Filling the Shelf – 76

Posted by on August 26, 2012 2:31 am in Book talk | 13 comments

Filling the Shelf is basically Mailbox Monday or the more recent Stacking the Shelves, but with a title that suits my blog! If you’re interested in joining the fun or seeing what other bloggers added to their shelves, I invite you to visit the two hosts!


Happy Sunday all!

It was my birthday this week, and we celebrated it quietly with lots of food, fruity alcohol, cake and books! I’m quite happy with this week’s selection, and I have to say I have a huge book-crush on Bernadette’s cover! I have no idea whether the book is good or not, but it does look pretty nice!

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple  (It’s a mystery, but also categorized by readers in “humor” and “women’s fiction”; it sounds different and refreshing, perfect for the end of summer!)

Gold by Chris Cleave  (I was kind of thorn about reading this one; I tend to stay away from books dealing with cancer, but I was intrigued by Cleave’s writing and the theme of Olympic competition. Hopefully I can get through it!)

I Could Pee on This by Francisco Marciuliano  (Poems by cats. POEMS BY CATS! Do I need to say more? I read a review of it on Saturday morning and a few hours later, it was mine. Read it, loved it!)

Heresy by S. J. Parris  (Sixteenth century, Oxford, mysterious murders; sounds like an intriguing mix!)

The Black Isle by Sandi Tan  (Again, historical fiction, this time with a paranormal twist. I think it will be interesting to read a paranormal historical that isn’t YA! It’s pretty, too.)

Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake  (After reading some excellent reviews last week, I had to get my hands on it. I thought of reading it right away, but now I’m thinking of maybe a few weeks; it feels like a good October book)

What did you add to your shelves recently? Have you read one of these books? 

Review : Changeling by Philippa Gregory

Posted by on August 24, 2012 2:44 am in 4 stars reads, first page | 3 comments

Changeling by Philippa Gregory
Pages : 256
Genre : YA, Historical Fiction
Series : The Order of Darkness, Book 1
My Rating : 4/5

What it’s about :

Italy, 1453.

Accused of heresy, young Luca Vero is sent by the Church’s secret order to investigate dangers and forms of evil that plague the land of Christendom. His first order : a nunnery where the women have gone mad, walking in their sleep and having strange dreams.

There he meets Isolde. The young Lady used to have it all, until her father passed away and her brother stole everything that should have been hers. When secrets are uncovered by his investigation, Luca can’t help but wonder whether Isolde knows more than she says, and whether she is more witch or abbess.

My Thoughts :

To be honest, I went into this book expecting the worst: I had read plenty of not so positive reviews of Changeling, and I feared I would be tremendously disappointed. Maybe because I had such low expectations, I ended up thinking Changeling was quite an entertaining novel. Not without faults, but still a book I enjoyed.

I mentioned faults, and I feel like getting them out of the way right away. The main one, for me, was the lack of depth of the main characters. We get to know enough about their past and what led them each to this particular place at this particular time, but that’s pretty much it. We don’t learn much about their personalities, and so both Isolde and Luca feel quite bland and predictable. And while each of their best friend/slave seem to have more personality, the villains are very one-dimensional.

There’s another flaw I noticed while reading Changeling and it is a fault I see many authors of adult fiction do when they switch to YA : rather than writing with passion an eloquent story about two young characters, I felt like the author mostly “simplified” her usual writing. I’ve read Gregory only twice before (The Other Boleyn Girl and Wideacre) so my sample for comparison is limitedbut that’s a feeling I had many times while reading the book. She does mention in her afterword that she wanted to make something more fun, less based on facts, so that may have played into it. I felt the book could have had more depth and detail while retaining it’s entertaining quality, but that’s just me.

Enough about the bad, let’s talk about the good! I love books set in Italy and I love historical fiction, and the experience I had of reading this one was exactly what I was looking for when I cracked it open : something historical and fun, that wouldn’t take itself too seriously without being about parties and dresses (even though I do enjoy those from time to time!), with a good mystery and some supernatural elements. Here I should write a warning of some sort; if you read the publisher’s summary thinking there’ll be witches and werewolves all around, you’ll be disappointed. But if you think of Luca as an investigator solving mysteries that appear to be supernatural, then you’ll know what you’re in for. I’m not saying whether or not there’s magic and all, just saying that it’s not a central element.

What Gregory excels at, in my opinion, is writing with enough detail that I never forgot it all took place some 500 years ago. Sometimes it’s in the little details (a piece of clothing, a certain vocabulary) and sometimes it’s little things in the scenes (like Isolde using, gasp! a fork!). The heavy presence of religion is also very indicative of the time and setting. It really felt medieval, and while the author chose to give herself some creative freedom by using fictional characters, her knowledge of history really showed.

The interior of Changeling is filled with gorgeous detailing (click on the picture for a better view).

I also appreciated that Luca and Isolde didn’t immediately fell in love and renounced to their personal quests for each other. Oh, there are definitely signs of a romance, and more of them as the story progresses. But the two keep their heads on their shoulders, and I liked that. I appreciated even more how they confided in and trusted their best friends/acolytes/slaves. I felt that the secondary characters weren’t there just to quip some funny lines (although Freize certainly does that a lot!), but to play each their own part in the story.

And I liked Ishraq a lot; I would gladly read a novel all about her!

The book really had two small stories that worked themselves into the bigger adventure; the one that brought Luca and Isolde together, and the one they encounter later on their way to their next destination. Was I able to foresee what happened and who did it? Somewhat. I had a few surprises, which is always pleasant, but it is not written to be a puzzling book, so you can really sit, read it, and enjoy.

In the end, I really liked Changeling. The book itself is gorgeous and it is quick enough to be read in one sitting. The book is supposedly the first in a series, but I have no idea when the sequel will be published; I only know that, had I had said sequel on my shelves, I would have read it right after finishing this one!

Series Reading Order :

  1. Changeling
  2. ?

New Curiosities – week of August 20th

Posted by on August 23, 2012 1:55 am in Features | 4 comments

New Curiosities features new books being published in the current week or month, and that I am curious to investigate. While it isn’t a complete list of the week’s new books, I do hope you’ll make some interesting discoveries with me!  Click on the titles to learn more about each book by visiting Goodreads!

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New books coming out for the week of August 20th

Something Fictional

  1. The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin
  2. The Roots of the Olive Tree by Courtney Miller Santo
  3. The Map of Lost Memories by Kim Fay

The Orchardist takes place in the American West at the turn of the 20th century, where an older man takes care of the fruit groves he has been growing for years, until he is interrupted by a surprising visit; it sounds like a powerful and potentially emotional read. The Roots of the Olive Tree centers around an olive grove and the life of women over five generations. One of the characters is a 112 year old matriarch trying to break the Guinness longevity record! The Map of Lost Memories takes place in 1925 and features a woman treasure hunter. I’m in love with this idea!

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Something YA

  1. Two or Three Things I Forgot to Tell You by Joyce Carol Oates
  2. Spookygirl by Jill Baguchinsky
  3. The Sweetest Spell by Suzanne Selfors
  4. The Raft by S. A. Bodeen

I haven’t read Joyce Carol Oates in years, so much so that I have no idea whether I like her writing or not, but her new novel, Two or Three Things I Forgot to Tell You sounds like a good place to (re)start. Spookygirl features a young paranormal investigator. What can I say, I can’t resist stories of people seeing ghosts and investigating paranormal mysteries!

On a different note, The Sweetest Spell has one tasty premise; after her village is swept by a flood, a young girl is desired by all when it is discovered that she has one special ability : she can turn milk into chocolate! Not only do I need this book, I also want this ability! And finally, The Raft is a survival story at sea : one raft, a bag of skittles and sharks, a perfect mix for adventure!

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 Something Non-Fictional

  1. Sharp by David Fitzpatrick
  2. More Baths, Less Talking by Nick Hornby

Sharp is a memoir of depression and self-mutilation. It sounds like a possibly difficult read, but I am always interested in hearing real accounts of mental illness. I’ve also been wanting to read something non-fiction by Nick Hornby (I have really enjoyed his novels), and More Baths, Less Talking, a book of essays about reading, could be the first one for me!

 So, another beautiful week ahead of us! Which book are you the most looking forward to reading?

Wordless Wednesday : Chocolate and Raspberries Muffins

Posted by on August 22, 2012 2:47 am in My work | 9 comments

Making sure the Man of the House eats something for breakfast by baking him delicious muffins!

For more Wordless Wednesday, click here!