Lori's Book Nook

Posts Tagged ‘review

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+!

 

 

 

Yikes! I’m 23 days into the #95books challenge (my first post on that), and only 7 books in…and no real theme to my reading. But that’s not new – and I fully intend on following my nose from book to book.

Continuing the list:

#5 – Julie Powell‘s Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously. I enjoyed the movie – the pseudo-biopic with the delightful Meryl Streep as Julia Child – so thought that reading Powell’s memoir of cooking through Child’s classic cookbook would be fun. It feel off a thrift store shelf into my hand, so that was an easy decision, honestly. In the end, it an amusing bit of trifle, with a lot of honesty and personal anguish: “And as the week progressed the throbbing of my biological clock syncopated with my crepe anxiety until they formed one jazz rhythm.”

#6 – Carol Shields’ Pulitzer Prize-winning Unless. Again, a novel that dropped off a shelf in the thrift store that I’d been meaning to read. Shields’ prose is smooth, deceptively simple, the story carrying the reader along until you realize that you’re deep into it, unable to leave it. The link above is to a Salon review that has a line that struck me as being very descriptive of the experience:

Shields’ fiction has always had this sort of stealth spikiness, like soft fish that, when bitten into, turns up a web of bone, or like that sweet middle-aged lady next door when you were growing up, who turns out to have been watching you more shrewdly and understanding you more completely than you ever suspected.

#7 – Kurt Busiek & Cary Nord’s graphic novel of Richard E. Howard’s stories Conan: The Frost-Giant’s Daughter and Other Stories. Yes! A graphic novel is a book. An early set of stories by Howard, this lovely collection of comics was a hardcover gift to my husband at Christmas. It’s a good yarn, and the story reminds us to beware of what we wish for – always a good lesson.

So…what’s next on the pile to be read? I’ll let you know soon enough!

So I’m undertaking the #95books challenge for 2016, and I’m 3.5 books in. This is not keeping me on the 2 books/week schedule, but I’m sure I’ll find some shorter ones along the way. Or I’ll just become more accustomed to curling up and reading again…

#1 – Steven Pinker’s The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. I admire Pinker – a linguist who can describe the most complex ideas in beautiful, simple terms. And who better than a linguist to get into the style guide genre? This was a Christmas gift to my husband, and I snapped it up for my first read of the year.

#2 – Gerald Clarke’s Capote: A BiographyThis book has been on my TBR pile for a couple of months. I like the writing by Truman Capote that I’ve read, so I was motivated to know more about his life. This is the classic biography that was the basis for the bio-pic a few years back (2005 actually), starring the fabulous (and sorely missed) Philip Seymour Hoffman. Clarke’s book is wonderfully readable, and shows great respect for a talented and troubled man.

#3 – Sylvia Wolf’s The Digital Eye: Photographic Art in the Electronic Age. I’m not calling this one a cheat, but some might. It’s a book of fascinating photography, with a long introductory essay. I spent the time to go to each mentioned plate to savour it, contemplate it…so it took me most of the day to read. Anyway, does reading mean it can be only words?! A Christmas gift to me, so readily at hand.

#4 – Gerald Clarke’s Too Brief a Treat: The Letters of Truman Capote. Turns out, I had this on my shelf, but had never read it. Now that I have the background of the full Biography, it’s time to read these. I’m half-way through. Likely to finish today.

4 books in 2 weeks…maybe I am on track!

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! 😀

I’ve bleated on enough about the last package of books I received to review, so I won’t go into that again.

Without further ado, in no particular order (other than the order they are piled on my desk), here are some Canadian books published in 2008 that you should keep your eyes peeled for:

Anything by Shauna Singh Baldwin. I have in my pile two books of short stories — the re-published English Lessons and Other Stories (with Readers’ Guide), and a new collection called We are not in Pakistan. Both are wonders of cross-cultural exploration, lovely stories of very real people. I see from her website that she has also written two novels…worth checking out.

Under the Holy Lake: A memoir of Eastern Bhutan by Ken Haigh is a highly readable introduction to Bhutan, a country that the average person knows little about. Haigh spent a soul-searching 2 years teaching in Khaling, a small village in the far eastern reaches of an already inaccessible country. This book will leave you with a lasting impression of the country and its people.

Shirin and Salt Man by Nilofar Shidmehr is a book that takes you by surprise. [By the way, a note to all authors…ensure that you or your book has its own dedicated page somewhere — in the Internet age, you need to stand out and be linked to!] It’s a novella in poetic form, tying the legends of Iran to the modern day. I read it through the first time, fascinated by the poetry and the images; the second time, fascinated by the story; and the third time sent me to the Internet to research the legends of Shirin and the discovery of the Salt Man in the 80s.

I’ll leave you there, with more to come. Plus, I will point out a couple of books to avoid…there are days when I despair at the state of Canada’s publishing! (Do I despair or rejoice in the knowledge that anyone can get published?!?)

My faithful readers (all 3 of you!) will have noticed the lack of new posts recently. My apologies for that. It’s part laziness, part the pile of books I received for review a while ago.

Now, I’m an amateur reviewer…’amateur’ in the classic sense in that I don’t do it for money, but enjoy composing my little reviews for CBRA. Up until this last batch of books, all of the reviews I wrote sat in a hardbound annual in libraries across the country…likely very few people actually read them. Now, however, these reviews are going online, where they will (theoretically) be searchable by anyone looking for information on a given book.

And now I’m hesitant. When I blogged the list of books I received, I realized something I’d not thought about seriously before — the author may read my review of her/his book. Oh, I’m sure they did before, in the hardcover annual, but now, they truly will.

And they might respond.

In this day’n’age of tracking mentions of yourself/your book/your cause célébre online, I’m sure every single person attached to the books I received hit my blog.

Two responded.

This is exciting if you’re offering up praise. How every cool to be in touch with someone whose work you admire.

But what if the work is awful? What if it makes you cringe at the state of the book publishing industry in this country?

I will have to decide…to post my opinion, for good or for bad, as it is my opinion. Honest and true-as-I-see-it. It’s all I can do.

And I won’t ignore my blog anymore.

Thanks for listening.


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!