Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Why Ottawa is the snow Capital of the World

Some snow totals as of last night at midnight, for Ottawa, Canada's capital city, where I live:

-296 cm of snow has fallen so far, this winter. That is equivalent to 9 1/2 feet of snow.
- We only have 48 cm left on the ground, from our two recent thaws in February, one of which was Sunday night through yesterday.
-73 cm of snow has fallen so far in February.
And....we have had 18 days in February, out of 19, where some form of snow has fallen!!!!!

I just thought you, Gentle Reader, would like to know why I keep mentioning snow in my blogs......and this is for my sister Patricia in New Brunswick, who keeps complaining about shovelling out there also.

We are not at our all time record for snow, that stands another 130 cm more - close to a couple of metres of snow would have to fall, that was set in 1971 - but we are surpassing many other Ottawa records set for snowfall.

The only thing we can't complain about is the cold. We really have had only 3 or 4 days of real cold - below -10c for our high, which is just below 0 fahrenheit, I think - not like in the Prairies, where they have just endured a deep freeze for most of the month. I'd rather get the snow than the cold! I could just do with seeing the sun once in a while! I think I wore my sunglasses once, and only on two other days could I have, this winter!

My next blog will be back to books. I am making my way through The Canadian Settler's Handbook with great delight, but as I am back at work now, my bonus time while being sick and home is gone now. And I can't find a copy of Ulysses anywhere, for my February birthday reading, which surprises me. With two universities in this city, I thought copies would be plentiful, but so far , I can't find it in used or new bookstores. I have to decide quickly, I'm running out of time.

So, from cold and snowy Ottawa - we have some more colder days coming now - I bid you goodnight, and hope you have a good book to curl up with, too.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Mr Darcy and Lizzie, Part Two

After a day of freezing rain, I sat down to watch Part Two of Pride and Prejudice in Masterpiece Theatre with great delight and pleasure. It was two hours of escape to a sunnier (for the most part, a couple of scenes were in winter! bah!) England. Tonight we got to visit the Peak District and Pemberly, and see Darcy make his first proposal to Lizzie.
I so enjoy this version of Pride and Prejudice. All the actors and actresses suit their parts perfectly. Colin Firth's Mr Darcy is almost dark with disdain and pride in the first part. By this version, he is more open and his eyes light up when he sees Lizzie, and he of course is pleasant - talking! - to Lizzie's Aunt and uncle at Pemberly when he first makes their acquaintance. We see the hideous character of Wickham finally revealed, and Darcy in a completely new light, when he writes his letter to Lizzie. This is a crucial part of the story, as, has been expressed in many other places by other readers and critics, we finally get to see Darcy's innermost thoughts, his view of the world, we get to see his passion and his ethics, and that he has great strength of character. And he is proud! But we get to see that Lizzie has been proud too, and how his declaration of love, along with the letter defending himself to her, begins to change her opinion of him. All along, of course, whenever they talk to each other, it is clear they are well-matched and made for each other - their equals. It is a delight to watch Lizzie come to realize this. I was most startled when the episode ended, I was enjoying it so much.
As for Jennifer Ehle, she plays Lizzie exactly as she is written in the book - with a sparkling personality, opinions, wit, charm, someone anyone would want for a best friend (never mind Darcy's wife).
I hope you are enjoying this version as well, Gentle Reader. It is so delightful!

Saturday, 16 February 2008


My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Milady the Right Reverend Susan the Excited of Leighton in the Bucket
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

Go to http://www.masquerademaskarts.com/memes/yourtitle.php
to see who you are!

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Ysabel, Owls and Other Fantasies, and Happy Valentine's Day to you!

Ysabel - Guy Gavriel Kay. I finished "Ysabel" on Tuesday. Guy Gavriel Kay has based the story on Celtic ritual and myth, but not a specific myth. At first I found this difficult to understand, but as the story moved along, I found it interesting. A bit of the Celtic belief in the afterlife and the soul are explored, but mostly, mainly, this is a story about the mythic landscape in Europe, and the mixing of Celtic and Roman history on the same sites. What makes a site powerful? Why? What was the site used for? Why do we resonate with some? These are some of the questions "Ysabel" brings up. I can't say any more, without giving the plot away, except to say the protagonist is a 15 year old boy, who discovers why the area he is visiting resonates with him. It ended much more powerfully than I thought it would. This is an excellent fantasy set in modern day France, one I highly recommend to YA fiction readers as well as fantasy readers.

Guy Gavriel Kay has been writing in the fantasy field for over 20 years now. I first read The Fionavar Tapestry - his first books, a trilogy - back in the mid 1980's when it was first published, and it was a series that for me, set the standard for writing fantasy that is partially set in today's world. The Fionavar Tapestry begins in the modern world, as does Ysabel; the Fionavar trilogy then moves to a fantasy Celtic world where the large part of the story occurs. Ysabel takes place in France; the mythic world overlaps here. In this I see a change in part of the fantasy world, a movement from going between worlds, to settling fantasy into this world. Like Charles de Lint's Widdershins which I posted on earlier this year, I enjoy very much fantasy set in this world. It brings back the capacity to see magic here, to see the world is full of imagination here, as all the folktales suggest. A final note, 'Ysabel" has made me want to go visit these historical sites in southern France now!

There are of course many ways of writing a fantasy series as the genre has existed for over 100 years now. I read alot of fantasy, having first discovered Tolkien in my teens. I don't read alot of sword and sorcery magic because I find the worst of it derivative; but I will read the best fantasy books. I love myth, and storytelling, and to me fantasy allows us to reach to those stories that speak of fires and shadows and night, that go back to myths and images we all know instinctively. There is power in myth that our souls resonate to, Joseph Campbell said over and over, and for me, fantasy is one way for us to access that power. Both Charles de Lint and Guy Gavriel Kay engage in this kind of mythic writing, with varying degrees of success in the various books and subjects they have done over the years. For me, de Lint's Newford books are amazing, and Kay's Sailing to Sarantium series (2 volumes) stand out. I want to write something similar to de Lint's Newford series, I find it so powerful! Where I blend myth and the modern city or town landscape.

Owls and Other Fantasies - Mary Oliver
It took me some time to read this poetry book, because I would dip into it and savour it a poem at a time. This is my first encounter with Oliver, who writes of the natural world from a naturalist's point of view. She has won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, as well as a National Book Award. This is one of her most recent collections, published in 2003.

There is no heavy Romantic flights of fantasy or sermonizing in raptures; just a quiet, elegant, thoughtful, realistic look at nature and the rewards for our imagination if we look and listen carefully. "Such Singing in the Wild Branches" is among my favourite poems in this collection; "The Swan", which I put down here on Feb 2, "Backyard", "September", "Little Owl Who Lives in the Orchard", and the essay "Owls". Mary Oliver is no sentimentalist; she writes of the death the owl brings, and the hawk, as well as the beauty of the loon's song, the meadowlark and swan. This is a collection of poetry that bears reading and reading again, and then again, to savor the images, the richness of imagination that Oliver brings. Here is 'The Loon on Oak-Head Pond', talking about a sound that is inescapably part of my Canadian landscape, as well as our American friends to the south, where Oliver has lived all her life:

The Loon on Oak Head-Pond

cries for three days, in the gray mist.
cries for the north it hopes it can find.

plunges, and comes up with a slapping pickerel.
blinks its red eye.

cries again.

you come every afternoon, and wait to hear it.
you sit a long time, quiet, under the thick pines,
in the silence that follows.

as though it were your own twilight.
as though it were your own vanishing song.

- Mary Oliver

My favourite walks are along the Ottawa River, where we have miles of walkway especially created for pedestrians and cyclists. I live near Mud Lake, a bird sanctuary and nature preserve by the Ottawa River, in the city of Ottawa. So, even in the city, I am fortunate to be able to see owls, hawks, turkey vultures, and a whole host of summering birds in the bird sanctuary, plus the winter birds like the blue jay, cardinal, sparrows and chickadees. Being in nature restores my soul like nothing else can, and so I felt like I had found a soul similar to mine in reading Mary Oliver's poetry. I will be looking for more of her books!

Finally - Happy Valentine's Day to you! I wish you joy with your loved ones today, Gentle Reader, and if you are far from home, or alone today, then spend it reading a book or author that you love, or do something that you love. I find, in this post Sept 11 world, a little bit of love is healing and reminds me that we can rebuild the world one act of kindness at a time. Love is about connecting, so I wish you all the love your heart can hold today, Gentle Reader!

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

On a sunny Tuesday in February


This is the site for the accompanying picture. What more could anyone ask for? A cup of tea, a pile of books, a comfy armchair, and time to read. In this month of February - snow storms, sunny COLD days, snow a foot deep everywhere - this is how I plan to fill my time while I dream of green and spring coming.

I am home sick with this virus - I now have swollen glands and a doctor's note - so, I have time to read! Bliss! everyone at work and daycare, the house is quiet......winter is supposed to be the time for dreaming, looking ahead to the year and making plans for when spring does finally come. So, between naps, I can slow down to the pulse of the earth which is in dream-time now, and rest and heal, and dream for this year. I can slip between the covers of books, I can read to my heart's content for the next couple of days. Since my body is now making me forcing me to slow down, I will! I'm listening! I'm reading!!!

And more snow is due tonight and tomorrow! It's -20c right now outside - bloody cold - so, even if I were tempted, I don't want to go outside! Some hardy Canadian I am, I hate really cold weather. It is like everything - the universe itself - is conspiring to get me to stay indoors and stay still! See? I'm now going to leave the computer and go to open the cover of the book I'm reading, Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay.......

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Pride and Prejudice, Part One

Heaven! bliss! I saw Mr Darcy tonight! PBS Masterpiece Theatre, showing the 1985 version of Pride and Prejudice. I laughed at the wit, the repartee between Darcy and Lizzie, and shuddered with her at her awful family, I delighted at the storytelling and plots so neatly laid out, the characters of everyone. I've seen the Keira Knightely version so often these past two years that I'd forgotten how much I like this Mr Bennet, and how mean Bingley's sisters are to the Bennets and all the Meryton society. There will never be anyone like Colin Firth for Mr Darcy, and Jennifer Ehle as Lizzy, for me.
I suppose I should talk more about the writing, but first let me say, this is one of the most perfect 6 hours of tv viewing as there ever will be, for me.

What I will talk about is how Austen uses the Bennets middle-class status to show the range of classes in the English countryside, a subject she knew well, and how character defects are in all the classes. The levels of society are clearly pointed out in this version, with the Bingleys, Darcy, and Lady Catherine de Burgh at the top, followed by Sir William Lucas - and the Bingley girls are very catty and point out he was a shopkeeper before his knighthood was granted, thereby making it clear he comes from a lower level than they; and then the Bennets, and finally the rest of Meryton society. Austen takes great care to show the drunkenness of Bingley's brother-in-law, the inappropriateness of Sir Lucas offering to introduce the Bingley girls to London society, and Mr Collins horrible name- dropping of his benefactress, Lady Catherine de Burgh. Bad behaviour is not limited to the lesser classes, as evinced by Mr Darcy the first time he refuses to dance with Lizzie, and Sir Lucas again when he congratulates them on their fine dancing and points out everyone is hoping for the match between Mary and Charles to be announced. Good manners is for everyone, and not limited to wealth or social status. Wit, intelligence, kindness, also are not limited to social status, in Pride and Prejudice. It is part of Austen's skill and the movie's enduring charm that she writes about these character flaws so accurately, and everyone has a flaw, even the saintly Mary who doesn't show how she feels about Charles, thus leading Darcy to suspect wrongly that she hadn't lost her heart to him at all. Lizzie is wrong about Wickham, Darcy is wrong about Mary, Lizzie, and in not telling everyone about Wickham in the beginning, Bingley learns he has to make his own choices and not rely on Darcy's opinion. All the characters and actions are linked - Lydia is as shallow and impulsive as her mother, and one wonders how Mr Bennet could have married his wife, and it must have been almost as hasty and ill-advised - though luckily turning out much better because of Mr Bennet's character and situation, than Wickham and Lydia do. All around, Mary and Lizzie see bad marriages. The happiest ones seem to be Lizzie's aunt and uncle, who take her to Pemberly. When Charlotte says one should marry first and only learn about the flaws afterward, Lizzie is shocked; but this foreshadows Charlotte marrying Mr Collins - and has a more obsequious character ever been written? He makes me shudder - without knowing much about him at all - she accepts very quickly after little acquaintance! and Lizzie marrying Darcy knowing all about him, including his sister, and seeing his family home, first. Pride and Prejudice is of course where Charlotte represents the spinster, that Anne represented in Persuasion. We don't see her accepting Mr Collins in this episode - that comes next week - and when Mr Collins comes along, we see her tonight squaring her shoulders before taking him home for dinner to her parents, and so it doesn't come as a surprise later when she accepts him, even though it does because it is Mr Collins! Ugh! but in early 1800 England, in your late 20's, would you say yes? I couldn't, I'd have to be like Lizzie....but that's for next week. This week, was the setting up of all the plots, the stories, the characters.

There are so many levels of storytelling in Pride and Prejudice that it can be seen, and read, many times, and there is always something new to discover. Tonight, for instance, I saw the bad manners in the higher levels of society - especially Sir Lucas's, - and I looked for Mary to show she was attached to Bingley and I couldn't find it. Oh, this is such a good filmed version of the book!

And I suppose one of the most enduring qualities of this work is that when Darcy slights Lizzie in the beginning, every one of us has been there at some time in our lives, too, and have reacted like she did, becoming blind to any good characteristics the offending person had. This is part of the wonder of this movie (and book) - and a reason why I think her work is read 200 years after it was written. She has caught people at their best and worst, and no matter how long the human race exists, these are essential human characteristics she is writing about. Rich or poor, merchant or sailor, spinster or married or devout vicar, orphan or with lots of family, people's essential character and reactions remain the same. The wonder is that no one has written in 400 years, quite like Jane Austen, either.
I hope, Gentle Reader, that you enjoyed it as well. It sets the tone nicely for Valentine's Day later this week! Mr Darcy can be my valentine every time, any time!

Saturday, 9 February 2008

I need another challenge!!! but this one is irresistible....

Here I go again!!! Another irresistible challenge! But easily attained, as most of the books are already in other challenges for this year. And, I want to read more history, so here I've combined history/biography, and historical fiction. And this is the last challenge I am joining this year!!! (Maybe.....)
My list is (since the site has requested it in a separate blog to make it more easy to locate):

  • A Gentlewoman in Upper Canada - ed by H.H. Langton - journal
  • Outlander - Diana Gabaldon - novel
  • Beowulf - (888 Classics) - literature
  • The Iliad - Homer (888 Classics) - literature
  • A History of Reading - Alberto Manguel (Canadian Book Challenge) - history - DONE
  • Cryptonomicon - Neal Stephenson (I am going to read this book this year!) - Chunkster Challenge - novel
  • The Other Boleyn Girl - Philippa Gregory -novel
  • Suite Francaise - Irene Nemirovsky - novel - DONE
  • The Life of Charlotte Bronte - Elizabeth Gaskell (888 Non-fiction) - biography
  • The Canadian Settler's Guide - Catherine Parr Traill (Canadian Book Challenge) autobiography/pioneer guide - DONE March 2008
  • 1599 - A Year in the Life of Shakespeare - James Shapiro (Shakespeare Challenge) - biography
  • Persuasion - Jane Austen (888 Classics, Jane Austen Mini Challenge) - novel
Happy Reading!

Alternate: The House of the Spirits - Isabel Allende - history - DONE June 2008

Friday, 8 February 2008


This is a challenge running from Feb 24 to June 30, 2008. You can register at the site, and there is also this year's list of banned books by the Pelham Library to choose from as well as past years'. I have chosen five books:
1. Inkheart - Cornelia Funke
2. Suite Francaise - Irene Nemirovsky
3. Ulysses - James Joyce
4. Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
5. A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle

Nothing like a challenge to get me moving, especially as I did find a list of banned books in Canada and put it on my computer and hadn't gotten around to choosing any for this year. I also like how Feb 24 is Freedom to Read Week in Canada! I believe in that!

Let me know if you decide to join the challenge. I still can't get over Stephen King being banned this year. I would have added some of his, and I might still do, if I get the others read in time.

Booking Through Thursday

Today's question is: Okay, even I can’t read ALL the time, so I’m guessing that you folks might voluntarily shut the covers from time to time as well… What else do you do with your leisure to pass the time? Walk the dog? Knit? Run marathons? Construct grandfather clocks? Collect eggshells?

My answer: I write poetry and fiction. I watch some TV, and movies. I go for a walk every day (or try to, this winter has been bad for snow and ice). I garden 9 months of the year. I cook. I do tarot cards and astrology. And, I'm raising 3 kids, occasionally get out with my husband, and work full time! So I read when I get time, as my Gentle Readers know, I read! I try to spend time some quality time with my each of my kids each day, sitting with them while they watch a movie to answer their questions, or watching Holly-Anne do her little bit of homework, Graham do his puzzles - he likes one of us to sit by him to 'help' though he doesn't want our help! We go outside on the weekends and play. And with the eldest, since he is so seldom home much these days, when he is home I try to spend a bit of time with him as well. Mostly he and I watch a movie or tv together, since I won't play his violent computer or X-box games! I also am discovering I can spend hours blogging and reading other blogs, instead of reading!! TV shows I watch are:
Battlestar Galactica,
The Office
Dr Who
* I did watch all the CSI's, but have dropped them in favour of reading more!
English Premier League soccer (Sat morning/sunday must see tv in our household)
BBC Canada - mysteries - Dalziel and Pascoe, Silent Witness; Escape to the Country, home selling shows
TVO (Ontario Public Service Channel) - mystery programming (usually runs for several weeks, and are based on mystery book series)

I am late doing this meme, I was sick again yesterday at work, and am home again today. This flu bug just won't go away. My daughter's babysitter's family also has struggled with it through the week, and her kids were sick last night again. So, I might be back later, but for now, I'm going to go crawl under a blanket and put on a movie, or try to read.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

The Door in the Hedge

This was a reread for me. I had read this book many years ago after it first came out, and along the way lost my copy. When I saw it in print again last year, I picked it up. It is a collection of four fairy tales retold by Robin McKinley. The Twelve Dancing Princesses, The Princess and the Frog, The Hunting of the Hind, and The Stolen Princess. Ms McKinley has kept to the original spirit of fairy tales in her retellings. The kingdoms are all unnamed, and if the princes and princesses have names - in the Twelve Dancing Princesses, none of the princesses are named, nor is the soldier who rescues them, nor the King - they are not as important as the roles played. There is a certain tone in fairy tales that if captured, makes the stories themselves the essence - in the Princess and the Frog (also known as the Frog Prince in other retellings), all the characters have names, but it is the character - the princess who is trapped somehow, the prince in disguise, and how they are freed, that is the essential part of the story. The names can change, and so can how the story is told, so long as that story is told. It is the same with each of these stories in this collection. There are moments of haunting beauty, of timeless and perfect description, but it is McKinley's retelling - her twist she puts on each, her version, and her choice of words that cast a mood - that make these so memorable. It is as if she has caught the spirit of the fairy tale and woven it onto the page. These are perfect. I was happy when the Golden Hind is freed by the princess, I was delighted when the princess talks to the frog; I felt the terror of the shadow of the evil that has enchanted the dancing princesses. These are delightful, wonderful versions to read to my daughter when she gets older. They are fun. Now, it will be interesting to compare these with Angela Carter's versions of fairy tales, which I have heard are much darker. And since I love the movie Ella Enchanted as much as I love A Company of Wolves, I suspect that I will like both kinds of fairy tales equally, though for very different reasons. For lightness of touch, beauty, and for charm, these are among the very best. There is a reason it was nominated for the Mythopoeic award.
Though, I have to say now, that I want to rewrite the Princess and the Frog my way now, since I remember the Muppets version also! which I loved also - the princess and her golden ball, and Robin (Kermit's nephew) who brings the ball up. There are so many versions of the Frog Prince, and I think I love them all, because as I said, it is the essential story that I love ....I even have a little metal frog with a crown who sits in my garden 7 months of the year.
I still don't have a copy of Ulysses, so what to read next? My newly-bought books, reading challenges, TBR, Christmas books?

Catching up and no worries about running out of books to read.....

I've been sick the past two days with a version of the flu. Today I am home again because my daughter's babysitter and family caught the same bug and so I am spending the afternoon with Holly-Anne at home. If only this gave me time to read! Unfortunately I was so sick I couldn't read - Buffy tv watching and lots of sleep was all I could manage - so I haven't magically read anything, and missed Short Story Monday again. The good news is.......I went book buying today! I had to pick up the two books I had on order, and found 3 more.......
1. The Dark is Rising - Susan Cooper #2 in The Dark is Rising Series
2. The Dead Hour - Denise MIna
3. The Bloody Chamber - Angela Carter
4.Inkheart - Cornelia Funke
5. The Various Haunts of Men - Susan Hill

My excuse for picking up the extra books are - If I like the Dead Hour, I can give copies to my mother and other people through the year. Inkheart I wanted to read before the movie opens soon. The Dark is Rising, because I enjoyed book 1 and now I want to read the series this year! It will be fantastic if I can finally get the whole series read. For the books I'd ordered, I really want to read The Various Haunts of Men, which is book one in the Simon Serrailler series - again, if I like it, can get copies for other people. And the Bloody Chamber, which I have been meaning to read for at least 10 years, and thought was out of print and couldn't find a used copy anywhere. One of my favourite movies, A Company of Wolves, is based on a short story in The Bloody Chamber. And I had to put back two other books to get later, and promise myself I would come back for the Book Thief, and book two of Paul Park's Roumania series which is getting raves in the fantasy world, and promise myself that I would ration myself to buying a book a week! Obviously has not worked this month already. But I feel better!

I guess I shouldn't worry about running out of books to read!

My copy of Locus magazine arrived yesterday with the year 2007 in review, so of course I have been making a list of books from there to get next. Even the reviewers in Locus were saying that they didn't have enough time last year to read all the books that were published, in the science fiction and fantasy fields. So they had to choose what to read and review. I thought this was an interesting point they made, because it seems to me to be true of publishing in general now - there are so many books being published in a year, that it is impossible to read them all. So how do you choose, then? How do I choose? Do I read only reviews? Other people's lists of what it is good? Word of mouth? What is your selection criteria, Gentle Reader? How do you choose what books to read in a given year? My criteria has always been varied - I like a good story, and try to read as much as I can, in a given year. I check out newspaper reviews, magazine reviews, Book Magazine, Locus, Guardian Unlimited Books online regularly, Book Slut has good mystery and young adult fiction reviews online, and then the rest is by chance, by going into bookstores, and now blogs. Entertainment Weekly and Stephen King's column sometimes have interesting books to look out for. And always, there is everyone's Notable Book List of the year, plus award winners etc.

I can't say I am willing to read anything, and that is part of my problem. If so many books are being published in fantasy, and mystery, the genres I read most in, how can I read other areas too? How do I choose my books? Favourite authors, word of mouth, gifts, plus the areas mentioned above. And always, I want something good, something beautiful, meaningful, interesting, deep, thoughtful, moving, original. Exciting.

One of the things I have found, that I mentioned in an earlier blog, is that these book blogs help me find books I otherwise would overlook - books that were published years ago, books in other genres that I don't often read in, books that are good but have been overlooked in a time when so many books are being published. So I am most grateful to you, other book bloggers, for writing about what we all love so much - books.

And despite critical reviewers writing about book bloggers and our lack of credentials and/or books spoiling reviews, I can't help think that book blogs are more useful and fun than a disservice to the publishing industry. I got my sister to read Persuasion because of one of the blogs I wrote about the movie and how the book is better than any version made yet! So my hope is that our book blogs do just that - allow us to talk about books, and help each other find wonderful books to read. The best of our blogs allow us a peek into one another's lives as we live around our reading. Many of us have children, work, husbands, and we build reading in and around how we live. Or build our lives around our reading, I'm not sure which comes first!

Youngest child has just come home, my life calls - the last story in The Door in the Hedge will have to wait til after dinner, I'm afraid.... Happy reading, and happy finding new books to read this year!

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Over Sea, Under Stone

Finally! 20 years after hearing about this book, I FINALLY read it!!! and it was worth it. A very enjoyable children's fantasy, first in a series of five books. I have to go buy the others now, which I will do. I thoroughly enjoyed the Arthurian context, the mystery, the sense of menace, the setting in Cornwall, the children themselves. This book reminded me very much of Enid Blyton's books, the Adventurous Four, the Famous Five, all of which I devoured as a child. I can hardly wait to read these to my children when they get old enough to listen!! That's how much fun they are, and quick to read, and a great introduction to the basic Arthur - the grail, and the legends in Cornwall and a hint of the knights of the Round Table. Yes, I will be buying the other books as soon as I can find them. This book is one of five under the general title 'The Dark is Rising', won the Newbery Medal. I can see why. It is good writing, and by this I mean the characterization, the dialogue, and the description especially are so good, so well-written, that I can see the village and seaside, the wind on my hair, hear the sea on the rocks. And yes, I'd like to be there, too! There is an economy in her descriptions, a clarity - she doesn't waste words, she uses the perfect word to capture the scene. I found myself wondering what has happened to our writing lately, that this kind of clarity is missing. Or, perhaps I haven't read enough award-winning books!

So, the New York Giants won the Superbowl! We had it on in the background while I dozed and finished Over Sea, Under Stone. I'm getting another cold and feel sick and lousy, so couldn't do much this evening once the kids had their bath. I'm not sure I can even pick the next book to read, so until tomorrow then, Gentle Reader.

Oh - and as for Becoming Jane, the movie on PBS tonight?? Forget it. I've read her biography, and I'm not interested in a movie guessing about her motives for turning down the man she agreed to marry, because Jane herself did not leave anything in writing that says why. We only have conjecture, and what her siblings have said - family history/memory sort of thing. Jane herself, if she ever said exactly why, did not leave any copies for posterity. As she was already writing before she was asked to marry, my guess has been that she did not love him enough to give up what she had at home, even though she knew that she was risking much by becoming a spinster and burden on her family. Whatever happened that night after she agreed to marry him, no movie can ever capture. Anyway, if any of you Gentle Readers did see it, drop me a line and let me know if it was worth seeing.

And, as my Long-Suffering Spouse pointed out earlier today, next week - Colin Firth as Mr Darcy! Yes!!!!! One week to go....

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Poetry reading day

I got this from Table Talk and from Books Please blogs (don't ask me to link to their site from within this blog, I still can't figure this out, technologically challenged as I am, see their blog sites at the bottom of my postings.......). I think it is an excellent idea:

3rd Annual Brigid in Cyberspace Poetry Reading

So, in honor of Brigid (who is the Goddess I am learning about this year) - St Brigid's Day, and Groundhog Day here in Canada (where we have a foot of snow that fell in yesterday's storm), here is my poem:

The Swan

Across the wide waters
something comes
floating - a slim
and delicate

ship, filled
with white flowers -
and it moves
on its miraculous muscles

as though time didn't exist,
as though bringing such gifts
to the dry shore
was a happiness

almost beyond bearing.
And now it turns its dark eyes,
it rearranges
the clouds of its wings,

it trails
an elaborate webbed foot,
the color of charcoal.
Soon it will be here.

Oh, what shall I do
when that poppy-colored beak
rests in my hand?
Said Mrs Blake of the poet:

I miss my husband's company -
he is so often
in paradise.
Of course! the path to heaven

doesn't lie down in flat miles.
It's in the imagination
with which you perceive
this world,

and the gestures
with which you honor it.
Oh, what will I do, what will I say, when those
white wings
touch the shore?

Mary Oliver, from "Owls and Other Fantasies"

Happy Cyberspace Poem Day! Enjoy the snow, and if you are somewhere warm - enjoy the signs of spring!

Friday, 1 February 2008

thursday Jan 22 book meme - FINALLY!

Here it is, the meme I've been seeing everywhere and trying to find some time to do....somehow the blowing snow and it being Friday night and the dentist being over, I can finally do this!! This is from Eva at A Striped Armchair:

Which book do you irrationally cringe away from reading, despite seeing only positive reviews?
The Kite Runner I think the subject matter is boring - I really hate the idea of servants and novels of friendships between the classes. Ugh! I know it is politically relevant now, and illustrates Afghanistan culture and life about which we know almost nothing here in the West, but it doesn't interest me.

If you could bring three characters to life for a social event (afternoon tea, a night of clubbing, perhaps a world cruise), who would they be and what would the event be? Thurday Next, from Jasper Fforde's series. I love her! Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice. She is so lively and always full of opinions and ideas, and she's clever. No dinner party would be boring with her! the last person I'd love to bring alive is Mendoza from 'the Company' series by Kage Baker. She is outspoken, intelligent, and brave beyond belief, and in love with a man who reincarnates each time she shifts time. Her perspective on time and willingness to love each time is inspiring. I would hope to have either an afternoon tea or go on a cruise with these lovely woman characters, it would be fun and engaging discussion and lots of laughter, I think. And we could watch the men!

(Borrowing shamelessly from the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde): you are told you can’t die until you read the most boring novel on the planet. While this immortality is great for awhile, eventually you realise it’s past time to die. Which book would you expect to get you a nice grave?
Hmm....anything by Charles Dickens, unfortunately. I want to like him, I love the BBC productions - Bleak House this past summer was riveting and was my must-see programming - but every time I pick up one of his books, I start yawning and there is so much description that I yearn for action!!!

Come on, we’ve all been there. Which book have you pretended, or at least hinted, that you’ve read, when in fact you’ve been nowhere near it?
My entire Victorian Women in Literature course, I'm sad to say. I couldn't get through any of the books......yet I passed with a B, so obviously I learned how to read the first and last bits and listen to what the professor said in class! Now, of course, I occasionally think I might like to read George Eliot - see Middlemarch on my classics/chunkster reading challenges...

As an addition to the last question, has there been a book that you really thought you had read, only to realise when you read a review about it/go to ‘reread’ it that you haven’t? Which book?
No, I've actually had the opposite problem - I go to read something I think I haven't read, and it turns out I have! I'm not boasting; I can't remember reading a book thinking I already have read it, only to find out I hadn't. I'm sure I did when I was younger, but now that I keep lists, I find reading simpler!

You’re interviewing for the post of Official Book Advisor to some VIP (who’s not a big reader). What’s the first book you’d recommend and why? (if you feel like you’d have to know the person, go ahead of personalise the VIP)
I'd have a selection of books to reccomend, depending on what they like to read - for mystery, Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith, and Forty Words for Sorrow by Giles Blunt, Ian Rankin - Black and Blue; for science fiction and fantasy, Dune by Frank Herbert, and Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Riddlemaster of Hed by Patricia McKillip, for fiction: Bridget Jones Diary (it's so funny and what I call brain candy) by Helen Fielding, Life of Pi by Yann Martel, and yes, anything by Dan Brown - depending on if the VIP was male or female - and/or Diana Gabaldan. I really think that in this case, as with anyone I meet, I would try to find out first what they've read, and liked, so I would have a good idea of what to buy them, but the above (except for the last two) are my standbys and some of my favourites.

A good fairy comes and grants you one wish: you will have perfect reading comprehension in the foreign language of your choice. Which language do you go with?

Swedish. Alot of my favourite mystery writers are Swedish, and i would love to read the works in the original language.

A mischievious fairy comes and says that you must choose one book that you will reread once a year for the rest of your life (you can read other books as well). Which book would you pick? Hands down, Persuasion. I already read it at least once every two years.......

I know that the book blogging community, and its various challenges, have pushed my reading borders. What’s one bookish thing you ‘discovered’ from book blogging (maybe a new genre, or author, or new appreciation for cover art-anything)?
I think it's the challenges - they have inspired me to increase my reading. It helps so much to see there are people reading more than I do out there, because in my circle, I'm the bookworm, and yet I don't read nearly enough to satisfy me. The Blogging community has helped me read more, and to think about reading, and books, and the meaning of reading and the pleasure it gives me. I love that so many other people are reading and talking about books, too.

That good fairy is back for one final visit. Now, she’s granting you your dream library! Describe it. Is everything leatherbound? Is it full of first edition hardcovers? Pristine trade paperbacks? Perhaps a few favourite authors have inscribed their works? Go ahead-let your imagination run free.
My ideal library is a house filled with books. Ideally, I have a large room that has three walls filled from top to bottom with shelves, and the fourth wall has two or three large windows for natural light. I have reading chairs with lamps and tables (for tea, cookies, meals, to pile books) beside each chair, and at one end of the room, there is a fireplace set into one of the walls - with bookshelves set all around it- before which is a long sectional sofa, so that my family and friends can gather and talk. Neat ladder things, as Eva says in her blog, oh yes, so that I can get up to the top shelves! The floor is hardwood - everything is natural wood, the shelves are a light green, and there are carpets scattered about for warmth and colour. Some of the shelves do have pictures, but mostly it is books - new books, hard covers, soft covers, some are used copies because they are out of print or I'm collecting an older print series......it is a room devoted to reading and books! As you can tell, I already spend alot of time imagining how soon can I make this room a reality in our house! Plus, there would be bookshelves in every room of the house, but the bathroom.

success at the dentist, and Widdershins

Hurrah!!! I now have the screw implanted in my mouth, step one to getting my new front tooth implanted sometimes this summer! Ok, I'm on painkillers and you can plainly see the screw when I take my fake tooth/mouthpiece out, which I now absolutely have to do anytime I eat anything......so more grossing out my eating companions......but I'm half-way there, finally! No more dead tooth with many many root canals done, in the front!! Oh, and the dentist found yet another infection in the area where the bone graft went, so I'm back on penicillin. And painkillers while the screw and bone adjust to one another......the good thing is it let me leave work early today because of pain, and with the second winter storm in two weeks raging outside since 10 this morning, this is a good thing. I got home before rush hour started! Though our bus almost got stuck, with 10 cm at least already fallen.
The other good thing is I met my husband downtown, who got 'stood down' from his job with DND (Department of National Defense) because of the storm, so we were able to meet and grab a quick bite WITHOUT the kids (a treat!!!!) and it was in Chapters, so I took a quick look around. I did not buy anything, though I was so tempted......Pillars of the Earth is back out in paperback which though I was given a copy 10 years ago, I didn't finish and my mother raves about it, so I want to pick it up and try again, especially as now the sequel is out. And I didn't really look around since I have two books on hold at Collected Works and there are so many I want to buy that I feel guilty buying at Chapters when I want to support the independent bookstores. So I was good, and with the snow blowing past the windows, I just looked with my eyes......
I did take the opportunity to finish Widdershins yesterday. I managed to sleep off enough of the sedative by mid afternoon to be able to read - I couldn't do much else, even the tv put me to sleep, never mind sitting at the computer - so I read to my heart's content for a couple of hours before it was time to get Holly-Anne from her daycare, which is just down the street and all i could manage yesterday. It takes a long time for sedatives to leave my system, or so my three experiences with it has shown.

Widdershins did not blow me away the way I thought it would, and yet, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I think my main problem was I couldn't tell Whiskey Jack from Joe Crow Dog; whenever they spoke - and they are two of the main aboriginal spirit characters/real men in the book - I had to keep checking their names, even though as characters they are separate and fascinating. I'm not sure why. I love Geordie and Jilly, and how Jilly works out her problems is really interesting, especially how she resolves it. I really like the creative, original ideas Charles brings to his books and characters. I love all his characters. The Unseelie Court and the Native world are as ever fully imagined and realized, and especially 'the inbetween' - which he has made his own creation and which you will have to read yourself to find out about - is a place I'd give anything to visit, and I think the idea is, I can. So I'm not sure why the book didn't 'blow me away'; I think almost he had too many characters and stories, and so he didn't have enough time with some of his secondary ones who were just as interesting - in a way, this book should have been bigger. Now that I write this, I think so. I want more of all of them, more story, and I really want more Lizzie and Grey, whose story doesn't seem finished - or another story to come.
The characters are all well-drawn and lively, the music is fun, and there is real emotion as characters deal with death and change and the past affecting the present. It is a fantasy book unlike any other, and is very close to magical realism now, I think. It is well worth reading, and one of his best books, and has a better ending than some of his very early books. But it seems to me that he opened the door to a fascinating subject - fairie and the native spirits, and how they join or clash - and then shut the door on really exploring the mix, which I think would have made this book extraordinary. It is a difficult subject to write about, myths and the unseen world and this one, and this is a very good book. I highly reccomend this book, and I really hope if you haven't tried Charles de Lint, you will. He write about dark things in an uplifting manner - hope and faith sparkle through his books, and personal responsibility and choices. There's a reason why I've been collecting him from the very beginning!

Links: Eva

So now it's on to Over Sea, Under Stone, by Susan Cooper, which I have been meaning to read for 20 years!