Happy Halloween

It's Halloween and it's pouring! It's awful. I hope it clears up.

Just a few quick links:

*Google is taking over the world.

*In case you missed it: Oprah endorses the Kindle. Sorry Canadians can't get one at the moment although I'm not totally sold on the idea yet. But we can have one of these.

*10 Halloween Book for Kids.

Anyway Happy Halloween!!!! Have a safe one.

Vampire Thursday

My Friend Amy had a great idea: Vampire Day. I've always had a fascination with these mythical creatures. What is it about them? Maybe it's the idea of being ageless forever. Is it a blessing or a curse?

Where did the story of the vampire come from? Leslie Klinger attempts to answer this question here in this Seattle Times article for her annotated version of Dracula: The Annotated Dracula.

My introduction to the vampire came in the form of all those cheesy Dracula flicks from the 60 and 70's. Many are just terrible, some are campy (Once Bitten) but I think Dracula may have gotten back some respect with Coppola's lush 1992 version Bram Stoker's Dracula. Finally, Stoker was back with his creation. However, Coppola just couldn't stop making a romance between Mina and the Count. If you've ever read Stoker's novel, you'll know there is no love between the two.

Before reading Bram Stoker's novel, I had read Salem's Lot (Stephen King), and all of Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles. Reading Dracula was an experience. I had a lot of preconceived notions about vampires by then and was surprised at the creature in the story. He had evolved from Stoker's monster to the charming and suave being in the movies. What a strange transformation for the vampire.

I had given up on vampires after that, until recently. A few years ago, I read The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. Dracula was back and terrorizing the modern world. Kostova combines the folklore of the Eastern European vampire with Stoker's Dracula, throws in an endearing heroine and create a fast paced tale for the 21st century.

As a blogger, I've reviewed a few vampire related books:

*50 Ways to Hex Your Lover- Jazz is a witch with a love/hate relationship with a vampire.

*The Rest Falls Away- Victoria Gardella fights vampires in Regency England.

*I Am Legend- The last man on earth, Robert Neville, battles humans turned vampires by a horrible plague. (I Am Legend inspired apocalyptic zombie films.)

Although the vampire is always changing to suit the needs of the audience, I don't think they are going to go away anytime soon. Maybe they will live forever.

What are your favorite vampire novels or movies?

RIP III Challenge Wrap-Up

Here it is the 29th of October and it's safe to say that I'm finished Carl's RIP III Challenge. It's been a lot of fun reading scary stories. I'm all set for Halloween!

I did Peril the First

*I Am Legend Richard Matheson
*Coraline Neil Gaiman
*My Cousin Rachel Daphne duMaurier
*Heart-Shaped Box Joe Hill

As always it's been a great challenge. Thanks to Carl for hosting it yet again. So, how did you do?


With the help of Random.org I have 2 winners for the Austen giveaway:

abookworm (Old Friends and New Fancies)

darbyscloset (Pemberley Shades)

Please send me your addresses so I can contact Danielle at Sourcebooks about your books!

A Year of Readers: New Challenge

Not from me but

From Jodie:

"I love to read. It’s easy for me to pull a new book out of my crowded bookshelves every time I want one but not everyone can just grab books by the handful and choose their next read. Books are one of the most wonderful things in the world and should be accessible to everyone.

In 2009 I want to spread my love of reading throughout the world. From the 1st January 2009 until 31st of December 2009 I will be running an international read-a-thon that will be open to anyone who reads. It aims to bring people who enjoy books together to have fun bringing literature into the lives of others. It doesn’t matter what kind of books you read or how many you read as long as you’ve got your nose in a book in 2009 you can join in.

The Year of Readers

It’s an easy concept (which is probably why I thought of it). You pick a literary charity that you want to support in 2009. You sign up to be part of The Year of Readers, get people to sponsor you and just start reading whatever you like. If you’re going to read next year why not join and help a bookish charity at the same time?

How to Join

Sign up at The Year of Readers Blog (http://yearofreaders.blogspot.com) and you'll get a sponsorship form and an invite to write at the blog. Join in and let The Year of Reading be your first good deed for 2009."

I'm going to check this out.

Martha Stewart's Cooking School

Before I received this I wondered, how does one review a cookbook? Then it came in the mail from Random House and I realized the question is irrelevant. Martha Stewart's Cooking School: Lessons and Recipes for the Home Cook is so much more than a cookbook!

This 500 page volume is a How-To/Encyclopedia for cooking. Anything you've ever wanting to learn how to do is in here. Can't boil an egg? See Lesson 2.1. Want to make your own pate? (never going to happen, my friends) See Extra Credit: Grinding and Binding.

The first section of the book is the Basics: your equipment, knives, herbs, etc. The stuff you need to know before you get started. Then the book is separated into 7 categories: Stock and Soups, Eggs, Meat, Fish and Poultry, Vegetables, Pasta, Dried Beans and Grains, and finally, Desserts. Each category is then divided into Lessons (How to Roast, How to make Tomato Sauce, etc).

If you are familiar with Martha's 101's on her website, you'll have an idea of how the lessons work. Each lesson tells you about the process, what equipment and ingredients to use, and a step by step how-to. There are plenty of tips and photos of the process. After the lesson, are recipes to try out what you've learned. It's all theory until you actually pick up a spatula!

So, do you think I've benefited from any the lessons yet? Yes, I did, I'm proud to say! I did Meat, Fish and Poultry: Lesson 3.1: How to Roast. I made a delicious pork tenderloin for a family get together. It was a hit. And while I still have problems with timing, patience and always overthinking everything, I think I have a handle on this one.

The book is well laid out and easy to follow. There are excellent charts for quick reference; I've used the internal meat temperature one already. The photography will make you drool like Pavlov's dog.

Don't think this is a book you'll use once and then shove to the back of the cupboard. I could see me using this as a reference book whenever I cook. It's not just a pretty to look at book but a user friendly handbook for everyday use. It ain't cheap, but I think it's totally worth it. (Right now RandomHouse.ca is offering 30% off and free shipping on cookbooks.)

Highly Recommended for the Home Cook

I Am Legend: Review

I watched the movie I Am Legend a few months ago and enjoyed it. (Who doesn't love Will Smith?) I really wanted to read the book by Richard Matheson after that but saved it for Carl's RIP Challenge. While it was quite a bit different, I liked it just the same.

Robert Neville is the only survivor of a terrible plague that's either killed everyone or turned them into vampires. These are the real deal; they come out only at night, fear garlic and crosses, and drink human blood. Every night he faces vampires who were once his neighbours, as they try to lure him out of his house. He's almost driven to madness by the sound of their voices.

During the day, he hunts the vampires down and destroys them, while searching for a cure to the disease that makes them what they are. He must make sure he is home by dark. I don't want to say much more about I Am Legend since it's very short and the ending packs a wallop.

What struck me the most about I Am Legend, is the terrible loneliness. Matheson strikes home what humans fear the most, not just the creatures lurking in the darkness, but being alone. Neville is so lonely that the sight of a dog brings him such joy. I also felt the tension building up inside Neville. He falls easily into rages and despair.

I wish so much to discuss the end, but I cannot do so without ruining it if you haven't read it. All I can say is that the title is the last line- it gives me shivers. The concept is a brilliant one and I've been thinking of it ever since.

There are some very tense moments when Neville doesn't make it home after dark. It's a fantastic horror tale without a lot of gore, much of the terror is psychological. That's the perfect type for me. Matheson's writing reminds me of Shirley Jackson's. It's smart, tense and has some commentary on society as well.

[There are a some short stories in my copy. I'm making my way through them. They're hit and miss; some very good, others not so.]

Highly Recommended

Two Austen Sequels: A Review

*********Giveaway Info at the End**************

I recently received two Austen sequels from Sourcebooks: Old Friends and New Fancies and Pemberley Shades. You all might think writing sequels to Austen novels is a modern fixation but both these are new releases of very old novels.

Old Friends and New Fancies by Sybil G Brinton was written in 1913 and was my favorite of the two. It's an absolute Austenite fantasy. Think of all the unmarried folks left at the end of the Austen novels and contrive to have them meet. I'm sure many a fan has imagined it. In Old Friends, the Darcys and Co. take a trip to Bath after Colonel Fitzwilliam and Georgiana (Pride and Prejudice) break off their engagement. Fitzwilliam falls head over heels for Mary Crawford (Mansfield Park) but an incident with Lady Catherine De Bourgh puts on the brakes for this romance. Meanwhile, Kitty Bennet sets her hat at William Price (Mansfield Park) who is completely oblivious to her flirtations. Even the help of matchmaker Emma Knightley (Emma) can't help Kitty snag this guy. And poor Georgiana is in the middle of these dramas. While characters from Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park are centre stage, stars from the other works make cameo appearances.

This could have gone very badly but Brinton stays true to the characters of Austen. Kitty is as ditsy as ever, being separated from Lydia has no benefit. I wanted to strangle the girl, which is about right for Kitty. Georgiana is sweetness and kindness without making you want to gag. Mary Crawford doesn't come out unscathed from the exploits of Mansfield Park and has to reap what she's sown. I loved her in Old Friends. She still has the spunk she did (I liked her more than Fanny Price in the original novel) but at times her pride and stubbornness made me want to shake her. Fitzwilliam and William are perfect Austen heroes- always doing the right thing.

The writing is true to Austen. Sybil Brinton doesn't have the bite and wit that Jane did but she is a reasonable facsimile. The story is light with a few tense moments. There are plenty of plot twists and the story keeps on trucking to the expected happy ending. The tension between the romantic couples is perfect and there are even a few love triangles to spice everything up. All in all, it was a pleasant surprise.

Pemberley Shades written by D.A. Bonavia-Hunt in 1949 is the second Austen sequel. It has a different feel than Old Friends and is quite a bit darker. It's almost more Bronte than Austen.

Mr Darcy hires a new rector for Pemberley, a Stephen Acworth, who may or may not be who he says he is. He acts very strangely, especially around Elizabeth and Georgiana. Mr Darcy has his suspicions and starts digging around in this guy's past for an explanation.

Pemberley Shades is rather dramatic, in fact, I kept imagining Snidely Whiplash whenever Mr Acworth was on the scene! There is a scene in an attic with the obligatory flashes of lightning. Very gothic. I also felt claustrophobic reading it. I'm not sure if this was because of the fact that most of the novel happens only on the estate or maybe it was the time that it was written- just after the war. There are a lot of references of social appropriateness, especially in regards to women, that I found oppressive. I felt that it was hard to be Mrs Darcy.

However, I found the dialogue to be more Austen-like than Old Friends. Elizabeth had more of her teasing tone in Pemberley Shades. The addition of the old rector's spinster sisters was a nice touch. It gave Elizabeth someone to spar with. And any scene with Lady Catherine is never a boring one.

My thanks to Danielle at Sourcebooks for sending me these two. Sorry it took so long but and 370 pgs each- whew!- that was a lot of Austen sequel all at once!

Now for the fun part!!

Sourcebooks will give away a copy of Pemberly Shades and Old Friends and New Fancies to two of my readers. That's one book to 2 winners.

I'll randomly pick 2 winners from the comments below and send them to Danielle. Just answer this question:

What Austen character would you like to have their own sequel?

Good luck! And I'll end the contest on Monday the 27th (midnight Atlantic time) and post the winners on Tuesday.


Something in the inbox today:

I thought your readers might be interested to know that bestselling author Sara Gruen is doing a live online chat tomorrow to discuss Water for Elephants, Wednesday October 22 at 8pm ET at http://books.gather.com .

Details for the Free Live Online Chat with Sara Gruen on Gather.com:

Live online chat with Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants
Wednesday, October 22, 8:00pm - 9:00pm ET
WHERE: The Gather Books Essential
Gather, the social network with substance for the 30+ set, is hosting a live chat with the author of New York Times bestseller Water for Elephants. Sara Gruen will be answering questions submitted to the site and members are encouraged to ask Sara anything about her inspirational books or her career. Gather is the leading social network for adults, a site where members come to discuss what matters most to them; books, politics, parenting, news and other issues.

COST: Free, thanks to Gather!

Just thought I'd post this for any Gruen fans.

Wordless: Autumn

Happy Read-a-thon!

Good luck to all the Read-a-thon participants today. My husband has a golf thing so I'm the one keeping the kid busy. No uninterrupted reading for me. Right now she's pretty quiet though. She has a cold today. You just never know how things are going to be with kids. I'll be reading when I can though just to be in the spirit of the Read-a-thon with you all. Have fun!

A Jolly Good Fellow: Review and Blog Tour

A Jolly Good Fellow by Stephen V Masse is a different kind of suspense story. Duncan Wagner is a bumbling criminal. He's been contemplating kidnapping the son of his imagined enemy Win Booker. He gets a surprise when Gabriel Booker jumps into his car while hitchhiking. Duncan finds himself with everything he's been wanting and dreading at the same time.

Back at his apartment, Duncan keeps Gabriel a prisoner while he poses as a fake charity Santa Claus. Times are tough for Duncan but he makes a stylish Santa Claus and catches the eye of a pretty artist. Duncan returns home each night, half expecting Gabriel to be gone and the police on the hunt for him, but Gabriel keeps on surprising him.

Duncan isn't that bad of a guy. He is a very sympathetic character for a kidnapper. He honestly doesn't want to hurt the kid and he makes no effort not to get emotionally attached to him. He buys him things and makes him comfortable. He talks to Gabriel the way his parents should be talking to him. He really listens. Duncan's problem is a deeper emotional hurt that has been growing inside him for a long time. For some reason he believes a few thousand dollars will make the pain go away. He also has the naive belief that everything will turn out okay even though the reader can see the holes in his plan a mile away.

Gabriel is a strange character himself. He sees the kidnapping as a great adventure, something he can't wait to tell his friends about. He shows very little fear of Duncan even though he is a prisoner. As his time with Duncan goes on, it becomes apparent that things aren't so hot at home.

Duncan's story is told in an easy conversational style, like he's talking to you across the kitchen table. It makes it a nice quick read. The titles of the chapters are listed "Tape One," "Tape Two" which were a mystery to me until the end. It's an interesting device. A Jolly Good Fellow has a Christmasy feel complete with snow, so it's perfect for the upcoming holiday season. It has some heartwarming moments as well.

My thanks to Pump Up Your Book Tour and Stephen V Masse for the book and the oppurtunity to read A Jolly Good Fellow.

The Raven

I put this little decoration together last week. I think the crow is a nice touch. He kind of peeks out at you.

BTT: On the Shelf

Booking Through Thursday

Okay–here was an interesting article by Christopher Schoppa in the Washington Post.

Avid readers know all too well how easy it is to acquire books — it’s the letting go that’s the difficult part. … During the past 20 years, in which books have played a significant role in both my personal and professional lives, I’ve certainly had my fair share of them (and some might say several others’ shares) in my library. Many were read and saved for posterity, others eventually, but still reluctantly, sent back out into the world.

But there is also a category of titles that I’ve clung to for years, as they survived numerous purges, frequent library donations and countless changes of residence. I’ve yet to read them, but am absolutely certain I will. And should. When, I’m not sure, as I’m constantly distracted by the recent, just published and soon to be published works.

So, the question is his: “What tomes are waiting patiently on your shelves?

Having moved first into my in laws and then into my house house after selling our old house just a couple of years ago, I know this scenario all too well. I remember vividly the grumbling of my husband as he moved (twice) the incredibly heavy boxes. Did I try to cull them? A bit, but I found it hard to give up any, especially if I hadn't read them and knew it would be awhile before I did.

The books that I've been hanging onto for years range from paperbacks to hardcovers, classics to newer novels, and everything in between. Some of the more famous (for me) are the following:

*Memoirs of Cleopatra - I bought it at an antique store, believe it or not. I tried to read it once.

*Roots- I picked this up at a flea market? book sale? I don't remember. It has the cover missing and looks like it had a fight with an angry cat.

*Watership Down- Bought at a library book sale. It's hardcover and quite old.

*Dr Zhivago- Another library sale find. I loved the movie so I had to have it.

*Every Woman's Guide to Health- Why do I keep this?! It's so dated and if I need to know anything I have Google. This one's got to go.

If like me, you've looked at your shelves for this BTT, did you see anything that you realize now you do not need to hold onto?

Coraline: Review

In Coraline by Neil Gaiman, the title heroine has just moved into a new house with her parents. She's met the neighbours: a strange pair of elderly actresses and a crazy old man living in the attic. All are friendly enough, if only they can get her name right. Still, Coraline feels ignored and she's a curious girl. She soon discovers a locked door that opens to a brick wall. After talking to her mother about it, she learns that the door is blocked because it leads to the empty apartment next door. Or does it?

One day she discovers instead of a brick wall, the door opens into a dark hallway. On the other side is a house just like hers, but not quite. A woman who calls herself Coraline's other mother entices her to stay by kidnapping her real parents. Now Coraline must outsmart this creature or she and her parents will be trapped forever.

This is just the book I would have loved to pieces as a girl. Secret doors, hidden worlds, a gutsy heroine: right up my alley. Even now I gobbled Coraline up in just one afternoon. The story pulled me in right away and I didn't want to put it down. I loved how clever and brave Coraline was. She's an unique individual. And that cat! Loved the cat. He spoke just how I think a cat would speak if he could talk. (Having a black cat myself, he was my favorite character.)

The other mother is a mystery throughout. What kind of creature is she? I think she's a kind of a boogeyman, something that lives under the bed or in dark corners. Whatever children fear, she's it. Gaiman must have a childlike imagination. Coraline is full of imagery that would appeal to any imaginative young person. It's a fast paced quick read.

Highly Recommended

Other Reviews:
Nymeth @ Things Mean a Lot

Best Thing Since Sliced Bread!

I don't usually give free advertising to any company but I just was so pleased I had to blog about it.

Cleaning my ceramic stove top is a pain in the rear. You can't scrub it with anything other than the silicone cleaner stuff. I hate that stuff. It's a chemical and is messy. So when I saw an ad for the Vileda Glass Ceramic Scrunge, I starting looking for it. I just found it at Walmart last week and got to use it today. And I love it! It doesn't take much to scrub the goo of the stove top and no scratches.

Most of the time I'm skeptical about claims in ads but this time I was pleased.

Anyway Vileda in no way had anything to do with this post. I bought the Scrunge myself. I just wanted to share my new discovery. Vileda, you owe me a big box of Scrunges for this free advertising. ;)

Nice Women Don't Want the Vote

At least, that's what Nellie McClung was told in 1914. As I prepare to make my mark at the polls today, I'm reminding my fellow Canadian women of Nellie and women's suffrage. Although, at times it feels pointless to vote, this wasn't always our right. So I encourage you all to vote for whichever party you choose.

Here's the link to the Historica Minutes short for Nellie McClung.


So I went. It was quick and painless. I saw 2 young women voting while I was there, one for the first time. Great for them! And as Neil Young was singing on the way there,"Keep on rocking in the free world."

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

At least for us in Canada it is. I love turkey day. I hope you all have a good one!

An Interview With Kim Powers

Like I said in my review of Capote In Kansas, it's not often I get to ask the author questions about their book. Through TLC Book Tours, I had the opportunity to interview Kim Powers and, boy, did he give great answers!

Why did you decide to write about this friendship that had gone sour?

It’s a story I knew parts of—and had wondered about even more—for a long time. I always thought it was one of the great little known stories in American letters – the strange friendship of this little elfin child—immortalized as Dill Harris in Mockingbird—and this giant tomboy, who went from the gentility of Mockingbird to the blood and guts of In Cold Blood (as Truman’s assistant.) When I started working on the book, the two recent Capote movies weren’t yet in the works, so it was a really untapped story. I was surprised at how many fans of Mockingbird didn’t know that Harper had worked on In Cold Blood with Truman.

I dove right into it after I turned my first book, a memoir called The History of Swimming, into my agent. It was that Southern Baptist work ethic I had grown up with – no idle hands! I actually started some jottings on both Capote in Kansas and something else (that has now become my third book.) Since my first book was a very personal memoir, I didn’t want to dive back into autobiographical material, so I thought I would start doodling on both books and see which one started gathering more steam. My first impulse was the title—at that point, Truman in Kansas, so you’d think of Harry S. Truman and the elections. (My editor suggested changing it to Capote.) But strangely, along the way, I found that a lot of my own life experience started pushing its way into a book about two people whom I knew only from research. A writer obviously uses what he/she knows—and soon the story of Truman and Harper and how these two once best friends had become so splintered followed the outline of my fractured relationship with my own twin brother, which The History of Swimming had been about. So, on the surface, it’s the story of Truman and Harper, but between the lines – and maybe discernible only to me—it’s the story of those wacky Powers twins!

Was it challenging to write a fictional account of two real -and quite famous- people, especially as one of them is still living? Did this ever make you nervous?

Yes and no—to both questions. I wanted to get them “right,” hew to the basic outlines of what we knew about them, but since they were essentially creations of my own imagination, I didn’t feel I had to be a slave to research. I mean, I wanted to get their “characters” right, but the plot was my own invention. A lot has been written about Capote, and by him, and there are many seemingly contradictory parts to his personality. Almost anything goes. I wanted to get the over the top, drunken quality , but also the broken inner spirit. Obviously, much less has been written about Harper. I felt as if I were filling in the gaps between the few factual things we knew about her. Most of my writing about her is in third person, except for two letters in 1st person, that she writes to her older brother – who just happens to be dead! It’s a way for all her buried thoughts to come spilling out, and the letters turned out to be two of my favorite pieces of writing in the book.

As to the nervous/fear question—once I was in to the idea of the book, I was either in or out. I had to do it and commit to it, or not at all. I tried a sort of roman a clef approach at one point, changing their names, but it fell flat. I think for something artistic to work, it needs to be a little risky, a little dangerous, and this was definitely something risky. At the end of the day, though--the end of the book?--I didn’t feel as if I had written anything libelous or disrespectful about either main character. I felt comfortable with my decision, because I did it out of such fascination with Truman and Harper.

Since Capote is deceased and Lee unapproachable, how did you go about researching their friendship? Did you use their own writing to reconstruct it?

There are two monumental bios of Capote—Gerald Clarke’s Capote and George Plimpton’s oral biography Truman Capote, which is a compilation of interviews about him. I relied heavily on both of those, which include several references to Harper Lee and especially, Truman’s experience in Kansas, writing In Cold Blood. There are quite a few other books about him – by his lover Jack Dunphy (who, with Harper Lee, shares the In Cold Blood dedication), his aunt Marie Rudisill (made famous as “The Fruitcake Lady” from her appearances on Leno), and bits and pieces elsewhere. When I started working on the book, Charles Shields’ biography Mockingbird, about Harper Lee, hadn’t yet been published, so I scavenged any newspaper or magazine article I could find about her – quite a few in the years right after the publication of Mockingbird, and then a sort of “Whatever Happened to Harper Lee?” article every few years, by writers who were convinced they were going to get the holy grail of an interview with her. The Historical Society in Monroeville, AL, where they both grew up, had published a book or two, and then I went to really obscure sources – about true crime, the Clutters, even the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. I collected auction catalogues that had sold Truman’s belongings, anything I could find. Then I absorbed it all and tried to turn it into flesh and blood characters in my head.

And – as you suggest, most importantly – I used their own writings: how Harper writes about Dill Harris in Mockingbird, how Truman wrote the character of Ida in his first published novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms. That’s his portrait of Harper, transformed into fiction.

Did you learn anything about Capote or Lee that really surprised you?

Before I started writing this, I had no clue that Harper Lee had even attempted another book, in the years after Mockingbird. There are varying reports about how far along she got; I even found a mention of a third book she was working on. Whether these were fabrications, or she read the material and thought it wasn’t up to Mockingbird, I don’t know. Why she didn’t publish more—and any publishing house would have published her shopping list after the success of Mockingbird—really is one of the greatest literary mysteries of all time. And I don’t mean that in a flippant, uninformed way. A writer writes, especially one as good as Harper Lee. You just do; it gets into your blood. I’ve read she writes incredible, almost short story like letters to her friends.

As for Truman, I don’t think I realized how much of a pariah he became late in life. Nearly all of his friends had turned on him; I saw him (often drunk and stumbling) on Johnny Carson so many times in the 70s and early 80s; I guess I just assumed he was still a man about town.

If you could ask either of them one question, what would it be?

Great question – no one’s ever asked me that before! I might ask Truman if he really wrote more to his great unfinished novel, Answered Prayers. Three or chapters were ultimately published, from the many he talked about – and supposedly even read aloud to people. If they don’t exist, I’d ask him why he kept up the pretense of saying he had written so much more.

I think I’d ask Harper the question everyone wants answered – but I’d insist on her answering it, in a concrete way: Why did you never write again? Surely someone with the skill with language and imagination could come up with another book. Did she just judge what else she had written not up to Mockingbird? She’s often said – and relatives and friends have said for her – that after such a great first act, what do you do for an encore. Is that the real reason, or is there something more specific? I try to get after that in my own book, not in an intrusive, outsider way, but really the stream of consciousness musings in her own head.

Of all of Capote's writing, what would you recommend to someone who has never read his work?

One of my favorite pieces of writing in the world is his short story “A Christmas Memory,” about his childhood being raised by some old-maid cousins, and his old cousin Sook, who would make fruitcakes every Christmas. It’s lyrical and heartbreaking, and was made into a magnificent film with Geraldine Page. On the more Gothic end of the spectrum is a novella called “Hand-Carved Coffins,” that I refer to in Capote in Kansas. It’s supposedly a “true-crime” account of a series of gruesome killings in the Midwest – by decapitation, fire, snake bite, a story he was supposedly told in the wake of In Cold Blood. It’s been pretty much discredited as “true” by now, but is an amazing look into Truman’s quite twisted little mind!

Thank you so much Kim Powers for a great interview. It helped to answer a lot of questions I had about Capote In Kansas. Good luck with the book!

Visit Kim Powers HERE.

Booking Through Thursday: Questions

Booking Through Thursday

I’ve seen this series of questions floating around the ‘net the last few days, and thought it looked like a good one for us!

What was the last book you bought?

The last book I bought? Well, actually my husband picked it up for me in Alberta. I couldn't find it in bookstores here and I need it for my online bookclub: The Painted Veil.

Name a book you have read MORE than once

Just one? Well, I've read all the Austens (except for Mansfield Park) more than once, Jane Eyre many times. I also made a habit of reading Wuthering Heights at Christmastime for many years.

Has a book ever fundamentally changed the way you see life? If yes, what was it?

Hmm... Fundamentally, no. I did see economics different after reading Atlas Shrugged. I also had less tolerance for whining.

How do you choose a book? eg. by cover design and summary, recommendations or reviews

All of the above.

Do you prefer Fiction or Non-Fiction?

Fiction. Non-fiction doesn't grab me the way a good story does.

What’s more important in a novel - beautiful writing or a gripping plot?

Both, but beautiful writing has staying power. I will forget the plot of a novel but remember the writing long afterward.

Most loved/memorable character (character/book)

Jane Eyre. She's feisty.

Which book or books can be found on your nightstand at the moment?

Pemberley Shades by D.A. Bonavia-Hunt. It's a 'lightly Gothic tale of Mr & Mrs Darcy.' It's early fanfiction of Pride and Prejudice, written in 1949.

What was the last book you’ve read, and when was it?

I finished My Cousin Rachel on Sunday. I reviewed it here.

Have you ever given up on a book half way in?

Unfortunately yes. I remember giving up on Memoirs of Cleopatra just after Caesar dies. I just couldn't get into it. That was years ago and I still mean to go back to it. At the moment, I'm about ready to give up on The Grapes of Wrath. I just can't connect with it. It's great writing and all but I'm not attached to any of the characters. I need a pep talk.

Capote in Kansas: A Review

Capote in Kansas is a different kind of book for a plethora of reasons. Kim Powers daringly uses two famous personalities and explores their shattered friendship.

During the last days of Capote's life, Powers imagines a final correspondence between Truman Capote and Harper (Nelle) Lee. Capote's mind is pickled by drugs and alcohol. He makes a frantic phone call to his former best friend. He's been seeing ghosts, the ghosts of the Clutters. Capote immortalized their brutal deaths in his book In Cold Blood. He believes they've come to haunt him for his part in their unwanted fame.

For Lee, this phone call brings back unpleasant memories and causes her to brood over their lost friendship. Years ago, she helped Capote research In Cold Blood, while trying to get The Book (To Kill a Mockingbird) published. Never one to share the spotlight, Capote grew resentful of the public's fascination with Lee once The Book starts getting attention. He whispers a rumour which ends a lifelong friendship.

While subtitled as 'A Ghost Story', the ghosts (and it's questionable if they really are ghosts) are a very small part of the book. It's more a ponderous tale of what really happened between Capote and Lee. At first, I had a bit of trouble reviewing Capote in Kansas. I felt rather squeamish about Lee as a character since she is such an icon and still living. However, after interviewing Kim Powers (and how often can you do that?!!), I understand what he was trying to accomplish. What I know about Capote could fill a thimble, but from what I understand now, he was a lot like the character in the book. He seems to have loved shocking people and pushing their buttons. It just goes to show that behind all the pretty words is a real person with real frailties.

If you've ever wondered about Capote and Lee, this is the book for you.

My thanks to TLC Book Tours for sending me a copy of Capote in Kansas and letting me be a part of this book tour.

Kim Powers’ TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Wednesday, Oct. 1st: Bookgirl’s Nightstand

Friday, Oct. 3rd: Book Room Reviews

Monday, Oct. 6th: A Guy’s Moleskin Notebook

Wednesday, Oct. 8th: Tripping Toward Lucidity

Friday, Oct. 10th: book-a-rama

Monday, Oct. 13th: Ready When You Are, C.B.

Wednesday, Oct. 15th: Bibliolatry

Friday, Oct. 17th: Books and Movies

Monday, Oct. 20th: Booking Mama

Wednesday, Oct. 22nd: Diary of an Eccentric

Thursday, Oct. 23rd: Maw Books

Friday, Oct. 24th: Book Club Classics

Monday, Oct. 27th: Books and Cooks

Tuesday, Oct. 28th: Devourer of Books

Wednesday, Oct. 29th: Literate Housewife

Please visit my blog tomorrow. I'll have my very interesting interview with Kim Powers. I think you'll enjoy it.

My Cousin Rachel

For the RIP III Challenge, I decided to read more of Daphne duMaurier. My library was a little light on duMaurier but I did find My Cousin Rachel: not to be confused with My Cousin Vinnie, totally different vibe.

In My Cousin Rachel, Philip Ashley is laden with guilt and doubt as he remembers his mysterious cousin Rachel. Philip was an orphan from a very early age and grew up under the care of his cousin Ambrose. Ambrose is for lack of a better word a misogynist, to the point that even the household servants are all men. As Philip becomes a man, he also has these tendencies plus a fierce loyalty to his cousin who he looks upon with an almost unnatural admiration. Because of his health, Ambrose spends a winter in Italy where he meets a distant relative-another cousin, a widow named Rachel. Rachel's charm melts the heart of Ambrose who leaves Philip behind in England for a few years of wedded bliss, or so it seems. Philip begins to receive frantic letters from Ambrose. Is he suffering from a fatal illness or is his wife murdering him?

Ambrose succumbs to whatever his affliction was and his widow comes to England to pay her respects to the foster son of her husband. Despite his hatred of the woman he thinks caused the death of his cousin, Philip falls for Rachel herself until one night when everything changes. Soon, Philip will find himself in his cousin's place and he wonders, is Rachel innocent or guilty?

At first Philip is hard to like. He is anti-social and so determined to hate Rachel that I felt sorry for her. As the story progresses, it becomes apparent that Philip is insecure and inexperienced; Rachel is anything but. At first Rachel is all innocence, but DuMaurier is brilliant at placing doubt into not only the mind of Philip but in the reader's as well. A bit of gossip, a change in attitude. It's easy to see how Philip is confused by her. He becomes rather pathetic, ready to give her everything. Is he misreading her or is she deliberately deceiving him? I'm still thinking about it now and there is a case for both. We never see into the mind of Rachel so we can never know. She might be a fantastic con artist or a just a strong female.

Philip is no angel either. He does something so unforgivable that if not for that action, I'd believe Rachel was guilty. She has cause to arm herself, sort of speak, against him. DuMaurier constantly swings the pendulum of doubt back and forth throughout the novel.

Though not the classic gothic tale Rebecca is, My Cousin Rachel is a well written piece of suspense. I'm glad I read it for the challenge.

Weekly Geeks #19 (and #20)

Yeah, I kept putting off Weekly Geeks this week. I kept thinking I'd get to it but of course never did. However, Dewey gave all us slackers another chance and making our lists, so here it is.

I've only read a few recently published books and many of those were paperback versions of the hardcovers of last year. I did not include those paperbacks in this list.

*The Good Liar Laura Caldwell (Jan 2008)
*The Winter Rose Jennifer Donnelly (Jan 2008)
*50 Ways To Hex Your Lover Linda Wisdom (March 2008)
*Marie-Therese, Child of Terror Susan Nagel (March 2008)
*The Other David Guterson (June 2008)
*The Amnesiac Sam Taylor (June 2008)
*Loyalists and Layabouts Stephen Kimber (May 2008)
*Farworld J Scott Savage (Sept 2008)
*The Gargoyle Andrew Davidson (Aug 2008)
*Capote in Kansas Kim Powers (Oct 2008)

Of all these, the two that impressed me most were

*The Gargoyle
*Marie-Therese, Child of Terror

Please visit Dewey's Website for a chance to win 11 books from Hachette. Also visit Weekly Geeks #19 and tell Dewey I told you about the Top Books Project. Thanks! ;)

BTT: Meh...

Booking Through Thursday:

What, in your opinion, is the best book that you haven’t liked? Mind you, I don’t mean your most-hated book–oh, no. I mean the most accomplished, skilled, well-written, impressive book that you just simply didn’t like.

Like, for movies–I can acknowledge that Citizen Kane is a tour de force and is all sorts of wonderful, cinematically speaking, but . . . I just don’t like it. I find it impressive and quite an accomplishment, but it’s not my cup of tea.

So . . . what book (or books) is your Citizen Kane?

That's an easy one for me: Love In the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Here's what I said about it last year:

I enjoyed the beginning. The characters, the atmosphere, everything was so well written, but Florentino turns into such a dirty old pervert that I was quite disgusted with him. I got tired of reading about all his humping around. He's the male Moll Flanders. I never really warmed up to Fermina, although I did love her stubbornness in a time where women were second class citizens.

I can't pinpoint exactly why I feel the way I do. It's totally personal and in no way reflects the beautiful writing. And you all will probably love it too. I'm the weirdo.

You can read more of my review here.

I remember Oprah had it as her book club pick at the time. She went on and on about how it was a great love story and all I could think was "Really?" I didn't find it romantic- stalkerish, pathetic- yes, but romantic, no. I thought I might change my mind over time but I still feel like I just don't get the appeal.

So, how about you?

Odds and Ends

Wow! It's October already. It's hard to believe. Since it's a new month, it's time to take care of some old business.
Kim gave me the Proximidade Award. What is that you ask?

Here's the scoop:

To translate the gift from Portuguese to English, it means: "This blog invests and believes, the proximity" [meaning, that blogging makes us 'close' -being close through proxy]. They all are charmed with the blogs, where in the majority of its aims are to show the marvels and to do friendship; there are persons who are not interested when we give them a prize, and then they help to cut these bows; do we want that they are cut, or that they propagate? Then let’s try to give more attention to them! So with this prize we must deliver it to 8 bloggers that in turn must make the same thing and put this text.

Very interesting! Thanks Kim. Here are 8 bloggers from the B's who fit that description:

-The Book Mine Set
-The Book Lady's Blog
-Book Nut
-Book Zombie
-Bookfoolery and Babble
-Bookgirl's Nightstand
-Books On the Brain
-Bookworms and Tea Lovers

There are my picks! Give them out freely if you please, but no pressure. Congrats!

Teddy also gave me a I Love Your Blog Award while she's off enjoying the film festival. I'll point you all in the direction of this post from me. I love your blog too Teddy!

What else?

*Jen@Devourer of Books is celebrating her 100th review with a giveaway.

* Dewey is encouraging everyone to sign up for the Read-a-thon scheduled for Oct 18. I must do that. If you sign up please tell Dewey I sent you :)

I feel really behind lately. So hopefully this post catches me up a bit.