Monday 28 February 2011

The Universe has a terrific sense of irony

So, I love books.  A lot. More than just about anything on this earth.  You know that about me by now.  Imagine growing up surrounded by all these books I own.  Heaven, right?  to you and me, a definite exuberant shout of yes. 

Remember when you were learning to read?  If your brain sees a word it doesn't know, we stop and recognize that we don't know it, and try to figure it out.  Imagine if your brain just put a word in place of that, that it already knew.  Without you knowing.  So what you read isn't what is there before you, but you can't see what's different unless someone shows you.  That's part of what my daughter is facing, we know now.  She has a memory retrieval problem, a learning disability.

She also has an auditory problem.  She misses cues in class, and she can't absorb much information through her ears.  She has normal hearing, but something happens to the word on the way into the brain, and it doesn't get placed in her auditory center, it doesn't quite reach it. So in a world where most schooling is through sound, it's all confusion and noise for my 8 year old.  She doesn't hear explanations, and ideas have to be broken up into visual clues for her to understand them.  This is another learning disability, called Auditory Processing Disorder.  She was just diagnosed two weeks ago, as soon as she was old enough for the test to confirm what her amazing support teachers at school have suspected.

Combine the two, and ask her what it means when in a story a boy is travelling to see his mother, the question how he feels, and she doesn't understand what the question is.  She missed the idea that he was nervous because he was travelling alone, and that his gift to his mother was his way of showing he loved her. It means we have to find another way of showing her what the words mean, and try to find a way to explain the meaning behind the words, the idea they are trying to express.  Before now, I never even wondered how we do it, because I always knew it.  This extends to her math, her science, her social sciences:  everything that uses words, has to be explained in two or three different ways before she begins to grasp what is being presented.  I'm not complaining, I'm puzzled and bewildered at the enormity of having to make sure my daughter understands her homework every night before she starts it, and usually having to read it myself so I can find yet another way to show her.  I am beginning to realize how much our world relies on knowledge and understanding of the written word, and how much we convey about everything, through writing.

It means that the learning that I love to do, the experiences I know from school, the challenge of learning that I loved and exceeded in (except in math), are not experiences my daughter knows.  She is making huge improvements this year in her reading, and she is trying very hard. She is learning how to read  in two languages also- English and French.  She is bright, and funny, and sweet, and caring, and kind.

But she doesn't pick up a book for fun to read, and neither does her older brother except occasionally - he also has a learning disability, that he has mostly learned to work around.  The youngest one is already being tested along the same lines.

So, I look around me at all these lovely books, and I wonder, how can I get my daughter (and my son eventually) to want to read? Can I do more to create a love of books?  Or is it something one finds spontaneously, within one's self?

How ironic is it that in a house full of books, which the child experts on literacy all recommend, and the library cards each child got as soon as they were born, I am the only one who loves to read for pure pleasure, all the time? The universe has a strange sense of humour, to give me three children who struggle to make sense of the written word. They all love to buy me books!  Which I love.  I think  I would love it even more if one of them came running to me and said, "Mommy, there's a book I saw that I want......."  I still envision my children all reading for pleasure one day.  We have found with both of them that if we can find a book in the subject they like, they will look at it - animals for Holly, and soccer for Graham.  My son loves sports, so we've tricked him into letter recognition by getting World Cup albums.

I don't think I will take the ability to read for granted ever again.

Sunday 27 February 2011

Sunday Salon: The Laughing Policeman

The Laughing Policeman by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo is the fourth book in the Martin Beck mystery series, and the first one I've read.  I read it because Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise wrote this review back in January on one of the books in the seriesEdited to add****I also read a review at An Adventure in Reading featuring the book The Man on the Balcony, #3 in the series, in January.  I realized I had  seen references to this series for years, and decided it was time to pay it a visit and try one.  I was thrilled that the one that is considered the classic of the series, The Laughing Policman, my library had a copy of.

I don't know how I've missed this series!  I really enjoyed The Laughing Policeman.  Written by husband and wife team of Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, who wrote a total of 10 books in the series, this was Sweden's first police procedural series. The mystery is set in 1968.  The Laughing Policeman opens with the discovery of a crashed double-decker bus, which contains 9 people on board - 8 are dead, one is dying.  They are victim's of Sweden's first mass-killing. 

When they discover one of the victims is one of their own detectives, the case takes on a personal note for the investigating team of detectives.  The fascinating thing about this book is we get to see inside the criminal investigating team and how they organize themselves to investigate this seemingly clueless crime.  I enjoyed watching the thoughts as the case progresses, as they search for the clue that will lead them to the killer, who is still out there in the city, in Stockholm.  Who killed these 8 - and when the 9th victim dies, 9 victims?  Why? Why was Stenstrom, who wasn't known for riding the bus, on the bus in the first place?

The Laughing Policeman is the best kind of police procedural, where each piece of the puzzle is given to us, and we race with the police - well, plod slowly but surely, as the investigation takes well over a month before the break finally comes - to discover who, and why.  The ending is one of those bittersweet ones where everything is resolved, but with the sense of chances missed, that if only Stenstrom had done this thing instead of that, then he would still be alive. Even though we never meet him, we get to know him through the eyes of his long-time girlfriend and his colleagues.

Martin Beck is the main person we see the book unfold through.  He is quiet, with a stomach ailment that creeps through the book as the only sign, other than his sleeping on the sofa so as to not disturb his wife, of the toll his job is taking on him.  He likes his work, most of his colleagues, and his quiet determination is what guides the team, although the assignment of work is equally distributed by others in the team too.  It's more of a partnership in the squad, which is interesting given how modern police procedurals focus on hierarchy now.  I like both, it is refreshing to see the different personalities fit on this squad. 

Very, very good.  This is one of the best police procedurals I have read in a long time.  I enjoyed getting to know Martin and his squad, and am definitely going to seek out the other nine books in this series. Highly recommended.  5/5

Tuesday 22 February 2011

Some book reviews! Really! - The Limits of Enchantment, and St Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves

St Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves - Karen Russell

I had been hearing about this book here and there, and finally picked it up over a year ago.  When Stephen King said that Swamplandia!, Russell's new book, was one of the anticipated books of the year, I thought I'd better go back and read her first book.  I also love the title.  I love wolves, and it's an irresistible title.
St Lucy's Home For Girls Raised by Wolves is a book of short stories, and they are fantasy in the way that is fabulous,  in the old original sense of fabulous being strange and wild and wonderful.  Almost all the stories are set in Florida, in and around the water or the forest or the swamp. The two that are not, From Children's Reminiscences of the Westward Migration, and Accident Brief, Occurrence # 00/422, are set in the prairies/desert (Children's Reminiscences) and the Arctic somewhere (Accident Brief).  All the stories feature young people, usually around 8 or 10 or 12, who are on the cusp of reaching for the adult world, not quite knowing what they are missing, but they are missing it, even as they explore childhood and the darkness around them.  Almost every story features loss, absent parents, mothers who abandon their children to make a living in the way that the very poor do.  These aren't pretty people, neither are they terrifically bad - they are children and the freaky adults they find themselves surrounded with.  If I had to describe the theme of this book, it would be what life would be like if it were a circus - that extraordinarily twilight zone feeling that we get going to the circus, where certainly I want to laugh at the clowns, but at the same time I'm aware there are people underneath and are they happy?  do they want to be laughed at?  (of course they do, but I always worry about what people are really feeling, and not what they are pretending to the world.)This collection of stories is like looking through a fun house mirror, where the carnival aspects of childhood get twisted in ways we know are, even though they shouldn't be.  They are gothic without any of the nonsense about death - surreal stories, almost.  And fascinating.  I really enjoyed this collection.

I love Russells' flights of fancy, her awareness of nature and the children being the ones taking the time to see the stars and trees and being intimately connected with life around them, before adulthood comes to sweep them away.  There are ghosts and convicts and dream camps (I wish I could go to that one!), a  minotaur as a father, and gator-wrestling Ava Wrestles the Alligator, which the new book Swamplandia! is set in the same swampland attraction as the short story is.  One of my favourite quotes is on my sidebar;   "Haunting Olivia" is one of my favourite stories in this collection.  It's told by the older brother who searches endlessly for her in the ocean, hoping to find her ghost among the ghosts of all the other creatures that died, but even when she seemingly contacts him, he still can't find her.  That sense of loss, of searching for something gone, permeates all the stories in this book.  Olivia was sliding down the sand on the back of a very huge crab sled and slid out into the waves, but the tide was going out and the boys didn't wait around to see her come back in.  Just like in real life, tragedy and loss, big changes and small.  "St Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves" is about werewolves who are taken by nuns to be raised to be like humans.  It's very good, especially as the girls learn how to not think like pack, and how they lose their sense of connectedness when they do that.  Who says being human is the highest realization?  Only humans do.  These stories are weird and wonderful, like the old time circuses and men calling, "Step right up!  See the Bearded woman! One night only!"  Like Ray Bradbury if he had grown up in Florida,  there is a sense of him in her writing.  I highly recommend this book. 4.5/5

The Limits of Enchantment - Graham Joyce

I love this novel.  It's the story of Fern Cullen, a young woman who lives with her mother in a small village in 1966 England.  Mammy Cullen is a midwife, but not of the new school of hospital approved midwives.  She is old-school.  She knows the herbs and small magics that midwives traditionally know since women began having babies and needed help giving birth.  She might be a witch, she might not.  And Fern is on the cusp of asking what she wants to do with her life.  Then Mammy is roughed up by some men - really, just knocked over roughly - and she gets weaker and ends up in the hospital.  Fern has to contend with a group of hippies who move into the neighborhood, the advances of Arthur, and deciding if she wants to carry on her mother's work.  She has the gift, but before she does more than take a few steps for the future, the local gentry who own the land decide she must move out because they are in arrears.  And The Limits of Enchantment is about how Fern discovers who are her friends, and who isn't, and how she learns to ask and to listen and to judge on her own.

The Limits of Enchantment is written from Fern's point of view.  She is engaging and frank, seeing through most people around her.  But she is young, and she has to learn that she can't practice her midwifery without the support of the community around her, and when they initially don't respond to her requests for help, she faces being forced to leave.  How she fights back and how the community rallies around her, is particularly funny and tender. 

This is a really enjoyable book. Fern is a strong character as is Mammy.  All the characters are interesting and idiosyncratic - they are really vividly drawn.  I liked the setting - 1966, a small village, and I especially liked the midwife and magical aspects of the story.  I highly recommend this book, especially to anyone interested in folklore and herbal lore, and changing society.  5/5

Saturday 19 February 2011

Science fiction at its 'alternative' best - Fringe, Roger Zelazny

 Carl's Sci Fi Experience (see my side-bar for the link) is a wonderful time to bring some science fiction into my reading life.  My friend Lee in Dallas sent me for Christmas a collection of Roger Zelazny's stories, Frost and Fire.  I did read one of the Amber novels  many years ago, but I haven't read any of his short stories.  She was reminded of his Hugo-Winning short story "24 Views of Mt Fuji, by Hokusai", which is in this collection, from an episode of Fringe.  So, last week, we read "24 Views of Mt Fuji".  It is beautiful. The story opens with Mari, standing at a view of Mt Fuji, discussing a little bit of love, and that she is on a pilgrimmage.  "Having viewed this scene, and thought my thoughts, and felt my feelings, I have begun."  She carries a book that has reproductions of 24 of Hokusai's 48 paintings of Mt Fuji, and the story follows her as she walks around the mountain, finding current scenes that recreate as closely as possible the original illustrations in her book.  At each stop, she releases more of herself, more of her thoughts and feelings, as she is also chased by unknown assailants, and we see different views of Mt Fuji.  It becomes a layering of impressions and reminisences, of the way memory circles and swirls around and around, until we discover that we have been looking at one thing through different landscapes.  It is hauntingly beautiful.  One of my favourite parts caught my eye:  "Twenty-four ways of looking at Mt. Fuji. It struck me that it would be good to take one thing in life and regard it from many viewpoints, as a focus for my being, and perhaps as a penance for alternatives missed."  As I read this, my thoughts flew to Fringe, my favourite tv show for two years now.

Fringe is SF tv at its best.  You have seen me rave in the past about Fringe here, and here, and here.  This season, we have been alternating (ha!) between the alternate world and this world, as Olivia as made her way back and the team has discovered what the alternate Walter wanted from our side.  What is gripping me most about this show right now is how one man's actions have had repercussions in everything.  One world, the alternate, is literally falling to pieces, breaking open to threatened vortexes. Last night we discovered that this world is beginning to show signs of the vortex spreading to here.  We also discovered that Walter has been haunted by what he saw when he was in the Alternate Universe last season, the broken places of the world.

All because he took Peter to save his life, and didn't return him after.  It is stunning storytelling, extremely powerful and moving, and we have no idea what comes next.  So when I read the lines above from "24 Views", I thought that's what the writers of Fringe are doing.  They are meditating on what Walter did.  We are getting 24, 48, even 64 views of the 'Zero Event" (as the Alternate Universe calls it, the day Peter was taken, because everything started from then), of how one action is spreading ripples through that world, our world, and who knows how far beyond.
How many ways can we view what Walter did?  As many ways as there are to explore the mysteries of the human heart. Because what Walter did was out of love and grief, this is a human-oriented science fiction story; no matter how unusual or fascinating the science, the exploration of faith, love, and loss, are at the heart of this show.

Roger Zelazny's story is wonderful, and while I don't describe it in SF terms, that was because I didn't want to give away a key plot point which is very SF.  Fringe is fabulous (in both senses of the word) tv.  Science fiction isn't just about rocket ships and space - though as you all know, I'm a Trekker through and through, I love my space stories! - it's about where humanity meets science and how we experience the world, the galaxy, the universe through the lens of our human heart.  I don't read as much science fiction as I want to, and I'm grateful for Carl's Sci Fi experience for pushing me to read  some science fiction now, and not later, like I always say.  I will be reading the other award-winning story from the Frost and Fire collection, "Permafrost", and I picked up Masterpieces: The Best Science Fiction of the Century edited by Orson Scott Card, from the library earlier this week.  I might only have one week left in this challenge, but I am reading and enjoying some science fiction!

Are you, my Gentle Reader?  have you discovered - or revisited - a favourite science fiction author or story for this 'experience'? 

Wednesday 9 February 2011

some fun posts around the book blog world: cover art, libraries, mysteries and stealing the TARDIS

Memory at Stella Matutina has a fabulous post - Bibliophiles Steal a TARDIS.  She asks if you could travel through Time and Space to an author in the past, what would you tell them?  She has made it more interesting by imagining you give them a suggestion that leads to their greatest works.  I picked Shakespeare and imagined I would go back in time and encourage a poetless playwright to try his hand at the sonnet......Memory did pick Jane Austen, so I joined her on that one, since I could never resist getting a chance to meet one of my very favourite authors.  Who would you go to?  Let Memory know!  PS I would have to bring my daughter along, you will have to read my comment at Memory's post to find out why......

Ana at things mean alot has a thoughtful post on libraries:  Books Are So Cheap!  Who needs Libraries?.  Because a couple of you, my Gentle readers, left comments on my recent book library post about the fees different libraries are charging just to request a book, I have been thinking about the differences in library systems (having lived in England for a year), and why libraries are important.  Ana's post is interesting. Do you use the library?  Do you buy books second-hand?  Weigh in on the debate at Ana's post. Let her know what you think.  I left a lengthy comment and still didn't run out of things to say.  I think libraries are so important to the health of a community as well as a city and a country.  It's a place for people of any background to gather to learn, to share, to explore all the sum of knowledge their library contains, and has access to.  They frequently offer classes to help the disadvantaged learn how to write resumes, job-seek, type, use computers, and in our case here in Ottawa, the Ottawa Public Library also has frequent guest writers speaking out on various topics, from investing money to bird-watching, depending on how local/Canadian the writer is, and their recent book topic.  And it's free.  So anyone can attend.  It's that freedom that I think is so very important, and I don't like that libraries are so often the target of budget-conscious city councils.  Most especially (and this comes up over and over from Ana's commenters as well) the library is a place for children to explore the world of books and read far more widely than their parents, no matter how much money they make, can give them.  I certainly used the library from a young age, and read so many books that we didn't have at home.  I read the ones at home too.  The library offered so much choice and variety, I could try anything I wanted and learn whatever I wanted.  It's like a tiny slice of heaven for book-lovers, and I don't think of it as a pleasure or frivolous.  It is far more important than that.  What do you think?  Let her know.

Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise ( I love this blog name!) has a fun post: When did you begin reading Crime fiction?.  You will have to go there to see what my answer is, and please let her know.  I will say that I began early, and it was among the very first kind of books I read, and I have never really looked back, although fantasy is my next favourite genre. I thought I read them equally until I began keeping a books read journal in the 1990s, and realized that I read more mystery than fantasy at about a 2:1 ratio.  That was quite shocking at first, since I was spending my time at the local fantasy store, going to science fiction conventions, and immersing myself in fantasy reading.  To know that I naturally read mystery more than anything else - once I got over that surprise, I began, in the past several years, letting myself read and discover all the mysteries out there that I didn't know about before.  It wasn't that I wasn't reading mysteries during my fantasy years, it was that I wasn't thinking about how much I enjoyed them consciously.  Once I understood my reading history and how far back it stretched, I realized I had my home in mysteries early on.  I also let myself read as many mysteries as I want to, instead of thinking I should be reading more classics, or biographies, or whatever.  I am of course free to read what I want to!  but sometimes we put barriers on ourselves about what we can read, for various reasons, and I always thought I should be a widely-read reader, rather than reading for love. I'm not sure if it's time, or my health concerns, but something changed in my late 30's, and I decided to read what I loved, and much more of it.  No one is judging me for what I read, except me!

The funny thing is, now that I'm reading for love, I've discovered other books in other genres that I do love - Mary Oliver, George Eliot, Charles Dickens, Jasper Fforde,  as well as many, many wonderful what do you love to read?  And if you do read mysteries, let Kerrie know when you began.

For those of you who do read mysteries, Peter over at Detectives Beyond Borders has a fun post:  The BBC Gets It Wrong on Hard-Boiled Fiction.  Did Hemingway publish the first hard-boiled detective story, or was it Hammett?  The critic at the BBC asserted it was Hemingway.  I would have said Dashiell Hammett, myself.  I did a History of Mystery Novels in university (now long ago!) and I am sitting here trying to remember:  we covered Philip Marlowe and Raymond Chandler, and Dashiell Hammett, but I don't believe Ernest Hemingway even came up in this course.  We were studying who was important in the development of the mystery novel, not just big names who wrote mystery fiction.  I think that might be where the BBC critic got mixed up.  It also depends on your definition of hard-boiled fiction - hard-boiled I think of as pertaining to detectives and a certain world-weary way of looking at the world and crime.  Hemingway certainly wrote in this manner - world-weariness -  for much of his fiction, but not in crime terms.  It's interesting that I can read hard-boiled detective fiction, but I can't read Hemingway with much enjoyment.  What do you think?  Let Peter know, they have a very interesting debate going in the comments on this post.

Amy at My Friend Amy has a very fun post in "A Cover Trend I Enjoy.'  Now, I don't read many romances unless there is a mystery or fantasy element to it, but I do admit that I like looking at the covers of historical romances. I like the pretty gowns too, dresses that only socialites and princesses wear today.  However, this post title got me to thinking about trends in book covers.  I have to admit I am a sucker for photographed covers - I almost always pick the book up to admire! like this one purchased last month:
as well as artistic rendered covers, such as this one on the latest book by Rosy Thornton:
Looking closely at them, I can see right away that as is usual for me now, there are no people.  Isn't this interesting?  I don't like people in my photographs, only in art.  I really like both of these covers, too.  I am thrilled to finally have a copy of The Tapestry of Love - the author asked if I would like a copy to review, and I said yes because I've seen her book around on the blogs and I fell in love with both the story idea as well as the cover (and haven't seen a copy in paperback over here yet).  **I generally don't accept copies to review from anyone. I'm not interested in arcs since I worked in bookstores before, and I'm not interested in being the first to read a book.  It's just how I am, these days.  So I did caution the author that I have to be in the mood for a romance, but this cover is so irresistible and the premise - a middle-aged woman  after a divorce begins life anew  in France, opening her own business, and well frankly, most of my daydreams are about escaping (with my family!) to anywhere that isn't in a city these days, so I'm finding I want to read the book now. So I said yes.  It arrived today and I opened it up, all excited.  This lovely cover is now mine!!!!  and as soon as I read the story I will let you know how it is. Stay tuned. 
*****Edited to add later same night:  OMG!  Look at these book covers that I found over at Jane's blog, Reading, Writing, Working, Playing, in her post: My Penguin Classics.....All Mine!  These are beautiful, gorgeous, fabulous, wonderful covers.  I want these books!  So I went to Penguin to check them out, at the Penguin Classic Deluxe Editions, which these editions turn out to be part of.  I love the covers by Ruben Toledo.  So I went to Penguin Canada, where our Classic Deluxe Editions are listed here.  I am so happy they are available here!  Sometimes there is a problem with the Penguin copyright, so I have some books to look for now.   I did find something else totally new:  the Penguin Classics RED editions, which are the same price as other Penguin editions, but 50% of the cost goes directly to fund Aids recovery.  Not research, but medicine for a person.  The art is very different, but it's also very cool (except for Dracula, I'm still figuring that one out.)  Did I say I am lured by cover art?  Hmmm, I think I have to admit that yes, it does it's job very well (when it's well done).  And I don't mind! 

And that's what got me thinking from the book blog world today.  Have any posts inspired you?

Sunday 6 February 2011

Guardian of the Dead - Karen Healey - the most amazing myth journey

Well, I have Chris from Stuff As Dreams are Made Of to thank for his comment he left on my previous post.  He'd been looking to read Guardian of the Dead, so I pulled it from my towering " it's not so big if you put it into smaller piles" stack of library books today.  It's seven hours later, and in between making meals and doing  the housework, I read this book today.  Trust me, you won't want to put it down.  It's unbelievably fantastic and good.  I love this book.  I think it's safe to say it's one of my books of the year.

The book is about Ellie Spencer, a 17 year old girl attending boarding school on the South Island of New Zealand while her parents go around the world on a cruise.  It's not what you think, because her mother has just survived her treatment for breast cancer, and they are doing this in celebration.  Ellie has to finish school, and she chose Mansfield because it is on South Island, far from her home on the North Island; she couldn't go live with her sister in Sydney because her sister is gay and her parents don't want her lifestyle to rub off on Ellie.  Very normal, nothing unusual in that.  She thinks she is a normal 17 year old girl, and that is part of the delight of this novel:  all her reactions are, from her dislike of her body to her crush on the loner Mark, to her best friend Kevin who is hiding a secret, to the descriptions of the world around her, are satisfyingly real and prosaic.  And then she bumps into Mark by accident, and everything changes.  It's not what you think, though it is that too:  Mark is not what he seems to be, and in touching her, he awakens a latent talent in her for seeing the magic things around her.  She discovers she can use magical items, too. 

If the book just contained that story, it would be a good solid fantasy novel.  It contains much more though, and this is where it hums and sings like the best novels do.  Healey has woven New Zealand's myths into this story, so we meet some gods and goddesses, and other spirits, the guardians of places, hence the name of the book.  What is even more wonderful than having Maori myths brought to life, is that New Zealand, like any continent settled first by the First People (Aboriginals, we white people name them), and then by white settlers, so there is a mixing of peoples, languages and myths now.  Guardian of the Dead is about the ancient New Zealand myths stirring, but it's seen through the eyes of a non-aboriginal girl who loves the Classics.  So we get a fabulous mix of Classical mythology with Maori mythology.  It's magic.  Every magical form we meet, every old creature, the Guardian of the Dead herself - are believable and true and awesome. 

This is a story about discovery:  Ellie discovers who she is and what she can do.  She discovers love, she discovers friends and friendship.  She is betrayed, over and over, and stumbles along with only her determination and faithfulness to guide her.  I liked Ellie, and I wanted to be Ellie.  I liked her that much.  She discovers magic.  She discovers that the world isn't about her.  She discovers how to control people, and how it makes her feel.  She discovers myths are real. Her friends are interesting, and she is practical, down to earth, partly because her mother did have cancer, and Ellie spent a lot of her time helping her mother when she could.  She makes the story work because she is just a 17 year old girl who mostly wants to be loved.

The journey in to myth is fraught with peril, and it is dangerous to meet myths themselves;  humans are never the same afterward.  So it is for Ellie, and Mark, as they learn the surviving putapaiarehe are trying to regain the immortality they once had long ago, and join in the attempt to stop them, for it means the destruction of the North Island all together if the ancient creatures succeed. 

This is one of my favourite moments in the book, when Ellie is in danger from Mark's mother, Reka, who is a Maori fairy, or patupaiarehe, but really she is a species that is not human:

I wasn't moving. My feet were rooted as Reka's song rose.  Numbed, I heard my fate in her voice - not death, but the long, wooden life of tree and bush, sleeping away winters and rising in the spring to thrust mindless to the sun.  I might live a century or more until the rot claimed me, and never remember that I had once been a girl, with limbs instead of branches, who had fought, and run, and kissed.
   Anger faded into placid acceptance as her voice sang out the final phrase and hung, questioning, on the last word. 
    I began to sigh my consent.

One of the myths I like is the story of Daphne and Apollo, which this little scene reminded me of very much.  How did Daphne feel, when she turned from Apollo's advances, and her father rescues her by turning her into a tree?  Much like how Ellie feels as Reska enchants her, I imagine.  However Ellie is not fleeing from a boy, and she chooses to stay alive as a girl, before she is saved.  This book is about empowerment too, for women, with several very strong female characters like Ellie, to Iris her new friend who is running the school play, to Ellie's teacher Miss Lagribaldi, to the Guardian of the Dead, to Mark's mother who is a dark enchantress.  They are all powerful in their way, and for me, I found fascinating and energizing. It's not myths for women, it's women who happen to be powerful encountering and working with or within myths, becoming guardians of secrets.  It's a fascinating glimpse into myths that are real because we believe.  It really is an extraordinary novel.

  The Guardian of the Dead is a marvelous journey to a mythic world.  I can't recommend this book highly enough.  5/5.

Wednesday 2 February 2011

Library haul *Or, the madness of wanting to read everything

I was busy in January, reading 10 books.  10!!!  I am so proud.  A lot of my tv viewing has gone down, and I've been enjoying reading more.  This is not say I'm not watching my favourites, I could never miss Fringe!    Mostly, I am enjoying reading,  and making time to read more  That is really what my resolution is about, making more time for books.  I know I can't read everything out there, though I really want to.
Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries! 

It seems I am finding almost every book interesting and irresistible.  Actually, I think I always have, but between all the books I bought in January (that's the next planned post) and the 20 + books out from my library, I'm pretty well feeling like the next six months of reading is covered!. Ok, I can hear you all wondering, what books did I haul from the library?

Here is a photo of my Library loot:

The Library Loot (with Blogger responsible beside it)
The pile on the left:
-Spellbent - Lucy A Snyder
- Death at Wentwater Court - Carola Dunn (Cath at Read Warbler, her post here)
- Sweater Quest - Adrienne Martini (Terri Windling, post here,  Delia Sherman, post here)
- Life and Fate - Vassily Grossman
- Sepulchre - Kate Moss (because of Bride's review of The Winter Ghosts, over at Bride of the Book God), and this one features a tarot deck. 
- The Westminster Poisoner - Susanna Gregory
- Guardian of the Dead - Karen Healey (a blogger somewhere)....
- Well-Witched - Frances Hardinge (Locus magazine review)
- Visitation - Jenny Erpenbeck
- Juliet, Naked - *Nick Hornby*
- How To Make Friends with Demons - Graham Joyce (Locus magazine - see my sidebar)

The pile on the right:
- Cranford - Elizabeth Gaskell - BBC production,  dvd. (score!!)
 - The Cold Light of Mourning - Elizabeth J. Duncan (Mystery Scene Magazine review)
 - The Laughing Policeman - Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo (Detectives Beyond Borders blog, post here)
- Dangerous Angels - Francesca Block (Chris at Stuff as Dreams Are Made Of, post here)
- Murder on the Rocks - Karen MacInerney (Mystery Scene Magazine review)
- Dead Witch Walking - Kim Harrison
- Silent in the Grave - Deanna Raybourne (Bride at Bride of the Book God, post here)
- Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading - Maureen Corrigan (Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings, post here)
- The Burning Land - Bernard Cornwell (Mariel at Where Troubles Melt Like Lemon Drops, post here - it led me to all her reviews of The Arthurian Cycle by Cornwell)
- The Limits of Enchantment - Graham Joyce
- A Chance Meeting - Rachel Cohen (Nymeth at Things Means Alot, post here; it's actually Litlove's comment to Nymeth that caught my eye, but the entire post made me add 4 books to my reading list!)
 - The Outlander - Gil Adamson

I forgot to put in the picture the library book I'm currently reading:
- Valley of the Lost - Vicki Delany (Kathleen at Boarding in My Forties recommended this author to me, how I missed a new Canadian mystery series I have no idea, but I am very much enjoying her.  Lesa at Lesa's Book Critiques has reviews of all the books in the series, beginning here.)

I can hear you all laughing.  I know I won't read all of these, though I'm going to try!  It's so much fun to click that button online and request a book from our library.  If only we could click a button and order more time just for reading, too!!

I'd say there are a lot of very bad Bloggers out there too, though really I thank you from the bottom of my heart for pointing me towards some excellent books to read.

Happy reading, happy library loot!