Lori's Book Nook

Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

More reading! I must admit, I’m enjoying this…it’s been awhile since I put reading on my priority list. It’s helped that I’ve been a bit sick the last few days, so I’ve done nothing but read!

#8 – Leslie Darbon‘s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s A Murder is Announced. A play! Yes, I’m sure I’ll read a few more in the coming weeks. I do enjoy plays, the theatre and the like – as evidenced by my other blog, Theatrical Thoughts (also a bit neglected unfortunately). This one we had around because my husband had been in it years ago…and to be honest, I didn’t know the story. Turns out, it’s a Miss Marple story, so there was an added bonus!

#9 – Ronald Millar’s Abelard and Heloise: A Play. This one I’ve had hanging around for a bit, waiting to read it. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been fascinated for awhile about the tragic story of Héloïse D’Argenteuil and Peter Abelard. The play dramatizes events of the story, with a strong philosophical/religious angle. Not bad, in that it humanizes the characters a bit more, and gives Heloise a very strong role.

#10 – Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret (now a movie!) A friend loaned me this absolutely delightful, cinematographic novel, and I can see (get it?) why it was snapped up as a film. I haven’t seen it yet, but I will soon. It’s truly a wonderful little novel, although at 500+ pages it seemed far more daunting than it was! Selznick, being an illustrator, has drawn a goodly part of the book, so it was really a matter of a couple of hours of looking and reading.

#11 – Roger Ebert‘s Life Itself: A Memoir. The first movie reviews I ever paid attention to were his and Siskel’s – how could I not pick up a copy of his memoirs? Some things stand out in a book full of interesting moments and pithy observations:

“The main thing wrong with a movie that is ten years old is that it isn’t thirty years old. After the hairstyles and the costumes stop being dated and start being history, we can tell if the movie itself is timeless.” (page 157)

“There is a test for an actor who, for a moment, is just standing there in a scene: Does he seem to be just standing there? Or does he, as John Wayne did, seem to be deciding when, why, and how to take the situation under his control?” (page 253)

(Regarding his inability to eat/drink/speak) “What’s sad about not eating is the experience, whether at a family reunion or at a midnight by yourself in a greasy spoon under the L tracks. The loss of dining, not the loss of food. Unless I’m alone, it doesn’t involve dinner if it doesn’t involved talking. The food and drink I can do without easily. The jokes, gossip, laughs, arguments, and memories I miss. I ran in crowds where anyone was likely to start reciting poetry on a moment’s notice. Me too. But not me anymore. So yes, it’s sad. Maybe that why writing has become so important to me. You don’t realize it, but we’re at dinner right now.” (page 383)

Overall, a highly enjoyable, meandering memoir. I didn’t realize that they’d made a documentary of this book, and his life. Now I have to look that up!

That’s 11 books in a month, at this rate, I should be able to finish 95+!

 

 

 

I’m not a big coffee-table-book consumer. This actually surprises me, since I absolutely love photography, and consider myself a decent amateur photographer.  (My flickr.com profile!)

Maybe I like my books nicely wrangled on shelves.

But, I am a purist. My love affair with digital photography has absolutely nothing to do with its myriad possibilities, and everything to do with storage. While I appreciate the wonders that can be accomplished with a digital toolkit, deep down inside I truly believe that a photo that needs to be re-touched is not a good photo.

Maybe it’s a theme — my coffee black, my music a little unhinged, my fiction a bit wild, and my photography untouched.

Which brings me to the book Untouched — photography by Johnny Rozsa

Untouched cover

From Untouched by Johnny Rozsa copyright © 2010, published by Glitterati Incorporated.

This one was passed on to me by raincoaster, who received it from Glitterati Incorporated themselves….And it’s a gorgeous book, a collection of completely un-retouched photos from 30 years of Johnny Rozsa‘s career.

A sample…showing us that yes, Angelica Huston never needed touching up to be absolute perfection:

The always gorgeous Angelica Huston

And the colourful Leigh Bowery and the rather tragic Trojan (a model who died in 1986 at 20):

The unusual Leigh Bowery and Trojan

The rest of the book is a who’s-who of the famous, the not-so-famous, the beautiful and the interesting…in uncompromising photos. Rozsa definitely has a vision, and this thick tome captures it well.

Every once in awhile someone hands me a book and says “Read this!” Sometimes it’s because (1) they’ve written it,  (2) they’ve tasked me with reviewing, (3) they think we have the same taste, or (4) they know we have the same taste….

The best is (4), of course. So when my friend handed me a book, saying “you must read this!” — I believed her.

Nick Harkaway’s The Gone-Away World (2008)….a book that blew me away as much as the original movie The Matrix. It’s speculative fiction from word ‘go’ — you know from the first that this is not our current reality (maybe it’s the pig-run generator?), and you also know right from the start that this will be an experience. The writing is fast, furious and delightfully…uh…fucked up.

Do not read any more reviews of this book: Reviewers are notoriously awful at keeping the best bits secret. Do not ask anyone else about this book:  They might let out a spoiler or two.

I will allow you a quote or two, because really, the writing it out-of-this-world. Here’s one of my favourites:

“You have to worry about someone even mimes find creepy.”

You get no more from me on this…find it. Read it.

Cheers,

Lori

So, yet again, the Internet has come through on its promise of connecting people. (It’s not all kittehs, bacon and jokes!)

Awhile back, I followed an incoming link to this blog to a literary publicist who it turns out represents a talented author, Cheryl Rainfield.  An email exchange resulted in me being sent a review copy of Rainfield’s new book Scars, undergoing its Canadian launch June 24th in Toronto.

First impression? The cover is striking, fraught even, featuring the author’s own arms. The audience? Ostensibly for the Young Adult set, but accessible to many. The subject matter? Not my usual fare, on the surface grimmer than I like…

But what a book!

I’m not going to go into a synopsis of the story here (check out the book link above for a review that does that job very well). I do want to say that once I started this book, I plowed through it quickly. During the last chapters, as the story reaches its crescendo of tension, I literally could not put it down. My husband had to serve me dinner on the sofa, where I was curled up reading.

The autobiographical element is evident in the ringing truth of the main character’s experiences, but the book is also clearly a novel. This is definitely not some maudlin woe-is-me semi-autobiographical work…instead, it’s a powerful, realistic and positive story of a young woman who finds her way out of her own little corner of hell. Once the story is done, and the main character Kendra has found her home in that corner of your mind reserved for the most real of heroines, the extensive collection of resources at the end of the book underline the seriousness of the issues raised. And those issues? Self-mutilation, rape, homophobia…a stew well-balanced with the love, support and clarity that the main character finds.

As I said earlier, this astounding book has its Canadian launch on June 24 in Toronto, at the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre (details on the author’s website).  I think a West Coast event should also be arranged…what do you think?

I’ve reviewed books, many times. I don’t consider what I do on this blog to be really reviewing though. I think I’m more commenting on how this book or that book moved me or messed with me, or sometimes,  just how it connected with another book in my mind.

Here is the top 10 of the 20 most annoying book review clichés:

1. Gripping

2. Poignant: if anything at all sad happens in the book, it will be described as poignant

3. Compelling

4. Nuanced: in reviewerspeak, this means, “The writing in the book is really great. I just can’t come up with the specific words to explain why.”

5. Lyrical: see definition of nuanced, above.

6. Tour de force

7. Readable

8. Haunting

9. Deceptively simple: as in, “deceptively simple prose”

10. Rollicking: a favorite for reviewers when writing about comedy/adventure books

Thank the gods, I’m only batting 2 for 10 here. I’m so totally guilty of ‘readable’ and ‘compelling’…’cause books often are those things!

Looking at the whole list, I believe I’m still only 20% clichéd. I hope.

My favourite example?

17. That said: as in, “Stephenie Meyer couldn’t identify quality writing with a compass and a trained guide; that said, Twilight is a harmless read.””

Check out the whole article…oh, and the newly created Bingo cards!

I’ve been reading a  lot in French lately.

[My that sounds pretentious. My apologies. I’ve been studying la belle langue for work, and my own pleasure, and I read. Seems logical]

Last fall, I read Ensemble, c’est tout by Anna Gavalda…a lovely story of 4 unlikely friends who find themselves sharing an elegant apartment in Paris for a time. It’s an absolutely lovely book, the characters are fascinating and realistic, and some moments will move you to tears. I mentioned it awhile ago on this blog, where the only thing I really said about it is that they’d made a movie out of it. I’ve since read the book and seen the movie — my suggestion? Forget the film. Find the book. The movie hits the bulk of the plot points without delving into the characters at all deeply — and the characters make the story truly live. (The English title chosen was Hunting and Gathering — odd.)

So then the book L’Élégance du hérisson by Muriel Barbery was recommended to me by my tutor. And I would like to thank her deeply for both (1) pointing me in the direction of this brilliant book and (2) assuming that my French was up to the high-brow erudition of this novel en français!

From the first chapter, first paragraph:

I live alone with my cat, a big lazy tom who has no distinguishing features other than the fact that his paws smell bad when he is annoyed. Neither he nor I make any effort to take part in the social doings of our respective kindred species. Because I am rarely friendly—though always polite—I am not liked, but am tolerated nonetheless: I correspond so very well to what social
prejudice has collectively construed to be a typical French concierge that I am one of the multiple cogs that make the great universal illusion turn, the illusion according to which life has a meaning that can be easily deciphered. And since it has been written somewhere that concierges are old, ugly and
sour, so has it been branded in fiery letters on the pediment of that same imbecilic firmament that the aforementioned concierges have rather large dithering cats who sleep all day on cushions that have been covered with crocheted cases.

(Source: the sample chapter on the US publisher’s site)

So there I was, reading this in French, marveling at the gorgeous sentence structure, and then I got bogged down and unfortunately had to put it aside. I found it in the wonderful English translation, and continued reading…and was not disappointed.

The publisher’s reading group guide is available, for those that enjoy filtering their reading through themes.

Any other suggestions pour des livres en français pour moi?

Well, it’s happened again…I’ve received another box of books to review (here’s a list of the previous batch, and the one before).

This time they look like a lovely mix: 4 books of short stories, 1 memoir, 1 poetry/novel, 2 novels.

Short Stories

Cobalt Blue by Mary Borsky (Thomas Allen Publishers) — Judging this book by its cover, I’d say it’ll be mighty good. Lovely hand-holding size, good design, a trade paper with useful jacket-flaps. (A note to the publishers — your page for the book didn’t google well.) (Reviewed at Quill and Quire here.)

Silent Girl by Tricia Dower (Inanna Publications) — Wow. A quick google of this book title exposes me to something new, unexpected: A moving book trailer on YouTube.

I’m absolutely flumoxed. Tricia, me girl, that was inspired. I’m now terribly eager to read the book. (Book publishers/authors, take note: this woman knows how to market a book on the Internet!).

Out of Cleveland by Lolette Kuby (Véhicule Press) — A slim book with a very simple, unpretentious cover. I’m a sucker for short stories by women about women, so add that to the author’s background as a poet, I’m looking forward to this collection too.

I must admit, this post is turning into a “Who wins on the Internet marketing front?” — and here’s one that has almost no presence. To get anywhere, you have to put the title in quotes. Publisher — pay attention! I had to search for your site separately! (Hopeless, as web-un-savvy as this group is, they will likely not see this post. Unlike Tricia, above, who will be visiting me shortly, I’m sure!)

Red Rooms by Cherie Dimaline (Theytus Books) — Theytus Books is a small publisher, but all of the books I’ve seen are beautifully designed. I’m a little biased, as this publisher is in my town. Being from them, I do know that the author must be First Nations — and looking at the jacket, the stories are about the “urban Native people.” Another book to look forward to.

Memoir

The Way It Was: Vignettes from My One-Room Schools by Edith Van Kleek (University of Calgary Press) — Beautifully designed cover, readable text, nice heft to the book…I know I’ll enjoy this one. The author wrote notes throughout her career, and her daughter has now edited them into this book. (On the Internet marketing scale, this one doesn’t even rate. Note to authors — don’t expect a university publisher to market your book!)

Poetry/Novel

The Given by Daphne Marlatt (McClelland & Stewart) — I would expect Daphne Marlatt, who’s been writing poetry and novels for years, to have a good publisher (which she does)…and that publisher to have decent web-savvy (and they do). Even with the name of this poetry novel being rather common, the book’s page googled up on the first page. Of course, I’m looking forward to reading this offering.

Novels

The End of East by Jen Sookfong Lee (Vintage Canada – Random House) — I would expect Random House to be up-to-date on the whole web marketing issue, and they are. Search the phrase end of east and it’s the first hit. Well done! 2nd place prize to Random House. The novel itself looks lovely — a generational piece on Vancouver’s Chinatown. Can’t wait.

Living with the Dead by Karen Armstrong (Random House) — Armstrong has a series of her Otherworld books out, and while I’ve not read any (yet), I have heard of her. Random House didn’t do as well for this author, but her own website is informative, listing her books. Bronze medal for web marketing.

I will try to post something other than my first impressions as I read the books. Please feel free to ask me directly for feedback.

And Tricia? Stop and say hi! 😀


Book Discussion Pages

Here on the Book Nook you can discuss: The Fifth Business by Robertson Davies, as well as the next two books in the Deptford Trilogy, The Manticore and World of Wonders, and if that's not enough for you, see what's up on the forums at BookTalk.org!