Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings
runs now until October 31, 2011

All my favorite types of books:
Dark Fantasy.

Peril the First - read 4 books

Pool of possible reads: (from last year's list)
Broken Shore by Peter Temple
The Black Echo by Michael Connolly
Angelology by Danielle Trussoni
20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill (short stories)

and new to the list:
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
Moonlight Sketches by Gerald Collins(short stories)
The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsen
Undone by Karin Slaughter
The Reapers by John Connolly

The Calling by Inger Ash Wolfe
plus assorted ongoing mystery series: Maisie Dobbs, Tattoo series, PerWahoo, Jo Nesbo,

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Books that got read:
1.Trackers - Deon Meyer
2. And Then There Were None - Agatha Christie
3. The Adventuress - Audrey Niffeneggar
4. Anya's Ghost - Vera Brosgol
5. Pretty in Ink - Karen E. Olson
6. The Distant Hours - Kate Morton
7. The Broken Shore - Peter Temple
8. Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King
9. The Potter's Field - Andrea Camilleri

Monday, August 29, 2011

BOOK: The Janie Quartet by Caroline B Cooney

Note: If you read very far in this set of reviews, each book will spoil the one before it. Not that the titles don't give away a lot of the plot anyway, but, you were warned.

The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B Cooney, 180 pages

I would have gobbled these books up as a teenager. As it is, I've been flying through these. I picked up the first two books at the library book sale after recognizing the author's name. (Code Orange, What Child is This?) It begins with sixteen year old Janie seeing a face on the milk carton of a missing three year old, and realizing it is her. How could her parents be kidnappers? Who are her parents? She spends this book dealing with the idea of who she really is, and how to confront her parents, which she really does not want to do, because she has a pretty sweet life.
A little teenage angsty, but of course it is!

Whatever Happened to Janie?, 200 pages
2nds Challenge

Janie deals with the fall out of the discovery and, under court order, goes to live with her original family. Cooney does a great job of looking into the ramifications of this type of dramatic kidnapping stories. There are not always happy endings, for any one involved. Janie goes from being Jane Johnson, only child in Connecticut to being Jennie Spring, one of five children in New Jersey. Who are her parents? Who is she?
The Voice on the Radio, 183 pages

Janie is getting her life back in order, arranging both her families into her concept of herself without feeling like she is hurting either one. The only problem is her perfect boyfriend, Reeve is going off to college. Poor Reeve, the underachieving, low esteem boy next door. He gets a gig right away at his Boston university hosting a radio show. And the only thing he can think to talk about on the air is the Janie ordeal. He is able to give the inside story and rationalizes that Janie will never hear the show. Yeah, this won't be good for anyone.

What Janie Found, 178 pages

The finale. Lots of what if? how come? Eh, the ending was only okay. I'm glad I didn't have to wait the ten years as a teenager for the final book to come out. It promised so much more action than was delivered, when Janie, Reeve, and little brother Brian fly out to visit the eldest brother Stephen in Boulder, Colorado. But really, they think they are on the trail of Hannah the original kidnapper and what would happen if they met her? At least everyone is growing up, and learning about forgiveness and moving on. And family.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

BOOK: As Birds Bring Forth the Sun and Other Stories by Alistair MacLeod

As Birds Bring Forth the Sun and Other Stories by Alistair MacLeod, 174 pages

Canadian Book Challenge 5

It seemed hard to believe that people only twenty miles away would write letters to one another and only visit once a year. But at that time the distance was hard to negotiate and there were no telephones. from "Vision"

The connection to the past, and how times have, and have not, changed is the major theme of Alistair MacLeod's writing. Oral history and stories passed down through generations have shaped the Maritimes. Our history is not that far removed from the Highlands of Scotland or the fields of Ireland. Each of the seven short stories in this collection relates to the past somehow. Here's a brief outline, which does nothing to tell how powerful each story is.

"The Closing Down of Summer" - Miners who travel the world spend their last day of vacation on Cape Breton. Dangerous work for large men, leaving their womenfolk. Relevant today? How many Maritimers are working in Alberta, sending money back to their families?

"Winter Dog" - a man remembers the dog of his childhood who saved his life out on the ice

"To Every Thing There Is a Season" - Yet when I speak on this Christmas 1977, I am not sure how much I speak with the voice of that time or how much in the voice of what I have since become. Very touching, my favorite in the collection.

"Second Spring" - A young boy wants to breed a cow for a young farmers group

"The Tuning of Perfection" - Producers from the big city of Halifax come to Cape Breton looking for Gaelic singers, causing rival families to compete. Gaelic is considered a dying language but one of the local high schools here offers a course on beginner Gaelic, trying to revive it

"As Birds Bring Forth the Sun" - a family is haunted by a wild dog that comes to them as they die

" Vision" - A fisherman tells his son a story from his youth visiting his grandparents for a week.

Friday, August 26, 2011

BOOK: The Likeness by Tana French

The Likeness by Tana French, 693 pages

Ireland Reading Challenge; 2nds Challenge

I read the first book, In the Woods, by Tana French just earlier this year. I'm not sure if you need to read the first one before The Likeness. The mystery is constantly referred to, obliquely, but I don't think it would be necessary, since I forget details from that book already. One thing I really like about this series, called the Dublin Murder Squad, is that the main character shifts each time. The first book was narrated by Rob Ryan. The second is his former partner, Cassie Maddox. The next book, Faithful Place has Cassie's boss Frank from this book, become the main character. Taking characters from a tangent keeps the story direction changing.

The premise of The Likeness is super cool, if crazy. A dead body who is an exact ringer for Cassie has been found. But not only does she look exactly like Cassie, she is living under the alias that Cassie used several years previously, Lexie Madison. What? Exactly. Cassie's old undercover boss, Frank (soon to narrate his own book) tries to convince her to take Lexie's place and pretend she hasn't been killed to help suss out the murderer. Unless the murderer really meant to kill Cassie and got the wrong girl. Zoinks.

The book is long, and French tends to ramble on a bit - I blamed it on Rob Ryan in the last book, but Cassie talks the same way around subjects, but it still moves along quickly. If it took me three weeks to get through it, I'd be really complaining, but both books I've just gobbled up, so it's really not an issue. Is it just a plot point of mystery authors, or do real life police continually withhold evidence from their bosses that might help them see the big picture, just like suspects? Other than that annoying habit, thumbs up from me, and looking forward to the next adventure in Dublin.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Sometimes I feel like the only person I know who finds reading history fascinating. It’s so full of amazing-yet-true stories of people driven to the edge and how they reacted to it. I keep telling friends that a good history book (as opposed to some of those textbooks in school that are all lists and dates) does everything a good novel does–it grips you with real characters doing amazing things.
Am I REALLY the only person who feels this way? When is the last time you read a history book? Historical biography? You know, something that took place in the past but was REAL.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot was an excellent history/science book. Granted, the history was only from the 1950s, but it was the history of the HeLa cells, and the story of the woman who made it possible.

The other most excellent history book I've read is The Devil in the White City by Eric Larson. This book gives two histories at once - the Chicago World Fair, and a serial killer. This reminds me that I'd love to read another of Larson's books. He does history well.

Also, we shall not overlook Sarah Vowell and her fun filled history adventures (Assassination Vacation, for example) that read more like stand-up. Love her voice. (literally and literaturely)

Any other great books I've missed?

BOOK: The Widows of Paradise Bay by Jill Sooley

The Widows of Paradise Bay by Jill Sooley, 253 pages

Canadian Book Challenge5

Prissy Montgomery is shocked and horrified when her husband, Howie, announces he is leaving her and wants a divorce. But that is nothing compared to the shock when she heads home to Paradise Bay, Newfoundland, with her teenage son, and discovers that her mother has taken out an obituary for Howie and announced him as dead. This great little read continues to blend the drama with the humor as Prissy meets up with some other young widows, and they all try to deal with their new life.

I hate funerals, which makes me something of an anomaly as far as the population of Paradise Bay goes. p 65 Sooley nails the small town life, and is full of fun Newfoundland, sure as be b'y. (Funny story - when I was in Newfoundland in July, a few of us went shopping in downtown St John's. The highlight for all three of us was getting to hear some 'real' Newfoundland accents.That, and the fish 'n chips at Dukes.) Prissy never really comes out of the fog that has become her Ontario life until she returns home - how ironic! The three widows each tell their own story, and far from overwhelming, all the characters come to life distinctly and their stories are balanced and integrated, although they revolve around Prissy. And while the book feels plenty humourous, there is much more, with tragic deaths and families learning how to be together. This was a great book.

also reviewed: Melanie, at the Indextrious Reader, which is where I first learned of this book. Thanks Melanie!

Monday, August 22, 2011

BOOK: A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick, 291 pages

Gothic Reading Challenge

Ralph Truitt advertises for a reliable wife, something a rich man can do in the early 1900s in Wisconsin. Catherine Land answers his advert, and hijinks ensue. No, not really hijinks; more like a gothic, twisty plot ride. The cover states "Suspenseful and erotic... Good to the riveting end." And it was, and it wasn't. Let me explain.

I like pizza, but I'm not a huge fan of mushrooms. I wouldn't gag on a mushroom, like I might with squash (I hate squash!), but I would never pick mushroom flavored food. It's too bad because mushrooms are added to a lot of food. If a mushroom makes it onto my pizza, I'll eat it. It's still pizza after all. I can manage to eat a lot of food that have mushrooms in them, but they don't add to my enjoyment at all. This book was a mushroom pizza to me.

She thought of her garden. She thought of her life, her patchwork quilt of a life, pieced together from castoff scraps of this and that; experience, knowledge, clairvoyance. None of it make any sense to her. p 146

Something about the writing just didn't match in my head. I couldn't get lost in the story. There was nothing wrong with the writing, just wasn't what I like, although I didn't dislike so much that I put the book down. I did like the story.  This book came to me highly recommended by a friend at work who usually gives me great books. People seem to either love it or not.

I found this great review at librarything: 
I think I have figured out what it is about Goolrick's writing that bothers me. His prose is very repetitious. He tends to repeat himself. He repeats himself to create a certain tone. He repeats himself and we get it already. ( posted by scratch)

also reviewed: lori at she treads softly; rhapsody in books' book club meeting; rhapsody in books weblog review; tiny little librarian's reading room;

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

BOOK: How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming by Mike Brown

How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming by Mike Brown, 255 pages

Science Book Challenge

I posted this to my livejournal account five years ago:
20th September, 2006
So, apparently, people are blogging about the fact that Pluto has been demoted to dwarf planet. And everyone is upset, according to the CBC report I heard on the radio today. Boo hoo, their mnemonic won't work anymore. Well, maybe if they had learned the mnemonic for the scientific process instead of how My Very Educated Mother... they would understand. Science is an evolving arena. The fact that the definition of a planet wasn't working, and there were too many exceptions meant the planets were going one of two ways: lose Pluto, or gain Ceres, UB 313 and several other orbiting objects that have more 'planetary' properties than Pluto. Pluto has only been a planet since 1930. Just because you learned the planets in school, it doesn't mean they will all be planets as long as you want them to be. It's a good thing you weren't alive during the Renaissance, because you never would have let Columbus sail to America, and you would have led the attacks on Copernicus and Galileo.
So, bravo collection of Astronomers who met in Prague. I thought it was one of the most interesting developments in science in a long time. Thank you, and now I have to go learn about this new collection of dwarf planets, and where they fit in the solar system. Long live the scientific process.

All right, it took me five years to actually get around to learning about the new definitions, but in my defense, I must have been waiting for this great book to be written. Mike Brown is the astronomer from CalTech who found a few objects in the solar system with the potential to be planets. He explains, in easy to understand language, how he found it and the processes involved and then the implications for Pluto. How I Killed Pluto is also a memoir, and he includes the distractions of his life (wife and baby) in a humorous way. Brown's passion for the sky and the planets up there is infectious, and he makes it easy to read, and want to learn more, about astronomy. The family stuff was cute and it kept reminding me that this was Mike Brown's story, not just Pluto's. Just the right amount of personal interspersed with the science.

There are rules about naming objects in space - craters on Mercury have to be named for deceased poets and moons of Uranus are named for Shakespeare characters. Objects in the Kuiper belt (which I learned so much about) must be named for creation deities, which meant that astronomers had to research about all kinds of mythology to appropriately name their new discovery.

If you want an easy to follow history of the demise of Pluto, and an introduction to some astronomy, How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming would be where I recommend you begin.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

BOOK: Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz

Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz, 500 pages

2nds Reading Challenge; Mystery and Suspense Challenge

The Spellmans are hilarious! In the first book, the whole family seemed crazy, but in this book, Isabelle is the main one. The rest of the family seemed a little more normal to me. Hmm, well, not normal, but not as paranoid and intense as Isabelle.This book begins with Isabelle's fourth arrest (only two really count) and her long-winded explanation to her eighty year old retired lawyer of how she ended up in jail. Again. And naturally, none of it is Izzy's fault.

I won't say any more about this book, because you need to start at the first book of this fun romp through San Francisco. Izzy learns a little bit more and may even be, gasp, learning some things about herself and others. But there are still more adventures with the Spellmans - Revenge of the Spellmans and The Spellmans Strike Again.

Friday, August 12, 2011

BOOK: Lavoisier in the Year One by Madison Smartt Bell

Lavoisier in the Year One: The Birth of a New Science in an Age of Revolution by Madison Smartt Bell, 186 pages plus index

Science Reading Challenge; Paris in July

I know practically nothing about French history. Some things that sound familiar to me include: the Bastille, Let them eat cake!, Napoleon. And that's about it. I've heard of Lavoisier from Chemistry - the conservation of mass in chemical reactions is a pretty basic tenet in science. So, this book combines both of these aspects of Antoine Lavoisier's life - his scientific role, and his part during the time of the French Revolution and I learned a lot.

The history part is kind of boring, quite honestly, but I did get a picture of what happened. Lavoisier was a quasi-noble so he had important jobs although science was also his love. He tried to stay somewhat neutral and felt his job was as a civil servant, not a politician. I liked how important his wife was to his scientific discoveries, and it was good to see a woman get some credit. Describing the background of the theory of what would become elements also was a bit boring, but also the part that I found most fascinating.

Hopefully, most people who have finished high school have a model in their head of atoms, and molecules, and elements. We know that air is made up of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, plus an assortment of other gases. But imagine not knowing that, and figuring out that there were several different types of gases making up the atmosphere, as well as the extra problem of where energy comes into reactions, and connecting it to fire and heat. Lavoisier was one of the first scientists to make progress in the breakdown of the atmosphere. He debunked the phlogiston theory and isolated oxygen. He also developed a nomenclature for chemistry that is still used to this day. Plus the conservation of mass was evident due to his meticulous chemical reactions as recorded by his wife. That history and story was amazing! He battled against the scientific establishment, and scientists from other countries but seldom his own doubts. He won his battle with the scientists, but not the one with the Jacobin rebels.Ooh, bad ending for Lavoisier, but good for science.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


It’s National Book Week. The rules: Grab the closest book to you. Go to page 56. Copy the 5th sentence as your status.

It was 2001, and though perhaps Arthur C Clarke's predictions of space tourism and obelisks on satellites of Jupiter had not come true, it was finally time to get rid of the hundred-year-old technology of the photographic plates.

How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming by Mike Brown 

Monday, August 8, 2011

BOOK: Coventry by Helen Humphreys

Coventry by Helen Humphreys, 177 pages

Canadian Book Challenge 5

During World War Two, the cathedral in Coventry was the only cathedral in England that was demolished, in a terrible night of bombing. Humphreys immerses the reader in what it must be like to live in a town under seige. Is it better to be in a shelter and not know what is going on, but possibly safe? Or is it better to be on the streets, controlling a bit what happens, and at least able to see? There really is no good place to be.

The story begins in the first world war as Harriet is sending her husband of two months off to France. Most second world war stories in England are connected in some way to the first war. Still living in Coventry in 1940, Harriet really has nothing left to lose. She spends the night running around Coventry, trying to get safe, and helping Jeremy find his mother, Maeve. Maeve is also trying to find Jeremy.

I'm not sure how Humphreys did it, but so much happened in such a short book. Characters came to life so quickly, and I really enjoyed getting to know Harriet and Maeve. Both were strong, independent women who write and draw to help process the horror they saw that night.  I am not giving this book enough of a good review, because it was a wonderful, wonderful read and I'll definitely look for more books written by Helen Humphreys.

Much better reviews can be found: Jill at the Magic Lasso; Sandra at Fresh Ink Books;

WEEKLY GEEKS: Back to School

The assignment from Weekly Geeks: (which I haven't done in ages!)

It's still the first week of August, but many of you, like me, may be already in the back to school mode. For us, it's only two weeks away! So I thought I'd do a back to school edition of Weekly Geeks and ask you these questions:

  • What's your favorite bookish school memory? Scholastic book orders! Getting the new pamphlet and scouring it looking for a book that looked interesting, and that I could afford. A few that I remember, because they are still in the basement - Follow My Leader, My Mother Made Me, Ginnie's Baby-sitting Business, Patricia's Secret, The Trouble with Terry, and Amy Moves In.
  • Did your teacher read aloud to you? Do you remember what book it was? I'm sure teachers always read aloud to us, but the one I remember most was in grade five when Mrs Adams was laughing so hard while reading This Can't Be Happening at MacDonald Hall! that she couldn't keep reading. Bruno and Boots are the best!
  • Do you remember what books you checked out at the school library? There was a book I know I took out of the elementary library many times, called Why Me? It was about a girl who gets diabetes, and so does her dog. She shares her insulin with the dog. I couldn't remember the name of this book for a long time, and no one else I know remembered it either. Someone asked at Name that Book at Librarything, so I found out it is also called Sugar Mouse.
  • What was one of the first book reports you did for school? I have some memory of a Helen Keller book report. As an aside, I had a grade eleven boy this year ask 'Helen Keller wasn't real, was she? She couldn't have been a real person?' Head bonk on desk.
  • I also remember, in junior high, planning to do a book report on George Washington. I have no idea why a Canadian girl was planning that. In my library search, I accidentally found a book about George Washington Carver, and not really knowing the difference, learned all about peanuts instead!
  • Do you have a favorite book or author that you first heard about from a teacher or school project? I was in school during the Reader stage of Canadian education. Anthology books with short excerpts and non-fiction essays were how we learned to read. Books where just read on your own time.Although, I guess the afore mentioned Bruno and Boots books by Gordon Korman were discovered in school.
  • Do you have a not-so-pleasant bookish memory from your school days? Once I got to high school and the assigned reading started, I wasn't a happy camper. The Pearl, Lord of the Flies, Wuthering Heights - these classic literature books couldn't compare to the exciting Agatha Christie mysteries or horror books by Stephen King that I was immersed in. 
Check out the other Weekly Geeks entries at the blog.

    Saturday, August 6, 2011

    LIST: Top Ten PEI books

    John has challenged participants to make a top ten list of books from your or about your province.
    Can I do a top ten list of Prince Edward Island books without putting the obvious book on the list? Clearly, we all know LM Montgomery is from PEI, and I can't do a list without her on it at all, but see if I can leave out Anne of Green Gables. I don't know how available some of these books are, but I have read or own all of these.

    Top Ten PEI books, in no particular order

    1. Bannock, Beans and Black Tea by John Gallant, reviewed here
    Great read about life on not very perfect Prince Edward Island during the depression. The font and illustrations make this one classified as a graphic novel in my library, but I question that.If you've got an entitled kid that is bugging you, give them this one to show them a different perspective.

    2. Tide Road by Valerie Compton on LT
    I'm in a huge line at the library for this one with the local crowd. I'm not sure what it's about but it is getting some rave reviews. Stay posted, I'll hope to review this once I finally get it. Hurry up ten people ahead of me!
    3. Them Times by David Weale on LT
    Weale is a great oral story teller and works the summer circuit here often. He tells great stories from 'them times' and is a humorous, enjoyable read. He's got several books of this ilk, and is famous (to me) for introducing me to the wonderful writing of Alistair MacLeod in his Island Studies university course.
    4. Micmac by Choice by M Olga McKenna on LT
    Confession - McKenna is my grand-aunt, but this is one of several historical books she has written, including a history of the Sisters of Charity. She's a pretty impressive lady, professor emeritus of education, and will turn 91 later this month. It was great to see her last weekend at a family gathering.
    Micmac by Choice is the story of Elsie Sark who married into the native community after the first world war and became a beloved part of it. It's been republished a few times, I believe.

    5. The Dictionary of Prince Edward Island by TK Pratt on LT
    Fun book with local words and phrases collected and explained. A wonderful social history of the smallest province, from 'the inhaled yes' to 'stormstayed', from 'slippy roads' to 'as useless as a bag of hammers'.

    6. The North Shore of Home by Frank J Ledwell  on LT
    This is a wonderful collection of stories, essays and poems by the late poet laureate of PEI. Ledwell is from my husbands community of St Peter's Bay so we have a special affinity to this book. I also want to thank Frank for asking me if I was an English major, when I took his course in third year university. I wasn't, (chemistry) but he restored faith in my writing ability after a disastrous episode in freshman year.

    7. The Green Gables Detectives by Eric Wilson on LT
    Looking for a book for your child to read about PEI? Wilson has a great series about detectives Tom and Liz Austen as they vacation all over Canada, so if you want to get your child reading mysteries, or books set in Canada, Wilson is a great beginning.

    8. Rink of Dreams by Nancy Russell on LT
    Nancy Russell is from PEI and has written a couple sports-based kids chapter books. I enjoyed her So Long Jackie Robinson (review), set in Montreal just before Robinson broke into major league baseball. This one is hockey based my son read it a few years ago.

    9. The Stand-In by David Helwig 
    I own this novella, and I read this years ago, but I can't remember much about it. Helwig has written a number of books and plays, so he's name you can investigate if looking for other Island authors than you-know-you.

    10. The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery my review here
    Speaking of you-know-who, here she is! I could easily have made the list all LM books, but I'll go with my favorite of the non-Anne series.This is such a charming, delightful read that if you haven't read it, I highly recommend it. She's not that famous for no reason.

    Thursday, August 4, 2011

    BOOK: Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny

    Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny, 371 pages

    Canadian Reading Challenge 5; Mystery and Suspense Challenge

    Every time I start reading these books, I wonder why although I have stuck with them through book number six. The writing is so dramatic. Questioning. Continually. Half sentences to make the point. It's like a book full of dramatic pauses. Wondering.

    But then, the plot takes over, and Penny does her plotting and pacing and her characters become a little less annoying and I get sucked in. I particularly like how she essentially took two stories and wove them together to pull me through this story where she could have written two books. Gamache is recovering from his last case, spending time in Old Quebec City when a murder occurs that he is asked to help with. At the same time, Jean-Guy Beauvoir goes to Three Pines to look into the death of the hermit, from the last book, again. During both of these stories the past case is remembered and seamlessly written into the present case. Balancing these three stories kept me enthralled and turning pages. (Other than the dramatic pauses) The entwining of these cases makes this one of the best books in the series for me.

    Still Life, the first book in the Three Pines mystery,  was chosen by our local library as a big read for the summer. The 'read' ends with Louise Penny coming in September as her latest book, A Trick of the Light, is released.

    MEME: Booking Through Thursday

    What’s the last book you were really EXCITED to read?
    And, were you excited about it in advance? Or did the excitement bloom while you were reading it?
    Are there any books you’re excited about right NOW?

    I was really excited to read Annabel by Kathleen Winter. There was great buzz about it and my sister gave it to me for Christmas. I waited and anticipated and it turned out as great as I had hoped when I read it for Orange July.

    The latest Indridason mystery, Outrage, was just released in July and it was as excellent as I had hoped. The Icelandic mystery series is one of the best out there and I was excited as I read it to see it focused on one of the secondary characters, Elinborg, from previous books.

    There are  two books I have recently bought that I am most looking forward to. Children of the Street by Kwei Quartey, the second Darko Dawson mystery, set in Ghana. The first book was such a pleasant surprise that I've been waiting and waiting for the second in the series. The second book is Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz and David Haywood which promises to be a hilarious mystery. Lutz writes the irreverent Spellman series.

    Wednesday, August 3, 2011

    BOOK: The Box Garden by Carol Shields

    The Box Garden by Carol Shields, 213 pages

    Canadian Book Challenge 5

    I am starting to really enjoy Carol Shields writing. I can't read her books very quickly as her prose is jam packed and it took me a while to read her way. I had already tried a number of her books, (was underwhelmed by The Stone Diaries as my first book but enjoyed The Celibate Season written with Blanche Howard)  but after reading Unless, I decided I wanted to read all her books.   The Box Garden was originally published in 1977 and makes it one of her first novels. My cover is equally as ugly as the one I've shown, but I have been unable to find the actual photo of it. Book covers have taken a decided change in the last few years, and books from the 1980s are so hideous. Someone should compile some ugly book covers from that era. Ew!

    But he writes with the most pressing sort of intensity, something much larger than mere eloquence. Anguished. But reflective too. Not like a scientist at all. More like a poet. Or like a philosopher. p81

    Charleen Forrest narrates this chapter in her life as she heads home to her mother's wedding in Toronto. It's the late 1970s and Charleen is struggling with her divorce and her seemingly (according to her friends) unsuccessful life on her own. Shields takes the time to develop Charleen and the people around her, but it is mostly about Charleen. The last third of the book takes a surprising turn that throws Charleen's life upside down and made me rush to the end.

    I liked the setting and realizing how much life has changed in the last thirty or forty years. I remember being a kid in the late 1970s! When it was a huge deal to make a long distance call. When cross country travel was a big deal. Charleen is coming into her own during a time when many women were learning to live on their own, raise kids, and find themselves. Carol Shields has written a quiet book with a wonderful main character.