Friday, May 31, 2013

Red Sparrow Review

We were lucky enough to receive Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews from Simon & Schuster Canada well before the release, along with a lovely note indicating that it was a book that everyone at S&S couldn’t put down. With such encouragement, we jumped right into it.

A twisting spy thriller, Red Sparrow is a layered story of CIA agent Nathaniel Nash and his first-tour operation to recruit a beautiful Russian “Sparrow” Dominika, a trained seductress in the Russian service. Uncertain whether she is on assignment to work him in return, Nash’s world begins to intertwine with Dominika’s and the two begin an impossible and dangerous relationship that will ultimately change their lives and the security of their countries.

With double agents and high-level traitors, the story is full of thrilling twists and turns that drive you forward, racing to see what is around each corner. It’s no wonder everyone is reading this in one sitting. 

The authenticity of the weaving web is what keeps it all glued together. Matthews, a former CIA officer himself, has the knowledge and experience to write a convincingly shocking story of betrayal, manipulation and forbidden love. 

It’s hard to describe the bulk of the book without giving anything away, but Matthews creates intriguing characters and details their attributes in such a way that you can’t help but wonder how much of his writing is based on real people and events.

The exciting Red Sparrow is an exhilarating read, one that any fan of thrillers and complex plots won’t want to miss out on.

I wasn't sure what to think of or expect from a book that had "sexpionage" in its description, but I was pleasantly surprised.

This isn't your typical Jason Bourne spy thriller; Red Sparrow is an intelligent, descriptive and complex journey through Moscow, Italy and DC. The pulse pounding, non-stop action is replaced by rich characters and a superior telling of a tale full of moles and insider spy tricks.

Matthews drew deeply from his own experiences in the CIA to create this masterpiece of cunning, rich and relatable characters that leaves you turning page after page to unravel the mystery of the mole.

Dominika and Nate's troubled relationship is in of itself enough to keep you reading but when you add in the endearing MARBLE to the mix, you have a cast of characters that will leave you wondering about them well after you've finished this glorious novel.

I know that after reading Red Sparrow, I immediately wanted to eat and learn how to become a spy. I'll skip Sparrow school though.

Red Sparrow is available on June 4th.

City Girl Rating: 4 out of 5 glasses of wine

Matthews’ history within the CIA is a fascinating aspect and we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to ask him a few questions about this book. Check back on June 2 for the interview with Jason Matthews.

images from google images.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Great Beer, Great Music, Great start to the Weekend!

As lovers and supporters of all things music and art, not to mention independent musicians and artists, we’re huge fans of Steam Whistle for their long running UNSIGNED concert series, which showcases independent Canadian musicians.

This Friday night (May 24), Steam Whistle is hosting Unsigned #25 in celebration of Canadian Indie Music at their Beer Hall – the Round House (255 Bremner Blvd) – with local acts Beliefs, The C’Mons and Hussy. Doors open at 8pm and cover is only $5 with proceeds going back to the Artists Health Alliance to help strengthen and empower our local creative community.

An assembly of cultured and stimulating sounds, Beliefs revive the effect-driven alt-rock shoegazing genre by bashing pedals with dreamy, ghostly vocals for a mix of distortion birthed from the bond over The Jesus and Marychain, Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine.

The C’Mons
Anyone who has ever seen them perform live can tell you: a C’mons show is for the folks who like to stomp their feet, clap their hands and dance their asses off. With an interesting mesh of personalities and style, these guys aim to please.

Local favourites, Hussy’s sound can only be described as loud and blood thinning. Crashing onto the Toronto music scene, Hussy is already making a name for themselves with their notoriously rowdy shows and their gritty, sleazy post-punk sound.  

Steam Whistle Brewery has been a long time active supporter of independent Canadian musicians and the UNSIGNED concert series has raised over $70,000 for local artists. The series has showcased some pretty awesome Canadian bands over the past six years including The Rural Alberta Advantage, Austra, Hooded Fang, The Darcys, Young Empires, Rich Aucoin, Odonis Odonis, Beta Frontiers, Indian Handcraft, The Balconies, Woodhands, Dinosaur Bones, Lioness, Parallels, Wilderness of Manitoba, and Kidstreet

With that kind of track record, you know that this is going to be one hell of a rockin’ show that you don’t want to miss. 

images from official website and press photos
Beliefs photo credit - Laura Lynn Petrick
Hussy photo credit - D. Waldman

Friday, May 10, 2013

CityGirlScapes Contest - Steam Whistle Brewery Unsigned 25 Prize Pack!

Do you love indie music? Do you love beer? Do you love prize packs? Enter for your chance to win it all!

An active supporter of independent Canadian music, on May 24 Steam Whistle Brewery is hosting a 25th anniversary show celebrating Canadian indie music as part of their UNSIGNED concert series.

The show will be in the Toronto Brewery’s Beer Hall and will feature local acts Beliefs, The C’Mons and HussyProceeds from ticket sales are going back to the community through the Artists Health Alliance. 

Show Details
Location: The Roundhouse
255 Bremner Blvd, Toronto

Date: May 24, 2013

Doors: 8pm

CityGirlScapes is giving away a Steam Whistle Unsigned 25 Prize Pack that includes two (2) tickets to the Unsigned 25 show on May 24 at The Roundhouse in Toronto, refreshment tickets and Steam Whistle merchandise.

To Enter

1. Follow @CityGirlScapes on Twitter

2. RT our #CityGirlsContest tweet to enter.

Contest closes on May 20th. Must be 19 years of age or older and a legal resident of Ontario to enter. 

Winner selection is based upon a random draw held following the contest closing date from all eligible entries received. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received.

Prize pack must be picked up at the door of the event on the day of the event. Identification will be checked at the door, so if you are under age you will not get in or receive the prize pack offered in the contest. 

Click to read full contest rules and regulations.

Don't forget to check back here after the show for our full review and pictures from the event.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Book Review: The Other Typist

The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell has a memorable but somewhat unreliable narrator in Rose Baker. It's 1923, and Rose is a typist with the New York City Police Department, who with a few key strokes can condemn a man forever. Caught between the Victorian standards she was taught in her orphanage and the modern world where women can do all the things men can, prudish Rose is confused, until the other typist arrives in her precinct. Rose is quickly befriended by the glamorous Odalie and soon becomes obsessed with her carefree ways. 

I borrowed The Other Typist from Veronica, who received the book from Penguin and Goodreads as part of their First-Reads program. 

I must admit, this was something I wasn't initially attracted to and wouldn't have read had it not been encouraged. I just didn't think it was anything I would find overly interesting and I felt like I would have to force myself through it, a daunting task I kept putting off. 

But I was completely wrong about not being drawn in. From the very beginning, Rindell does an incredible job of vaguely seeding the story with hints toward the twisting end. Each narrative interjection from the present situation lures you further and further into the depths and glamour of the roaring 20's, much like Rose is lured deeper and deeper into the glamour of Odalie's care-free lifestyle. 

I often find it hard to believe how enraptured one person can get with another in books, it usually moves too quickly, but Rindell's description of Rose's growing fascination with Odalie is expressed in such detail that you can clearly see how the obsession came to be. It's believable and seems almost natural. Rose also has a distinctive self awareness when describing the events and you can't help but feel sympathetic to her actions that could have been avoided. 

As the manipulated web twists around the two characters, merging their lives closer together, you're left questioning the true reality. Who is manipulating who? Who is really the victim? What is actually going on here? Those are the questions left lingering through the last few pages of the book and even well after you close it. 

It's been quite some time since I've been excited to review and talk about a book, The Other Typist was a great debut novel. 

I won this from Penguin and Goodreads as part of their First-Reads program. 

The Other Typist was an interesting trip back to the Roaring 20s New York City, deep during the prohibition times. 

Immediately you know you'll keep reading this impressive debut novel by Suzanne Rindell. The entire story is told from the psyche of Rose Baker, a police stenographer, who becomes borderline obsessed with the new typist, Odalie Lazare. 

Rose often rides the fine line between clear obsession with Odalie (think SWF) and as someone who simply craves love and affection, something she didn't have growing up in an orphanage. Picking up the novel, you'd think this was a simple story about friendship, manipulation and love. But it's more than that. It was quite the interesting look into how dependent a person can get on someone that they barely know and how one wrong move can leave your life in shambles. 

Cleverly constructed with a humorous twist at the end, The Other Typist will leave a lasting impression on you well after the last page and have you wondering if what you read was as subtly twisted as you thought.

The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell is available everywhere May 7th 2013. 

CityGirls Rating: 4.5 glasses of wine out of 5 

images from Goodreads.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Hasa Diga Eebowai – Book of Mormon Review

Looking at the Mirvish lineup this season, the Book of Mormon may not grab your attention. A religious musical is probably not everyone’s cup of tea and who wants to sit in a theatre for 2.5 hours learning about something that the majority of people run away from on the street when stopped by one of their missionaries? 

But when you add the names Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park, to the credit line, suddenly the play pulls in tons of media buzz, tickets sell out immediately and everyone raves about what a hilarious, fantastic show it is.

Somehow we managed to get tickets for Wednesday and Thursday night shows when a couple of last minute tickets were released a week ago. Think of it as an early birthday present for Veronica (who celebrated another year on May 1). 

The satirical musical pokes fun at organized religion, an exaggerated and extended take on the South Park “All About Mormons” episode, telling the story of two young Mormons, Elder Price (Mark Evans) and Elder Cunningham (Christopher O’Neill) missionaries sent to a remote village in northern Uganda. Painfully optimistic, the two missionaries set out to share the Book of Mormon with the villagers and change the world. 

However, they have trouble reaching the locals, who are more worried about poverty, AIDS and the brutal warlord General Butt F*cking Naked, who believes that all of the clitorises in the villages will "power up" and destroy him (General Butt F*cking Naked, by the way, is based on an actual person).

Full of ridiculous musical numbers, flamboyant colours, Lion King references and a kick ass Mormon Hell Dream sequence, the theatrics that animation gives you the freedom to create with is successfully brought to life right before your eyes. 

O’Neill is totally lovable as the geeky Elder Cunningham, with an over the top affection and appreciation for the companionship of Mormonism. He bounces around the stage with an adolescent exuberance that you can’t help but smile at. Evans shares a similar enthusiasm, but in a more driven, I’m made for success kind of way. 

The surprising star, however, is Samantha Marie Ware, who plays the African heroine Nabulungi (or something, no one ever seems to remember). Embracing a childlike innocence and wonder, Ware is really the heart of the play, creating the intimate connection between the Elders and the Ugandans, opening up the hearts and minds for spiritual change. 

Eavesdropping on audience members during intermission, an audience that contained surprisingly more grey hair than one would expect, the words “shocking” and “rude” came up a few times. Going back to the credit line, what do you expect from the creators of South Park? If that’s what you’re focusing on in the entire musical, you’re kind of missing the point. Ironically, there is a scene in the show that mocks that kind of selective focus, which is probably aimed at those types of viewers. Consider yourself told.

Don’t fret, though. You don’t have to be a fan of South Park or even appreciate its humour to enjoy this show. While it is similar, Book of Mormon stands on its own. And let’s face it, it’s a bit of a more toned down, mainstream-friendly book of jokes and jabs. It’s a great show, but if you’re expecting the ultimate South Park episode that will leave you utterly shocked and appalled, adjust those expectations and you’ll enjoy it far more.

Unfortunately, the Book of Mormon is sold out and has been for some time, though you can still rush the theatre doors before each show and try your luck at the ticket lottery. 

Images from Google Images

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Book Review: The Firebird by Susana Kearsley

Veronica has been a huge fan of Susanna Kearsley for some time now, so when Good Reads and Simon & Schuster were doing a giveaway for her new book, The Firebird, we crossed all our crossables and hoped we would be one of the lucky few to receive an advance readers copy. Surprisingly enough, Ashley was the big winner this time around (usually Veronica has all the luck) and we were able to check out this new book.

The lovely and generous Ashley lent me her ARC of The Firebird to read cause I love Susanna Kearsley and simply couldn't wait for it to be released. Ashley won this on Goodreads courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

I basically devoured this from cover to cover, not wanting to put it down. My recommendation for anyone unfamiliar with Ms. Kearsley's novels is to actually read The Winter Sea first then dive into The Firebird. Trust me, you'll thank me if you do.

The Firebird is a clever, thoroughly researched and detailed novel about Nicola Marter, a young woman who has an ability to "see" things but struggles with appearing normal and keeps psychometry a secret.

And then we have Rob McMorran (we first met him in The Shadowy Horses, good to read before but not necessary to this storyline), whose psychometry skills are honed. Rob embraces who he is and fully accepts his abilities.

As with all of Ms. Kearsley's novels, she expertly weaves 2 tales into one vastly entertaining read. Nicola and Rob embark on a trip to follow Anna, the girl who owned the the Firebird in hopes of finding it's authenticity. What they found instead was each other.

As always, I find myself drawn more to the past than the current. Ms. Kearsley's prose and skillful ability of weaving actual historical events and shaping them into a wonderful novel makes me wish I'd paid more attention in History class.

It would seem that Susanna Kearsley is quickly climbing up my list of favourite authors. I love how she writes and blends historical non fiction with modern day fiction and weaves it all together into these layered, lovely stories.

I'm so glad that Veronica insisted I read the Winter Sea before this, though. It made the characters that much richer and having loved the Winter Sea as I did, it was exciting to see how those characters stories continued.

As I said, I admire Kersley's ability to break up the historical fiction with a modern day story, this time focusing on Nicola and Rob. That is my only complaint this time, I much preferred the flashback story of Anna and the characters from the Winter Sea than the present day adventure of Nicola and Rob. I didn't care much about their relationship and while their 'gifts' provided the ability to see the story of the past, I thought mixing a supernatural-like component was a bit too much on top of everything else.

That aside, it was certainly a great read and I'll be reaching out to take in the rest of Kersley's work as soon as I can get my hands on them.

City Girl Rating: 4 out of 5 glasses of wine.

The Firebird was released yesterday, April 30, and is available everywhere books are.