Monday, 28 July 2008

Mini-vacation - and England

I'm back! I ran out of time last week before we left, to post and say I was taking a mini-vacation to our favourite place in Canada: Picton, Ontario, on the world's largest fresh-water island, and the Sandbanks National Park. The best beaches and water for swimming in Canada, if not much of the Northern Hemisphere. So, last Thursday we left on the train, and where we went had no computer, no telephone, a radio, and a tv with 3 channels and no working dvd player. It was heaven. It was bliss. My sister-in-law's cottage overlooks the Bay of Quinte and is on the water's edge, so every morning we could go down to the dock and be near water. I'm not sure what it is about water that calms me, but it does. The cottage we stayed at is not in Picton (town of 4,000 people) itself, but out in the countryside of the island, so we had little traffic, little noise, only a row of mixed cottages and homes in a row overlooking the water. I know I'm lucky to live by Britannia Park here in Ottawa, and can escape there as often as I can. After a while though, I have to leave the city. I need a change of scenery to refresh myself, to feel rejuvenated. Actually, I need time to read, to feel rejuvenated, and that's all the time!!! Leaving the city, traveling, also helps wake me up. I have always enjoyed going somewhere, and Picton is our destination of choice. My sister-in-law and niece live there, so luckily we have a place to stay, and great family to visit, and we have a wonderful time. This time was the same, we had a very good visit, and the children came away wanting to go back as soon as possible. They survived without tv, vcr, and X-box! And since I didn't want much noise, we wanted to hear silence and the water on the shore and the wind in the trees, we rarely had the radio on. I could, at the quietest times, get a sense of the quieter rhythms of the earth that it is so difficult to hear in the city. That sense of eternal time, of being in a more gentle pace, of hearing the space between the waves, of the motion of the earth - that is what I found this time, as I do every time I visit there. So I didn't get much reading done, but I found what I had been missing, and I think the less frequent posts in May, June and July were showing how out of tune I was getting with myself.

However, I did visit the only bookstore in Picton!! Of course I did! And luckily a thunderstorm was overhead so no one complained about the time spent there! I only found two books to come home with me: In the Electric Mist With Confederate Dead by James Lee Burke, and Sylvia Townsend Warner's In the Kingdom of Elfin. Both are books I have been looking for. I could have bought a few more, but my husband was watching books for the kids pile up - they each had chosen one and we'd found a box of stickers for the trip home - so I had to think about luggage and restrained myself.

Best of all, I heard a loon call twice on this trip. The first time I could hardly believe it, as it has been years since I last heard one in the wild. Then it came again, yesterday morning, and I saw it diving for fish out beyond the dock. I tried to get a picture, but of course, in the way of the wild, as soon as I got my camera out it vanished. For those of you who don't know, loons are only heard in the wild, on lakes, here in Canada, and they usually call before it rains. Sure enough, we had rain - and another thunderstorm - last night.

So, I'm back. And, as the header suggests.....England is next. We're going at Christmas! so all my bloggers in the UK, if you are going to be around London over the holidays, drop me a line, I'd love to meet you. I'll be on Charing Cross Road as often as I can!! (Rhinoa, Ann, Bride, Geraniumcat, Mariel, this is particularly meant for you) We're going mid-December, in time for the Christmas rush, and coming home in early January. My daughter cries once a week because we aren't there yet; her birthday is Dec 24 so she gets to have her birthday there with her grandparents and she can't wait! My mother-in-law is crossing the days off the calendar; she can't wait! All this is to say, we couldn't take a longer vacation in Picton because most of our holidays are being used for Christmas instead. So this really was a mini-vacation, to get us through to then!!

Before I go, I want to ask a question: for all of you out there who read to relax, do you find that if you don't have time to read on a vacation, that something is missing? Do you miss reading if you don't have the time, when on vacation? Do you take too many books on holiday? Or plan to buy a book wherever you are? I always take too many books, and I always buy some when on vacation. The best vacation for me includes time to read. Vacations have to, since that is the best part of my day, every day: reading. That's when I know all is right with my world, that I have time to read.

Happy reading tonight! Now, I'm going to go read while there are a few hours left on this mini-vacation.....

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Book Meme

Finally! I can do this meme, that Rhinoa tagged me for on July 2. A most excellent book meme, so thank you to Rhinoa, and here goes:

Do you remember how you developed a love for reading?
We were always read to, there are pictures of my sister (a year younger than I) and myself sitting on my father's lap while he read books to us, I would have been 3 and Patricia 2, if not younger. My father taught English most of his life, first as a teacher of English literature at various schools across the country, and later he taught English to French civil servants for the Federal Government. We always had books, and I don't even remember learning how to read. I always could. The first -presents I ever bought, that I could choose for someone else - was for my first best friend, when I was 8 years old - were books! it never really occurred to me to chose anything else! and I was so excited and pleased to give them. I'm not sure she read them, though she was the first person I also co-wrote a mystery with, so all was not lost! From an early age I read the cereal box, the milk carton, or anything else I could find at the breakfast table, and any other time we were allowed books there, and everywhere else. I would read under my blanket at night when I was 12, with a flashlight. (Did we all have to go to bed too early, since I think a few of us bloggers have mentioned this habit in our childhood?) While no one has ever said I was born with a book in my hand like Rhinoa's family do to her, my love of books is legendary and almost no one in my family will willingly enter a bookstore with me now!

What are some books you read as a child?

Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, The Bobbsey Twins, Dr Seuss, The Hobbit, Cherry Ames, Meg mysteries, LM Montgomery (almost everything she wrote), Gene Stratton Porter, Enid Blyton mysteries - Famous Five, Adventurous Four, especially. Laura Ingalls Wilder, I loved her! This is all before I was 12, when I began to branch out, and discovered Harlequin Romances.

What is your favorite genre?
Fantasy and mystery are tied. I read widely in both areas, above and beyond anything else. I think I always have - see the books I read as a child. I'm sure if there had been fantasy being published then for kids I would have read it! I'm interested in lots of areas, so I have books on a lot of different topics. I love mysteries and fantasy, though.

Do you have a favorite novel?
A favourite for this year, or for always? Hmm. Persuasion by Jane Austen, Bellwether by Connie Willis, Bridget Jone's Diary by Helen Fielding, Black and Blue by Ian Rankin, Bones by Jan Burke, It by Stephen King, are some of my all-time favourites that I reread every other year or so. For this year, so far I have added Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman as one I know I will come back to again.

Where do you usually read?
In my chair by the window in the living room, or at the kitchen table. On the bus on the way to work, at work, and in bed (though that never lasts more than a few minutes before I start yawning). Never in the bath - I take only showers now, and I ruined some books though I love the idea of reading while taking a long bath!! someday, i will read again at the park, but my kids keep me far too busy to even think of bringing a book there.

When do you usually read?

Whenever I can, but mostly in the evenings after the kids are in bed, on the bus to and from work, and at work on my lunchtimes.

Do you usually have more than one book you are reading at a time?

Yes! I usually have a fiction book that I have at the table (or in my bag for work), and a short-story collection somewhere -either at the kitchen table or waiting by my bedside, or poetry there - poetry somewhere, and a non-fiction book, which gets moved around depending where i can find time to sit. It's the only way I can make headway on all my challenges, is to have a book nearby to grab! Usually I read one all the way through, though, but if I'm really interested in two, I'll go back and forth.

Do you read nonfiction in a different way or place than you read fiction?
See above, no!! It takes me longer to read non-fiction because I like to think over and absorb what I'm reading, whereas I read fiction straight through. Poetry I read a poem at a time, and the same with short stories.

Do you buy most of the books you read, or borrow them, or check them out of the library?

I buy most of the ones I read. I much prefer knowing they are mine, mine, mine! I will use the library, especially when money is tight or I'm really not sure about an author, and I want to try one or two books, or when I have a whole list of new authors to try. Otherwise, and mostly in the past two years, I have been buying books over anything else.

Do you keep most of the books you buy? If not, what do you do with them?

Oh yes!! I occasionally buy a book that I end up feeling lukewarm about, or can't finish, but that is rare, and they get given away to charity shops as soon as possible. Most of the books I buy I keep. I love Rhinoa's answer to this, by the way, which I completely agree with, and have said myself many times to other people here. I think a house without books has no soul, and certainly doesn't hold my interest for long!!!

If you have children, what are some of the favorite books you have shared with them? Were they some of the same ones you read as a child?
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown - I don't recall this as a child, but my eldest son I think I gave a copy to, and the daycare I ran at the time with my two nieces LOVED this book. So I give it now to almost everyone with a child. Currently my two little ones are reading it, and it's fun to see that they react to different things than Duncan (the eldest) or their cousins did, but they all love it.
Dr Seuss is another, although my kids aren't as keen as I was. I have some MOther Goose books that we are starting to read, that I remember from when I was a little girl, and I have piles of books waiting - all my favourites listed above, I'm starting to collect again for my daughter in the hopes she will read alot.

What are you reading now?
-Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde,
-Secret Language of Signs by Denise Linn
-Harrowing the Dragon by Patricia McKillip
-This Year You Write Your Novel - Walter Mosley (ongoing)
-Tarot for Yourself - Mary K Greer (ongoing)

Do you keep a TBR (to be read) list?
Oh yes! Several! In my purse, on the shelf, all compiled from various sources. Mostly it's a list of books I want to acquire to read, and I update it fairly often - I add to it constantly, but every so often I take satisfaction from crossing off what I've bought or read and making a new list. I love my TBR lists!

What’s next?
Finishing some more challenges - the non-fiction 5 is up next, and catch up on my posts - I have to do reviews of several books I've read, and start seeing what I'm missing in order to complete some of the challenges I'm in. I also have just discovered one of my co-workers reads widely and he has some books I'm interested in borrowing.....

What books would you like to reread?
Persuasion (see above in favourites) is on my list to reread in December in honour of Jane Austen's birthday; Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights I am rereading this summer for two challenges, I am rereading several Charles de Lint books for the Canadian Challenge 2, and I really want to reread It by Stephen King (just because it is a book I associate with summer and I'm due to reread it now!)and Natalie Goldberg - Writing Down the Bones, and Julia Cameron The Vein of Gold, to get me started writing again. Some books I reread often - every couple of years - and others I am rereading for the first time in 10 or 15 years, or even 20 years, because I've forgotten much about them (at least until I open the book) and I find myself wanting to reread them and see if I like them as much this time, and to refresh my memory about them.
Dune by Frank Herbert is another book, and if I can find it, Farmer in the Sky by Robert Heinlein, which was one of the first science fiction books that I loved (as opposed to fantasy which I loved from day one). Bellwether is due too for a reread soon, as is Doomsday Book, which I consider one of the best time travel books ever written, both by Connie Willis.

Who are your favorite authors?

So many!! Ian Rankin, Phil Rickman, Patricia McKillip, Jane Austen, Charles de Lint, Connie Willis, Sara Paretsky, Neil Gaiman, Mary Oliver (poet), Henning Mankell, JRR Tolkien, Robin McKinley, Jan Burke, Jasper Fforde, May Sarton (poet), James Lee Burke, Tanya Huff, Liza Cody.....I have so many authors that I love for various reasons, that I have not listed half of them. But these are all authors of books that I devour, that I love and in almost all cases, come back to read. Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, Dan Simmons...... As Rhinoa says, the list goes on and on......and that's not counting the writing books - Natalie Goldberg, Julia Cameron, Walter Mosley, Stephen King, Eric Maisel, some of my favourites, my spiritual books, astrology books, history books.......but first and foremost, I think of the above authors first when asked this question.

So, who are your favourite authors? I would like to tag Nymeth at Things Mean Alot, Charlotte at Charlotte's Web, and Ann at Table Talk and Geraniumcat at Geranium Cat's Bookshelf.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, 15 July 2008


So, I was going to catch up on some posts tonight, but on the way home, my littlest darling ran ahead of me, and out of sight, decided to cross the road by our home. Which is not a busy road, but cars race down the hill on the way to the park, and race up - Britannia Rd cars have the right of way - so they don't stop. So, I saw littlest one disappear behind the hedge, and his sister standing on the corner, and I yelled 'stop' as I do to tell them again to stop there (because they love running ahead of me to the corner), and then as I got near, there he was. Across the road. Standing on the corner. At first I couldn't believe my eyes. Then I realized that my 3 year old had just crossed Britannia Road by himself.

So now that the daily stuff has gone on and dinner is over and little ones tucked up in bed, everything that could have happened keeps crowding into my mind. Rush hour, and there's almost always cars going up and down. How did the road happen to be empty at that minute? He says he looked and no cars. I say, angels.

So I'm going to go say thank you again to all the spirits and angels looking out for him out there that he is safe and sound, and kiss both my darlings on the tops of their sleeping heads, and I'll write about books and things tomorrow.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Beowulf - Penguin Classics (Michael Alexander transl)

( I am unable to post a picture of my version, which has an enlarged version of part of a bowl from the Sutton Hoo collection in the British Museum. Mine was published in 1973, transl by Michael Alexander, Penguin Classics, 1973, paperback).

I had studied Old English in university, and very much enjoyed it. There was something about the use of alliteration that appealed to me: 'Him da Scyld gewat to gescaephwile,/ felahror feran on Frean waere.' (lines 26-27). If you say it out loud, as the bard would have recited it in the smoky halls long ago, you can get a sense of the rhythm, the recurring sounds that are almost hypnotic. It was a way to recall for the bard from memory the lay, and I think it also stirred in the blood of every listener ancient echoes of remembering. I did not keep my text of Old English dictionary and texts that I used, which I now of course regret since one of things I loved was translating the original old English directly, and then transforming it into modern usage. I could see the beginnings of our language, and my ancestry, in the Old English.

The lines above translate in my edition by Michael Alexander to: 'At the hour shaped for him Scyld departed, the hero crossed into the keeping of his Lord.'

This is an epic poem, and it is beautiful. I should have remembered how much I loved Old English, but over the years I had forgotten. And I love this version of Beowulf; I have Seamus Heaney's version, which I am going to read next month, so that I give a little time to sit in my mind this version before going with the award-winning version. From the bit I have peeked at though, I think I can say I prefer this version - Alexander's because it is as close to a direct translation of the Old English, which I have said above that I love. There is a directness to this translation, an immediacy that Old English contains in itself: 'It is a sorrow in spirit for me to say to any man/ - a grief in my heart - what the hatred of Grendel/ has brought me to in Heorot, what humiliation,/ what harrowing pain. My hall-companions,/ my war-band, are dwindled; Weird has swept them/ into the power of Grendel.'(473-478) I love the word 'Weird' for fate. I love the alliteration, I love how the words are used so that we have to say each of them - this isn't easy poetry that you can say hurriedly, you have to say each word, so you feel the poetry with your mouth as well as hear it.

All the way through the poem runs the Viking way of life, interspersed with the new Christian religion - we are seeing the usurption of the old Gods by the new one in this part (told by the bard in the hall):
'.......until One began
to encompass evil, an enemy from hell.
Grendel they called this cruel spirit,
the fell and fen his fastness was,
the march his haunt. This unhappy being
had long lived in the land of monsters
since the Creator cast them out
as kindred of Cain. For that killing of Abel
the eternal Lord took vengeance.
There was no joy of that feud: far from mankind
God drove him out for his deed of shame!
From Cain came down all kinds of misbegotten
-ogres and elves and evil shades -
as also the Giants, who joined in long
wars with God.
' (lines 101 - 115)

This is the first time I have encountered a recounting of what happened to Cain, and it is fascinating to see how the bard recounts how evil things are from Cain, so part of God's landscape, but not to be tolerated. This is only a side part of the poem, for the most part it is Norse, with the warrior's way of life paramount:
'For in youth an atheling should so use his virtue,
give with a free hand while in his father's house,
that in old age, when enemies gather,
established friends shall stand by him
and serve him gladly. It is by glorious action
that a man comes by honour in any people.
' (lines 20-25)

This is the Viking code, and it is repeated throughout the poem, and at the end has a special resonance because '
The band of picked companions did not come
to stand beside about him, as battle-usage asks,
offspring of athelings; they escaped to the wood,
saved their lives.
Sorrow filled/the breast of one man. The bonds of kinship
nothing may remove for a man who thinks rightly.
' (lines 2596-2603)

I was enthralled by this poem, and was transported back in time to halls of warriors drinking and laughing, shouting boasts and knowing their days are numbered by Weird so living knowing they are going to die one day.

I love the dragon at the end. Beowulf is such a hero that he kills Grendel with his bare hands (which turns out to be the only thing that can kill Grendel), then Grendel's mother, and then, at the end, a dragon. I admit here that while I knew Tolkien lectured and studied on Norse myths, I did not know that almost his entire idea of Smaug was taken from Beowulf. I was stunned when I read it:
....Men did not know
of the way underground to it; but one man did enter,
went right inside, reached the treasure,
the heathen hoard, and his hand fell
on a golden goblet. The guardian, however,
if he had been caught sleepig by the cunning of the thief,
did not conceal this loss. It was not long til the near-
dwelling people discovered that the dragon was angry.
(lines 2214-2220)

I suppose that it is an honour to Beowulf that Tolkien almost directly copied how Bilbo creeps down the tunnel and discovers Smaug asleep on the hoard of treasures, and how, after Bilbo escapes him, Smaug torments the people of Dale until one man slays him - in the same manner that Beowulf's dragon is killed by Wiglaf, the one man who stands beside Beowulf in his last hour of need:

'His hand burned as he helped his kinsman,
but the brave soldier in his splendid armour
ignored the head and hit the attacker
somewhat below it, so that the sword went in,
flashing-hilted; and the fire began
to slacken in consequence.
The king {Beowulf}
once more took command of his wits......
and the Geats' Helm struck through the serpent's body.

So daring drove out life: they had downed their foe
by common action, the atheling pair,
and had made an end of him. So in the hour of need
a warrior must live.
' (lines 2696-2709)

The last line, for me, is the key to the whole work, and my favourite line. It is, I think what has become the motto for most fantasy work, and any epic poem ever written: who comes in the hour of need to save the people? As much as I personally am against war, I admire heroism, I admire facing death bravely, so in my deepest heart I admire some of the Viking culture. (Plundering and raping and killing women and children, no.)

And even if Tolkien did borrow the dragon and dragon-lore from Beowulf (and didn't mention it), that dragon-lore has passed directly into our literature. We all know how to kill a dragon - though I will admit that Tolkien embellished by saying there was a tiny part on Smaug's chest that was not covered with scales, where his heart could be hit by an arrow flown true (I think it's safe to say I know The Hobbit by heart now!!) I still love Smaug, too, as well as this nameless dragon from Beowulf. Monsters from the dark, brave heroes facing death to save their people, loyalty - and cowardice -, treasure, courage, there is not much to not like in Beowulf. I know why it's a classic now. I'm just sorry it took me so long to read it.

However, before I close, I want to talk about how we recreate myths, how over centuries we rework these myths; because, to my surprise, last night I finished Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman, and the last story, The Monarch of the Glen, is about - Beowulf again:

"There was a cold wind, a sea-wind, and it seemed to Shadow that there were huge shadows in the sky, vast figures that he had seen on a ship made of the fingernails of dead men, and that they were staring down at him, that this fight was what was keeping them frozen on their ship, unable to land, unable to leave.
This fight was old, Shadow thought, older than even Mr Alice knew, and he was thinking that even as the creature's talons raked his chest. It was the fight of man against monster, and it was old as time; it was Theseus battling the Minotaur, it was Beowulf and Grendel, it was the fight of every hero who had ever stood between the firelight and the darkness and wiped the blood of something inhuman from his sword."

I am not going to talk more about Fragile Things here, I am saving that for a separate post. As most everyone who reads Neil Gaiman knows, last year he co-wrote Beowulf, a new movie version of the epic poem. I still have to see it, as I was saving it until I'd read the original poem. Now I am going to see it, and then read Seamus Heaney's rewritten version, and will do a post later. For now, I love how Gaiman ties together old myths and creates new ones; Monarch of the Glen is of course a novella of American Gods, which I think might eventually become considered a fantasy masterpiece. (I read it before I began blogging, so when I reread it, I will post about it then!) Now I know more, because I've read Beowulf; now I know more about fantasy's roots, which I did not expect, and I've remembered that, once upon a time and always, we have told each other stories about the dark, and about the heroes who fight the things roaming in the dark.

We will always need heroes, and American Gods shows Gaiman taking the old myths and stories and changing them again, to take in the new myths of the New World. It has taken 400 years for Norse myths to start being combined with North American myths, and that is part of why I think Gaiman, and Charles de Lint (who blends Celtic fairies from the old world better than almost anyone else with the North American myths), and are among the forefront of creating hybrids of new and old myths. We need the old - we brought them with us - and we need to know the myths of where we live, so we recognize the gods here, even if they wear different faces - Spider Woman, Trickster - and now, we are bringing them together in new ways. So they live, as Shadow does in Monarch when he doesn't kill Grendel; the old myths are let free. In Beowulf's time Grendel had to die; in our time now, Grendel has to live so the old gods live. Something is changing, and I wonder what Joseph Campbell would say now, about the Hero's Journey? Where are we now? For we need myths, we need stories, we need legends, and our world desperately needs heroes. That's why I think Beowulf is still relevant now - he's slaying the monsters of the dark, and we each are on a journey to slay our own monsters now. I'd rather have Beowulf (or Shadow)......I think I am going to have to reread American Gods sooner than I thought, because Shadow is bigger than normal, as Beowulf was, and it occurs to me that Shadow might actually be Beowulf in modern form......and why does it feel right that Shadow frees the characters of Norse myths, that he doesn't kill Grendel? It does, and I know the teller of Beowulf wouldn't approve, so what has changed between 700 AD (when the poem was finished) and now?

Monday, 7 July 2008

The Classics Challenge - July 1 - Dec 31, 2008

I'm joining The Classics Challenge and thought I had joined, but I'm not there nor do I have a post! So, here it is, my official post joining the Classics Challenge. It's easy:

Classics: We love them, we hate them, now we are going to challenge ourselves to reading more of them. Because there are so many different types of classics, different genres are acceptable and encouraged--for example, novels, short story collections, non-fiction, poetry, essays--I'm open for other suggestions!

RULES (keep reading for the bonus):

* OPTION 1: Read FIVE classics.

* OPTION 2: Read FIVE classics from at least TWO different countries

* OPTION 3: Read FIVE classics with any combination of at least TWO different countries and TWO different genres (see above for genres).

* Cross-posting with other challenges is allowed (and encouraged!); Audiobooks are fine; books must be finished after July 1st to count for the challenge although re-reads are acceptable.

* Lists don't have to be set in stone; you can change your selections at any time.

* Have Fun. Oh ya...there will be a drawing for a prize or two. To be entered you must complete any one of the above options. You do NOT need a blog to participate.

Am I going to define what a classic is? Nope! There are lots of definitions offered on the Internet, but essentially we all have different opinions so don't stress too much--and see the bonus below.

BONUS!! (optional)

As you can see, I'm requiring FIVE classics for six months. For the sixth book, I would like the participants to offer suggestions for books that may not be considered classics but that you think should be or books that you think will be a classic one day. Leave your suggestions in the comments below. I'll compile a list of the suggestions and you choose a book from the list and make that your sixth read. I realize this means you may have to wait to make your list if you choose to participate in the bonus round, but I'm hoping this is a modern twist on the old classics challenge.

For example, I am going to suggest The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood and The Remains of the Day by Kazou Ishiguro.

And before everyone rolls their eyes at me, I'm a) challenge-addicted!! and b) my Cool Literary Inner Bookworm had already put the challenge logo on my sidebar! She has decided I'm going to read more challenging books and not drift away on a sea of fantasy and mystery! Why I ask her. What's wrong with fantasy and mystery? I LOVE them. They please me. They delight and fascinate me and bring me wonder and adventure and explore the darkness.
She sniffs, twirls her curls, stares stonily out the window, dreaming of France. I hate the cold treatment. Fine! But no Proust yet!!! She smiles and condescends to give me hints on reading Iris Murdoch, which I am preparing to do for the first time in my life.

I know now I am taking Option 3, since I even have my very first book done, this afternoon on my lunch at work:

1. Beowulf (Penguin Classic edition) - DONE
Hurray!!! Book review to follow shortly....(poetry classic)

My other selections are:

2. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte (thank you, Rhinoa....I put Jane Austen! eek!)
3. Middlemarch - George Eliot
4. The Iliad - Homer (poetry)
5. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
I'm not sure what my 6th choice will be yet. It might be
- Jonathan Strange and Dr. Norrell - Susanna Clarke
- Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
- Why I Wake Early - Mary Oliver (poetry)
- War for the Oaks - Emma Bull
- Possession - A.S. Byatt
- The Sea, the Sea - Iris Murdoch

****ADDED OCT 19 2008***** ALTERNATES

- Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen - DONE
- Persuasion - Jane Austen

Sunday, 6 July 2008

100 Modern Classic Movies Meme

I saw this from Emily, who has not tagged anyone for it, rightly supposing anyone who sees this will want to do it. It's irresistible.....and goes a long way to showing why the doomsayers have been saying books are dying, because if people like her and myself, who are avid book readers, watch as many movies as we have, then where do we find time to read? Yet we do. Two different forms of telling stories. There are times when I want movies, and many, many more times when I want to read a book. In fact, I will reread a book more often than rewatch at film, because I find rewatching movies I only like, rather than thoroughly enjoy, almost impossible unless I turn my brain off. So, here is my views of the 100 Modern Classic Movies - note the word modern, because almost all of these movies came out in 1980 or later.

Instructions are to bold movies we've seen. Like Emily, I've added my own comments - so you can see if we share the same tastes or not. I'm not as funny as her, so go check her answers out too.

1. Pulp Fiction (1994) – Gratuitious violence, classic dance scene, John Travolta's comeback rile. A fascinating movie, but not one I liked.
2. The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-03) – I own these! And have watched them again, after seeing them in the movie theatre! I think the best interpretation that could be done of the books, which I have read several times. These belong in the best of the modern films.

3. Titanic (1997) -- I hate this movie! I loathe it! i watched it once, in the theatre, and was so bored until finally action when the boat began to sink! One of the best sinking scenes ever. I was more distraught when Leo died because his character was far more interesting that Rose's - I loather her as much as the movie! One of the most over-rated movies of all time.
4. Blue Velvet (1986) – amazing film, but one I haven't been able to watch it again. Like Emily, I still remember scenes from this one, it was so vivid. Still one of the most unusual movies ever. And who could resist Kyle McLachlan in this one?
5. Toy Story (1995) – I have now watched it 54,000 times with my kids, and I still love it. Enduring and endearing, a true classic for all ages, probably forever.

6. Saving Private Ryan (1998 ) – still haven't seen this one. Not sure why.
7. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) – this movie I like for one reason: the ee cummings poem that Michael Caine writes to - Mia Farrow (? is that who he trying to seduce? Or married to??) one of the sisters. I love this poem and it is now one that I quote to myself all the time, especially the last line: 'no one, not even the rain, has such small hands'. The rest of the movie was boring.
8. The Silence of the Lambs (1991) – I can barely watch this, it scares me so much. Another true classic, with marvelous performances from Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins. The ending still has me almost screaming in anxiety even though I've seen it several times.
9. Die Hard (1988 ) – I enjoy this one. I watched the first part while doing dishes last weekend. Not sure it's a classic, but it's a fun film to watch.
10. Moulin Rouge (2001) – I have a knee-jerk reaction to musicals: run away! Even though I like the odd one - Cat Ballou is one - The Sound Of Music is another - and I've seen tons of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies, I still will avoid them if I can. So I haven't seen this one yet, though I think my inner Elitest Movie Snob is dropping hints that it's time.
11. This Is Spinal Tap (1984) – Yes! On tv! But I don't remember much except it was funny!
12. The Matrix (1999) – I enjoyed this more than I thought I would, enough to see the second one. I don't think I've seen the third....
13. GoodFellas (1990) – seen it. Far to violent for me, so I've never watched it again, yet it is a classic.

14. Crumb (1995) – not seen it.
15. Edward Scissorhands (1990) – Yes! Fun, and creative, original, and heartbreaking. I do like this one.
16. Boogie Nights (1997) - no, even though I want to, it's just not on my radar.
17. Jerry Maguire (1996) – seen it! I like the kid best of all, though all the roles are enjoyable - a pleasurable escape.
18. Do the Right Thing (1989) – Still amazes me, but the ending made me cry so much, I was so upset at the death of one of the characters, that I haven't been able to watch it since. I've tried, but I get too anxious. A classic film, and still think Spike Lee's best one too.
19. Casino Royale (2006) – *Daniel Craig* my whole family (all the women anyway) love him!!! with an edge that I like, as we saw Bond beginning his career. A good solid movie.
20. The Lion King (1994) – still have never seen the whole thing. My daughter has.
21. Schindler’s List (1993) – incredible, riveting, and yet for me, the outstanding thing is the little girl and her red coat.
22. Rushmore (1998 ) - not seen
23. Memento (2001) – loved it, incredible, and fascinating. My husband liked it too and is one of the few movies he's stayed awake through the whole thing for!
24. A Room With a View (1986) – has been one of my favourite movies for years and years now. There are so many moments to love in this movie!
25. Shrek (2001) - endlessly seen, and I still love it. My kids love it too.

26. Hoop Dreams (1994) -?I can't remember. Maybe. on tv...
27. Aliens (1986) – like Emily says, what about Alien? Which is far superior, and I own, watch every couple of years, and it still scares me. Great horror classic.
28. Wings of Desire (1988 ) - yes! Except I can only remember U2's music video to the film! so this is a maybe and not counted as definite....
29. The Bourne Supremacy (2004) - love this one! I have seen them all,and own 2 of them. I like how the story continues through the three, and how he outwits most of the CIA :-)
30. When Harry Met Sally… (1989) – I enjoy this one. It has laugh-out loud moments, mostly due to Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan's chemistry.
31. Brokeback Mountain (2005) - not yet.
32. Fight Club (1999) - men fighting because they are bored? Yikes, it will be a cold day in hell before I willingly see this one.
33. The Breakfast Club (1985) – *sigh* now you will know how old I am, because I have seen this many times, and I love the them song "Don't you Forget About Me" by Simple Minds. A good classic movie.
34. Fargo (1996) – Amazing. It is good storytelling, full of twists because it's by the Coen brothers. Love Frances McDormand as the pregnant sheriff!
35. The Incredibles (2004) – fun!! saw it because of the kids, though.
36. Spider-Man 2 (2004) – seen them all, now. I like them,and will eventually own them all - we have #1, and why isn't it on here??
37. Pretty Woman (1990) – I hate this movie. May have accidentally seen all of it once, and am ashamed to say I laughed at spots. This movie is just wrong. But then,maybe I'm just a prude...I don't really care!
38. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) – very different. I enjoyed it, but still deciding if I liked it.
39. The Sixth Sense (1999) – I love it. It still scares me silly. I can't watch this alone.
40. Speed (1994) – I actually like this one. My son saw it when he was five and for a few years after, he got upset when he thought the bus we were riding on would go too fast, and he would yell out, "Stop! Or you won't be able to slow down!"
41. Dazed and Confused (1993) – I think I saw this late night one night, which may explain why I am dazed and confused about the plot couldn't resist the bad pun!!
42. Clueless (1995) - yes, and liked it inspite of my self! gah!
43. Gladiator (2000) – I found myself liking this one far more than I expected, and it is good.
44. The Player (1992)- yes! I've seen this one! Didn't get all the humour, not working in Hollywood, but one I would see again.
45. Rain Man (1988 ) – I hated Tom Cruise by this point. I watched this for Dustin Hoffman, who I much more prefer as an actor. Interesting plot, especially as now I have a nephew with Asperger's Syndrome.
46. Children of Men (2006) – surprisingly good, moving, with an unexpected ending that I still find myself turning over in my mind.
47. Men in Black (1997) – saw it, more than once unfortunately, due to having a 13-year old in the house
48. Scarface (1983)- yes! I admit it! I like Al Pacino! So I even watched this, mostly due to my sister saying she liked it. I didn't. Even with Pacino in it.
49. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) – Wow. Magical. Amazing. love it, love it some more. Haunting, too. Shows what movie-making can do.
50. The Piano (1993) – I saw this more than once. Harvey Kietel manages to look sexy in this one! I enjoyed it, though hate Sam Neill in it.
51. There Will Be Blood (2007) – still not, it's on my list when I am in the mood for it.
52. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad (1988 ) - yes, mostly on tv reruns. Hilarious, slapstick comedy that I can't resist laughing it.
53. The Truman Show (1998 ) – no
54. Fatal Attraction (1987) – saw it once on tv. Can't get the final scenes out of my head. I hate this movie the older I get.
55. Risky Business (1983) – cute. Only seen once - I'm not a huge Tom Cruise fan.
56. The Lives of Others (2006) – I had no idea how good this would be. I have to get a copy now. I keep replaying the ending over in my mind,and the storyline. Gripping, wonderful storytelling. It should be must viewing for anyone wondering what life in communist countries is like. Amazing movie. Breathless viewing.
57. There’s Something About Mary (1998) – again a hilarious slapstick movie that I laugh uproariously at.
58. Ghostbusters (1984) – This was among my favourites as a teenager! I can still watch it now - ghosts never go out of style, even if clothing and hair does!
59. L.A. Confidential (1997) – top 10 mystery/crime movie, ever.
60. Scream (1996) - yes! many times. But I have to be careful, or all my screaming (cause I do alot in this one with the pop-up creepy guy and gory killings) ends up keeping me up late into the night...
61. Beverly Hills Cop (1984) - yes. Did anyone not see this in the 1980's?
62. sex, lies and videotape (1989) – One of the best movies about different styles of relating, and the miracle that unlocks loneliness when you finally find that someone who understands. James Spader in this one - I love him. One of my favourite movies.
63. Big (1988) – unfortunately its cuteness means I have actually watched this all the way through.
64. No Country For Old Men (2007) – not yet. I want to, just have to be in the mood for all the killing....
65. Dirty Dancing (1987) – ok movie. I never really understood why everyone liked Patrick Swayze, since I was in love with Kyle in Terminator instead (Michael Beihn).
66. Natural Born Killers (1994) – have tried to and never been able to watch this the whole way through. I really intensely dislike just about everything in this movie and end up bored.
67. Donnie Brasco (1997) -- I had to look this up to see the plot, so no!! I haven't seen it!
68. Witness (1985) -- yes, many times.
69. All About My Mother (1999) – no
70. Broadcast News (1987) – I think I have, once.
71. Unforgiven (1992) – yes, and I really enjoyed it. A good western, updated to today's ethics
72. Thelma & Louise (1991) – yes. this was my movie for a long time! I still love it, too.
73. Office Space (1999) – finally saw it recently, and it was very funny, especially now that i work in an office!
74. Drugstore Cowboy (1989)- I didn't think i would like it, and ended up finding it a very good movie. Deserves to be on this list.
75. Out of Africa (1985) – maybe once. but I don't count it since i can't remember if I saw the whole thing or fell asleep during it!
76. The Departed (2006) – ohmygod, I did not expect to like this movie as much as I did, and the ending still pops into my mind at odd times! I will have to watch it again to catch all the plot points again. And Leo is all grown up....
77. Sid and Nancy (1986)- another tv viewing I might have slept through....
78. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) – WHERE IS TERMINATOR ONE? IT IS BETTER AND ONE OF THE BEST MOVIES OF ALL TIME. Sorry, but Terminator is in my top 10 of all movies, and T2 further down the list.
79. Waiting for Guffman (1996) - what the %$#@ is this one?
80. Michael Clayton (2007) - not yet, though I really want to.
81. Moonstruck (1987) – *sigh* Nicholas Cage and Cher in this one....*sigh*
82. Lost in Translation (2003) – Again, I was totally surprised by this movie, as was my husband. I love it. And for anyone who has ever ventured into a foreign country, this is must seeing. Excellent movie.
83. Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1987) - I have actually seen Evil Dead! but not this one. Why are all the first movies of series left off this list??
84. Sideways (2004) – much funnier than I thought. My husband enjoyed it too.
85. The 40 Year-Old Virgin (2005) – no
86. Y Tu Mamá También (2002) – no, but want to.
87. Swingers (1996) - no
88. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997) - yes! And I laughed, alot *hangs head in shame*
89. Breaking the Waves (1996) - did Keanu Reeves star in this? Whatever,never saw it, never want to.
90. Napoleon Dynamite (2004) - want to, still haven't
91. Back to the Future (1985) – many times. Really enjoy it.
92. Menace II Society (1993) - ??? nope
93. Ed Wood (1994) - Yes!! and it's hilarious!
94. Full Metal Jacket (1987) –I watched alot of war movies in the 80's, not sure if this was one of them so not counting them.
95. In the Mood for Love (2001) - ??what the heck is this one??
96. Far From Heaven (2002) - Tom Cruise! NOOOO! a 3 hour movie with him! *stay away*
97. Glory (1989) - yes, and it blew me away. Still one of the most moving war movies for me.
98. The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)- scared the dickens out of me, and now whenever I look at Matt Damon I see Mr ripley instead. It's so creepy. (Except for Bourne Identity movies)
99. The Blair Witch Project (1999) – I wanted to like this movie. I really did. but I was so mad by the end that I came out frothing at the mouth at the moving camera (little did i know everyone would be doing it! ), the bad editing, the horrible script, stupid, stupid, stupid! and so my son's generation!
100. South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut (1999) - no, though I do occasionally watch the tv episodes, but rarely....

So, I'd have to say I've seen far more than I expected, but the list is missing alot that should be on it. Usual Suspects? Wolfen? Love Actually? Batman Begins? IQ? A Fish Called Wanda? Lock, Stock, and 2 Smoking barrels? Hot Fuzz?

Let me know if you do this and I'll come see your answers - I enjoy things like this, where we can see what we've seen and what we've liked! I'm so happy Emily hated Titanic almost as much as I did! What did you think of it?

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Final First Canadian Book Challenge review.....

It has ended, the First Canadian Book Challenge, eh? I came to it late, having joined the Blogging world only last October. The Canadian Book Challenge was the very first challenge I joined. And I challenged myself, and I enjoyed it, making my inner literary bookworm glad that I was finally reading something other than fantasy in Canadian literature, even if it was not Atwood or Davies. My Cool Inner Literary Bookworm would prefer that I read all the good Canlit that's out there....she is ashamed that I hate Mordecai Richler and had to read inumerable Canadian books already in high school and for my Canadian literature university course, so I feel like it's a chore to pick up another, no matter the good reviews it's getting......I do like Hugh MacLennan, and I like a lot of Canadian poetry, so I'm not totally in my CILB's bad books!

Anyway, for this challenge I mostly picked books off my shelves. And I read 10 out of 13, which considering I joined in October, is better than a book a month for this challenge! So while I am disappointed I didn't complete it, I am proud of what I did read.

My final book, Piece of My Heart by Peter Robinson, I finished late on June 30. I have read the Inspector Alan Banks mysteries from almost the time they began to be published. It's a strange feeling to read these mysteries, because Peter Robinson sets his mysteries in Yorkshire, where he was born! He lives in Toronto now. So I'm reading a Canadian book set in another country, written in that voice - I love the Yorkshire accent, having lived in York, and I'm familiar with the landscape and people. So this raises a question that was raised years ago in my Canadian Literature class in university: what makes a book Canadian? Is an author, newly emigrated from another country, and setting their book back in that country, a Canadian writer? How? This is a question that raised voices, temperatures, and words in my class. So I pose it now, because I think it is at the heart of the dilemma of Canadian literature, and not one addressed often: when does a writer/book become Canadian? I know, that when I write, my most natural setting is the Canadian landscape, and that our landscape dominates most books written by people who have been in Canada long enough. We can't get away from the sense of land, of trees (except maybe Toronto!), of water, of the earth - it fills our senses and we are intimately connected with the moods of the land and seasons. We have to be, to survive here.

It's not a question that is easy to ask or answer. It is one that has puzzled me since my professor raised it way back in 1990: so I was wondering if, for the second Canadian Book Challenge, it was a question we could think about as we read through our selections. Even Charles de Lint, who is my pick for this second Challenge (I'm reading 13 of his books - see sidebar for the selections), was born in The Netherlands. Yet, his voice is Canadian, his settings Canadian, in tone, mood, how he relates to the environment - trees, the earth, the world of faery - it is Canadian in tone, not American, not Dutch (that I am aware of, and having a Dutch stepfather, I am somewhat aware of Dutch sensibilities and perceptions!). What makes a book Canadian, and when does an emigrated author become Canadian in his writing? which I think means, when does a writer absorb his settings enough to write about them? Because this question would do for any country with a high immigrant population, or for expats writing. This is not meant in any way to say that a newcomer to Canada isn't a Canadian writing; what I am interested in is exploring when Canada gets into the bloodstream, the memory, the senses, when Canada imposes itself on the person.

I know from my year in the UK, that I have taken in something of the York spirit, the English sensibility, because I lived there. I do not think could write a book from the English perspective yet; I could write one from a foreigner living in England, though. And indeed I will, one day! Because I love England, and I carry some of that landscape with me now.

So when I read Peter Robinson, or any other author setting their books in Yorkshire - the tv versions of Dalziel and Pascoe are also set in Yorkshire, which raises homesickness in myself and my husband when we watch them! - I can see the landscape, the rhythm of the words, and I know if it's accurate or not. Peter Robinson is, and so is Piece of My Heart.

Piece of my Heart is the most recent of the Inspector Alan Banks mysteries in paperback. It is set in the same place - Yorkshire - and in two different time periods, the late 60's - 1969 and current day - 2005. The murder involves the music scene of the 60's, a fictional band named the Mad Hatters, and the murder of a journalist in 2005 who is writing an article about the Mad Hatters, who still exist as a band in current day. I found the switching back and forth a bit hard to get used to, because the 1969 timeline introduced all new characters, as well as the regular detective squad - Detective Annie Cabot and others of Alan Bank's squad, who investigate the current murder. Once I got used to who was investigating what, and realized there was a link between the two, it got much easier and I was able to relax and enjoy the mystery. I guessed wrong on the murderer, which I do enjoy almost as much as being right! - and I love the interplay between Annie and Alan. They have a new Superintendent which brings new elements - the former one had given Banks leeway to pursue investigations without too much detail, and the new one is ambitious, with surprises for Banks and Cabot and the rest of the squad.

The mystery itself is about the murder of a girl at a music festival in 1969, and then the modern-day murder of the journalist. Both have red herrings, lots of clues, and are linked together. I ended up enjoying how the timelines were brought together, and finding out what happened to the detectives on the original case. The investigations were satisfying and as always, the Yorkshire elements of the moors, and the weather, affected the tone - the current day part is set in autumn, a time of grey skies, wind and rain.

This is not the very best of the Banks mysteries - his award-winning Strange Affair is one of the very best - but it is solid and good, and better than many continuing mystery series being published.

I took a break while composing this post, and I began wondering about authors like, Rohinton Mistry (A Fine Balance), Michael Oondatje (The English Patient), Nalo Hopkinson, all of whom are emigrants and all of whom have won major awards as Canadian writers. Most of their books are set away from Canada, or have characters going from Canada back to their native land; and I think this shows their minds absorbing the new land with memories of the old. Compare them with Margaret Atwood, Robertson Davies, L.M. Montgomery, Alice Munro, Douglas Copeland, and, our Aboriginal authors: Pauline Campbell, Thomas King, Jeannette Armstrong, Thomson Highway; or Pierre Berton, Farley Mowat, William Gibson: all big names in Canadian fiction, all writing from different perspectives and backgrounds. All are ours, new writers and old. We have a lot to celebrate in our Canadian fiction. And I think it is all Canadian, from the time someone enters our country, to people born here, to people who have always been here.

Myself, from my own experience, I think once someone has decided to live here, they begin to become Canadian, and this is reflected in their writing. I think people also carry with them memories of the land they were born in, and this is also in their writing. Definitely reading a wide range of Canadian fiction will give you a good understanding of the make-up of the Canadian population now, and understanding of some of the influences in our culture.

So, just some reflections as I close on the first Canadian Book Challenge. For anyone who is now curious about the 2nd Canadian Book Challenge, eh? go here and join us!!

Oh, and I've read nearly everything by Farley Mowat except his war memoirs, and I love Margaret Laurence's The Diviners. But since I read mostly fantasy and mysteries, it has only been in the past 20 years that we have had an explosion of writing - of books - in these fields. I know count Canadian writers Tanya Huff, Guy Gavriel Kay, Charles de Lint, Louise Penny, Karen Irving, L.R. Wright, among my favourite of writers, period. And my Inner Literary Bookworm, while sniffing at the genre titles, is nodding her head. She's going to try to slip me some Douglas Copeland soon, I know, as well as Rohinton Mistry and Michael Oondatje (I love The English Patient as a movie, and everyone says the book is different, so I didn't want to lose what I loved about the movie.....)......and Margaret Atwood.

Fluffy Meme and Five Meme

tagged me for the Five meme, and I finally have some time (aka it's after midnight!) to do it:

What was I doing 10 years ago?

Yikes! I was working two part-time jobs, one at Books Canada (now sadly closed) and the other at a Hallmark Store. The stores were at either end of Sparks St Mall ( a pedestrian mall in the heart of Ottawa) and both managers were good enough to arrange their Christmas schedules around the other store's needs. I loved the bookstore, and here I learned how to do book displays and order new books from the catalogues, as well as rebuild the mystery section (which I increased sales by 37% after 6 months!). I was a single mother, living in a housing non-profit co-op in downtown Ottawa, sitting on the board for the co-op. I was also active in the Aboriginal community at the Friendship Centre with their annual pow-wows. My eldest son was 10 years old.
Around this time we got our cat, who came as a kitten. My friend Irvin dropped her off unexpectedly; his cat had had kittens, and I'd mentioned Duncan wanted a pet. Lo and behold, Irvin dropped by and put his knapsack on the floor; a tiny meowing and then a tiny 3 month old kitten crawled out. I fell instantly in love and named her Bandit for the white mask she wore around her eyes (she is a grey and white Tabby). Duncan and I argued over the name, since he thought it was a boy's name and he'd wanted to name her; I hadn't meant to, but once I said it, it was hers. She is still with us and some day I will get a picture of her to post so you can see how beautiful she is.

Five snacks I enjoy in a perfect, non weight-gaining world:

1.chocolate cream
3.strawberries and real whipped cream
4.chips and sour cream dip!!!
5.more chocolate

Five snacks I enjoy in the real world:
1. *sigh* nuts
2. sesame sticks
3. popcorn
4. fruit (replaces the chocolate I would otherwise eat)
5. *$@#! I eat chocolate anyway!!!

Five things I would do if I were a billionaire:

1. I'd travel
2. I'd buy a house in the UK as well as keep ours here
3. I'd support the World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace,
4. I'd invest in literacy programs at home and in the third world - books, paper, schools, wherever the need was greatest for education for children
5. I'd pay for the leprosy medication ( I hate those commercials on tv!) and the Aids medicines for the millions suffering needlessly in Africa because our countries are too spineless to make the pharmaceutical companies use the generic brands, which are much much cheaper and affordable for the governments to buy for distribution to their peoples.

Totally unrealistic I know, but a girl can dream, can't she?

Five jobs that I have had:

1. bookseller
2. card store clerk
3. housecleaner
4. daycare worker (home daycare)
5. burger and ice cream stand counter person

Three of my habits:

(Why 3 and not 5? I think I’ll do 5, even though we all know a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.) - Thanks, Emily!

1. Drinking tea every morning
2. eating chocolate every day
3. turning on the weather channel - I used to want to be a meteorologist!
4. writing down my dreams and analyzing them
5. checking my astrology on Jonathan Cainer's site, one of the best astrologers around

Five places I have lived:
1. York, England
2. MOntreal, Quebec
3. on a sailboat for 2 years
4. Vernon, BC,
5. London, Ontario

Five people I want to get to know better:
Becky, Jeane, Bride of the Book God,
Bybee, and Chris. Actually, there are far more than five of you that I want to more about! consider that if I've ever left a comment on your blog, I'm curious! Consider yourself tagged and please let me know if you do this! It's fun and fluffy....which reminds me, last meme from Emily's post:
Five Fluffy Things About Me Meme:

1. I love dark chocolate. I really do. I suppose it qualifies as an obsession. And a food group. I don't like it with hazelnuts, and in a pinch (ie no chocolate left in the house) I've been known to break open the chocolate chips bag!
2. I love all kinds of black tea, and hate the kinds that come with fruit - black tea with peach, say, or black tea with strawberry. I have different kinds of tea for different times of the day, like Irish or English breakfast for the mornings, Afternoon Tea by Crabtree and Evelyn for any time after, Yorkshire Gold when I want to really be alert, and Awake Tea sold by Starbucks, that is fabulous for a real kick.
3.I love tarot cards and am starting to collect them. I got a new idea from Joanna Powell Colbert, an artist in Oregon who is making a tarot deck (and the pictures are available online). When she wants to learn about a card, she takes it from several of her decks and lays them out together, to see what symbolism they share and what is different about each. I've begun to do this and it really is interesting to see how each artist has interpreted the meanings of the cards in each of their decks! And what themes run through the decks, some are very different. I look at the cards as symbolism of the unconscious, and as images that we all know - like the Jungian view that we all in our deepest minds are connected to the same mythic images. I think tarot cards come from this source; although I am aware that religions take a dim view of the tarot, I think they are a fascinating way to get a glimpse at the energies in our lives and how we are using them.
4. I love nature, and I need to see trees and water, or I start to feel disconnected. I have always paid attention to what was around me, and the happiest places have been where i could take long walks. Luckily we live near a 20 mile pathway that runs along the Ottawa River, through the city, so I have plenty of water and walkway!and we live near a park with a beach and a bird sanctuary, so this really is a tiny bit of heaven in the midst of the city.
5. My favourite English Premier league soccer (football for the rest of the world!) team is Arsenal. I have a mug with their logo on it that i brought back from England and I have to drink out of it on game days. Occasionally my husband likes to see if I am paying attention and will try to give me tea in another cup. I've been known to pour the tea back into my Arsenal mug!! the mug lists all the team awards up to 2001, so I like to point it out to him when he goes on about how winning Chelsea (his favourite team) has been lately. They have along way to go to catch up to us!!

So, some fluffy and some facts about me. Your turn! Consider yourself tagged if you want to share some fluffy facts about yourself!! And Happy July 4 to our neighbors in the south!

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Kidnapped - Jan Burke

This is the latest in the Irene Kelly mysteries, which began several years ago with Goodnight, Irene. I have read most of them, and I adore Irene - a newspaper journalist - and her husband Frank, a homicide detective. They have such a believable relationship that it centers all the books with love and traditional values - a rarity today, where most PI's, policemen, and other heroes/heroines of mystery novels are loners. Even Miss Marple lives alone! But instead of weakening these novels, Irene and Frank's relationship strengthens them, and it is refreshing to see a loving couple in the world of mysteries. There is a reason this book is under my 888 Challenge: Latest book by a favourite author!

This is not to say that bad things don't happen! Irene has been shot at, stranded with killers, stalked, and almost killed numerous times. She is clever, resourceful, loyal, and honest. She has a weakness for dogs, strays, children and her husband, and for finding the truth. Irene is always saddened by murder, by the victims and the survivors left behind. Irene searches for the truth, and this is what leads her into so much trouble. She has a gut instinct that has saved her life in the past, and in this book, saves the lives of some special characters.

I find reading about kidnapped - or missing - children gut-wrenching, even in novels. I wasn't sure what to expect with this book, and I was beyond pleasantly surprised - I was enthralled from the opening page: Cleo Smith firmly believed that neatness counted, especially if you were going to get away with murder. Which was why she now stood completely naked, save for a pair of plastic booties and a pair of thin rubber gloves, in the office of the man she had just killed. It is gripping, and I read it over three days - last night I was too tired to read, I kept falling asleep on the couch, or I would have read it much faster - and tonight I hurried home on my walk, so I could read more quickly when I got home. Have you had a book like that recently, that you could hardly put down and hardly wait to get back to again? I've enjoyed most of the books I've read this year, but only a few have made me anxious and grumpy when I've had to put the book down. This was one of them.

The bulk of the mystery is over 11 days, although the original murder occurs a few years before. This is a common practice in the Kelly mysteries, they go at break-neck pace as she stumbles onto crime, or is asked to investigate disappearances. In this book, she is writing a story on missing children, and this leads to the main part of the mystery - 4 kidnapped children, all from different homes and areas. They are special children, because they were spotted early on as being gifted. And how the two oldest use their advanced learning skills is part of the charm of this book. Yes, charm, not a word used often in a mystery! And before you think this is cosy, or fun, it's not. There are murders - plenty, a chilling killer - and Jan Burke does these so well, I'm still not over the killer in Bones,which had me actually scared at one point, not something I often feel reading a mystery! She does bone-chilling killers. Cleo in this book does not disappoint. And the ending is so well-written that I was almost breathless as I turned the pages faster and faster.

This was very satisfying and well-written. If you are looking for a mystery that you can't put down, this is one to read.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Happy Canada Day!

It is Canada's 141st birthday today. It is a national holiday, and all over the country there are parades, picnics, and in the evening, fireworks. The biggest party is here in the nation's capital, Ottawa. Every year Ottawans, Canadians from all over the country, and our many wonderful thousands of tourists, go onto the Hill, Parliament Hill, and from noon on, when the Prime Minister and the Governor General (who is the Queen's Representative, as the Queen of England is our titular Head of State) give their speeches, it is one long day of eating, drinking, walking around,listening to music, and finally, at 10 pm, fireworks over Parliament. In the meantime, better than any words, are some pictures I took while on the hill. Since the colours of our flag are white and red, many people wear one or the other on Canada Day, especially if they are going to the Hill. The best place to watch the fireworks is either from directly in front of parliament or from the river.

Parliament Hill - it sits slightly higher than anything around it, and gives a commanding view across the river to Gatineau and the province of Quebec. It is a gorgeous setting for our Parliament, the clock tower is yes, built in homage to Big Ben in London, and during the year, the grounds are accessible to the public daily. You can see how much rain we've been having because the trees are so green!

This is my husband Toby, and our two youngest children, Holly-Anne and Graham. You can just see the clock tower in the back ground. All the shots are from the east side of Parliament. We had gone to the Museum of Nature (called "The Dinosaur museum by Ottawa people in the know......)

Can you guess why? This is the new revamped display, and of course our kids's favourite part of the museum. We did go to every other floor, and then back outside back up to the Hill. By the time we came back from the museum, it was almost impossible to get close to the centre of the Hill. I will be taking pictures of Parliament from the other side of the river one day soon, as part of my 'what I see as I walk home' post I plan to do, since I have a spectacular view of the downtown and Parliament buildings when I take this particular route. Today, though, by 2 pm, it was almost impassable! And yes, if you look closely, we are wearing red or white! I admit it! we were part of the crowd today!!

We are not going back for the fireworks; the weather is so good today - a mild 25c, sunny, no clouds, no rain, no threat of storms as in past years - that by 2:00 it was mad with people on the hill,and there will be well over 100,000 people gathered to watch them because it is going to be such a beautiful evening. My husband and I estimate there will be between 200,00 and 300,00 people going downtown over the day, today. If not more. That's too many people for me! Though a great party! We're off to Britannia Beach shortly, which is 10 minutes walk from our house, and where yours truly might get to open a book.

Looking down towards the Rideau Centre, a shopping centre which is also the heart of downtown. The crossroads lead to the National Art Gallery (again photos will come on my later what I see from work walk) and the heart of the Market, a local summer fresh food market, and filled with the most amazing shops and stores. Very trendy, very crowded today, so we didn't bother. Most weekends it is the most popular part of Ottawa to go to. It is also where the oldest buildings we have are located, and in old days was called Lower Town, or Bytown. I love walking around looking at the old stonework, and the art gallery, St Patrick's Cathedral, and just people watching while I shop. The Rideau Centre is named for the Rideau river (which feeds the Ottawa River behind Parliament), and the Rideau Canal, which bridge we are standing on. The canal is now a World Heritage site, and still functions; it was designed to make it passable for boats from the Ottawa river to the St Lawrence, and is a series of waterways and canals built in the very early 1800's, as Ottawa itself was just growing as a town. The locks still work, and during the summer boats travel up and down the Ridea Canal in the middle of the city. Today though, it is a sea of white and red and people! Including our two:

catching some shade.... If you look closely, you can see they each have a Maple Leaf on their cheek, and Holly-Anne has the word on her arm.

I love the man's shirt! I had no idea, of course, he was even there, but it's a fitting way to end this little picture-logue of Ottawa celebrating Canada's birthday. The Maple Leaf is what we are most famous for. I told you we wear our colours proudly today!!!

And - I finished Piece of My Heart last night, so I read 10 books for the Canadian Book Challenge. Hurray! I will review later. Time for the barbecue (another Canadian tradition on July 1) and then the beach!!

By the way - the streets around Parliament Hill are closed off for the day to traffic. It's not a pedestrian mall! Normally filled with traffic, it is the one day we can walk through the downtown core freely. So that's why the shot of the Rideau centre is so remarkable - not just for the sea of people, but that this happens only once a year too!

Happy Canada Day, everyone! Happy birthday, Canada!