September 30, 2010

Prepare to... Read The Princess Bride!

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Remember on Saturday October 2nd we start discussion of The Princess Bride together. I've read Milestone 1 (you can find the schedule here) and have lots of thoughts on it already.

You can leave a comment on Saturday's post or write your own thoughts on your blog and leave a link in the comments. I'll add the links to the body of the post as I get them.

Here's a scene from this week's milestone- the film version. Enjoy!

September 29, 2010

Word on the Street: Halifax Edition

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My first book festival! Ever! I finally did it. Word on the Street is a Canada wide literary festival (Vancouver, Kitchener, Saskatoon, Toronto and Halifax) on September 26, 2010. It's a five hour drive but I convinced my husband we'd make a weekend out of it. We got a room at a hotel with a pool for our little fish. She's fairly easy to please- a pool, a free breakfast and tiny shampoos. We did some shopping too. Sunday- the festival.

I didn't think to take photos but my girl took this one from inside the festival.

At first, I didn't know what to do with myself. Where do I go? What do I do? So I browsed. I bought my daughter a few books. I got acclimated. Then I took in my first discussion panel: Lesley Crewe and Lesley Choyce. It was frickin freezing in that tent! I needed a few more sweaters.

Crewe read from her new book, Her Mother's Daughter and had the audience laughing. Crewe has some fangirls, let me tell you! Next Choyce read from his new book Raising Orion. I'm very interested in reading his books now. He writes both fiction and young adult novels. I thought it was interesting to hear him lament what I hear from other writers and readers, that young adult books get pigeon holed as not serious lit-a-ture. They also discussed what it was like to be a regional author. Pros: fangirls, Cons: lack of national exposure.

After that, I got up the nerve to call Colleen aka Lavender Lines. She was all, "We're over here!" and I was like, "Where?!" I followed my awesome sense of direction (hahaha!) thinking that I shouldn't get too lost. Luckily, I found Colleen fairly easily. She had a bunch of fellow bloggers and twitter folk with her: Amy from Amy Reads, @ @ @ and @ It's nice to meet people that you don't really know when you already have something in common. At this point, I sent the husband and child off on their own. They had a glazed look in their eyes and the husband had just been cornered by a poet lady like a Collie with a wandering sheep.

The next discussion I took in was the one on folklore with Richard MacKinnon and Clary Croft. It was so entertaining. Richard in a Cape Bretoner and he had a lot of funny stories about nicknames, especially the ones from the miners (Hairy Hole, ha!). I knew I had to pick his book up. I had read Croft's books so I was interested in hearing more on what he had to say. One funny thing was when they discussed nicknames online. That had me laughing because the group of us had just talked about our funny twitter handles and what would other people think of us!

The last discussion for me was the one on writing YA with the authors of The Fossil Hunter of Sydney Mines (Jo Ann Yhard), Rattled (Lisa Harrington) and Pluto's Ghost (Sheree Fitch). They all read from their books and then did a quick discussion. I decided to buy Fossil Hunter because Colleen is completely gaga over it. I had Jo Ann sign it to me and later realized I should have had it signed for my daughter. I don't know where my brain was!



Then it was time to go. A five hour drive back home awaited us. But, for me anyway, it was worth it. It was fun booking out with the other book freaks. I just wished there was more!

September 28, 2010

Witchcraft: Tales, Beliefs and Superstitions by Clary Croft: Review

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I'm a big fan of local folklore books. When I was a kid I'd hang on every word of the old folks telling stories, 'cause they were true! Maybe not, but they were interesting and gave a glimpse of a life that was gone for good. I'll read books on ghosts, superstitions, anything like that from every part of the world but my favorite, of course, are the ones from the Maritimes.

When I saw the Clary Croft had written a book called Witchcraft: Tales, Beliefs and Superstitions from the Maritimes, I knew I had to get it. The people at Nimbus Publishing were kind enough to send me a copy for review. Croft's mentor was the Canadian folklorist Helen Creighton, she had collected a large number of songs and stories in the earlier part of the 20th century. One of her collections is a favorite of mine: Bluenose Ghosts. Witchcraft reminded me of that book as it is written very similarly. Croft uses the research of other folklorists as well as his own, including documentary evidence in newspapers and court documents. Most of the stories in the book are 'eyewitness accounts,' though I found the section on named witches and traditional European stories (like fairy tales) fascinating.

According to Croft, Maritime witchcraft lore is a meld of Mi'kmaq, Acadian (French), German, Celtic, African and Anglo beliefs. Put all those people in a bucket stir it up and this is what you get. Many of the stories in the book are variants on the same theme: cow dries up, counter spell, witch revealed. Lather, rinse, repeat. Some of the counter spells are really bizarre. I can't imagine doing them if I thought someone had bewitched my cow. But I suppose if I had to rely on the animal to provide for my family, I'd try anything. It's interesting how the accused witch tended to be a person with a better cow. Jealous much?

I wouldn't have wanted to be the poor harassed person accused of being a witch. Most are just shunned or gossiped about (annoying enough) but one young man shot his uncle because he believed the man had bewitched him. Now we would say the young man was mentally ill for believing such a thing. I did like how one woman handled such accusations; she sent her accuser a cease and desist order. A thoroughly modern idea!

Then there are people who revelled in the title of witch. Some liked being feared, others used their powers to help. There must have been a fortune in the counter spell industry especially since most of them only involved a jar, some pins and pee. Yes. I said pee! So many people were running around boiling urine on their stoves to punish witches. Not sanitary, people.

Obviously, Croft did a tremendous amount of research for the book. I would like to know why people believed the things that they did though. Again, why urine? And pins? Where did that come from? More than likely the tale tellers wouldn't know. Croft's focus is on the old folk tales (the kind you hear from Grandpa after a few beers) not modern practices. I wonder how many people are left who believe these things or has the label of witchcraft changed to something else. Twenty years ago, when I was a teenager, there was a short fad where people I knew would go to the local 'fortune teller.' What went on there I don't know, sitting in a dark room with a creepy stranger wasn't what I did for kicks, but apparently he was very accurate (according to people who paid $10 to see him). Those stories will no doubt be told around the kitchen table to the grandkids someday.

Witchcraft should be read on a crisp fall night with a cup of tea. I learned a lot from this quick read and I have a new list from his bibliography that I want to check out. Just what I need, more books.

Highly recommended.

Clary Croft has a website. And he sings!

Thanks Nimbus Publishing for the review copy.

September 27, 2010

Persepolis & Persepolis 2

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I picked up Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi from the library and flew through it so fast, I had to go back for Persepolis 2 right away. I just had to see what was going to happen to Marjane.

Marjane grew up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution and a bunch of wars. I really don't know much about Iran and the troubles they had at the time. Marjane is 5 years older than I am and I really can't remember much from that era (except that we were always worried about the Russians). Back to Marjane- as her family was very liberal, they had great difficulty adjusting to this new repressive regime, Marjane especially. An adult knows when to keep their mouth shut to save themselves, a child who is used to believing in certain ideas can't help themselves when faced with contradictions. So Marjane gets kicked out of school, a lot, and also witnesses the deaths of many, many people in her life. Her parents make the difficult decision to send her to Europe and so ends Persepolis...

In Persepolis 2, 14 year old Marjane starts her life in Austria at a school run by nuns. And thus begins the era I keep referring to as The Reason a Teenager Is Not Equipped to Live On Their Own. Marjane is particularly vulnerable because of all that she went through plus her parents are practically unreachable. They might as well be on the moon. She is lonely and can't fit in. She falls in with the wrong crowd and does some things that if I was her Mom I would have had a stroke if I found out about it.

It gets worse and Marjane ends up back in Iran feeling like a failure. Her parents are happy to have her back but she has a hard time relating to them and her old friends. They've been through a war, while although she had her freedom, she was desperately lonely. Getting back into her old life and living under new rules is nearly impossible.

Although Persepolis the First could be heartbreaking, Persepolis 2 fascinated and horrified me. People were jerks to Marjane, but she could be a jerky teen herself. The sad part was that she had no safe haven, no parent to talk to. She was suffering silently but her parents couldn't look too closely at the situation. I gather that they didn't have the means to be with her so all they could do was hope for the best. They were between a rock and a hard place. What does a parent do?

While war and death are awful, I was struck by the everyday loss of freedom and how ordinary people wage their personal rebellions. Women wearing make-up, men and women partying together, these seem like small things to people like me but these people were putting their lives at risk. These are little victories but the act of accomplishing them take their toll. The sneaking around must be exhausting. As Marjane points out if you're worrying about your hair being covered then you're not thinking about the big things you should be.

Marjane doesn't pretty herself up either. She presents herself warts and all. Late in the story, she does something despicable but doesn't shy away or make excuses for it. She did what she did and there are consequences. You got to respect someone so direct even if she sometimes makes you uncomfortable.

Illustrated in bleak black and white, Persepolis is a view of a world so foreign to me. Highly recommended.

Persepolis was made into film a few years ago. I haven't seen it yet but here's the trailer.

September 25, 2010

Saturday Farmer's Market: September 25

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If you are fortunate enough to know someone with a garden, you'll sometimes find yourself the recipient of unexpected gifts. They don't often take the form of say, a strawberry pie, but rather whatever happens to be a bumper crop, in this case zucchini. Often they are shoved into your arms, just as you are about to leave with the implicit instructions not to bring them back, "keep on walking." I'm kidding about that last one but my family has always treated zucchini that way and yet continue to grow it. Maybe they think this will be the year, they will eat as much as they grow. Never going to happen.



So just this week, my brother gave me a tour of his garden with the finale being a load of zucchini. Of course, I appreciate this fresh organic goodness. But I am clueless about serving it. Who do you turn to in times like these? Twitter!

I can't believe the replies I got to the question of what to do with zucchini:

@SchollGal: Lasagna and chocolate PB zuke bread! I'm jealous!!

@Wordlily There are tons linked at @TooFondofBooks' Weekend Cooking post from this past weekend Here's the direct link: http://bit.ly/9LMSxy

@CatsKnitFish Grate it, saute it with other veggies, toss with pasta and cheese.

@bowlieb zucchini bread or grill...mmmm...nom nom nom

@TooFondOfBooks Have sliced, blanched &frozen several; made zuke soup; even pickled them! (and got 10 more from CSA today!)

@AliceinParis Zuchini? http://tinyurl.com/39f5x8m

@JoAnnYhard I hear they make good bats.Or, hollow one out for a boat and you can fill it with other zucchini and float them out to sea.

People have opinions on zucchini! I decided to make Zucchini Spice Bread, the same recipe Dawn made last week, from Martha Stewart (it took longer to bake for me too). I added a half cup of pumpkin seeds to my version just because I had some, it seems fallish, and I like them. The result was a nice moist loaf with a gingerbread flavour. Yum! Trouble is I only used one zucchini.

Baked in my new Pumpkin Patch loaf pan
What would you do with zucchini?


Visit other participants of Saturday Farmer's Market and Weekend Cooking.

September 23, 2010

Not Another Mockingjay Review

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This review is probably on the 100th page of Google so congrats to you, dear reader, if you found post through a Google search. At this point, there's not much point in reviewing Mockingjay, everything there could possibly be said has been said. I even saw a critique on the cover so yeah, it's all been done. I feel like that last bit of ketchup at the bottom of the bottle. All the good stuff is gone, there's only that last bit stuck to the sides and the bottle is almost ready for recycling. Anyway...

Since I read it, and in a timely manner, I'd like to record it for posterity. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins is the last in the Hunger Games trilogy. I reviewed The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, if you're interested. So, a summary... Katniss, District 13, President Snow, Peeta!, yada yada

Years of reading Thomas Hardy has prepared me for anything. I had heard people complaining that the ending was depressing. For me I thought, well, not everyone is dead so it's a happy ending. And honestly, I was satisfied with it. The trilogy was not a playful romp; it was violent and grim. My expectation is that there would be more of the same.

I really don't see how it could have ended any other way. War is ugly and there will be casualties. What I liked about the ending was that although there is damage, the human capacity to see beyond the past and present and hope for the future never changes. Life will go on.

Overall, I enjoyed the series. It was imaginative yet somehow realistic. It wasn't high literature but I do love me some dystopian. Katniss drove me crazy throughout and that never changed with her "all this violence is all my fault even though everyone has been oppressed for 75 years and now I have to fix it all by myself" attitude. It was Katniss, Katniss, Katniss all the time. The ego, geez. The world does not revolve around you, dear. I loved it when one character told her she was replaceable. She did have her moments though...

Read it if you've read the other 2 previous books (of course, you wouldn't read the 3rd book 1st, that would just be silly). It wasn't completely perfect and I still have lots of questions but that's life.

Recommended. I'd also recommend reading Persepolis about a real girl living through real war and revolution.

Also I pretty much agree with everything Amanda at Zen Leaf had to say, so go there and say hello.

Thanks local library.

September 22, 2010

Audiobook Projects

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I do enjoy a good audiobook but if I don't have something else to do my mind tends to wander. Idle hands are the devil's tools or make short work or whatever. I need a project or I go a little wacky.

The last couple of audiobooks resulted in these items.

The fingerless gloves I call my Wench gloves because I made them while listening to Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez. I had some left over wool from another project- a scarf- and decided to make these to match. I improvised the pattern but the trouble with that is you have to write it down for the first one to make the second!


During This Book Is Overdue! and Dracula I worked on this bucket hat. It was a pattern from Crochet Today. It had to be felted so it turned out huge at first. In the end, I was happy with the results.

I'll have to find a few more audiobooks for the projects I have planned for Christmas presents. That reminds me- I wrote a post last year about homemade Christmas gifts. If anyone is interested in looking at it for crafting ideas, now is the time.

September 21, 2010

The Exile by Diana Gabaldon & Hoang Nguyen: Review

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Since Diana Gabaldon puts out an Outlander book once a millennium, I jumped at the chance to review her very first Outlander graphic novel The Exile.

The Exile starts just a bit before Claire stumbles through the stones but not in the 20th century, in the 18th with Jamie and Murtagh. Jamie Fraser has just arrived in Scotland from France (where he's been exiled, see?) and is trying to keep a low profile. That's kind of hard what with being attacked by redcoats, and cornered by devious uncles and saving ladies from public humiliation. He's got prison on one hand and parricide by uncle on the other. Then, of course, Claire arrives from the future and it's a total game changer.

peepin tomcat  likes what he seezDiana says The Exile is essentially from the point of view of Murtagh; essentially is an important word because unless he was peeping in keyholes he had no idea what was going on in some places. Sometimes the point of view is Jamie's or Claire's or omnipresent? That's my trouble with graphic novels that aren't memoirs, I never know whose head I'm in. Back to Murtagh- he knows a lot more than I thought he did in the Outlander novels and he is more soft hearted than I ever believed too.

Although The Exile covers about half of the original book Outlander, there are a few additions to the story, like the other traveller and a bit of Murtagh's past. It's hard to cram in a 800 page novel into a 200 or so page graphic novel so there are some parts missing. She does manage to sneak in the wedding night* (oh la la!) and the infamous spanking scene.

Of course, anybody who is a fan is going to wonder about how Jamie and Claire look. Diana says in her notes that she knows people will say, "That's not how I imagined Jamie!" and even she says he's not what's in her head either, but close enough. Okay, so maybe he doesn't look how I pictured him but he ain't bad looking. Claire is cute but her gravity defying physique had me thinking things like, "How is that dress staying up?" I seriously believe that there will be women lining up at the plastic surgeon's asking for the 'Claire Fraser.' And Murtagh is less troll-like than I always pictured. Still, the illustrations by Hoang Nguyen are Bew-T-ful and within the spirit of the novel (except for all the dirt. Needs more dirt. So many dirty, smelly people in the books).

This is a must have for any Outlander fan. You must have it. But if you haven't read the books, or at least book 1, then put The Exile to the side until you do. I think you'll enjoy it more.

*That scene is toned down from the first version which was considered too hot for publication but you can find it on Diana's blog. You might not want to have a peek while the kids are at the computer, unless you are ready to answer, "Mommy what's that man doing to that lady?" You've been warned.

September 20, 2010

Bespelling Jane Austen by Balough, Gleason, Krinard, Mullany: Review

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Thanks to Netgalley I had the chance to review Bespelling Jane Austen, an anthology from Harlequin Books. Once I saw that Colleen Gleason had a part in this book, I had to read it.

Basically, Bespelling Jane Austen is a re-imagining of the works of Jane Austen with a paranormal twist. Each author chose to tackle this idea in her own way. They changed the characters or the settings and tossed in a supernatural creature or two. It was fun to read for the most part. Here, I'll break it down for you:

Almost Persuaded by Mary Balough. Jane Everett learns that she has lost the same man over many lifetimes. When Captain Mitford arrives, she has the chance to finally make it right but will she chose true love over the family's view of propriety.

I admit that I liked this story the least. It was rather dry and I didn't feel much for the characters. I couldn't buy that they were lovers reincarnated over centuries. They accepted the idea way too easily for me. Everything was just "familiar." He was familiar. She was familiar. Everything was familiar.

Northanger Castle by Colleen Gleason. Caroline Merrill is too fond of books and it has turned her brain. She lives in a world of her own imagination, one where there are villains around every corner. She even carries a stake in her purse just in case. When she takes a trip to Bath with her aunt, she is itching for adventure and excitement. The Thortons, a brother and sister duo, seem promising even though Miss Thorton is rather shallow. When she meets her own "Lord Ruthvens" and suspects he's a possible vampire, she has no idea the danger she is really in.

This story was so much fun! Colleen Gleason resurrects her Venators for another vampire hunt in the city of Bath. Caroline is a spunky heroine. The sparks fly between her and the mysterious man she keeps bumping into. The dialogue between them is nearly as witty as anything Austen wrote.

Blood and Prejudice by Susan Krinard. The Bennets live in present day Connecticut, the founders of Bennet Laboratories. The company is in financial trouble and about to be bought out by millionaire Mr Bingley. Mr Bingley brings his advisor, Mr Darcy. Lizzy senses that Darcy is maybe a little dangerous, not suspecting that he is actually a vampire.

While I enjoyed the modern take on Pride and Prejudice, I thought it was a little long for the anthology. The author tries to wind as much of the original story into this version as she could. I did like the inclusion of  Lady Catherine and Mr Collins. Their roles in this story suit them well.

Little to Hex Her by Janet Mullany. Emma Woodhouse is a matchmaker for supernaturals in present day Washington DC. She is having difficulty keeping her clients happy especially the elf Elton who was turned into a frog by an angry Harriet. Plus her own love life is a mess. Does she rekindle her romance with her college boyfriend and landlord, Knightley, or take a chance on the dangerous vampire Frank Churchill?

I liked this story the best, even though it was a bit silly. There were lots of laugh out loud moments. It was also the raunchiest of the four. Emma is a thoroughly modern witch and has no trouble taking a man to bed.

Bespelling Jane Austen is a perfect Halloween treat for those who like their supernatural on the lighter side.

Recommended.

September 19, 2010

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: Reading Assumptions

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It always surprises me how one book can be interpreted so many different ways. I read classics with my online book club. These are books people have been discussing for decades, even centuries. Every expert has had a go at analyzing it down to the last semi-colon and yet there's no telling how any of us is going to react. Often I'll read a passage and think to myself, "I understand what he/she's trying to say. I'm sure my book club members will see it the same." Most of the time there are members who will say, "No way! That's not what he/she meant at all!" It definitely keeps things interesting!

Earlier this week, Amy from Amy Reads reviewed Naked in Eden. She admits this wasn't the book for her but in particular one aspect of the book bothered her. Fans of the author book made some rather broad and unfair assumptions about Amy based on her reaction.

There are as many reactions to reading a book as there are people who read them. I don't know how many reviews of Mockingjay I've read these past few weeks. I can't believe some of the reactions to it. It's not what I got from the book at all. Sometimes I wonder if we've even read the same book! It makes me wonder about the person writing it. Why did he/she react so strongly to this event or this character? And, admittedly, why can't they see things my way? No wonder we can't agree on religion and politics when we can't even agree about the same words on a page.


Have you ever made an assumption about someone based on how they reacted to a certain book? I'm not talking about what they read but how they reacted.

**********************************

This week has been a busy book week at the old mailbox.I never get this many books in one week! Here's what I received this week:

*Flight of the Falcon by Daphne du Maurier
*Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
*Witchcraft by Clary Croft
*Babymouse: Cupcake Tycoon by Jennifer Holm (for me and the girl)
*The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
*Raven Stole the Moon by Garth Stein

And then I decided to go to the thrift store and bought:
*Kilmeny of the Orchard by L.M. Montgomery
*Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
*Priestess of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Speaking of Princesses... remember my The Princess Bride Readalong starts October 2nd. I hope you've found your copies and are ready to go. I can't wait!


PS- I officially changed my blog name from book-a-rama to Chrisbookarama. I changed my header to reflect that. You might like to change the title in your bookmarks or feed readers. And if you haven't added me to your feed reader, please do!

Image: Stefano Valle / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

September 16, 2010

Highlighting Forgotten Books

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Some books have all the luck. The authors get million dollar advances, spots on The Today Show or picked by Oprah. Those books are right in your face at the bookstore. Unfortunately, those books hog all the spotlight while the smaller, quieter books gather dust somewhere in the back whispering, "Excuse me, over here!"

If a blogger is lucky enough to find one of these little beauties and rave about it on their blog, we're often frustrated when that post gets little attention. Is it just me? Am I the only champion of this book? we think to ourselves. Now is a chance to highlight the forgotten treasure on our shelves once again.


Earlier this year I discovered a whimsical little book at the library: Fish for Dinner by Paul O'Neill. It's a collection of fairy tales with a Newfoundland twist and I bet you've never read anything else quite like it. Each story has a beautiful illustration by Tara Fleming.

I hope you have a look at my review and have a peek at the book. I included a link to the publisher website in that post.

September 15, 2010

Confessions of a Graphic Novel Convert

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Before I started book blogging, I never read a graphic novel (unless you count Archie or Scrooge McDuck comics of my childhood). I had a few preconceived notions about graphic novels. When I thought of them at all, I thought of this guy:
"Worst blog ever." -Comic book guy
And yet graphic novels kept popping up on the blogs of people whose opinions I respected.  Still I resisted, poo-pooing this form of literature, "I am much too sophistimacated a reader for graphic novels. Poo-poo!" Finally, one Read-a-thon-eve, I perused my local library for quick, easy reads to get me through a day of reading, and had an idea: why not pick up a graphic novel. I had heard good things about French Milk by Lucy Knisley so I added it to my pile.

Late at night, I read it and it was good! Oh, France! Oh, food! Oh France and food! If graphic novels were like this, I could get behind that. I had an epiphany. Graphic novels weren't just about men in tights or invading aliens, they were another form of storytelling. They could be a memoir or a biography or they could make you see an old story from a new perspective. They are art, they are literature, they are both. I was converted.

Since then, I've added graphic novels to my reading repertoire. Some of my favorites beyond French Milk are Jane Eyre, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Mercury. I even have a few in my reviewing queue now: Dracula, Persepolis I & II, and (hold on to your socks) The Exile- the graphic version of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I'll be reviewing those soon. After my hesitation, I've jumped into reading them with both feet.

It's fair to say that if not for the reviews of my fellow book bloggers and Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon, I would not have given graphic novels a look and missed out on new reading experience.

September 14, 2010

Interview Swap with Summer Edward

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Welcome to Interview Swap Day for BBAW! I was lucky enough to be paired with the very interesting author of the blog Summer Edward's Caribbean Children's Literature Blog. The Caribbean and children's literature is not something I blog about very often so I it was an educational experience to peruse her blog. We do have a few things in common: 1. we both grew up on islands* and 2. love Jane Eyre!

So here's a little about Summer before we get down to the interview. Summer is a twenty something from Trinidad and Tobago who now lives in Philadelphia where she is working on her Masters. She's also Founder and Managing Editor of Anansesem, the Caribbean children's literature ezine.

First, congratulations on your BBAW Cultural Review Book Blog nomination. Your blog is unique with a very specific niche, Caribbean children's books. Why did you choose to write about it on your blog?

Thanks Christina, it’s an honor to be nominated! I started blogging to simply bring awareness to the existence of Caribbean children’s literature. So many people, both inside and outside of the Caribbean, want to know more about Caribbean children’s literature but don’t know where to turn to find out or simply haven’t been able to because there isn’t much information out there. In the Caribbean it’s not like in North America where you have the Kirkus Reviews or the Horn Book to give you an expert opinion and keep you updated on what’s out there. Also, there aren’t a lot of people blogging about Caribbean children’s literature; just a handful of us actually. So being a Caribbean person who loves both Caribbean cultures and children’s literature, I thought I would do something to fill the void.

Moreover, I think people like me, who want to write or illustrate Caribbean children’s books, or who want to see Caribbean children’s literature become more mainstream, affordable, accessible, and lucrative, need to come together as an interest group and network and support each other. I thought that a blog was one way to bring us all together as like-minded people together, which turns out to be the case. As a student of Reading, Writing, Literacy I have learned about the importance of culturally-relevant literacy experiences and multicultural literature for children and young people, and that’s another reason I blog: to advocate for those things.


I have an 8 year old daughter. What Caribbean books or authors would you recommend for her? 

Oh there are so many I think she would enjoy! I don’t want to assume she hasn’t read Caribbean children’s books before, but if she hasn’t, some good books for children who haven’t been exposed to our books or our cultures before are the so-called “Caribbean alphabet books” like Frane Lessac's Caribbean Alphabet, Dawne Allette's Caribbean Animals, John Agard's Calypso Alphabet, Benjamin Zephaniah's J is for Jamaica, Dirk McLean's Play Mas'! A Carnival ABC, and Valerie Bloom's Ackee, Breadfruit, Callaloo: An Edible Alphabet. These books are expository but fun and do a good job of targeting audiences who may not be familiar with Caribbean cultures. Then there’s the “Mauby” series by Peter Laurie (from Barbados) about the adventures of Mauby the Cat on a Caribbean farm; they’re perfect for an 8 year old. Pamela Mordecai (from Jamaica) and Lynn Joseph (from Trinidad/Dominica) have also written some excellent books for that age group/reading level. Like I said there are lots. I have a reading list that I put together myself posted up on my blog and you’ve now given me the idea of organizing the list by age level

Since you live in Philadelphia now, what do you miss most about living in Trinidad?

The major thing for me would be family. My immediate family members are my best friends and it’s hard to be away from them which is why I go home at least once every year, sometimes more. The second thing would be the weather. Here in Philadelphia, they’re just starting to talk about the Summer coming to an end and whenever I hear it, it’s like a death has been announced. I absolutely pine for Trinidad during the Winter season. I must say that I also miss the language of my people, being able to converse freely as we do, in our dialect with all its nuances and colorful expressions. But aside from those things, I really am happy to be living in America. I've had some amazing experiences here in Philadelphia (great city) and I’ve made some lovely friends. Foreigners are often tempted to dislike America and Americans but once you live here you get to see what a great place it really is, how many opportunities there are, how interesting the society is. It really is possible to live out your dreams here. Now, I often feel like my heart is torn between the two places.

 I'm stealing one of your questions: What is the book blogging community of the Caribbean like?

It’s definitely growing, that’s one thing I can say for sure. I think Caribbean societies are definitely changing and becoming more technological, more “Web 2.0.”; so many people are getting online and starting blogs. Some blogs like Geoffery Philp’s Blogspot, Repeating Islands and Caribbean Book Blog are reputable Caribbean book blogs that have been around for some time, but a host of others (like mine) have begun to spring up recently, a lot of them being blogs by writers/authors, established or aspiring. I feel like the Caribbean book blogging community is very close-knit. When I visit the various sites, I see the same people leaving comments. Also, my friend and fellow Anansesem Editor Anouska Kock started a Ning network recently (Caribbean Literary Salon) which is really doing a great job of bringing Caribbean book lovers and bloggers together (you don't have to be from the Caribbean to join though.) That being said, Caribbean people have often been criticized, particularly young people, for not being interested in our own literary traditions and for preferring to read foreign (American and UK) books. I think that Caribbean book bloggers are kind of like the new-age Caribbean literary establishment: a small circle of people who are in some way “experts” -- writers, authors, publishing people, Literature students etc. -- and who do not necessarily represent the average Caribbean reader. We tend to be writerly people with a distinct concern for reading and promoting local/regional authors and literature.


If you could take a whole week off and just read, what books would you pick?

Well, recently I’ve been feeling like my reading material has been lots of “high brow” stuff, novels by Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winners and so forth. Also, I have really been sticking to Caribbean books in the past few months and I do miss the unique reading experiences books from foreign cultures can offer. I’ve been seriously threatening a trip to the bookstore to get myself some good, fun popular fiction. I love YA books and I’d really like to take a week off to read some of the latest American ones I’ve been hearing so much about. The Hunger Games books for example. People really seem to be raving about them and I feel so out of the loop with “cool” stuff like that. So definitely some YA lit. It’s also been a while since I read a really hilarious, “laugh out loud” book? Any suggestions?

Thanks for interviewing me on your blog Christina!

And thanks for interviewing me, Summer! Please visit Summer and see what she has to say about Caribbean children's books.

September 13, 2010

Book Blogger Appreciation Week: First Treasure

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It's that time again! Book Blogger Appreciation Week! What is that? Well, for one week in September, book bloggers get together online and celebrate what we do. A bit of mutual admiration.

So for this first day of BBAW we are celebrating the new (to me) book bloggers, the bloggers we've discovered since last year's BBAW. The blog I wish to feature is Park Benches & Bookends, a reading couple from the UK.


I first discovered Jess and Chris's blog when they signed up for my Daphne du Maurier Challenge. Of course, that endeared me to them right away but I've loved all their reviews I've read so far. Check out this review of Night of the Crabs. So funny! Since Jess and Chris have varied tastes in books, they have an eclectic mix of reviews on their blog. They review a lot of classics which are near and dear to my heart. Also, how fun would it be to have a book blog you shared with your significant other?

September 12, 2010

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: I Want to Be Alone

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Sawyer enjoyed reading alone. (Lost ABC)

Wow. There are so many things about this article from The New York Times that makes my head nearly explode. First, notice how it's not in the books section or even the tech section. No, no, it's in the Fashion and Style section. Oh boy.

Let's move on. Some of the people in this article are excited that people are interrupting them while they read. Really. This makes them happy. When I'm reading in public, I pull out the invisible cone of silence. Not that I would mind talking to you about what I'm reading, of course, but I think most people would make a few comments and then respectfully let you have your time alone with your book. I look at reading time as "me time" even if it is out in public. There are lots of moms who cherish the hour of swimming lessons, or soccer practice because other than occasionally yelling, "Yeah, I see you honey. That was awesome. No really, I'm watching," they get that time for themselves and reading is a peaceful respite from Mommy Duties.

And why is there a 'stigma' about reading alone? What's that? That you're literate? That you enjoy learning new things? Are these bad things? It doesn't mean you have no friends. It means you've chosen a worthwhile activity for spending your free time. Being alone doesn't make you lonely.

So if public readers are "stigmatized" don't feel sorry for us, we probably didn't know there was a reason to feel bad for us in the first place. We don't need a ribbon or a benefit concert. We're not trying to impress you with our new found coolness either (because apparently "buying literature has become cool again"), we're just trying to read.

September 11, 2010

Her Mother's Daughter by Lesley Crewe: Review

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Bay lives with her daughter Ashley in the house she grew up in, while her sister Tansy follows her wanderlust to places unknown. Tansy's latest situation ends and leaves her homeless. She points her Porsche in the direction of Louisbourg and returns to the home she hasn't seen in 15 years.

She finds Ashley an almost grown woman on the eve of her graduation and constantly at odds with Bay. Bay, weary and alone since the death of their mother the year before, is dealing with more than just empty-nest syndrome. The loss of the love of her life 18 years ago continues to haunt her and won't allow her to enjoy a full life. Now Tansy is back and playing the fairy godmother to Ashley and making matters worse has her eye on the only guy in town that's shown any interest in Bay.

Tansy feels the borders of the small town closing in on her, as gossip and prying eyes lead to clashes with Bay. But bigger still are the buried secrets the sisters kept for years that are about to be uncovered.

A good book is one that keeps you thinking about the characters days after you finished reading it. One where you're still angry with some of them. One that requires some time to think about. Her Mother's Daughter by Lesley Crewe does that. I'm still thinking about Bay, Tansy, Gertie and Ashley.

Her Mother's Daughter is about the complex relationship between sisters. Sisters who are opposites in every way and the jealousies that grow from those differences. And there's a guy...there's always a guy. But I'm not going to talk about the guy because that would give away too much. All I will say is that I'm still angry with Tansy. I don't think I could be that forgiving; I can hold a grudge. But then again I don't have sisters.

There is a lot going on in the book that I can't discuss but I will say that this is the most emotional of Crewe's books so far. It's still told in that down home style complete with funny asides but by the end of it I was bawling.

So buy this book and then lend it to your sister, or your mom or your best friend so that you can all talk about it amongst yourselves. Actually, this would make a great book club book, especially with a group of women of different ages. I bet there would be all kinds of opinions.

Recommended.

Thanks to Nimbus for sending me this review copy.

September 9, 2010

The Rebecca Notebook and Other Memories by Daphne duMaurier: Review

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I've been scouring the library for Daphne du Maurier related material and recently found The Rebecca Notebook and Other Stories. What's so interesting about it is that Daphne compiled this collection of her work in 1980; she gives her own thoughts as she looks back on her career.

The Rebecca Notebook itself is the journal used in the defense of her publisher, Doubleday, from a plagiarism suit after Rebecca hit the big time. I didn't pay much attention to the notebook but in her introduction she discusses writing Rebecca. This is a revealing quote:
"...why did I never give the heroine a Christian name? The answer to the last question is simple: I could not think of one, and it became a challenge in technique, the easier because I was writing in the first person."

The Early Stories

When Daphne was a young writer, she published a number of short stories. You may not have read any of these. I certainly hadn't heard of any of them. While I liked a few of them, I can't say I loved them all. Many of them focused on relationships between men and women, not so much the psychological thrills I used to from her. These stories feel cynical to me- I wonder what was going on in her life at the time she wrote them?

However, there was one particular story I enjoyed, Adieu Sagesse. An old man gives his wife and people of his town a big "Screw you" and then sails off into adventure. And they all deserved it. How many times have you wanted to tell someone off and not care about the consequences?

The Non-fiction

These made the book for me. It was a look into the mind of Daphne and to learn about her experiences. A favorite was A Winter's Afternoon, Kilmarth. She gives an account of her day: a walk with her dog that ends with her reading in bed. She encounters minor annoyances, sudden hail, a smoky fire, a leaky roof, but handles it with good humour and imagination. It charmed me. I was reading it on the couch in a quiet house and had a nice little nap after reading it. It was such a relaxing story.

But by far the best was The House of Secrets. In it Daphne tells the story of how she found Menabilly, the house that was the inspiration for Manderlay. When they were kids, she and her sister found out about the abandoned estate while on vacation. They tried to reach it in the evening but the road to the house was so overgrown they had to turn around. A year later, Daphne sneaks away and finds a way to the house on her own. The first thing she sees are those infamous rhododendrons. She spends much of the summer exploring the estate and peeking in windows. As an adult, she would finally live in that house.

I felt like a kindred spirit to young Daphne. I spent a lot of my childhood exploring the wilderness around my house. I never found an abandoned building (an abandoned truck, yes) but I would have loved to!

I recommend The Rebecca Notebook for anyone wanting to learn more about Daphne du Maurier from the woman herself.

Speaking of Menabilly, here's a clip from a documentary about Daphne. She talks about a piece of film of herself as a young woman walking around Menabilly with her kids. It's amazing to see and hear her.

September 8, 2010

This Old Thing: Voice of the Violin

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I had no idea what Voice of the Violin was about when I picked it up at the used book store. I only bought it because I loved the cover. That might be wrong to say but I'm saying it.

Apparently, it's an international bestseller and a mystery. It's from 2004 so it's not as old as some of my other featured Old Things. Still, I wanted to show off this fabulous orange and blue cover. I love orange and blue together.

Anyway this is the fourth of a mystery series, I'm hoping I won't be too confused when I read it. Inspector Salvo Montalbano finds a naked body and tries to figure out who killed her. Sounds like the right kind of book to have around when I feel like a mystery.

September 7, 2010

Driven to Ink by Karen E Olson: Review

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Once again Brett Kavanaugh stumbles upon a body, this time it's in the trunk of her car. How did it get there? Well, she did lend her car to Jeff Coleman's elderly mother on her wedding day. Maybe she had something to do with it. Or at least the police think so. The body is that of one of the Dean Martin lookalikes who sang at the wedding. (Did I mention Brett lives in Las Vegas?) Trouble is, Sylvia and her groom are off on their honeymoon and unavailable for questioning.

Brett tries to keep put of trouble for her brother the detective's sake but Jeff pulls her into it up to her eyeballs. He must get to the bottom of the mystery to keep his mom out of the clink. Brett can't imagine Sylvia strangling a guy and dumping him in her trunk but Brett soon realizes she doesn't really know Sylvia that well...or Jeff for that matter.

Driven to Ink is yet another fun read from Karen E Olson. I'm enjoying the Tattoo Shop Mystery series so far. I like how it doesn't take itself too seriously- Dean Martin vs Elvis wedding singers? How is that not funny? Brett is perfectly aware that she is too nosy and when that's combined with helping a friend it always leads to trouble.

The relationships between the characters are explored a bit more in Driven to Ink. I foresee trouble between Bitsy and Brett if she keeps running off to solve mysteries and leaving Bitsy behind to run the shop. I enjoyed seeing a little more of Jeff. He's becoming more interesting with each book. I love his mom too. She reminds me of my mother-in-law (minus the tattoos) because of her joie de vivre.

Right now I don't know which way the potential romances are going to go. I'm unsure which "Team" I'm on. Let's see how they stack up (might contain spoilers from past books):

Team Jeff: Jeff is the bad boy, the owner of a competing tattoo shop in a seedier part of town. He's a former Marine with secret skills. He also loves his mom (aw!). Once they were adversaries, until a respect for one another grew and now they are friends.

Team Bixby: He's a doctor. He's got a rebel vibe and pair of fine eyes. He's a doctor. She once thought he was a murderer but that was all a misunderstanding. He's a doctor. They have mutual physical attraction. Did I mention he's a doctor?

Recommended.

Karen sent me this copy for review. Thank you!

September 6, 2010

This Book Is Overdue! by Marilyn Johnson (Audiobook): Review

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It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a...librarian? In a world where public library funding is cut, one woman (Marilyn Johnson) highlights the heroic deeds of the humble, and not so humble, librarian. She will don cyber disguises to infiltrate the secret world of the cybrarian. If you liked the archive scenes in The DaVinci Code, you'll love how Marilyn asks librarians for rare books like Easy Travel to Other Planets*. You'll be on the edge of your seat!

Okay, not really, but This Book Is Overdue! by Marilyn Johnson is not only informative but interesting. Marilyn first became interested in librarians while researching for her book The Dead Beat, a book about obituaries. She appreciated the help of the librarians she met who never belittled her for her lack of knowledge. That is after all their job. To help.

Along the way, Marilyn would meet fascinating people from all walks of life who had one thing in common, they were librarians. Some might be tattooed or have blue hair, teach missionaries or take on the Patriot Act, but all just want to help you, dear reader, get the information you need when you need it.

This Book Is Overdue! is often outrageous, shocking and funny. There were things in there I never knew about librarians, like Second Life. It's sounds really out there but here I am blogging so I'm not one to talk. Libraries are growing beyond the brick and mortar structure of your local branches. This Book Is Overdue! is for anyone with an interest in information, libraries or books. As it turns out, librarians are fascinating creatures.

About the Audiobook: Narrated by Hillary Huber. She added just the right intonation for the sassy replies of the interviewees.

Find out more about Marilyn Johnson on her website.

I borrowed this copy from, where else, the library.

Recommended

*I kinda want to read this.

September 4, 2010

Saturday Farmer's Market: September 4

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Right now, I'm probably listening to the wind and the rain as a tropical storm hits the region. I say probably because I've scheduled this post just in case. But yesterday was hot and sunny! I advance of Earl, I picked some carrots from my garden for tonight's supper.


These carrots are a 'french style' so they're short and round. Really cute!

Last weekend, we travelled to the Highland Village, a living museum focusing on Scottish settlers. They had a few farm animals that you would find on a farm from the era.

Inquisitive Rooster
Highland Cow

We'll be coming into the harvest season soon, so I hope to find lots of goodies at the market. And then pumpkins! So much to look forward to in the fall.

September 2, 2010

Review CSN Stores

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So remember when I said I was going to review something from CSN Stores? Well, I'm finally doing it. First off, they gave me $60 in which to spend, just so you know, and I hemmed and hawed over what to get (cat bed? stripper shoes?). I mean, they got a lot of stuff and I am indecisive by nature. Finally, I realized that I could get something we really needed in my house: a dog pen.

Cute dog but not mine.

My poor doggy is elderly and has elderly issues. She can't really be let loose in the house anymore unsupervised. We've come up with some rather ridiculous homemade solutions so when I saw the pens I knew that's what I'd be ordering.

Ordering wasn't hard. Shipping was free but International fees (brokerage, customs, etc) apply and that was $31. Still, okay but then I got a message that there might be extra charges because my postal code is in a 'remote area.' Wha?!! We do not have deliveries made by singing plaid-flanneled voyageurs in canoes around here, just dudes in trucks. That got my Canadian "we don't live in the wilderness" sensibilities in an uproar. No matter. I had to wait to see how much that was going to cost (I would be contacted for approval) and I do not like waiting. In the end, there was no extra costs (whew!) and no one contacted me- they just shipped it 2 days later.

It got here in about 2 weeks which is good coming from the States. The pen is just how it was described on the website. It's sturdy and unfolds easily. My dog is not too impressed so far but we're happy. She has plenty of room to hang out and it's easy to get her in or out because of the door.

In the end, I'm happy with this transaction, despite the initial confusion over shipping. Like any online purchase, it's important that you do your homework, especially if you are buying from another country.

September 1, 2010

Challenge Roundup for August & Daphne Update

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Hello again, people! Time for the monthly Challenge Roundup. Ye-haw!

I read 2 books for the 4th Canadian Books Challenge. I'm glad to take a bite out of that challenge since I read nothing last month.

*Folly by Marthe Jocelyn
*Damaged by Pamela Callow

Today the RIP V Challenge starts! Very exciting. It isn't very fallish out there yet but I can't wait to get out my sweaters (I know, weird). I did see some red leaves on the maples and the Halloween magazines on the stands. It's just about there. Hurricane season started so I foresee many 'dark and stormy nights.'

I'm continuing to read more Daphne du Maurier for the challenge. I just picked up The Rebecca Notebooks and Other Memories. Daphne edited this collection when she was in her 70s. She looks back on her career and gives her thoughts on her early writing. Some of her stories are interesting and some are just okay. I also watched the creepy Don't Look Now on DVD.

Participants continue to read all kinds of Daphne related books. Park Benches & Bookends read The Flight of the Falcon and The Loving Spirit both of which weren't the best of Daphne. Booksploring wasn't overly impressed with Castle Dor either. Thanks for reading those books!

Du Maurier is a great choice for the RIP Challenge: Rebecca, My Cousin Rachel, Jamaica Inn and her short stories in Don't Look Now and Echoes from the Macabre. If you are interested in reading those stories, check out my reviews.

I found this short video on YouTube in which we get to hear Daphne du Maurier talk a little about 'pretending.'

nrelate