imagine that the world is one big machine. You know, machines never have any extra parts. They have the exact number and type of parts they need. So I figure if the entire world is a big machine, I have to be here for a reason. And that means you have to be here for some reason, too.” (page 378)

I ate this book up, and it’s one I dream about reading to my own children one day. I’m proud to give it a home on my bookshelf. 

(Now I just have to force convince the husband to go see the movie!)

January 18, 2012


Hi, my name is Brie, and I`m a bookaholic.

I love spending an hour at a big Chapters bookstore and just browsing the shelves and bargain section. It`s peaceful and relaxing (especially on a day like today where it`s -30 degrees outside), and you`re bound to come across some great finds.  Even though my TBR (to be read) pile is constantly growing, I can never turn down a great find. And I do believe one can never have too many books :)

I have heard stories from my friend`s where they hide shopping bags in their cars, and cut tags off of clothes immediately, to try and fool their significant other`s from their spending sprees. I do this, but with books. Books are my guilty pleasure. I often sneak books into the house, remove any stickers, destroy receipts and hide the books in my bookshelf. I`m sure my husband is on to me, but sometimes the sneaking just feels bad-ass ;)

Here`s what I snuck into the house tonight:

From left to right, clockwise: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green; The Eat Clean Diet for Family & Kids by Tosca Reno; The Bride`s Farewell by Meg Rosoff; The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O`Farrell on audio book. 

These three books, plus one audio book cost me $14.73! (All bargain books). John Green is a well-known young-adult author and just had a new book released, The Fault In Our Stars, which I plan to review on the blog in the next few weeks. I have most of Tosca Reno`s Eat-Clean cookbooks and I was excited to add this one to my clean-eating collection. Meg Rosoff is not an author I am familiar with, but the cover caught my eye and the summary on the inside flap sealed the deal (taking place in the 19th century, a young bride-to-be, taking only her horse, flees from her home the morning of her wedding, seeking answers to the untold story of her past).

And last, but not least: The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on audio book. I have never listened to an audio book. At first I felt like it was cheating because you aren't really reading, but after reading other book blogs, I have accepted it is reading, just in a different form. So I decided that I want to start listening to books when I`m driving to work and back. But audio books are EXPENSIVE if bought in the store. And I don`t have an Edmonton library card yet. And I lost my iPod so I can`t download anything onto it either. (Excuses, excuses, excuses!) But then I stumbled across this one at Chapters and it was marked down to five bucks! I wouldn't have given it a second glance if it had not been for a conversation I recently had on Twitter with someone who recommended this book to me. Yay for Twitter!

So there you go! My successful shopping trip to Chapters. These trips make me happy. Books make me happy. So do new shoes. Tell me, what`s your guilty pleasure?

January 15, 2012

Sunday Funday!

Sunday's are my favourite day of the week. Not Friday, the start of the weekend, and not Saturday, when you know you still have one day left in the weekend. Sunday is the one day that I almost never have any commitments. I generally work Saturday's at the bookstore, so Sunday`s I get to spend all day with my husband and Saigon. We often don`t accomplish much, but it never feels like a wasted day.

Jim and I both love to sleep. And so does Saigon. We joke that Saigon loves the weekends too because he's more than happy to sleep in as long as we want to. He never wakes us up to be fed or do his business. Lounging in bed Sunday morning with my little family is one of my favourite parts of the day.

It's rare that we make plans to leave the house. If we do go out, it's usually spur of the moment. "Hey, let's go to a movie!", or "I feel like a 'real' coffee today...", etc. Most of the time we putter around the house, read, watch a TV show on DVD, make several pots of coffee, and if Jim`s lucky, I`ll even shower ;)

Today of all days, (it`s minus 20 degrees outside - our coldest day of the year so far!), we decided to venture outside! First we went to Cora for breakfast. Ymmmmm Cora! The first time I ever went to Cora was in Nova Scotia and I had this amazing baked brie with apple and walnuts dish. It was heaven. Sadly, this was not on the menu today. I really wanted to order the banana and chocolate crepe, but Jim said I couldn't have that for my first meal of the day. What a party pooper. So I ordered the Ode to Oatmeal. I knew if anyone could do oatmeal right, it`s Cora. And my, it was goooood oatmeal.
Ode to Oatmeal

Jim had the Western Crepomelette with hollandaise sauce (with a side of baked beans, not pictured):

Afterwards we headed to the mall to take in Jim`s new lulu lemon pants to get hemmed. And I managed to leave the store without buying a thing! Shopping in the dead of winter is always tough...it`s too cold to leave your coat in the car, but it`s so annoying to wear or carry your coat while you are in the mall.

We made it home after spending an hour poking our heads into stores and decided to bundle up and take Saigon out for a walk. Pretty sure we spent more time bundling up then we actually did out on the walk!  Even Saigon got all dressed up:
Check out my new boots!
Since then, we've all been snuggling on the couch, sipping wine and watching the movie Super 8. Did I mention I love Sundays?

January 14, 2012

Saigon, The Big Blue Dog

Three and a half years ago, when my mom told me my younger brother was getting a pit bull puppy, I pretty much flipped. Ignorant comments such as, " Are you crazy?!" and "I'm never coming over to visit now!" flew from my mouth. There was no way that I was going to accept this new puppy into our family. Luckily, I was living in BC at the time and therefore, wouldn't have to "risk my life" around this new dog.

Fast forward to present day, and Saigon, the blue-nose pit bull is sleeping soundly snoring next to me and I love him with all my heart.

Saigon loves to sleep.

If I could take back all the mean, naive thoughts I had about him, I would. But I can't, so instead, I've chosen to educate myself and those around me, on the true nature of pit bulls. But I'll save my lecture for another time.

When people share their stories on how they got their dog(s), they've either chosen the dog themselves, or "the dog chose us". For Saigon, he didn't choose us, and my husband and I definitely did not choose him. In September of 2010, my mom came out to visit us in BC and brought along Saigon and her dog Lacie, a chubby, yellow lab. My brother, who was now living with my Dad, wasn't allowed to have a dog, so my mom had taken over ownership. My mom's visit turned into several months, and we fell in love with Saigon. HARD. To sum up how Saigon weaseled his way into our lives and our hearts is best described by the following: 

When my mom had to return to Edmonton, and neither her nor my brother was in a position to be responsible for Saigon, Jim and I agreed to "foster" him until a home for him could be found. But then Jim didn't want Saigon to leave the family. And then before you know it, Saigon was on #10 of the above list. We found ourselves staying home more in order to be with Saigon (who we also refer to as Saigs and Pip at times). We take pictures of him at the same speed as first-time parents. And videos. We buy him expensive chew toys even though they don't last more than a few weeks. We love him to bits.

Best Friends, Saigon and Jim
We couldn't imagine our lives without him and we like to think he feels the same. So here we are, a year and a half later from the time my mom first arrived in BC, and this big blue dog is here to stay. Jim and I have since moved back to Alberta, and remain Saigon's parents.

How can you not love this face?

January 11, 2012

The Island Beneath the Sea, by Isabel Allende

January Book Club Pick: A Sorta Review

One of the things I most looked forward to when my husband and I decided to move back to Edmonton from BC was getting to rejoin my Book Club! Last night was my first meeting back; how fitting as it ties in with all my bookish New Year resolutions.  Plus, a bunch of young women, talking books and drinking wine? Win-win-win! 

This month’s pick though was a tough read. I wanted to love this book from the beginning because who doesn’t find slavery and rebels and concubines fascinating? Now, there’s no denying that social studies was always my weakest subject in high school, but I’m still open to learning about history when it’s presented to me in a fiction novel. And I was just in the Dominican Republic, so naturally I thought the history in the book on the slave rebellion,  in then called, Saint-Domingue, would be even that more interesting as I could somewhat  picture the landscape in my mind. Wrong. The history did not appeal to me in the book, which is OK, because I had characters to draw me in and fall in love with, right? Nope. This didn’t happen either. The main character, Zarite, who is a young girl when she is purchased by Valmorain, a French sugar-cane plantation owner, to be a slave for his new bride, was disappointing in that I never felt drawn into her character. I liked her, but I never got to know her. I pushed through reading the book because I wanted to find out what happens to Zarite, but when the book ended I didn’t feel sadness for her or for the fact that I now had to say goodbye to my “friends” of this book (which is often the case when I read a really, really good book – think: The Help).  Actually, I was really excited to go look at my pile of books and decide what I am going to read next!  (The Invention of Hugo Cabret in case you’re wondering). 

This book, written in third person, is about Zarite’s life as a slave and her struggle to free herself from said slavery. The narrator knew the thoughts of all the characters; yet, the author felt it necessary to write a chapter here and there from Zarite in first person, (which still didn’t pull me into Zarite’s character).  The only pleasantry in reading the first person narrative is that it was in italics, which is beautiful and easy to read. Otherwise, the overall flow of the book felt disjointed. Characters and history were introduced at odd times, which made the history and politics of the slave rebellion confusing for me, and I found it tough to keep track of who some of the characters were.  Events that I waited the whole book to find out about were summed up in a paragraph or two. The ending felt rushed, and while some peace was found for Zarite, other events that unfolded left a bitter taste in my mouth.  Is it bad that the whole time I was reading this book, I was thinking about how I would much rather be rereading The Book of Negroes instead? 

4 out of 8 women at Book Club finished the book. One girl liked the first half of the book the best, whereas I enjoyed the second half better. Feelings on poor character development and the unnecessary flip-flop from a third person to first person narrative were pretty unanimous. No one LOVED the book by any means and it was difficult to have an extended conversation about the book as there was nothing exciting to discuss, and we quickly found ourselves discussing other books various members are currently reading.  While I wouldn’t be able to recommend this book to a friend (or a customer), I wouldn’t adamantly discourage anyone from reading it either as we all have different tastes and while the political aspects of this book bored me, I know others eat that stuff up!

January 03, 2012

The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay (My First Review, Yay!)

I'm really excited that the first book review I am going to do is on Ami McKay's new book, The Virgin Cure. For one, I loved her first book, The Birth House, and two, I like to read Canadian authors whenever I can. A part of me was hesitant to read the book right away as I've been let down in the past by authors whose subsequent books weren't as good as their first ones, but I'm happy to report, this wasn't the case at all with The Virgin Cure.

And another reason this book review feels so exciting is, one day while I was at work at the bookstore, Ami McKay unexpectedly stopped by the store to sign all the copies of her books we had in stock! Ami was on her way back to the airport after being in town for promoting The Virgin Cure. After a quick search told her publicist that our book store had the most copies of both her books in stock, they made a quick pit stop to sign books. My only disappointment in the whole situation was that I hadn't known ahead of time and was therefore without my hardcover copy of The Birth House for Ami to sign. So sad.  It was so exciting to meet Ami and she was super nice and signed personal copies of her book for myself and a few other bookstore employees. You can check out Ami's website here: http://www.amimckay.com/

Goodreads Synopsis:

"I am Moth, a girl from the lowest part of Chrystie Street, born to a slum-house mystic and the man who broke her heart." So begins The Virgin Cure, a novel set in the tenements of lower Manhattan in the year 1871. As a young child, Moth's father smiled, tipped his hat and walked away from her forever. The summer she turned twelve, her mother sold her as a servant to a wealthy woman, with no intention of ever seeing her again.

These betrayals lead Moth to the wild, murky world of the Bowery, filled with house-thieves, pickpockets, beggars, sideshow freaks and prostitutes, where eventually she meets Miss Everett, the owner of a brothel simply known as "The Infant School." Miss Everett caters to gentlemen who pay dearly for companions who are "willing and clean," and the most desirable of them all are young virgins like Moth.

Through the friendship of Dr. Sadie, a female physician, Moth learns to question and observe the world around her, where her new friends are falling prey to the myth of the "virgin cure"--that deflowering a "fresh maid" can heal the incurable and tainted. She knows the law will not protect her, that polite society ignores her, and still she dreams of answering to no one but herself. There's a high price for such independence, though, and no one knows that better than a girl from Chrystie Street.

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed stepping back into time, to a place that none of us could ever know, but only imagine. When I think of New York, I think of money, glamour, celebrities, fast-paced business people walking with a purpose, yellow cabs, central park, the city that never sleeps. Instead, Ami McKay takes us to a time when New York was a dark and often dangerous place to live, especially if you were poor and of poor social standing. A city full of brothels, thieves, beggars and men willing to pay top dollar for the "virgin cure".  I know an author has done a job well done when I feel like I've been to such a world as they are describing. 

I was immediately drawn into the story of Moth, the young daughter of a gypsy fortune teller. How can you not feel for someone when they tell you in the first paragraph of the first chapter that they were twelve the summer their own mother sold them? Her own mother. From that moment, I needed to know what was going to happen to Moth and how she was going to survive on the filthy streets of Manhattan. 

As Moth finds herself living in a brothel and being trained to be a whore, you can't help but be inspired by Moth's bravery and strength, while at the same time, feeling heartbroken for her and the real girls that lived during these times in the late 19th century. How far women have come since the 1870s. While Ms. McKay was able to transport her readers to this era, it's difficult to imagine actually living and surviving in a world full of such hardship and sorrow. 

This book, with the extra tid-bits of history, period advertisements and fashion descriptions from Harper's Bazaar, make it feel like you are reading a scrapbook (I love scrapbooks!) or personal journal of sorts. While some may find this distracting, I felt it added that much more dimension to the story. It also made it hard for me to breathe during the descriptions of the corsets! 

I loved this book. I give it 5/5 stars. Now, go on, read it, just do it! Then come back and let me know what you thought of it. 

P.S. I'm going to "cheat" a little bit here and count this as my first book out of 50 for the 50 Book Pledge as I started it in 2011, but finished it in 2012 :) 

January 02, 2012

A New Year, a New Resolution

So. Where does one start when they are starting a brand new blog and are brand new to the blogging world? I'm an experienced reader of blogs, but this year, I've decided to aim higher than to just read blogs, this year, I am going to write a blog! I've been thinking about doing this for months now, but as a new year was approaching us and there was lots of talk going around about new year's "resolutions", I decided to make this my primary goal. I can be a lazy sort, and I often need challenges to accomplish my goals. My other book-related goal/challenge is to complete the 50 book pledge (more on that later).

 I love to read books. My husband says I devour books. I love to recommend books to my family and friends and one of my greatest satisfactions in life is making a book recommendation and hearing afterwards how much that person loved the book. But I have a hard time describing books. Often, I just plunk a book in someones hand and say "you HAVE to read this! Just trust me!" I take pride in my book collection, and while I can clearly remember that I loved a particular book, I can't always remember very much about it. I want to change this. So this blog, (I'm hoping), will help me talk about the books I read, why I loved them or didn't love them, and I'll probably throw in little bits of my life along the way. My favourite blogs are the ones where I also get to "know" the blogger and I want my future readers to feel at home here too. And if all else fails, at least I'll have a place to send my family and friends when I want them to read a certain book but am at a loss for words.