Saturday, December 01, 2007


Well, "new" isn't quite the word we are looking for, for obvious reasons (posthumous writings of novels have been known to be difficult. Though, I bet Arthur Conan Doyle believed in them ).

Anyways, 'tis a reprint from 1954 and entitled The Road to Samarcand and yes, most action is aboard ship!


Thursday, November 22, 2007


my sister is doing her phd in International Development and is obviously more than a little sick of the library.

I imported this entry to show you

It's dark, it's dry, it's ugly. It's full of books you will never read. It smells like a dungeon."It's my basement washroom!"No, you are incorrect. It is a library. And now, as we students embark on that fateful period known as "end of term", we reacquaint ourselves with the library. Days of our lives we will spend in our favourite carroll, on our favourite floor.

We will ride the elevator to amuse ourselves. We will climb stairs because we have no other way of attaining exercise. We will look as good as we feel - exhausted, ugly, and shaking from coffee overdosers. Have no fear, my library-going friends. I spent my entire summer in the library. I have spent most of this autumn in the library. And with this has come infinite wisdom of ways in which one can amuse oneself whilst working in the library. Do not thank me for passing on this knowledge to you. I am just that wonderful.So allow me to begin this series of entries (of which this might very well be the last) with a very important skill that I have personally mastered, known as the 'unnecessary shush":I don't need quiet to work. I don't like loudness, but I don't need total silence. In the library, I am often the disrupter. I don't know how many evil eyes I've gotten from the librarian this year. Maybe that's because I decided to hold my own wedding in the library in July (see Album #4 for further details...)

But I am okay with that. She gets paid because of my existence. And I am a grad. student meaning I get special privileges - example: I get to walk around all high and mighty and assume that I can be a jackass in the library.
The unnecessary shush is one of the ways in which I get to show off my importance as an all-wonderful grad. student (at least I like to think...)There are a series of ways in which this can be done.The general theme is telling people that they need to be quieter as you are trying to concentrate.Par exemple:
1) Start laughing obnoxiously with a friend. Stop for 1 minute. Then ask those speaking in quiet voices beside you to be quiet as you have been trying to work.
2) Begin a conversation on your cell phone. Phone in hand, ask the person beside you to keep it down so that you can continue your conversation (do this in the 'no phone' zone of the library for optimal entertainment)
.3) When someone is on a cell phone and is courteously leaving the room to continue their conversation, look annoyed and ask them, in an obnoxious manner, to at least have enough decency to leave the room.
4) When people are obviously trying to whisper so as to not disturb anyone, give them the evil glare. Hold eye contact for a minute, roll eyes, and tell them to 'shush'.
5) Every once in a while go "shhhhhhhhhhhhh" Make sure that no one was actually talking.
6) Tell the librarian she is using the library too often and using up necessary working space
.7) Walk up to an innocent victim and tell them that they have taken your designated study space (these do exist - I have one). Approximately 30 seconds after they have packed up their things and left, repack your own, and follow them.Repeat at each of their new places.If they refuse, call library security. They're just plain rude!These are a mere seven possibilities, but the opportunities are endless!

The important thing is to remember that the library is your oyster and indeed was built for you. Yes, that's right - you!And we all know that the greatest minds were the most insane.So go ahead - be creative, be obnoxious...and be wonderfully amused!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


What a stupid invention. Not since Margaret Atwood's Longpen, have I seen a more unnecessary waste of time boasting a literary component.

oh....and endorsed by James Patterson?

Yeah, gee amazon! I'll get right on that

( insert heavy sarcasm. Heavy, dripping sarcasm)


Oh and look at this: A British movie-tie in edition for a book not released 'til April advertising a movie that will ( apparently ) never make it to English speaking countries.

I think they are just toying with us.

In better news, my Random House contact sent me an ARC of the Painter of Battles ---not Alatriste, but good enough.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

What you should Read: Part 1: Canadian History

I was scrolling over my entries of late and deduced that while I post about literary things, I have not posted a book review in ages. So, catch-up time.

Let's begin a series. I will spend each blog entry focusing on one genre and giving you suggestions on what you might want to pick up in each.

For lack of a congruent marriage of books and flowing praise, I give you a list.....of books fairly recently read....

In Canadian History:


My Country: the Remarkable Past . Pierre Berton is the epoch of Canadian history. He somehow knows how to intertwine fact with a gallavanting gallop of a great yarn. Read anything of his---from these snippets of our past from coast to coast to Vimy to The Last Spike and you will see that the impeccable historian is also the consummate storyteller.

For Honour's Sake by Mark Zuehlke is the best book on the War of 1812 I have read since *cough* Pierre Berton did his take. I have read books that are somewhat distinctive to certain aspects of the war, but this is all-encompassing. This is storytelling at its best, dotted with facts about a period I had yearned to know about.

The Witch in the Wind by Marq de Villers is chock-full of interesting tidbits on the legendary Bluenose. I am an East Coast fanatic and would love to live there someday ( perhaps just a summer home though, as my potential career holds very little promise in the gorgeous Maritimes). When I was last in Halifax, this book was plastered all over the streets in the amazing bookshops they have on Barrington street. I was more than happy to give it a try.

The Curse of the Narrows by Laura Macdonald
Surprisingly not written by a Canadian, this is the first book since Barometer Rising I read that specifically dealt with the Halifax Explosion of 1917. Canada's most devastating disaster was told in short, no-nonsense form by this talented writer. As you can see, I am more than an afficianado of all things East Coast. This book helped deepen my love for the courageous people of the Maritimes and made me praise the instinctive resilience of humankind to forge through the most shattering of events. Parts put me in mind of the stories I heard of the Blitz. Workers would step over the rabble to find their places of employment and try to maintain dignity and normalcy in a world gone mad.


Private Demons: The Tragic Personal Life of Sir John A. Macdonald by Patricia Phenix
This book sold a lot last Christmas and at the Sir John. A dinner I attended ( with noted historian Jack Granastein as the keynote speaker). I quite enjoyed reading about the tumultous life of the Father of Confederation. Especially think of it now since I was in and around the Bellevue House area last weekend.

Itching to read my copy of Sir John A.:the Man Who Made Us by Richard Gwyn because I can never get enough of this period of history or the moulding of our country.


At the War Museum, I purchased a copy of Wolfe and Montcalm: Their Lives, Their Times, and the Fate of the Continent by Joy Carroll because early Quebec history, the seven-years war and the Plains of Abraham fascinate me to no end. If you have not been to Canada ever, I might even suggest starting in Quebec City. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited and the resonance of its rich history penetrates the fortressed-walls and the narrow streets and the steep and majestic cliffs. I love this city and am proud that it is in the same country I am.


The Great Dominion:Winston Churchill in Canada 1900-1954 by David Dilks is a 9.99 book at Chapters and worth the bustling around in the remainder bin. Those well acquainted with the larger-than-life Churchill often forget that he was ever-so-fond of our Country as it was his most-visited in the Commonwealth. It was a little dry at times, but I appreciated the reproduction of some of the newspaper articles on his visits, and the inclusion of some of the letters he wrote while on our soil.

Friday, November 16, 2007

much excitement

Last weekend, I trekked to the Nation's Capital and had more than a jolly time roaming through the beautiful old streets, admiring the neo-gothic architecture and hitting every museum in sight. I even had a Beaver Tail---one of those popular pastries they sell in Old Quebec and along the canal in ice skating season.

The National War Museum was my favourite. It took five hours for me to get it done properly. The exhibits on the 1st and 2nd World Wars respectively and the spitfires ( made me think of Andrew Foyle ) were wonderful and moving....especially as last weekend was Remembrance Day. It was also moving to see so many veterans there, roaming through with poppies willing to answer questions. And yet, thought I, how surreal to see your life experiences encased in glass, on display for all to see; mummified like a dinosaur; children playing through a plastic "trench" made up with mud and bodies, a soldier's boot skimming the top.

My passion for 18/19th Century Canadian history was well-founded in my viewing of General Issac Brock's tunic, rescued from the Battle of Queenston Heights and encased with bullet hole in chest for all to see. The fatal wound that made Brock a hero was now, in part, in front of me.

Dear god, I am a nerd.

I loved roaming about the city, ducking through the cobblestoned alleys, hearing the bells toll at Parliament in the mid-dusk and gaping over the spanse of the beautiful Rideau ( which is now a UNESCO world heritage site). It is a great city to find hidden bookstores in, old churches and statues and beautiful scaling hills.

On Sunday morning, for the first time ever, I was able to go to the Cenotaph in the Nation's capital for Remembrance Day. My Opa ( I am Dutch) was a veteran of WWII and my Oma was a warbride from Holland. While he was still alive, I would soak up the stories Opa would tell me of the War---my mind not truly grasping the term "stretcher-bearer." He loved Remembrance Day as he would think of his fallen brother and colleagues and ( being as musical as he was ) enjoy the trumpets and the bagpipes.

The bagpipes : those eerie, mournful instruments that seem so suited for funeral recession, were ( according to my grandfather) a symbol of hope ---they meant reinforcements were coming to the war front.

It was moving to see thousands of Canadians line the streets near Parliament Hill all with poppies and proudly singing O Canada and God Save the Queen in unison in both French and English. I loved the planes and the canons and the moment of silence and, of course, the chilling In Flander's Fields.

SHORT RANT: I dont't think I have ever heard "In Flander's Fields" recited properly. I am a huge fan of the young medical man from Guelph, Ont who gained worldwide recognition not only for his heroism, but for his harrowing turn of phrase. But, the poem only works to full impact if the pauses and stops he so carefully laid out in his phrasing are properly rendered by spoken voice. Like the Lord's Prayer and the National Anthem, everyone knows it by heart and mumbles accordingly through the motions. I have a feeling were people to place the poem in front of them and read it as he intended, we might all be a little more moved than usual. END RANT

And, of course, my favourite part of the ceremony occurs when the veterans march by to a Standing Ovation. In uniform, with medals on display, we recognize the sacrifice they made more than half a century ago and praise their endurance while coldly remembering the impact that faraway war must still have on their lives.

Now on to other things like Inspector Lynley Series 5

I gave up on the books, so I am happy to indulge in the liberties taken with the screenwriting. Lynley had great hair ( as did Havers) we are on our third Helen and the Bentley is shiny and intact. The chemistry between Nat Parker and Sharon Small is palpably wonderful.

Now, I am off to go bookshopping and to spend the afternoon watching the Helen Mirren Elizabeth I with my friend Kat.

On Sunday, I might venture to see Love in the Time of Cholera.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

and furthermore....

In conjunction with the whole I- love- the- new Read -Red -Penguin series, I am excessively infatuated with the Harper Perennial reprintings of the Aubrey-Maturin canon.


I am usually sceptical of photographs on covers, but the two I have purchased in as many days have proven me wrong.

Harper Perennial has perfectly cast a physical double of Maturin ( HE LOOKS LIKE MATURIN DAMMIT!!!---specs and ALL). Though Paul Bettany captured the "spirit" of Maturin in the film, he never looked at all like him. This physical double is brilliant. I cannot believe the brilliance here.

Rendered inarticulate and prone to redundancy but am not at fault. OBSERVE THE BRILLIANCE !

Monday, November 05, 2007


In a bookshop today I saw a new Penguin mass market edition of A Tale of Two Cities. Now I am not usually fond of covers that flash a picture or photograph of the main character---anything that will ruin the picture I already have in my head. That being said, there was something about this particular photo that grabbed me. First off, it is a remarkably stylish cover and I am sucker for pretty editions ( as we all know ), but the picture ( presumably of Sydney) half cloaked, looking sceptically to the side, mouth slightly parted, a blurred reflection of some rainy alley behind, struck me. I stared at it for a good five minutes before purchasing it. NOTE: the last thing in the world my poor grad student budget allots is yet ANOTHER copy of a Dickens book I already own. But it SPOKE to me.

Really striking.

And now methinks I shall sink under the covers with the November rain and chill whirring outside of my window and not in my cozy apartment, and read my favourite parts.

I saw Elizabeth: The Golden Age yesterday. Yes, it is getting horrific reviews but it was not the worst movie ever. Not the best---but definitely beautifully shot. Clive Owen was nought but eye candy as Sir Walter Raleigh---painted as a harlequin pirate with a swarthy smile.

But I can laugh at some good historical fiction now and then. After all, I love Philippa Gregory.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

meme !

Stolen from my friend Courtney

What is your name? Rachel
4 letter word: Ring!
Vehicle: Roller skates
TV Show: Robin Hood and Road to Avonlea
City: Rouen
Boy Name: Roderick or Rasputin
Girl Name:Rapunzel
Drink: Red Bull
Occupation: Reporter
Something you wear: Raincoat
Celebrity: Richard Harrington ( that yummy guy from Bleak House and MI:5 ) or RANKIN
Food: Ragu sauce
Something found in a bathroom: Red toothpaste ( sorry, it is late )
Reason for Being Late: Ran into Gabriel Byrne
Cartoon character: Ren ( not Stimpy)
Something you shout: REESE'S PIECES !
Animal: Rhino ( as in the giant space rhino Judoon on the Moon in Dr. Who)

Sunday, October 14, 2007


I had a great weekend!

Last night I went out with a bunch of friends to karaoke to celebrate a birthday! The dj had a bit of a crush on me and proceeded to try sitting in my lap four times. He also gave me a bunch of hot tamales ( the candy, people, watch those dirty minds ! )

And, I just got home from bowling ! I love bowling. I suck at it. But that is not why we go!

In the adventures of reading for the weekend, I finished The Sense and Sensibility Screenplays and Diaries by Emma Thompson. Which I loved. Now, I need to watch the movie again.

This afternoon while chilling in my pjs and resting from my 4am return from karaoke, I watched the Legend of 1900 which I had always wanted to see. Based on the monologue by Barrico. Unfortunately, this brilliant fable was so poorly told, I ended it thinking what a waste: of talent, of plot, of Tim Roth, of Ennio Morricone's exquisite music.

All of the ingredients, in the wrong order ( or something ) that should have made a delectable feast bland and unsettling.

I am now angry and frustrated and want them to try again!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

just a bunch of really good books !

I think I am substituting my reading of Blood and Chocolate for the RIP challenge with the new Neil Gaiman trade paper, Fragile Things because Blood and Chocolate is dismally bad.

Along the same lines, I recently finished P.S. I Love You by Cecilia Ahern, because I will try anything once. The premise is cute and I can see where she was going, but the writing was abysmal. I think the only reason she got published is the fact that she is the Prime Minister's daughter and her name was recognizable. But, you didn't hear that from me. Dreadful. Dreadful book.

Last year, I was delighted to read Causeway by Linden Macintyre while I was a reader for the Leacock Humour Award. It was one of my top picks. So, I was very happy that the nice people at Harper, sent me a copy of my very own. I was reading through it again and realized just how brilliant it is --- both as a memoir, and as a moving piece of non-fiction. I only wish it could garner more acclaim than it has. I also have a huge thing for East Coast writers and the East Coast in general, so this was a tasty treat!

In Jane Austen news, I finished "reading"....erm.... navigating my way through the Choose Your Own Adventure Maze that is Lost In Austen by Emma Campbell Webster. This was an interesting idea. I do not agree with every choice she made for her book but, if you are into this thing, go right ahead !

The kind ducks over at Austenblog sent me a copy of Dear Jane Austen by Patrice Hannon....which basically reimagines our fair writer as an advice columnist. It was utterly readable! Jane you are a brilliant sage ! I treasure your advice....

Did I mention that George RR Martin's The Ice Dragon is a dear little fable/novella for young readers with a craving for some tasty fantasy? All five senses are heightened when you wade through is powerful description. Quite beautiful. KEEP IN MIND FOR YOUR CHRISTMAS CHALLENGES, it would fit in perfectly.

Now, in movie news, I am eagerly awaiting the release of Elizabeth: the Golden Age this weekend because, well, who is not?!

I saw The Seeker:The Dark is Rising based on the Newbery award-winning sequence by Susan Cooper. Gotta say, I only went to this for Christopher Eccleston and I only came out thinking: "Wow. I am glad I saw this for Christopher Eccleston."

Not brilliant stuff.... but it introduces a lot of themes and emblems I wish they had the time/tenacity/talent to explore further. It reaches almost-allegorical at moments, very dark and twisted at others. The time-travel thing ( as always ) is *sorry, insert Christopher Eccleston voice* FANTASTIC !

NOTE: I am not an Oprah fan to begin with. But, it bugs me even more when a great book like Eat Pray Love which I read eons ago is now tainted with Oprah-mania. Now it just bugs me anytime I hear it. Before, I was happy to hand sell it to anyone. Ridiculous. And quit picking Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Geez. Must you spoil everything?!

Monday, October 08, 2007


As many of you know I have a love/hate relationship with Christian Historical Fiction.

I love selecting and buying it, but the end results are seldom pleasing.

Luckily ( and more frequent of late ), there have been some wonderful exceptions. Long have I thought that "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a literate woman in want of a literate Christian historical novel will be left unsatisfied" but the tune is changing.

It changed brightly this Summer when I stumbled upon a gorgeous, rollicking and fun regency called "All the Tea in China" by Christian novelist Jane Orcutt.

This was clever writing, witty Austen-esque dialogue, a great, sword-wielding heroine with humour and aplomb, strong and resourceful, and a somewhat disguised hero named Phineas ( who is the most original Christian hero I have ever come across in a book.... well atleast since John Murphy in a perennial favourite of mine, Vienna Prelude ).

I loved the setting, the fact that it was set on a ship, the way the characters met, the historical accuracy, the beautiful descriptive tapestry and the fact in made me laugh ( and in the right places, thank you very much).

So, eager to find out what Jane Orcutt had in store for me in the future, I logged onto her website tonight. Perhaps I was prompted by the fact I had sold a couple of these books to secular readers last week just before Thanksgiving.

To my utter dismay, I discovered that Jane Orcutt passed away from Leukemia this past March.

How horrible! She had such potential. I was hoping this stand-alone historical would lead to more great work.

So, in her memory, I am devoting this whole blog post to rave:

You were one smart duck, Jane Orcutt, I have yet to find another Christian Historical that had a TWIST to its plot. You did the industry proud. And, of course, the highest praise I can bestow on a Christian writer and usually reserved for the usual suspects: Dale Cramer, Bodie Thoene, Catherine Marshall and, recently, Geoff Wood---

it was so good I forgot I was reading a Christian novel.

NOTE:For those of you who are not quite sure about delving into this subject reluctant to read preachy matter, the Christian themes in this novel are just that... themes.... it is very subtle and not overly set on converting people. No fire and brimstone here! Just a great novel with some great morals and a couple of brilliantly funny love scenes.

Friday, October 05, 2007


Taken from A Work In Progress

1. Hardcover or paperback, and why? Trade paperbacks are my favourite for every day reading. But, for collector's editions and classics I like hardcover.

2. If I were to own a book shop I would call it…Mycroft's .... it would be a Mystery bookshop, naturally.

3. My favorite quote from a book (mention the title) is... Emily Climbs by LM Montgomery :
"I will just have to fix my thoughts on the moonlight and the romance and ignore the mosquitoes."

4. The author (alive or deceased) I would love to have lunch with would be ….L.M. Montgomery, Dorothy L. Sayers, Dickens, Charlotte Bronte ( deceased ) ( I would say Patrick O'Brian byt he might be a little prickly ) Living: Ian Rankin. Hello! Anthony Horowitz.

5. If I was going to a deserted island and could only bring one book, except from the SAS survival guide, it would be…Les Miserables.

6. I would love someone to invent a bookish gadget that…. turned the pages of a hardcover for me in bed. Or somekind of indescructable type of paper you could take in the bathtub.

7. The smell of an old book reminds me of…. home. in the fall or winter. mellow light and a comfy chair.

8. If I could be the lead character in a book (mention the title), it would be….Sherlock Holmes, ( I still believe I am Sherlock Holmes ), or maybe Marianne in Sense and Sensibility because she gets Col. Brandon and a big house . I would say Anne in Persuasion but I would have had to have undergone that treacherous upbringing. Valancy of The Blue Castle because I could live w/ Barney..... any heroine who ends up with a great guy. Rich.

9. The most overestimated book of all times is…. oh Where shall we start?
Dan Brown ( naturally), the Secret ( Come on people, don't be so stupid ), the Shopaholic Series ( come on people, don't be stupid), everything by Jodi Picoult, The Kite Runner, and, of course, last year's over rated award goes to The Thirteenth Tale.
And more Dan Brown.

10. I hate it when a book…. is written by Dan Brown, includes badly rendered dialect (i.e., most Scottish or Newfie dialect in novels, sometimes some really bad pioneer-type dialect..... I am thinking, here, of all the Janette Oke books I read as an undiscerning kid in the Church Library fact most Christian novelists screw up dialect!)

Saturday, September 29, 2007


Guess what I just cracked open?!?!

The first chapter of Exit Music the new ( and perhaps last ) Rebus novel by my perennial favourite/celebrity author/Scottish crush Sir ( knighted him myself after I knighted Robert Lindsay) IAN RANKIN

I love that feeling. You know THAT feeling.... when you have waited for eons for a new book and it finally comes in, you stroll with it protectively under your arm to the cash desk, you gladly shove over the money ( heavily discounted, if you work in the profession I do ), and almost skip home anxious to open the first page.

In you favourite reading chair. Cup of cider. Lamp on. Rain soft outside.

This is perfect.

I love this moment.

I usually speed through Rankin once I get my warm up, but I always savour the very first chapter, chew it over and take deep breaths. I hope he writes more.

There is no feeling like the beginning in all of the world.

Friday, September 28, 2007


Just a note to say that I liked the movie version of The Jane Austen Book Club better than the book. This is a rare exception ( except in the case of some ultimate trash like The Da Vinci Code where the movie cannot help but be better than the book because the book is the worst thing in the history of time ) but it just fit better on screen. They altered the character's ages a bit ( which worked ) and the characters on screen seemed better to portray Fowler's ultimate thesis: that each woman was somehow a singular portion of a conjoined Austen universe.

And, I love the What Would Jane Do? thing. And Hugh Dancy. But no scifi convention-attending nerd in my stratasphere ever looked like that.

Anyways, not rocket science here, but definitely enjoyable.

Finished an ARC of a book called The Luxe by Anna Godbersen which will be released in Dec. I will write more about it then... sort of a Gossip Girl for the Edwardian period.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


These kids are having a 24-hour a read-a-thon!

What a splended idea. I know I have come close to doing it WITHOUT a challenge or event before ( stupid school).

Anyways, the only thing they could improve on for next year is having people sponsored for some sort of charity event.... perhaps of their choice: a library, public school or literary council.

I will be reading most of the blogs there.

Friday, September 21, 2007

non-book and book

Dear person who stormed out of Starbucks in shock and appal and dismay when the cashier would not take the 100.00 bill you gave her for your 1.91 tea,

you are my least favourite person ever.

Me and the guy behind me who looked like Adam West

are mocking you

if silently


In other news a volume of the Selected Letters of Charlotte Bronte is finally being released for sale at a reasonable price. No more petitioning with the Reference Library that they should sell me their copies at less than 50.00 and no more dismal perusals at amazon's marketplace to see nothing under 249.00

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Sir Ian: my celebrity author

So, we all know I have a thing for Ian Rankin. Not surprising. Have forever. It's a little bit of the sense of humour, a little bit of the accent, a little bit of the fact that he is one male author who has created an absolutely believable female character in the figure of Siobhan, a little bit of the fact that I got to touch his sleeve.

Authors are my celebrities, so seeing Ian for me is like some squealy girl seeing Johnny Depp.

Ian Rankin IS my author celebrity. I know you all have one. Whether it be Oppel or Patterson ( god help you if it's Patterson) or Neil Gaiman ( in which case I completely understand).

Now, Sir Ian and I have quite a history: he shows up in Toronto every year or so to sign something somewhere and I go to see him.... often with a couple of other people...sometimes by myself. Sometimes, if you are extra lucky, you get two for the price of one.... such as the IFOA reading when Sir Ian AND Peter Robinson were at the same table....

or, don't even GET ME STARTED on the now legendary round of Bouchercon that I didn't make but that I heard lots about.

I knighted him. I go and see him. He plays xs and os in my book and writes Slainte and signs his name and I smile. Broadly.

So, this year I was delighted to hear that our friend has a day named for him. Yes, Torontonians, October 17th is now IAN RANKIN day!

This is a good thing.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

RIP Challenge:

a little behind in the posting of this, but well ahead in the reading, so:

Here is my list:

The Hellfire Conspiracy by Will Thomas

My Swordhand is Singing by Marcus Sedgwick

Vendetta by Chris Humphreys

The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox

Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause
Thanks, of course, to Carl V. ....he is rather wonderful at organizing these things.
I also mean to pick a classic but will have to get back to you on that.
The end!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Dear American film companies,

I know that you feel you need to film the Hulk movie in my city because it is cheaper or what have you. But that does not mean you should be able to litter our perfectly fine Torontonian streets just to make it look more gritty and authentic. Just because you are a litter-filled grimeland, why must you bring it here and deem it "set pieces"

I have never seen so much junk on Yonge street...erm...I'm sorry, the sign now reads W 25th street.

And just because you are covering our Dundas Square signs with signs that better reflect the American locations in your film, everyone will know ( as they always do ) that nothing is ever filmed in LA or Chicago or New's all done in Toronto and passed off as American.

Take the extra, over-filled trash cans you are authentically placing on my sidewalks, the stacks of cardboard boxes and the extra tissues and coffee cups, your signs and your streetnames and GO HOME! I have to get to school and while I am a full supported of Eric Bana, everyone is ON TO YOU !

we all know everything is Toronto.

Get your own city..... the real one, perhaps. That way you wouldn't have to litter. It'd be right there.

Rant Over.

Friday, August 24, 2007

the elusive Alatriste

Okay, so I have been pining for this supposed Captain Alatriste movie since I heard about it ( namely through a chance encounter with a youtube trailer .

But I am beginning to think the bloody thing will never be released in North America.

As with the brilliant Arturo Perez Reverte series, we tend to get more than a little late, I guess it is somewhere lost in translation.

So, we speculate:

did Viggo Mortensen REALLY learn Spanish?

does Diego kiss that girl.... you know, the one that turns all the events on the sidelines and makes life a living hell ?

is the movie as high budget as its excellent website?

I'm dying here people!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

RIP Challenge

HELP! Everyone is starting to get ready for Carl's RIP challenge, which I thoroughly enjoyed doing last year.

But, I don't know what to read!

Please. I want something tingly that I can read by candlelight on a rainy fall night.

Send recommendations my way!

Sunday, August 19, 2007


My god this is a good movie adaptation. The book is serenely beautiful and the movie is ever so uber Victorian and romantic.

So, do yourself a favour and indulge. It is delectable.

And.... I applauded ( along w/ my friend ) when Nathaniel Parker showed up onscreen. I was not expecting it and little treats are what life is about.

Monday, August 13, 2007


Eclipse was so bad, I need some pics of some good guys reading to keep my mind from it.
Thus, I give you
Bookish Dr. Who ( a la David Tennant....eep!)
and Gregory Peck.
Really there is nothing more attractive.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

bad teenie vampire fiction

I am halfway through Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer.... and, seeing as Bella is the most spineless, useless, weak and woozy female to ever step off a literary page ( the bit I read of Shopaholic falling nicely in close step behind ) , I am not sure why I am going to finish it.

Maybe I won't.

How OFTEN does one weak-minded female have to be rescued by a charming, strong male?

She gets smothered by being "pressed to his chest" ( I would give a notation for this specific description--- but it is mentioned on every other page so forgive me)

Geez Stephenie Meyer. You are a great person, but there are impressionable minds out there.

Why give so many fourteen year old girls such a backless, weakling as a heroine ?

Work on this .

EDIT: It is official. I will NEVER read another Stephenie Meyer book again. I think it was Edward staking possession ( staking: no pun intended) in front of Jacob with "She is MINE!"

and Bella being too weak minded and possessed to assert that she is, in fact, her own person.

Why are all these guys in love with her? Oh yes. I get it. She's a puppet for them to play with. Every guy wants a damsel in distress.



please read this --- a list of the most commonly over-used things in Teen and YA fiction. Hilarious.

I think she forgot to mention " the incest card"; my friend Karin has not been able to shut up about: " I can't believe Cassandra Claire played the INCEST CARD !! [in City of Bones ] She wrote a YA novel and played the obvious INCEST card!"

It is one of the most hilarious conversations we have. And we have it often.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Thursday, July 19, 2007

HARRY! ....erm, what I really mean is SIRIUS !

In bookish movie adaptations, the best one running at the moment is inevitably Order of the Phoenix. What did we do before Sirius Black? Love him!

So, tonight I am laying out my "I Siriusly Love Sirius Black" shirt ( the one Carrie made me on her tshirt press a couple of years ago, my Gryffindor scarf, my lightning bolt temporary tattoo.....smack in the middle of my forehead, my Potter ball cap and my glasses and getting adrenaline ready for another round of Potter madness. This is my fourth Harry Potter as a book seller and I am VERY excited.

On Booking through Thursday's blog we have an exciting questionnaire which I will answer here:

1.Okay, love him or loathe him, you’d have to live under a rock not to know that J.K. Rowling’s final Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, comes out on Saturday… Are you going to read it?

Absolutely. I cannot wait. I have been avoiding all of the news AND that leaked NYT review

2.If so, right away? Or just, you know, eventually, when you get around to it? Are you attending any of the midnight parties?

I am of course attending my bookstore's midnight party and I organized a bunch of fun stuff for the kids. I will start reading probably after work Saturday evening .

Working in the book business means you better be done by Monday or you will hear EVERYTHING !

3.If you’re not going to read it, why not?

4,And, for the record… what do you think? Will Harry survive the series? What are you most looking forward to?

I am most looking forward to the depth of Snape ---- we know that JK Rowling has an obvious affection for him, so I would like to see if he turns out to the be the TRAGIC HERO!

I hope Sirius' motorcycle plays a part, I also hope that RAB stands for Regallus Black.

Harry a horcrux? Perhaps !

Friday, July 06, 2007


" I have a confession to make, " says bookstore owner Kathleen Kelly in the charming Pride and Prejudice update, You've Got Mail, " I have read Pride and Prejudice two hundred times !I am always in agony over whether Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett will really get together. Read it. I know you'll love it."

Bad paraphrasing aside, I could say the same ( times eight thousand ) for my favouritist of books, The Blue Castle. Selling it consistently to Muskoka tourists at my bookshop this week, I was forced to ponder my history with this book and possibly my future

Will I give it up? Probably not. Do all of my philosophies on life and my conception of romance somehow stem from the well worn pages of my favourite copy of the book I own many editions of? Probably yes.

I was so excited to do my honour's thesis on it ( partly ) and to filter my passion for this novel into a more scholarly funnel. Sure, every "smart" statement I made pertaining to the work and every symbol I found in its deeply feminist construction have fled now. Oh well, I still have the papers to prove my thoughts were once in that state. Right now, school-less, I could care less whether or not I am reading it with critical eye. I am kicking my feet up in the summer sun in the beautiful landscape that so resembles the setting of the work ( it is set about half hour from my house ) , eating chocolate almonds, and dreaming of my own whimsical and mysterious hero.

"Everyone has a Blue Castle", says consumption-ridden Cissy Gay to her aide, Valancy Stirling. Everyone, I think, has a book like The Blue Castle. They may not know it, but for a reader, it's in their blood.

One cannot help but think of how influential this book has been on the Canadian public consciousness. Not only did it put Bala, Muskoka on the map ( Okay. Bala, Muskoka ISN'T on the map, but if it were , I am sure it would be for this book ), it was rewritten by Colleen McCulloch ( renowned for The Thorn Birds) and the start of a major lawsuit and debate on literary validity ( ie. can you claim that you read a book years ago and subconsciously write it again thinking it is indeed far from plagiarism? If your hero's name is John Foster then let me ding the negative, "Wrong Answer" bell ). It also was, according to some essay in some book I don't have time to look up now, the inspiration behind Atwood's Lady Oracle.

If you search amazon, zillions of readers claim The Blue Castle, one of the least known of Montgomery's works and only in print again in the last decade, to be their absolute favourite book of all time. This book inspires literary passion and imaginative emancipation like no other I have ever read.

I could go on about the plot and why it remains ( with the exception of my bridge to the realm of classic literature, Les Miserables ) my favourite book of all time, but I think it is more important to broach the subject of the one book that turns you on your ear.

Why is it that one book for one person surpasses everyone else's passion for the same work? Why is it I can reread the torn and worn pages of this cheesy little mass market over and over again and never tire of what the tattered binding holds?

I think we choose our books like we choose our friends: some glimpse of personality, humour, warmth, a shard of light that reflects ourselves, a hint of something we want to glean and nurture and hold onto. Something that makes us feel more like "us" than we did before it was part of our daily lives.

If so, The Blue Castle is perfectly me ---with its outlandish fairytale plot and its over-the-top ending and its flowery descriptions, obsession with books and deep lights flickering over harbours.

I always give new acquaintances who I surmise will remain forevermore kindred spirits a copy.... just to wait for their assessment, and to hope they think of it as I do ( maybe not as deeply, but to some extent ).

My aunt always keeps copies of A Room of One's Own around her house, so she can bestow them upon worthy readers if need be.

I keep the Blue Castle nearby.

It is the perfect romance. The perfect read.


oh, dear god. Kevin Sullivan has decided to butcher more Montgomery (as if Lantern Hill and that ghastly third Anne movie were not enough) by making an Anne prequel .

Just because Montgomery mentioned the idea doesn't mean she was actually going to write it, Kevin. You must know that most of the Anne series was written to see her through financial hardships and a car lawsuit. Good lord! She would HATE this!

Oh, and the fact that you are casting on youtube(!!!!!), means I dislike this idea even more.

Have fun 12 year old redheads, there is no way this would be welcomed by Anne's creator.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Town House by Tish Cohen

Scored this one from the nice people at Harper Collins. Incidentally, for those who keep up with the industry, HCP has recently acquired rights to most Hyperion and Miramax books so we can look to an interesting future. Confusing,perhaps, because I think Fenn is keeping some of the titles they had before.

Oh well.

On to one of the most charmingly eccentric experiences of my reading life.

Jack Madigan is agoraphobic. ( Don't look it up, it means he doesn't leave his house ) Severe panic attacks and the constantly replaying images of a troubled childhood in a carton ( under the strange eye of his rockstar father, Baz ), keep Jack from stepping beyond the threshold of his crumbling if gorgeously historic Boston Townhouse.

Living off the royalties of his father's songs ( think our friend from Hornby's About a Boy ) his ailment has so far not been a drastic problem.

When the royalties start dwindling, however, and a scatterbrained real estate agent named Dorrie is the line between his comfort-zone and the scary world outdoors, Jack is in more than a pickle.

The crumbling house is populated by a melange of quirky eccentrics: Jack, Dorrie ( thinking the odd little fish from Finding Nemo is apt in this case ), Jack's hippie son Harlan and the little girl who crawls through a hole in the wall and joins Jack each morning at the kitchen table for coffee.

It is a breezy, fresh and well-paced book that screams the best of summer reading.

The house, with its tricky dumbwaiter, and drywall dents and gashes ( from Baz Madigan's many guitar rants ) is as much a leading character as our endearing agoraphobic.

Prepare to be stirred with compassion and empathy for a man whose whole world is set in a four-storey townhouse, charming throughout its drafty discomfort and cat-sized rats.

Prepare also to be reminded of the best Nick Hornby novel: not intrusively, but by a friendly comparitive nudge.

I hope to read more of Tish Cohen's work in the near future !

Thursday, June 14, 2007


About a month ago, a shipment arrived at my bookstore bearing a copy of the most esoteric and dry looking book known to the world of literary history: An Incomplete History of the Art of Funerary Violin by Rohan Kriwaczek.

Well, what does one do with this?...gothic cover et al. Does one shelf it in history? In Music? Nay, one snatches it up and places it in the staff picks section. This book is too good to pass up, mockworthy and full of hours of random page opening.

After my coworker and I used the ireads application on Facebook to "review" this slighted piece of brilliance with high words of praise, I decided to wikipedia the book just to see what I could glean about Funerary Violins.

What I discovered and what remains the best part of the whole experience --- is that the funerary violin book is indeed a complete and utter hoax.

The publisher was hoaxed.

The agent was hoaxed.

Unsuspecting bookstore clerks who chalked it up as yet another strange history book were hoaxed.

I dare you to google it, and to dive into a labyrinth of mistruths. In an age ( *cough* James Frey and the Da Vinci Code ) where readers are forever blurred with lines crossing fact and fiction and an incessant need to read about secret societies and a tyrannical Catholic Church, research into the supposed Guild of Funerary Violinists will definitely stay your thirst.

Search Rohan Kriwaczek's website to find sound snippets of songs that never existed, to read more of Herr Hieronymous Gratchenfleiss, to be directed to the website for the Guild of Funerary Violinists, to read of Kriwaczek's made up credentials in his made-up history, to order famous cd's of funerary violinists to register to fake universities for fake courses dealing with this "forgotten" form of musicianship.


It is sheer genius, utterly fun and worth a second glance.

Also, it is destined to become a rarity, so buy the book soon. Who knows what limited run this lucky piece of work will have.


Saturday, June 09, 2007


I was lucky enough to be a reader on the Leacock Humour Award Committee this year. This means I was part of a team that selected a winner from 43 submitted entries. We narrowed them down to a shortlist and decided (along with national judges ) a winner.

Past winners have been W.O. Mitchell, Farley Mowat, Mordecai Richler and dozens of other worthy Canadians.

This year the winner was ( unsurprisingly ) Stuart McLean ( who I , like all good Canadians, love ) for his newest Vinyl Cafe compilation: Secrets from the Vinyl Cafe.

I sat at a table with very interesting people....some who had been to the very first awards ceremony in 1947 and had been coming ever since.

Out of the interesting people I talked to, Stuart McLean and Will Ferguson were the highlights.

I had met both before in passing at author events and signings ( I have been heavy in the bookselling business for almost six years now ), but was glad to have another opportunity.

Will Ferguson is a class act.

I was thrilled to be invited and hope to go again sometime.

Long live Mariposa and thriving literary awareness in small towns.

Thursday, May 31, 2007


I blog not here, I blog not there, I do not bloggeth anywhere.

and I wonder.... why? I used to blog more than once a day over here ----and now both blogs are, well, blogless.

So, I think: has the novelty worn off? It has been three years since I started my first blog; all creatively raring to go. Now with a review job and work on the never-will-be-finished-novel, I think sometimes I should return to my journal-state and let the public sphere be damned.

But, alas, how can I deprive everyone of books THEY MUST KNOW ABOUT !?!?



Austenland by Shannon Hale ---usual YA writer, Newbery winner, Austenite----writes gorgeous story about curious heroine who lives out my dream. THREE weeks in a regency-type Disneyworld. With hats and gloves, whist and cricket, too much mutton for breakfast, plays acted, books read, conversations melodiously careful in their construct and consideration---a dapple into lost art, balls and logs and bright eyes and dirty hems.... and, the piece de resistance, men in tight britches a la Darcy.

There are enough heroes to fit every Austen prototype. There are enough plot distractions to fit in every major Austen work. There is enough Ann Radcliffe ( for good measure ) to keep Northanger close in mind.

Side note: the newest BBC Austen adaptations rated by Melrose as such:

Mansfield Park **
Northanger Abbey***
Persuasion***************** ( and 45.7 on the richter scale !! ) Definitive. Delightful. Delicious! Delovely.

The good continues:

The Sun over Breda by Arturo Perez Reverte---Captain Alatriste and Diego and Dutch conflict. Bring it on.

The good continues still......

How often do you decide to read a book due to the author's note or bio blurb on the jacket? Moi? Quite often. 'Twas my initiation to perennial favourite CC Humphreys, and is now the beginning of what I hope will be a long and prosperous relationship between myself and whatever the hell Derek Landy writes for the rest of time !!

Skulduggery Pleasant is a well-tailored skeleton whose banter with 12 year old sidekick Stephanie is a page out of the gumshoe noir genre of the 1940's. They fight evil, oh yes, and not in bits and bites but throughout !! Vampires, trolls, Ctulhus ( see HP Lovecraft) OH MY !!

Still good:

No chicklit lover,I---- I took on good authority ( Courtney of Once Upon a Bookshelf) that Shanna Swensdon was one to behold. So, I read ( gulp gulp .....shhh!) Damsel Under Stress, Enchanted, Inc. and, Once Upon Stilettos. I won't go into the detail of fluff. But, the heroine is useful and has no real propensity to spend her life shopping ( yes that was a derogatory nod in a certain direction ) and the lead guy is brilliant.... the best of nerdy Clark Kent and powerful Superman--- a hybrid of wonderfulness.

Also good: Tithe, Valiant and Ironside by Holly Black. Dark faerie books for teens with an enigmatic hero worthy of Edward Cullen.

Cupcake by Rachel Cohn: the weakest of the Cyd Charisse trilogy but still a good time.

The bad and the ugly: In Search of Mockingbird by Loretta Ellsworth. Bad. Bad. Tedious and cliche, this book is everything I hate about the YA genre.... assuming the reader must be walked through the deepest emotions of its main character blandly and blatently; an assumption that the reader cannot map on their own what is pieced together overtly on the page.
Summation: Teen girl reads her dead mom's journal, discovers mom loved Harper Lee, runs away from domineering brothers and awkward father and travels on the longest bus ride any reader has ever had to sit through. She meets a couple of eccentrics and finally arrives at her destination: Monroeville Alabama, a mecca for Lee enthusiasts. The climax includes a scene in a cafe with an old lady called Nell nearby.



In the mystery genre, Maureen Jennings continues to knock my socks off.... this time, in Journeyman to Grief, she deals with issues of segregation and racism in a small " coloured" community of 19th Century Toronto.

Murdoch is awesome. Romance threads. Plot is tight.


is the teen vampire/werewolf novel Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith ( whose husband, by the way, wrote two great kids' books Tofu and T-Rex and Ninjas, Piranhas and Galileo). I did not really care for the lead character, but the writing was so beautiful and unpredictable I didn't really care.

REVISIT: Lost Laysen : a juvenalia by Margaret Mitchell and the only novella work of fiction we have of the famous Pulitzer-winner. What is most stunning about this edition is the scrapbook type layout that dominates the first three-quarters of the book. I had not read this since high school so was quite absorbed.

For lovers of Isak Dinesen, or just a sumptuous gothic tale, read Winter's Tales which completed my Dinesen collection.

I cannot recount anymore I have read since last we spoke ( there has been a lot.... including new works by Ondaatje and McEwan ) but this is what stands out.

Monday, May 14, 2007


According to this blog, we can now assume that Dean Priest is one of the great antagonists of children's literature.

It might be rebuttal time.

We shall see.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Arturo Perez-Reverte Rocks my SOCKS

-just returned from fantastic trip to the East Coast ( PEI PEI !!! )

-there really is a Priest Pond ( home of Dean Priest in ...wonderful)

-I am now a member of the LM Montgomery Land Trust ( PRESERVE PEI! )

-I am a slacker who never writes in her blog

-I love Somerset Maugham

-the Captain Alatriste series is very very worth it.....finished Captain Alatriste and Purity of Blood in Nova Scotia. Now reading the latest Sun over Breda. According to there is a Captain Alatriste movie that has been shown already in Spain with Viggo Mortensen. Hope we get it here.

Monday, April 23, 2007

back to real life.

shows over. was a tremendous success. got very little sleep. loved singing half of "In His Eyes" every night.

now, I am reading a book.

so.... a treat

some Man of La Mancha lyrics!

DON QUIXOTE (Smiling, sill keeping his eyes averted) Did my lady think to put me to a test? Ah, sweet sovereign of my captive heart. I shall not fail thee, for I know... I have dreamed thee too long, Never seen thee or touched thee. But known thee with all of my heart.
Half a prayer, half a song, Thou hast always been with me, Though we have been always apart. Dulcinea... Dulcinea... I see heaven when I see thee, Dulcinea, And thy name is like a prayer An angel whispers... Dulcinea... Dulcinea!
If I reach out to thee, Do not tremble and shrink From the touch of my hand on thy hair. Let my fingers but see Thou art warm and alive, And no phantom to fade in the air. Dulcinea... Dulcinea...
I have sought thee, sung thee, Dreamed thee, Dulcinea! Now I've found thee, And the world shall know thy glory, Dulcinea... Dulcinea!

Sunday, April 08, 2007


Amazing Grace is a fantastic movie.

Won't be updating a lot in the next few weeks because I play a lead role in ANOTHER literary adaptation; that of Jekyll and Hyde the musical version.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

some good ARC'S

For those of us in the book biz, ARC stands for Advanced Reader's Copy.

I landed some fun today!

Ironside by Holly Black ( incidentally, I just finished Valiant and Tithe

the new NEIL GAIMAN ( a collection of short stories for release this summer )

Pendragon 8 ---the name which escapes me right now.

good times. good reads.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

desert island.

Okay, unexpectedly ( and largely due to facebook and my part in the Spring Musical in my town ), I have been absent. I also joined two committees and finished my role as reader for a Canadian literary award.

That being done, and wanting to come back with a *bang! *, here I am again----with some desert island picks.

I have been skulking in the blogger background and reading some people's memes about the books they cannot live without.

I could never choose five ( are you kidding ) , or ten ( too low, still ) and so fifteen was a challenge for me:

but here it is:



In no particular order:

1.) Les Miserables by Victor Hugo--- the size itself would keep my happy for a long while.

2.) The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery----Barney has an island. Perchance if I am stuck on an island he will show up....wishful thinking.

3.)Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte ----funny thing is, from a literary standpoint, I always list Villette as my favourite of her works and one of my top five books, but I cannot imagine being stranded without Thornfield or Rochester

4.)Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen-----we deserted castaways need something representative of Austen, so this is my pick of her works. It is my representation of the whole Austen canon, if not my personal Austen favourite.

5.) The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain ----I love this book. It makes me laugh, it makes me cry. It has that uncanny ability to capture Twain's humorous heart, acts as a perfect YA novel ( we all know how I love those ) and is a riproaring representative of the historical fiction genre.

6.)Vienna Prelude by Bodie Thoene---- not a great work of literature, no. But, it is my Christmas book ---and even we marooned on islands need to celebrate the holidays.

7.) The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ---Do not try to tell me this doesn't count because it acts as a range of different stories....they all come in the same friggin' book . I sell many editions that boast the "Complete" works. So there. It's in!
No cheating.

8.) Great Expectations by Charles Dickens---Once again, this is a tough choice because Our Mutual Friend is probably my favourite of all things Dickensian. However, GE and I have the most history and we go the furthest back. And, like Austen, I feel it is a good representation of his tone, voice, setting....tis a complete package

9.) North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell ---- I need Mr. Thornton. I need Mr. Thornton

10.) Christy by Catherine Marshall. Girl moves to the Smokies in the early 20th Century to teach school to the mountain people and live at a mission there. Upon arrival, she meets two fascinating men who both fall equally in love with her. Every girl's dream.

11. ) According to Jake and the Kid by W.O. Mitchell ----- We outcasts need to laugh and The King of All Country remains one of the funniest short stories in my memory. Further still, the Canadian content on my island needs to be maintained.

12.) HMS Surprise by Patrick O'Brian---- Picking one Aubrey/Maturin book out of the lot is a dismal prospect, but, being thus so, I cho-cho-choose this one !

13.) The Stargazey by Martha Grimes ---You think for one second I would go to my island without Melrose Plant. Humph!

14.) Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers ---- theologically intuned, romantically sprawled amidst gothic spires, lots of Wimsey and that brilliant, fiesty, feminist Harriet Vane, I am packing her in my bag!

15.) Horatio Lyle by Catherine Webb ----a recent acquistion, I have only been Lyle's acquaintance for a year, but he is the embodiment of everything that makes YA literature my passion. Funny, smartly written, filled to the brim with eccentric characters that make my heart leap---and all by a 19 year old.

Hope the hiatus is over. If anyone still reads this, welcome back.

OH ------------and by the way!!! The Lies of Locke Lamora is BRILLIANT !

I am getting the ARC for the second one and anxiously check my mailbox everyday!

Wednesday, February 28, 2007


I have not been reading ( SHOCK! GASP! GACK! EEP! )

because I have been watching an insane amount of Battlestar Galactica ( thanks to my friend James; the stage manager of the musical I am in ).

In essence, it is so brilliantly written, cleverly told and currently relevant, that it is like sinking into a good book.

I do not condone tv as a substitute for literature, but every once in awhile, it is nice to have some escapism.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


If I were in charge of Canada, February 22nd, birthday of one Mr. Morley Callaghan, would be a national holiday.

As the only thing I am in charge of is a little corner of the universe in a little bookstore, I will have to sit here, chin in hand, and ponder the greatness of one of my favourite canuck authors.

Morley Callaghan would have been 100 years old today. And what a jam-packed century he would have had. He already filled more than a lifetime usually allots in the first fifty years. His best writing was done when he was young, his greatest adventures played out mighty early, and all of his literary flings and acclaims came at a young age.

Yes, I have romanticized Morley's early years, what with their splash of Parisian panache ( and what with his clobbering of Ernest Hemingway---- don't make me get into the climax of That Summer in Paris as a Canadian literary metaphor again ), but he defines a golden age of sorts for me. I envision him wandering aimlessly around 1920's Toronto---every snippet of his life reading out of the pages of his novel, A Varsity Story. I imagine him, as I often was, curled up in one of the red leather chairs of the Hart House Library at U of T and looking over the courtyards and spires, slightly interrupted by the pealing of the tower bell.

And then, there is Paris and Morley's dappling into the lives of the Literary Elite. He defines Paris for me. Whenever I think of it with its dazzling life, parties and pizazz, I rarely think of anything I did not read of in the pages of Callaghan's autobiography. Forget We Were all so Young or A Movable Feast. Canadians had their own agent in the flapper years!

Further, my personal conceptions of Fitzgerald, James Joyce and ( especially ) Hemingway, are solely accumulated from Callaghan's perspective. Far be it for me to take anyone else's word on how these literary giants were. Morley Callaghan's word is the definitive one.

Finally, there is the sense of melancholy I feel when I leaf through his brilliant short stories ( soaked in Catholic consciousness and always sewn together with bittersweet nostalgia) and re-read his colourful memoir. I pine for his life lost as if I personally had lived it.

What an author is that who paints life so acutely you feel its triumphs and travails!

Tonight I am at a dinner celebrating Callaghan with a speaker who knows his works more intimately than any of his many admirers could hope for. I am excited and invigorated and anxious to experience That Summer once more.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


I have been busy and boring and facebook is eating my brain.

So, I have decided to send you to other blogs as a little field trip, just until I finish reading the jaw-droppingly awesome The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch which may require a second read.

Hey! Scott Lynch! He has a blog. Go visit it.

And because every day should be a national CC Humphreys appreciation day, you should read his blog too.

Not done? How about newbie blogger Simon Scarrow.
In his profile, he lists I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith as one of his favourite books. Enough said.

I love that authors are jumping on this bandwagon.

Promise to be more diligent. But I have reviews to write and people to see !

Thursday, February 08, 2007


Okay. My town has a lot. The banks are taller than I am in places, and I am 5"9 so that is not always fun.

Here is a reader update.

I have recently discovered FACEBOOK and it has devoured all of my blogging time.

Grania by Morgan Llywellen ( which I know I spelled wrong ). Tells the story of Grace O'Malley the pirate queen paralleling her with Elizabeth I. I read it in an afternoon on the weekend. It is exciting and fun. I loved Tigernan the secretly adoring ship's mate.
( the fact that the latest musical by Boubil/Schonberg entitled the Pirate Queen is almost in previews has had no influence on my recent Grace O'Malley splurge ;)

They Shall Inherit The Earth by Morley Callaghan. One of his better novels I would have to say. I love Morley Callaghan, but his later novels are disastrous. This is one of the first so it was well within the reign of his highest genius.

The Hydrofoil Mystery by Eric Walters. Eric is arguably one of my favourite YA discoveries. He never writes without purpose or the exploration of something scintillating, relative, challenging or new.

Our 15 year old gambling protagonist lands a job at Alexander Graham Bell's Nova Scotian estate in Baddeck. There, he helps unravel a dangerous plot to unfurl every teensy secret about Graham Bell's latest invention: a hydrofoil watercraft that will foil the best laid German uboat plans and rule the waves with its breakneck speed.

Americans always appropriate Graham Bell, but he spent a lot of time in Nova Scotia. I am happy that Canadians are changing the tenuous relationship surfacely seen in our relationship with him and digging deeper into his roots here.

I am very excited about reading The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. It should arrive any day. It was a novel that started on a blog that has been recently optioned for film. Sounds beautiful.

Saw the BBC adaptation of Pullman's The Ruby in the Smoke the other night on Masterpiece Theatre. Garland was exactly how I pictured him. Not a strong screenplay despite the excellent source material.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


I hate filling out grad school applications.

So, I have not finished a book lately because I have been tapping away at statements of purpose.

Here is what I am just starting: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

It is gorgeous.

And here is what I will NOT be reading anytime soon, thank you very much:

The Castle in the Forest by Norman Mailer

Monday, January 22, 2007


Okay. Here is a weekend roundup:

The Painted Veil by a relatively new discovery of mine, W. Somerset Maugham, is the perfect thaw to the January chill. Sure, its erudite tragedy unfurls so subtly its climax catches your heart , but the denouement ( a doctor and his unfaithful wife discovering almost absurd grace in Cholera- ravaged China ) is worth a ride.
Walter Fane has not let go of me since I first read of him. The consummate silent mourner, the affair his beautiful (and much loved wife ) betrays him with, cuts deeper than I would have initially thought.
In a catapulting joint suicide-pact, they fall in love ( Walter once more, Kitty for the first time ), amidst illness and strife. Trust Maugham to paint a love story in its perverse " Love in the Time of..." way.

Loving Will Shakespeare by Carolyn Meyer

A renowned historical novelist for the teen age, Meyer crafts a winsome and believable Stratford-Upon-Avon in the years when it housed a budding poet and the comely older girl he would eventually fall for. Setting the stage for an almost preternatural courtship, Will ( a fiesty performer ) and Agnes ( Anne as he likes to call her ) attend the same grammar school and engage in light conversation.

Virginia Woolf ponders "If Shakespeare had a sister...." and this one does. A sister, a mother, a father a thatched-roof house and an existence in a middle-class family of glovemakers , neighbours to the Hathaways. Narrated by Agnes, the tale takes us to the Black Death, the esteemed visit of Elizabeth I to Robin Dudley's castle, and through the heated attraction of Agnes to a swarthy farmhand.

Not lasting literature, in my opinion, and sprinkled with obvious cliches ( Will compares Agnes to a Summer's day) it is nonetheless a picturesque portrait of early Elizabethan England framing two unlikely lovers and setting the stage for the world's greatest playwright.

Dust by Martha Grimes

It is hard to know how best to whet your insatiable Grimesian appetite. Do you gobble in a quick devour, do you slowly chew unthreading the plot by each, colourful and humorous string?
After finishing a Grimes completely satisfied, cliffhanger or not, I bound about in a euphoria I reserve for very few things. The blast of a Jury/Plant romp hits with jubilant force--- I laugh, sometimes tear, and burst on each page with wide-eyed wonderment. To say nothing of her prose ( carefully calculated strokes of a master brush), her palatable wit, her literary flair (Dust is set partly at Lamb House, oft occupied a century ago by Henry James.... and where he penned Golden Bowl, Wings and Ambassadors) and her characters.

Melrose Plant. Melrose Plant. Melrose Plant:

As says The Stargazey: "Melrose smiled his special smile, the one he was not wholly conscious he had, but it was as fetching as the smile of a very young child. It was, like the work of Matisse, Vuillard, and Van Gogh, the real thing on offer. It invited you in"

Melrose and art intertwined. Synonymous, in my opinion.
The kind of character that makes me want to be an author. Remaining one of the greatest discoveries of my literary life. So real, visceral, engaging, I often look up from a Grimes novel shocked that he is not sitting across from me so clear is his image in my mind's eye.

The Dickensian connection so many reviewers make is well founded. The children, dogs, caricatures, setting--- the melange of police procedural, comedy of manners and tea cosy a near-Victorianesque ( because I dwell on it so much ) frothy treat.

If she wasn't so damned smart, I might write her as my guilty pleasure. Happy thought that she can be candy and still a hybrid of Dickens, Sayers and Doyle all rolled into a comfy ball.

I feel proud that I discovered her, like I keep a sneaky delectable secret from the masses yet unitiated---still wandering to Elizabeth George for fulfilment.

Ha! Grimes did it first. And I am onto something oh deprived Non-Grimes readers!

I know something you don't know! And you are missing one helluva literary feast !

Shattered Eric Walters recently won UNESCO International Award for Literature in the service of tolerance. In this mindblowing YA book profoundly interrupted by the horror of the Rwandan genocide, I find myself an acute believer in Walters and his power of pen.
Ian works at a downtrodden soup kitchen inching hours toward a social science credit. There, he meets Jacques, a poignant former soldier who seems most of mundane humanity as butchered as any horror movie; atrocity forever embedded in his mind after his service in Rwanda.
In a series of harsh truths about society's easy dismissal and judgment of the homeless and the derelict, Walters spins a young man's viewpoint at a 360 angle, forcing the reader to come away as the protagonist has: a little saddened, a little wiser, a little better for the experience.
Coupled with an introduction by Romeo Dallaire, endorsing the text with a stamp of worthy validity, readers follow with a glimpse into the brilliant mind of a writer whose agenda deserves highest praise.

Summers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn.

My friend Cathy recommended this as a lowkey fantasy/romance. It's a very sweet thing with a pinch of faerie magic. Coriel spends her summers at court where the roguish red-headed king-to-be captures her heart and the horsemaster Roderick and ever-present Kentley, secure her sense of adventure and fun. Shinn departs from the convention in the guise of the aliora---beautiful, waif-like creatures hunted from their pixie world beyond the castle walls and subjected to slavery within. In a paradoxical twist, the castle itself undergoes an upheaval of demise.
This book put me in mind of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park and the imaginative and forthright Fanny soon (as Coriel is ) disenchanted by her guardians doings and the mass failings of his eldest son. A girl caught in a wbe of dark deceit, while trying to uphold the sense of release she felt as a child with her cousin Edmund.

Friday, January 19, 2007


Michelle Williams of Dawson's Creek (egad) is playing Charlotte Bronte.

Now, I am not saying she was horrid in Brokeback, but Charlotte Bronte is sacred territory.

She should tread carefully.

Have been watching Elizabeth I w/ Helen Mirren and Jeremy Irons. Quite the screenplay, I assure you.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


There are two things in the world I really love: a.) Aubrey and b.) Maturin. I love them so much that ever since I first stepped onto their quarterdeck and a.) shook Aubrey's hand and b.) threw my arms around Stephen, I have been trying my darndest to find another nautical series that will throw me for the loop they did.

And where have I been and in what strange, exotic waters? Think Frederick Marryatt ( whose name I never spell correctly ), C.S. Forester, Nathaniel Drinkwater, Dewey Lambdin, Alexander Kent and Julian Stockwin ( to name a few ).

And out of the dozens of nautical authors I have read since ( do not ask me to name all of them: I even read through Jonathan Lunn's Killigrew books---a hybrid of mystery and age-of-sail), I have never found my replica. How do you repeat perfection?

Well. Definitely not with Julian Stockwin. Yes, that sounds harsh. But, the irony is, he is the one author of the aforementioned I have followed from the beginning. Now, the seventh book, Command, has recently closed on my nighttable and I am left to ponder the question I always ponder ( atleast through the last seven Stockwins ) Why do I keep reading them? Why do I make sure I order them around publication date and eventually devote a sitting just to them? Someone could easily assert they are bad O'Brian cliches, that even the CHARACTERS are bad O'Brian cliches ( Renzi the philosopher who skulks moodily in a wavy purgatory to compensate for an ancient family sin), that the writing oozes out in such a forced manner that one is put in mind of Jennifer Connelly's sloppy speech in A Beautiful Mind: the film that made me realize people ACHE for Oscar's oft reflected in sentimentalized screenplay.

And the answer I found as I tripped through Kydd's bad dialogue ( I loathe the accented dialect Stockwin tries so hard to give him), the major lack of Renzi, his reappearance, his token " I love Cecilia what to do" scene and the choppy battle sequences was this:

Because I genuinely like Julian Stockwin. I have never met him. I know little about him... save that he served in the navy and donated a scrap of historical wood to a darling little bookshop in Halifax. Yet, I really do like him. I liked him from the moment I first read his author note (Aside: I love author notes. See CC Humphreys for guidance on these as a craft) which was steeped with humility and excitement. He and his wife are thrilled to be writing these books. He is living a dream. He obviously researches impeccably and has first-hand experience to boot.

Further, he started with a generally refreshing take on the world of nautical wonder. Thomas Kydd is pressed into service and learns the ropes and gleefully steps up in the nautical world and a myriad of adventures as he learns to love the sea in the way O'Brian taught the world to.

I see this parallel in Julian Stockwin. After the demise of the master, O'Brian, publishers must have been scrambling over each other to find the next star. Who wouldn't stumble upon Kydd and Renzi? Their friendship, indeed the whole Sharpe-ish climb from the bottom to the top of the mizzen mast seeps with potential.

Aye, but therein lies the problem. I finished book seven and am still flabberghasted by the potential.

This one proved more strongly than others that perhaps this infamous potential may someday be fully realized, but until Stockwin decides exactly what he wants to do and the stories do not seem like a work-out of a revised draft, I will have to close them again and again waiting for next year and admit, as always, that I really really like Julian Stockwin. I just wish I could say the same about his books.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


Last night I went to see Miss Potter and believe me, it was well worth the wait.

I am currently up to my nose in a Potter project and will unravel more about her when I finish Linda Lear's scrumptious new biography: Beatrix Potter, a Life in Nature.

Until then, and before I head off to sell books at a J.L. Granatstein (the king of Canadian History ) event, let me leave you with some reviews of Dust; the new Martha Grimes novel.

She is one of the few authors I consistently buy in hardcover. For a soon-to-be peek at the new Grimesean wonder ( hits shelves Tuesday), read this!

The only thing I like better than a new Grimes novel, is a bag full of lollipops. Actually, having them both together is sheer bliss.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Busy reading and reviewing so here is a list of some YA novels of note I have consumed recently.

The Dashwood Sisters' Secrets of Love by Rosemary Rushton: Sense and Sensibility for teens!

Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman. Pride and Prejudice for teens. Winsome and witty. Smarter than the Rushton.

A Pickpocket's Tale by Karen Schwabach. Little Londoner is sent on a slave ship from Newgate to New York. Lives with a Jewish family while there. Schwabach paints a dazzling canvas of yesteryear while silmultaneously brushing readers up on Jewish traditions. What did a nineteenth century synagogue look like? Equal amounts of yiddish and flash cant pepper the language.

Snowfall KM Peyton. Stifled Charlotte leaves the promise of a dismal marriage and her aged cleric grandfather to hike in the alps with her brother and his Oxford friends. Love in many forms and adventures nearly unfathomable to most Victorian ladies abounds.

Ida B. by Katherine Hannigan. Ida is an irrepressible homeschooled child who spends her days communicating with the trees in her orchard and maximizing the potential of fun ( one of her many plans ). An engaging narrator, Ida B. relays the tale of her mother's sudden illness and her reinstatement into the public school system, not to mention her further relations with the most inspiring grade four teacher in recent literature ( a reason she is labelled Ms. Washington; she is a cornerstone of morality and nobility and inspiration ). Cancer is not sugarcoated here, nor Ida B's many conflicting emotions. Hannigan has given you a shovel to dig into the furthest recesses and cavernous curves of a young mind, and you will be more than happy to explore.

The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie Jaclyn Moriarty: the upper grade librarian's heaven sent for reluctant readers. Funny funny stuff.... and smart.

The Year of Secret Assignments. Also Moriarty. Read this now.

500 Great Books for Teens by Anita Silvey. Brilliant reference that expands on the gap that bridges Young Adults from Adult books. A must for anybody who is interested in this demogrraphic. Silvey was once chief editor at the Horn Book.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

because Norman Warne makes me heart sing....

a teeny bit excited about this

Ewan MacGregor looks like Norman---so that is a good thing.

And I am all for authors falling for their publishers. It just adds a little spark to the romance.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


Ever see something and shout :" Hey! I know this guy!?"

This author was my first floor manager at my fantastic yellow bookstore job. He was awesome and smart and articulate and driven and no one deserves the success of publication more.

Pre-order this. From my memory, this author is obsessed with achingly beautiful prose and magical realism. Let us hope, then, that his life is a stip of velcro that has somehow accumulated the absolute sparkle of everything he loves and dedicates his time to..........

ECW writes:

Collecting linguistic oddities, scraps of images, bits of text, and hybridized references, Rick Crilly cuts-up and collages, disassembles and recreates an anatomical mystery where a blank page becomes a meditation on grief, and a crossed out word is a librarian’s scalpel. The Tablecloth Trick whips away the artifice between Fiction and fact (that''s Fiction with a capital F — because Plato loved capital letters, after all) to see what, if anything, is left standing.

Ha! Brilliance. I'm going to stock my indy bookstore with it.