Friday, 31 July 2009

Child 44 - a mystery thriller

Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith was devoured in less than 24 hours. It is a thriller, but with distinction: it is set in Russia in 1953, in the deepest of Stalin's regime. Leo Demidov is a State Police officer of the MGB. He thinks his life is all set, except that one day a child is found dead on the railroad tracks, and the father says he was murdered. In Stalin's Soviet state, murder couldn't exist, since the Soviet Union was good and the ideal state for mankind, so evil couldn't be there. Leo's trip into his heart of darkness goes to a place that still haunts most of us who grew up in the shadow of the Cold War - just how bad, and frightening, was Stalin's Soviet Union, and what would a person do to survive? In the long cold winters after the Great War (as WW2 was called in the USSR), what did the poor villagers do outside Moscow, where much of the wealth and food supply went? How did they survive? And in a nation that prized spying on one's neighbors and colleagues for acts of treason or suspicious behaviour, who can Leo trust when he realizes that in the heart of the USSR, along the railway lines, children are being murdered?

This book is not for the faint of heart. That's my warning to you, Gentle Reader. It is a very good mystery, one that only at the end as Leo unravelled it, did I understand all the links set up in the book. It is a frightening book, on many levels, not the least of which is the state of constant fear everyone lived in. One word, and bang! a character is taken in for questioning, most often never seen again. How could a society function like that? We see many betrayals as characters fight to survive, and the discovery of some things higher than survival - love, the truth, faithfulness. In the midst of madness (for surely the state while Stalin ran it was mad), acts of courage in the face of death.

The characters are all very well drawn, the pacing is fast, and the story is well-plotted. The setting - the setting raises the story from a good mystery thriller, to an extraordinarily good one. There are varying viewpoints in the book, and I liked this. It lets us see Russia through many eyes and opinions and responses. A fascinating glimpse into a world (that Stalinesque world doesn't exist, even if the legacy continues somewhat) thankfully mostly gone now.

For those who don't know, the Soviet Union did have a serial killer: Andrei Chikatilo.

One of my favourite things about the book is that Leo is not the perfect agent he thinks he is. He thinks he is a war hero, and does everything right, but he discovers that his actions have many unintended consequences, yet he keeps trying to make it right again. I really liked him, and many of the secondary characters.

A really enjoyable read, just make sure you have some time since it is very hard to put down!


Monday, 27 July 2009

Mailbox Monday and Summer reading


You know that feeling you get when you have a lovely gift certificate to a bookstore, and 20 minutes or even, fabulously, an hour, to spend just meandering around, pulling books off the shelves? I didn't have an hour, but I did have a gift certificate, and a list of books I wanted, and this is what I bought after 20 minutes in my local independent bookstore, Collected Works, last Saturday:

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
- Stieg Larsson

(the buzz for this one goes on and on, I'm very curious now)

Child 44 - Tom Rob Smith -

(At last! I've been waiting a year for this one to be in paperback!)

Strike/Slip - Don McKay.

(I had just been on CBC's website that morning, and came across a link to the 10 best recent Canadian poets to read, and McKay and this book were one of the 10. I was so surprised to find it - serendipity, one might say, as I finish volume 2 of Mary Oliver's Selected Poems (I keep lingering over this book), here is a book of poetry by a Canadian that looks interesting - geography and trees and people. A book for Canada 3 Challenge!)

Jane Austen Ruined My Life - Beth Pattillo

(On sale! for my Jane Austen challenge! I was so happy when I saw this!)

Three Day Road - Joseph Boyden

(Did you think I was kidding when I say I plan on finishing this Canada 3 Challenge this time around? And this book has been garnering awards and word of mouth for over a year now. I just had to gear myself up to read a book about war, that's all. I do like the plot, and I love myths and spirits and folklore, bravery and courage, and this book has it all!)

I don't know which is more exciting - that I bought two Canadian books at the same time!!! Or that between my gift certificate and credit at the store - when you buy a book, you automatically generate dollars towards a purchase in the future and if you save enough (er, that's really buy a lot), like I do, sometimes everything's free! I paid $1.93!!! I also love my mysteries....sigh. There is nothing like buying a new book to read.

So what came in your mailbox this week? Do you have any summer reading you plan on doing?


Here in Ottawa, we have had rain. We are thisclose to breaking the 30 year record for rainfall for July. We get a day of sunshine, three days of rain/storms/humidity. I'm not complaining! It's just an extraordinary July, cooler than normal and much much wetter. It's been hard to believe it is summer - if my children weren't on holidays and at daycare all day now, I wouldn't know it was summer! So the usual temptation to buy a beach read hasn't hit me yet. I suppose Child 44 comes closest....I also have a pile of mysteries that are moving to the front of the TBR pile, and while it's not beach reading, I'm in the mood to tackle 1599, A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare, which also has me excited. I might actually read 3 non-fiction books this summer, for the challenge! But a big fat beach read - nothing has really grabbed me yet. So I was wondering if any of you, my Gentle Readers, have come across a really good beach read this year? A summer read that you completely enjoyed?

I know I am behind on book reviews. I am in the mood when it's 10 am at work, but by the time I'm at home and after dinner etc, I'm too tired to think of all the wonderful things I thought about the books. I do promise that I will do some book reviews, because I have some really good books I've been reading lately. I find that in my attempt to get to 56 books read by the 31 of this month - that's THIS Friday, and even if I was on holiday, I'm not sure I could read seven books in five -oops, 4 now - days! - I rush to pick up the next book instead of writing a review.

A lot of bloggers in June did their favourite reads of the year so far, books they loved. I thought about doing this, but then I realized that for now, one book stands head and shoulders above everything else I have read: Middlemarch, by George Eliot. I just love that book. It's not my only favourite, of course, but it's the one that really stands out. I think while I read everything else, Middlemarch is still working its way into me, so I haven't picked up any classics to read for the other challenges yet. It's like I want to hold on to Middlemarch, to the characters and the plot and the events for a little while, and while I have read plenty of other good books, nothing has dislodged Middlemarch yet. I'm not sure I'm ready for anything to, yet. If that makes sense! It was such a wonderful rich experience of a novel, and I think I'm absorbing that this is what novels are supposed to be like. Not many are like Middlemarch.

I also, as mentioned above, have been reading Selected Poems Vol 2 by Mary Oliver. I have been reading a poem or two every night just before I fall asleep. It's the quietest part of the day for me, when I have a precious few minutes to absorb them, to be swept up by her open honesty about how nature moves her, and to fall into my own reveries about how I love the natural world, before sleep claims me. I have never had this experience of falling in love with a poet before, and her poems and how she writes are illuminating a path for my own writing. I have written poetry since I was about 12, and this is the first time that I have found the same kind of openness about life around her in poems, that I strive for in my own. So I'm learning and absorbing here too, and rereading my favourite poems - some very quickly, instantly are favourites, others linger and grow, and I find it hard to finish this book, even though I have Volume One still to read, and Ted Hughes' The Birthday Letters to finish, and now a Canadian poet to discover! I know that it's not fashionable to read poetry, that there is a fear of not understanding it that I learned from my years in English Lit at University - but I have always loved poetry, and always had some with me. So rather than say 10 best books read (or favourite reads) in the first six months, I'd have to say I have two - Middlemarch, and Selected Poems.

So what are you reading for this summer? Do you have any days set aside just for reading? Do you find it easier or harder to read during the summer?

Some books I'd like to read while the days are long (*even if we don't have much sun):
Child 44 - Tom Rob Smith
Girl With the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson
The Dead Hour - Denise Mina
What The Dead Know - Laura Lippman
A Restless Evil - Ann Granger
Fearless Fourteen - Janet Evanovich
1599: A Year in the LIfe of William Shakespeare - James Shapiro
Jane Austen Ruined My Life - Beth Pattillo
Friend of the Devil - Peter Robinson
The Various Haunts of Men - Susan Hill
The REz Sisters - Thomson Highway
In The Woods - Tana French
A gentlewoman in Upper Canada - Anne Langton
Three Day Road - Joseph Boyden

Ok, I can hear you all laughing now. That's 13 books! In one month and 4 days, before Labour Day and the end of summer! I don't care that the equinox is on Sept 21, summer ends in Canada on Sept 1 when we might have hot days, but the nights are much cooler.....and if I read all three of the Canadian books, I will have read 4 by the end of summer, which is more than I read this past year for the challenge!!!! Amazing what a little failure will do!

I hope wherever you are, dear reader, you have a good, fat book to curl up with this summer.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

The Language of the Night - what is good fantasy?

In my attempt to get to 56 books this month, I have picked up some books that I left undone earlier this year. One of them is Ursula K Le Guin's The Language of the Night. I didn't put it down because I was bored with it; on the contrary, I had to think about what I had read already, before I could go on. The Language of the Night has so many essays about why fantasy is good to read! Every essay I read, I find myself thinking through, nodding my head, agreeing! It's like having a course of study on fantasy and what makes it work, and why we need it. This is such an invaluable book, not the least because Le Guin herself (as most of us know) writes fantasy and science fiction, so she lives and breathes what she is telling us. She has thought a great deal about fantasy, and science fiction, and her essays are clear and direct - she doesn't hesitate to say why a book doesn't work, or that many writers write for money or to the marketplace, and not for the dream one has in one's head.

The essay I read today, 'From Elfland to Poughkeepsie', is one that every reader of fantasy should read. This essay explains why fantasy can be brilliant, and why there is so much drivel in the fantasy world, and what the difference is.

One point to keep in mind is that Elfland is a true fantasy world; Poughkeepsie is a place that exists in the real world, and stands for safe fantasy. This is not to say that all elves are true fantasy, and no fantasy can be set in the modern world! Far from it. What Le Guin means is that Elfland is fully imagined by Lord Dunsany; when we read his books, we know the world in the story exists, even if it is only in his mind. Poughkeepsie, unless one writes about it in a powerful way, remains the same in the story as it is for you and me to see in the real world. We don't see anything differently, in ordinary fantasy - in fantasy written to make money, to tell a story, with anything but true imagination.

Think about that for a moment. Think about some of our greatest writers, and what they created - Shakespeare, Milton, Tolkien, Hemingway, Austen, (put in the name of a writer you love, here). We see the world through their eyes, through their imagination. We know the world a little more clearly because they wrote. We understand ourselves better, and the world. They wrote, each of them, in their own voices, and by doing that, they somehow give us the world back. Le Guin is saying this applies to fantasy, and to science fiction, but particularly to fantasy because it's base is archetypes.

"Fantasy is nearer to poetry, to mysticism, and to insanity than naturalistic fiction is. It is a real wilderness, and those who go there should not feel too safe." Doesn't that give you a little chill? Because it's true.

"Real fantasy writing 'is exact, clear, powerful.....Nothing in it is fake or blurred; it is all seen, heard, felt."

Now, can you think of any examples of fantasy books that you can pick up, read, and then instantly forget in a few week's time? Can you remember the characters' names, what happens, a month after reading the book? Did the characters come alive, so that later, you find stray thoughts of them occurring long after the book is done? I have to say that reading this essay made what I like and don't like about fantasy make sense to me. I think she's right. Real fantasy is clear, it can be seen, felt, tasted, experienced. That is what makes it so dangerous. It's real, and yet it's not. How many of us have wanted, desperately at one time or another, for Middle Earth to be real? A place we could go to! I know I did!!

Good fantasy is written in a style that is the author's own. I would argue that this applies to all acts of writing, painting, dancing, anything that involves creating. When we have learned to let what is inside of us out, we are changed, and so is the world. Le Guin says: "We learn to hear and speak, as children, primarily by imitation. The artist is merely the one who goes on learning after he grows up. If he is a good learner, he will finally learn the hardest thing: how to see his own world, how to speak in his own words." The best fantasy books are like any work of art: they are created from the artist, and not a copy of what someone else has done before.

"A fantasy is a journey. It is a journey into the subconscious mind, just as psychoanalysis is. Like psychoanalysis, it can be dangerous; and it will change you." Yes, those are her italics! I love this quote. Why will fantasy change us? Because we meet the dragon, and the dragon is us. Because we encounter what lies beneath, the shadows and shapes that linger and lurk, the archetypes that we all respond to, and the author - if it's good fantasy - shows us a new way to understand the archetype, what we have to do to survive an encounter with an archetype. Not all fiction has this gift; this is what fantasy has to offer.

So what do you think, Gentle Reader? Is there a fantasy world you particularly love, that you wish was real? Is there a fantasy author, or fantasy books, that have particularly moved you, that resonated with you? What do you think good fantasy is? Do you like it?

I have always wanted to go to Middle-Earth. The spirit world of Charles de Lint is fascinating. And Alice in Wonderland always scared me and I could hardly wait for Alice to get home again! It's late, I'll think up a list of fantasy authors that I think are worth considering as good, who are a little bit dangerous to read. Angela Carter, anyone?

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Torchwood and Sylvia and Ted

The new 5 part series of Torchwood, "Children of the Earth", is currently playing for the first time on Canadian TV on our Space channel. Every night at 10 pm my brain is seared. So I'm watching most excellent science fiction on tv. It is so good, so dramatic, so dark, that I can't fall asleep right after! After this, to be rounded out by the new (for us anyway) Dr Who: the first of the last 4 episodes David Tennant will star in, the episode with the bus (can't remember the name of it) is on Saturday night. I have a date with the Doctor that night!!

I just found this most amazing reading of Ted Hughes' letter to Sylvia Plath's mother after Sylvia's death, courtesy of a link provided by Jane at Reading, WRiting, Working, PLaying, found at Fly High ( a new to me blog site), here.

I know, I know. Richard again! Honestly, this is just coincidence! But I promise, this will leave you with shivers, or if you're like me, tears, at the end. 4 minutes of one of the most honest letters ever written, involving two of the 20th century's greatest poets, read with great skill by Richard Armitage.

I don't mean to be quiet here. I keep falling asleep after dinner, which is one of the signs of diabetes. And I'm still trying to get to 56 books read by July 31! so I'll be on target for 100 this year....I'm not even at 50 yet, so I'm plowing through what I can (and still taking time to enjoy it).

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

More Richard Armitage treats

Look what I found out tonight: the series of Spooks, which has been playing over in England for 8 years now, is beginning with the season that stars RICHARD ARMITAGE tomorrow night!! To quote from the BBC Canada site:
Wednesdays at 9pm ET/10pm PT
Having spent the past eight years in a Russian prison, Lucas North (played by heartthrob Richard Armitage) is welcomed back by MI5 figurehead and old friend Harry Pearce, who was instrumental in securing his release. But after eight years with only a high-ranking Russian spymaster for company, can Lucas's loyalty really be taken for granted?'

Link here. Here is the BBC website for Spooks. If you look closely, Jane Austen fans will note that the star of the recent ITV version of Persuasion, starring Rupert Penry-Jones, also stars in Spooks.

I saw an advertisement on tv this evening and almost squealed with excitement! I thought it would be years before this particular season of Spooks made it over here!!! More Richard Armitage!!!! Rupert Penry-Jones! On the same tv show!!!!Is there any more reason needed to watch this program? For us in Canada, tomorrow night (Wednesday) at 9 pm.

Monday, 13 July 2009

"Art Saves"...'The Plain Janes'' and "Janes in Love"


I am so far behind that I'm beginning to panic. How will I get all these books reviewed? At last count, I had 16 books to review. 16! So I'm thinking of creative ways to review, because I enjoyed all of them. It is so rare that I like everything I am reading, that I want to give every book it's day!

So I'm going to begin with two library books I recently brought home, and post about my library books, because they have the graphic novels everyone is so curious about. Yes, I took out some graphic novels! My experience with Castle Waiting was so good that the graphic novel section was the first place I headed to when I found myself at the library two weeks ago.

This is what I took out:

1. The Mislaid Magician or 10 Years After - Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
2. The New Policeman - Kate Thompson
3. Twelve Impossible Things Before Breakfast - Jane Yolen
4. Triss's Book - Circle of Magic # 2 - Tamora Pierce
5. The Changeling Sea - Patricia McKillip
6. Wyrmwood - G.P. Taylor
Graphic Novels:
7 &8. Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Season 8, vol 2 & 3, - Goddard, Whedon, Jeanty
9. The Plain Janes - Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg
10. Janes in Love - Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg
11. Angel - After the Fall - Whedon, Lynch and Urru

As you can tell, I stayed in the teen section. Since I was alone and couldn't give the books to my husband to carry (thus taking out twice as many!) and didn't bring a bag with me, I had to limit myself to what I could carry. I did look for Emma, the graphic novel everyone is blogging about - just today, Kim L at Bold. Blue. Adventure. reviewed it, here, but I couldn't find it.

Now, for the first reviews of the graphic novels:
The Plain Janes and Janes in Love - Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg.

The Plain Janes
I fell in love with them. I love the concept - a girl moves to a suburb from the inner city, and finds a group of girls at high school who are all Janes. They are all different, and outsiders, and when Jane from the city arrives, she makes them into a group.

She is no ordinary Jane, however. Most of the story is about how she finds meaning in her life after surviving something awful. I don't want to give it away, as it is integral to the the story, what has happened to her and how she struggles to give surviving a meaning. I hope it suffices to say that the subtext of this book and the sequel, Janes in Love, is 'Art Saves'. How cool is that? Two whole books about people and art and life.

I don't want to make it sound serious - it's not. Both books are funny and heart-breaking and wise and so very much about life. P.L.A.I.N. stands for what gives Jane her will to go on: People Loving Art In Neighborhoods. The Janes decide to secretly transform their world by making free art. How they do this, and how their school chums and the adults in the city react, is charming and funny and realistic. How they bring art into their lives, and their city, makes for fun reading. I wish I'd had a group like that in high school! They also invite the only gay guy, James, at the high school to be part of their group, when he stands up and sings - one of the P.L.A.I.N. initiatives - against the principal's express command not to. He is as much an outsider as they are, and their kindness in bringing him in brought a lump to my throat. Bravery is found in so many places, in so many unexpected ways.

Janes in Love is the sequel, and it is just as heartbreaking and funny and delightful as The Plain Janes. In this one, it's coming up on February 14, and the Ides of March dance in February. The Plain Janes fall in love, and decide to take their art to a higher level - they apply for a federal grant, to take over an empty plot on one of their streets rather than see it become another mini-mall. Do they get the grant? Do they find true love? Another tragedy finds Jane's mother refusing to leave the house while her father lives in the tent outside. Jane: One of the reasons I want to make the world beautiful is so my mother can remember it is.

Both these graphic novels celebrate life, and finding beauty - making beauty for others around you. Each of the teen girls is very realistic, though, and prone to mood swings, and despair, as is Main Jane (her online msn name with the others!) herself as she continues to recover from the terrible event that still shapes her and her parents' lives. There are so many different viewpoints about how to cope with life, about whether to run away and hide, or find something to give back, or do. Other students suffer too, from their families, deciding if they want to be part of P.L.A.I.N. too. What a remarkable heroine, and group of friends.

I love the theme "Art Saves.' I wish this could be the motto for our world today. It's going to be the theme of my blog now!

I highly recommend these graphic novels. 5/5 for each!

And I want thank every one of you, Gentle Readers, who has blogged about graphic novels over the last year and a half. I wouldn't have found these if it wasn't for you!! I love them so much I am putting them on my To-Buy list. I will want to read these again.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009


This seems to be the story of my year so far. I unexpectedly developed a cold on Canada Day, and spent the weekend recovering. Suddenly being diabetic means any cold medications are off-limits, and my sugar is high again. So, instead of plowing through my three graphic novels I took out of the library, I watched North and South. Again. The entire 4 hours. And gardened on Sunday, when the sun finally came out and I felt well enough to get outside.

Then, Julia at Piece of My Mind tagged me for a fun meme, and I went there to get it to do here, except I unexpectedly saw this picture of Richard Armitage, and well, *sigh*.

And not only that, but there is a an interview with him posted on Vulpes Libris, here, that will make all of us Richard Armitage fans drool a little more. Because he reads, and he reads a lot. And he's thoughtful, and interesting. Many thanks to Julia at Piece of My Mind for the link to the interview, and I'm afraid I scooped her on the interview posting.....

I also have been watching the HBO television series True Blood, based on the Sookie Stackhouse vampire thrillers. Vampire Bill? Oh my, very hot *fans herself*. Quite graphic also (one scene of a particularly gruesome murder I just can't get out of my head), delightful setting, okay dialogue, very good acting. I have watched half the season already.......good for getting through a cold, bad for reading books!!!

So, unexpectedly, not about books, but about things revolving around books.

And yes, you read it correctly: I have 3 - no, I have 5 graphic novels out of the library. Unexpectly, the rewards of the blogging community are that I find a new type of novel to explore.

Also very unexpectedly, I can't seem to find a copy of North and South anywhere. I want to read it now, since I think there is more explained in the book (of course there is! there always is!!!) than the series can show. I can find lots of Gaskell's other books, but not that one!

Happy reading, Gentle Readers!

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Jane Austen Challenge - I could never resist this!!!

Stephanie at Stephanie's Written Word is hosting her very first challenge, starring one my favourite writers, Jane Austen. The Everything Jane Austen Challenge, lets you choose 6 things, any thing with Jane - about her, by her, featuring her or her characters in some way - from July 1, 2009, to Jan 1, 2010. This means anything - one challenger is making a quilt and making three recipes from the Jane Austen Cookbook. So, if you have a needlepoint cushion featuring Jane in some way, hidden away, or have been waiting for an opportunity to watch the entire 6 hours of the best version of Pride and Prejudice ( the one featuring *Colin Firth* and Jennifer Ehle), or watch the entire oeuvre of Jane Austen movies/tv productions available, now is your chance! Stephanie has a wonderful list of Jane-related books and movies also availabe on her site to choose from.

Well, I had two books to read, and was wondering which of the films I wanted to see or novels to reread when, miracle of miracles, at the old used bookstore I used to work at many eons ago - the Bookmarket - I found an out-of-print book that I had given up on finding a few years ago: Letters to Alice, On First Reading Jane Austen, by Fay Weldon.

I think I might have made an audible sound of joy. There is no other way of describing that 'eep' 'eeek' 'oh' and 'ah' mixture that escapes when I first see a book unexpectedly, and joyfully. That book went into my hand and I clutched it all the way home. I'll talk about the other books another time, but this was such a thrill to find. I don't have the book with this cover - I'd give a lot to find that editon!! - my edition (Coronet) alas does not have the cover available on, as it's an English paperback version. It's nothing like that, but does feature Jane on the cover. And, it's about reading Jane Austen and writing. How to be a reader, and how to be a writer. Perfection.

So, this is my Jane list:

1. Letters to Alice, on first reading Jane Austen - Fay Weldon
2. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies - Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
3. Persuasion - Jane Austen
4. What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew - Daniel Pool

1. Persuasion - version with Ciaran Hinds and Anne Root
2. Lost in Austen

I don't own Lost in Austen yet, but I've found a video store that carries it.

Now, for those of you who think they want to do more than 6 things with Jane this year, there is already a mini-challenge: one of Stephanie's challenge acceptees, Austenprose, has created a mini-challenge to read or do something with 12 things featuring Jane: Everything Austen Challenge xTwo!! I'm a double winner here - I can easily do 12 things featuring Jane in 6 months! And I've found a new blog that is all about Jane Austen's writings! *sigh*

Of course, what I really want to find is the Jane Austen Cookbook. I saw it years ago in a bookstore and didn't buy it, and now I'm regretting it....actually I regretted a few hours after leaving the bookstore not picking it up. And I haven't seen it since!
Oh dear. I went to, and it was there. Oh dear, I bought a copy. Hmm. I'll figure out some way to explain it to my wonderful husband. So, when it arrives, I will be making two or three recipes from it. There, I'll tell him I needed it.

So, now that I have given in to the dark side (Empire Strikes Back is playing on the tv in the background today, for my daughter. I've given in to the dark side! Or maybe it's the light, nothing about Jane is dark side!!!), I think I will also join the Everything Austen X Two challenge also.

So my 12 things featuring Jane Austen are to be chosen from this list (I am beginning to realize that I need some room to choose what I feel like reading or seeing, or I feel too pinned down and this is supposed to be fun!) now:


1. Letters to Alice, on first reading Jane Austen - Fay Weldon
2. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies - Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
3. Persuasion - Jane Austen
4. What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew - Daniel Pool
5. Jane Austen: A Life - Claire Tomalin (a re-read)
and from among:
6. The Private Diary of Mr Darcy - Maya Slater
7. Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict - Laurie Viera Rigler
8. Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict - Laura Viera Rigler
9. Jane Austen Ruined My Life - Beth Pattillo
10. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

1. Persuasion - version with Ciaran Hinds and Anne Root
2. Lost in Austen
3. Pride and Prejudice (Keira Knightley version, I don't have Colin and Jennifer in DVD yet)
4. Northanger Abbey (latest ITV version which I loved)

The Jane Austen Cookbook - Maggie Black, Deirdre Le Fayre
- 2 recipes

There. Everything Jane, indeed, for the next 6 months!!!

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Happy Canada Day!!! and Canadian Challenge 2 Wrap-Up

Happy Canada Day!!! July 1 is our national day, a holiday from coast to coast. Here in Ottawa we have a huge party on Parliament Hill, which I wrote about last year, here. This year, my husband isn't feeling very well, so we are staying close to home. We were going to go back to the Dinosaur Museum (which everyone who lives here calls the National Museum of Natural History), but this time we are going to a park nearby, Andrew Haydon Park, where there are rides and games and fun for everyone. As I'm doing this post before we head out because storms are expected later (and you know me and lightning.....) I'll add pictures later. We are all, by the way, wearing red again! Wherever you are, enjoy July 1!!

In keeping with today's theme, I thought I would wrap up the 2nd Canadian Book Challenge, Eh? and review a Canadian book, my last for the challenge. I'm so patriotic, aren't I?

Well, bad me. The Canadian Challenge 2 Eh? is over, and I read 3 out of 13 books for the challenge. So not so patriotic after all!! John at The Book Mine Set hosted this one for the second straight here, and his wrap-up is here. I was supposed to read 13 books by Charles de Lint. I read The Blue Girl, Wolf Moon, and The Dreaming Place. I haven't reviewed The Dreaming Place yet, so here is a quick review, as it was the best one out of the three, and a very good story.

The Dreaming Place was read for both Carl's Once Upon a Time 3 Challenge, as well as the Canadian Challenge 2 Eh? I was really hoping it would be better than The Blue Girl, which I reviewed here, and I am happy to say it is. The Dreaming Place is a young-adult novel about two cousins, Nina and Ash. Ash has come to live with her cousin after her mother has died. Ash is angry, and being stalked by a mysterious man. Nina has hippie parents, including a half-Native father, and this is important later in the book. Nina is unknowingly learning how to shape shift into the bodies of different animals. However, this is done through dreams, and she cannot control it. When she goes into a coma because she is trapped by a spirit - a manitou in the dream world, only Ash is able to go save her. Ash's negative emotions drew the spirit's attention, but Nina also has a link through her father to the manitou, that must be broken to save Nina. I really liked too, how Ash learns about her anger, and that she has choices.

This is a beautiful story. Nina and Ash, Cassie, the manitou, Nina's parents, all the secondary characters, are all well-drawn, believable. The dialogue is very good (if a bit dated by references to Debbie Gibson, and the Beauty and the Beast tv show!), realistic and concise - these people are talking to each other. I loved it. This is Charles at his best. The travelling in time and space, the use of Aboriginal mythology, the shape-shifting, the magic fo the shaman - these are all accurate. I say this because I have some knowledge of Aboriginal spirituality.

This is a story about the Manitou, the Native American spirits who live in the spirit world but can tap into ours, and how dangerous it is to play at religion. There are spirits all around, and the characters - all of them - come to understand that any promise to the spirits, in whatever form it takes - prayer, ritual, playing with one's heritage - does have a price. Knowing and honouring the path one follows is one thing, but making promises without knowing the cost, is another.

The Dreaming Place is one of Charles' older books, and in it I can see the beginning of his combining of Native American and Celtic mythology into one spirit world. The danger is the same - time moves differently, manitous and faeries can't be trusted, and the spirits of the dead wander here.

This book is 4.8 out of 5. I would make it five if it were longer! A very good book.

So another challenge not completed. And I plan on entering the third round of this challenge! I refuse to give up, I will get to 13 Canadian books read in a year! I have some books already lined up: Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson (thank you Chris at Book-a-rama for your review!), Tanya Huff - (at least three to catch up on some of her series), Kelly Armstrong (same), and more Charles de Lint, since the one book I really wanted to read, Forests of the Heart, I didn't get to. Plus, since I have Canadian history books to read for the Classics by 19th Century Women Challenge - A Gentlewoman in Upper Canada by Anne Langton, Winter Studies and Summer Rambles by Anna Brownell Jameson, - and I want to read Three Day Road and possibly Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden, I think I have a better chance this coming year of succeeding. Anyway, I plan to!!!

Have a very Happy Canada Day to my fellow Canadian book bloggers, and enjoy this day wherever you are in the world. Happy Reading!