Friday 28 December 2012

Books for Christmas!! and two challenges

   So here they are, the books I received for Christmas.  I am so excited!  I look forward to the long winter ahead, and lots of good reading.

 They are:
The Chalk Girl - Carol O'Connell
More Baths, Less Talking - Nick Hornby
Blood of the Wicked - Leighton Gage
Moon Over Soho - Ben Aaronovitch
Stolen Souls - Stuart Neville
 The London Compendium - Ed Glinert
Standing in Another Man's Grave - Ian Rankin
Broken Harbour - Tana French
The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2012 - Paula Guran (ed)
Songs of Earth - Elspeth Cooper
Bitter Seeds - Ian Tregillis
The Day is Dark - Yrsa Sigurdardottir
White Heat - M.J. McGrath
The Betrayal of Trust - Susan Hill
Little Girl Lost - Brian McGilloway
Charles Dickens: A Life - Claire Tomalin
Shadowplay - Karen Campbell

They were all bought for my Christmas box, over autumn.  Merry Christmas, everyone!  I did receive a gift certificate also for Aamazon, so more books will be coming, which I have to hurry up and order, or I won't be able to use them for the next thing I am about to write:  this is when I officially announce that for the months of January through March, I will not be buying any new books.  Yes, this means I am accepting a new challenge:  I am signing up for C.B. James' TBR Double Dog Dare.
  Two Challenges:               
 As he says on his blog, Ready When You Are, " remember, especially those of you who do not participate in reading challenges, the TBR Double Dare is not a "reading challenge;"   it's a dare. 

We dare you, no we double dog dare you to join in the fun.

The rules are extreme, but you can change them to fit your needs.  The TBR Double Dog Dare is meant to be fun, so rule number one is--have fun. 

The goal of the TBR Double Dog Dare is to reduce the size of your TBR stack, to read those books you've had for years and always meant to get around to reading one day.  January 1, 2013 just might be the day. 

If you agree to the full Double Dog Dare, then you pledge to read only books in your TBR stack as of January 1, 2013 from the start of the new year until April Fool's Day. Your TBR stack is officially defined as the books you have purchased  or have requested from the library as of January 1, 2013.  This includes books that have not arrived in the mail or at the store yet."

So I have time to make that last order to Amazon books!

 And I'm joining Ana's and Iris's January Long Awaited Reads challenge also

.  It's not really a challenge, it's more of a fun sharing of what long awaited reads we've put aside, that we are  going to read  in January (and through the month while we read them).  Mill on the Floss, any Charles Dickens, so many mystery series to catch up in, but I am going to try to make this about books I've had for a long time on my shelves waiting to read.  I'll post the list before January, while I'm doing my round-up of my year's reading. 

What about you, dear reader?  Did you receive some books for Christmas?   Are you feeling time-challenged to read what you have? 

Sunday 23 December 2012

going to the bookstore today......

   Today I found myself at Chapters downtown.  I wasn't shopping, all my shopping is done for my daughter's birthday tomorrow and Christmas.  I was taking some me time before going to a visit with a special little someone (more details will follow when we are allowed to say more). As you know, there is nothing like a bookstore to hang out in. 

Chapters was, as they say in England, heaving.  It was busy.  It was good to see that books are still a most popular book for Christmas.  The line up was, I kid you not, stretching from the cash all the way across the floor to the other side of the store, at the other entrance.  And it was like that for over an hour.  It did my bookish heart so much good to see books being bought as gifts.

Books I Still Want:
 I  checked for Diana Wynne Jones' biography Reflections, but they didn't have any copies in stock.  Nor Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries 2.  Nor White Pine by Mary Oliver.  I did buy one book, Chalk Girl by Carol O'Connell, a stocking gift for myself.  And Chapters has a secret: if you go up to the second floor,there is another cash register in the children's section.  Two people in line when I got there.  So I confess to a huge contented smile as I walked past part of the huge line up downstairs. 

I am not able to get much reading done this week.  It is my daughter's birthday tomorrow, she will be 10 years old, and we were planning her party (it was yesterday), and busy wrapping presents every evening. How are you doing, Gentle Reader?  Are you finding any time to read yet during this holiday season?  Is there one book in particular you want to read on Christmas Day?  I have a box of books waiting for me, and I haven't decided what I'm going to start with - I'll wait until Christmas Day, and when I open my box, see what falls into my hand first.  I can hardly wait to open it! 

I hope you each get a book you want to read, this Christmas season!  And many happy memories.

Wednesday 19 December 2012

some good news

    I am still - will for some time, I think - be mourning what happened in Newtown.  One of the things that is helping is all the love and forgiveness coming from the families, in the midst of grief, and focussing on the bright light of each child  and  the special gifts  and talents each child and adult brought into their families and the world.  It's healing, and it's helping.

So I thought I would share two pieces of very good news, personal news that I want to celebrate:
- our foundation is finally fixed.  Not all the foundation yet, it took us a long time to find a contractor we liked and were comfortable with.  So he was only able to get the hole and the garage door fixed, and not the rest of the house foundation, which has to be checked and the cracks filled (not many, but they do have to be fixed.)  That will wait for spring.  For now, it is such a huge relief to have the hole fixed, and the foundation under the hole sealed and waterproofed.  Especially as we have had 48 hours of snow, rain, freezing rain since Sunday, it's been so comforting to know our foundation is in much better shape now.
- my husband and I had separated last year, and I am very happy to say that this fall, we were able to find our way back together again.  So we are a family once more, and it is much better now than it was.  I am very happy and contented, and have learned a lot this past 16 months, about myself, about marriage, about love.

In this next week before Christmas, I want to slow down  and appreciate each moment of life. It is a gift, and loved ones are the most precious of gifts to us. 

Monday 17 December 2012

To not pass in silence

          It's very difficult to sit and write about a book, today.  I want to write about how good it was, and interesting, and how much I am looking forward to reading the next one in the series.  But I find my thoughts turn this weekend to Newtown, Connecticut.   I mourn the loss of so many young lives, and adults, in the shootings on Friday.  I want to talk about it here, for I feel it is a grief we all feel in some way, and I do not want it to pass in silence here.  It is too important.

      They were so beautiful, each of those children, and it is overwhelming that so many were killed.  It's overwhelming that even one was killed this way. It is terrible.

I am so sad for the teachers, and the principal and the psychologist, and the mother, and most of all for the young children.   We are supposed to be caretakers of our children. In some way even the gunman was failed as a child, by the education system, by the health system,  though I do not understand why that failure led him to do what he did.

      We have had to talk about it with our children this weekend, as my son went online at school on Friday afternoon and saw one of the news headlines while using the search index.  They are both affected by it, as they knew that children had been killed, and at school.  We have had to discuss it as honestly as we can, and the most disturbing has been how anxious my son is about how no one could stop the gunman.  He is age 8, just a year older than some of the children who died.  We live far away from Connecticut, and yet this shows how small our world has become, that truly what happens in one place, affects the whole world.

       When I go to put my children on the school bus tomorrow, it will be with the knowledge that  elementary school isn't the safe place it was on Friday morning.   When they have their next lock down practice, it will be with the knowledge of what happened on Friday in the back of their minds now.  For those children  in Newtown who were at that school that day, they will have to find so much courage now, more than they knew they had, to go back.

We have to find some way to make our schools safe again, every where in the world, for our children.

Saturday 8 December 2012

treasured book for Christmas - Virtual Advent Tour


    Welcome to my turn on the Virtual Advent Tour!  Come in, come in.  Today I would like to talk about books for Christmas.

        Do you remember when you were a child, when you knew you were getting a book for Christmas, how excited you were when you opened it? I do.  I never knew what I was going to get under the tree, but I always knew there was going to be a book for me. My family are all good readers, so books were almost always among the presents.

      My earliest book I still have with me, is this one:  The Blue Bird,  adapted by Jan Vladislav, from the original story by Marie d'Aulnoy. I originally posted about this book here,  in a post about some of my favourite books.  What I want to share with you

today as part of my virtual tour, is the inscription:  

Whenever I look at the inscription from my mother, in this most special of books still left from my childhood, I feel such a deep love and gratitude - for her, for Christmas, and for books.  I was 7 years old when I received this book.  It is now damaged, from many years and places lived in, and minus the dust jacket, but it is still one of the most precious gifts - because it was from my mother, and because I love the fairy tale itself.  This is part of what makes Christmas such a wonderful time for me, because we never know what will become a keepsake or a special memory.  It's a chance to give to the ones we love, and out of that, we never know what will become treasured by them.

Even I don't inscribe inside the covers of books any more, as I never know if my children or nieces or nephews will keep the books.  I did before, before computers and e-books and the huge availability of books now.  Sometimes I wonder if I should, or if this time is long gone now.  I think it depends on whether we view books as disposable or not. 

 Another thing about getting books as presents that  I wanted to talk about here is about that moment when you first open the gift paper and see the book beneath.  What fun and excitement!  What book will it be? And then get the chance to sit among the wrapping paper and everything fading as you open the cover and glance at the first page, and suddenly everyone is calling your name because in the midst of the Christmas mayhem of opening presents, you disappeared for a moment into the book. Isn't that one of the best moments of Christmas?  It is, for me.

Then later on, now as an adult (because as a child you can read throughout the day), when everything is done - the wrapping put away, presents tidied up, Christmas meal over, and if you are lucky and at home, you can sit down in your favourite chair, with a glass or cup of your favourite beverage, and open your new book again.  Young or old, this has been one of my most favourite moments and deepest pleasures of every Christmas.  Reading a new book. Holding it in my hands, and the deep pleasure and joy of settling in to read. The lights on the tree, the dark night outside, and everyone else playing with their new things (or safely tucked in for the night).

For me, Christmas and books is inextricably linked.  Is it the same for all of who love books, I wonder?  I think it is.  That moment of picking up the present and knowing it is a book, is etched into my mind.  I always wanted a book under the tree, and if ever there wasn't one, I was always secretly disappointed.  I am hoping that my children will develop into lifelong readers (my eldest has now,), in part because every year I give them books for Christmas, just like my mother gave to me when I was growing up.

So, this is what I wanted to share this year on the Virtual Advent Tour.  In past years, I have written about making ginger cookies with my daughter, the Winter Solstice, and last year, alot of our traditions with our kids. ( I missed 2010 because I'd fallen and received a concussion, and didn't post for most of the month of  December).   I thank Kailana at The Written World and Marg at The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader for hosting this very fun tour.  I love seeing what everyone writes for Christmas, each year.

And  it snowed today:
Today, it feels like Christmas:


and if you look very closely, you will see the sparrows under the bird feeder.  The squirrel empties the feeder and the sparrows come and cluster on the ground.  Seeing snow makes me feel like Christmas (at least in December), and it's looking a lot like Christmas today......Happy holidays to all of you, dear book bloggers.  I hope you find yourselves getting lost in a good book over the holidays, too.

***Edited to add:  Oh my, I forgot to add the other two bloggers who are sharing this day in the Advent Tour with me.
Suey at It's All About Books has a fun one about a local singer made good 
Robin at A Fondness for Reading has a lovely one about her students and children at this time of year.

Monday 3 December 2012

Seraphina - a perfect fantasy

   Wow.  Seraphina by Rachel Hartman is one excellent fantasy.  Do you like dragons?  Heroines with a secret?  Music?  Visions, dangerous love, and adventure?  Then Seraphina is the book for you.

                                                   It's a new fantasy, a debut novel by Canadian Rachel Hartman, who lives in Vancouver.  It is one of my favourite books that I've read so far this year.  To say I devoured it today would almost be an understatement.  I inhaled it.  It was like breathing in good fantasy, imbibing a wonderfully imagined world, complete with its own history, some newly created words for that world (which flow in the writing and make perfect sense, always hard to do in a fantasy), and fascinating history between dragons and humans.  It had fun intrigue, and romance (yes, there is a heartbreaking romance or three in this book), and dances, and queens and princesses, and music.  Such music!  The way Hartman writes about music is how musicians and singers must feel when they are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing.  I have a friend who sings, and when I hear him sing, sometimes I get goosebumps because the energy that comes through him is so electric and beautiful that it is almost pure emotion. That is how Seraphina plays music.  It makes this a lovely fantasy about being true to yourself, and how Seraphina finds out how to be, is part of the delight of this book.  Simply, wonderful.

If you have a teenager looking for something new, this would be perfect.  If you are feeling jaded by all the pressure to buy the perfect gift and make Christmas be like on tv, in your house, then take a moment - take a day, and sit yourself down and treat yourself to this perfect fantasy.  Yes, it's almost perfect, an awesome debut. It will take you away to a wonderful world.   And suddenly magic is back - at least for me, I feel renewed again.  It's been a long time since a fantasy did that for me.  Really, a must read for fantasy lovers.  It's also young adult, so you might find it in that section of your bookstore.

  I still have a tiny lump in my voice from the sweet ending.  Just one teeny problem - there's another book at least to come, and I honestly can't wait for it. I really want to know what happens next in Seraphina's world.


It's that time of year again!  The Virtual Advent Tour started yesterday.  I'm on the list for this year, and am planning what I hope will be a fun post for you.  This is the 5th year of the Advent Tour, and we have gone all over the world through past years, thanks to Marg at Adventures of an Intrepid Reader and Kailana at The Written World, who have hosted it for every year.   It's not too late to sign up.  They have a list of who's appearing when, which is very handy as so many new bloggers have signed up this year.  Already we've seen a tree decorated, and had a Christmas puzzle to do (among other fun posts).  Tis the season, come and visit everyone through the month.

Sunday 2 December 2012

Les Miserables update

   I love this passage from Les Miserables:

    "At daybreak he was in the open countryside; the town of Montreuil-sur-mer was far enough behind him.  He watched the horizon whiten; he watched,without seeing, all the chilling features of a winter dawn passing before his eyes.  Morning has its ghosts just as night does.  He did not see them but, unwittingly, and through almost a kind of physical osmosis, the black silhouettes of trees and hills added something inexpressibly mournful and sinister to the convulsive state of his mind." Ch 5, A Spoke in the Wheels, from Book of Fantine.

That paints such a picture, doesn't it, of Valjean's ride through the countryside as he decides what to do.  The outer state of the world mirroring the inner state of the mind.  The chill of the winter dawn, the black silhouettes - no colour anywhere, and no help for Valjean but to learn what he is made of, and what is in his heart and his mind, alone. 

This is satisfying reading.  There is something to chew over, to mull, there is depth to this writing that is satisfying me in a way that I had forgotten a book can do.  It's not that anything I've read this year has been bad, on the contrary, I've read some excellent books this year that I am also mulling over as they settle into me. 

 Reading Les Miserables is an experience.  It's getting lost in a time and place, in a the complex workings of a man's heart and soul, in all the miseries and kindnesses, love and loss that make up life, and I am loving it.  It's rich material,  where the workings of all the characters' hearts and minds are revealed.   There are so many characters that are all different, and so vividly realized, even in just the line or two some of them are given.   I am so glad I started reading Les Miserables, and so sad that it took me so long to get to it.  It reminds me of some ways of Middlemarch, where the variety and depths of characters minds, hearts and souls are revealed, in the complexity of  small village life, where one character's actions does affect the whole. Les Miserables has that same consideration to it.  We don't live all alone, and every conversation, every act, every thought, has a reaction to it..  It's fascinating and gripping .