Review: Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

I don’t read a lot of ebooks – I’m very much a paperback reader. With ebooks I lose some sense of where I am in a book by not being able to look at it physically. I find it easier to flip back to find some plot point that I want to check or the context in which a character first appeared. So, when I was offered a chance to review Rules of Civility by Amor Towles in an ebook format, I hesitated. But drawn in by the book’s description on the author’s website I took a chance. I am so glad I did. Despite the format, I adored this book!

The setting is Manhattan in the late 1930’s. The threat of the Second World War is in the distant future and life, for the most part, is good. The reader sees what New York City was like during that era through the eyes of a young woman surviving quite well on her own in that large metropolis. The author did a fantastic job describing the culture of the young and carefree in an exciting city - so much so that the city takes on a character all of its own. Cocktails, bars, apartments, neighbourhoods and iconic buildings all figure prominently in this book. If you love the romance and cultural aura of New York City, you’ll find plenty of it here.

I really liked the protagonist, Kate Kontent. She’s a well-written character – smart, sassy, independent and with a good dose of subtle humour thrown in. She’s isn’t perfect; I picked up hints of envy in some situations and loneliness in others. It’s not that much was said, but rather shown (which I think is one of the trickiest talents a writer can develop and Amor Towles has it in spades). But Kate isn’t a wallflower; she acts on her instincts so that when she isn’t happy about something she takes steps to change it. And this is one of the reasons why the story moved along quickly and flowed so well. Dialogue between Kate and her contemporaries was also well done.

I also really liked the portrayal of women in this era. It seems that women in the 1930’s are much further along in society than their later counterparts. The freedom of the earlier era was gone by the 1950’s as the standard of a woman’s worth was depicted with the iconic housedress-wearing female staying home and having babies. But perhaps that was the sign of prosperity. In any case, this freedom surprised me too – I’ve always assumed that any era before the 1950’s had to be a worse one for women in general, but I didn’t pick that up from this novel at all.

I loved this book because I like NYC and I found the 1930’s era so interesting to read about. But to enjoy Rules of Civility you don’t have to like those things too because it offers so much more. This book is a well-written, well-rounded great story from an author that I’ll be putting on my must-read list for future books.

Local Blogger Meet-up!!!

As you may have seen on a few other blogs by now, a baker's dozen of Montreal bloggers got together last weekend over lunch to talk about books, publishers, authors and all sorts of book-industry related events and how we as bloggers in Montreal could encourage more book related activity to occur in our city. I had a fabulous time and was very surprised when I realized it was time to go! The afternoon passed by in a flash.

Our facebook group started small with just a couple of bloggers (was it Cat and Lucy?) but quickly grew to fifteen. And we know there are others out there! If you'd like to look around and see what book events are happening in the Montreal area and to keep updated on future ones, please visit our page, Montreal Book Lovers, and like us! The photo below was taken by our very accommodating waiter at Guido and Angelina's restaurant in downtown Montreal.

Pictured from left to right are:

Avis from she reads and reads, Amanda from Tales & Treats, PK from Aisle B (I'm going to say that's a fuchsia-coloured dress she's wearing), Melissa from YA Bookshelf, Cindy from Cindy's Love of Books, Jennifer from Mrs. Q: Book Addict, Cindy from Tynga's Reviews, Cat from Beyond Books, Lucy from Moonlight Gleam (thanks for those name tags, Lucy, they were awesome!), Lisa from starmetal oak book blog (cool name, I'd like to know how you came up with it), me, Laura from Library of Clean Reads, and Tina from Bookshipper.

It was a fabulous afternoon! Thanks to Tina and several publishers, our group members walked away with quite a few books. As a matter of fact, there were several that we had to draw for! Many, many thanks to these publishers:

This is what I brought home:

From Harper Collins Canada: The Power of Six by Pittacus Lore

From Random House Canada: The Stranger's Child by Alan Hollingshurst

From Simon and Schuster Canada: The 34th Degree by Thomas Greanias and Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver

From Tina: Dreams of the Dead by Perri O'Shaughnessy, The Survivor by Sean Slater, The Money Pit Mystery by Eric Walters, Long Gone (via Avis) by Alafair Burke, The Third Rail by Michael Harvey, An Unquiet Grave by P. J. Parrish

I'm very much looking forward to our next meet-up. Hopefully the two bloggers who couldn't make it this time will be there as well. Until next time ladies!

Mailbox Monday July 25, 2011

In July Mailbox Monday is being hosted by A Sea of Books.

Last week I received The End of Everything by Megan Abbott. Published by Reagan Arthur Books, The End of Everything is available now. The following description of the book is taken from the author's website:

In a placid 1980s suburb in the Midwest, thirteen-year old Lizzie Hood and her next door neighbor Evie Verver are inseparable, best friends who swap bathing suits and field-hockey sticks and between whom, presumably, there are no secrets. Together they live in the shadow of Evie’s glamorous older sister Dusty, who provides them a window on the exotic, intoxicating possibilities on their own teenage horizons. To Lizzie, the Verver household, presided over by Evie’s big-hearted father, is the world’s most perfect place.

And then, one afternoon, Evie disappears. The only clue: a maroon sedan Lizzie spotted driving past the two girls earlier in the day. As a rabid, giddy panic spreads through the balmy suburban community, everyone turns to Lizzie for answers. Was Evie unhappy, troubled, upset? Had she mentioned being followed? Would she have gotten into the car of a stranger? Would Evie have gotten into a car with a man?

Compelled by curiosity and a desire to rescue the enchanted Verver household from ruin, Lizzie takes up her own furtive pursuit of the truth. Her days spent with a shell-shocked Mr. Verver, she devotes her nights to prowling through backyards, peering through windows, pushing herself to the dark center of Evie’s world. Haunted by dreams of her lost friend and titillated by her own new power as the center of the disappearance, Lizzie uncovers secret after secret and begins to wonders if she knew anything about her best friend at all.

Review: The Taker by Alma Katsu

I vowed this summer that I would read at least one good, intoxicatingly fun book. The kind that would make me forget about everything else whenever I picked it up. This book would have to have a little of everything that suits my tastes – a sprinkling of fantasy, intrigue, mystery and some history to top it off. Well, The Taker by Alma Katsu is that book.

The main character, Lanore McIlvrae, is written with a lot of heart. She’s far from perfect and made so many wrong choices it was difficult to feel sorry for her when she ended up in trouble. On the other hand, she showed compassion and empathy in relation to other characters and that made her likeable despite her faults. I also liked that Lanore was written honestly – she’s self-aware and admitted to herself when she failed.

Much of the story is set in the early 1800’s and takes the reader from St. Andrews, a small and newly settled town in Maine, to Boston with its teeming masses of the well-to-do and the less fortunate. It is between that time and the present that the story unfolds with a short detour to the 1300’s as the author delves into lineage of Adair, another character vital to the storyline. It was Adair that had me shivering and checking the locks on my doors!

I enjoyed this novel for many reasons - one of the main ones being its sense of time and place. Of course, the building excitement was good too! I recommend this The Taker to everyone that enjoys a well-developed and exciting summer read. Also, I just found out that The Taker is book one of a trilogy! I thought while reading it that there would be more to this story! YAY!

You can view the youtube trailer for The Taker here.

Tuesday Teaser: The Rules of Civility

Tuesday Teasers is hosted by Should Be Reading. The rules are as follows:

Grab your current read and let the book fall open to a random page. Share two sentences from somewhere on that page and the title of the book that you’re getting the teaser from. Please avoid spoilers! Read the official Tuesday Teaser Rules.

My teaser is from Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. From page 104:

-When you're speaking, are you ever not lying?

-Was that a double negative? I'm not too good with those.

I'm half way through this novel and the pages are turning fast! I'll be posting my review soon.

Mailbox Monday July 18, 2011

In July Mailbox Monday is being hosted by A Sea of Books.

I received two books last week. The first is Flashback by Dan Simmons. I love this author (I've read Black Hills and Drood by him) and I'm really looking forward to reading this book. From the Hachette Book Group's website:

The United States is near total collapse. But 87% of the population doesn't care: they're addicted to flashback, a drug that allows its users to re-experience the best moments of their lives. After ex-detective Nick Bottom's wife died in a car accident, he went under the flash to be with her; he's lost his job, his teenage son, and his livelihood as a result.

Nick may be a lost soul but he's still a good cop, so he is hired to investigate the murder of a top governmental advisor's son. This flashback-addict becomes the one man who may be able to change the course of an entire nation turning away from the future to live in the past.

The second book is Kill Alex Cross by James Patterson. Another great author to read this summer. From Hachette's website:

The President's son and daughter are abducted, and Detective Alex Cross is one of the first on the scene. But someone very high-up is using the FBI, Secret Service, and CIA to keep him off the case and in the dark.

A deadly contagion in the water supply cripples half of the capital, and Alex discovers that someone may be about to unleash the most devastating attack the United States has ever experienced.

As his window for solving both crimes narrows, Alex makes a desperate decision that goes against everything he believes--one that may alter the fate of the entire country. KILL ALEX CROSS is faster, more exciting, and more tightly wound than any Alex Cross thriller James Patterson has ever written!

Waiting on Wednesday:

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

I am really looking forward to the new George R. R. Martin book, A Dance With Dragons to be published on July 12. Is anyone else addicted to the TV series?

Tuesday Teaser: Rebel Angels by Libba Bray

Tuesday Teasers is hosted by Should Be Reading. The rules are as follows:

Grab your current read and let the book fall open to a random page. Share two sentences from somewhere on that page and the title of the book that you’re getting the teaser from. Please avoid spoilers! Read the official Tuesday Teaser Rules.

My teaser this week is from Rebel Angels by Libba Bray. From page 231:

Tom nods. "One of our patients, Mr. Osborne, fancies himself a poet worth a small fortune. He is quite affronted by our efforts to keep him here and writes daily letters to his publisher and the Duke of Wales."

Mailbox Monday July 4, 2011

In July Mailbox Monday is being hosted by A Sea of Books.

I didn't receive any books in the mail last week so I'm profiling a book I picked up at BEA in May. Published by Algonquin Books, It's When She Woke by Hillary Jordan. About this book (taken from the author's website):

Faith, love and sexuality have fallen prey to politics in this stunning creation of America in the near future, from the author whose international bestseller, Mudbound, so hauntingly recreated America’s past. Hannah Payne’s life has been devoted to church and family, but after her arrest, she awakens to a nightmare: she lies on a table in a mirrored room, covered only by a paper gown, with cameras broadcasting her every move to millions at home, for whom observing new “chromes”—criminals whose skin color has been genetically altered to match the class of their crime— is a new and sinister form of reality TV. Hannah is a Red; her crime is murder. The victim, says the state of Texas, was her unborn child, and Hannah is determined to protect the identity of the father, a public figure with whom she shared a fierce and forbidden love. Inspired by The Scarlet Letter, When She Woke is a dark fable about a stigmatized woman struggling to navigate a dystopian, theocratic America of the not-too-distant future, where convicted felons are no longer imprisoned and rehabilitated, but “chromed” and released back into the population to survive as best they can. In seeking a path to safety in an alien and hostile world, Hannah unknowingly embarks on a journey of self-discovery that forces her to question the values she once held true and the moral authority of a country that politicizes the personal.

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