November 30, 2010

Reading Together: Ramona Quimby, Age 8

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I picked up Ramona Quimby, Age 8 at a recent library sale because I loved Ramona when I was a kid and my daughter is also 8. I thought she'd get a kick out of that. She hates reading a book and finding out a character is older or younger than she is. We made this our latest bedtime read.

Ramona is entering the third grade with trepidation. She's being bussed to a new school with new kids, like Yard Ape, a boy who teases her. She's not sure what to make of her new teacher Mrs Whaley either. She looks like Ramona's swim teacher and addresses the class as "you guys."

Things at home are nerve wracking too. Her Dad just started art school which means her Mom has to keep her job or who knows what might happen. Ramona has to be quiet while her Dad studies and behave herself at Mrs Kemp's (the babysitter) so Mom can keep working. That's not easy when her best friend Howie rides his bike with his friends while she has to keep Willa Jean occupied indoors. Life is just not fair.

Being 8 is not easy. That's what I got from Ramona Quimby, Age 8. You're too little for some things and too big for others. It's hard to behave when you have to and bad things happen to you all the time. Poor Ramona. We felt sorry for her. She's having an awful lot of bad days.

My daughter could relate to Ramona. She has days when she comes home from school and declares, "This was the Worst Day Ever." Ramona's Worst Days are pretty bad: raw egg in the hair, throwing up in class. Those are right up there in Worst Days.

Things in the Quimby household are tense these days too. Ramona doesn't just have her own worries on her mind but the worries of her family as well. She doesn't like hearing her parents having serious talks when she goes to bed. She tries to be extra good so they won't have to worry about her on top of worrying about money, work, the broke down car.

Even though the tone of Ramona Quimby, Age 8 is sometimes a sombre one there are funny moments and the book ends with a "happy ending for today." It's definite a favorite of ours now.

Memorable Moments:
  • Ramona throwing up in class- "Jane* did that in class last year."
  • The cigarette machine- "What's a cigarette machine?"
  • DEAR (Drop Everything and Read)- "We did that in grade 2."
*Name changed to protect the barfy.

Highly recommended.

November 28, 2010

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: Canada Reads Again!

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Another Sunday, the last one in November! It's time to start thinking about what your favorite books of the year were. I'm sure there will be a deluge of top ten lists starting soon. Speaking of lists... Canada Reads has a new list, a list of panelists and the books they are defending in 2011.

The rules were different this year. Canadians picked the list of books which the panelists then had to chose from. I'm not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, it's very democratic but on the other, will the panelists defend these books as passionately as the books they might have chosen?

I was happy to see that the list had two books that I actually read before: The Birth House by Ami McKay and Unless by Carol Shields. I even reviewed both books on the blog back in the Dark Ages. I loved them both and find myself torn between them.

The Birth House I loved because of its historical aspect and also it is set in Nova Scotia. I will always have a bias for books set in Nova Scotia. When I saw that Debbie Travis was defending it, I first thought huh? It's kind of like having Mike Holmes or that Property Virgins lady defending it. (If you don't know who Debbie Travis is she's a popular Canadian host of Do-It-Yourself shows like Painted House). But then I thought, why not? It's not like musicians, hockey players and actors are in any better position to defend a book. Plus, she's actually written some books. So there you go.

Now Unless is a very different book by one of my favorite authors Carol Shields. Unless is not my favorite book by her though, that's The Stone Diaries. Unless is a complex novel with themes of feminism and motherhood, so I thought it was an interesting choice by Lorne Cardinal. Not that I don't think a man can defend it, I'm just curious to see how he handles it. (And Officer Davis was one of my favorite Corner Gas characters.)


Have you read any of the Canada Reads 2011 books? Any favorites?

November 25, 2010

The End of Overeating by David A Kessler: Review

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Hello! Debbie Downer here, about to tell you all about what you are eating is making you fat and probably killing you. Yay!

Well, not me exactly but Dr David Kessler will tell you all about it in The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable North American Appetite. Dr Kessler spent years gathering information from scientists and others to find out why everyone is getting fat in North America. Turns out we eat too much. The End. Bye. Okay, he also wanted to know why we are eating too much and that's much more complicated.

There is a psychology around food that is built into us. Find the biggest thing and eat it. That's how we survived for thousands of years during famines and wars, etc. The trouble is the food industry has found a way to use that psychology against us. It was gradual but it was sneaky and now we are in a crisis. They've made food irresistible, they've feed us too much, they told us we deserved it. They got into our heads and changed our brain chemistry. And now we're used to it. It's what we expect. We want more and they keep giving it to us.

Parts of The End of Overeating are very interesting. Kessler spoke to a lot of people: food industry insiders, scientists studying obesity, restaurateurs, and regular people. The science behind how we react to certain foods was fascinating, particularly ones high in fat, sugar and salt. Since we like it so much, the food industry researches ways to get more into us. However, for some people this created a big problem, something Kessler calls "conditioned hypereating." It's conditioned because the person has been trained to react they way they do around food. They just don't know it.

The social mores surrounding eating have also changed. What was once unacceptable behaviour (like eating on the street, during meetings), is now commonplace. Some of those behaviours are still unacceptable in other countries, but the North American style of eating is creeping around the world.

The food industry is unlikely to change anytime soon, but we can change our behaviour. Understanding the psychology behind it is one part, the other involves us using that information to undo the damage that has been done and resetting our brains. It's not easy and involves creating a strict set of rules, at least initially. In Food Rehab, Kessler goes over how to do this. I'm not a reader of self-help but this section makes sense to me.

Now, in the US this book's subtitle is "Taking Care of the Insatiable American Appetite" and I suspect that my copy has been modified for Canadian audiences. Some of the Canadian stats feel like they were tossed in there. There's also a chapter titled: Can Canada Put on the Brakes? The only chapter about Canada. I did find it interesting though because he brings up something my husband noticed also. My husband travels a lot for work and sometimes to the States. The proportions are much larger in restaurants there. He is no shrinking violet around food but even he can't eat everything he's served.

I found most of the book interesting. The parts in the laboratory are a bit dry and there is some repetitiveness but for the most part I learned a lot. If you read this, you'll never look at a Chili's ad the same way again.

I'd recommend this to anyone interested in food, nutrition or anyone looking to stop overeating.

Thanks to Random House for the  review copy.

November 23, 2010

Chrisbookarama Approved Gift Guide

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Are you ready to get out there and shop? Ready to face the crowds? Get an elbow in the ribs while reaching for a sweater? No? How about from the comfort of your couch in your pjs while sipping a cup of cocoa? Ah yes, that's more like it.

I know a lot of you Americans are gearing up for your Thanksgiving Day sales, so I thought I'd make a list of some items you don't even need to leave the house to get for your book lovin' friends. That way no one gets hurt.

These are all products I've spent my own money on over the years. Since I've enjoyed them myself, they get the Chrisbookarama Seal of Approval. When I poke around Etsy for book related do-dads for my Friday, posts, I often go back and buy those things I found, so many of the following items can be bought from shops there. I was sad to see that some of my favorite shops are no longer selling on Etsy.

Art: Something Pretty to Look At

Bookworms- Dreamy Giraffe
One of the first things I bought from an Etsy shop was this Bookworms print from The Dreamy Giraffe. I love how whimsical her artwork is. She has something for a variety of hobbies and personalities.

Along similar lines is Smiles Shop. More adorable artwork.  Reading is Smart print is one I kept for myself.  The Little Reader hangs on my daughter's wall. You can request a different hair colour for your little reader.

When I first started blogging, poppets were everywhere. These whimsically odd creations can be found at Strange Studios by Lisa Snellings. Poppets have inspired authors like Neil Gaiman.

Bookmarks: Don't Lose That Spot

Gorjuss in Scotland has beautiful bookmarks including I Found My Family in a Book. I loved the design so much I also bought the ipod skin from Skinizi.

Jane Eyre- Antique Fashionista
Antique Fashionista by Masha Laurence makes artful bookmarks inspired by the fashions of classic books, like the works of Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen. She packs them in brown paper envelopes sealed with sealing wax! It's like getting a gift from Austen herself. Great for a bookish fashionista.

Sybile makes Romantic bookmarks. Perfect for a romance addict. They're very durable bookmarks too.

Book Darts are fabulous for marking specific passages without messing up your books. Perfect for the book blogger or book clubber who likes to quote passages.


Don't Forget About Books

Buying books can be tricky but any lover of classics is sure to appreciate The Penguin Clothbound Classics. They are works of art. I absolutely love them. I was lucky enough to find two at my local bookstore: Emma and The Hound of the Baskervilles*. I would love more!  These are real heirloom books.

And All That Jazz

Book lovers might enjoy these gifts as well. They are not necessarily book related but fun!

I like a little music when I read but nothing too distracting. The Pride and Prejudice Soundtrack is relaxing. I listen to it quite a lot.

I can't walk into local shop Sweet Biscuit without buying at least a bar of soap. They have lovely scented items with clever names like Hot Little Number (smells like Red Hots) and Cranky Pickle (not pickley, more citrusy). I really love the solid perfumes (My Darling Vixen is my scent). They have gifts for men too.

If you are a crocheter, my favorite go-to gift pattern is Reversible Strands Hat by Nancy Smith (scroll down on page). I've made five of these babies now. The pattern is fast once you catch on to it. Great for a guy or girl.

I bought a few of these pocket mirrors from The Nebulous Kingdom. Anne-Julie Aubry creates dreamy, feminine artwork. You can admire her work before you admire yourself!

I hope I've given you some ideas on what to get that special someone! Some of these things are a bit offbeat, a little different but so are book lovers. ;)

*The Book Depository links are associated with my affiliate account. I get a small percentage of the sale. All other items listed are not linked to any affiliate program.

November 22, 2010

Villette by Charlotte Bronte: Review

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Charlotte Bronte, I still love your writing style. I love your descriptions and how you can convey an emotion so perfectly. I want a t-shirt that says, "Happiness is not a potato..." because that cracks me up. However, Lucy Snowe might be too enigmatic for me.

In Villette, Lucy Snowe, a person we know little about, for some unknown reason is all alone in the world. She needs to make a living. When she hears that Labassecour, a French country, pays English ladies well as teachers, she hops on a ship and heads there, even though she doesn't speak the language. On the ship, she meets a spoiled girl named Ginevra who tells her about the school she will be attending in Villette. Sounds as good a place as any, so Lucy gets herself a position as nanny to the children of the proprietress, Madame Beck. Madame Beck could work for the CIA, she's such an expert at snooping, but she likes what she sees and convinces Lucy to try teaching.

Lucy is very lonely but through a series of unbelievable coincidences discovers a bunch of old friends living right there in Villette. What a small world! Lucy then becomes entwined in their domestic dramas while working toward her own goals.

I don't know what to make of Lucy. As narrator, she keeps large pieces of information to herself. At least in Jane Eyre, we knew why she was living with her aunt. Lucy might have dropped to earth from a spaceship, how would we ever know? Then, as Lucy makes her way in the world, she leaves out other bits of information. The discovery of Graham comes as a surprise to the reader, even though she knew his identity for many chapters. She's so secretive, not just to the reader but to others in the story as well. What is her deal?

Her interactions with other characters are frustrating as well. She doesn't participate in those relationships so much as observes them. They leave her alone at Madame Beck's for months, then out of the blue say, "Oh Lucy, come on over." This bothers her. Why not say something about it? She just goes along with it.

The only relationship where she shows any of the emotion she keeps bottled up inside is the one she has with Ginevra. I found the barbs they threw at each other some of the most amusing and witty exchanges in the book. Ginevra is the perfect foil for Lucy. She's everything Lucy is not. Lucy could learn from her.

The 'romance' part of the book felt forced, as if it was expected to be there so it must. The guy was a jerk to her most of the time. If she stood up to him the way she did Ginevra instead of using passive aggressive tricks to get under his skin, I could have enjoyed it more.

That's not to say that there weren't parts of the book that I loved. Villette was ahead of its time, even more so than Jane Eyre, in terms of feminism. Lucy is not in search of a man to marry and take care of her. She likes to work and when an opportunity of a better paying position presents itself, she turns it down because it interferes with her future plans of being completely free. Lucy is her own person.

The introduction of my book mentions that one of Villette's strengths is Lucy's 'unknowableness.' If it is, then it certainly works. I know very little about Lucy after 450 pages. That might be what makes the book great, actually, I keep thinking of it and wondering how I truly feel about Lucy and Villette.


So do I recommend it? Any lover of the Brontes should read it. It does drag in places and I slogged through parts at the end but I think it was worth it. It is mired in French and unless you have footnotes, or are bilingual, you should have a French-English dictionary handy. My 'Comment ca va?' high school French didn't cut it.

Have you read Villette? What were your impressions?

November 21, 2010

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: Snow!

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This is what my Sunday morning looks like. My daughter woke me up at 7am because she wanted to go play in the snow. That's right, it snowed last night! I doubt it will last long but it's so pretty to wake up to. It's so quiet outside too with everyone still in bed. The cats aren't very impressed. I think they are glad to be indoor cats today.

My thanks to Jill who sent me Cold Comfort Farm this week. Isn't that cover something? Looking forward to reading it.

I've finally finished Villette by Charlotte Bronte. Don't know what to think of it yet. It was a big book and I'm glad to be done of it. I'm also reading The End of Overeating which has me looking at the restaurant industry in a whole new way.

In other news, I think I'm failing NaNoWriMo. Dudes, it's hard! And I miss reading. Wah!

So, people, I'm off to pour myself a cup of hot coffee and look at the snow. Later!

November 18, 2010

A Squiriferous Squirrel

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Squiriferous: (adj) having the character or qualities of a gentleman.

Sugar Bush Squirrel* is the definition of squiriferous, wouldn't you think?

So why the crazy squirrel? Rebecca pointed me to Save the Words where I adopted squiriferous for my own. It made me think of squirrels....squirrels in suits. And of course you can find pictures of squirrels in suits on the internet. Do you even have to ask?

That's what a squiriferous squirrel looks like. What would he say?
  • "Martini. Shaken, not stirred."
  • "Pardon Me. Do you have any Gray Poupon?"
  • "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn."

So what do you think a squiriferous squirrel would say?

*I also thought "What the hell...?" when I saw that squirrel site, just so you know.

November 17, 2010

What Would Jane's Characters Do?

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Look out Kate!
My, how times have changed! If you turned on a computer, radio or TV yesterday, you heard the news: Prince William and his girlfriend Kate Middleton announced their engagement. I haven't paid much attention to their relationship. It's none of my business. But today I looked Kate up in the good ole Wikipedia and Lady Catherine de Bourgh would have been scandalized. Her family- tradesmen! Millionaires but still. Lady Catherine would have had a fit and believed Kate somehow tricked William into marrying her. Oh my, what is to become of the royal family!

Then I wondered what the reaction of other Jane Austen characters would be.

The Bennets

Lydia immediately stalks Prince Harry. If Kate can snag a prince, so can she!
Kitty cries at any mention of Lydia going to the wedding without her.
Mary declares that William and Kate should remain single. It's only logical.
Jane smiles to herself and imagines William and Kate happily ever after.
Mrs Bennet studies the royal family tree looking for bachelors for her daughters. Especially Jane. She's too pretty for  mere Mr Bingley. She never did like that guy.
Mr Bennet looks up from his book and says, "Prince who?"
Elizabeth vows to keep her family as far from the royal family as possible.

Emma Woodhouse and Co.

Lydia has competition. Emma plans ways to throw Harriet Smith in the path of Prince Harry. They are sure to fall in love.
Mr Knightley tells Emma to mind her own business. Typical.
Mr Woodhouse worries about the wedding cake and writes a firmly worded letter to the Queen about the dangers of sugar and fat.
Miss Bates lists all of Kate's accomplishments ad nauseum.

Catherine Morland and Friends

Catherine is sure William has an insane wife locked in a castle on the moors somewhere.
Isabella Thorpe thinks of ways to make Kate her new BFF so she can meet Prince Harry.

Down at Mansfield Park

Fanny Price listens to what her betters have to say before forming her own opinion.
The other young people put on a play called William and Kate's Romance, reenacting the couple's love affair. It's put on YouTube and Mary Crawford leaves the area in shame.

The Dashwood Sisters

Marianne works herself up into a fever thinking of how romantic it all is. She has to be hospitalized.
Elinor worries about the cost of new bonnets and accommodations if they attend the wedding.
John Willoughby runs out of town when he hears a rumour that Kate's sister might be single.

Anne Elliot's Posse

Sir Walter orders ten new suits for all the parties he's sure to be invited to. All the right people will be there.
Mary Musgrove gets the vapours.
Anne waits patiently for someone to tell her what is going on.
Later, Captain Wentworth, Anne and friends go to Lyme Regis to celebrate. Louisa hits her head but no one notices because Prince Harry invites them out drinking for the night. Then Anne and Harry elope!

You don't know Anne!

That's how I think they'd react anyway.

Congratulations William and Kate!

November 15, 2010

Sew Charming: Review

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Okay. I requested Sew Charming for review because I enjoy sewing and figured there'd be a few projects I could do. Well, it's been over a month since I got this book and haven't done a single thing.*

Sew Charming is written by Australian fabric design duo Cath Derksema and Kirsten Junor. They own Prints Charming where they turn their fabrics into usable items for their customers. The book has sewing projects for each room of your house, from nursery to kitchen. It also gives instructions on how to screen print your own fabric using their designs. There are also several quilting projects, like the baby blanket and boy's room quilt. Patterns and templates are included.

I think my problem with Sew Charming is that it's heavy on the fabric design angle. They do include suggestions if you do not want to screen print your own fabric but some of the projects just wouldn't be the same. Right now, I have all the hobbies I can handle and most of them get neglected. I couldn't add screen printing into the mix. Plus, I'd have to buy the equipment and I can't see myself doing that right now. Sigh, I need more time and money. Anyone want to help me with that?

They do provide excellent instructions on screen printing and some fun designs to try. I love the fabrics, like the funky stars and the birds. The colours they use are bright and cheerful. They remind me of the things you might find in that big Swedish furniture store, if you know what I mean.

If you're interested in screen printing, Sew Charming seems like a good place to start. There are also some unique quilting ideas if you're a quilter. Good luck!

Thanks to Random House for the review copy.

*I usually do one project from craft books I review but in this case it wasn't going to happen.

November 14, 2010

Lazy Sunday Thoughts on Publishing from a Reader's Point of View

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What do I know about publishing? Nuttin' Honey. But various publishing stories have been making news the last couple of days which gets me thinking. Thinking leads to opinions. Opinions lead to blog posts so beware: Opinions Ahead!

*Gaspereau versus the Giller. If you don't know Gaspereau Press, they make pretty books in an old-timey way and it takes time to make them. One of its writers, Johanna Skibsrud, just won the Giller and there have been many, many articles written on the scarcity of the book. It's been a topic that eclipses Skibsrud and her win. I wish they would give it a rest. Supposedly, it's a good book, it won the Giller so why can't people wait to buy it? Why do they have to have it noooooooooow?! It will still be a good book tomorrow. It ain't going anywhere. I have yet to read last year's Giller and I read a lot so keep your panties on, Giller groupies.


From Gaspereau's website:
At the core of our philosophy is a commitment to making books that reinstate the importance of the book as a physical object, reuniting publishing and the book arts.
I assume Skibsrud read this and was okay with that. If she expected to win the Giller, she might have re-thunk that decision to have them publish it but that was the decision she made at the time. No one has a working crystal ball that I know of. Gaspereau (at this time) was refusing to compromise its morals and I respect them for that. We're a throw away society where everything is mass produced, it's nice to see someone swimming against the current.

PS- Kobo sells e-book versions of The Sentimentalists.

*Amazon and That Book. You know that book, the How-To Guide for Creepy Bastards. Lots of thoughts on this so here they are in numbered fashion:
  1. The guy got more attention for his book than it ever deserved.
  2. Boycotts. I feel about boycotts like I do about peaceful protesting, it's your right as a citizen. I might not agree with you or understand why but I respect your feelings. I have my own personal boycotts and I know people who won't shop here or there because of this or that. That's your prerogative. I've never had anyone tell me to boycott some place because they do. I've listened to their reasons but those are personal. I still respect them and vice versa.
  3. Amazon are you a publisher or what? Any weirdo with a printer and a stapler can stand on a street corner and give out copies of their rantings. Should these 'books' be published? I don't think so. Lots of writings shouldn't be published and not just because of the material, some books are terrible. Amazon allows everyone with a computer to upload their writings. To my knowledge, they do not edit, discuss improvements, make fancy covers, or promote books like traditional publishers do. And this is what will get them into trouble. A publisher will decide whether or not to publish a book based on a number of criteria including its own principles. What are Amazon's principles? Other than making money? They also stand behind the author because they believe in the work. I still believe in old fashioned publishing, that someone is standing between me and the sludge that is out there. Amazon makes the money off the sales but that's it. I'm still confused about what Amazon is- is it a bookseller? Or is it a marketplace?
*James Frey. No it's not 2006 again. Frey is up to new tricks. In a New York Magazine article, Suzanne Mozes reveals that Frey is running a fiction factory which creates books for young adults (I Am Number Four), with the idea that they can easily be turned into movies and merchandise. Frey wants writers to write these books after they sign a rather questionable contract. No one has been found chained to a typewriter yet but it sounds to me like he's taking advantage of desperate people who need to have more confidence in their talents. So you aren't the prettiest girl in high school, that doesn't mean you should make out with any doofus under the bleachers. Have some self-respect, you can do better.

Hopefully Frey isn't considering hiring Annie Wilkes to keep his writers in line.

November 11, 2010

Rememberance Day

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I don't often read books about war but this past month I reviewed Prisoner of Dieppe by Hugh Brewster. It's a middle grade fiction story of a young Canadian man during World War II. Since this is Rememberance Day, I thought I'd bring it to your attention once again.

In Flanders Field

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

-Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae

November 10, 2010

Jane Eyre 2011!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHH! Saw this on the Bronte Blog. So dramatic and gothic! Jane Eyre will be released in the spring of 2011. Can't wait! (PS- Google Reader Peeps. There is a video here but you must go to my blog to see it. Sorry.)




And here's the movie poster:

November 8, 2010

Thoughts on Two Books About Writing

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Thinking I would be all writerly, I read two books about writing before I took on this nutty experiment of writing my own craptastic book for a month. I laugh at some of my sentences where no one does anything but stand up, sit down or walk away. There are a lot of them. But I'll talk about that some other time. For now, I'll give my thoughts those books I read.

The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. E.B. White of Charlotte's Web fame took William Strunk, Jr's textbook, one he wrote for his classes at Cornell, and republished it with revisions. Strunk was not just White's professor but his mentor. White can't sing Strunk's praises high enough. And I can see why. The guy doesn't mess around. He says, "These are the rules. Follow them" like Moses from the mountain. The rules are numbered with examples. Most deal with usage and grammar. Strunk's favorite rule, according to White, is Rule 13: Omit Needless Words. He's fanatical about it and it comes through in every rule. The book tops out at 71 pages and that includes a chapter on style by White.

I loved this book, even though I suspect Strunk would make me cry if I took his class. I borrowed it from the library but I will be buying it (a newer version not the one printed in 1966, like this one). It has straight forward advice for every writer. I know I'm not perfect and need as much help as I can get. I do disagree with Rule #9 in White's chapter: Do not affect a breezy manner. This is the rock on which blogs are built. At least this one anyway. So sorry, can't do it.


The Writing Life by Annie Dillard. Dillard takes White's Rule #18: Use figures of speech sparingly and punches it in the face. Then she kicks it in the crotch a few times. In the very first chapter she uses dozens of metaphors and similes to describe writing and White is right- it is exhausting for the reader. I needed a nap.

After that first chapter she stretches out her metaphors a bit with examples from her own life. Some I enjoyed, like the stunt pilot who made art in the sky with his plane, but most of the time I wondered what she was getting at. I take issue with the notion that a writer must suffer for art. An extreme example of this is Dillard's younger days when she stayed in an unheated cabin on an isolated island in the North Pacific. She nearly passes out on the shore after she forgets to eat because she is wriiiiiiiiiiiting! Pul-ease. Parents write in between making lunches or folks do it on the bus to work. If you want to write, just do it. Anywhere. Anytime. No need to isolate yourself from the rest of humanity. Single mom JK Rowling had to pay the bills; she didn't hide in a cave for a year to write Harry Potter.

Is it beautiful writing? Yes. Yes, it is. Is it useful? No. Come for the topic, stay for the metaphors. If you like metaphors that is- lots of metaphors. I've never read anything else by her so maybe she's not my style of writer.

I bought this one ages ago.

So while I highly recommend The Elements of Style, I'm not sure about The Writing Life. It was too out there for my tastes. And I'm not the only who thinks this way.

Do you have any favorite books on writing you would recommend?

November 7, 2010

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: A Pooh Weekend

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As Winnie the Pooh would say it's been a blustery day or actually weekend. The kind of day that makes me want to stay under the covers and read. What I'm reading now is Villette by Charlotte Bronte with my online bookclub. It has its ups and downs. It's no Jane Eyre.

After organizing my shelves this week I had to go and ruin it by buying more books. Yes, I know, bad me but it wasn't my fault. Fate conspired against me. First of all, I took two boxes of books to the used book store and in return got $34 in bookstore credit. It's like finding money in an old jacket! It's free money! That's rationalizing for you. Since I was there and everything, how could I not, you know, take a look around? I was good. I bought 2 books only:
  • The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles (to be fair this is a bookclub pick later this year)
  • An Orange from Portugal- a collection of Christmas stories from Maritime writers (I wanted this one for awhile and with Christmas coming now is the time)
Then the library book sale was this week. That only comes twice a year. Paperbacks for $2 & hardcovers for $3. I'm too cheap to say no. There weren't as many paperbacks this time around. That was disappointing. I did find:
  • Treason's Harbour by Patrick O'Brien (I later realized I already had this. Argh!)
  • Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson
  • A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
For the girl I bought, 2 Ramona books, A Magic Treehouse and an Animal Ark book.

And lastly, Penguin sent me Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier. It's a fictional account of Mary Anning, one of the first female paleontologists who discovered the ichthyosaur.

So, I'm plodding along through the first week of NaNoWriMo and it's an interesting experiment that's for sure. I'll have much more to say about it when the month is up. An unfortunate side effect is that I'm jonesing for a new book to read. I keep giving my bookshelves sidelong glances. "Hello my friends. Can't hang out with you right now." It's very hard.

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


Annnnnnd... It's that time of year again. Time to sign up for Book Bloggers Holiday Swap. I'm mulling it over but I think I'm going to sign on. It's fun to give book related gifts to book bloggers.


November 4, 2010

Bookcases!

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It took me months to find the perfect bookcases for my newly renovated basement but I did it! Weel, actually, my husband found these at Staples. We spent our Friday night putting them together. It was fabulous date night. No seriously. This is what happens when you're married 11 years. I should find us more projects to work on together. And next time wine. That would make things interesting.

The organizing of the books was done by myself though. I had a plan and wanted no one messing with it.




Whew! Moving all those books was work! I purged a bunch of books while shelving too. Two Halloween treat boxes full. Now there's room for more books! (Husband rolls eyes.)

*See how nice I am. I left him a shelf for his engineering books.

November 3, 2010

Babymouse Cupcake Tycoon by Jennifer L Holm & Mathew Holm: Review

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Babymouse is our favorite mouse in this house. My daughter reads every book in the series she can get her hands on. She's read the copies she owns about 50 times each. She loves Babymouse and so do I.

For the uninformed, Babymouse is a graphic novel series featuring a elementary school aged mouse and her friends. Babymouse has a big imagination and spends most of her time daydreaming which gets her into all kinds of trouble.

In Cupcake Tycoon, Babymouse has an mishap resulting in total destruction of the school library. The school has a fundraiser to restock the shelves. The students are going to sell cupcakes! And there's a big prize for the kid who sells the most. This is right up Babymouse's alley. But there's one problem: Felicia Furrypaws. For awhile Babymouse loses sight of the reason for selling cupcakes in her attempt to outdo Felicia.

My daughter grabbed this book first before I had a chance to look at it. Judging from the giggles, she enjoyed it. Once I got it from her sticky hands and read it, I too giggled. Maybe not as much but yes it was fun. Babymouse uses a lot of pop culture references and most of them went right over her head.Will most 8 year olds know who Donald Trump is? Hmm, I'm not sure. Now the references to Rumpelstiltskin are classic and (I hope) most kids will know who he is.

Cupcake Tycoon is entertaining with a message about competitiveness. The black and pink illustrations make this series stand out. That might put off boys but if they get past that they'll laugh out loud at Babymouse's antics. It's great for readers wanting to move from picture books to chapter books.

Recommended.

November 1, 2010

Challenge Roundup for October

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October was a great challenge month. Blame that on RIP V Challenge. A month of scary reading is a lot of fun but I'm all ghosted out now. Time to give the supernatural a rest for awhile.

All totaled I read 6 books for the RIP Challenge, 4 in the month of October:
  1. Bespelling Jane Austen (Sept)
  2. Witchcraft by Clary Croft (Sept)
  3. The Bleeding Dusk by Colleen Gleason (Oct)
  4. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (Oct)
  5. Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie (Oct)
  6. The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (Oct)
That might be a record for me! Another great challenge hosted by Carl. Thanks Carl!

I did not neglect The 4th Canadian Books Challenge while reading all those spooky books. I squeezed in The Prisoner of Dieppe by Hugh Brewster bringing my total to 5. I was planning on reading one more but it didn't work out and I did read another but didn't review it- not yet anyway.

Poor Daphne got left in the cold by me this month. Luckily, other readers have been working on their Daphne du Maurier Challenge reads. Bev from My Readers Block read three books: Castle Dor, Rebecca and the sequel to Rebecca-Rebecca's Tale- by Sally Beauman. She also watched Hitchcock's version of Rebecca. Park Benches and Bookends read the short story collection Don't Look Now and discovered what a master of that condensed fiction she was. Great reading guys!

As for this month coming, I don't expect to get a lot of books read because I'll be busy. But you never know. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy so I will try to make time for reading. I really don't want to end up like Jack.

nrelate