Tuesday, 30 August 2016

The Time in Between ~ Maria Duenas

The Time in BetweenThe Time in Between by María Dueñas
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I have discovered that I primarily give 3 star ratings when I review novels. I blame Goodreads for not having a 1/2 star rating system, in which case I would give The Time in Between 2 1/2 stars. I am forced to drop this down to 2 stars though.

The blurb on the back of the book is promising enough. Sira Quiroga is a young seamstress growing up in Madrid. Spain is facing a civil war, the citizens are beginning to suffer. She follows a lover to Morocco where she is abandoned and left with debt incurred looming over her head. Slowly she pulls herself out of the gutter and lifts herself up into a more promising position. In the description, as WWII commences and Spain finds itself caught between the Allies and the Third Reich, Sira begins a harrowing stint as a spy.

First off, the novel is 600+ pages and 69 chapters long. Divided into three parts, the novel felt like it was never going to end. Sira doesn't even begin her delving into the spy world until chapter 36. 36. Imagine, 35 chapters of her backstory that is interminably dull.

The character of Sira herself is as interesting as a shoe or doorknob. She survives through many horrible situations, but yet I found myself barely able to keep myself interested in her saga. There was minimal dialogue, mostly just long paragraphs about what Sira was thinking, which incidentally, was dull as dishwater. For someone who supposedly triumphed even though odds were against her, it was awfully tepid.

Her supposed romance with a character isn't even delved into or truly fleshed out. She claims to have missed this person dreadfully during their separation, at which I went, "Eh, did she even truly and deeply care about him?" As a protagonist, Sira's character is shockingly lacking in being fleshed out or in any way dimensional.

Part three (from chapter 36 on) was much more interesting than the beginning stages of the novel. I did manage to read through that section at a much quicker pace. That being said, was it worth struggling through an huge portion of the novel in order to enjoy the last little bit of it?

There are other much more compelling novels about Spain in the civil war and their involvement in WWII. If you want to read a novel about spies, check into anything written by Ken Follett.

Pass by this novel though, unless you are into a long boring read with little pay off.

2/5 stars.

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Thursday, 25 August 2016

The Shadow of the Wind ~ Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Shadow of the Wind (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books,  #1)The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I first read this novel a couple years ago on the emphatic suggestion of a worker at the local Chapters. I gave it 4/5 stars initially. I managed to snag a used copy of another Carlos Ruiz Zafón novel and decided I would re-read The Shadow of the Wind before starting this next novel.

Upon completion, I have decided to bump the rating up to 5/5, because I finished it with no complaint and I would not have changed anything about the novel. Although I had read it once, I couldn't put it down...again.

The novel is a story within a story. Daniel Sempere, our young protagonist, finds a novel called "The Shadow of the Wind" by a Julian Carax within a book cemetery, deep in the heart of war torn Barcelona. I have read very few books on the civil war within the Spanish borders and the ensuing chaos, so it was refreshing to read about a period of history in a country other than the usual England/France/etc.

It becomes clear to Daniel that there is something strange about the author and his novels. He discovers that someone has been systematically finding and destroying all of Carax' novels with fire.

The story is complex but easy to read. It would be impossible for me to explain the novel in a book review; I would not do it justice. Suffice to say, the novel is well written. The characters grasp you and the dialogue is not stilted or boring. Even though the story is fantastical, it never struck me as reaching. There are many twists and turns that will leave you guessing and wondering, right up until the last chapter.

My favourite quote in the book was as follows:

Bea says that the art of reading is slowly dying, that it's an intimate ritual, that a book is a mirror that offers us only what we already carry inside of us, that when we read, we do it with all our heart and mind, and great readers are becoming more scarce by the day.



Honestly, from that quote itself, doesn't the book sound magical?

5/5 for one of my favourite books. I cannot wait to read his next novel!

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Friday, 5 August 2016

Any Known Blood ~ Lawrence Hill

Any Known BloodAny Known Blood by Lawrence Hill

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


After reading The Book of Negroes and more recently The Illegal, I decided to give Lawrence Hill's older novel Any Known Blood a try.

Truly, Hill does not disappoint. I found Book of Negroes engrossing and just the right amount of uncomfortable to read. The Illegal was a completely different pace (a slow burn) but I also enjoyed it. Once again, Any Known Blood keeps the bar high.

The novel's protagonist Langston Cane the Fifth decides he is not tethered in this world because he knows nothing of his family's background. He travels from Oakville, ON to Baltimore, Maryland in an effort to dig into his family's past. He leaves behind a father who he feels is constantly disappointed in him.

Jumping through all the Langston Canes from 1 to 5, there isn't any predictability to the book in terms of form. Hill does not opt to write about the Canes down the family tree from senior to junior, but rather dances from one character to the next. We slowly discover all the choices that the Cane's have made that have bound them together and created their future.

To be honest, the novel isn't full a huge climax. There isn't one big AHA moment that is revealed. Rather, we watched as Langston Cane V slowly finds his way in the world as he unveils the secrets his family has hidden over time.

Hill writes about many deep rooted issues that African-Americans are facing today in a way that includes white people in the dialogue but in a non-accusatory manner. I assume this is partially Hill speaking from his own experience of being a mixed race. Either way, it was enlightening to read and understand why or how people feel a certain way.

4/5 for more excellent work from Hill and holding my breath for more.

(Incidentally, he lives in the same city I do and I once saw him shopping at our local grocery store. Must...not...stalk him.)





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Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Summer is HERE

Hey y'all!

First off, *Happy Summer*.  It's here.  It's actually felt here since May, but this past week, it's official!

Spring 2016 has flown by in a whirlwind of baby & more baby.  The little man has grown so much in the past few months and I have been busy trying to think of activities to keep him busy.  By the way... to any potential moms... the summer seems to super charge children.  Some nights he is up until 9 pm and then awake at 6 am.  Help me, help me, help me.

Some days we're just trying to get through the day and some are more fruitful.  Today was one of those.  I managed to whip up some homemade hummus and a Greek rice salad that I am deeply in love with.  Repeat after me:  the more feta, the betta'.   Seriously.

I'm going dedicate this post to my favourite hummus recipe.  I will work on a blog for my Greek rice salad next!  






The Best Hummus




I love LOVE hummus.  It's versatile as both a snack and condiment.  Sure, it's easier to grab a container of it from the grocery store, but you get a bunch of unnecessary ingredients in store bought hummus...plus, the whole listeria scare. 

So here you go.  For hummus to be truly successful and smooth, you need to use a good blender to make it.  I have a Vitamix, but a Blendtec or Ninja would probably work just as well.


Ingredients


  • 1 15 oz can chickpeas (drained & rinsed) or 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas 
  • 1/4 fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup well-stirred tahini
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • salt to taste
  •  1/2 TSP ground cumin
  • 2 to 3 TBSP water
  • paprika
The trick is to let the tahini whip up a bit on it's own.  It creates a lovely smooth texture. 

Directions Add tahini and lemon juice to blender.  Allow to process for one minute on their own.  Slowly add garlic, olive oil, salt and chick peas.  Add water slowly to reach desired consistency.  Blend until smooth.  Once in serving dish, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle paprika on top.

Notes
*I personally do not enjoy the taste of cumin so I do not add it! 
*I love the taste of lemon so I add a bit extra lemon juice

*I grab my tahini from Fortinos
*Any food processor/blender can make hummus.  The higher end machine though, the smoother the product.  Chickpeas can take quite a bit of blender to work out that grainy texture.
*If you want to avoid using tahini, try adding another smooth substance like avocado or even natural peanut butter

Enjoy!

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Career of Evil ~ Robert Galbraith

Career of EvilCareer of Evil by Robert Galbraith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Career of Evil is the third book in the Cormoran Strike trilogy by Robert Galbraith aka J.K. Rawling...and sadly also my least favourite. I wanted to love it, I wanted to give it four or even FIVE stars, but on finishing it I was left dissatisfied.

First off, there will be mild general spoilers in this review, so please stop reading NOW if you haven't read this novel and plan to. STOP NOW.

You've been warned.

Last warning.

ONWARD.

In the first novel of the series The Cuckoo's Calling, we are introduced to Strike and Robin, his loyal secretary cum partner. Strike runs a detective agency, having a background in the SIB. Obviously the novel is written in a manner where we know Strike has undisclosed issues and secrets that we will probably learn as the series goes on.

The second novel The Silkworm seems to focus a bit more on the actual case rather than the intricacies of the characters and the relationships they are in. There is an unspoken interest between Strike and Robin, but it isn't acted on at all and rarely referred too. Galbraith does a good job keeping their relationship on a quiet boil. Clearly it's going to be a slow burn.

Finally, Career of Evil. I was so excited to read this book. Strike and Robin are both likeable characters. The language and quality of writing is good. Galbraith-Rawling certainly knows how to write a gripping detective story. The Silkworm has truly creepy and strange parts to it and I was hoping Career of Evil would be the same.

The premise is: a package is mailed to Strike's office addressed to Robin. It's a dismembered leg. This sends Strike down a path of trying to find who the psychopath was that sent this leg. He is convinced it is one of three bad apples from his past. Meanwhile, interspersed with Strike and Robin's narrative is the narrative of the killer that actually *is* quite creepy.

We learn A LOT about Strike's history. We learn A LOT about Robin's history. It seems as though all the character's secrets are spilled out in this book. Robin and Strike's connection go. More time in spent on the tiny possibility of a relationship. The thought lingers in the back of Strike's mind. Sizzle sizzle, the slow burn.

UNFORTUNATELY, even though it was admittedly interesting to learn more about the background of these two characters and what motivated them, at the end of the book I was left disappointed with regards to the mystery.

You see, I kept thinking in my head, 'No, she wouldn't use on of Strike's suspects...that would be too predictable and an easy route...maybe it will be someone related to the suspects or a complete snake in the grass'.

NO. There is no bloody snake in the grass!!! It simply ends up being who Strike suspected and honestly, the characteristics and mannerisms of the narrative of the killer did not in my head jive with who the killer turned out to be. I thought the narrative and the description of the antagonist was that of a much much younger person.

I did like this book, I was simply let down with the lack of effort that seemed to be put in to creating a truly shocking ending. Galbraith could learn a lot from Agatha Christie and her unparalleled writing.

3/5 and hopefully the next in the series will have a little more punch to it.

What do you think?

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