Monday, July 30, 2007

BOOK: The Halifax Connection by Marie Jakober

My most recent read was The Halifax Connection, a book I picked from the Random House site. I was intrigued by a novel set during the American Civil War but in the nearby city of Halifax, Nova Scotia. I spent many an evening down on the waterfront, partaking in the lively Halifax nightlife during university years. Walking around amongst the old warehouses that have been converted to pubs, reminds you that Halifax is a city rich in history. This novel takes advantage of that fact.

From the publisher: Canada in 1862 is still a few scattered colonies run by an indifferent British crown. As the American Civil War heats up south of the border, Southern Confederates flood into Montreal and Halifax, among them numerous spies and military officers planning secret missions against the Union – missions they hope will provoke a war between England and the United States, throwing the whole weight of the British Empire into the Confederate camp.

Jakober creates characters to fit into this time frame, and the world of spies and intrigue. As well, there is a romance against the back drop between Erryn Shaw, self-exiled British man, acting as a spy for the government and Sylvie Bowen, a poor immigrant from a cotton factory in England that has been closed, in part because of the civil war and the problems obtaining cotton from the south. They meet in Montreal where Erryn is making connections with the Rebels and Sylvie is acting as a ladies maid for an elderly Halifax woman. Both are wary of love, but fall quite quickly. Then everyone heads back to the harbour city of Halifax, where the real spying action is going on.

I found the story a little confusing to begin with, as a lot of characters, some fictional, some real life, are introduced so it took me quite a while to get into it. I also had some difficulty following the spying and plots, but I often find intrigue and double crossing plots difficult to follow. It took a long time to set up the big plan, and the narrative was often told in flashback. Jakober had a wonderful way of describing life in the 1860s of North America and I could picture a lot of the action on Hollis Street and Spring Garden Road. I really liked the ending and was surprised at how it turned out. It was a good payoff for the story. I liked the love story and the two main characters; both were plucky and smart but not reckless, and the love story works because of the obstacles the spy action introduces.

Jakober explains at the end what plots and attacks are based on recorded events and where she invented parts to make the story make sense. I liked how it ended at 1864, which for Canadians who know their history, was the Charlottetown meeting which began the Confederation process.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

CHALLENGE: Book into Movie Challenge

hey, hey, hey, I just finished a few challenges, and thought I should lay off a bit, ...but, of course, there is a but. A book into movie challenge hosted by Callista. That would cool to do. Especially if I could find three books I had already bought (not liking that verb tense sound) paid for, then I'm just reading books I wanted to read anyway. Easy. And it was easy to find three books on my shelf that have been made into movies:

Gods and Monsters by Christopher Bram
Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (movie called Simon Birch)
The Hours by Michael Cunningham

The books should be read between September 1 and December 1, 2007 and they can be cross listed for other challenges. None of these really are, although I could count Farewell, My Lovely in the 2nds Challenge, and A Prayer for Owen Meany is on my top 50_books list of books I want to read.

edit: August 10th
I've been seeing other lists and getting more good ideas. I think I'll start adding alternates to my list, in case I change my mind or want to read more, because maybe I'll run out of books to read. Right!
The Last King of Scotland

Friday, July 27, 2007

BOOK: Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel

I have to confess: I am a science geek. I love science, heck, I teach physics, and everyone hates physics in school.

Short story:
On our Mediterranean cruise last summer, we had a day stop in Florence. We (my mom, sister and I) were on a guided tour for the afternoon, and had some free time before we would meet for the 1.5 hour bus ride back to the ship. What to do? The Accademia is the art museum with the statue of David, among other outstanding works of art, and how could we pass this up? However, there is often a several hour wait to get into the museum. By the way, Michelangelo wanted the statue of David in the square to represent the little people, the citizens of Florence, against the tyranny of the aristocrats. It is still there, so we got to see it, but only a copy. Did you know that the statue is David, as in David and Goliath? I didn't.

If we tried to go to the art museum, there would not be enough time to really see anything. Then, we saw there was a science museum, Istituto e Museo di Storia Della Scienza, just around the corner. Hmm. My Engineer sister and me, the physics teacher think, that might be fun! We tentatively ask our tour guide, "Is there much of a line up to get into the science museum? Will we have to wait very long?" She dismissively snots, "Oh, no. Nobody goes to there. No lineup."

We had a great time! We saw Galileo's middle finger! and his original telescope! I was so excited. We would have enjoyed it more had it been air-conditioned, but seeing all these scientific artifacts was so amazing. Even our nonscientific mother found it fascinating, for about an hour, which is all we spent there. I think they are missing out on a souvenir market, because I would have loved to buy some posters, and mementos, especially since the monitor lady wouldn't let me take pictures. I found that out after I got this picture of the ramp he used to see the effect of gravity. If I had known I would only get one picture, I would have taken it of his telescope. That he first saw the moons of Jupiter from!!

So. Since I love science, the nonfiction challenge gave me the perfect opportunity to read Galileo's Daughter, by Dava Sobel. I read her book Longitude, earlier in the year and was anxious to read this next book. Now, I don't want to mislead people. Because I really enjoyed the book, but it wasn't a page turner. There were parts that were dry, but overall, due to my science-love, I enjoyed the book. I used it as my 'day reading' book. Not a going to bed and being enthralled story. But an interesting, sitting up, have to think a bit, type of book.

The book has several aspects to it. It is foremost a biography of Galileo Galilei, but told through letters found, that were written by his eldest daughter, Virginia. She was unmarriageable, since she was born of an affair, so Galileo put her in a convent, with her sister. One other son of this union became legitimate, but he seemed quite a disappointment. Virginia, or Suer Marie Celeste, was the child that kept the most contact and was certainly the most capable. It was from the point of view of their relationship that was the most interesting part of the book, beside showing what a little of everyday life in early 1600s Tuscany was like.

The relationship between the Church and science is also explored, as well as Galileo's famous trial and punishment. The politics and religion that were involved in those days, wow. And for those who aren't aware, Galileo was tried for supposedly promoting Nicolai Copernicus' heliocentric view of the planets. Now he certainly agreed with Copernicus, but the book Galileo wrote skirted his promotion of it, by arguing against Copernicus by showing the problems with all the evidence that was available to show that the Earth actually revolved around the sun. Since the evidence supports Copernicus, it was certainly a weak argument, but Galileo felt he never supported, in writing.

Galileo was a tough, fascinating scientist, mathematician to the Medici family, professer at Padua, and devoted father to Suer Marie Celeste and her monestary. I think I'd like to have my own copy of this book, for reference. And, I want to go back to Italy!

MEME: Booking Through Thursday

Booking Through Thursday

Well, after last week’s record-breaking number of responses (92 last time I checked–an all-time BTT record), I was tempted to use this week’s question to ask what you all thought about Harry Potter 7–but since a decent proportion of you weren’t going to be reading it at all, that seemed unfair. So instead . . .
Who’s the worst fictional villain you can think of? As in, the one you hate the most, find the most evil, are happiest to see defeated? Not the cardboard, two-dimensional variety, but the most deliciously-written, most entertaining, best villain? Not necessarily the most “evil,” so much as the best-conceived on the part of the author…oh, you know what I mean!

I'm going with Volde... He Who Must Not Be Named. JK Rowling created such an evilness with him and all the Death Eaters. Not only was he terrible, unconcerned with whatever collateral damage occurred as he pursued his goals, but he also inspired others, Hitler-like, to be evil at all costs. They had a spell, that would identify the location of anyone who even said his name aloud... Talk about control.

There are other characters in literature, that will not come to my brain right now, who have been evil, very evil, in little ways, or to one person, but Voldemort is on such a large scale, that I have to pick him.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

BOOK: Murder on a Girls' Night Out by Anne George

How appropriate that I finish the Southern Reading Challenge during a heat wave here in PEI. I'm sure it isn't as hot as Alabama can get, but we are not used to having 31 degrees (Celsius!) temperature. I am glowing like a Southern belle today.

Great mystery here with the sisters, as Mary Alice impulsively buys a country bar, and then the former owner is promptly killed. Sensible sister Patricia Anne narrates the story as the sisters look into the murder, somewhat. Between trying to set up their daughters, attending political fundraisers, and putting up fall preserves, the girls, who do not appear related other than their ability to read each others thoughts, are involved in the investigation up to their proper shoes and important necklaces. This was a great little mystery, and wonderful humorous, slice of southern life. There are many more books in this series, and they make a great single day read.

I started this last night, waiting in front of the library to meet booklogged and her husband, who were visiting PEI. We had a great seafood supper - chowder for booklogged and me, Oysters Rockefeller for her husband, and a wonderful visit. As we came out of the restaurant, a marching bagpipe band walked down the street. They were then headed to see Anne of Green Gables, the musical. I forgot to check if they had Kleenex before they saw the show. They left PEI today and are headed in a general way to Utah now. Have a safe trip, youse guys.

Monday, July 23, 2007

BOOK: The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty

Very cute young adult novel that I borrowed from the school library for the summer. The gimmick in the narrative is that the whole story is told from written works of the characters: Lydia's writing notebook, Cassie's diary, emails, and assorted letters between the three girl main characters and the three boys from the rival school they are given as 'penfriends'. The setting of Australia was just different enough, but at the same time, shows that teenagers are the same everywhere. There was lying, dates, pranks, revenge, love, loss, and growing up all around. Quite an enjoyable, light read.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

BOOK: The Princess of Burundi by Kjell Eriksson

Winner of the Swedish Crime Academy Award for Best Crime Novel

Great little police procedural, set in Sweden. A local man is killed, and the police try to solve the crime. This feels like it could be a series, with many police officers with their own personalities and stories. There was a comment on the inside cover, comparing this to Ed McBain's 87th Precinct books (which I loved!!) and then, a character makes reference to Carella, the main cop of the 87th books. That was neat. And the story was good, with enough twists to keep you on your toes, enough characters and other back stories and plenty of suspense. At times I wondered if there had been a book previous to this one, but I couldn't find any information to suggest that. There was a lot of information about the police officers, referring to their last case, so it felt like a sequel. But it wasn't so vague or confusing to make the story hard to follow.

I also picked this book because of the setting, and it didn't disappoint. I got a great sense of everyday life in Sweden, even if the place names and people were not what I was used to. But that is why is is fun to expand horizons this way. The next novel in the series is called The Cruel Stars of the Night, and I may have to request that at the library.

BOOK: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling

I didn't plan to read this right away, but I was too afraid of seeing something online, and I also wanted to be able to read what got written by other people. Putting a spoiler alert for me on a post is like telling a little kid not to touch the candy. And now my son can read it and have someone to talk to about the story.

review: excellent

Now I must go have a nap.

Friday, July 20, 2007

QUIZ: What book are you?

You're Ender's Game!
by Orson Scott Card
To you, most everything is a game. It's summertime, and the living's
easy. Even when there's a war on, it's just a game to you. But even though you've
historically been able to meet every challenge, there are some doubts about what lies
ahead. Are you sure you're up to the next test? Don't forget to pay attention to your

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

I guess I really need to read this book. It's been at the back of my conscience, as a book I'd like to get to. It is on the top 50_books list of reads, one of my unofficial challenges. I thought that challenge was a long term project, but I think I'll manage everything this year except for LoTR, which I have no intention of reading anytime soon. I tried The Hobbit a few times at my Dad''s insistence, but couldn't get into it. (I haven't even seen the movies! gasp)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

BOOK: Killer Swell by Jeff Shelby

--- A Noah Braddock Mystery---

At one point, I was feeling so overwhelmed with the reading challenges, I had given myself permission to not complete the mystery challenge. Just to ease the load, since it required six books by new to me mystery authors. But then, suddenly, things fell into place and here I am on the fourth mystery. I found it by searching the library for a book that had 'kill' or 'killer' in the title, because I needed a book that started with K for the alphabet challenge. Suddenly, I could kill two challenges with one book, appropriate for a murder mystery!

This would be a drug store paperback novel, which I tend to read super fast, because I can scan so much of the description. However, and I don't usually do this, I saw this mystery as a movie in my head, complete with a role for Matthew MacConnaghy. There is a lot of surfing in this book, so he'd be great. And since he's not someone I usually ogle, I cast him as the sidekick. The lead, will be, well, I don't know actually, because I never see the character, just their aura, as it were. I can't decide, but I'll know it when I see him. He's cute, and a surfer, but a little damaged, and a wise ass.

About the mystery, it was good, kept me reading and felt like a great summer book. The setting was San Diego, and I think Shelby did a good job, because I really felt the place. And for those interested, there is a sequel, Wicked Break. I'm not running out to get it, but I wouldn't turn it down either.

MEME: Booking Through Thursday

Booking Through Thursday
  • Okay, love him or loathe him, you’d have to live under a rock not to know that J.K. Rowling’s final Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, comes out on Saturday… Are you going to read it?
  • If so, right away? Or just, you know, eventually, when you get around to it? Are you attending any of the midnight parties?
  • If you’re not going to read it, why not?
  • And, for the record… what do you think? Will Harry survive the series? What are you most looking forward to?

Yes, I'm going to read it. It is on order and will be delivered Saturday. I won't get it right away, because my 9 year old son wants it first. I'll get to it within the month I imagine. Mostly because I will be afraid to go online until I've read it, and I don't want to know anything before I read it. I imagine, however, that will be very difficult. This will be the first time my son will have read the book first, and I'm not sure how well he'll be able to not let anything out.

I hope Harry will survive but I haven't given it much thought and I trust JK Rowling. I mostly hope that Snape will be vindicated, and be as good as Dumbledore always insisted. That is my bigger concern, more than if Harry survives. It is very possible that Harry can't survive, but I really want Snape to be on the good side.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

BOOK: Arthur & George by Julian Barnes

I am so glad I just finished reading The Hound of the Baskervilles. At times I felt I was reading Arthur Conan Doyle's biography, and the line between fiction and nonfiction has become very blurred for me. Much of what I read will become my belief about Doyle, even though I know it shouldn't. Barnes writes in a note at the end of the book that quotes and excerpts from newspapers are all factual.

This is the story of two men, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and George Edalji, one a famous writer, and one a quiet solicitor wrongly accused of a crime. I found the prose compelling and enthralling as I read the life story of both men, and how they eventually met, and how their stories became entwined. Doyle comes off as priggish and arrogant as his character, Sherlock Holmes. Edalji, son of a Parsee Vicor, is very British as well, with his stiff upper lip and resignation to his fate.
Barnes is very ambitious with his story, and I quite enjoyed it. It felt a little weak at the end, as he tried to connect the ideas of faith, and spiritism and the characters. It was rushed in content and yet slow at the same time. However, overall, a great read, with meticulous details and a wonderful telling of an obscure event in British history. Barnes is now two for two with me, having read and enjoyed A History of the World in 10.5 Chapters.

from the Guardian (UK) " Arthur & George is Julian Barnes's inventive account of a true and important miscarriage of justice... What Barnes adds to the tale--it was cause celebre of its day--is imagination, insight, passion, and of course his beautiful writing."

Sunday, July 15, 2007

BOOK: Shakespeare's Landlord by Charlaine Harris

This is a brand new series for me, and I think I'll be reading more. I came across it reading some reviews for the Southern Reading Challenge, but it's more for the Summer Mystery Challenge for me. It has everything you need for a good mystery series: a wounded yet tough as nails female narrator, two possible male love interests, and a mystery to investigate, reluctantly, by our narrator. On top of these standard requirements, it is southern, so I know that we need a small town, this one is in Arkansas, colourful and nosy characters all over the town, and unusual names like Pardon Albee, and Bobo Winthrop. I'm sure I saw more books in the library starring Lily Bard, so I better go request a few more books. See, her name is Bard and she lives in Shakespeare.

I used to love finding a mystery series that was new, because it made finding books at the library so much easier. Mystery series writers also tend to be quite prolific, so there are always more books to look for. And it amazes me how many of these mystery series are around, and that I haven't heard of so many of them. Hopefully, I'll find the time to read all these great books. They really are my comfort food of reading.

BOOK: Restless by William Boyd

I received Restless by William Boyd from randomhouse to read and review. And who can turn down a good book? This is going to be a mystery book by a new author for the Summer Mystery Reading Challenge. Mysteries have always been my default genre and I am enjoying this challenge a lot, but it isn't helping my to-be-read pile as many mysteries are the beginning of a series and then there are so many new books. So, the fact that Restless is a stand alone book was a big plus for it. However, the mystery in this book is, How well do you ever know anybody? And How can you ever trust anyone when you are working as a spy?
This spy thriller is set during World War II and present day England. In the 1970s, Sally Gilmartin suddenly reveals to her daughter, in the form of a manuscript, some of her role as a spy for Britain during the war. The story takes place back and forth, past and present, as both Gilmartins deal with the aftermath of double crossings and confusion over who is really whom.
Can't say much more, because mysteries aren't mysteries if you know what happens. I read this book quickly and got all caught up in the spies. It was just enough double crossing that I could truly follow and not be utterly confused, as spy thrillers often do to me. I liked the mother's part of the story better, but both parts are needed because the war story was never resolved. Overall great book, I'll look for another Boyd book to read.

Friday, July 13, 2007

BOOK: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

ha ha ha ha ha
I don't know what I thought this book was going to be about, especially as it was a Pulitzer Prize winner for Fiction in 1981. Often, award winning books are, important or precious. This was more of Seinfeld meets Abbot and Costello. How have I never heard of Ignatius J Reilly before? Because he is a character like no other in popular fiction and hopefully not in real life either. I was feeling a little of the eccentricity of Kramer crossed with the boorishness of George Costanza. So I laughed. A lot.
The story behind the novel is quite tragic. Toole wrote the book and tried to get it published for years. After his suicide, his mother persevered and the book was eventually published, but this is the only book by Toole. Full of interesting characters, Ignatius spreads havoc wherever he goes. A thirty year old still living home in one of the most dysfunctional mother-son relationships, Ignatius is educated, and delusional. His adventures begin when his mother insists he needs to get a job to help out with money.
As Ignatius goes through several jobs he meets more interesting characters. (Quite honestly, all these southern books are scaring me a little. I know there are stereotypes at play, but are southerners truly this strange? I remember the old Burt Reynolds comedy with oddballs wandering around and thinking, how strange. Does nobody work? How many eccentrics can be in one small town?) All the characters and their seemingly disparate lives will eventually be connected, just like the best of the Seinfeld episodes. New Orleans is a character itself, but I couldn't help thinking how different the city is probably now after Hurricane Katrina.
I loved all the minor characters, especially Patrolman Mancuso and his undercover assignments, and the sub story involving the homosexual community on Bourbon Street, not that there is anything wrong with that. I seemed unusual for a book written in the sixties to include such references; it felt more modern.
This counts for my third Southern Reading Challenge book and it is also an Award Winning Book for that challenge. Well worth the read and a nice diversion in the summer.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

MEME: Booking Through Thursday

1. In your opinion, what is the best translation of a book to a movie?
2. The worst?
3. Had you read the book before seeing the movie, and did that make a difference? (Personally, all other things being equal, I usually prefer whichever I was introduced to first.)

And, by all means, expand this to as long a list as you like. I’m notoriously awful myself at narrowing down to one favorite ANYTHING. So, feel free to list as many “good” or “bad” movie-from-books as you like. (Heaven knows that’s what I’ll be doing….)

Good Question.

1. Shawshank Redemption, Stand By Me, and Misery are three Stephen King books that have been excellently made into movies. A lot of books have been translated very well into movies: To Kill a Mockingbird, the Harry Potters, Anne of Green Gables, Bridget Jones' Diary,

2. I tend to avoid the worst; you can usually tell by the trailers. Some King books have been terribly translated: Firestarter and Pet Semetary comes to mind.

And some movies, I'm too scared to see, in case they ruin my book memory: It, The Stand. And I don't know how the movie Cheaper By the Dozen related to the book at all.

3. Sometimes I've read the book after I know the movie is coming out, because "must read book before seeing movie". The book adds so many layers of background that add to the movie experience, but then the characters are already cast and already the book-reading experience has been altered. I know I've seen movies where I appreciate all the other knowledge I have from reading the book. However, good movies will stand on their own and I have seen movies first and then read books and very often I've liked the movie better. But The Princess Bride book and movie are both excellent. It would be one of the few I've seen the movie first.

After seeing movies I've searched out the book, like Devil in a Blue Dress.

And the winner is..... Rob Reiner, best adapted from a book director (The Princess Bride, Misery, Stand By Me)

This was just too hard. I know I've forgotten some really good book/movies. I couldn't seem to think beyond Stephen King books. I didn't even think of any children's books/movies and there are tons of them

Monday, July 9, 2007

BOOK: The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

Classics are classics for a reason. This was immensely readable, and a mystery I've heard about and never read. Sherlock Holmes is perfect - arrogant and confident and right. 'Elementary', Dr.Watson narrates, so we don't know anything that Watson doesn't and he doesn't know what Holmes is doing or thinking. An interesting perspective. My book from the library had what must be the smallest font legally allowed, and the smallest space between lines - everything was crammed into 128 pages. However, I persevered and the mystery and suspence had me turning the pages through squinting eyes and anxious nerves. I thought it might be more cliched, but no. Good writing, good plot, and good characters are why we call this book a classic.

This counts as my first classic for Kathrin's Summer Classic Challenge, and also an early entry for the 15 books/15 decades challenge (1900s).

Saturday, July 7, 2007

BOOK: The Bone People by Keri Hulme

1985 Booker Prize Winner

The Awards Challenge began July 1, and this was my first read. I hope all the books will be this good. It wasn't an easy read, with characters like Kerewin, Joe, and Simon and their somewhat unorthodox relationship. In addition, the prose was unique and could be difficult, but for some reason, I easily let myself go and floated along on the lyrical, magical words. I quickly understood who was thinking or speaking in the unusual style of Hulme's writing. The Maori words and phrases list at the back also helped, but didn't need to look that often as the meaning was usually clear.
Joe is a widower and foster parent to Simon, a mute child with severe behaviour problems. They suddenly enter Kerewin's life and Tower home which is all the more amazing as she is an artist and hermit, happily miserable in her own world. This unusual threesome quickly bond, but it is a difficult relationship as all three seem used to pushing people away. It is a difficult life to read, with much violence and drinking.
Overall, I really liked the book. The writing especially carried me along, and even when the book became mystical and, to me, vague, I still was able to feel connected to the story. A line I particularly liked was

A hook to his jaw and a hook in his thumb and a kind of hook in my heart, by God

And while I can't say the characters were terribly likeable - there were mean streaks in each of them, I still rooted for the three of them together. There was about much Maori legends and the New Zealand setting was powerful. Hulme does a great job of bringing the reader to her land and her Maori culture. This was a book unlike any other I've read.

Here's the wikipedia link with some great info; I didn't see all the parallels to Christianity when I read the novel, but the information might be spoilerish if you haven't read the book yet.

Friday, July 6, 2007

BOOK: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

I knew this book was popular because there are 6 or 7 copies of each part of this trilogy in our high school library. At the last minute, I grabbed a copy for the summer and I'm glad I did. It wasn't on my list for the Dystopian challenge, but it certainly counts. I'll be getting Pretties and Specials before the summer ends.

It's several centuries after our world, the Rusties, has died out. In this future world, to ensure everyone is treated equally, sixteen year olds are given an operation to become pretty. Tally can't wait for her operation, to become pretty and join the parties and fun life in New Pretty Town and leave the Ugly Town she's been living in. Then, just before her birthday, Tally's new friend Shay, tells Tally that she is running away and doesn't want to be pretty. Tally is conflicted, but the authorities find out and give her few options. I won't tell anymore than that, but I haven't put this book down since I picked it up for a *short* diversion from the very intense book The Bone People. So much for a short diversion.

Uglies is a young adult book, and quite an easy read and somewhat predictable, but I was needing some brain candy. Just like I enjoy Captain Crunch every few months for breakfast, I was needing some easy reading. Uglies was a big old bowl of Captain Crunch.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

MEME: Booking Through Thursday

What with yesterday being the Fourth of July and all, I’m feeling a little patriotic, and so have a simple question:What, in your opinion, is the (mythical) Great American Novel? At least to date. A “classic,” or a current one–either would be fine. Mark Twain? J.D. Salinger? F. Scott Fitzgerald? Stephen King? Laura Ingalls Wilder?
It doesn’t have to be your favorite book, mind you. “Citizen Kane” may be the “best” film, and I concede its merits, but it’s not my favorite. You don’t have to love something to know that it’s good.
Now, I know that not all of you are American–but you can play, too! What I want from you is to know what you consider to the best novel of YOUR country. It might be someone the rest of us haven’t heard of and, frankly, I think we’d all like to get some new authors to read.
In fact, while we’re at it–I’m curious about the geographical make-up of this meme. So, while you’re leaving your link to your post, tell us where in the world you are! (For the record, I’m in New Jersey, USA.)

This was tough! The quintessential Canadian novel? We have a lot of great writers, and I'm sure many people will chose a Margaret Atwood novel. The novelist I would pick woud be Pierre Burton, even though I haven't read any of his books. (yet! I'm sure I will, but they are epic in scope and large in size) How do we define ourselves? Oh, we spend hours and hours of the CBC's days trying to answer this question. We have a bit of a complex you see, living next door to our large neighbour. I spent all day comtemplating this question.

I'm going to go with Bernice Morgan's novel Random Passage and the sequel, Waiting for Time. Together, they encompass our rough history with nature, and also our desire to know our history, where we came from and who we are. Random Passage is a story of the outposts of Newfoundland, as a woman comes to investigate her heritage. It is told in flashback and describes the very primitive life of the fishers in Newfoundland and how they eked out a living. I read these books about ten years ago and remember really enjoying them.
Canada - recognizing our history, dealing with nature, and vast in scope.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

CHALLENGE: Montgomery vs Austen

Which book would you pick up? Anne of Green Gables or Pride and Prejudice?
Which is the better love story? Anne and Gilbert or Elizabeth and Mr Darcy?
Which made the better musical? Anne or, oh yeah, there is none!

My biases are showing here. Over at The Book Mine Set, John Mitford is having the Great Wednesday Compare again, and I'm afraid the Austenites will take over. They mobilized themselves last week to defeat Edgar Allen Poe, and while I have no problem with that, I'm afraid they will beat LM Montgomery this week, and I don't want that to happen. So, if you are going to support LM, and only if, you should head over there and vote. I'm kidding. John has been comparing for a few weeks now, with some very interesting battles.

I think the reason I'm concerned, is this 'mobilizing action'. Jane beat Poe quite handily. I remember a similar bracket competition at livejournal that got taken over by the Serenity crew, which is OK, but it was a small cult TV show and movie, and it was beating everything that came near it, which really didn't represent the masses, in my opinion. John, I think, recognizes that mobilizing potential and is capping the winning at 5 weeks. I don't mind if Jane wins on her merits, but Montgomery should hold her own for several reasons:

  • Montgomery has captured a slice of late 19th century Canadiana
  • Anne and Gilbert go on to have 7 more books, so you actually get to see what happens
  • Emily represents a completely different story than Anne's, darker and sadder
  • she's Canadian
  • Anne resonates with so many girls (at least 5 of us at Something About Me chose Montgomery books to represent us)
  • Montgomery so wonderfully describes PEI, that people make pilgrimages here every year
  • LM lead a tortured, sad life. She should at least get this
So head on over and vote with your heart. (Keeping in mind, some rabid Austenites are voting en block) Go LM Montgomery!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

BOOK: Alentejo Blue by Monica Ali

I just spent a lovely week in the Alentejo region of Portugal, living among the locals, as well as with a few British tourists, and a few ex-pat Brits as well. Each person I met told me a little about their life, but it's funny how they see each other. It is so easy to label someone as 'trouble', or 'know-it-all' or 'nosy' based on a few characteristics. Once you meet the person, and realize why they are, or are not, the way they are, it all changes. As Joao, an old wise man of the village said, "There's more than one way to look at it."
I stayed until the fall festival occurred. At the same time, Marco, a cousin and former resident returned home, successfully from abroad. It was a great festival, lots of food and music, but everyone was there and there were some personality fireworks. Some people stayed, some people left, and then, life continued.

Monday, July 2, 2007

QUIZ: How Canadian are You?

I meant to post this yesterday! I was too busy going to a Canada Day party. Yeah, that's the reason.
You are 100% Canuck!

You rock, you are an almighty Canadian through and through. You have proven your worthiness and have won the elite prize of living in a country as awesome as Canada. Yes I know other countries think they are better, but we let them have that cuz we know better than they do, eh?

How Canadian Are You?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Sunday, July 1, 2007

BOOK: The Echo Maker by Richard Powers

I'm somewhat conflicted about reviewing this book, because I know it is an award winner (National Book Award, 2006) and it was recommended by 3M for the Something About Me Challenge. And I can see why it was an award winner, but I think I read it at the wrong time of the year, when my brain has essentially ceased functioning at the end of June. There were some big ideas in this novel - who are we? how is memory of a person compare with their reality? the trust we have in the people around us? And these big ideas would take a lot more thought than I was prepared to give them.

Mark has been in a car accident and when he awakes from his coma, he believes his sister has been replaced, an imposter. This is called Capgras syndrome and Dr Weber, a reknown cognitive neurologist, comes to investigate.

There were several levels to this novel: the cranes which return to Kearney, Nebraska each year; Mark's recovery and dealings with his sister and their past life; the mystery of what happened to Mark on the night of the accident; Dr Weber's tentative hold on reality in his own life; the different syndromes associated with brain injuries; and the existential questions of self and memory. I mostly enjoyed the mystery of the accident and the note that was left for Mark in the hospital. I found my mind wandering during sections about the cranes and about Dr Weber and his problems. It could have been shorter and I wouldn't have missed much of the filler. Mostly, I didn't connect with the characters and found their actions difficult to understand, especially Mark's sister.

I also enjoyed the setting of Nebraska and feel the author did a great job of describing the feel and mood of the location. The science background describing the different symdromes was also very interesting, as was the mystery of the accident and the Capgras syndrome. I wanted to finish the book and never contemplated not finishing, but it was a little long, and I read three other books after I started this one because I couldn't read this very fast. The pages really dragged in parts and I had to concentrate to get through the novel. I blame much of this on me and my tired head this month.

This was a NYT Notable Book of 2006, and while I enjoyed much of the story I don't think I'll be looking for another of Powers' books for quite a while.

UPDATE: June Books

An amazing total for June, because it is a very busy month at work for me. Challenge reading is continuing, and it seems at the end of each month I start worrying about getting books finished, reading a big list, and then I remember: it's all for fun. It doesn't matter whether I finish a challenge or not, it's about reading great books and enjoying them.

Total books read: 12 8 fiction, 4 nonfiction
Books Read for Nonfiction Challenge: 3
Books Read for Southern Challenge: 2
Books Read for Something About Me Challenge: 2
Books Read for Summer Reading Round 2: 3
Books Read for Dystopian Challenge: 1
Books Read for NYT Notable Books: 2
Reading Across Borders : 2

Best New Author : Larson, Vowell
Best New Series: Miss Julia, Stephanie Plum
Best Book: The Devil in the White City; So Many Books, So Little Time

the list:
67. The Echo Maker - Richard Powers
66. One for the Money - Janet Evanovich
65. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
64. Zlata's Diary - Zlata Filipovic
63. Good Intentions - Joy Fielding
62. The Translator - Leila Aboulela
61. Quite a Year for Plums - Bailey White
60. The Devil in the White City - Erik Larson
59. So Many Books, So Little Time - Sara Nelson
58. Flowers for Algernon - Daniel Keyes
57. Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind - Ann B Ross
56. Assassination Vacation - Sarah Vowell