Thursday, 26 July 2012

non-fiction buying frenzy

Ana made my day today.  I have been catching up with all of you lovely bloggers, and I found her post here on upcoming non-fiction books she is excited about.  She asked us if there were any upcoming releases we were excited about.  I decided that I would change the question to, "what books have you been buying that are unusual for you? " Because, dear Readers, tumbling into this house faster than I can read them, are an enormous amount of biographies and histories.  Ok, it won't be an enormous amount for many of you! but for me, it's not usual for me to read or even look at biographies more than once a year.  Here is what has come in over the past few months:

All Roads lead to Austen - Amy Elizabeth Smith.  She goes to Latin America for a year, taking her Jane Austen novels, and leading book clubs in different countries, to see if Jane Austen transfers into other cultures, and what their versions of Jane Austen (or recommended books) are.  It looks very interesting and very fun.  I love the idea of talking about and reading Jane Austen in different countries, and to see how she does cross cultures.  Plus it's about books and reading books, specifically Jane Austen, and a chance to learn about some of the best writers in Latin America from people who read.  It's like being part of book club on the road with her!


The Civil War of 1812 - Alan Taylor.  It is the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, the war that defined Canada as a land that was not going to be part of the US. This book looks at the war from both sides of the border, and what it meant really - because even back then, families and towns straddled the border, and brothers and cousins fought for one side or the other, depending who they wanted to belong to.  This history looks at the war from the lives of the people who fought it, the soldiers, immigrants, settlers and Indians on both sides of the border.  It looks fascinating.


God's Mercies - Douglas Hunter.   The story of the rivalry between Samuel de Champlain and Henry Hudson (for whom Hudson's Bay is named, as well as the Bay, one of  Canada's largest and oldest household good and fashion store).  They both raced to explore and map the northern half of North America, and find the route to the Far East, in the 17th century, and were to two principal explorers from the St Lawrence River up to Hudson's Bay.  Samuel Champlain came by the Ottawa River, and his sextant was found in a field further up the Ottawa Valley. A statue to him is on a cliff beside the National Gallery of Art here in Ottawa, across the Rideau Canal from Parliament Hill. Here is a link to a little historical view of these two.  One was French (Samuel de Champlain), one was English (Henry Hudson).  The Hudson River in New York is named for him.  Hudson died ingloriously after his crew mutinied while he tried to find the Northwest Passage, while Champlain had success after success in mapping the land through to Georgian Bay.  This  book won one of Canada's Non-fiction prizes in 2007, the Nereus Writer's Trust. As a companion to this I still need to pick up Champlain's Dream by David Hackett Fischer.

A Train in Winter - Caroline Moorhead.  About the friendship between a group of  230 French women resistance fighters who were rounded up from Gestapo detention camps and sent to Auschwitz.  The only train to take women of the resistance to a death camp.  This book explores who they were, why they joined the Resistance, how they were captured and their life in the death camps.  49 women came back. Six of them were still alive in 2010, and were able to share their stories for this book.

The Occupied Garden - Kristen den Hartog and Tracy Kasaboski.  A couple live in Holland when the Nazis march in.  Years later they move to Canada, and after their deaths, their granddaughters begin to piece together what happened during the war to their grandparents. They had never spoken of what happened to them in Holland, while alive.  A family memoir that is about life in wartime Holland, something that surprisingly there isn't alot of, in English.  My stepfather grew up in Holland during the war, so I've heard a few stories from him also, but it's not something people talk about often.


The Years of the Sword: Wellington - Elizabeth Longford.  I blame the .99 price tag, and that it has illustrations.  Some day I will read this biography of Wellington and the battle of Waterloo.
The Hare with the Amber Eyes - Edmund de Waal.  A family memoir of  a man who explores his family history while uncovering the history of 264 netsukes, Japanese wood carvings that he inherits.  Who handled them?  Where did they come from, what was their history? Along the way he discovers that his family were once a banking dynasty in Paris and Vienna in the 19th century, yet by the end of WW 2, all that remained of this dynasty were these netsukes. This was an award winner when it came out, winning the Costa Book Award for Biography, among others.


The Pre-Raphaelite Tragedy - William Gaunt. 1.99 price, long out of print, about the Pre-Raphaelites' lives - especially their daily lives, with anecdotes more than any long narrative -  biographical studies this kind of  biography is called.  It looks interesting and a good find for my growing Pre-Raphaelite library.  They are among my favourite artists.


Graven with Diamonds - Nicola Shulman.  The Many Lives of Thomas Wyatt, Courtier, Poet, Assassin, Spy.  He is the author of one of my favourite poems, "Whoso List to Hunt, I know Where There is a Hind'.  There are not many biographies out on him.  This is was just published recently, and won the 2011 Best Non-Fiction of 2011 Writer's Guild Award.  I'm fascinated with the Tudor times, and the enormous changes that occurred then, and what life was like at the courts for Wyatt, who was both a courtier and a poet.  Poetry was held in much higher esteem than it currently is, and the best poets could be ironic, witty, and sarcastic, under the guise of poetry.  He avoided being beheaded even though he was thought to have had an affair with Anne Boleyn.  Here is a link to some of his poems online.


John Donne: The Reformed Soul - John Stubbs. Published in 2006, now considered one of the best biographies on Donne.  I am fascinated with his life and how it informed his poetry.  No one could use words and twist them like he could, making one meaning from just the way the words are placed, from what you think they will be.  He struggled with his faith at a time when it was dangerous to have faith, in the Reformation.


Mistress of  the Monarchy- Alison Weir - about Katherine Swynford,  the mistress of John of Gaunt, later to become his wife.  He was the Duke of Lancaster.  This was in medieval England, in the 14th century.  I want to read about how a woman went from being a mistress to the wife of a Duke, and how she survived court in a time when women were mostly used as property.  It looks very interesting.  She wss intelligent and considered one of the beauties of medieval England. 

Shakespeare's Wife - Germaine Greer.   Other than her name, not much is known about Ann Hathaway, the wife of William Shakespeare.  This is the first  major biography of Shakespeare's wife, the woman who bore his children and lived far from the London scene.  Who was she? How did she feel as Shakespeare gained so much acclaim, and she was never by his side?
Elizabeth's London - Everyday Life in Elizabethan England - Liza Picard.  This is part of a series of books Liza Picard has written, about daily life in London through the centuries.  This was published in 2003, so fairly new, and covers all the things you wanted to know about Elizabethan England: from House Moving, to Garden Design, to The Bills of Mortality, to The Markets, Cooking and Recipes, Sex Outside Marriage, The lottery, Education, Interiors and Furniture, Clothes and Beauty, Law.  These are chapter headings, and there are many more fun ones!  Just everything you would want to know about life in Elizabeth England.  I have Restoration London and Dr Johnson's London in this series.  Victorian London rounds out the titles.  So if you are looking for a good history of daily life in London in different centuries, this is an excellent series to start with. 

and lastly, bought today, just out in sofcover: 

Effie - Suzanne Fagence Cooper.  About the live of Effie Gray, John Ruskin and John Everett Millais, the Pre-Raphaelite painter.  She married John Ruskin first, who on their wedding night turned away from her saying she didn't inspire desire in him.  When Millais was hired  to paint Ruskin's portrait several years later, Millais and Effie fell in love.  She dared to leave Ruskin, and go to live with Millais. This makes it sound boring when it really looks very interesting and intriguing, a love triangle that involves one of England's greatest art critics and one of the Pre-Raphaelite painters. And the woman who caused Victorian England's most scandalous love triangle.  Passion, art, and real life - this is irresistible.

Now the challenge is to find time to read them all!   13 books, one per month, I could feel a challenge coming on. 

So, how about you?  Have you been buying any unusual for you books lately?  Is any non-fiction suddenly drawing your interest?

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Divergent - really good teen dystopian novel

I have to thank CJ over at Years of Reading Seriously.  She left a comment on my post a few weeks ago about dystopian sf literature, and recommended Divergent by Veronica Roth.  So I started looking for it, along with many of the other books recommended by you lovely book blogging friends.  To my surprise, I discovered Divergent is a YA dystopian novel, and that it was published only last year. I tried to get it at my library and discovered 600 people were ahead of me!  Then, on Tuesday, I discovered it at Chapters.  I sat down to read a few chapters to see if I liked it.

I ended up buying it.  It's that good.  I couldn't put it down.  I read it late into the night, and then last night finished it.            

It's the story of a young girl, 16 year old Beatrice, who lives in what remains of Chicago after some unnamed world disaster. Humanity - at least in Chicago - have separated into 5 factions: Abnegation, where selflessness is the purpose, and serving others first; Amity, friendship and caring, peaceful and artistic aims with this faction; Candor, where honest is the name of the game always so they wear black and white and live as if the world is exactly that, right or wrong; Dauntless, the group that protects the other four factions, that values fearlessness in protecting others, and that facing your fears makes you stronger,; and Erudite, the last group, where learning, and knowledge are the route to power. 

The five factions are made up of people who show a natural tendency for the group, and who select them on their 16th birthday.  They are initiated into the group they have selected, and then must pass a series of initiation rigors before achieving acceptance and full membership.  Unfortunately it is more difficult to become a full member than some people have the capacity for, and they fail to become members, to pass the initiation tests, and leave their group. These are known as factionless people, and have no power, no say, no group, no place really in the world. It is considered the worst thing to fail to become a member of the group you have selected.

The heroine is Beatrice, who we follow from just before the testing for her natural aptitudes, through her choice - because even if they have an aptitude for one group, they don't have to choose it. This the monikor on the top of the front cover:  One Choice Can Transform You. Beatrice discovers that her test results are inconclusive.  She could be Abnegation, Erudite, or Dauntless.  Any faction.  This is an unusual result, called Divergent, and  Beatrice is warned that she can tell no one her results.  She makes her choice to become dauntless, the brave, fearless confident group that wear black clothes and have tattoos and earrings and piercings everywhere.    Much of the novel is taken up with her in the initiation and testing, which is a fascinating story about competition and winning, and bravery.  I loved this part.  It was like being at a school where you can't fail, because failure is to end up factionless, homeless, castout.

This is a fast-paced novel, the first in a trilogy.  Insurgent is book 2, out now in bookstores - I will be hastening to get my copy shortly!  Wonderful characters abound, from the group Beatrice (or Tris as she is known in Dauntless), is training with, Christina, Will, Al, Four, Max, to Tris's family, to the testing itself.  Tris is not perfect, she is small, and comes from Abnegation, so everyone makes fun of the fact that she has gone from the group serving others and not thinking of one's self, to learning how to give herself time and pleasure and to live for what she wants, which is why she left Abnegation. 

I was fascinated by the psychology behind these groupings, and how people fit themselves, in, and how each group worked.  There is even a quiz at the end which I did for fun, and - it was inconclusive.  I'm not sure if  that means I am divergent too!  or if they didn't have enough questions for an adult, as these were geared for teens.  I liked seeing how the factions worked, too, and most of all, I enjoyed getting to know Tris and what happens to her as she grows in skill and confidence during the rounds of testing.  She learns a lot about herself and others, and she fails sometimes too. 

This was a really enjoyable book.  I have already offered to lend it to one friend, I like it so much!  It's been reviewed as a book similar to The Hunger Games, which I have not read yet (though I do finally own a copy). Similar in that the world has changed, it's a teen book, and a contest is going on. So if you liked The Hunger Games, most assuredly you will like Divergent. It's a really good SF novel.

However, it is not a perfect book.  There is a lot of violence - the Dauntless are training to be the protectors of the city, thus they have to develop fighting skills and show bravery.  One of the best things about Tris is that she is brave and courageous naturally, which are not Abnegation skills, though as Four points out to her, she is brave when it comes to helping people - an Abnegation way of looking at the world, of putting others first.  Tris discovers that something is not perfect in this society, that however these groups were originally devised, something is changing in the power struggle.  Thus the name of the second book - Insurgent.  I won't say more so that you don't read any spoilers, I will say that the book ends in a shocking ending,one that I am still thinking over today.  It is gripping, exciting, an adventure novel that is difficult to put down.  I didn't like all the violence at the end, not because it wasn't necessary to the book, it was, and done in a very chilling way.  I just don't like alot of violence to begin with (and yes, I know, I read tons of mysteries!) and the book ended in a way that there wasn't time to feel the cathartic release as the killers (hopefully) feel their remorse. Yet it is an integral part of the story, so it belongs.  I say this as someone who hasn't read The Hunger Games because I know it involves killing your opponent.  That is something I have to be in the right frame of mind to read.

Divergent rates a 4/5 stars, mostly because there is one act in the middle of the book that didn't seem to fit, that was never dealt with by the leaders in the group, and I think normally would have been. So not a perfect novel, though certainly very interesting and enjoyable and thrilling to read.  I also really like that the idea of belonging to a group vs being on your own is what is in the background here.  How does a person fit in?  What do they have to do to succeed in this?  What happens when you don't fit in?  Which aren't just teen concerns,though this is when we first become aware of the group and the self and make our initial decisions on how we belong, and where.  I rather think I belong to divergent anyway, as there are very few groups that I fit into, naturally. I'm just odd. It's only now that I'm nearing 50 that I feel safe saying so!

If you have read it, did you take the quiz at the end?  Is anyone out there clearly belonging to a faction?

Batman:  I don't know about you, but I am so excited about The Dark Knight Rises  opening tomorrow!!!! I am hoping to go see it tomorrow night, though realistically it will be sometimes this weekend.

Monday, 16 July 2012

A Vintage Affair - Isabel Wolff - book review

I read this book a couple of weeks ago, when I needed a break from the dystopian books I've been devouring.  A Vintage Affair was light and sweet, exactly what I was looking for. Even if it made me cry!                                                 

A Vintage Affair stars Phoebe Swift as a just turned 30 woman who has opened her second-hand clothing store in September.  She doesn't buy just any second-hand clothing, she buys vintage clothing featuring top of the line designers.  I am not a clothes horse, and can't afford many any designer clothes - but like many of us, I suspect, I've drooled over pages of Vogue and Elle and I know the names of many of the designers today and yesterday.  Reading A Vintage Affair is like stepping into a salon where some of the most delightful, stylish and beautiful clothing is on display. In A Vintage Affair, Phoebe tries to match up the clothing to her clients - she is not interested in just selling the clothes, but in finding the right fit - the clothing that belongs to the person. The most special dresses are the cupcake dresses she sells, bright dresses from the 1950's, sent to her by a dealer in Texas. When the story opens, each of the dresses are hung up on the wall, and she says they are magical dresses - dresses where dreams can come true.  How the right people find the dresses, and what happens to each, is part of the magic of this story. Fairy-tale -that's what Phoebe calls the dresses, like the gowns the princesses wear in the Disney films, only these go just below the new.  I here confess that I loved the gowns in Disney, and spent many happy hours trying to decide which colours I would wear and when. This book is like an adult fairy tale. 

As with all fairy tales, there is some sadness, and darkness, and Phoebe can't outrun hers, as much as she tries.  Her best friend has died, and the reasons why she has died and why Phoebe blames herself, make up some of the dark part of the book.  The ending is a lovely surprise, as Phoebe learns how the shock of what happened to Emma has altered her memories surrounding the event. 

The other dark part is also a much darker story that evolves in the story of Mrs Bell, who is hiding a tragic story of her own in the history of a child's coat she hides in her wardrobe. WW 2 and France are involved here, so there is a real layer of history underlining this story, some tragic.  Just as there is in some of the clothing Phoebe buys from her various estate sales and sellers. Because this is a fairy tale, there are happy endings all around for those who deserve them, though there are many tears (at least from me) along the way.  As well, there is the discovery of love, and the things that love can bear. There is tragedy and farce in equal measure here, which makes what could have been a difficult story to read, a real pleasure.

All in all this is a charming story - I loved it, and it made me smile when I needed it.  I really enjoyed Phoebe and her mother, her  father, Annie who wanders in and ends up working at the store, Mrs Bell, and Dan and his dream of opening a theatre - quite a few of the characters have dreams of doing things and are pursuing them, which are part of fairy tales and magic and making dreams come true. I love all the clothing in her store.  I would love to find a store like that here!  Just to go in and gaze at the lovely vintage fashions from yesteryear, and hope the clothing finds a new life, just as Phoebe wants the clothes she buys for the shop to find a new owner as well.  Very sweet, and recommended for anyone who needs a lift on a down day.  Or some enjoyable reading for a summer's hot afternoon.

Here is a link to Isabel Wolff talking about the fashion research and  WW 2 and France research that went into her novel.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Books I can hardly wait for!

I am so excited!  Here are a few books that are coming out this year, ones that I didn't expect or even know about:

Giles Blunt, my favourite Canadian mystery writer, has a new one in his John Cardinal series, which is going to be released August 7.  Cardinal was last seen in Crime Machine, which I reviewed here last year. This was exciting enough to discover. 

Of all things, Alan Garner has a sequel - ok, third book, in the now Brisingamen and Moon of Gomrath two books series, now after 50 years has the third book due out next month, here is the link to the Guardian article. Click on Boneland in the article.  

I don't know when it's coming out in Canada, though it's on my wishlist now.  One of the best fantasy series ever.  I'm due to reread the two books now, so it will be fresh whenever Boneland is out here.

Here, is the cover of the new Artur Indridason, due out July 24.  It features Sigurdur Oli, last seen in Outrage, which was supposed to be in paperback this month, and has now been put back to October. I don't know if I should read Outrage first, I guess I should.  But why would the second one be out in softcover before the first one?  Mysteries of  publishing. 

And then, finally:  the very first Harry Hole mystery is going to be published.  It's not coming out here until October, but here it is, the cover of The Bat

  It's set in Australia, and is the case that made his name (that we have seen referred to in The Red Breast and some of his other books).  I am so thrilled.  I am currently reading Phantom, his latest mystery, and am totally engrossed in it. The Bat was never published before in English, the Harry Hole series in English started with The Red Breast, so this is wonderful news.***edited to add:  We get the whole series! 

So what books are you waiting for, or that you have just learned are going to be out later this year?

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

some flowers from my garden

One of the things that I love that is giving me great consolation as well as joy is my flower garden.
 I don't have a good picture this year yet of my garden, but here are a few of some of the flowers blooming.  First up is the iris, which was the first flower planted in my garden.  My mother gave them to me from her garden.  They have really loved my soil, and have flourished in the past 8 years we have been in this house.

 This is the heirloom rose I found by accident last year at Walmart.  I love this rose.  It's been slow to bloom this year, and this was the first bloom.  Isn't it almost perfect?  I've blanked out on the name, and it's late, so I will come back tomorrow in case you want to know which one it is.


 I love the rose picture the best.  I have three rose bushes, and while they are blooming, I am fighting with beetles which are eating them as fast as they bloom, plus we are extremely hot and dry this year, so they aren't lasting long.

 I also have been taking some while out for walks in the city this spring, mostly on the way home from work.
The bottom three are my favourites so far.  It's been a lovely year for blossoms.


 I love these pink blossoms, the pink was so vivid and gorgeous! 

Gardening soothes me and grounds me, and I love feeling the dirt in my fingers.  No matter how I'm feeling, when I'm in the garden, everything falls away and I have a sense of timelessness for a few precious hours. 

Here is a link to a post I did last year, that has some of the statues in my garden.  I have been building a butterfly and bee friendly garden, I love feeding nature.  This way I feed my soul, and the birds, the bees, and the butterflies! 

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Living with poetry

I like that poetry connects me to a moment in time, a shining moment that is clear and true and filled with something that takes me out of the rush of  life deeper into the moment of living.  Life is this moment, right now.  Poetry - and writing - and  meditation, is about standing still and being right now, in this moment.  Feeling this grief, this love, this beauty, the extraordinary gift of being alive, and breathing. Everything falls away except for this moment, now.  When I read a poem that moves me, that's what it does, it reaches down into me, and stills me, and I am connected to it, and made richer because I have connected to someone else through the medium of poetry.

This is the link to Naomi Shihab Nye's interview and poem Kindness.  It's found in the magazine Spirituality & Health.  I picked it up on Thursday because of an article that isn't featured online, called "The Medicine Of Poetry: How Words Can Save Your Life."  I had just come from handing in the retainer for my divorce, and I needed to draw a deep breath and settle into myself again.  This article talks about Kim Rosen's discovery of poetry at a time when she really needed it in her life. The poem" Kindness" saved her, taught her she could get through an extremely difficult time.  Naomi Shihab Nye is the author of the poem, and her story about how she came to write it is incredible also.

  I read "The Medicine of Poetry" there in the store, and started to cry, for this is how I have been feeling about discovering poetry over the past two years. Kim makes this same connection, that poetry is healing:
          "Those poems not only infused me with their wisdom, but they actually brought vibrancy to my body.  How, might you ask, can a poem have a physical effect? As the poet Emily Dickinson says, "If I read a  book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire could ever warm me, I know that is poetry.  If I feel physically as if the top of my head has been taken off, I know that is poetry!"  Like a shaman's drum or a Sanskrit chant, the rhythm of a poem entrains your heartbeat, the phrasing changes your breathing, and the sounds resonate within the crystalline structures in your bones and fascia.....
      I became fascinated with poetry, not primarily as a literary art, but instead as a powerful healing medicine to unlock the richness of the inner life."
                               from "The Medicine of Poetry, How Words can Save Your Life "- Kim Rosen, in Spirituality and Health, July/Aug 2012 issue.

How often do you turn to poetry in your life?  Do you read it often, or occasionally, or almost never?  Kim Rosen was afraid of poetry for a long time  - she explains this in the article, and I really wish this article was online so you could go read the whole wonderful thing. She discovered poetry by accident one day, in a tape cassette she discovered while cleaning (she is a therapist). She listened to it, and it was spoken poetry that called out to her, and set her on her course to discover more.  The article is also on a few another person who had discovered poetry, through Mary Oliver:

     "It was a poem called 'The Summer Day' by Mary Oliver.  Much of the first stanza was about a grasshopper.  The description of the creature's 'complicated eyes' and 'pale forearms' was lovely, but Jan didn't see what it had to do with her.  A few lines later, though, she caught her breath.  "I don't know exactly what a prayer is," she heard her own voice say.  Suddenly she was awake, listening.  The next lines of the poem spoke directly to her - addressing a conversation that ran constantly below the surface of her life, but which she had never spoken out loud: How do  I pray when I am not religious?  How did my life become so meaningless?  What do I hold sacred anyway?  The final lines left her heart pounding: "Tell me, what is it you plan to do/with your one wild and precious life?"

In the store when I read those lines, I felt a chill on my arms, and that is when I began to cry.  It is exactly how I felt when I discovered Mary Oliver, that something that I didn't know I was longing to express, leapt up and took hold of me, and ever since then I have been reading poetry and exploring what it can be about.  I have been thinking about how to bring poetry into my life more, how to open myself up to the world around me, and if I can find a way to devote myself to writing more deeply, which has been on my mind ever since reading the interview with Mary Oliver earlier this year. Here is a link to the post I wrote about that interview.  That interview is changing my life, and is changing my relationship to how I write.

 Mary Oliver's poetry is called praise poetry, a term she devised when she realized she wrote hymns to the world, love poems to nature,  poems about the sacred in nature around her.  I am deeply thrilled that there is a place in the world for poetry like this, because without knowing it, it's what I have been writing all along, trying to express, the wonder in life around me. 

One of the things that Kim suggests is to make a list of the poems that have moved you, that have the deepest meaning for you, and track when they came into your life.  She says to write out your favourite poems, verses, and lines, and put them up where you can see them - on the refrigerator, taped to the mirror, frame them,  carry them with you. She says  this is a way of bringing the poems into your life, of letting you live with them.  This is an interesting idea.  I have a little book I used to write down the poems I especially liked, so they were together, but I haven't done this in over 20 years.

 I think all art is like this, paintings, music, dance, theatre, movies, singing, all the ways we have of expressing ourselves, is our souls reaching out, saying - this moment, this life, this extraordinary time.And it's not all about beautiful moments.  Grief, loss, pain, darker emotions also have their say in our souls.  I love this poem that Kim includes  in her article, "The Guest House" by Rumi.  Here is a link online to it.  Suddenly, I am able to make room for all my mean feelings, too, for darkness and despair, and sorrow.  I don't have to like them (who does?) but they have a place, a say in who I am, too, a place at the table of my soul, and I like how Rumi says that they may be clearing me out for some new delight. 

It seems to me that poetry can be a way to connect to life spiritually.  It is a way to give voice to the sacred, to give meaning to our moments and our lives.  I am incredibly grateful, profoundly moved by the poems I am finding, especially now as I move through  this stage of separation and loss in my life. Poetry reminds me that life is sacred, and that this is a moment, and it is safe to feel it, and see it, and be in it.  This is where life is. 

So do you have a favourite poem that you return to again and again, my friends?  A poem that has sheltered you, or comforted you, or led you to an unexpected realization or view of the world, that has woken you up to possibility?  Let me know, drop me a line, I'm curious to see how many of us read poems, and what some of your favourite poems are.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

science fiction disaster novels

I have come to the conclusion that the reason I am reading so many disaster novels   - end of the world science fiction, apocalyptic it is called, is because my own life is crumbling and it makes me feel better when I read about other characters facing the end of their world too.  I know it's just divorce I am going through, and it's not the end of everything, it just seems like so much is changing and so little I can hang on to.  So as much as I have so many plans to read books- and dear Reader, every week I make  a new mental list of what I'd like to read shortly! - I find that my attention is drawn to books  I come across, featuring ecological disasters, mostly.  So I'd like to ask you: do you have a favourite dystopian novel that you could recommend? It's not a genre I usually read in, so I don't know much about this area.

Please don't recommend The Road by Cormac McCarthy.  That is too grim for me, too dark.

Books I have read this year so far that fall into this category: reviews:
Where Late the Birds Sang - Kate Wilhelm - beautiful end of the world cloning story,  in which fertility goes wrong, and cloning seems to be the answer to mankind's survival.  This was quite an intense read, and clear about what cloning could mean - it was frightening, and also smart,as it made me think about what cost human survival?  When does being alike become dangerous?  When does being alone become a strength?  Books feature, too, as a way to show how to survive when all communication is gone.

Life As We Knew It -  Susan Beth Pfeifer.  Gosh, simply wonderful.  Gripping, real, what happens if an asteroid should hit the moon and knock it off-course just a little.  I will always remember the image of the moon being so close in the sky, in this book, hanging there in the middle of the day.  And what happens that first year after the tsunamis, flooding, natural destruction as the moon pulls on the tides and waters of the earth.  It's about one family and how they cope through the eyes of a 16 year old girl, and I dare you to put it down while reading it.

Lucifer's Hammer - Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, - read earlier this year, review here.

I am currently reading Flood by Stephen Baxter, set in 2016, and featuring rising water tides all over the world.  I have just started it, and it's gripping.  It's set in London England, and when it actually mentioned Grays (where my soon to be ex's family is from), and Lakeside Gardens, the big shopping mall around the corner from their house, I got all excited. 

I just bought I am Legend by Richard Matheson.  I've watched all the versions of the movies of this book!  Time I read the novel, I think.  I also just picked up a second-hand copy of The Postman by David Brin.  Yes that science fiction novel that became the Kevin Costner movie - I believe the book is better than the movie, I certainly hope so!

It's not like I am only reading these, I am able to read the occasional mystery and lots of fantasy in between, and more horror than usual (I will be posting on this soon, too).   I am anxiously awaiting the next installment of Justin Cronin's series, out in October - dystopian vampire novel, love it! Dystopian because of the virus that caused the vampires.......

Books I've read in the past, some many years ago:
On The Beach - Nevil Shute
A Canticle for Leibowitz - Walter M Miller Jr
Swan Song - Robert R McCammon (own it, due for a reread, one of my favourites)
 Dies the Fire - SM Stirling
Day of the Triffids - John Wyndham
The Plague Tales - Ann Benson
and, of course:
The Stand - Stephen King (have reread and due for another read soon)

So do you have a favourite  science fiction end of the world novel, Gentle Readers? Please let me know if you  recommend some titles.