Monday 31 December 2007

New Year's Eve

Well, unless the fates are kind and my kids sleep this afternoon, I am not going to get Sun and Shadows by Ake Edwardson finished by midnight as we have our annual New Year's Party to go to. And I didn't get to finish Eat, Pray, Love, which had to go back to the library. And I haven't finished Rapture by Carol Duffy, nor Owls and Other Fantasies by Mary Oliver (both poetry), nor Walter Mosley's You Can Write a Book This Year. so I can't include them in my yearly totals, as I was planning to. Rats! The demands of the holidays (one birthday party, two Christmas meals, one party tonight) have meant reading time is gathered over meals or in spare moments here and there. To be fair, I have been catching up on movies - Love Actually, quickly becoming a Christmas tradition for us, the first two episodes of Dr Who Season One, my surprise gift (and best one) of the holidays, from my husband, and always, endless kids movies in the background as they watch theirs while the snow falls endlessly outside. We are getting out to play, but time to myself is rarer than the dodo bird this season! Which is why I was up to 3 am last night doing a retrospective of this year, and deciding it was the year of "What the f---?" So many unpleasant things happened or had to be done, things that emotionally I am still coming to terms with. Looking back at work also, it has been an enormously stressful year of staff changes that are already continuing into the New Year. And yet, it has not been a bad year for my immediate family's health- other than my bad asthma attack last Feb (which started the 'what the -?' sequence!) , it's been good for us. For other family members it is mixed- my mother finally had her knee operation, which has been completely successful; but Toby's mother has to have her knee operated on now, his grandmother fell and is still recuperating from breaking her leg, and my brother still does not know what caused the emergency surgery earlier this month. The main highlight this year for us was our holiday in Picton that we all talk about even now, 4 months later; and we are happy in our home (despite the toilet, front porch and wiring that desperately need fixing). I am settled for the first time in my adult life, and love the part of Ottawa we live in, and I have permanent work for the first time in 16 years! I suppose I could call it life continuing; and certainly things could have been worse. Holly-Anne could have been terribly hurt in the car accident in October, my son could have been stupider than he already has been this year and gotten caught by someone other than me, and my brother might have cancer. In the end, I'm just glad this year is over.

And yet, and yet - I finished the first draft of my novel, and that is what I am proudest of this year. It needs many rewrites etc! but it is an achievement in itself, and in spite of the continuing dramas in my life, I was able to find the quiet space to write in, that Doris Lessing in her Nobel Prize acceptance speech this year, said that writers needed to have in order to write. That space of my own, that solitude and quiet. In the midst of the chaos of life, I was able to create something more. I wouldn't trade my life for anything, now. I can hope for a quieter year, next year! And back to getting up at 5:30 a.m to write, since that is my quiet time of the day.

So as I look over my books read, and my accomplishments, victories, and defeats, I see it was a year in which I challenged myself - to write, to deepen my commitment to my spiritual beliefs, to find my way in love and trust it, and to begin to cut out the extraneous bits so I can live the life I dream of, where I have space to read, write, raise my children, love my family and friends, and create what is most meaningful to me. I wish the same for you, my Gentle Readers. Time this coming year to read, to make what is important to you a priority this year, to make your life reflect you. May you have a happy 2008 and find wondrous new books to read!

My year in books:
37 books read (wah! much less than I hoped for....)
Fiction - 33 Non-Fiction - 2
Mystery - 17
Fantasy - 12
Fiction - 3
Horror - 3

Oh well, not as many as I hoped for, but still, considering I work full-time and am raising 3 kids, not bad. Just have to read more and watch less tv! And considering I plan on doubling my books read for 2008......I have to confess, I can hardly wait until tomorrow! Jan 1, 2008, and I can begin reading all those lovely, wonderful new books on my shelves! Reading challenges, commence! Hurrah!

Tuesday 18 December 2007

My Top 10 List

Ok, I was putting this off until later in the month, but it looks like I will only get Eat, Pray, Love finished by the end of the week, and then it's Christmas and not sure when I will get to read! So.....the funny thing is, reading over the books I have read this year, none really made it to my all-time list. Some years I read so many books that I instantly fall in love with. This year seemed to be the year when I read lots of continuing books in series, or read books I enjoyed, but not necessarily would give copies to other people to read.
The Naming of the Dead - Ian Rankin - my favourite mystery author. And this book was one of the best ones, with Rebus taking on Bush on a bicycle in Scotland, and the shocking slide of Siobhan Clarke to the dark side.

Lost in a Good Book
- Jasper Fforde - these two books are number 2 and 3 in the Thursday Next series. I love this series. I love the books that Thursday jumps into, the characters she meets - the scene of the therapist with the group from Wuthering Heights is hilarious, because she's right, who doesn't hate the insipid Catherine?? and Thursday going through her pregnancy without her husband who may not be recovered is unexpectedly moving. Ok, so I"ve found some books to recommend after all!
Well of Lost Plots - "

Twelve Sharp
- Janet Evanovich - I love this one - I love the series, who couldn't love Morelli and Ranger vying for her attention???Yikes, who to choose! Yummy!!! and Stephanie is hilarious as is her family. This is one of my all-time favourite series, and this one was good, where we get to see a little bit more about Ranger (but no so much that he loses his mysterious/dangerous quality). I'm waiting for 13 to appear in paperback....hmm, should be due soon....

Magic or Madness
- Justine Lardabelestier - a new fantasy series from an Australian writer, this is book one. It is exciting, with a new theory of magic in families, an Australian setting for some of the mystery, and believable characters, some of whom are threatening, some charming. Reason Cansino does not know what to believe from her mother, who has gone mad, and I found this breathed a new perspective into the theory that you must do magic or die; in this book if you do magic, you also die, as well as if you don't do it. Very interesting series.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
- JK Rowling - what can I say? I was devastated after book 6 and Snape's revelation of working with Lord Voldemort. I confess that I cried all through the ending, partly for Harry's sacrifice, mostly because of Snape and how all his life he was misunderstood, and in the end what he did, he did out of love. I had never believed he was evil, and so I felt such a thrill of joy when he was revealed to be one of the heroes of the series! (I won't reveal any more for fear of ruining the future reading of some Gentle Reader in furthest regions of the world who have not read the books yet). I very much enjoyed this whole series, which I thought brought back the joy of reading, the fun and thrill of adventure stories for kids, which I devoured as a child. As soon as the youngest two are old enough, I will be reading the books in sequence to them.....

Eat, Pray, Love
- Elizabeth Gilbert - currently reading this one, but since she writes about her trip both inner and outer in an engaging, friendly fashion - careful to show her character warts as well as exuberant joy in travelling - I have already thoroughly enjoyed the 1/5th I have read.

The Devil in the White City
- Erik Larson - see earlier blog about this book, in October I think. As time has gone on, I have found that images or ideas from this book keep popping up in my head. Larson did a masterful job comparing the soaring heights of the dreams of the men who built the Chicago's World Fair in 1900, and of the man who dreamed large in a darker, deadlier fashion - the one thing the book was missing was an accurate count at the end of who was murdered, and a list of his suspected victims. As a morality tale about the current state of our cities, it should be must-reading for every young woman about to leave home and get her first job and apartment, no matter where she is. Highly recommended.

Strange Affair
- Peter Robinson - Canadian mystery author who sets his mysteries in Yorkshire, England. I had read earlier books of his in this series some years ago, and enjoyed them, but lost touch until my mother brought this one up on her trip for my birthday in May this year. She had never read him before, and not knowing I had, brought me the book. Once i started reading it, I couldn't put it down! It was gripping! So I went out and bought the book before - Playing with Fire - and bought the next in line, Piece of My Heart, to go in my 888 Book Challenge for 2008 - that's how much I enjoyed it! We get to know more about Inspector Alan Bank's family, and see him begin to put the pieces of his life back together even as he loses a family member. Always a good mystery writer, and this one was set partly in London, my favourite city in the world. A thoroughly enjoyable read, and nail-biting at the end.

The Grand Tour or the Purloined Coronation Regalia
- Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer - 2nd in the Sorcery and Cecelia series (for lack of a better group title, since there isn't one). Sorcery and Cecelia or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot is the first book, and it is so delightful and wonderful, full of magic, mystery, and romance PLUS a chocolate pot, that when I saw there was a second book, I grabbed it right away. It was the first book I read this year. This one occurs in Europe, as the girls (Cecelia and her cousin Kate) are on a honeymoon tour with their husbands. More magic, more mystery, fashion from Paris, and love (as they are on their honeymoons!). It loses some of the excitement of the first book because they are happily married now, not falling in love - and I kept flipping to the front to remind myself which man was whose husband (James and Thomas), as their characters are not terribly different from eachother - cut in the same mold, because they are friends, and of high character. I find that I am looking for book 3 now, which is the highest recommendation I can give any series - that I want to continue reading it. I love in this book how Cecilia and Kate discover more about their magic, their husbands, their friendship, and of course their trip through Europe. I would recommend this to teens, especially, as well as anyone who enjoys fantasy and romance. Very enjoyable and sweet!

Well, they aren't selected in any order, and there they are. Let me know what your favourite books of the year are, Gentle Reader, if you like. And now that I've done the list, I see I did read some I did really like!
Happy Reading in the run-up to Christmas!!

Sunday 16 December 2007

A Touch of Panic

So.....finally finished A Touch of Panic by L.R Wright, 2nd book in my Canadian Book Challenge list. It's nice to get another one done! it took me far longer to read than it should have, though, because life has intruded on my beautiful reading schedule: Christmas - no matter how I plan, I always have to shop for Christmas for several days in mid-December!; work - taken on a supervisory role - temporary - that is creating stress with other members in my group, that I didn't know was affecting me until this week; and then the news that my brother went into the hospital for emergency surgery earlier this week, for a tumor in his intestine, all very unexpected. He is making a recovery, but as we have a family that has broken down, he is not speaking with any of us so it's been hard, and much harder than expected to want to be able to support him but not be able to. It was hard to read these past two weeks, hard to concentrate on much when not working. While we wait for news on whether the tumor was cancerous, my brother is heading home tomorrow. Normally I can turn to books but with everything else going on in my life, and Christmas preparations, yiiyiiyii!!! My reading has dropped again.
We are just ending our second snowstorm in a week. At least 20 cm have fallen today, wild winds making it dangerous to go I did get A Touch of Panic finished, in the brief moment that the kids let me read! I have to read Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert as it is out from the library on 'express loan' and I've already renewed it the one time allowed! It's due back Thursday. So, A Touch of Panic is a good read, a solid mystery, with believable characters that continue from one book to the next. It's 4th in the RCMP Staff Sergeant Karl Alberg series, set in the wonderful Sunshine Coast of BC, in Sechelt. The ending has a twist that is rather interesting, and i might pick up the next one to see what happens. The one thing that was disappointing was the serial killer......there is no satisfactory conclusion regarding the number of women he may have killed, nor the discovery of the one hidden around the house (I don't want to give everything away for the Gentle Reader who does want to read this). However, the portrayal of his madness is creepy and effective, and his stalking of Cassandra (love interest and recent move-in girlfriend of Alberg) is realistic. The book ends with an unfinished feeling, because several storylines are continued (or should be), instead of being a complete book within a series. It feels like a linkage book. I can recommend it, as a light, enjoyable read that has the air of British Columbia's coastline about it, and for anyone who has been to Vancouver (the Sunshine Coast begins just north of Vancouver), the scenery will bring back memories.
Now, onto Eat, Pray, Love, which I have seen appearing on many TBR lists or books read this year, which is part of what prompted me to pick it up. As I love food, have been divorced, and often thought running away to Europe to soul search was a wonderful idea!! - I think I will enjoy this book. I hope so!
Having made chocolate chip cookies - homemade cookies soothe my soul, at least - I am now attending to the Christmas cards that have been waiting for my daughter's school pictures to arrive, which still aren't here. At least if I get the cards ready, I can pop them in the mail as soon as the photos do arrive. The school promises this week! So, I hope wherever you are, Gentle Reader, you are enjoying the preparations for Christmas or whatever you may celebrate, and remember - or find time! - to hold close and spend time with those you love. Merry last week before Christmas!!!

Tuesday 4 December 2007

What do you think is cool?

It must be nearing the end of the year, all these lists (memes) are coming out....Stephanie over at Stephanie's books had a blog in mid-November that I missed, but just caught up on: Stephen King is cool.,,20159025,00.html His Cool and the Gang article in EW inspired Stephanie to write about what she thought was cool, and so I am passing on the question to you, Dear Reader, as we dig out from our snowstorm (25 cm of snow!) of yesterday: what do you think is cool?
Well, for me, it's books. Reading is cool. Carrying a book and reading on the bus, waiting for the bus, at lunch, waiting in line, while eating.......I think a button should be made saying this: Reading is cool.
But, going to libraries is not. I love libraries, but it's not cool to be there, though it is cool to run into people and the love of your life there!
What else is cool? Neil Gaiman is cool. Elmore Leonard, Carl Hiassen, Janet Evanovich - yikes, those two guys fighting over her are so gorgeous! Even if she destroys a car in almost every book, she's so not cool that the books are cool! Thursday Next is cool. I agree with Stephen, Battlestar Galactica was cool.....still waiting for the new season to start for it. Pushing Daisies almost has it. And the new Dr Who, cool for sci-fiction..... and And I refuse to watch the Sopranos on principle since it glorified crime and killing as a way of life - not cool (I don't care if the gangster began to feel guilty! that's lame!) but the Godfather movies one and two are ALWAYS cool........Leonardo di Caprio is among the coolest of the younger actors. And Buffy the Vampire Slayer!! that was one show that had it, in spades.
I'm the first to admit I have never been a 'cool' person, so I won't bother with cool things I own...but I have to say I think Nick Drake (musician) is cool. So was REM in their heyday. Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson, for making cooking fresh, oh so good and sexy, are cool. Or rather, so hot they are cool!
In keeping with the season, I think white lights on trees outside are cool (for Christmas), and freshly-fallen snow is so beautiful it is cool, and the seasons changing is cool. And I think Stephen King is right, Obama has cool and Hillary Clinton does not. Saying "I love you" is cool, and so is "Merry Christmas"! - since we are not allowed to say Merry Christmas any more in case anyone gets offended here in Canada, I make a point of saying it because not saying it is so stupid and meaningless! Christmas is cool (despite the shopping frenzy), gathering and celebrating is food for the heart and soul, and is eternally 'cool'.
Happy being cool reading!!!

Saturday 1 December 2007

Life of Pi

Hurray! I just finished it! And it took my breath away. Not just for its writing, for the story, for how he conjures up life on a lifeboat on the Pacific Ocean, and the incredible animals that initially survive; he also brought back memories for me that I don't often recall with such vividity. You see, Gentle Reader, I lived on a sailboat for two years with my family when I was a teenager, and we spent most of those two years on the Pacific Coast of Central America. So reading Life of Pi became layered with my own memories of the ocean, of the salt on my face, the different sounds the wind and waves make depending on time of day, whether we were in dock or out at sea, whether we were sailing or motoring, and most of all, our rubber dinghy. My sister and I rowed our parents (mother and stepfather) everywhere, as we didn't have a motor for the dinghy. We had to pump it up with air when we were launching the dinghy after arriving at a port; we rowed to shore, and rowed back, for everything. In rough water the dinghy rode up and down, and in hot sun the rubber got hot too. So reading Life of Pi became remembering for me what the sea was like, and I can tell you, Gentle reader, that the author Yann Martel got all the details right. Except perhaps for the floating island of algae, but then as the scientist in Jurassic Park says, "Life will find a way," so it is in the realm of possibility, and this story is about possibility. It is a joyous, gripping, heart-wrenching, faith-filled adventure story. I highly recommend it. I am so glad I read it. And I have to admit that I avoided reading it so long because I thought it was a fable with talking animals, which I did NOT want to read, at all! Not when it comes to being marooned on the ocean, which was something we always had to be prepared for, living on the boat. Even now, I can't make a joke out of it. And I can vouch that flying fish DO land on the boat, do jump out of the water, because we had it happen many times once we were near the equator. They would land on our decks, and in the morning we would find them and toss the tiny corpses back into the water. And the tiger.....I will never look at Bengal Tigers quite the same, I will remember Richard Parker for a very long time. What a fascinating story.
So if you haven't read it yet, it is a treat for you, and if you have, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. I'm glad it won the Booker......I suppose this means I'd better start checking out some of the other Booker Prize winners now! And thanks to my mother for giving me the book
So what is next? H-m-m, it has been very cold here today; -14c was our high, and tomorrow snow is arriving with the possibility that again we won't leave the house. What beckons in these first days of December to read? What would I like to read this year, to end this year?

Thirteen Books I haven't read this year......

I just found this meme on Dorothy's site at and I think it fits right in with all the challenges I've been preparing for next year - it's good to look back and see what I haven't managed to read - again - this year!
1. Quicksilver - Neal Stephenson. I guess because it comes in three volumes, and they split the second two volumes into two each, so that's five books to read this series!! has been a slight drawback as my time to read is not so large right now.....
2.Wicked - Gregory Maguire - I don't know why I haven't read this book yet!! Very annoying, so maybe I'll be so annoyed I'll pick it up and read it! Before January!
3.Mars Eclipsed - Karen Irving. 3rd in a Canadian mystery series set here in Ottawa. I actually like the series, i just haven't gotten around to this one. Maybe I can switch it onto my Canadian Book Challenge for next year....
4.1610 A Sundial in A Grave - Mary Gentle. I loved Ash, I loved Of Rats and Gargoyles, so I think it's because it's in trade paperback, which means I need a long weekend to read it....and it's too heavy to carry around with me......
5The Thief Lord - Cornelia Funke. I haven't read any of this author yet! And I really want to read Inkheart (which I haven't got yet)! Another annoying miss that may find itself being read next year....
6.London - The Biography - Peter Ackroyd. I've been meaning to read this since I gave to it my husband several years ago! We both love London and I am fascinated by it's why not read? I don't think I'm saving it for anything special! I think I want more regular time to read, that's all, before tackling this one. And it might make me miss England too much to read now.
7.War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy. Forever, I've been meaning to read this book!!! And I still haven't done it!!! Why not? For years, I thought of it as a summer read for the beach, where I could read in uninterrupted bliss. But once summer holidays came (and I left home early, so that was my only holiday time of the year since I worked in retail then) I found I didn't want to read a 500 + page book. So, it languishes on my shelf. Maybe I'm afraid to read it because it is rated so highly, one of the best novels ever written? Nah. I want to read it for that reason! Ok, maybe year after next....
8. 1700 - Scenes from London Life, Maureen Waller. See above about London, it applies here too......and I love reading about daily life in earlier times, so this is one that I just haven't found time many books, so little time! If this hadn't already been taken for someone else's blog name, it was going to be mine!
9.Elizath - David Starkey. I've been meaning to read this book for 6 years now!!! I even went to see the author give a talk in Borders bookstore in York, England, in 2001, on this book, and it was interesting and enjoyable!!! but I am just not in the mood......maybe after I see the movie (which will probably be on DVD at the rate I am getting out to movies this year!)
10) A Gentlewoman in Uppper Canada, the Journals of Anne Langton. For innumerable years it has sat on my shelves, and I keep pulling it down, leafing through it, but i've never read it through. Again one that I put on and pulled off of my Canadian Book Challenge. And I am fascinated by Canadian Pioneer history. One of my favourite things to do as a tourist is to imagine what life was like back 'then', however far back in time it is. And Anne travelled to parts of Ontario in the 1860's when my family lived there at that time. So it's more again, picking and choosing books and this one didn't make it, but now that I'm writing about it I feel really guilty so maybe I can squeeze it into the Canadian Book Challenge too!
11). A Small Sound of the Trumpet - Margaret Lebarge. Very popular book on medieval woman and I enjoy medieval history, but this has sat languishing on my shelves for many years now. Maybe I prefer to experience history rather than read about it? Or maybe I have to be in the right mood for history, and young children in the house isn't conducive to quiet reading!
12) Life in a Medieval City - Joseph and Frances Gies. H-m-m, quite a few of my unread books are non-fiction, arent' they? I keep this for history reference too, for my writing. Guess I haven't needed to read it through yet, but I know I have referred to it.
13)The Hero with a Thousand Faces - Joseph Campbell. I did try reading this a few years ago, but got bogged down with it. I still want to read it, hence it has remained on my shelves for years. This book is on my TBR list for next year, so I am intending to finally read the whole thing. It's like the White Goddess by Robert Graves, I can only read a little at a time even though i find it fascinating. I'm not sure why, I'll have to think on it.