Friday, November 30, 2007

BOOK: Irish Stories for Christmas by John B Keane

Irish Stories for Christmas by John B Keane
Christmas Book Challenge

I should have known that a book of Irish stories would not necessarily be an uplifting set of Christmas stories. I thought they would be more like Maeve Binchy - modern, happy, heartwarming stories. These were good, but more in the vein of Angela's Ashes, set during or around the wars. So, a tad more depressing, but still interesting. More stereotypical Irish, poor, drinking stories. Keane can turn a phrase and some passages had me chuckling. There was even a page at the back of the book to decipher terms.

My favorite story was the one with two wren-boys (mummers who go singing and entertaining on St Stephen Day, or the day after Christmas) but who are so geared up, preparing to go, planning from the last year with anticipation, that they drink too much and fall asleep and don't wake up until the next day, and miss all the fun.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

MEME: Booking Through Thursday

Do you get on a roll when you read, so that one book leads to the next, which leads to the next, and so on and so on?
I don’t so much mean something like reading a series from beginning to end, but, say, a string of books that all take place in Paris. Or that have anthropologists as the main character. Or were written in the same year. Something like that… Something that strings them together in your head, and yet, otherwise could be different genres, different authors…

I don't read books that have any noticeable theme. Sometimes I will try to read a series from the start, but I find I need to take a break from the same characters one after the other.

It may not be planned, but I think I automatically find connections from one book to the next, even if those connections might only be in my head. Or two books might not be one after the other, but in some way in my head, I find parallels. For example, I read Tomorrow by Graham Swift and On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwen and I certainly tied them together in my head. I think because I read them close together they seemed similar.

One of the first Booking Through Thursdays that I participated in was like this: connect 5 books on your bookshelf, one after the other, by some means that makes sense to you. It was really fun, and we should do it again! I did mine here a while ago.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Well, I tried. I didn't officially sign up for this, because I didn't want the pressure of people knowing I was trying to post something every, single day. Same way I quit smoking years ago, I didn't admit that was what I was doing, I just wasn't smoking as much. Same with posting. I didn't announce it, but here I was, blogging everyday. And then, November 23rd. It was a great day, but busy. And I knew I'd be busy, and yet completely forgot to prepare a post. Boo, me.

We had a family wedding on Friday night at 7pm, and I worked all day, and got my hair done (straightened) and then we hosted a little happy hour to get some food in our bellies* before the wedding. And the computer just got ignored.

We had a wonderful time on Friday night, and then that caused Saturday to be a complete write off, as the four of us - me, my sister and our husbands, could barely summon the energy to eat, let alone look after our kids. That's how great cousin memories are developed - the parents are having too much fun to pay any attention to the kids. And then I didn't blog on Saturday either, since I'd already lost my mojo.

Reading update:

The books I want to finish before the end of the year and the actual number of days and my reading rate seem to be an inverse function right now, see graph on left. I made a list of books I really want to finish, in some sort of priority order:

  • Lolita by Nabokov, reading now
  • Irish Christmas Stories by John B Keane, reading now
  • The Plague by Camus
  • Mercy by Jodi Picoult
  • Another Christmas book: The Cricket on the Hearth
  • A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
  • Lisey's Story by King
  • Special Topics in Calamity Physics
I average about 8 books a month, but some of these are whoppers. But good books, really good reads, never seem that long. Here's hoping some of these are excellent.

* my brother in law thought we should go out to eat at a restaurant before the wedding since there wouldn't be a sit down meal. I surmised that the h'or derv's served at the fancy hotel reception would be substantial enough if we ate some snacks before we went. He was leery, and it would have been on me if he didn't get enough to eat. Thank goodness they brought around trays with bacon wrapped scallops, among other food. I was right, and I told him so.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

UPDATE: Books to Movies Challenge Completed

Lights! Camera! Action!

With at least a week to spare, I completed the Book to Movies Challenge. I still have a few more I'd like to read, but they won't get done in time to be added to this list officially.

Here's my list of books, linked to their reviews:
Gods and Monsters by Christopher Bram
Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler
The Hours by Michael Cunningham

Interestingly, I haven't seen any of these movies. I usually try to read the book first if I can, and I haven't been watching too many movies lately. Strange how I can't seem to commit to watching a two hour movie, but I will read umpteen books instead. I guess I have my priorities straight!

A few books I still want to read include:

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (movie called Simon Birch)
Shaking Hands With the Devil by General Romeo Dallaire
The Last King of Scotland

Of the books I read, I liked Gods and Monsters bests. It had great atmosphere and characters, and reminded me of the movie Ed Wood, starring Johnny Depp. It was kind of creepy and could have been a part of the RIP II. The movie I'd most like to see is The Hours because I think I'd actually like the movie better. The other two were good books, but caught me at the wrong time because I couldn't get into them. I never got lost or absorbed enough to fly through them.

Thanks to Callista at SMS Book Reviews for hosting this great challenge. I still have more of these to read, and if you want any suggestions, she's been posting all the reviews so you can see if your favorite book has been made into a movie, or what the book that your favorite movie is based on was like.

Monday, November 26, 2007

SHORT STORY MONDAY: classic stories

"An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" by Ambrose Bierce

subtitle: Famous Short Stories I Have Never Read But Should Have
part 1 of many

I chose this story from my Norton Anthology because I remembered a reference to it from a Lost episode. The better read I become, the more allusions make sense to me. When you recognize the reference, it adds a whole other layer to the experience, and now that is making me very nervous for the whole Lost show, because this allusion makes the surrealness of Lost all the more explainable. I have to give away the ending to discuss this short story, because the ending is the story, and it is a twist, so if you haven't read this already, you better not read anymore.

"An Occurrence" takes place during the American Civil War, and describes in gory detail the hanging of a Confederate sympathizer who has been set up for capture. After Peyton falls off the bridge in the noose, it breaks and he hits the water, and manages an escape. After wandering the woods for a while, he finds his home, and this scene was the same scene as in the movie Gladiator, when Russell Crowe is dying and imagines his estate, with his wife as he runs to her just before he dies. The final scene in this story is as jarring as a noose breaking a neck.

I liked this story, it was easy to read, and as I read the explicit details of the hanging and what happened to the body, I felt the need to check the date of the story. It felt modern, and graphic, and I was very surprised to read the date as 1891. So violence and graphic descriptions aren't new to the last twenty years, they have always been around. I like knowing that this plot twist, so famous in many other shows and movies probably started with this story. Now I want to go back and rewatch all the references to "The Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" that I never understood before. Especially that Lost episode.

Some pop culture references that I recognize: taken from Wikipedia

In 2005, Kurt Vonnegut referred to "Occurrence" in his book A Man Without a Country as one of the greatest works of American literature, and called anyone who hadn't read it a "twerp".
In 2006, Bierce's story was referenced on an episode of the ABC television series Lost entitled "The Long Con".
At the end of "My Occurrence", an episode of the TV series Scrubs, it becomes apparent that the lead character has imagined many of the events of the episode as he does not want to believe that a friend has cancer.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

BOOK: The Hours by Michael Cunningham

The Hours by Michael Cunningham

Pulitzer Winner 1999
Books-to-Movies Challenge

Three parallel lives are followed through a single day in each life: Mrs Brown, a 1950s housewife who is reading Mrs Dalloway; Clarissa, known as Mrs Dalloway who is living the life, in present day New York, from Mrs Dalloway, the novel; and Mrs Woolf, the author who is writing Mrs Dalloway in 1920s England. Hmm, perhaps I should have read Mrs Dalloway first? I'm pretty sure I missed a lot of the symbolism and parallels that connect this book to Mrs Dalloway. While I usually firmly believe in reading the book first, in this case I think the movie would stand alone better than the book. Now I need to see the movie and see if I am right.

Themes of suicide are throughout; the prologue details the author Virginia Woolf's drowning suicide, Mrs Brown is contemplating it as a means of escaping the life she feels trapped in, and Clarissa deals with the death of a friend. I read about other themes and important symbols at the Sparks notes site. This novel will be discussed at Bookawards Yahoo Group during the month of December and I expect to discover some interesting ideas and themes during that discussion.

However, any book of only 225 pages that takes me over a week to read must have some problems. I didn't connect enough with the story and the characters because it was so busy being important, with symbols and parallels. Not to say that I wasn't interested, because I did want to see how all three stories connected in the end and I would like to read Mrs Dalloway, I think, if only to see where this book came from. But overall, this book was just an okay read, nothing wrong, just not a book that I will rave about or remember too much from. I applaud the author's ambition, and with enough prior knowledge and background, I think I would have enjoyed it more. But there was no prerequisite listed on the cover, and I think there should be.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

MEME: Booking Through Thursday

Joanna and Brad are asking about “connecting words,” and they don’t mean conjunctions like “and” or “but.” No, what they’re looking for are unique, or treasured words that we’ve found out and about in our daily travels, words that might not be common usage, or often heard, but which struck a chord for some reason.

This is unorthodox, of course, but here’s the thing: if you link back to Joanna’s post (which is where the rules are written), you’re eligible to win a prize. Not to mention joining in some great conversation about interesting words.
At first, I thought this was just words we've learned that are unusual. My example was going to be plethora, but somebody took it already! I was in university and working a summer job, along with my husband to be. We worked with an unusual guy, who was, well unusual. He said he had seen a movie the night before, Three Amigos, and they used the word plethora and he didn't know what it meant. Neither did we, but we were intrigued. So we looked it up and used the word everyday for quite a while. Now we use plethora when ever we can, because it is such a great word.
But reading some other posts has changed my focus. It's those words that become legend in a family, are used in a different context, and I know we have a ton of those words and phrases in our house, as my husband has a great vocabulary and is a quick wit. And he is from a family with colourful phrases.
Two, four, out the door, six, eight, we won't be late - said on the way out the door
You did that {fruit} justice - it is well eaten
fill your boots - if you like, help yourself, have what you want
bed lunch - a snack before bedtime
dress the bed - put on the sheets, make the bed
flat cheese - a processed cheese slice
fill your gob - eat a lot
When I visisted Joanna's site, linked above, I got a different view of this task. It can also be words that we've discovered on the computer that we haven't heard, or that we've used and others need us to explain. Words from around the blogosphere I've found and liked:
enbiggen - make the picture larger
flist - short form for friends list at livejournal, represents all your friends. ex - I've been a bad flist-er because I haven't been posting lately.
slash - from fanfic places, to describe the pairing focus of a story. Harry/Hermione
Now I've just been from Brad's site, and I have another perspective of what they mean. It can be words you've read that you like how they describe something. There are a bunch of British words that I love how they describe things, but I don't have the person who wrote them or I haven't kept track of exactly where they are from. And I can't really think of them right now either, because I haven't brought them into my daily life. I read them and then they disappear, until the next time I read them.
wanker - an idiot
edit: appatently wanker doesn't mean what I thought it did. Just goes to show you that reading a word in a book and understanding its context are two different things. I hope I didn't offend anyyone.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

FUN STUFF: typogenerator

I just found the coolest place, called typogenerator. While surfing around, at laura's site, I found this cool generating site, and I can't stop! I just keep trying more and more, and getting the neatest images.

See what I made:

and this:
I can't seem to stop. Be careful, images may be copywrited, so don't use for commercial applications.

LIST: Television Shows

I might read a lot, but I also watch a lot of television. I play on the computer in the living room, so I manage to combine those two activities at the same time. Some of my favorite shows are:

  • The Amazing Race: This is possibly the best reality show, although I prefer the term game show. I like that you lose based on your own results, not based on friendships or bad behaviour. It's just your own skills. And of course, I would do really well on the race, only they don't allow Canadians to compete. I would race with my sister, and on our cruise last year, we pretended we were racing when we would be getting in lines or finding meeting points. The countries, the challenges or tasks, and of course Phil. The editors rock on this show.

  • Cold Case: The cases themselves can be a little corny or contrived, but the team of investigators, led by the best boss and toughest cop, are what make this show special. The relationships between the cops and their dysfunctional lives are very touching. And I always cry in the last musical montage, showing how powerful images and music can be.

  • Brothers and Sisters: I've always liked dramas and family shows, like thirtysomething and Once and Again. And this show has Rob Lowe, looking very presidential, like he learned how to be, on The West Wing. The family is real, or as real as a rich Californian family can be, but they fight and drink, and gossip and talk all the time and are there for each other. Funny and drama and did I mention, Rob Lowe?

  • House: Again, it is not the medical story, I find them quite gross at times, but it is the relationships between the characters, especially House and Wilson. Wilson and House make one of the best pairings on TV. I am particularly liking the new 'numbers', auditioning for a spot on House's team of doctors, AKA the Cottages. I am not missing Foreman, Cameron and the Blond guy too much.

  • Seinfeld: We are still enjoying the old reruns of the funniest show ever on television. I was in on this from the get-go, and can remember watching the first few episodes, like the one with 'the levels' that Kramer was going to put in his apartment. We use so many of the phrases from this show around our house. We used to torment our children in the car, when they would ask 'How much longer?" We always replied, 'Five, ten minutes" with just the right accent. Do you remember that episode?
  • Survivor: Again, I remember watching the very first episode. I thought when I read the preview, that it sounded so stupid, but within the first half hour, I was calling to my husband and telling him how great the show was. Of course, Richard was the best player, because he figured it out first, how to win. But then, people who won afterward, like Brian, and Tom, who won when everyone already realized how the game was played, also deserve a lot of credit. Some seasons aren't as good as others, but overall, they keep it fresh and find a way to keep me interested.
  • The Daily Show/The Colbert Report: I shouldn't be watching these shows because they don't come on until midnight here in the Maritimes, damn that Atlantic Time Zone, which is way too late for a little girl who has to teach the next day, but they are so funny. The writer's strike is hurting these shows so much, and I love how they manage to be humorous and informative at the same time.

There are many other shows that would fall into my second tier of shows I like to watch. I'll talk about those other shows another day. Oh, wait, one more show that my kids would say is my favourite show.

  • Compass: Our local CBC news hour show. We let the kids pretty much have control of the television during the day, but at 6:00, I get the control and get to watch the first 10 -15 minutes of news, and the weather with Boomer for the next day.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

MEME: Reading Habits

I copied this meme from chris at book-a-rama by way of dewey . I'm not running out of things to blog about, but the middle of the week is a little tricky if I haven't finished a book recently.

1. Do you remember learning to read? How old were you?
I don't remember learning to read. I do remember trying to teach my 3 year old sister to read when I was six, in grade 1. If I knew how to read, she should learn too. I guess I've always tried to be a teacher.

2. What do you find most challenging to read?
Big thick books, Austen/Hawthorne/type writing, magic realism doesn't do much for me at all.

3. What are your library habits?
I keep a list of TBR at my library's online resource; I request books if I can; I used to browse and wander, but my reading is mapped out too far right now for impulse reads; I usually have at least one or two books out from the library

4. Have your library habits changed since you were younger?
I've always borrowed from the library.

5. How has blogging changed your reading life?
wow, that's a huge question! I never wrote reviews before, but I kept a list of books read for the past 8 years. Reading challenges are new this year, so I have expanded my reading genres quite a bit.

6. What percentage of your books do you get from: New book stores, second hand book stores, the library, online exchange sites, online retailers, other?
From my librarything data, I've read about 60% of my books this year from the library. The other 40% is about 20% on line retailers, 5% new book stores, 5% second hand book stores, and 10% borrowed from friends/received as gifts.

7. How often do you read a book and NOT review it in your blog? What are your reasons for not blogging about books?
I'm still pretty new, so I have blogged about every book I've read. Or have I? How will you know?

8. What are your pet peeves about ways people abuse books? Dogearing pages? Reading in the bath?
Oops, I dog-ear books, and I would read in the bath. I don't have any pet peeves like that. I don't like when people give away the ending when they review books, without a spoiler warning.
9. Do you ever read for pleasure at work?
Unfortunately, no. If I had a job with regular lunch hours, I might read then. But I have a library at work, and a librarian who believes the school library should have books for the teachers too, so she gets some with more adult content than just young adult. She keeps some books in her office for mature readers. so I may not read at work, but I get some books to read for pleasure at work. And bonus: no late fees.

10. When you give people books as gifts, how do you decide what to give them?
So much depends on the person. I have a good idea for my husband and children what they like to read, since I supply their books for the most part anyway. My mom would be trickier. She would probably request a book, or I would get her one from a series she is reading. My dad would be the same, but I would have an idea of an author he would like, and he would try anything to read. It gets tricky beyond that. I would have to have read the book already for the most part, unless they requested it.

Monday, November 19, 2007

SHORT STORY MONDAY: Buying a Fishing Rod for My Grandfather by Gao Xingjian

Buying a Fishing Rod for My Grandfather by Gao Xingjian
collection of short stories
This is a slim collection from the Nobel Prize Winning author Gao Xingjian. I'm pretty sure I'm doing his name wrong, but 3M is counting this for an X author, so that's good enough for me!
I confess that Nobel Prize winning author brings me connotations of 'boring' and 'too deep' for me to get, and unfortunately, this book lived up to my expectations. I think these are the kind of stories people talk about when they say short stories leave them missing something. These stories have an added distance in that very few characters are ever named. There is a distance from each story that doesn't allow you to get involved.
"The Accident" describes a bicycle-bus accident on a busy city street. It was accurate in describing the scene, and describing how the witnesses all react, each reading their own life into what they observe. But not much actually happens, and we don't find out anything that happens to the victims. I think it is supposed to represent the impersonal aspect of living in large cities, and how we witness events and never find out what happens after it's over. Then the narrative suddenly switches to a philosophical analysis, and tries to explain how it might not have happened and accidents aren't statistics and it ended so weirdly.
But not as weird as the title story. I don't even know what that one was about. A man is reflecting on his childhood and grandfather, but then the narrative becomes jumbled and there are references to not finding his home, and deserts and lakes and sand, and then he is describing a soccer game in the middle of a two page paragraph. I guess he is watching TV and dreaming about his childhood. That might actually explain it, but doesn't help me because I don't like reading about dreams in stories; they are weird enough when they are my own, and then to try and interpret someone else's dream. Blah.
Summary: I think this book is deep, and probably good for big thinkers, but I don't want to have to work that hard on my reading. The stories I read can have layers, but the top layer has to make sense, or I won't bother looking below the surface.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

BOOK: One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson

One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson
New York Times Notable Book 2006
randomhouse book for review

I like books like this: a murder mystery, with a seemingly unconnected cast of characters. The first half of the book is spent setting the stage and I felt like a juggler keeping track of all the people and motives and backstories. And then, gradually, people become connected and the story really picked up.
Jackson Brodie is the main character, I suppose, and according to the back cover, he was the investigator in Atkinson's last book, Case Histories. I would mention that it wouldn't be required to read the first book, as I didn't feel I missed any back story in reading the sequel, but I would be very interested in seeing what happens with Jackson next. Jackson witnesses a road rage incident that sets off the chain of events and characters. A meek writer, an obnoxious comedian, a dirty rich developer, his fed up wife, and a few Russian immigrants round out some of the characters, along with a tough female detective for Jackson to butt heads with.
Although it felt a little long, the action is continuous and a thread of humor is woven throughout so that I enjoyed reading it a lot. The summer arts festival in Edinburgh provides the background, and Atkinson kept my interest with so many different characters.

BOOKWORMS: The Short Story Carnival

The Carnival is ready for this month. What is the Carnival? you ask. I wondered that when I first heard about it. Someone (Armenian Odar) organizes a different theme of bookish topics (Short Stories). Different bloggers submit posts that relate to the theme. Some posts are written specifically for the Carnival, others submit previously written posts. Then the organizer puts them altogether in the Carnival.

Some past themes have included classics, and scary stories. Since I have been participating in Short Story Mondays, I finally felt brave enough to submit a post to this Carnival which is all about short stories. A couple of people even wrote their own original stories for this carnival! So head on over to The Armenian Odar and check out this months Bookworms Carnival. Lots of interesting posts and new blogs to discover.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

MEME: Twofer Things

I found this meme at literary feline's musings of a bookish kitty. I am trying to blog everyday on this adventure in reading, for that NaBloPoNo, which is some sort of sane response to NaNoWriMo and for the people who don't want to write a book, but want to be able to put cool letters smashed together on their blog. I didn't officially sign up, because I didn't want to put that pressure on myself, so I have only committed to do it in my head. Sometimes it's hard to come up with something new everyday. That's why meme's were invented - to have something to write, and to get to know people better. Here's me:

Two names you go by:
1. Mom - my children
2. Mrs MacAulay - my students

Two things you are wearing right now:
1. comfy fleece sweatshirt and pants. Who invented this new soft fleece? I love them.
2. contact lens. Only one though, I have monocular vision

Two of your favorite things to do:
1. reading
2. talking - on the phone, in the staff room, ...

Two things you want very badly at the moment
1. a spa weekend alone, with much wine and reading
2. to get organized around the house

Two favorite pets you have had/have:
1. I never, ever had a pet

Two things you ate today:
1. leftover ice cream birthday cake from last weekend
2. hot turkey sandwich with perfect diner fries, at lunch with my son at a local restaurant

Two people you last talked to:
1. my husband (thank you, the stew was delicious)
2. one of my three children at supper.

Two things you're doing tomorrow:
1. put up Christmas decorations
2. having lunch at my parents

Two longest car rides:
1. PEI to Ontario by way of the States. I was in grade 5
2. train ride from NS to Alberta, then drove from Calgary to Vancouver through the Rockies

Two favorite holidays:
1. Christmas. I know Christmas can be a bad, sad time for many people, but I live in a perfect bubble and Christmas is full of happy family memories and get togethers
2. Canada Day. We have an annual party we go to, and it means summer vacation has begun.

Two favorite beverages:
1. diet pepsi
2. Long Island iced tea

Just as a final note, the phrase "twofer", sounds so much like "two-four", which is slang for a 24 case of beer around here. That subliminal message has made its way to my head, and now I shall go have a nice, cold Corona, which didn't make the list of favorite beverages, but could have.

Friday, November 16, 2007

BLOGGING: Advent Tour 2007

Kailiana and Marg are organizing an advent Christmas Blogging Tour. It sounds like a lot of fun. There are more details at their blogs, but the idea is everyone takes a turn hosting a day during December with a Christmas treat of some sort. I signed up for December 9th, and there are still some spots left, so you should go and check it out. I am looking forward to visiting other blogs and getting into the Christmas spirit. Only about 5 more weeks til Christmas!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

MEME: Booking Through Thursday

Today’s question comes from Conspiracy-Girl:I’m still relatively new to this meme so I’m not sure if this has been asked yet, but I’m curious how many of us write notes in our books. Are you a Footprint Leaver or a Preservationist?

I don't write in books, but not for any noble reason. I've never been a writer in books, it wouldn't occur to me to write anything. Probably because we didn't buy many books when I was growing up. We were library people. I think I'm too scared to write in a book, but I wish I was a person who did write in books.

I actually enjoy getting library books that have been written in, I find it interesting to see what other people thought was interesting enough to underline or write in. My copy of Galileo's Daughter from the library had been studied, and was underlined and annotated; I wanted to keep it, and buy another book for the library to have.

I think I am neither a Footprint Leaver not a Preservationist.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

CHALLENGE: Young Adult Challenge

Oh that Joy,
She just doesn't stop,
The challenges she makes,
Put me over the top

We have all year,
Just take a look,
All we have to read,
Is 12 YA books.

I don't have a full list yet, but young adult books can be a quick read, and very enjoyable after those 'important Pulitzer' winners. Plus, I work at a high school and have easy access to these books. Cause if they don't have it, it's not young adult.

Here's a list of potential reads (probably already on another list):

And since each of these authors has written other books, I am leaving room for reading sequels and other books by them.

update: April 30th, challenge completed, wrap up posted here

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

BOOK: Monkfish Moon by Romesh Gunesekera

Monkfish Moon by Romesh Gunesekera
short story collection

2nds Challenge

This was a nice collection of short stories, all set in Sri Lanka. Gunesekera writes beautifully, really giving the reader a sense of life in Sri Lanka. And while all different, the history and nature of Sri Lanka, the wars and upheavals provide a background to all the stories. His characters face dilemmas, between past and present, old ways and new, but the beauty of Sri Lanka is always there.

The titles are a little obscure for me; had to look up one last week, but I was pleased to recognize Carapace, which was probably my favorite story. A girl is deciding between two men, the local cook who has no promises for her, and not much of a future but true love, and the rich bloke going to Australia with a big house and a secure future, but actually unknown. Around here, carapace is the shell of the lobster, and carapace size determines whether a lobster is to be kept or thrown back.

Monday, November 12, 2007

SHORT STORY MONDAY: Two Tales For the Holidays

The Christmas Tree by David Adams Richards
Two Tales for the Holidays

I recently read Richards book Hockey Dreams and really enjoyed the writing of his reminiscence of life playing hockey on the Miramichi River. This slim little volume is more of the same, but fictional, thoughts of Christmases from ago.

Carmichael's Dog tells the story of two little boys, who find a dog on Christmas Eve, which is, of course, the perfect present for their widowed mother. But the story is more about what life used to be like, when kids ran the neighbourhood, outside all the time, with nothing more than a 'be home by dinner' as they live. It is also about the rules of the street, being confronted by another kid when you are doing something you aren't supposed to do. And Richards has a way of writing, that brings you right back there.

The Christmas Tree is the story with the miracle of sorts. Two brothers, again, in their twenties go looking to chop down a tree, because in those days, nobody buys a tree. My husband was like this when I met him - they always chopped down a tree from the woods, he could not understand buying a tree. So these boys, and a neighbourhood urchin whom they don't know, go to the woods looking for a tree. But like most university age kids, the trip was afoot before any real plan, like an axe, was thought of.

Both stories had plenty of humor, and were perfectly touching for Christmas. And because they are memories, just like all Christmas memories can be, are looked at through the rose coloured glasses. But this is just the kind of story to read to get in the mood for Christmas. I am becoming quite a fan of Mr Richards' writing. My only problem here was that these were fiction, and the last book of his I read was nonfiction, and I felt like these was his real stories, so that distracted me a bit. Christmas stories are perfect for short stories, so I'll have to look for some more.

ETC: It's a Small World

How small of a world is it, you ask? Let me tell you a story.

Woo hoo! I won a book at The Book Mine Set this week, for answering the quiz about all the books that have been read so far. It was a really fun quiz, and I discovered a few new books to read. To top it off, I won Unsettled, a book of poetry, by Zachariah Wells. Yesterday, John Mutford emailed me to let me know, and to remind me to send my address so the book could be mailed to me. I remember thinking, Cool, john won't have to pay crazy postage since we are both in Canada. I sent my address off, and my thanks.

Today we are lounging around the house, enjoying the 'day in lieu of' Remembrance Day, recovering from the sleepover with a few ten year old boys last night, and I'm trying to get some blasted correcting done. A car pulls in the driveway, but it's not a parent coming to gather up their child.

It's Zachariah Wells. Delivering my book. To my house. He happened to be in Hunter River, (a little village about 15 minutes from Charlottetown) and figured it would be easier to drop off the book and save the postage. So he came in, signed the book for me, and left. I may not have been as polite as I could have, because the shock of it all sort of stunned me. So, I am sorry I didn't invite you in, but thank you so much for the book.
In typical Island fashion, I think I figured out who his father is, since Zachariah is originally from the Island, and it isn't that hard to pinpoint family names. It's a fun game we play here. So, how many published authors came to visit you today?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

BOOK: Gods and Monsters by Christopher Bram

Gods & Monsters by Christopher Bram

Books to Movies Challenge

originally titled Father of Frankenstein

I haven't seen this movie yet, but I remember when it was nominated for a few Academy Awards, back in 1997. I don't actually see a lot of movies, so it isn't surprising. Bram tells the story of James Whale, director of Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein. Set in 1957, Whale is retired by now, and recovering from a stroke. He is getting mixed up in his head, past and present, and looking for a way out. He forms an unlikely friendship with his gardener, Clay Boone, a white trash he-man who is put off a bit by Whale's homosexuality, and yet fascinated by the famous director at the same time.

Bram took the true basis of Whale's life and built a world of what the last few weeks of his life may have been like, based on the available information. He provides an afterward to my paperback edition to explain what was true, and what was conjecture - Boone is completely fictional. The look at Hollywood in the thirties and forties, even the glamourous fifties, with lots of name dropping, and the background and filming of some of the movies, and the interesting friendship between Boone and Whale made this an interesting read. Bram is obviously a fan of the old horror movies, and his love and respect comes through. It also shows how the effects of war are life lasting, as Whale descends in his mind back to the trenches of World War I. Rather touching for today, Remembrance Day.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

LIST: Favourite Reading Series [not mysteries]

I've always read a lot of mysteries, and I'll leave that list for another day, but a series is very satisfying to read. You get to know the characters, and you want to read about them. I think some authors feel handcuffed by their series books, that they can write other characters, much like some actors become so well known for a part that the audience only wants to see them as that character. Oh, hello Kelsey Grammer. And we want to read more and more about our favorite characters. Arthur Conan Doyle killed Sherlock Holmes off, but the public outcry demanded he resurrect him.

These are the series' that I am glad were written. My favorites over the years. I notice a large number are from my childhood. I think for this list and my purposes, a series has to be more than two books, that is, a trilogy minimum, which is why Bridget Jones isn't here. This list is in no particular order.

1. The Earth Children by Jean Auel
The prehistoric sex books, I was lucky to find these after they had all been written, except for the last book which was published within a year of reading about Ayla and the cave men. You must watch Ice Age after reading these books.

2. The Outlander by Diana Gabaldron
The Scottish sex books, that were passed around our staffroom for a few years. Claire and Jamie and their time travelling adventures throughout history. How can you not love Jamie? hmm, third daughter is named Jamie. That's weird.

3. Harry Potter by JK Rowling
Fabulous books, I read the first five aloud to my son. Luckily, he learned to read them himself this year. The imagination of Rowling to create this wizard world amazed me. I want an owl to bring me messages. I have found it very difficult not to read these books straight through. I knew it about Snape!

4. Bruno and Boots (MacDonald Hall) by Gordon Korman
Probably one of my favorite set of books all time. Korman has written much more than Bruno and Boots, but for young teenagers, these hilarious stories are terrific. Korman wrote the first book, This Can't Be Happening! (at McDonald Hall) when he was just fourteen, and I was ten when it first came out - it seemed so close. I still remember Mrs Adams reading it aloud to our grade five class, and laughing so hard she couldn't continue reading. Books can be so much fun.

5. Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
What little girl didn't read this series? And wonder how they went to the bathroom? Laura and Mary, and Manly, and the Long Winter. I reread this series continually, and still have my books in the basement. I can't wait until my daughter is old enough to read these. She better enjoy them!

6. Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
My comfort food. I think it gets better as the series goes along, and Anne becomes a smaller and smaller character. Once Anne finds her family, and the love she needed, she becomes quieter, and leaves the scrapes to her neighbours. Still lots of interesting people, and her children's story, especially Rilla's, is a wonderful view of life in Canada during World War I.

7. The Great Brain by John D Fitzgerald
Life in a small Utah town at the end of the nineteenth century, with The Great Brain, swindling and conning everyone in sight. Another funny series of my youth, and such a different life than I was used to.


So, what did I forget? Remember, mysteries don't count here, we'll look into that another day. I never read Chronicles of Narnia, or The Lord of the Rings, because I'm sure those will make many other lists. I'm know I've forgotten some British series; I've always read a lot of British books. I contemplated Enid Blyton, but I don't remember a particular series that I loved to read. What are some of your favorite reading, non-mystery, series?

Friday, November 9, 2007

CHALLENGE: Christmas Books

There was talk of a Christmas challenge a while ago, and then no one knew whether it was on or not, and then, voila!, it appeared at this site. Susan is hosting this nice little lead into Christmas. She challenges us to read two books with a Christmas theme during November and December. That sounds easy and fun. I was surfing around the blogging world last night, getting all kinds of great ideas.

Here's a list of books that I will read two from:

A few of these are very short, and I picked up two at the library tonight, so it might not take very long.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

MEME: Booking Through Thursday

Would you say that you read about the same amount now as when you were younger? More? Less? Why?
I read a lot more this year than I have in the past five years, definitely.
As a child though, I'm sure I read all the time. I remember getting piles from the library, and reading all the time, even after I was supposed to turn my light out, gasp! And seriously, for a long time, that was the baddest thing I ever did.
I think I changed in my teens, found more bad things to get into, and probably read less. I couldsn't let myself read in University, however, because if I started to read a book, I'd read until it was done. So I couldn't let myself read novels until summer break.
But as long as I can remember, I've always read. But never as much as this year.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

BOOK: Hockey Dreams by David Adams Richards

Hockey Dreams by David Adams Richards
Memories of a Man Who Couldn't Play
New Brunswick book for the Canadian Book Challenge
When I started this book, all about Canada and hockey, while a good choice obviously for the Canadian Book Challenge, I wasn't sure how much it would be about New Brunswick. I am hoping that most of the books that I read by province evoke a sense of the province as well as a good story. This book is actually several books in one: history and role of hockey over the last fifty years, how Canadians identify with hockey, and finally, the author's memories growing up on the Miramichi River, playing hockey. It certainly gave me a feel for growing up in the Miramichi.
This was a touching and patriotic read. I may have to get this for my husband for Christmas - he grew up in a small village, playing hockey on natural ice, and Richards' stories of playing hockey as a youngster remind me somewhat of my husband and his brother's stories. Richards recalls that during talk of expansion in the sixties, he assumed that Newcastle would be a logical spot for a new franchise. When he was young, my husband thought his father's old-timer league was the step below the NHL. So I could definitely identify with most of what Richards wrote; I think many Canadians could.
There are reminisces of a lot of international hockey, of course including Henderson's goal and the 1972 series with the Russians. I certainly haven't thought so much about the Canadian identity and hockey as in depth as he has, but I know that there are others who also have looked into it. I would love to read a Richards' article after the Salt Lake City Olympics, when we finally iced the best hockey players in the world, male and female. He must have been over the moon. Picture Gretzsky
And although the book is filled with hockey analysis, it is the memoir parts, his childhood that is the strong part of the book. Life in a small town Canada during the 1950s and 60s, and the characters that filled his life made for a wonderful read. I wondered what happened to Stafford, why Paul didn't make the NHL, where Michael and Tobias went, and who survived. So many pivotal points in his life are connected to hockey games, and he remembers where he was and who he was with. Even games on the river he can reconstruct with precision, which I know from experience, is believable, play by play. Hockey players really remember every part of every game they ever played.
I really enjoyed this book, and think any Canadian who likes hockey, (you can't be a hockey snob or you'll be offended or maybe you just won't get it), would like to read this. Richards writing is readable, and he travels back and forth in time, connecting events and memories, all under a layer of hockey. Go Leafs!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

MEME: Nearest Book

I've seen this meme a lot of places and I've always wanted to do it. So I am.

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
5. Don’t search around and look for the “coolest” book you can find. Do what’s actually next to you.

I had a little pile of books beside me and I couldn't pick one.

There was no tomorrow. - from Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho

"He's a pirate," said Kit, "a playhouse pirate." - from Cue for Treason by Geoffrey Trease

The sloughs were dry, their white beds glittering in the destroying heat. - from The Dog Who Wouldn't Be by Farley Mowatt

I am off to read the pile of mind-numbing 70 lab reports, which will all be essentially identical, some more identical than others. I would much rather be reading a good book.

Monday, November 5, 2007


I bought this collection of short stories by Romesh Gunesekera after I read his book Reef earlier this year. I enjoyed it, sort of a Half of a Yellow Sun light, but set in Sri Lanka instead of Nigeria.

Gunesekera is from Sri Lanka and his stories describe the immigrant dilemma - living in a new place but remembering the old country, trying to assimilate and yet maintaining old traditions. The short story Storm Petrel, has the narrator meeting CK, and old mate from Sri Lanka. CK has just returned from a visit and is marvelling at the changes, and planning for a new life back home. The narrator listens to his tale and inserts comments, both aloud and internally.

I had to look up storm petrel, to understand the significance of the title. It's a little seabird, colonial nesters, displaying strong philopatry to their natal colonies and nesting sites. I don't usually like having to look up information to understand what I read, but I'll do it for Short Story Monday. In this case, it makes sense, the immigrant wanting to return home.

Although the characters and setting are London and Sri Lanka, it reminded me of the Maritimes, and the people who leave, but always have in their mind that they will return. They will have made tons of money, tons for what you need to live here, they'll come home to this imagined place in their memory. But it does change, and so have they. It isn't the place they remember. They want to return to an idyllic life, simple, like they remember the life they left. But what makes it appealing to come to is that the life has changed and progressed. So it can't be the way they remember.

So welcome to short story Monday; leave a comment, tell us what you've read. I'm hosting this week, and if you are interested in hosting, let john mutford or my know, we don't mind sharing! The more the merrier, and all that.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

BOOK: a boy of good breeding by Miriam Toews

a boy of good breeding by Miriam Toews

a Manitoba book for the Canadian Book Challenge

Toews is more famous for her novel A Complicated Kindness which won the Governor General's award in 2004, but I read a good review of this book recently, so decided to try it.
Hosea Funk, the mayor of Algren, Canada's smallest town, is on a mission: If Algren is officially the smallest town, exactly 1500 people, the Prime Minister, who Hosea believes may be his father, will come to visit on Canada Day. Hosea is keeping very close tabs on Algren's citizens in his orange Hilroy scribbler - people returning, people dying, people having babies - maybe triplets! It is driving him nearly crazy (it might not be a long drive).

As he hovers around, looking after his town, we get to know some of the people, like people in small towns every where. There is Combine Jo, a drunk who drives her combine, natch, up Main Street once a year; Summer Lovin', a four year old who has returned (more people!) with her mother, Knute, to look after her father; and Bill Oliver, a local dog who cannot be told what to do, none of the Olivers ever could. Hosea is going so nuts, he won't let his girlfriend move in with him, since she would increase the population by one, moving down from Winnipeg.

It's a whimsy little story, with some pretty amusing parts. But Toews has hidden some more layers to the story, about living your life, and doing what you can to be happy, living without regret and making amends. It was touching story, with interesting characters, and people you want to find out about.

Saturday, November 3, 2007


Just letting you know, I'm hosting short story Monday this coming week. If you happen to read a short story, why not write a little reveiw and come here, and I'll put all the links together. I kept pretty much to the creepy theme during September and October, so I am hoping to branch off, and find some of those links that johnmutford at The Book Mine Set kept posting. He finds all finds of short stories on the internet, for free, and then posts about them. I've been intrigued, and imagine with the power of google, I can find some short stories of my own.

I'll bet there are some short reads at , a pretty cool little site that will deliver public domain books to your e-mail box, everyday. Then, as you read your emails for the day, you can read a book. Some take a long time, but many are shorter.

Or, if you are like me, you have a Norton's Anthology of Literature in your basement somewhere from University. I didn't take the time to enjoy assigned reading in those days, but there are a few short stories that still stand out, and could do with a reread.

If Hurricane Noel gets crazy here, we might lose power. If that's the case, now you know why I might not be around. You should still read a short story though, and post here if you have to. I'm sure I'll get internet connection back up at some point.

CHALLENGE: Themed Reading Challenge

Wendy, over at caribousmom, while not busy keeping everyone organized at A Novel Challenge, is coming up with interesting challenges as well. She has designed the Themed Reading Challenge, and everyone gets to make up their own theme. I am going with a decidedly nonimaginative theme of books. This one last for the first half of the year, and asks for at least four books. I have a big list of books that fit this theme that I might read, including:

This seems more ambitious than it actually is. Most of these books are from the Something About Me challenge list; not surprising that so many readers picked books about books to describe themselves. And several of these books are on other challenges I've signed up for. I thought I had written this all up months ago, because I already ordered a few books form amazon, and in my mind, the month of January will be devoted to reading these. I'm really looking forward to these books, especially The Book Thief. I find I like to read a challenge all at once, focus on one challenge for a month or so.

Wrap up for challenge is here

Friday, November 2, 2007

BOOK: Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coehlo

Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coehlo

I really didn't know what to expect with this book. I've heard mixed reviews of Coehlo's The Alchemist, and I don't think I'll like that one, as I'm not into magic realism as a genre - I tried Pedro Paramo earlier this year, and didn't get it at all. All this lead up is to suggest that I didn't think I'd like this book. I was so wrong.

I'm not even sure if I can summarize why I liked this book so much. I don't think it is completely due to the drugs I was taking from my wisdom teeth operation. The story of Veronika, a twenty four year old who is so bored with her life, and how she doesn't see any future for herself, so decides to kill herself, sucked me in with its whimsy and quiet comments on what makes people sane, or crazy. Veronika doesn't succeed at her attempt, and is put into a mental institute in Slovenia, where the book takes place. There she meets other 'crazies' and we see different perspectives of life, and we decide who is crazy or not.

Paohlo covers a lot of territory in his story, including parents expectations of children, family responsibilities, medical ethics - I couldn't decide if I liked the doctor or not, law and rules, just about any issue you would like, but mostly mental illness and how society and people deal with it. But throughout, the writing is clear and easy to follow, with an interesting message. The endnotes of my edition include some notes about Paulo, and this appears to be a semi-autobiographical account of his early twenties.

We are discussing this over at booksintranslation, a yahoo book group, and I can't wait to find out what I liked so much about this book. I know I did, but when I discuss it with other people, it helps clarify some details about the book, and my understanding of the themes and ideas. I always had a problem in English classes in school with the theme; with there being a theme, and being marked right or wrong about the theme.

"You're someone who is different, but who wants to be the same as everyone else. And that, in my view, is a serious illness."
"Is wanting to be different a serious illness? "
"It is if you force yourself to be the same as everyone else. It's a distortion of nature, it goes against God's laws, for in all the world's wood and forests, he did not create a single leaf the same as another."

Thursday, November 1, 2007

UPDATE: October Books Read

It was looking slow at the beginning of the month, but with the wisdom extraction on the 25th, I was able to get to a very respectable 11 books. I can't believe the number of books I've read this year, and it just happened with a more concerted effort, an awareness of reading, and trying to read more places than just in bed at night. And these challenges have certainly focused goals. Next month I'll focus on completely a few challenges - Books to Movies, Something About me and the Seconds challenge. And I'm very distracted by the Canadian Book Challenge. Off I go to correct - I wish I could read, A Boy of Good Breeding is such a good book so far and I want to read more, but alas, school work calls. happy reading!
total books read: 11 books

RIP II reads: 4 and done!
Canadian Book Challenge: 2, 11 more to go
Books to Movie: 1, 2 more to go
something about me: 1 and pretty much done
Dystopian: 1 and done!

116. Veronika Decides to Die - Paulo Coelho
115. Fragile Things - Neil Gaiman
114. The Lost Salt Gift of Blood - Alistair MacLeod
113. The Inuk Mountie Adventure - Eric Wilson
112. Rises the Night - Colleen Gleason
111. The Road - Cormac McCarthy
110. Everything's Eventual - Stephen King
109. Farewell, My Lovely - Raymond Chandler
108. Shakespeare's Champion - Charlaine Harris
107. The Gum Thief - Douglas Coupland
106. The Tale of Despereaux - Kate DiCamillo