Tag: Books: First Reads

Review: The Book of Secrets

Posted 28 June, 2013 by Lianne in Books / 2 Comments

The Book of Secrets
By: Elizabeth Joy Arnold
Format: galley courtesy of Random House Publishing Group via NetGalley

Chloe Tyler’s life changed at the young age of eight when she became friends with the Sinclair children. Through some of the most cherished books of all time, Chloe, along with Nate, Cecilia and Grace, found a magical escape from their troubled childhoods. They acted out The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (wondering all the while how Turkish Delights really tasted), admired the sketches of the hookah-smoking caterpillar and the Cheshire cat’s grin in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and plotted their escape alongside Robinson Crusoe. As they grew up, they set up camp fires a la Lord of the Flies and found secret hiding places for their well-worn copy of Catcher in the Rye and A Wrinkle in Time. Nate and Chloe’s friendship blossoms into an intense romance in their teens, where a tragic event will change the course of their relationship. It isn’t until they have been married for twenty-five years that they must finally come to terms with the past that they have turned their back on for so long and their failing bookstore that they once so loved.

I’ve always enjoyed a good book about books (i.e. Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind, John Connelly’s The Book of Lost Things) so I was immediately intrigued by the premise of this novel. I was fortunate to have been approved of a galley copy of this novel through the publishers. This book will be available on July 2nd. Contains some spoilers ahead!

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Review: Across the Aisle

Posted 28 June, 2013 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

Across the Aisle: Opposition in Canadian Politics
By: David E. Smith
Format/Source: galley courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

How do parties with official opposition status influence Canadian politics? Across the Aisle is an innovative examination of the theory and practice of opposition in Canada, both in Parliament and in provincial legislatures. Extending from the pre-Confederation era to the present day, it focuses on whether Canada has developed a coherent tradition of parliamentary opposition.

David E. Smith argues that Canada has in fact failed to develop such a tradition. He investigates several possible reasons for this failure, including the long dominance of the Liberal party, which arrested the tradition of viewing the opposition as an alternative government; periods of minority government induced by the proliferation of parties; the role of the news media, which have largely displaced Parliament as a forum for commentary on government policy; and, finally, the increasing popularity of calls for direct action in politics.

Readers of Across the Aisle will gain a renewed understanding of official opposition that goes beyond Stornoway and shadow cabinets, illuminating both the historical evolution and recent developments of opposition politics in Canada.

I came across this title on NetGalley. I was intrigued by it because of its timeliness; in recent times, the official Opposition here in Canada has been pretty uninspiring and divided, enabling the Conservative party to consolidate their authority over policy and the direction of the country. It is frustrating so I was interested to see how Smith argues about this situation.

What I appreciated the most about this book was how in-depth Smith’s analysis and presentation of the official Opposition was in relation to parliamentary politics and Canadian politics. He draws in a lot of material through its history, spanning back to the early days of the country, which is a nice refresher on Canadian history. All of the factors mentioned in the book blurb above were discussed in great detail, supporting his premise regarding the nature and role of the official Opposition.

Across the Aisle is an illuminating and well-researched piece. Apologies that this review is so short; it’s been a while since I’ve read it and alas, the galley copy has been archived since I’ve started this review. Regardless, I highly recommend this title if you are interesting in Canadian history and Canadian politics.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Read the author’s profile from The University of Saskatchewan Researchers Page || Order this book from The University of Toronto Press

Review: Fighting from a Distance

Posted 28 June, 2013 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

Fighting from a Distance: How Filipino Exiles Help Topple a Dictator
By: Jose V. Fuentecilla
Format/Source: galley courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

During February 1986, a grassroots revolution overthrew the fourteen-year dictatorship of former president Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines. In this book, Jose V. Fuentecilla describes how Filipino exiles and immigrants in the United States played a crucial role in this victory, acting as the overseas arm of the opposition to help return their country to democracy. A member of one of the major U.S.-based anti-Marcos movements, Fuentecilla tells the story of how small groups of Filipino exiles–short on resources and shunned by some of their compatriots–arrived and survived in the United States during the 1970s, overcame fear, apathy, and personal differences to form opposition organizations after Marcos’s imposition of martial law, and learned to lobby the U.S. government during the Cold War. In the process, he draws from multiple hours of interviews with the principal activists, personal files of resistance leaders, and U.S. government records revealing the surveillance of the resistance by pro-Marcos White House administrations.

The first full-length book to detail the history of U.S.-based opposition to the Marcos regime, Fighting from a Distance provides valuable lessons on how to persevere against a well-entrenched opponent.

This book caught my attention on NetGalley some time ago because it’s about the Philippines and in particular Philippine politics. I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it in the early days of this blog but I did research a bit of Philippine politics while I was an undergrad for some assignments, focusing mostly on corruption and its effect on the country’s democratic processes. So it was interesting to read on something a little different but nonetheless a major factor influencing the modern day politics of the country.

I knew the basics of what happened during the Marcos era but what was really interesting about this book was how it focuses on the activists working from outside of the Philippines. It never occurred to me that there was such an organisation working from outside the country in trying to raise awareness about what the Marcos government was doing and in trying to challenge the regime and overthrowing it. While I can’t quite make up my mind as to how effective their movement was in the long run–as the author mentioned, the United States government at the time had close relations with the Marcos government–it was nonetheless an enlightening read.

I also appreciate the way that Fuentecilla broke the chapters down thematically as opposed to chronologically; as a historian I normally prefer chronological presentations (it was one of my usual criticisms during my undergrad years) but in this case it helped me understand the different elements involved in the movement.

Overall, Fighting form a Distance was an interesting read. I can’t say I had any formal criticisms about the argument (though I remember asking myself at point how effective this organisation was in reaching out to the non-intelligentsia members of the Filipino community during this period and how responsive the pro-Marco supporters living abroad were to this movement) but it was a intriguing piece.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Read a Q&A with the author on the University of Illinois Press page || Order this book from The University of Illinois Press

Review: The Summer of France + Giveaway

Posted 24 June, 2013 by Lianne in Books / 14 Comments

The Summer of France
By: Paulita Kincer
Format/Source: Paperback courtesy of the author as part of the The Summer of France Book Tour

When Fia Jennings loses her job at the local newspaper, she dreams of bonding with her teenage twins. As she realizes she may be too late to pull her family closer, her husband Grayson pressures her to find another job to pay the increasing bills. Relief comes with a phone call from Fia’s great Uncle Martin who runs a bed and breakfast in Provence. Uncle Martin wants Fia to venture to France to run the B&B so he and his wife Lucie can travel. He doesn’t tell Fia about the secret he hid in the house after fighting in World War II, and he doesn’t mention the people who are tapping his phone and following him, hoping to find the secret.

After much cajoling, Fia whisks her family to France and is stunned when Uncle Martin and Aunt Lucie leave the same day for a Greek cruise. She’s thrown into the minutiae of a running the B&B without the benefit of speaking the language. Her dreams of family bonding time fade as her teenagers make French friends. Fia’s husband Grayson begins touring the countryside with a sophisticated French woman, and Fia resists the distractions of Christophe, a fetching French man. Why the whirlwind of French welcome, Fia wonders after she comes home from a day at the beach in Nice to find someone has ransacked the B&B.

Fia analyzes Uncle Martin’s obscure phone calls, trying to figure out this WW II hero’s secret. Can she uncover the secret and relieve Uncle Martin’s guilt while building the family she’s always dreamed of?

(No violence. No graphic sex, some sexual situations.)

I first came across The Summer of France on Goodreads as one of the giveaways. The premise was interesting, mixing a bit of family drama/relocating to a new place to start over and a family mystery involving an event that happened during World War Two. I’m excited to take part in the blog tour for this novel hosted by France Book Tours. Be sure to check out the end of this post where you can enter to win a paperback copy of this novel (US/Canada only)!

This book is part of the Books on France Reading Challenge 2013 that I am participating in.

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Review: Crime of Privilege

Posted 14 June, 2013 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

Crime of Privilege
By: Walter Walker
Format/Source: galley courtesy of Ballentine Books via NetGalley

A murder on Cape Cod. A rape in Palm Beach.

All they have in common is the presence of one of America’s most beloved and influential families. But nobody is asking questions. Not the police. Not the prosecutors. And certainly not George Becket, a young lawyer toiling away in the basement of the Cape & Islands district attorney’s office. George has always lived at the edge of power. He wasn’t born to privilege, but he understands how it works and has benefitted from it in ways he doesn’t like to admit. Now, an investigation brings him deep inside the world of the truly wealthy—and shows him what a perilous place it is.

Years have passed since a young woman was found brutally slain at an exclusive Cape Cod golf club, and no one has ever been charged. Cornered by the victim’s father, George can’t explain why certain leads were never explored—leads that point in the direction of a single family—and he agrees to look into it.

What begins as a search through the highly stratified layers of Cape Cod society, soon has George racing from Idaho to Hawaii, Costa Rica to France to New York City. But everywhere he goes he discovers people like himself: people with more secrets than answers, people haunted by a decision years past to trade silence for protection from life’s sharp edges. George finds his friends are not necessarily still friends and a spouse can be unfaithful in more ways than one. And despite threats at every turn, he is driven to reconstruct the victim’s last hours while searching not only for a killer but for his own redemption.

The premise of this novel caught my attention: crime and cover-ups involving a rich and influential family. I’m still on a streak of reading books that are a little more on the easy, suspense/mystery side since I have a number of tests coming up soon for my classes. I was fortunate to have been approved of a galley copy of this novel from NetGalley.

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