Monday, August 31, 2009

BOOK: No Time for Goodbye and Still Life

No Time for Goodbye by Linwood Barclay, 468 pages

RIP IV challenge; 3rd Canadian Book Challenge

Linwood Barclay is becoming a favorite, reliable author for suspenseful tales like Too Close to Home, which I read last fall. As Cynthia Bigge reaches the twenty fifth anniversary of the disappearance of her family, she begins to look into her past a bit more, with the help of her husband and a PI. There are enough clues to make some guesses as to what happened, but you have to keep turning the pages to find out what really happened, who was involved, and why it all happened. Great story if you have a night where you can stay up late reading. Barclay has a new book out, Fear the Worst, and it's going on my wish list.

Still Life by Louise Penny, 416 pages

RIP IV challenge; 3rd Canadian Book Challenge

I first noticed Louise Penny's series when she was the highlighted author on CBC's Canada Reads: the book club. I had to go to the start of the series, and then discovered all kinds of great readers already knew Inspector Armand Gamauche and the wonderful mystery series, Three Pines, set in Quebec. I love that I've found a new mystery series and that it is set in Canada. Gamauche is a little more perfect than my usual detectives, but the mysterious death was excellently done, with enough clues dropped along the way and interesting characters to keep me wanting more.

BOOK: Love and Summer by William Trevor

Love and Summer by William Trevor, 212 pages

Man Booker Longlist 2009; Published in 2009

opening line:
On a June evening some years after the middle of the last century Mrs Eileen Connulty passed through the town of Rathmoye: from Number 4 The Square to Magennis Street, into Hurley Lane, along Irish Street, across Cloughjordan Road to the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer. Her night was spent there.

Mrs Connulty may have died as the book begins, but her reach travels all through the book, and her presence is still in the town. Her two children are inheriting her positions in town. A stranger arrives in town, taking pictures at the funeral, and makes friends with a young married girl. The back story on all the characters was well done, and enlightening as to their choices and decisions. Trevor allows us to meet the people and get an impression, and then he lets us see where they came from and why they are they way they are. As I try to summarize the plot and characters, I realize how much Trevor has packed into this short book, while evoking a time and place of Ireland. A lot of sad lives, but they don't even realize that they are sad for the most part.

Well-written, lots left unsaid, interesting characters - I can understand why this is on the Booker longlist, but I would still prefer to read the same story told by Maeve Binchy. It's just the kind that she would write - small town, nosy and judgemental characters, adultery, and difficult decisions. It is fun to watch all the developments and hope for some characters, but I like a little more expository to the plot. In the end, I am ambivalent to the book - I neither liked nor disliked it; it just didn't match my head.

I expect that there would be many people who would like this, so I don't want to dissuade anyone. I haven't read any William Trevor books before and this doesn't put me off them. I read this just after a historical fiction(In the Company of the Courtesan) and just before an extremely suspenseful, plot driven book(No Time for Goodbye), and it just didn't stand out, but it does a good job of what it is supposed to be - observing, describing, a slice of Irish life.

also reviewed at literary license, jackie at farmlanebooks

Saturday, August 29, 2009

MEME: Canadian Reading

I didn't get this meme posted at the beginning of the 3rd Canadian Book Challenge, but better late than never. I only have 3 more books to finish up this challenge, because it is just so easy to read Canadian books. Here's my Canadian Reading Meme - any of these your favorites too?

Your Favourites:

1. Favourite Canadian author?
LM Montgomery, Gordon Korman, Douglas Coupland

2. Favourite Canadian novel?
has to be the Anne series, with Rilla of Ingleside as one of my favorite of that series.

3. Favourite Canadian nonfiction?
-Owls in the Family by Farley Mowatt is a memoirish book that might be considered nonfiction
-Terry Fox by Douglas Coupland

4. Favourite Canadian picture book?
There Were Monkeys in My Kitchen by Sheree Fitch

5. Favourite Canadian YA or juvenile chapter book?
I Want to Go Home by Gordon Korman

6. Favourite Canadian science fiction or fantasy book?
don't think I've read any

7. Favourite Canadian romantic fiction?
The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

8. Favourite Canadian mystery?
Still Life by Louise Penny

9. Favourite Canadian graphic novel?
don't know any

10. Favourite Canadian book blog?
I shouldn't pick favorites, but:
The Book Mine Set, Book-a-Rama, the Tiny Little Reading Room, Virginie Says...,

11. Favourite Canadian fictional character?
Anne Shirley of Green Gables

12. Favourite movie based on a Canadian novel or story?
Margaret's Museum, based on the short story "The Glace Bay Miner's Museum" by Sheldon Currie

13. Favourite Canadian short story?
"Dave Cooks the Turkey" by Stuart MacLean

14. Favourite Canadian poet?
Sheree Fitch

15. Favourite Canadian poem?
Alligator Pie by Dennis Lee

16. Favorite Canadian play?
Blue Castle based on the book by LM Montgomery

17. Favourite novel by an established Canadian author?
The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler

18. Favourite novel by an up-and-coming Canadian author?
Crow Lake by Mary Lawson (I don't know if she's considered up and coming, but she's only written 2 books)

19. Favourite Canadian book award?
the Giller

20. Favourite Canadian publisher?
Random House Canada because they send me review books, and Acorn Press on PEI because they publish local books

21. Favourite Canadian humorous book?
The Bachelor Brothers Bed and Breakfast by Bill Richardson

22. Favourite Canadian newspaper?
the Guardian - it covers the Island like the dew

23. Favourite Canadian magazine or journal?
Canadian Living

24. Favourite Canadian dystopian novel?

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood but I haven't read Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland yet, and it has great potential of bumping Margaret. I read Handmaid's Tale a long time ago.

25. Favourite Canadian epistolary novel?
Clara Callen by Richard B Wright, A Celibate Season by Carol Shields

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, Where Are You?

Summer is definitely winding down here. The weather has predictably turned cooler after Old Home Week, our local fair and exhibition. My son, heading off to junior high, is at band camp this week, learning about the trombone. I have been attacked by a cleaning bug, trying to cull and organize a summer's worth of work in two weeks. Anyone know what to do with 20 year old university textbooks? I have two each of many chemistry books, as husband and I were in the same classes. The green beans are just about done in the garden. And the RIP IV was just announced.

I am in a small town in Ireland, circa 1950, and love is in the air, with an interesting cast of characters, as I'd expect in small town Ireland. (Love and Summer, by William Trevor)

Where is reading taking you today? Leave a comment, write a post, spread the word.

Monday, August 24, 2009


Carl V is hosting the 4th annual Readers Imbibing Peril challenge to usher us in to Halloween. From September 1 (or right now) til October 31, 2009 the challenge is to read what you challenge yourself to. I'm going small, and picking Peril the Second, committing to read 2 books in that time, but feeling free to read more if I am so inspired.

Dark Fantasy.

The Pool of books I own:
When Twilight Burns - Colleen Gleason
The Patience of the Spider - Andrea Camilleri
No Time for Goodbye - Linwood Barclay
House on the Strand - Daphne duMaurier
Still Life - Louise Penny
The Calling - Inger Ash Wolfe
Tainted Blood - Arnaldur Indridason
The Oxford Murders - Guillermo Martinez

The Pool of books I want to read from the Library:
The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
Necropolis: London and its Dead
The House on the Hill by Shirley Jackson
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

The books I actually read:
1. No Time for Goodbye - Linwood Barclay
2. Still Life - Louise Penny
3. The Patience of the Spider - Andrea Camilleri
4. The Prophecy of the Sisters - Michelle Zink

Sunday, August 23, 2009

BOOK: In the Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant

In the Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant, 400 pages

TBR Lite Challenge; celebrate the author

I loved Dunant's The Birth of Venus many years ago, and excitedly bought her sequel to read. The poor book languished on my shelf for several years, always going to be read next, but ultimately overlooked. So finally, I read Dunant's second book as her newest book, Sacred Hearts is making its rounds of the blogosphere, to rave reviews. So I feel like I am with it, reviewing a hot author, I'm only three years behind in the book I should be reviewing.

What I liked about the first book was the setting: 1400s in Florence, a city I was about to visit. Having read about the burning of the bonfires of the vanities, and then visiting the city was an amazing experience. In the Company of the Courtesan is set in 1500s Venice, and the descriptions of the canals and the city are fabulous again. On my Mediterranean trip, we ended out cruise in Venice and spent a wonderful day there, and this book has brought all those wonderful memories of Venice, and glass, and churches all back. Even back in the 1500s, the water in Venice is both beautiful and disgusting. But the city in some ways hasn't changed, and it was easy to imagine being there again.

For me, the setting was really the big part of the book. The story, narrated by Bucino, the courtesan's dwarf, was interesting, but not terribly plot driven. Most of the novel is the description of life in Venice, for the Courtesan, trying to make it in her birth city, after being driven out of Rome by the fighting. A cast of colorful characters are kept in line by Bucino, but it wasn't until the last one hundred pages that some twists happened that had me scurrying through to the end.

I liked that it wasn't a bodice ripper, with wild scenes, even though it was about a courtesan. It was more about the dwarf, and how he managed to make a life for himself, with power and money, at a time it couldn't have been easy.

That's me on the left with my sister. Oh, I'd love to go back to Italy! For now, I am left with reading great stories that take me back there, if only in my head for a while.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

BOOK: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, 326 pages

Dewey's Book Challenge

This was an adorable little book set in Paris and nearly all the action takes place in an apartment building. The concierge, Renee, is one of the main narrators, and she notices and observes the difference in the classes, intellectually and culturally. She does her best to hide her true intellect and adopt the stance of a lower class worker. One of the residents is a precocious twelve year old girl, Paloma, who thinks the same kind of thoughts, and it also in a very unhappy place in her life. She is chronicling her Profound Thoughts and Beautiful Movements in the world. When a new resident moves into the apartment building, a kindred spirit to both, their outlooks begin to change.

There is one chocolate Florentine left, which I nibble out of greediness, with my front teeth, like a mouse. If you change the way you crunch into something, it is like trying something new.

What I liked: the characters were touching, if a tad pretentious. The little plot twists were gentle, as was the whole book, and there may have been a little tear on my cheek at the ending.
I also liked the very short, titled chapters, which kept my interest. I like when chapters get their own title too.

What I didn't like: the philosophy paragraphs went on a bit too much, but were easy to skim over and for those more inclined, they could be interesting. I was more interested in the characters themselves. I couldn't help but think of Gilead, a similar reflective book full of ideas that bored me to tears, and yet Hedgehog was very cute when I read around the philosophy.

I smeared my lips with 1 layer of 'Deep Carmine' lipstick that I had bought 20 years ago for a cousin's wedding. The longevity of such a useless item, when valiant lives are lost every day, will never cease to confound me. I belong to the 8% of the world population who calm their apprehension by drowning it in numbers. (page 301)

I had this on 7 day loan from the library which always worries me, but I had no problem getting though the 326 pages, with 3 days to spare.

also reviewed by:
Gwen Dawson at lit license, caribousmom, Boston Bibliophile,
, Jenny’s Books , Musings ,

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, Where Are You?

It is crazy hot here this week. We don't do really hot very well, with little air conditioning for the most part. We decided Saturday, the hottest day of the year, would be a great day to take our three kids, plus three extra, to the exhibition and spend the whole day outside on the rides. It was good fun for all, with lots of slushie breaks and a trip inside the colliseum to see the animals and get out of the sun. I was the only victim with sunburned shoulders. And my son won a scooter at the ring toss - a really nice, big scooter. It was pretty impressive. I took a book to read during my waits for the children to get off the ride and then run around to get back in line.

In reading, I have just arrived in Venice from a ransacked Rome, in the 1500s. It's fun to be in a historical fiction. (In the Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant)

Where is reading taking you today? Leave a comment, write a post, spread the word.

Monday, August 17, 2009

BOOK: Without You by Anthony Rapp

Without You by Anthony Rapp, 306 pages
a memoir of love, loss and the musical Rent

Rapp tells the story of the years around when the musical Rent started, which happens to coincide with the diagnosis of cancer and then death of his mother. He originated the role of Mark, and fans of the musical (I've only seen the movie, and loved it!) will enjoy reading how the musical got its beginnings, the tragic death of its author, Jonathan Larson before the opening, and then sing the tunes in their head while reading.

He is brutally honest about his reactions and emotions during the tragic illness of his wonderful mother. He discusses his sexuality, and there are some explicit descriptions of a few encounters, again brutally honest. He is also transcribing his journey of grief and there are lots of sad passages.

I'm off to re-watch the movie. My sister and I gave each other the DVD of RENT for Christmas. We do stuff like that a lot.

Friday, August 14, 2009

BOOK: The Last Summer (of You and Me) by Ann Brashares

The Last Summer (of You and Me) by Ann Brashares, 298 pages

I loved the Travelling Pants series by Brashares, so I had no problem reading this book lent by a friend. Two sisters, Riley and Alice, along with their best friend Paul spent their summers together in an idylic life on Fire Island. Growing up together, they are the best of friends. As they enter their twenties, relationships are changing, especially between Alice and Paul.

I found it a little slow going at first, but still enjoyed reading the beach lifestyle. Then some plot events happened that made the story pick up. It was a light, yet touching beach book. A literal beach book since much of the action takes place on the beach. My only complaint of the book was that the characters seemed like teenagers, living a relatively carefree life, still struggling with their sense of self, yet well into their twenties. Some people take longer to grow up I guess. I liked the love story, and the misunderstanding that happened was believable, and then the ending was sweetly sad.

I decided this summer to really focus on reading books lent to me by friends that I have been holding onto for far too long. (I was going to change that dangling participle, but it was too funny!) I still have a few more books to go, and just a couple weeks left. I think I might make it. Still to read: The Book of Negroes, Without You, Wintergirls, and Case Histories.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

BOOK: The Bishop's Man by Linden MacIntyre

The Bishop's Man by Linden MacIntyre, 399 pages

3rd Canadian Book Challenge

I only know Linden MacIntyre for his work as an investigative reporter on the CBC show the fifth estate, but he has a future as a novelist if this book is anything to go by. He writes a somewhat suspenceful tale of a lonely man, a priest facing a personal and spiritual crisis.

The long nights in the glebe give him too much time to think about his own troubled childhood, and to drink, and to think some more. (from the inside cover)

I enjoyed this memoir-ish novel of a priest looking back on his career. It wasn't the usual parish priest experience however. Father Duncan MacTavish spent some time in Honduras, and as the Bishop's investigator, was sent in to deal with priests who had gotten in trouble. His job was to minimize trouble and appease the victim. The Bishop hated the word victim, and was all for hushing up events. Eventually, these situations collide with his memories after he is assigned to the parish he grew up in, and he begins to question his own faith, and the repercussions left in a community after the problem priest was dealt with.

I'm not from Cape Breton, but small towns on an island are probably pretty similar, so the Gaelic influence and reliance of the church in small communities was relate able. MacIntyre grew up on Cape Breton (his memoir is called Causeway: A Passage from Innocence) and he draws a picture of life on the beautiful island with descriptions of land and people.

The bay is flat, endless pewter beneath the rising moon. Hypnotic. (page 64)

The story is told in several strands, and the timeline isn't completely linear, a reflection of how the present is coloured by past experiences. The first of the book is filled with foreshadowing and hints of things to come, which made me want to keep reading to find out what had happened, and then as events kept happening, I was turning faster and faster as Duncan's crisis comes to a head. I liked the portrayal of the priest as a real person, with struggles and demons, colliding with the expectations of his community. The hierarchy of the church, or maybe it was just his Bishop, looked more interested in power and protecting their position than in admitting what had happened. The topic of abuse within the church was very timely, and I thought it was a fair portrayal of how things were dealt, or not dealt, with.

I'm not sure what the RC church would think of the book, with its comments on celibacy and the discussion on abuse. They are certainly important ideas to be discussing. Interestingly, my parish has just ordained a rare married priest.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, Where Are You?

There are only three weeks left of my summer vacation - how has the time gone so quickly? We've started getting some school supplies and new clothes and sneakers, thinking about back to school. One child is going to go through serious video game withdrawal when school starts in September. Yikes! We have some big milestones this year, as the oldest starts junior high and the youngest starts grade 1, so we'll have lots of changes around here this year.

In reading, I am on beautiful Cape Breton Island. I am a priest struggling with decisions and repercussions from investigations I made years ago. By protecting the church and priests, I may have damaged more than I saved. (The Bishop's Man, by Linden MacIntyre)

I am also in New York with an original Rent cast member as the play is brought to Broadway, in Anthony Rapp's touching memoir. (Without You, by Anthony Rapp)

Where is reading taking you today? Leave a comment, write a post, spread the word.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

BOOK: Fifth Business by Robertson Davies

Fifth Business by Robertson Davies, 238 pages

Celebrate the Author; 1% Well-Read; 3rd Canadian Book Challenge

An epic-type story of the twentieth century. Three men from the same small town in Ontario grow up to various levels of fame, with intersecting lives. The narrator, Dunstan Ramsey, is a private school history teacher with an interest in saints, contrary to his Presbyterian upbringing. He maintains a close friendship with the boy-wonder, Boy Staunton, master of industry, but they share an event from their childhood that forever affected Dunstan. Paul Dempster ran away to join the circus, and then there is a mysterious death at the end when they all meet up again....

(I feel like I could write this summary and make it sound like a Sidney Sheldon novel, but the book only slightly felt that way. It has much larger literary asperations and feel, but I could completely go that way if I wanted.)

I was a little disappointed with the book, because I had very high hopes and instead it felt like those books I read in the 1980s, like Bloodlines or Lace. It never got as tawdry or elaborate, but it was headed in that direction. It just felt a little dated to me, and not just because of the cover of my edition. There was a John Irving feel, like Garp, in some ways. The connection between the characters, the power and money that was evident, the single event from childhood forever linking the characters. Since this was published in 1970, it may have been the originator of this type of story. It's like watching Casablanca for the first time and knowing all the lines anyway - you know you've read all this before, but it's not cliche because it started it all.

This is the first of the Deptford trilogy but I'm not running out to find them. Maybe in a few weeks or months the story will still be with me and I'll be wanting to find out what happened with Boy and Dunstan and that mysterious death at the end. If so, I'll look up the next book, but I think I'd rather reread an old Sidney Sheldon.

other reviews, from some real fans of Davies:
court at Once Upon a bookshelf;
bybee at Naked Without Books

Thursday, August 6, 2009

MEME: Booking Through Thursday: Recent Serious

What’s the most serious book you’ve read recently?(I figure it’s easier than asking your most serious boook ever, because, well, it’s recent!)

The Lizard Cage
by Karen Connelly is the most serious book I've read in a long time. It was very well done, and I couldn't put it down, but a prison in Myanmar with a political prisoner in jail for singing songs is pretty depressing. Yet, I was amazed at the power for good by the end of the book.

I would recommend this book and just let people know it was very serious and violent and disturbing, but also uplifting and demonstrates the beauty of the enlightened soul. Depravity can only be recognized along side good, for its difference.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

BOOK: The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson, 465 pages

3rd Canadian Book Challenge, randomhouse

I wish I had read Dante's Inferno at some point in my life, because this book is based on and uses Inferno as a major reference. I still really enjoyed The Gargoyle, but I can imagine the layers of the story that would be enhanced for a more knowledgeable reader.

See the red heart on the back of the body on the cover? The heart is cut away and when the dust jacket comes off, the book itself is gorgeous! See my picture below. This is a nice symbolism because the cover shows a tattooed back and the book is about a man who is burned, but underneath all that, it is a story about love and the flames of hell.

The unnamed narrator is planning his suicide after enduring horrific burns in an accident, when Marianne walks into his hospital room. She lets him know that they have known each other for seven hundred years and proceeds to tell him their story from 1300s Germany, as well as several other wonderful and tragic love stories. Marianne helps the narrator through his difficult treatments and to get on with his life. All of these different and equally interesting strands come together with page-turning excitement at the end.

I really liked the love stories, the somewhat humorous narrator, the information on scriptoriums, the medieval history, and the mystery of finding out who exactly Marianne is. Some people have found the hospital scenes of the burn treatments pretty graphic, but once you get by the first section, that doesn't become an issue any more. I was initially worried about reading this book due to some mixed reviews (which I can't find now, maybe I dreamed them?) but it far and above lived up to my expectations and I had a great read.

more reviews:
aaron at that's the book,
terri at tip of the iceberg,
Marj at Reading Adventures
Jackie at FarmLaneBooks
Margaret at BooksPlease
Chris at book-a-rama

Look at the cover I found under the dust jacket! I think part of why it took me so long to read this book was that I loved carrying it around and reading from it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

WEEKLY GEEKS: Music and Books

This week we have a guest post by Ashley of Complete and Unabridged:

So, my fellow Weekly Geeks, your challenge this week is to come up with at least one song-book match. It could remind you of a theme from the book, a specific part of the plot, or even one of the characters (a sort of theme song, if you will). Be sure to include samples of the lyrics and the reason why that song reminds you of that book. If you can provide a link to a recording of the song so that other geeks can hear it that would be great as well. (One good place to look for links is, there are others, too).

I have an obscure book and an even more obscure singer and song to write about this week.

Once upon a time in 2005, I got an iPod. Then I discovered that there was a free song available for download every week on iTunes. I love me some free songs. One of the first songs I downloaded was called Suicidewinder by Ridley Bent. I loved that song; it still is the most listened to song on my iPod. I liked it so much, I bought the CD Blam! which just goes to show that it was worthwhile to give me a free song.

Blam! has been described as hick-hop, a blend of country/folk and hip-hop. some songs are more rap, some more country. I fell in love with several songs, and the one titled Fruit Pickers always reminded me of what I imagined The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck was about, even if I hadn't actually read it. Set during the dirty thirties, Fruit Pickers is about the beginnings of a union for the migrant fruit pickers in California. It's like a political folk song written by a Halifax-born, Alberta cowboy.

As I went looking for some information to write this little Geeky post, I discovered that I was correct to associate this song with Steinbeck, I just had the wrong book. It is actually based on his book In Dubious Battle, a lesser known book that I also haven't read. You have to like a singer who writes a song based migrant workers from an obscure book by Steinbeck.

Fruit Pickers (In Dubious Battle) words by Ridley Bent, music by Cameron Latimer

Jim Nolan had a hard man for an old man,
they'd say he'd take on five men with his bare hands,
But somehow he's always come up against six,
And Jimmy found him one morning beaten to death in a ditch.
So he put his pop in the earth and on his way back to work
He stopped in Lincoln Park where a man talked about self-worth
And got cracked in the back of the neck with a nightstick.
Locked up for being a vagrant which in America during the depression,'
was a word synonymous with communist.

Now some men in the pen talked about this resistance,
said fighting for yourself is useless but fighting for a cause is bliss.
Well Jimmy listened and when free he enlisted,
He barely subsisted for months but he persisted. He assisted Max, a veteran field agent
Who saw in his new comrade a keen mind and a quiet strength.

There's some fruit pickers in southern California just got their wages cut
you and I are on the next train down there, see if we can't stir things up.

A snippet of Fruit Pickers (In Dubious Battle) can be heard partially here at

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, Where Are You?

We are still recovering here from the weekend, a family reunion/golf tournament that has been happening for 37 years. Golfing, partying - there were some milestone birthdays to celebrate on Saturday night, eating, and trying to find some shade on Sunday. New this year were some potato sack races and adult-child relay races on Sunday. The potato sack races were supposed to be for the kids - the 15 great-grandkids, but with crew of adults who don't believe they have aged at all, there was a race for the grownups too. Luckily, no broken hips ensued.

Reading wise, I am still with The Gargoyle, but I'm not reading slowly for lack of interest. I've been in ancient Iceland, medieval Germany, Japan, Iceland and Italy. I think I am also taking a detour through Hell. I am savoring the experience, with love stories and an engrossing time in the middle ages. I am at a loss how to describe this book, but I won't soon forget it. (The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson)

Where is reading taking you? Leave a comment, write a post, spread the word.