Saturday, 30 August 2008

Book Meme

Hurray! J.S.Peyton tagged me at Biblioaddict for this meme. It's short and sweet and very fun:

I am going to list three categories of books. 3 MUST Read Books, 3 Keep Your Eyes on These, and 3 Look For These Soon. Keeping with the theme, I am going to tag at least 3 bloggers. They should put these same lists on their blog but SUBTRACT one book from each list and ADD one of their own. Then they should tag at least 3 more bloggers. It will be fun to see how the lists change as they go around the blogosphere. Please come back to this post and leave a comment so I can see how the lists are changing. Since this is Book Buzz…please keep your lists to titles released in 2007-2009.

Amy at My Friend Amy came up with this idea, so please go to her site after and leave your comments. Here are my selections:

[Stars are next to my additions]

3 MUST Read Books:
When We Were Romans by Matthew Kneale
The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
*Tin-Roof Blow-down - James Lee Burke

3 Keep Your Eyes on These (note: I’m not really sure I understand what this means but…):
A Place Called Canterbury - Dudley Clendinen
* Friend of the Devil - Peter Robinson
Netherlands: A Novel by Joseph O’Neill

3 Look For These Soon:
* Private Patient - P.D. James
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
What Happened to Anna K. by Irina Reyna

I have to confess I only know Tin-Roof Blowdown is a must-read because my mother said it was fantastic and bought it for me for Christmas, so I've had to restrain myself from reading it before now (and I really really want to!!)

I'm going to tag
Nymeth at Things Mean Alot
Bybee at Naked Without Books
Ann at Table Talk
Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings
Rhinoa at Rhinoa's Ramblings
Stefanie at So Many Books

I am very curious to see what they choose!!

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Confession is good for the soul.....

I have been weighing the 888 challenge in my mind for a while. Long ago, when I chose the books, I actually had a category for horror, then I couldn't find enough to read (this was back last November), and dropped it. Now it's August. And many new books have found their way into my home. I'm surprised at how many horror books I was able to pull so quickly from my shelves! So now I have more than enough for an 888 category section. And, I'm not too ashamed to put it as a category! (My Cool Literary Inner Bookworm hangs her head in shame. She is ashamed she tried to get me to not confess that I read horror, and ashamed that I do! Siberia is a good place to live, she thinks. Or an island in Micronesia anywhere but here where she is SLUMMING....'look', I say, 'I've added Jane Austen to the RIP 3 challenge! and Susan Hill could be a literary ghost story, so could Peter Ackroyd.' She sniffs and balls her tissue up. 'Look, I'm reading Midnight's Children now so you can have a Booker Prize read before I go all horror for the next 8 weeks!' She stares at me. 'Fine, I'll read Possession right after, so both you and Nymeth can know how I like it.' At last my Cool Literary Inner Bookworm relents and offers to get me some hot chocolate for the autumn nights ahead. Besides, she is happy reading Birthday Letters, purring contentedly and devouring the poems as if the book might disappear at any moment.) ......

I've read half the books in the 888 challenge. I am not, sadly, going to read many in the non-fiction category, which has to date only 1 read. I'm just not that into non-fiction to a great extent. What was I thinking, 8 non-fiction plus the non-fiction challenge? (It was the glare of the challenge, I swear. That, or I'm baby blogger still, and the bright lights and fame of completing lots of challenges glittered in front of me, drawing me forward to my doom.....) So, I have had a realistic evaluation of where I stand in the challenges. I really want to complete the 888 challenge this year. I probably won't get all 64 books read, but if I get 50 or more out of it done, then it will have been a most excellent challenge for me to have participated in. So (she draws a deep breath), I am dropping the non-fiction section, and adding a horror/dark fantasy section to the 888 challenge. There! and such a big smile crossed my face as I announced that, that I know I've made the right decision!!! I don't care about the rules, though I'm sure the moderator won't mind - but if they do, I'm not in the running for prizes, and I don't mind. This was always meant to challenge myself to increase the books I read, each year. This is always my own challenge to me. I love the different challenges because they make me look at the books I own, want to own, want to read, haven't heard about yet, and force me to choose - this year or next? now, or later? And I have read so many interesting, amazing, beautiful books so far this year. (Yes, I know I have 10 to review, basically all I've read this summer. The pile is teetering near the computer, a reminder that they want to be blogged about!) So even if I fail at completing a challenge, starting with From the Stacks last winter, then at least I tried it. i'll only get better at picking challenges for myself through learning what I complete and what I don't. And, as many bloggers have said over this year, there is always next year to try it again!

I am giving myself permission to add or delete books through the year because the one main thing I have learned is, the bigger the challenge or the longer it lasts, the more it is certain that some book or two is going to come along who wants to be read for that challenge long after it's started!!! I am going to keep joining challenges, and some I will complete (and I am very happy when I do!!) and some I won't. It's the participating that is fun, and reading other reader's blogs, and always, sharing books, that is the real joy of the challenges. So no, I am not going to read all (is it 18 now? 20?) books I have listed in Carl's RIP3 challenge; it's a list I am going to pull from. I am hoping to read 12, maybe as many as 16 if I really push myself. And now 8 of those will be for the 888 challenge!!!

So, here is the new horror/dark fantasy selections for the 888 challenge:


1. The Harrowing - Alexandra Sokoloff (Awards Challenge)
2.The Terror - Dan Simmons
3. The Woman in Black - Susan Hill
4.Odd Thomas - Dean Koontz
5. The House of Dr. Dee - Peter Ackroyd (1% challenge)
6. The Night Country - Stewart O'Nan
7. Lonely Werewolf Girl - Martin Millar
8. Wolf Moon - Charles de Lint (Can Challenge 2)

I've also started keeping running totals of the books completed in each challenge, on the sidebar, mostly for myself so I can see how I'm doing. Not bad!

And on the subject of confession, I am in the midst of Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes. I am mesmerized by the poems. They are breathtaking and passionate and powerful. I love them. He has brought the Sylvia Plath we all loved to life, by recreating his memories of their relationship, in his poems. i can only read a few at a time, because there is much emotional charge, so much naked raw energy and passion spilling out, that it feels like I am being swept up also. This is poetry, and it deserved the Whitbread award. It should have won the Nobel Prize too for literature. What courage and naked honesty it took to write them, and they must have finally come pouring out when he released all that he had held back over the years. She dazzled him, even as she pained him. and yet I don't feel anything like a voyeur, because he is inviting us in, his readers, to show us why - why he loved her, what drove her, what happened to them. Because in the world of art, it matters who we love, that we love. That is where life comes from, and art and poetry can only come where there is life. Even though I am nowhere near finishing it, I can already say this is a book that every poet, every writer, should read, to see how it's done.

a rare treat

So there I was, happily reading my sister's blog at Lady P's Cosy Corner, when I come across pictures of me! Here
and here. If you are interested, everyone (ie husband, daughter and youngest son) but my eldest son in my family is among these photos, plus you get the added bonus of my sister and her daughter and friend. There. You can't say I haven't shared!

And, Patricia was always far more creative than I was. See the background on her blog? that's what got me started way back a month ago and lost me the original blueprint of this blog.

Enjoy! Hallowe'en isn't too far away if pictures of us start popping up! And yes, I'm older than she is, by 364 days....

****added shortly after, my sister has moved to a new blog, Patricia's Pages. The same posts with the photos are on the new one also, here and here. So you can find them at either blog, for now.****

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

random thoughts on a Tuesday night in August

Well, I am happy again. I just took the Fantasy Writer's Exam - found here
- thanks to Bride of the Book God, whose blog had the link - and, aside from one question, I was able to truthfully to answer no to every question. Hurray! This means I am not writing a millionth retread of Tolkien. And the question I answered yes to - #4 for those who are curious/interested - I have to amend in my head because my plot is different, and my main character doesn't defeat the bad guy on her own! So, if you are a fantasy writer, it's a good quiz to take to make sure you aren't falling into fantasy pitfalls.

4 weeks until Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book is on sale!!! May we have the same release date here in Canada, oh please, book gods....

And, with Carl's RIP 3 challenge about to begin, is anyone else wondering if we should try to view a horror movie as well? Closer to Hallowe'en, of course, but I can't help thinking that it would add a little extra spooky thrill to the experience....maybe if people are interested, we could pick a night in October and watch a scary movie of our choosing, and then post about it afterward? Let me know, maybe we can make it a mini-challenge to go along with Carl's. As a side note, is there a horror movie that you find terrifying to watch? Mine are A Nightmare on Elm Street and Sixth Sense, and The Haunting (the Claire Bloom version from the 60's). As much as I am fascinated by ghosts and esp and psychic ability, these three deal with trying to discern what is real and what is not, that other people can't see (though in The Haunting Theo does experience the events), and that to me is the ultimate scary place to be - defining our own sanity in the face of the irrational which does exist. Sorry, I think I'm scaring myself writing about these movies, which are among my favourite horror movies! But I didnt' realize until now that they even had a link, and now that I think about it, many of my favourite horror novels also deal with the same idea; the Shining comes to mind, little Danny and his terrifyng gift of seeing what others can't, all by himself in that hotel. I wonder now why this theme is so fascinating for me, since I've never thought of myself as particularly psychic (and I sometimes miss the obvious!). Something about this subject draws my attention, that's for certain. Is there a particular horror theme, then, that you come back to again and again, in books or movies or both?

Monday, 25 August 2008

It's finally here!!! RIP3!!

It's finally here. Carl's RIP 3. I'll let him describe the challenge:
Dark Fantasy.

There is just something about this time of year, when the ghosts of past Autumns and the Autumn to come chase away the dog days of summer, that entices one to read books that fit into the above categories.

It was a desire share the love of eerie, creepy, things-that-go-bump-in-the-night literature that brought me into the online reading challenge game for the first time back in September of 2006. My goals today, in this its third iteration, are no different than the inaugural R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril Challenge:

1. Have fun reading.
2. Share that fun with others.

It is that simple. Read on.

Isn't that lovely? I have been waiting all year for this challenge. I have been gathering books, finding little treasures here and there and saving them up for this, the best challenge of the year: ghost stories for the autumn, horror stories for Hallowe'en, gothic stories for the end of the year, supernatural stories as the end of the year approaches. I adore this time of year, the pumpkins (ok,they're not out yet, but they are coming!), the leaves (and they are changing colours already!) spectacular colours, the smell of smoke, wearing sweaters and drinking hot chocolate and best of all, more time to read, because the garden is put to bed and the nights are closing in......

As most of you who read my blog know, I love horror and the supernatural, so this challenge is perfect for me. I am so happy Carl is hosting it again, and the poster is adorable and spooky and a bit creepy and I want to frame it! I want the doll, I really do. He would sit beside me while I read, and share some of that lovely hot chocolate......even if you don't like horror, there might be a thriller or gothic romance that fits, or a suspense novel. Jane Eyre or Northanger Abbey, for example, fit, for you doing the Classics challenges....

This is my list. I am doing Peril the First, which is to read four books of any length, from an subgenre of scary stories I choose.

The Night Country - Stewart O'Nan (ghost story)
lonely Werewolf Girl - Martin Millar (dark fantasy)
The Harrowing - Alexandra Sokoloff (horror story)
The Terror - Dan Simmons (horror story)
The House of Dr Dee - Peter Ackroyd (horror, gothic?)
The Woman in Black - Susan Hill (ghost story) - DONE
Everything's Eventual - Stephen King (ghost stories)
Tamsin - Peter S Beagle (ghost story)
Northern Frights 2 - ed Don Hutchison (collection of Canadian scary stories)
Wolf Moon - Charles de Lint (dark fantasy)
Odd Thomas - Dean Koontz (horror)
Fool Moon - Jim Butcher (horror)
Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen (gothic)
On Stranger Tides - Tim Powers (dark fantasy with zombies! a reread)
Hallowe'en - Ravenwolf (about Hallowe'en, lore, recipes etc, a book I got for Christmas last year and have been waiting all year to read!)
Ghosts, Spirits and Hauntings - Patricia Telesco (a witch explores the supernatural)

I am so excited about this challenge! I know I only have to read 4, but I will want to read so many more on my list, so it will be interesting to see how many I do get read. I'm actually aiming for 8. So many of these books I have wanted to read for a long time. I plan on reading only for this challenge over the next two months, so I can immerse myself in ghost stories and dark fantasy to my heart's content. *sigh* I love this challenge. I love autumn!

Sunday, 24 August 2008

When does reading win?

I was reading some of my favourite blogs and came across a post at Lunaea Weatherstone's Blogue about time: 'In one of them, I found this lovely bit of legal-speak that set my mind to musing: Motions to extend or enlarge time. I want some of those motions! '. Isn't that lovely? So after reading her post, I began thinking about my day today. I had a really busy weekend, and this afternoon I was thinking of the cleaning that still had to be done, and I was feeling a sense of panic rise in me that I wouldn't get to do what I wanted to (I still think of housework as a duty and somewhat forced on me by public opinion. I like having a clean house, I just want it to take a flick of my wrist and presto! it's done) which was, of course, reading. I suddenly thought, no. I'm going to read for a little while, first. Not last, not after everything is done, but right now. And I did. I'm almost done my book! And I don't mind at all that the bathrooms still need to be done. Sometimes, I need a little breathing space, and the world just has to wait until I'm ready to get back into it. After a telemarketer phoned to ask if I would vote for our local Conservative if an election were called this fall ("no," I replied. "I voted Conservative once a long time ago and never since!"), I realized I didn't want to talk to anyone, either. I wanted to retreat into my home, and, as Lunaea says above, extend time. And see, it worked, because after losing myself in reading, I can feel myself unwind! I can face going to work tomorrow! Reading won today, and I am so-o-o much happier now!

So, when you feel that urge to retreat into yourself, and allow yourself the time - the luxury of time - to read, to give yourself the breathing space to read, do you, my blog friends? Do you let yourself relax and read? What is your cutting off point when you realize you have to take some time now, no matter what, or bad things will start to happen? And even though we love this passion of ours, why do we let so many other things come first? Do you make reading a priority in your life? I am beginning to think I have to make it more of a priority - I know that is a constant theme in this blog of mine, but it's a struggle, in the midst of raising a family, working full-time, and having some friends, to make an equally important place for reading. I'm nowhere near my goal of reading 100 books this year, again. I have already surpassed my total for last year, but that just shows how pathetic last year was. 37 books read last year! In terms of housework done or books read, I think I can say at the end of my life, I will be much more thinking about what I have read - and haven't - than how sparkling my bathrooms were.

I do wish there was a motion to extend or enlarge time, though!

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Do you live a creative life? thoughts, and a music meme,

Biblioaddict has a great post on a study done comparing the brains of people who read vs people who watch movies. She is also giving away David Sedaris' When You Are Engulfed by Flames, so if you want it, you have until midnight to let her know.

Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings has two fascinating posts that I am going to answer here, because I think they are really interesting and fun, and we'd both like to know what your answers are:

1)Creative Muse is a post
about creative living. He took it from Qugrainne at So Many Books, So Little Time, who got it from Becca for Write on Wednesdays, a writing group I apparently missed on. I love the writing theme for that Wednesay: How do you cultivate creativity in your life? Have you found the things that make you come alive? Are you doing them?
They each give their answers on their blogs, and here are mine:

How do I cultivate creativity in my life?
I write, poems, short stories and my fantasy novel, which I have finally done the first draft of.
I garden. I love flowers, and the seasons, and making food for butterflies and bees.
I have a personal altar in my home, that I decorate with things that move me, to remind me how beautiful and precious life is, and that it is NOW.
I play with my kids (not as much as I would like).
I cook. I love to create dishes, and I play with recipes, not to create something new, so much as to make it ours (ie I can't eat peppers, or eggplant, so sometimes I have to be creative to get the recipe to work).
I watch movies - they stimulate me with images, and sometimes ideas.
I go to museums. I love history!
I take walks and get to know the area I live in by walking in it year-round.
I use tarot cards.
I listen to music - not enough!!
I let myself make mistakes, and I keep trying.
I travel. I love to travel! and seeing new places always inspires me.
I quilt (and will again once it's safe to bring needles and pins out. right now the littlest one and pins? yikes.)
I take photographs.
I read, read, read, read!!

I hope I have found the things that make me come alive. I hate to think I am living a life without passion, because that to me is a wasted life. I want to care very much about what I do every day, and I want to make it have meaning for me. I was in a robbery 13 years ago, and came face to face with the robber who had his gun out. I thought I was going to die, and though I was luckily not shot, it's made me aware intensely and intimately that we are only here for a time. So I want to live enjoying everything I do, loving everything that I do. Otherwise, it's a waste of my time and energy. I'm not perfect at my life! and I still don't do enough of what I love, because I am learning how to let myself do more of what I love to do, and less of what I think I should do. I don't have patience for people who live without passion, which is part of what makes it so difficult to have my coworker who hates her personal life and that unhappiness spills over sometime at work (see yesterday's post). though, I try to use it as way to remind myself to not get like her! Part of the enjoyment I get from this blog is that I get to write about something I am intensely passionate about - my love of books, and reading. So yes, to the last answer - I am doing them.
Carl then asks the question at the end of his post: how do you satisfy the muse? Ah, and that is the problem - I don't. He says his muse is blind and carries a sword. I don't give mine enough time. As much as I want to live passionately, I don't give enough time to my craft of writing, and it's a struggle I've had most of my life. I haven't figured out the reason why I stopped writing as soon as my first draft was done this winter. I think I'm scared of success, because to be a published author has my dream since I first discovered books. So - am I living creatively? Yes, but not as much as I could be. What do I need to do? I need to write more. I need to be quiet, and let my muse in. My muse wants me to make her important, as important as anything else in my life.

2) Carl's second post is a meme about music, songs in your life right now, here. He got it from Dark Orpheus, and these are the rules:
The Rules:

* List seven songs you are into right now.
* No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring/summer.
* Post these instructions in your blog along with your seven songs.

Now, Carl has cool videos that he matched with his current songs, so please go visit and let him know. Me, I am happy to listen to music on my headphones (my husband is watching the Olympics behind me on the sofa so we can be in the same room together), so my answers will not be as cool as his answers!!

I am going to modify it slightly by adding one more: name the band or musical group you are currently into this summer. Because, I have one! Mine are The Dandy Warhols, who I discovered while watching Veronica Mars this past winter. They sing the theme song of the show, We Used to Be Friends, which I loved and my kids insist on dancing to! In fact the whole cd, Welcome to the Monkey House, has very danceable songs, so when we want some music on this is the current cd the kids ask for also. The music both relaxes and lifts me, even though many of the songs are not happy tunes, they are very it, songs for now,especially with a disaffected teenager roaming around the house. Which leads me to one of my 7 songs for this summer:

1. Heavenly, by the Dandy Warhols. I could float away on this song, and I can't keep still while I listen to it. I listen to this every time I put my music on, usually when I'm writing here or visiting other blogs late at night.

2. We used to Be Friends by the Dandy Warhols. I have lost some important friendships in the past few years, and this is the song I sing to them in my head when I hear it! I love this song, it is fabulous, gritty and in-your-face, just like Veronica Mars herself, who is one of my favourite tv heroines.

3. Momentary Thing - by Something Happens, on the Veronica Mars soundtrack, which I also went out and bought because so much of the music of the show I just loved. This is one of the best in a soundtrack full of energetic, moving, passionate songs. This song has a strong hypnotic beat and lyrics that haunt long after it's over. And of course, it is the music to the first kiss between Veronica and Logan that the first time I saw, my jaw fell open and it was about 5 minutes before I remembered to breathe again. (Yes, it was that good!!)

4. No Sleep Tonight - by the Faders, on the Veronica Mars Soundtrack. I love the fast drumbeat and energetic enthusiasm, totally capturing love, that first onrush of feelings - passion. Sometimes I still think I can be my teen self who hated going to bed before 1 a.m. This song makes me remember the freedom of being young.

The next are permanent summer songs - I particularly associate them with summer, and listen to them every summer (or it's not summer for me!)

5. Bittersweet Symphony - The Verve. This is a song I associate with soccer of all things, because it was the background music to the World Cup in 1998 Nike commercial. 1998 is when I discovered soccer, since it was the first time we covered the World Cup, and then right after had the first Premiership season coverage, ever. Somehow I found my way to Arsenal - I believe it was Emmanuel Petit on the France team, who played for Arsenal, and Dennis Bergkamp, who had the stunning volley that made me love the game - that led me to Arsenal. One of my husband's Chelsea friends asked me how I knew. I said, the first time I saw the game played at Highbury (the old stadium), even though it was on tv, I felt like I was at home. He liked that answer. Back to the song - The first time I heard the whole song on the radio, that same summer, I fell in love with it. Bitter and haunting, about the long road we all walk in our lives, and this incredible music lifts the song into a soulful ode to life.

6) The Lifting - by REM, Reveal Album - This was on their current release cd the summer Toby and I moved back to Canada, in 2001. I have all their music. I listened to this endlessly, because it was the only cd I had while we waited for our belongings to follow us, which took 2 months to arrive. It was a long hot summer here, and I started my new job at Passport Canada, and saw my son for the first time after 8 months. This song is about believing in the impossible, and ends with: "Once you had a dream of oceans and sunken cities and memories of things you have never known, you have never known." I love that line. Summer is the time for dreaming, and sometimes, the impossible becomes possible.

7)Extreme Ways - Moby - Oh, how I love this song! I first heard it at the end of the second Bourne Movie (The Bourne Supremacy?), and I made my son (who I saw the movie with) stay all the way through the end of the movie so that I could hear the lyrics. Then I went and bought the cd, and it became a song my whole family liked. It is passionate and full of angst about being hurt, and still, fighting back to feeling again, even though things fall apart. This is one of the songs I want played at my funeral.

I have winter songs I listen to, particularly U2 and Nick Drake, so it's interesting that in doing this meme, I have seen that I do associate and listen to certain songs/music at different times of the year.

My tarot card

You are The High Priestess

Science, Wisdom, Knowledge, Education.

The High Priestess is the card of knowledge, instinctual, supernatural, secret knowledge. She holds scrolls of arcane information that she might, or might not reveal to you. The moon crown on her head as well as the crescent by her foot indicates her willingness to illuminate what you otherwise might not see, reveal the secrets you need to know. The High Priestess is also associated with the moon however and can also indicate change or fluxuation, particularily when it comes to your moods.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Thanks to Rhinoa who had this on her blog first! I don't often get the High Priestess for myself, so I am happy to see it. Usually I get the Empress, or the Heirophant, so this is a change. I consider this a card of intuition, and heaven knows I need to slow down and walk with the season as it changes, instead of having things heaped on me. I'm not complaining, I'm interested to see that the feelings I've been having this month that I haven't been getting my walks in,so I haven't been in nature as much, are having a trickle-down effect of making me feel off-balance. It doesn't help that it has rained so much this summer that getting out has been a challenge. Walking puts me in the world though, and into myself, so I can hear my thoughts better, as well as see all of nature around me. The High Priestess reminds me to get quiet - yes, the Olympics are fun! But I am at my limit now, and am glad they are ending this weekend. It's hard to have the tv on so much, and even though the competitive part of me enjoys the athleticism and striving to be the best, I find I am taking breaks more often now. I am reading in the evenings while the games are on in the background!

The High Priestess reminds me to pay attention to the quiet voice within, and to find time to be still, so that I can create, I can write, so that I can know what my next movement forward in my life is. There are challenges at work that are pushing me to my limit right now, and it's hard to keep my balance when I want to punch the lights out of my co-worker, who is becoming my arch-nemesis (and me to her, I'm sure!) and even though I know I'm better than her, and much more competent at my job than she is, she makes our entire section look sloppy. The High Priestess reminds me to step back and detach myself, to look after myself and ignore this person. Be smart, the High Priestess says.

This doesn't mean the High Priestess only comes when there is trouble to avoid! Most of the time she comes when the questioner needs to listen to the other voice we all have, the one that puts things together and can look into the future and know the probable outcome of actions, so we can pick the best option forward. She is mysterious, because she knows things intuitively, and because we are open to the unanswerable at this time. It's one of my favourite cards in the tarot deck. I often thought that I would like to be a priestess, though I know now that I would get too annoyed at being bothered by questions and helping others all the time, which a priestess has to do. I much prefer to study quietly and learn and come to understand some of the patterns and mysteries of the world, which this card means! The other card I love is the Hermit, which is also a difficult path because it means I can't follow the ordinary ones laid out for people, that I am forging my own path and bringing back knowledge for others. So, I know I have written less here this month and visited my favourite blogs less than usual, but there is so much stress with work right now that reading is my refuge, as always, my safety net. There is something about reading that is so healing! So learn from this. What is the lesson for me? At the very least, I have to remember to get out of the office at lunchtime so I can escape the negative influence of this co-worker. There is something about green trees and the wind on my face that is so healing. And since this conflict is revealing the short-comings of my workplace in general, I have been left alone to deal with her, so I no longer see the office environment as always supportive.

And since we live the tarot cards in our lives every day, what card are you? which card do you instinctively like? And if you do this quiz, which card are you right now? Does it fit somewhere in your life right now?

Saturday, 16 August 2008

MEDALS!!! and a random book question

Hurray, finally! Day 8, I woke up to Canada finally winning our first medals: 1 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze. *sigh*. Considering the lack of funding our athletes receive, it is always a miracle when we finish in the top 10 in the world, but nothing is sweeter than winning a medal. Congratulations to our winners!! All of Canada is heaving a great big sigh of relief.

In my own marathon, I am halfway through Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, and I am loving it. I have also bought some new books at the beginning of this month:

Changeling - Delia Sherman
In the Forest of Forgetting - Theodora Goss
Lonely Werewolf Girl - Martin Millar (when I bought this, the clerk said that one of the other clerks had just finished it and said this was amazing. Now I have to confess that I am looking at longingly and wondering, how long can I wait to read it? Should I bother keeping up with all the challenges? Why didn't I leave spaces on every challenge for new books through the year?)
Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie (for Man Booker Prize and Award Winners Challenges) - very curious about this book, and it looks interesting
Blood and Iron - Elizabeth Bear
The Dragon Quintet - ed Marvin Kaye (collection of dragon short stories, with Orson Scott Card, Michael Swanwick, Mercedes Lackey, Tanith Lee, and Elizabeth Moon contributing)

I also bought in July:
Tamsin - Peter S Beagle (eagle-eyed readers will have noted I snuck it onto the Awards Challenge so I can read it this year! I can't wait, after so many good reviews of it on other blogs! Nymeth,
and Chris come to mind. Please let me know if you have and I will add you here)
A Writer's Space - Eric Maisel (my writing has stalled completely. I'm desperate! New books on writing sometimes help, so I picked this one up - his book on creativity is enlightening - and I'm happy to say that I've had an idea - a scene - to add to my novel. Not that I've written it down yet, of course. It's simmering in my mind while I try to see where it fits in the plot. It's a very good start, though!)
Never End - Ake Edwardson (a long time ago in January I read my first book by this author and loved it, Sun and Shadows. So when I saw this in hardcover on sale, I grabbed it. Now it's finding a place for it on a challenge.)
Bones to Ashes - Kathy Reichs (her new one, getting reviews. Supposedly for my summertime mystery reading, but summer seems to be slipping away)

Random book question:
So, before I slip away to go see the men's 100 m final (our Donovan Bailey's record is about to fall, and he is graciously commenting on the race for our CBC news. He accepts someone is going to break the record, but, as he says, 'I'm not giving it to them, they are coming to take it from me.' I like that competitive edge!!), I have a random question: when you go into a bookstore, do you prefer to order your books if they are not on the shelf, or will you wait a while and see if they turn up? What I think I mean is, how long will you wait to buy a book you want to read? I'm asking because as I peruse our bookstores here in Ottawa, it seems to me that there is less stock available to choose from - our bookstores, even the box-store Chapters which has thousands of square feet of new books - there is little or no mid-list carried, and certainly, rarely, first books in a series. You always have to order them now, it seems. And that bothers me, because I don't always want to order it without having it to look at first. I really like being able to walk into a store, select a whole pile of books that look interesting, and then go to a quiet corner and sort through the pile, feeling their weight in my hand, the covers, the blurbs, opening page one and reading it to see if I am in the mood to buy it then, or put it back and wait because I want another book I am holding, more. That seems to me is part of the pleasure of book-buying, and by not having a wide variety of older published books and new books to choose from, we are losing out on some of pleasure of buying books. What do you think?

I am asking this because I have searched for years for a copy of Transformations by Anne Sexton, and it has not been in any new bookstores, not even Chapters, where I go to look at copies if they have it, decide which version I want, and then go order it! I want to look at the book first, and see how it feels in my hand and to my eye, before I buy it. That is part of the sensual pleasure of books. I love the texture and feel of books, and sometimes one company's publication won't feel as nice (to my eye or hand) as another's. So I want to choose which version I buy. So I am reduced to either haunting used bookstores, which I also very happily do! but haven't seen Transformations there either. This leaves me the library, which may have ancient out of print copies that I can't get, or Amazon, which of course I can only look at. What do you suggest, what do you do, when you are looking for a copy of an older book to buy and can't find any copies to look at? Of course, part of the pleasure of books is that one day, a copy will appear on a shelf, and it will be one that I love just because it is finally there.

Happy Saturday, happy Olympic Games watching, and happy reading, everyone!

Thursday, 14 August 2008

The Olympics

I was doing really well with my reading, and then the Olympics came on. I love watching them, so if I am quiet here, never fear, I am cheering Canada on!

When are we going to win a medal?? Two fouth-place finishes now....the closest we have come. I enjoy the competition, and usually we are more competitive.

My own 'Olympic' reading is Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, which I am enjoying so very much. Why did I wait so long to read it? Ditto Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes.

Hope you are enjoying the Olympics, or if you don't care, then I hope you have a wonderful book to take you through this middle week of August, and the coming full moon eclipse on Saturday. It makes people a little crazy, don't you know, eclipses of the Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is a perfect book to read!

Saturday, 9 August 2008

The Dark Knight or, what makes a great film?

I've just come from seeing The Dark Knight for the second time. Even though I saw it two weeks ago, I was able to see it again so soon, because it is an amazing, dark, thrilling intelligent movie. It's a movie about how all figures fall, about how 'madness is only a push away', as the Joker says. HOw Batman isn't just a comic figure now, but is becoming a full-blown myth representing our culture today. How we need someone to stand outside it all to fight wrongs, to bring balance back, even if it means he has to take some of our shadow on himself. This movie satisfies. It's like going to a buffet getting well-prepared flavorful food that nourishes you. It gives something to my soul, this movie does. I can look at the light and long for fairies and sweetness, but I know there is darkness, I have looked at it, and I need movies like this that remind me what life is like, and why it's worth fighting to live in a way I am proud of. It sounds silly that a movie based on a comic book could achieve this, but then Batman has never been an ordinary hero. He has always had tragic overtones, from the murders of his parents in front of him in a hold-up. What does that do to one's mind? What would that do to a child? Certainly Bruce Wayne becomes the representative of those real-life people who can't have a normal life, whose pastel colours and every day existence are what he gives to other people because, as this movie makes clear, he can't be Batman and have a normal life. This movie is about him finishing the choice he started in Batman Begins. It's the story about how Batman becomes Batman. And it is searing. It goes right for the guts. It is violent, and frightening, and eerie, and at its core is a fight for society to hold together in the face of chaos, in the face of fear. The Joker is the mouthpiece of a lot of truths, the dancing shadow that lures society to the brink of anarchy. In the current world shadow we are always it seems on that edge now, and it would only take a push to shove us over. Batman becomes that sign within our souls to not give up, to keep fighting to keep the world we have, even if it is a fight only within our own souls.

This is not to say that chaos is bad; nothing is born except with chaos. The Joker, though, recognizes no limits, no bounds. He is that part of us that wishes we were free, and so we see what would happen if we lost our human part of our souls.

I know this sounds all hyperbole, but you know me, I'm not going to give you the plot because nothing I say will equal the experience of it. You have to see it. Especially if you know a little bit about darkness, about the edge between life and darkness and death, if you have ever lost control, or wished you could - this is for you. Us. I will say, though, the plot holds up even better on second viewing. There are no gaping holes, no missed points, no dangling storylines. Fast-paced, I found myself on the edge of my seat again, even though I knew what was coming this time. And one of the best scenes for me is the Joker coming out of the hospital, the incongruity of the clown in the nurse's uniform, and the delight in turning the world upside down, topsy-turvy. There is nothing clownish about Heath Ledger's Joker. He is funny, but not because he has happy surprises, but because he is like a creative, primitive element sprung full-blown out of nowhere, fully destructive. But I don't find him evil, though he is very, very scary. He wants anarchy, and he invites everyone to join with him, and he breaks all the rules. He is, as he says, the irresistible force to Batman's immovable object. and by the end, when the movie is over, I am so sad all over again at Heath's passing. We will never see him play the Joker again, and it feels selfish of me to miss him for this, when he had a daughter and family who loved him, and that is the real tragedy, but in this, we all share in the loss of his tremendous acting ability. He doesn't go over the top, in a role that it could happen to easily; the restraint he shows in keeping the Joker real in an intelligent, thoughtful way - there is the sense that the Joker is looking for someone to play with, and in Batman he finally finds his equal. What an amazing acting job, in a movie filled with perfect acting, from Christian Bale's Batman, to Gary Oldman's quiet family-man who fights the fight of his life to remain decent, to the secondary characters which second viewing allowed me to watch more closely, the unravelling of certain characters, the appearance over and over of the lesser psychotic (the Joker's follower?), and then Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman, perfect in their roles. This is an intelligent movie, and it doesn't hide from the truth about what fighting the darkness can cost, and it says that the fight is worth fighting. The direction, the soundtrack (for once it didn't annoy me and I love the Jokers' theme), the setting. This is a movie that has gone onto my top 10, that I will be first in line to buy when it comes out on DVD, that I will watch over and over. Because when it comes to the things that stir the soul, that nourish us in ways we don't expect, they should be treasured.

So I guess that says that I have a fair bit of darkness in me and my life, that I respond so keenly to this film. It has a rich texture that in lesser hands, would have been awful, a laugh; but Batman is elevated by the men he has chosen to help him, Caine as the butler and Freeeman as the designer/company manager. These men are intelligent and the line delivery is amazing, full of sarcasm and dry wit. They know what Batman is doing, and they support it. And we find out a bit about why, in this movie.

I don't know where Batman can go next, or even if there will be another movie made. Part of me really hopes so, but I would want Christopher Nolan and Bale and all the surrounding characters to continue. A story-driven comic book movie that is the best movie to come out this year so far, in a long long time, even.

So, my gentle readers, what makes a movie magnificent for you? What are your favourite movies? Do you like The Dark Knight (if you have seen it?) What do you go to movies for - to be entertained, to learn a little something, to lose yourself in the experience, to escape? So many of us read to escape, do you approach movie-going the same way? What makes a movie good for you?

My top movie list - not in any particular order since I can't figure out quite where The Dark Knight fits yet, just that it is already among my very favourite of all movies - and this is not a list of the best movies ever made, this is my personal list of movies that I can't be without, that I love:

Susan's Favourite Movies
The Terminator
The Dark Knight
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
The Gods Must Be Crazy
The Haunting (version with Claire Bloom)
Persuasion (any version)
A Room With a View
The Secret of Roan Inish
The Lives of Others

It was going to be my top 10, but then I discovered that I have a whole host of movies vying for the last spot! so it would be more like Susan's Top 30 movie list - and they begged to be listed, too, so here are my runners-up to the Top 10 Favourite Movies - 2nd tier, if you will:

Grosse Pointe Blank
Lone Star
The Changeling
Pride and Prejudice (keira Knightly version)
The Company of Wolves
Ella Enchanted
Princess Bride
The Fifth Element
The Sixth Sense
The Bourne Identity movies (trilogy)
Little Miss Sunshine
Lars and the Girlfriend
Casino Royale
A Fish Called Wanda
Say Anything

Now you know a bit more about my favourite movies and what I look for. Somehow, it is easier to pick my favourite movies over my favourite books - perhaps because books are my first love, and I love so many of them for different reasons, whereas I am more selective in my movies because so few truly satisfy me. That is why I am so thrilled and delighted when a movie does come along that I fall in love with. And yes, I think Christian Bale is the best Batman of all. I liked Val Kilmer in the role as well, very much, but Christian has portrayed the trajectory of Batman into tragic hero, the dark knight, with subtlety and with power.

Other book blog reviews of Dark Knight: Carl
Bride of the Book God

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Weekly Geeks 13

Well, I am behind! Or, rather, I finally have some time to do the Weekly Geeks again! The summer rush of travelling and visiting is slowing down, and we are already gearing up for school. The youngest (the one the angels are working overtime on now keeping safe) is getting ready to start Junior Kindergarten in September, so he is changing daycares - tomorrow is his last day at the only one he's known, and on Monday he starts at the one his big sister goes to, which is a smaller daycare and right down our street. All this to say, I am thrilled to be doing the Weekly Geeks this week, as it will take my mind off the changes - I'm sad to say goodbye to ABC daycare, who have taken wonderful care of both Holly-Anne and Graham for 4 years, and very excited that they are both at Vicky's daycare, together for the first time, and in a home setting. And he is starting school, which since he saw Holly-Anne get on the schoolbus a year ago Graham has been asking and counting down towards! We are getting a little gift to say goodbye to the daycare, and of course, you know me - it's a gift certificate to my favourite independent bookstore, Collected Works, which is in the same neighborhood as the daycare centre, and has a great children's selection of books.

Now, on to this week's Weekly Geeks: favourite author photos! I am picking:
- photos of my favourite authors (all represented)
- photos of any authors I have met (even briefly) - 1
- and photos of the hottest authors! -2
Guess who they are correctly - they have all been mentioned on my blog at some time, and let me know. I'm giving away a book as a prize to the one who gets the most right. Because I'm doing this so late in the week, I am going to extend the deadline to Sunday Aug 10 at midnight. I can't tell you the book title yet because it will give away the author!!

Here they are:

And, I have to admit, that just adding the photos of the two authors who I think are 'hot' has me kind of breathless (they're on my blog!!) kind of like revealing a secret crush...well,yes, that's exactly what it is!!! I was never any good at this in high school either, so I'm soooo glad no one can see my face right now!! You would think that after having been married twice and having three children I would be past this, but it seems not. I still blush as much as I did when I was much younger. And link here if you want to go back to Dewey's site to see more bloggers pick their favourite/hot authors.....

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Interesting posts at other blogger's sites......

Ok, I am cheating here. But I am out of time again on a Sunday night, another day in which I don't even attempt to do the Sunday Salon - not that I've joined the group, but I want to!! all my company is gone, we had a lovely visit and I got to give tarot readings to my sister, niece, my eldest son, and niece's friend last night. So my mind is a bit frazzled, what with so much visiting and travelling, late nights talking and too much work at work. Therefore, I am cheating and sending you to various posts that I have seen on different blogs as I set up my links to them again (thanks, sis!! an unforgettable visit! "sure, I know how to do backgrounds....I'll just press this button. Oh, it's not saved? Ah, uh-oh. Ooops. Well, you wanted a new background anyway....") and letting others entertain you - the posts are worth seeing!

Raidergirl3 at An Adventure in Reading has this to say about the Bookers. As she says, do you pay attention to the Bookers?

Ann at Table Talk has this to say about Hilary Mantel's article in the paper in the UK this weekend, on authors reading other work while writing. Do you have any comments? do you read to learn about the human experience (and only for this, as Hilary posits) or do you read to be entertained? This was Ann's Sunday Salon, so please go and leave her comments and open up the discussion. You'll find my thoughts as a reader and a writer there.

Stefanie at So Many Books has a fun post on a study of book readers called the 'Modus Operandi of Avid Book readers'. Do you agree? As she says, it doesn't reveal us to ourselves , we already know how we read and how our experiences affect our reading, but when we are trying to encourage others to read, this is something to keep in mind.

The unforgettable Emily at Telecommuter Talk has TWO 40 answer memes. She's not the Queen of Memes for nothing!!! oops, double negative, I should say: all hail the Queen of Memes!! and they are both fun, and not ones we have seen (or I haven't anyway, but I am still baby blogger). Look for me to do them very soon!

Charlotte at Charlotte's Web has done the second of Emily's memes.

Dewey at The Hidden Side of a Leaf has posted her Weekly Geeks #13, so for those of you who don't know what it is yet, visit the link. I will be posting my authors shortly.

Bybee at Naked without Books has already posted hers. How well do you know Bybee? Can you spot her HOTTIE??

Carl here at Stainless Steel Droppings has an amazing library shot, plus photos of his book/desk area (I feel better about my desk already! although he has a good reason....), a contest, a giveaway, and a review of the Dark Knight here. I am saving myself for a review of the movie until I can do it justice, mostly I need some time! because I loved this movie. There is so much thought put into this movie, so much creativity and genius in every part of it. It is breathtaking (literally! in some scenes!), moving, haunting, dark, and soooo satisfying. I will first in line when it comes out in dvd! and I have to go see it again, because there are so many twists and plots that I know I missed things. And I want to watch the actors this time, because they are so good and make Batman and the Joker alive (how could I feel sorry for the Joker even when he's ranting? and then feel this terrible ache again because Heath Ledger isn't here - both for his family and for the rest of us - and he is the Joker) and it is acting genius from everyone involved. It is better than Ironman, which is one of the best movies of the summer (especially in the fantasy genre). Anyway, will save the rest for a proper post, but do go see it. It is worth it. And Carl has posters too :-)

John at The Book Mine Set has a link to a blog who has excerpted 'tips on how to write a Canadian novel" from Will and Ian Ferguson's How To Be A Canadian. He wants to know if the description fits the Canadian books you have read, either for his Canadian Book Challenge or on your own. And, if you haven't joined, it's not too late to join this year's Challenge which is only a month old. I'm not even on his list yet since I haven't read a single book yet in my challenge list!

Which brings me to the sad confession that I managed to read one book from July 16 to today: one. Yes, one book in two weeks. I think I can say in answer to that question on one of the Booking Through Thursday questions a while back: do your reading habits change with the seasons? I had said no, but now I have to give an emphatic yes! Yes, I read slightly less in the summer! I had read 5 books in July before the 16th, so I am keeping pace (with myself, but I am dismayed that I didn't read more! I did have a good holiday, and lovely company. Just not plenty of reading!

I am still in the process of adding many links, to challenges, and to other book blogs, so if you don't see your name in the list (and it was before), please don't worry! It's coming! And I do not have an exciting new blog since I cannot figure out how to do a great banner like Carl, Chris (Stuff as Dreams), Rhinoa, Bride of the Book God, both Stephanies and Nymeth all have. Someday I will! but in the horror of deleting everything, my sister forgot to show me how to do the banner.

The kids are camping out in the living room since it is a civic holiday tomorrow. So I'm being called to mom duty. Happy reading, everyone! It's good to be back.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Under new construction...

My sister (Lady P's cosy corner) is visiting from New Brunswick and decided to help me add colour to my background. Lo and behold, I no longer have most of my blog. We are fixing it, please be patient! I'll be back! (Patricia sends her sincerest apologies. I think I'm still in shock.) And I hate this current background. At least we have a long weekend to fix it......