Thursday, August 31, 2006

"Goodnight Nobody" by Jennifer Wiener

Sometimes, if I feel I HAVE to read a chicklit just to feel like I still belong to the female populus, I will only read Jennifer Weiner or Marian Keyes ( the two chicklit writers with brains ).

This book was long, occasionally funny but convoluted. If I had read it in one sitting on the beach instead of over a series of nights before dozing, I would have thought differently. Weiner is a good writer though. Probably the best of the American lot of her genre.

I am too tired to talk about it.Hopefully this weekend I can catch you all up on the five or so books I have read in the past week..... ones worthy of a little more speculation.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Sheer Brilliance....

I cannot escape the beautifully literate and folklore-laden Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan

Makes Harry Potter look more than pale in comparison!


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Ahoy Cornwellians!!!

Go check out the site to the new Sharpe film!!

I have been a Sharpeaholic for many moons now and my excitement over the release of the new book Sharpe's Fury is only countered by this .............

Long Live Patrick Harper !

Friday, August 18, 2006

I took forever to get to this tag:

1. One book that Changed Your Life---

There's two actually; a.) Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. When I was in grade eight, I dropped whatever installment of the Fear Street Saga I was indugled in and opened this puppy. It remains the most influential of my life. I devoured it: the themes, the wisdom, the interspersed poetry, Hugo's turn of phrase, the characters most of all. 1800 pages later, I was sure that there had to be another book just as powerful and captivating. Forsaking RL Stine for the rest of my life, I associated Les Miserables ( thus splendour ) with the 19th Century. I read Austen and Dickens and Hardy and Twain and Doyle from that point onward. The Brontes and Hawthorne and Thackeray. My love for the Victorians was born at 14 thanks to Hugo and a convict who snatches candlesticks from a well-meaning bishop. It's the sole reason I went into Lit at University, won the grade eight English award and scored the highest mark in English in high school, not to mention my love and fervour for the English programme at the University of Toronto ( where I just finished a five year specialist degree in the self same period ). So, I am the geeky bookworm born a century-to-late because of Hugo.

b.) The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery

I maintain this is the first work of female emancipations literature to come out of Canada. A prudish, self-conscious minister's daughter in a small, judgmental and suppressive town, this book showed me a heroine who was brave enough to be everything I was not. I read it in the last semester of high school. Listlessly, chin-in-hand, burrowed in University applications and ready to take, like Valancy our title character, the biggest plunge in my life. It set a surge of lightning through me---presented a character and life I related to. Once finished, I immediately spun back to page one and started all over again. I now know it by heart and wrote my senior thesis on LM Montgomery ( primarily the Blue Castle ) as the purest example of a life vicariously lived through fiction.

2.) one book you wish that you had written:

As a little duck, I idolized Sherlock Holmes ( who am I kidding, I still do ). I pretended I was the Master and connecting the proverbial dots I saw murder and mayhem everywhere in miniscule Orillia. One re-read mid-canon on a stormy winter's night, I admitted I would have loved Doyle's brilliance. I could never stay one step ahead of Holmes. Sick of lagging behind, I felt had I written Sherlock Holmes I would have the ultimate in first-hand knowledge. I would never need to worry about solving a mystery again.

The green eyes of envy also flash brightly when I appreciate the glory of a well-turned YA novel. Mostly because it is the genre I wish to personally dabble my creative mind in. " I wish I had been onto that!" sighs my brain: "That" usually encapsulates Anthony Horowitz, Catherine Webb for the wonderful " Horatio Lyle", Avi, Hilary McKay, Gordon Korman, Eleanor Updale.....sooo sooo many.

3. One book you wish had never been written:

Need you ask? The Bloody Da Vinci Code!! It has been sponging the brain cells out of many unsuspecting readers since March 2002. Hate the pulpy prose, hate the italics, hate the hyperbole, the hype... it's trash in the purest form. A bad Patterson spin-off someone misread as a piece of art. No thought, nor creed no literary spin is worthy of its atrocious acclaim. Drop this purile Blockbuster and read a real book. Or, atleast, admit it is two beach towels on the wrong side of Robert Ludlum and abashedly hide it in a book cover.

4.) One book that you'd want on a desert island:

"Villette" by Charlotte Bronte ( it is my panic-attack, calm-down book ). " A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" by Mark Twain.... any Twain for that matter, "Prince and the Pauper" is a favourite, " anything by Martha Grimes

5.) One book that made you cry:

" I Capture the Castle" by Dodie Smith, "Night" by Elie Wiesel. I'm a friggin' sap. I cried when Lord Peter got trapped in the bell tower in Sayers' " The Nine Tailors.", "On Beulah Height" by Reginald Hill ( when Rosie Pascoe is in the hospital with meningitis... it killed me! killed me ! )

6.) One book that made you laugh:

I have my perennial favourites: Mark Twain, W.O. Mitchell's "According to Jake and the Kid", Gordon Korman, Martha Grimes ( there are brilliant moments in the Stargazey, the Blue Last and the Grave Maurice.... I loove her !! ) and the Blooding of Jack Absolute by CC Humphreys. I have to gasp for air when I read this. My sides split. Ate is too funny; quoting his " infernal Hamlet."

7.) One book that you're currently reading:

the Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud
"A Song I Knew by Heart" by Brett Lott
"Lighthousekeeping" by Jeannette Winterson

8.) One book that you've been meaning to read:

The Wreckage by Michael Crummey
Never Let me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Crispin at the Edge of the World by Avi

This book came in a month earlier than I anticipated as per what my pre-order date read. I loved the Newberry winning first instalment, "Crispin: The Cross of Lead", and was eagerly awaiting the next two volumes in the supposed trilogy.

Avi is the kind of writer ( specifically in the Crispin books ) that proves YA authors and childrens authors often have a more treacherous task and are required to be more openly resilient than certain adult authors. If anyone ever doubted that children's writing was a serious art craft, well, Avi proves them otherwise. He is a wordsmith of the first degree and paints a beautiful, medieval landscape. His prose is scintillating. Though often distilled and acute to make it clear for his age group demographic ( and perhaps to loan itself to oral recitation), Avi is a splendid writer. I kept hanging on his words.

His pacing is also wonderful; which is one of the most difficult tasks I think a YA author must undertake.

Despite its literate beauty and historical interest, this was a rather depressing way to glue two framing books together. It didn't end on a cliffhanger, but on a death.

As to the characters, Crispin remains a sprite and intriguing narrator. Avi centers more on the coming-of-age story backdropping the front conflict and I was eager to learn more about Crispin's desire to be a "man" as he watches Bear ( the guardian/minstrel he met and hooked up with in volume 1 ) in a new context. Crispin learns more and more about his mentor and becomes unsure as to whether life ( and people, for that matter ) can be shelved in the extremity of black or white. The current war they find in ravaged Rye, and the wars that Bear fought in previously cause Bear to remember a less than happy past.

Bear, the monstrous, redheaded, humorous oaf never fully recovers his spry spirit ( think the Ghost of Christmas Present ) after his bout in a prison at the end of "Cross of Lead." As such, Avi completely ruled out humour because we are sure as heck were not going to derive it from Crispin ( too serious ) or Troth ( too scared ).

Troth is a character who joins their band in this volume. And it was interesting to watch her character progress alongside Crispin's. She has a harelip ( think Precious Bane ! ) and introduces a folkloric, pagan tradition to the otherwise heavily-steeped Christian forefront of Avi's tale.

This book despite its beautiful prose and steafast plot, left me feeling empty. Perhaps because it was so melancholic. I realize the conflict of the late 14th Century lends itself to such scrutiny, but nonetheless, I kept hankering for the first " Crispin": the lighthearted one with the dodging of arrows and the traveling from town-to-town with offers of a song and dance.

As such, immediately after finishing " Edge of the World", I picked up the first one again for another roll.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Erm....loved this.

Horatio Lyle writer Catherine Webb in an interview.

Thank god I preorder the Obsidian Dagger. Should be here in a couple of weeks. *GRIN*

Booker long list

Yes we read the Waters, the Mitchell, the Unsworth.

Must we read more?

Screw you highbrow literary world, gimme more Bartimeaus trilogy.


on my night table

--- The Fetch by Chris Humphreys
---Trickster's Queen by Tamora Pierce
---Before Scarlett: Juvenalia of Margaret Mitchell
---The Birth House by Ami McKay
----Lighthousekeeping by Jeannette Winterson
---The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle by Catherine Webb *GRIIIN!*

On a Lyle note:I have a tendency to lapse back into books and not be able to leave them for awhile. I am rather like LM Montgomery in a way. After she read The Prisoner of Zenda for the first time, she said everything else tasted bland for weeks afterward and she could only inhabit Hope's fantastical, regal realm. This is me and Horatio Lyle ( as cheesy as that sounds ). I just love it. I love the banter, the rapport, the cute narrative tricks ( they really are like pulling a rabbit out of a hat).I will finish The Fetch by the end of this week. I will. I will. I have been picking it up and putting it down for over a month now. GARRR !

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Carolan's Farewell by Charles Foran

I have been meaning to read this book for a long while. The cover intrigued me; a Don Quixotic tale unravelling the relationship between a blind man and his Sancho Panza, set in Ireland in the 18th Century; the lore of a real harpist whose history is surrounded by as much enigma as the tunes he wrote.

I was most taken by the narrative form Foran used to weave his tale. In almost mythic proportion, the first half focuses on the aging Carolan, a celebrity harpist who is making one redeeming pilgrimage before the end of his life. Carolan and his best friend and guide, Owen Connor, traipse through the countryside and encounter many locals from sheriffs to paupers, all spun under the magic of Carolan's infamous spell.

The setting lends for a grisly and crude scope into the world of a bygone era of famine and despair.

The second half of the story focuses on Owen Connor, Carolan's much younger guide, his budding relationship with the scullery maid Annie, his desire to rise above his lesser position, and the trouble he encounters for stealing books the prove food for his voracious mind.

The disintegration of Carolan physically and mentally, and the caveat given Owen pertaining to his own potential demise is a well-woven parallel.

This is an interesting snapshot into a time and country where music and lore abound and the oral tradition spread like wild fire. Foran is a more than competent purveyor of such a tale and intermixes history and fiction quite well. He also has a supreme talent for dialect and dialogue.


Sunday, August 06, 2006

No wonder CS Lewis fell for this....

I have a weakness for reading books that CS Lewis enjoyed. I have more than one compilation of works that delve into Lewis' favourite classics and works. One such being Precious Bane by Mary Webb. I have been meaning to read this for eons but finally got around to it ( thank you Orillia Public Library). After a ramble down by the harbour yesterday I wandered into the library to see if it was there on the stacks and sure enough an age old hardcover sat waiting for me to pounce. I cancelled my amazon order for it but after my recent finish may have to put the order in again.

I loved it. I had no trouble becoming accustomed to the Shropshire diction that Webb uses and I found the setting more than amicable. It reads almost like a fairytale, its hare-lipped narrator, Prue Sarn the unlikely fairy princess she dreams of being. Her prince, Kester Woodseaves the perfect knight who whisks her off on his horse to a marriage and a sunset.

A dark fairytale to be sure, with a grim brother an abusive temperamental father and a superstitious tribunal of a town waiting to claim our poor heroine as one of the devil's very own. But Prue is full of love and wit and resource. She saves the life of her beloved before she ever engages in conversation with him.

I loved this heroine and I fell hard for the first person narrative. I was ecstatic that today's read, though so varied from yesterday's, was equally as captivating.

And yes, Clive Staples wins again. This duck has a great track record when it comes to good reads. Come to think of it, for writing good reads as well as recommending them. Awww.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

"When I was Young and in my Prime" Alayna Munce

My friend Kristine has been going on about this book for months now. Apparently a close friend of her sister's, Alayna Munce is a Torontonian who, after reading this book this afternoon, I believe to be one of the most atmospheric Canadian writers on the market. She captures Parkdale and its usual, eccentric, awkward bustle quite acutely.

Our nameless narrator is spun into a world of nostalgia and inspiration as she sorts through her grandparents' timeless letters, diaries and memorabilia. Her grandmother has alzheimers; her grandfather weakens physically the moment they put his spouse in a home. This disintegrating relationship mirrors the narrators' own.

I don't usually enjoy books where poetry is interspersed and breaks the narrative flow. However, Munce is far from overpowering. I found her a little pretentious at times ( a phrase involving Tolstoy and moralistic romanticism comes to mind as a springboard for a thought that is left fragmentary ) but more often that not the narrator's observations ---at No Frills or on the street car --- are a welcome antidote to any Torontonian stuck thinking they live in merely a static, smelly zoo.

This was a good read for someone who has just left the city and is trying to piece together her own reminiscences. What parts and neighbourhoods will stand as the defining ones? What ones make me cringle and crackle: "God! I'm so glad I'm gone!"

When I was Young and In my Prime is a book of love but it is also a book of regret. The prosaic timbre of the book echoes Anne Michael's brilliant Fugitive Pieces and I was grateful for a relapse into that beautiful weaving of poetic realism.

Moving has forbidden as much reading as I would have liked but I have fallen hard for Ellen Kushner author of a series of novels set in the fantastic albeit Regency-esque realm of Riverside. I was captivated most by The Privilege of the Sword which follows a female swashbuckler-to-be, Katherine Talbert and her new status as protector of her eccentric and flamboyant uncle, Alec Campion. Kushner is a painter of words and she has a luscious canvas to embroider. Every salon and every rampant, risque party is a treat. The interweaving metafictional story of The Swordsman whose name was Not death is an ironically witty treat. I was most taken by the character of St.Vier who, to my utter delight, figures prominently in Kushner's Swordspoint. Kushner is the kind of author that makes me want to genre hop and spend more time reading fantasy novels. She is literate and humorous and has a huge heart. I love authors whose personality shines into their work. Kushner delighted me and I hope she does not stop there.

Now having moved, painted and unpacked I hope to be spending more time reading. Reading all of the time is preferable but I am sure there will be moments lent to other activity ( quel dommage ).