Friday, June 29, 2012

Canada Day Blog Hop Day II:East Coast fiction

Here's a recap of our blog hop thus far:

GIVEAWAY: If you comment on any Canada-related post this week you could win my GIVEAWAY which includes a signed copy of Jolted (my favourite Canadian YA novel ) directly from our friend Arthur Slade (who is our guest star on Canada Day!) and some Oh Canada from DavidsTea ( the greatest tea on earth) 

I always say that Nova Scotia is my favourite province in Canada. Further, it is one of my favourite places on earth.  There is something in the ocean-scape, the steep oral tradition, the languid narrative, the music and the culture that has had its hold on me for years.  Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland: all provinces in our Atlantic region which I have had the privilege of exploring on numerous occasions.   Of course, some of our finest ( and most famous literature) comes from this area of Canada.


To help us decide which East Coast writers we should read, I called on my friend ( and one of my favourite bloggers) Kailana from The Written World.  Kailiana is a real, live Nova Scotian and an expert on CanLit.

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery (read pre-blogging) – I don’t think an east coast list is complete without Lucy Maud Montgomery because she is an author many are familiar with. For me, I have never been able to resist the wonderful character of red-haired, blue-eyed, Anne with an ‘E’.

The Birth House by Ami McKay (review: ) – This is a look at midwifery in Nova Scotia and takes place close to where I currently live. It is not something you see written about a lot and McKay does an excellent job of capturing the history of the province through the eyes of women.
The Republic of Nothing by Lesley Choyce (read pre-blogging) – This book is only sort of set in Nova Scotia because the island doesn’t actually exist, but the author is from Nova Scotia. It is one of those books that it is hard to even pin down why it is worth reading, but the craziness that occurs will keep you flipping the pages.
Kit’s Law by Donna Morrissey (read pre-blogging) – Morrissey tends to set her books in Newfoundland. If you read any of your books you will feel like you are there because she captures the east coast culture really well.
Mercy Among the Children by David Adams Richards (read pre-blogging) – This is definitely my favourite author from New Brunswick. I read this book about 10 years and still think about it. I really need to reread it.

Honourable Mentions:
Barometer Rising by Hugh MacLennan (read pre-blogging) – This remains one of my favourite WWII reads. It was released in 1941 and looks back on Halifax during WWI.
Heave by Christy Ann Conlin (read pre-blogging) – Another book set in my neck of the woods.
Saints of Big Harbouby Lynn Coady (post: (my very first review on my blog ever...)) – Captures the east coast very well!
The Gravesavers by Sheree Fitch (Read but never reviewed) – I enjoyed that this book uses the SS Atlantic as a background to the story. Before the Titanic it was the greatest marine disaster.
Fall on Your Knees by Anne Marie MacDonald (read pre-blogging) – Excellent novel set in Nova Scotia.
Galore by Michael Crummey (Read but never reviewed) – An excellent novel set in Newfoundland.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Canada Day Blog Hop Day I: The Favourites

Welcome to the first official day of the Canada Day Blog Hop: though my blog readers know that this has been going on all week.


GIVEAWAY information:  Yes, friends! I am thrilled to offer a Giveaway for residents of Canada and the United States.  Simply comment on ANY Canada Day post this week and tell me the name of your favourite novel by a Canadian. I will draw names from a hat!  

What's in the Giveaway:
-Oh Canada tea from DavidsTea ( the best tea in the country)
-a signed copy of Jolted: my favourite Canadian YA novel as personally provided by our friend Arthur Slade (who incidentally is our guest-star on Canada Day so come back here then to be subject to his brilliance! )


Top 5 CanLit Picks from your Friendly Neighbourhood Rachel:

The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery: Umm, my blog title and incessantly loquacious ramblings speak volumes to my passion for this book [I divulge my love on Booklust]

That Summer in Paris by Morley Callaghan: It's Hemingway's A Moveable Feast in that it speaks to that gorgeously glorious and golden Parisienne era of written beguile. [adoration housed here]

The Blooding of Jack Absolute by CC Humphreys: I friggin' love this book. It makes me laugh. Really hard. It's just brilliant, fun, whip-smart writing.  [Courtney and Rachel talk Jack 

Deafening by Frances Itani [it was my first pick in my Certified Savvy Readers for Harper Collins Canada]

Jolted by Arthur Slade [he is TOTALLY going to be featured on ye olde blog on Canada Day and I am super stoked! *gleeful fangirlish squeal* read my review of this awesome book!]

But wait! I am not the only reader with some awesome CanLit picks. Howdy to our extra special guest Katie (and a personal favourite booklover of mine) who blogs at the Teacup Tortoise.

CanLit Picks from the Teacup Tortoise: 

It’s a toss-up for me between Stones and Forbidden City as to which is my favorite book by William Bell. What is special for me about both of these, is that my appreciation for them comes from somewhere entirely unrelated to academia or any intellectual standpoint: they are simply well-written, well-crafted, and fantastic reads.

While I treasure my copy of Forbidden City because it is actually signed by Bell himself (Thank you, Rachel for that!), the book is definitely one of my favorites in the Canadian YA genre. The plot, the characters, the connection to history - I can’t pick just one reason as to why I love this book. It made me want to learn and know more about the history of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, and about China’s overall history.

I have always loved Stones, and remember checking it out of the school library over and over again when I was younger. Who doesn’t love a bit of a ghost story? The fact that there was a local element as well always made me enjoy it even more. Again, it’s the characters, the events and plot twists, and (not surprisingly) the connection to 19th century history, that always keeps me coming back to Stones as one of my all time favorite YA books.

Light Lifting by Alexander MacLeod is a collection of short stories that I discovered fairly recently. I have not always been a big reader of short fiction, but having taken classes with Dr MacLeod, and knowing that this book was shortlisted for the Giller Prize a few years ago, I was compelled to pick up a copy. Light Lifting is an extraordinarily good read. The stories are tight and well crafted, the characters are flawed, believable, and so wonderfully human. I found myself wanting every piece to continue, wanting to know more about these people and their own stories. Each of these short works acts like a snapshot, a clear look into the lives of these characters. I believe the title of the work is particularly significant as well, because it isn’t just the moments of huge import that make or break us - it’s all the light lifting along the way, those little imperceptible moments and choices that add up over time. While I may be biased about Light Lifting, I really love this collection of Canadian short fiction. It’s pretty fantastic, and definitely worth a read!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Jessica Strider's 5 Canadian Fantasy/SF Authors you should read....

Happy Canada Day week all! As you've noticed, this week is ALL about Canada on the blog.

 Jessica Strider is a long-time friend and former bookseller colleague and one of my favourite readers on the planet. As well as being a gifted writer, she is well-respected as one of the major voices on quality Sci Fi and Fantasy in Toronto.  Authors know her, agents know her.... conferences and book-signing events know her! You are all in for a treat!  If she says that the book is good---then go read and buy it now!

Jessica Strider's 5 Canadian Fantasy/SF Authors You Should Read

Looking for strong male and female characters in your fantasy? Then give Violette Malan a try. Her prose is crisp and her female characters are calm, competent women. She has two fantasy series, the first, Mirror Prince (with a sequel coming out this fall), deals with a fairy guardian exiled to Earth (Toronto), now called back after 1000 years. The second series, Dhulyn and Parno, starts with The Sleeping God and deals with a pair of mercenaries who get into all sorts of scraps while trying to complete their contracts.

If you want more 'literary' fantasy, then try Guy Gavriel Kay. His prose is lyrical, almost poetic, his plots involved and his characters complex. Under Heaven is a great novel to start with. The plot centers around Shen Tai, the son of a famous General, who spends two years burying the dead of a battle that happened twenty years ago. In return for his selfless service, the enemy nation gifts him with 250 of the best horses ever bred. This is a gift fit for an emperor, and puts Tai's life in danger.

Want fantasy with more romance and fun? Then look to Moira Moore. Her Heroes series (starting with Resenting the Hero) pairs the serious Shield Lee with the one Source she can't abide, the flamboyant and famous Taro. Together Sources and Shields can control the weather that keeps the world stable, but Lee fears that the fame of her Source will stop her from doing the work she's best suited for. As the series continues, their romance heats up. But the real fun of the book is Lee's humorous descriptions and critiques of Taro's behaviour.

Not a fantasy fan? Like stories that scare the life out of you? Then try David Nickle. If the cover of his short story collection, Monstrous Affections, doesn't give you nightmares, the stories will. His first novel, Eutopia, deals with the eugenics movement in the US. And while the monsters in the book are scary, the humans are even scarier. He recently released his second novel, Rasputin's Bastards, dealing with the cold war and supernatural affairs.

So far these have all been authors who do branches of fantasy. So it's time for some SF. Nalo Hopkinson writes general fiction with SF fixings. Her novel, Brown Girl in the Ring is set in a collapsed Toronto. Those with money live in walled cities, and harvest the poor for body parts. The story really deals with a young woman learning more about her grandmother and her magical roots.

Bonus author: OK, even that last book had fantasy elements (magic). So here's a military SF author for you. Karin Lowachee wrote three science fiction novels that have a real focus on character development. The best of these (in my opinion), Burndive, tells the story of a rich young man who's taken on his father's star cruiser to keep him safe from the dangers on the station where he lives and to get him away from the drugs he's ruining his life with. There's language and adult situational material (though no sex), as it takes place on a military ship, but seeing the teen become a man willing to take responsibility for himself is a wonderful journey.

Hope you give one or more of these fantastic authors a try.

Jessica Strider works once a week in the SF/F section of a major bookstore in Toronto. She posts author interviews, themed reading lists, book reviews and more on her blog 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Love in Disguise by Carol Cox

Disguises, love, intrigue, suspense, enigma…..

Ellie Moore never anticipates what will pepper her life after she loses her job to a prominent Chicago actress; but as soon as you can say, oh, I don’t know, something Shakespearian, she is utilizing her crafty wardrobe of wigs, cosmetics and disguises, joining the Pinkertons and fleeing to Pickford, Arizona to help solve the mystery of silver shipments stolen from the local miners.

The Pinkerton Agency wanted two women to pose as an aging, demure aunt and her beguiling niece and, lucky for Ellie, she can play both with great aplomb.  Sure, the dream of trailing to London to follow in her employer’s stage career has fallen to pieces; but she is able to transplant that dream to Arizona territory: using her knack for eavesdropping, her nose for danger and the heart palpitations which take on frequency whenever miner Steven Pierce is near to spring her into action.

There is one catch: Steven is smitten with young, fresh, dazzling Jessie Monroe.  Likewise, he views her aunt Lavinia Stewart as a moral compass and confidante.  While Ellie falls head over heels for Steven, she cannot reveal the parts she is playing: for neither is actually her---especially not Jessie: the attractive young woman seemingly blessed with all of the  poise that Ellie lacks.

There were several wonderful things about Love in Disguise:  first, it started off with a bang.  Ellie stands looking over a pretend audience, propelled into dreamlike state as she imagines a prosperous career as Juliet!  Cox obviously has a capable working knowledge of Shakespeare and 19th Century theatrics and it works well.  Next, the Pinkerton agency. We've seen Pinkertons in A Proper Pursuit and in the Confidential Life of Eugenia Cooper and now here.  I really enjoy these romance historicals when laced with a bit of well-written intrigue.  

Contrary to so many heroines in the Christian historical realm, Ellie does not begin the book as a church-going Christian ( this may not seem like a big deal to those who are not initiated with this genre; but egads! It is mind-blowingly fresh ).  Ellie actually runs into more than one problem when her life as a non-believer clashes with the role she is trying to play. While Lavinia Stewart would indubitably be able to sing out all of the words to “We’re Marching to Zion” aside Steven Pierce’s baritone, Ellie-as-Lavinia has no hopes of doing so. She doesn’t know the words.

Anyone reading this review can eke out the moral construction of the tale: as it deals with identity and being true to yourself.  In many cases, it is easy for Ellie to hide because she houses such deeply ingrained insecurities when she is acting as, well, herself.  She finds determined solace as she elicits the moral backbone of Lavinia and the grace and wit of Jessie: little realizing that these are just two  facets of herself --- the best combinations of a person who, though shrouded with a hidden appearance, is indeed at the heart of the mystery and love story.  It is not Ellie’s trained skill; rather her intuition and ability to read people which make her such a competent Pinkerton.

This is a light summer read that I would highly recommend to those who want a nice, thoughtful Christian historical that is mindful of its trappings into the typical Christian construct; without falling too greatly into some of the less-scintillating norms of the genre ( for example, I did my usual finger-flip through all pages at the beginning to spot italics and found very, very, few! )

There’s a cute love story and some embarrassing moments when Ellie almost gets caught and she is a normal, conflicted heroine. Most importantly, she is one to cheer for. 

Ruth also reviewed it

Learn more about Carol Cox and check out her backlist

I received this book for review from Graf-Martin Communications on behalf of Baker Publishing Group 

Mountie Day!

Happy Canada Day week all!

As promised, I am featuring lots of lovely Canadian things on ye olde blog! Be sure to check out my post for the Hey Canada!  blog tour ! and our little kick-off post (featuring a few videos!)

When people think CANADA! They think, well, all sorts of awesome things... one of those things is our unofficial National emblem: The red-coated Royal Canadian Mounted Police! 

Mounties are cool!  My dad ( who is ALSO cool) houses one of the largest collections of RCMP memorabilia and history in Canada. I grew up surrounded by heirlooms and paintings and plates and plaques and uniforms remnant of numerous eras of "the Force" and, most importantly, surrounded by the written recollection of the Mounties' history and formation as a stabilizing force in Canada.

My first Mountie-related book was Mrs. Mike  I also really enjoyed Janette Oke's Canadian West series (remember Winn the mountie?)

Dad is  a chaplain for the RCMP (passion now manifest) and gets to do lots of cool things ( and even has his own AWESOME RCMP chaplain's uniform! cool! )

To help us find the BEST books on the history of the Mounties, their heroes (such as Sir Samuel Benfield Steele ), their legends ( the Mad Trapper of Red River), their horses, and the ones who are famous for being heirs of famous Victorian authors ---hello Dickens!, we went to the source: DAD!

So, these are some of Dad's favourite books about and written by the RCMP!

Mounties are cool. They always get their man. They have awesome uniforms. They ride horses to music .

Like most Canadians, they also know most of American history and how to diffuse a bomb and drop their heart-rates:

Monday, June 25, 2012

Hey Canada! by Vivien Bowers (Illustrated by Milan Pavlovic)

This book ROCKS (True Story!)
This is "An amazing journey of discovery across Canada" and oh my! is it ever!  Its format is one of a traditional picture book with a sweet, family-centric story: Gran is taking nine-year-old Alice and eight-year-old Cal on a road trip across Canada. Starting in St. John's, Newfoundland and spanning every colourful, glorious province, this literary road trip ends in Nunavut with a great trek up to Iqaluit.

As well as providing young readers with a wonderful geographical and cultural snapshot of the great land, "Hey Canada!" will immediately instil a sense of pride for our diverse terrain and our even more diverse culture and heritage.  Like the best picture books, "Hey Canada!" does well at remaining current and speaking to current mediums such as tweets; but it doesn't do away with history altogether.  As well as introducing children to the landscape, heritage, landmarks and wildlife of each province (a collection of photographs and illustrations make the book come alive), it also inserts an acute sense of continuing history: whether through snippets and tales (such as a paragraph about the Privateers' Warehouse in Halifax Harbour) or a comic book (such as one recounting life at the Fortress of Louisbourg in Cape Breton circa 1745 and a recap of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham).

"Hey Canada!" is also funny: the author has a wonderfully silly sense of humour which makes the road trip as enjoyable for Cal and Alice as it will be for young readers and even includes "Hamster Updates": a continual check-in on Cal's rapscallion and furry friend.

There is a perfect balance of fact, dialogue and illustration (or photograph) on each page to keep children enticed and interested.  If I were a school teacher I would have a heyday incorporating this into a geography, social studies or history curriculum: for not only does it provide ample opportunities for segway into numerous multi-disciplinary conversations, it also allows students to speak passionately about their history and heritage.  As they traipse through Canada with Cal and Alice, I am sure their personal history, their family ties and heritage and even memories of similar road trips will abound.

A few favourite moments:
Also, the Plains of Abraham segment is HILARIOUS!  Last year, a few friends and I were in Quebec on May 2-4 weekend (how Canadian is THAT sentence) and we spotted people engaging with history the same way Gran and Cal and Alice are: namely seeing a ton of gophers, eating picnics and, well, not quite remembering that the entirety of the Battle which formed our nation took little more than a few moments.  Further, I loved Cal's Tweet from PEI: because I did not actually know that PEI (famous for its potatoes) housed more than 70 different kinds of spuds! (who'da thunk? )  In the Newfoundland and Labrador section ( featuring one of my favourite provinces and travel spots in Canada), I was all tickled pink with the "Find It!" section ( kids will notice this feature throughout the book).   Here, Cal, Gran and Alice figure they can't leave the Rock until they've seen AT LEAST The following: Cod, Moose, Atlantic Ocean, Iceberg, Puffins! Awesome.
I'm learning history through COMICS? AAaammmaaazing!

I can say, quite assuredly, that this is the best book of its kind I have seen.  It houses it all: it would be a PERFECT gift for a boy or girl living in another country ( and perhaps planning a first time trip to the Great White North), it would be a great book to take with you if your family (like mine ) spent hours in a car traveling through the badlands and beyond ( we did 16 hour trips in our van!  Sorry, Saskatchewan, you weren't AS interesting ---well, your fields of wheat sure weren't---by hour 10) making historical stops along the way.  It features an easy index, a colourful map reminding kids of some of the symbols of each province they have seen( cleverly without including the Provincial name so that hopefully they can recount what they've learned in their tour and name each Province from East to West and back), and it includes a page on the Flags of Canada.  "Hey Canada!" is one of those rare books that is equally educational and fun. It doesn't take itself too seriously, it realizes that our country is one of quirky and colourful heritage and it revels in the beauty of our landscape and the diversity of our culture.

I have been fortunate enough to travel quite extensively in our great country and I say, quite often, that Canadians make a grand mistake by trekking off to other places (I'm looking at you, Florida) before seeing what we have in store. After a romp through this exceptionally visual and entertaining book, I wouldn't be surprised if kids tugged at their parents' sleeves to see if their next family vacation could be to something nationally awesome like the Dinosaur Parks in Southern Alberta ( Gran's poem about dinos is included in the book ) or Buffalo Jump (which my brother and sister and I LOVED when we were kids and which is included here).

It's a grand country, let's let our children know it: let's take them near and far and, pending that next big vacation, give them a glimpse into the best country in the world by showing them this colourful kaleidoscope of history and fun!

I received this awesome book for review from the publisher, Tundra Books.  Check out the other stops on the Hey Canada! blog tour . Use the hashtag #heycanada to talk it up on twitter and even follow Cal-- a fictional character with a twitter account! Please go buy it NOW!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Film Review: "Brave"

I was fortunate enough to see an advanced screening of Brave last weekend and when delightful Gina  asked if I might write a review for Breakpoint  about it from a Christian perspective I was thrilled to the gills at the opportunity.

You can read my review here

Breakpoint also includes a great feature called Youth Reads with a variety of Young Adult titles

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Get your Canuck on, Kids

Next week.... all week.... at a blog near you......

we celebrate ALL THINGS CANADIAN in anticipation of CANADA DAY!

  • The Hey Canada! Blog Tour
  • The Canada Day Blog Hop
  • Giveaways
  • The Great Canadian Book Quiz
  • LM Montgomery
  • Sunshine Sketches of MY HOME TOWN
  • Nova Scotia
  • Guest Stars ( mainly Rachel's Canadian friends that she roped into doing stuff...)
  • the BEST in Canadian SCI FI, FANTASY, YA and LITERATURE
  • shameless promotion of the GREATEST COUNTRY on EARTH

and, last ( but not least) AWESOME CANADIAN VIDEOS

(like this one )

So, you hosers, get your poutine, eh?  and grab your toonies and loonies and go oot and aboot until you find yourself here.  Pull up your chesterfield, drink your Tim Hortons, gargle some maple syrup, chomp your ketchup chips, eat your smarties (serviette, please) and DVR your Flashpoint and your Rookie Blue; because we are going to have a regular old Canuck Style PARTY (le party en francais )

International visitors will learn more than they ever wanted to know about our history and our penchant for writing really, really bad provincial songs (like this one):

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sad Day in Bookland

When I was a kid and in my teen years I loved going to Toronto.  This small town Orillia girl always had a hankering for the big bustle of the city and it was inevitable I would eventually move here.  My minister father would sometimes have to come to Toronto to visit ill parishioners at one of the city's major hospitals.  I would tag a long and sometimes would find hours to myself betwixt the shelves of the World's Biggest Bookstore.  I loved it.  As a book lover who had just started collecting books, I was in heaven and remember buying my very first copy of "Tender is the Night" and "Little Women" from its fiction section.   I was at the point where I was no longer re-signing favourites out from the library; I was starting to collect.

Reading about X-Wing pilots on a  WBB visit 2 summers ago

Indubitably, the first thing I did when I started as a student at the University of Toronto was apply for a job there.  For 4.5 years as I completed my degree, I spent my after school hours working ( if you can call it that).  To work there you needed to know about books, be passionate about books, have diverse interests and tastes: interests and tastes I honed and developed spending hours between the bookshelves and speaking on a myriad of subjects with regulars and tourists, people from all over the world.

I also met some of my closest friends there ( including KAT twitter handle:@bitwhizzle) : students like me working part time who loved books like a disease.  They are some of my best friends to this day......

This place is more than just bricks and mortar; this place is part of my spirit, part of who I am.....

As we draw closer towards its inevitable demise, I will continue to traipse down memory lane.  This place built me as a reader and that is the most important thing to a biblophile.....

Attached to "Attachments" Part 1

My favourite book thus far this year: the one I  keep returning to and the one I, well, basically underlined every other sentence in and the one YOU ALL NEED TO GO AND BUY NOW is Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. Yes, yes, the Rainbow Rowell who is on TWITTER (@rainbowrowell)and who I was fortunate enough to banter about Fifty Shades of That Book with.

Buy ye, Buy ye, Buy ye this book!
happiness in book form

Dear God in Heaven and all the Skippy Squirrels; this is the kind of book that warms you down to your toes.  This book gives you that "Horatio Lyle" feeling, this book makes you prance around your apartment singing the few happy Carpenter songs at the top of your lungs while pirouetting.  This book is sheer LOVE.

This book put me in a daze; so days later I was still seeing everything at work, at home, at the grocery store, at the gym through rose-coloured glasses and sighing: " Lincoln"  ---over-and-over again like a wispy little prayer. EGADS! Major. Book. Crush.

Ugh, I don't want to waste time and ode on the plot; because this book is so much more than PLOT (it is character and structure and sunshine and jelly beans and happy bunnies and beautiful sentences: a tapestry of interwoven giggles and stars); but the gist is this:  It is set in the days preluding Y2K at a newspaper office. Jennifer and Beth, both columnists, tap-tap-tap emails to each other all day long: about love, sex, Ghostbusters, the usual.   Meanwhile, Lincoln has been hired to read through all employee emails and flag anything that might go against company policy, that might not have ANYTHING to do with the Newspaper at all. Basically, all of Jennifer and Beth's emails.  But Lincoln, dear, sweet, wish-you-were-here-Colin-Morgan, Lincoln reads every night through his night shift. He is bedazzled, beguiled, bewitched, bothered, bewildered. In short, he falls for Beth. He's never met her; but does that really matter? He has FALLEN IN LOVE WITH HER TYPED SOUL  ( swoon ye female hordes who spend your days writing and writing and writing and hoping some guy will LOVE YOUR TYPED SOUL! oh swoon! )

Adorkable Lincoln ( HAPPINESS IS JUST A THING CALLED LINCOLN) learns that beguiling Beth may actually return his affections; BUT, he can't let her know he knows ---lest she discover he has been email-spying on her for an age.

And now, for Shameless Quotage. Because, my lovely flock, if you are unmoved to buy this book after reading these amazing quotes well...well... you just don't belong to the Race of Joseph ( and if you don't know what race that is --- then you don't belong to the race either, right LM Montgomery?)

“The worst thing about the Internet, as far as Greg’s bosses were concerned was that it was now impossble to distinguise a roomful of people working diligently from a roomful of people taking the What Kind of Dog Am I? online personality quiz.”

“High school guys only appear hot to high school girls. It’s something to do  with the fluorescent lighting in the classrooms, I think. They’re actually really skinny and spotty , and they have giant feet.”

“The kind of coat a baby might need to go to the ballet. In Moscow. In 1918. To match her tiny pearls”

“October, baptize me with leaves! Swaddle me in corduroy and nurse me with split pea soup. October, tuck tiny candy bars in my pockets and carve my smile into a thousand pumpkins! O autumn! O teakettle! O grace!”

“Lincoln couldn’t explain, even to himself, why she mattered to him. She and Jennifer were both funny, both caring, both smart as whips. But Beth’s whip always caught him by the ankle. He felt like he could hear her talking when he read her mail, like he could see her even though he still didn’t know what she looked like. He felt like he could hear her laughing. He loved the way she put on kid gloves when Jennifer talked about her marriage and Mitch.  He loved the way she riffed on her siblings and her bosses and herself. He tried not to love that she could recite scenes from Ghostbusters, that she liked kung fu movies and could name all of the original X-Men---because those seemed like reasons a guy would fall for a girl in a Kevin Smith movie.”

“There’s something really romantic about that.  Every woman wants a man who’ll fall in love with her soul as well as her body.”

“Diet coke and rum is the most moronic drink of all time.  They should call it a Moron so that girls who order it would have to call themselves out at the bar.”

“Not Sears-model cute. More of an old-fashioned cute.”

“He stood for twenty minutes at the bedding aisle at Target, trying to choose a manly sheet set, then picked the ones with the violet pattern, because he liked violets and who else was ever going to see his sheets, anyway?”

More shameless love when Attached to Attachments returns on a blog near you

Glamorous Illusions by Lisa T. Bergren

It was a time of opulence and magnificence. It was a bounty of places and persons carefully selected to prime young people of wealth and circumstance in ways of culture, history and language.  It was the perfect place to come of age.  Now mythologized in our consciousness and lavish beyond most of our collective comprehension, the Grand Tour is legendary in scope.  From London to Paris to Vienna to Rome, those of circumstance were guided to experience the epoch of Europe’s delights. To guide these young impressionable minds was an educated “bear” who would lead the young people through their adventures while (hopefully) keeping them out of danger or trouble and, you know, regulated their penchant for drink, dance and debauchery.  The Grand Tour is brilliantly woven as the backdrop of Lisa T. Bergren’s Glamorous Illusions: one of the most literary endeavours in the Christian market I have read this year.

Cora Diehl is comfortable with her farm life: the chores, the structure, the routine, her loving parents…. She could ask for little more than the comfort of her circumstance. That is, until she learns that she is the illegitimate daughter of the Copper King and her life changes forever. No longer the product of her Montana farming heritage, Cora must learn to bridge the gaping social divide and accept her new role as the daughter of one of the American elite.   In order to give he a proper upbringing and to atone for years of neglect, Cora’s new father sends her on the Grand Tour with his other legitimate children.  With her confidante Will, the bear and her dashing new French acquaintance, Pierre de Richelieu, Cora is spun in an intricate maze of masquerades and garden parties, cocktails, boating and high-stepping: a social and cultural whirl set against the beauty and poise of Europe.

This is an incredibly confident book: confident in its structure, in its usage of the Tour as a backdrop which takes on its own spinning characteristics and in its usage of shifting narrative points of view. Intrinsic details of life in the whirlwind of the Grand Tour as well as a sincere appreciation and understanding of the history of each landmark : from English country manners to Versaille are perfectly executed.  A lot of in-depth research clearly went into the formation of this book. When Cora takes up with a dashingly enigmatic Frenchmen, Bergen doesn’t err in beating us to death with immediate translation: she allows the flow of the story and the dialogue to infer the meaning of each statement.  To add to Bergren’s fortitude as a writer, she plays with narrative perspective: a point of view switch--- from Will to Cora --- hers in first person.  This could have been disastrous; but Bergren does it well and it rounds out Cora’s experience and the reader’s impression of her.  As our narrator, we are immediately attuned to Cora’s opinions and her experiences in a typically biased way; but Bergren takes a step further by guaranteeing that Cora’s likeability is not only personal expression, we get to see Cora and her adventures through other’s eyes and perspectives.  Amazing clothing and culturally specific detail allow one to sink further into the believability of the novel and the slight romance that fringes the character’s deeper acquaintance is most welcome.

Not only is Cora a fish-out-of-water in the midst of cultural divide in Europe, she is immediately flabberghasted by the major rift between her farm life and the Kensington life of wealth and prosperity. While busily waltzing from monument to monument, in and out of gorgeous clothes and social faux pas,  Cora must also learn to reconcile the betrayal of her heritage: once thought beloved and owned by her parents, the family secret that severed her existence plagues her on the other side of the world as she learns to tolerate her new siblings and encounter head-on the shame of being a child conceived out-of-wedlock in a time and society where this equaled to social disaster. “ Wallace Kensington made a way for me to come here…”, she says “… but he also made it impossible for me and my folks to ever return home ….to ever resume our former life”

The blessing of wealth and experience clashes greatly with the realization that once you leave a place and circumstance, you can never go back: if physically, at least not emotionally. Fortunately, going into her new excursion, Cora is blessed with a resolute character which allows her to take her new circumstances with a grain of salt, keep her wits about her and not immediately fall into the trappings of froth and flounce which could alter her inner goodness.  She inappropriately interrupts a dinner with an outburst on behalf of union workers, she engages with the servants and gracefully accepts the rude dismissal of her presence ( upon recognition of her true parentage) from a family of great wealth and influence.  Cora is a heroine to believe in.  She is flawed; but willing.  She is trying; but tried upon.  She is the perfect balance of wonder and skepticism.  

This is my first ( but not last ) Lisa T. Bergren book 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Film Review: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

This is SUCH a heart-warming and funny ensemble comedy based on the novel These Foolish Things by Deborah Moggach

Seven English retirees are searching for a second wind and a new life: Widowed Evelyn is trying to pick up the pieces after a lifetime spent with her recently deceased husband, Jean and Doug have inadvertently lost their  retirement savings after a bad investment, Muriel, a retired housekeeper, needs a hip replacement, Graham, a high court judge, decides to abruptly retire and Madge, a socialite in search of a wealthy husband and Norman, a sort of elderly Don Juan want to find some fun and some love.  All of this seems to be offered in the advertisements for the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, in Jaipur, India: boasting comfort for “the elderly and beautiful.”  Suddenly, this group of ex-pats is resituated in the colourful and noisy kaleidoscope of a new Indian world and while some choose to experience, embrace and forge new and old friendships, others find it a difficult transition: opting to mourn the past left in England.

In India, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is discovered to be a ramshackle Colonial atrocity which, given love and care, might be restored to previous glory; but in the hands of the charming and optimistic, if frazzled  Sonny, is in dire need of proper management.  Nonetheless, the new residents form a new sort of family: far from home; but with similar pangs, disappointments and circumstances. Indeed, the theme of a diaspora of people feeling as if they no longer have a place and are no longer in want or need by their family and connections is resonant.

Like the best ensemble dramas and, thus, like the best character pieces created by the British ( honestly, they excel at this as much as they do everything else), each character is given languid, dignified moments wherein melancholia meets enchantment as they forge new bonds and excavate new worlds.

I knew absolutely nothing about this story before I saw the film and that heightened my enjoyment: especially as I couldn’t for certain eke out the details of the plot and the small, sassy surprises as they unwound before me.  Thus, I want to leave the same enjoyment for you.

I do recommend anyone who loves a cozy character piece unfurled against a startling back drop of noise and colour: so potent and tangible, you can almost smell it and feel the heat on your skin, rush out to see it.   It is known that this film features an astonishingly good cast of veteran actors and all are a delight to meet and revel in: but I particularly enjoyed watching Judi Dench as Evelyn and Bill Nighy as Douglas.

If I ran the world, Bill Nighy would have a role in everything.