Essex County by Jeff Lemire: Review

I don't know if you remember but Essex County by Jeff Lemire was a contender in the 2011 Canada Reads contest. It was up against some other great books but unfortunately it fell out of the running the first day. There was a big dust up and much poo-pooing because it was a graphic novel.

Of all the other contenders, Essex County's most similar opponent was probably Unless by Carol Shields. Both deal with family issues; some members of a family fail to communicate with another leading to misunderstandings and regret. There are secrets. In Unless, Norah's secret is an unusual one, where in Essex the secrets are heartbreaking but rather ordinary.

Essex County conveys the Big Sad Canadian Novel feeling as much as any of the usual suspects only with pictures. Is there anything sadder than a little boy thinking about his dead mother? Or lonelier? There is a sense of 'this is a big country and we are very small' through drawings of empty fields and empty houses. Every panel expresses emotion, even when that panel lacks a human figure.

The plot, if there is one, revolves around three characters living in Essex county: an orphaned boy, an elderly hockey player and a travelling nurse. All three stories are connected though it isn't obvious at first. All characters have heavy burdens. And there is much hockey.

One of the ways I know a book is good is when I'm still thinking about it days if not weeks later. I've been doing that with Essex County. It felt very real to me. These people's stories could be your neighbours' stories. There was only one thing that bugged me (AND THIS MIGHT BE A BIT SPOILERY): the girlfriend. I didn't see any reason for her to do it with the brother. I didn't feel that there was anything between them besides hanging out a lot together. This bugged me. Just because you have a brother doesn't mean your girl will have sex with him if you leave them alone together for 5 minutes. What was her problem? Maybe it's because I'm a woman that it bugged me (and offended me a little too). I needed some more explanation there. And really, that was not cool of the brother especially since they were supposed to be so close.

I most definitely recommend Essex County for its quintessential Canadian qualities.

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: Back to Normal

Good morning! We now return to regularly scheduled programming. Not that I have anything scheduled. Because of last week, I'm behind in both blogging and reading. I did finish Essex County by Jeff Lemire before I got involved in Armchair BEA. I'll be writing up my thoughts on that one soon.

As for reading, I'm picking away at The Wild Rose by Jennifer Donnelly, a NetGalley ebook. It's as big as The Winter Rose (BIG) so it's taking me some time. I've started both Evelina (for the readalong) and Alaska (for book club).

In my real life, Armchair BEA fell during a very busy week. I had concerts, plays, and parties this week. All kids' stuff in case you're thinking I'm some kind of socialite. Actually the month of June going to be a crazy one.

Also in June is Audio Book Week hosted by Jen at Devourer of Books. I have a couple of reviews for that and can't wait to see what Jen comes up with.

One last mention of Armchair BEA. I want to thank my fellow organizers. They worked so hard to make it the success it was. It was a huge event this year and I suspect it will be even bigger next year. It was amazing to see so many people signing up and the sponsors rolling in. Thank you for letting me be a part of it. A BIG thanks to all who participated and all who stopped by Chrisbookarama to comment. I hope you will keep visiting.

Have a great week!

Blogging: Chris Says Relax

memes - Business Cat: Hold My Calls

It's just not Friday on Chrisbookarama without a lolcat.

Today is the last day of scheduled topics for Armchair BEA and it's all about blogging (not books). I did a lot of blog related stuff this week and I'm all blogged out. I think next week will be much quieter on the blog. (The weekend might involve some alcoholic beverages. Suggestions welcome.)

I thought about what to talk about and while I could have written some long post about something technical, I just don't have it in me. Then I read Trisha's post about balancing blogging with life and took her advice. All week I've yammered on in various places about just 'relaxing and having fun' on your blog. That's what I need to do myself. Don't get me wrong, it's been a blast but now is the time to curl up with a good book. Can't be a book blogger if you don't read books, right?

So my advice is to take time for yourself. Grab a book. Get a pedicure. Take a walk. Or hold all your calls and watch the fish tank screensaver. Know your limitations and you'll avoid burning out.
funny pictures of cats with captions
Naps are encouraged

If you want a bit more advice from me, here's a post from 2 years ago about writing reviews. It's just how I do it, nothing set in stone.

Thanks for dropping by. Hope you all had fun this week!

Get to Know Your Book Bloggers: Volunteer for Events

Okay, so I'm writing a post on nurturing book blogging relationships in between commenting on Armchair BEA posts. It's been a crazy week of posting on my blog, the Armchair BEA blog, on Twitter, reading emails, reading participants posts, etc, etc. What does that have to do with the topic? Why am I rambling? Oh yes, that's right: volunteer for book blogging events.

Hospital visiting committee sets out to bring Passover food packages, 1952
Not the actual Armchair BEA Team
So much goes on behind the scenes. It's unbelievable. I had no idea Armchair BEA would be so big. There are so many moving parts and people who have to keep those parts oiled. Working with those people can be a wonderful experience, especially when they are excited about what they're doing and want the event to succeed. You will get to know those people better because you are all working toward one goal.

So how can you get involved? I honestly can't remember how I signed on for ArmchairBEA but I think it was because I follow a couple of the organizers on Twitter. Someone mentioned working on this year's event and I said, "hey, I'll help." A few emails later and here we are. I would suggest following @ArmchairBea or @readathon (for Dewey's Readathon) or @BBAW on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feeds of the event blogs or subscribe to newsletters of these and other book blogger events (I can't think of all of them!). When the organizers are looking for volunteers, they will use these to get the word out. Don't be shy! You don't need experience, just enthusiasm.

What do you get from volunteering for events? Lots. Like I wrote earlier, you'll learn more about the people you work with and form new friendships but also you'll meet new people along the way. By commenting on new-to-me bloggers, I've gained new followers and made new connections. I've been challenged in new ways too. I've conducted interviews for the Armchair BEA blog- I don't usually interview people. And last night I did something I've never, ever done before. I participated on a panel. I was nervous and I am refusing to listen to myself for fear I sound like an idiot but I did it! You'll discover your strengths and learn what you need to work on. It's been a lot of work but it's also been a lot of fun. Plus, if you're in a blogging rut, helping run an event gives you something completely different to focus on for awhile.

If you want to have fun, challenge yourself and meet new people, volunteer for events!

Day 3: Interview with Pam from Bookalicious - YA, Paranormal and Historical Fiction Book ReviewsToday is Armchair BEA's day to post the interviews we did with other book bloggers. Pam posts her thoughts on books and book related stuff over at Bookalicious. You might know her. She was the on the spot BEA vlogger last Armchair BEA. This year she is an organizer, she made the terrific blog template. I had the chance to ask her a few questions and here's what she had to say.

What do you think is the key to a successful book blog?

First I would ask how does one measure success? To me success is three years later still have a blast at what I do in my spare time. I love reading and blogging and Bookalicious is still something that is just for me. I do it when I want. I don’t have reading or reviewing schedules, a list of posts to write, topics for discussion posts written down. I blog ad hock and I love it.

Have you ever posted something on Bookalicious and regretted it later?

No. I vet everything that MIGHT possibly be controversial through my husband and then I still wait a day.

What is your biggest blogging pet peeve?

It’s the drama over who gets what and when. I wish we could all just hang out and share and not be a big blob of green drama.

Do you read YA exclusively or do you read adult fiction too?

I read A LOT of adult fiction that I buy for myself and usually don’t review due to the fact that I niched myself early on and that is working for me. Recently I have enjoyed Room, In the Time of Butterflies, The Last Werewolf, and The Life of Pi as adult reads.

What do you like most about YA novels?

The low word count, the great fast moving plot, and the nostalgia that the problem sets bring. We didn’t have super edgy YA when I was growing up. I mostly read Anne Rice.

What is your favorite genre?

Speculative Fiction and Science Fiction.

What is the best book you've read this year?

This year I have read so many good books and there are so many fall books coming that look amazing. I guess if I had to choose up until now I would say How I Stole Johnny Depp’s Alien Girlfriend by Gary Ghislian.

If you could live the life of any character, whose life would you choose?

Meggie from Inkheart. She has a fierce love of books and the ability to move inside the stories and interact with beloved characters.

Last year you went to the Real Live BEA, what was the best part of the experience? (I loved your video updates, btw.)

The absolute best part of BEA was meeting so many cool people. Having that many bookish people in the same place surrounded by books is a true experience.

What part of Armchair BEA are you looking forward to the most?

All of it honestly. I am having such a good time seeing everyone else post and seeing what they come up with!

Thanks Pam!

I like what she had to say about being a successful blogger and totally agree. You have to have a good time doing it or what's the point really. 

If you'd like to see the answers to my interview, check out Lisa Bergren's blog today.

Armchair BEA 2011: Day Two

What 2011 books have been your favorites? What are you looking to forward to most? 

For myself, 2011 has been an interesting year, I try to read a variety of old and new books. Most of the time I have no idea what is coming out! I guess I don't have my finger on the pulse of the publishing world. Just print it and I'll read it.

I did read a couple of good 2011 releases though. The Paris Wife by Paula McClain (audiobook), a fictional look at Hemingway's first wife Hadley and the years they spent in Paris. A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley (audiobook) is the third Flavia DeLuce mystery. I haven't put up the reviews for either because I'm waiting for Audiobook Week. Susan Juby's Home to Woefield was a definite favorite.  The Sherlockian came out in Decemeber but I read it this year so close enough.

I'm really looking forward to Bossypants by Tina Fey and The Map of Time by Felix J Palma. I've heard good things about Tina's book. I'm dying to read it. The Map of Time sounds intriguing, H.G. Wells investigates an incident of supposed time travel. Sounds completely plausible. heh.

While perusing the Book Expo America Showcase I found this two that I might be interested in, Norah by Cynthia G Neale and Daughters of Isis by June White. NetGalley is featuring Spellbound, I love the cover. From the Book@BEA (Edelweiss) site, Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny looks interesting, as does juvenile title The Pirate's Daughter by Eve Bunting and non-fiction Courage and Croissants by the Saxe-Roux's.

So how about you? What are you looking forward to reading?

Image: healingdream /

Welcome to my Chair!

Welcome new friends and old to Chrisbookarama Does Armchair BEA! Who need New York when we have each other, right? So what is Armchair BEA? Have you heard of Book Expo America (or BEA)? Every year the bookish people gather together in the Big Apple to talk about books. Many book bloggers take the trek to New York but obviously we all can't go. Some of us live too far away, it's too expensive or we have obligations that keep us close to home. While those lucky few are kicking it with the likes of Mo Williems and R.L. Stine (or maybe just glimpsing their big toe), other book bloggers will be filling your feed readers with posts related to the BEA but not from BEA. They are the Armchair BEA participants.

If you're new to Chrisbookarama, allow me to introduce myself. I'm a thirty-something year old book loving Mom of a very dramatic 8 year old girl. I live in Nova Scotia, Canada where I've lived all my life and can't imagine living anywhere else. I'm an eclectic reader with interests in all kinds of topics. At anytime you'll find reviews of literature, classics, mysteries, non-fiction, humour, young adult books on my blog. I've been writing about books on this blog for 4+ years now. I still love it and hope to continue doing this for a long time. If you'd like to learn more about me click About Chrisbookarama above the blog banner and if you like what you see subscribe to the blog. This year I had the opportunity to help organize Armchair BEA. What a great group of people to work with. They had such excellent ideas. We want everyone to have a great time and hope you will!

Today, Monday the 23rd, is Victoria Day here in Canada. My husband and child are off today so I'll be enjoying Armchair BEA while playing outside and barbecuing. While I'm jealous of all the bookish fun my friends attending BEA are having, I don't envy the crowds and confusion. I work best under peaceful conditions. I'm looking forward to visiting other Armchair BEA participants and hope they visit me too. I can't wait to read the guest posts. And when things get too hectic, I can relax with a drink in my favorite chair.

Please go ahead and say hello in the comments!

Edit: I'm going to visit everyone who comments on this post, so I may not reply to your comment here. Talk to you later!

Hard Times by Charles Dickens: Review

Given the title Hard Times, I didn't expect it to be a rollicking good time and sure enough this was quite a somber tale, with one or two exceptions.

In Charles Dickens' Hard Times, the industrial town of Coketown is divided into the people who run things and the people who toil away in the mills. Mr Gradgrind runs the town school where he teaches only "facts" and the children are discouraged from using their imagination. Then along comes Sissy who lives with travelling circus folk; she just doesn't get it. Gradgrind with the help of his his boss decide she's a bad influence on his daughter, Louisa, and head to the circus to kick her out of school. When they get there, they discover she's been abandoned by her Dad. Gradgrind gets the bright idea to use the girl as an example of how well his system works by adopting her. Using Facts he plans on turning her into a star pupil.

Back at home, Gradgrind's children live a life devoid of colour, even 'wondering' is forbidden. The mother does nothing but complain about them while the father believes whole heartedly in his flawless system.  In the end, the system forces Louisa into a loveless marriage and her brother Tom to become a ne'er-do-well.

Among the Toilers is Stephen Blackpool, who's an honourable man but can't get a break. He married his sweetheart only to have her turn into a drunk who ruined him. Now he pines away for Rachael, a woman he works with at the mill. But wait, things are about to get worse! After refusing to join the union, he's snubbed by his friends and has to leave town. When a sum of money goes missing from the bank, Stephen is the first person suspected by the town Big Wig, Gradgrind's boss and Lousia's husband, Mr Bounderby. Did he do it? And if not, who did?

If ever there was a book Dickens dedicated to his cynicism, Hard Times is it. He doesn't have a good thing to say about schoolteachers, or industrialists, or union leaders. The only people he's kind to are some of the poor people (the millers who turned their backs on Stephen are the exception) and they get kicked around by life anyway. Still, in true Dickens style 'the bad guys' get their comeuppance if only in round about ways.

The characters in Hard Times aren't quite as outlandish as in some of his other novels, but you still have the usual suspects: the innocent flower (Sissy), the Bad Guys (Bounderby and Harthouse), the silly woman (Mrs Sparsit) and the comic relief (Mr Sleary). Probably some of the most entertaining and eye rolling scenes involve Mr Bounderby. He's an 'in my day, we walked to school uphill, both ways' guy only he never went to school but grew up 'in the gutter.' He gives everyone a hard time. How he gets his just desserts is poetic justice. I was a little confused and disappointed in Harthouse's character. He's the least developed of any of them, a wolf in sheep's clothing. I get the feeling Dickens threw him in just to stir up trouble.

Hard Times is a much shorter novel than some of his others (Bleak House, Little Dorrit), which I think I prefer. The shorter story keeps him reined in somewhat. He can't go off on tangents or produce a cast of thousands to fill the pages. With only a few characters to concentrate on, he had to keep the story tighter. From what I've read, critics either loved it or hated it. Some felt he was too hard on the wealthy (though isn't he always), while others thought it a work of art. I quite enjoyed it.

Let's ring the bell for this round of Austen Versus Dickens! *Ding! Ding!*

As a side note, my dog has no appreciation for Dickens. She couldn't leave the book alone and was after it every time I put it down. In the end, Dickens suffered a major trauma. I'm not sure how this will affect the outcome of the duel. Sorry, Chuck.

Discover My Reading Roots

************Every Tuesday Carina from Reading Through Life interviews a book blogger about his or her reading roots. This week it was my turn! Please go check it out.**************

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (Audiobook): Review

Oh, Henry, Henry, Henry. What is it about our tempestuous relationship? Is it your run-on sentences? Your vague references? Or is it me? Whatever it is, we have a definite Mars/Venus thing going on. 

The premise of the The Turn of the Screw, a gothic tale of a two children haunted by the ghosts of the previous employees, or so it seems, and the governess who has to deal with the situation, is quite appealing to me. The book starts as a story-within-a-story. 

At Christmas gathering some folks are telling ghost stories when an old man tells them he has a doozy and it's written up and everything. So he reads it to his listeners and here's where the tale is turned over to the governess of the kids. It's her first job. The kids' uncle wants the them to be taken care of but wants nothing to do with it himself. He doesn't want to hear from her again once she takes her post. She thinks that's weird but agrees anyway. She meets little Flora, who is as angelic as anyone can be and waits for Miles to come home from school for the summer. Then she gets an ominous letter: Miles is not welcome back to school. Shock! What will she do? Apparently, her solution is to neither ask the school nor the boy why. This seemed like an obvious thing to ask but hey, what do I know? So everyone pretends nothing has happened until the end of summer when two creepy characters start hanging around the kids. What's even creepier is that only the governess sees them.

So what is going on here? Ghosts? Squatters? Or is the governess wacky? Maybe she partakes of spirits of another kind. What got me was how confident she was that she wasn't crazy and that these beings really are ghosts. It's just a given that that's what they are. Even the housekeeper Mrs Grose doesn't question the lady's sanity, not even when the governess sees a ghost standing in front of them and she doesn't. Then there are the kids: are they being deliberately devious by acting like they see nothing or is it more evidence that the governess is insane? The reader is the only one who must determine if she is a reliable narrator or not.

All I can figure is there is some Britishy social class issue happening. Mrs Grose doesn't question her better because she is her better. If she claims to have seen ghosts, then that's what they are. The governess's reluctance to confront Miles might be because not only is he her superior in class but also a male (a high handed little creep too). Girls don't question boys. Instead, they pussy-foot around the obvious and the funny thing is the kids are winning. The governess is outsmarted because the kids keep pushing her to the point where she needs to ask, "So do you guys talk to ghosts or what?" but she never does.

I'm glad I listened the the audio version. I can only imagine the number of commas used. I still had to listen carefully though. He takes such a round about way to make a point and half the time I don't think he makes one. However, there were some noticeable problems with listening instead of reading. My ear caught a few annoying things, like how Mrs Grose parrots everything the governess says in the form of a question. Sort of if you said, "I'm going outside now" and I said, "You're going outside now?" Yeah, like that. Then there's literally the issue of the governess's 'literally' problem. She says 'literally' a lot, like Chris from Parks & Recreation only she uses it correctly.

So, The Turn of the Screw wasn't terrible but it had some frustrating moments for me, especially the abrupt ending. What was that about? I'm still not friends with Henry but we could handle a nodding acquaintance.

About the Audio: Simon Vance is the voice of the old storyteller and Vanessa Benjamin is the governess. I enjoyed them both.

Sort of recommended.

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: Blogging Stuff

Hello Peeples! How is your Sunday going? It is overcast here again. At least it isn't raining. Seems like all I do now is talk about the weather. That's because it is sooooo depressing. It puts everyone in a foul mood and in danger of getting rickets. While we're used to a lot of rain here in the north east, this is beyond ridiculous.

Earlier this week Blogger suffered a massive tantrum and refused to work, it even lost people's recent posts. It looks like I got everything back but honestly I haven't been writing a lot lately. I feel like I lost a bit of my blogging mojo. Even reading is a battle for me. I can't help but think that it has a lot to do with the atmosphere I'm living in. It's gray and blah, so I am gray and blah. Please Mr Sun, shine down on us again!

During these times, I find I want to listen to audiobooks. I finished The Paris Wife as an audiobook this week and started The Turn of the Screw. Yes, Henry James, my old nemesis! Can you believe it? But I thought "what the hell, I don't have to finish it if I don't want to." So far it is actually going well and I suspect that I could manage James if he was being read to me.

Speaking of audiobooks, Smart Bitches wrote a post on ACX, a company that allows authors to create audio versions of their work. This is an interesting idea. On the one hand, it creates new (or old) titles for readers who could previously only buy the text versions. Very helpful for people with a disability. On the other, it allows authors to narrate their own books. Um, not everyone is a great reader and a reader can make or break an audiobook. What do you think?

Audible is only offering the service for "professionally published", not self-published, authors so far. This isn't quite the do-it-yourself, no-rules world of Kindle publishing yet. I've received several review requests for self-published (some call themselves 'indie') books this past week despite the fact I have written in my About Chrisbookarama page that I do not review them. Authors, please, read the About Me pages of book bloggers. We have them for a reason. It will save everyone from frustration if you do. There are blogs who do review self-published books; this isn't one of them.

Finally, I finished Hard Times for the Classic Circuit. My review will go up on Wednesday. Tune in to see what I thought. At the library, I picked up Essex County, a Canada Reads contender from February. A trip to the used bookstore gave me 2 L.M. Montgomery titles: The Story Girl and Magic for Marigold.

And because it seems appropriate, here's the very moody Here Comes the Rain Again by the Eurythmics. Who hasn't wandered around the shore in their nightgown while some dude with a camera followed them?

Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce: Review

Kelly from The Written World and I read Sisters Red together as a buddy read last month. We had a good ole chin wag about the book and "the controversy" (see below). Sisters Red is a retelling of the Red Riding Hood tale by Jackson Pearce. While the story is a modern take with sisters battling wolves, Pearce stayed true to some of the aspects of the story.
Here's the first part of our conversation. You can find the rest on The Written World.
Chris: Overall I thought it was a well done modern retelling. I did have a few issues but I’ll get into those as we go. I like how she tried to touch all the elements of the original story: Grandmother, the wolf coming to the house, the red cape, the woodsman, even the axe. Interesting how she chose 2 red riding hoods.

Kelly: I agree! I also enjoyed how she worked in other fairy tale elements, like the use of seven. It is also not your typical werewolf story. By making it a retelling and tweaking the wolf idea, I found she created an original story to a degree. Some of the elements were similar to very popular trends in young adult fantasy at the moment, but she did try and create a fresh story. Well, a fresh retelling.

Chris: I thought I’d throw that link to the Book Smugglers in here so we all know what we’re referring to when we talk about the ‘controversy’: The Book Smugglers and Bitch Media.

I did agree with a few things in their review but it didn’t bother me enough to not allow me to enjoy it. I did find Scarlett tiresome at times. She was a bit of a nag. I also didn’t like how she perceived other girls as “stupid” or “ignorant.” That’s hardly their fault. I had to wonder at why it was just 3 young people battling the wolves. I could have understood it better if they had been part of a secret society or something along that line.

Kelly: I have to admit that I had a few issues with the overall book. I wanted to love it, but a few things gave me pause. Scarlett has had a rough life, she is angry, and she takes her anger out on others. So, when she says the comments about other girls, I just assumed it was because she was jealous. I mean, she is scarred and they are young, pretty, and guys flock to them. That will never happen to her. When she was very young her life took an entirely different path. I don’t look at that as it being said the victims bring it on themselves. I look at that as Scarlett is pissed off with her life. That being said, Silas, the male character, agreed with her and said that he was glad that Scarlett and Rosie weren’t like that. See, THAT bothered me. It is one thing for Scarlett to say things because you can accept that she is a bit angry, but I wish that they had just left it for her.

Chris: I agree, it was totally within Scarlett’s character to think that way, being scarred and angry. But Silas is such an easy going guy, it seem very out of character for him to say that. It bothered me too. I also didn’t understand why Scarlett would be so gung-ho to protect those girls that she didn’t respect. Why try so hard? Was it just revenge?

Maybe Pearce was trying to incorporate the part of the mythology about female sexuality (that red cape!) into the story by making the victims pretty and flirty but I think she could have went about it from a different angle. I never fully understood why it was just pretty young girls that were victims, seems like the defenceless homeless would have made easy pickings.

Kelly: I know. I didn’t get the Silas thing at all. He was so easy-going about most things, so it was strange she had him thinking so negatively about that one topic. That’s another thing that I thought about. If Scarlett hates these girls so much, why worry about protecting them? I guess that even though she was angry and jealous, there was still a heart in there worrying about other people becoming like her. It’s really hard to say based on the available facts.

I understood that the young were targets because of their smell and colourful appearance. Those are the methods that Scarlett and Rosie use to attract their attention after all. And, I suppose they liked a bit of a challenge. They liked luring the girls in and getting a bit of trust before attacking and the homeless was too easy? It doesn’t make it right, but it sort of gives some understanding to the whys.

What did you think of the portrayal of the wolves themselves?

Chris: I didn’t really see them as “wolfy” more monsterish. (I know those aren’t real words spellcheck but that’s what I think.) I couldn’t get a grasp of their numbers. Sometimes I thought there were 100s but in the final battle it was about a dozen (?). I liked how Pearce turned the story around to the girls saving the guy. That, I thought, was a modernizing I could get behind. I did think she sacrificed realism for the elements of the story. Like the red capes, that was a bit bizarre- maybe if they had brilliant red hair instead. And who says ‘woodsman’ anymore?

Rebecca: Movie

I've wanted to watch Rebecca, Hitchcock's adaptation of du Maurier's classic book, for ages. Finding a copy was almost as difficult as convincing Lady Gaga to wear sensible shoes. Library? Nope. Blockbuster? Negative. Netflix? I don't think so, Mister. Then Tasha informed me that you can stream the whole thing on YouTube. Can you believe it? It's like the ruby slippers: I had the ability the whole time but didn't know it. I immediately set up a playlist for it.

It was worth the wait; I was not disappointed. Although Hitchcock and Selznick butted heads during filming, I think Selznick was right to keep as close to the book as possible (the exception being Rebecca's death). As a long time fan of the book, I can't imagine the story any other way. It's perfect just the way it is. Laurence Olivier plays Maxim de Winter who falls in love and marries with a meek Joan Fontaine, the unnamed heroine. After the wedding on the Riviera, Maxim brings his bride home to Manderley, the estate he lived on before the death of his first wife, Rebecca. Joan's character spends most of the film simultaneously being patted on the head and yelled at by Maxim until she gets some balls towards the end of the film. The greatest character of the film is Rebecca, though she is never seen, her presence is everywhere. The new Mrs de Winter feels that she can never fill the designer shoes of Rebecca and fails to see the truth behind people's fascination with her.

Mrs Danvers. Lock your doors.
Mrs de Winter is to blame for her own insecurities but she's not helped by an uncommunicative Maxim and an obsessed Mrs Danvers, Manderley's housekeeper. I admit I had a different picture in my mind for Mrs Danvers but Judith Anderson played it perfectly. She's a tall imposing woman with a proud face. I could see anyone being intimidated by her. She's totally creepy as Mrs D. 

I loved how deliciously gothic the film was with the foggy landscape and dark Manderley with its huge rooms. And there are some awesome hats worn in the movie. This is a must see!

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: Word to the Mother

'Mother and Child'

Happy Mother's Day to all you Mothers!

Ever had those weeks that feel like two? This was one of those. It rained so much I thought I must build an ark. Can't complain though because one Mother's Day a couple of years ago it snowed! I'm not sure what I'm going to do today, other than demand to be waited on hand-and-foot. Perhaps some reading is in order.

Earlier this week, I reviewed Daphne du Maurier's lost short story The Doll and a book on the folklore of seals, The People of the Sea. I finished listening to A Red Herring Without Mustard, which I'm saving to review during Audiobook Week. Then I started The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. There are some doozy lines in it like, "The accordion and the whores and the retching," he said. "That's our music." It pretty much sums up their first days in Paris.

Two new books arrived at the door this week: Death of a Lesser Man by Thomas Rendell Curran and Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran. I think I won that last one, it's signed to me, but for the life of me I can't remember whose contest it was. Sorry about that. But thanks Michelle! Can't wait to read it.

Yesterday I went to a big garage sale and of course I found books. I picked up 3 for $5: These Old Shades and The Corinthian by Georgette Heyer and Second Chance by Jane Green. I've never read Jane Green before so I have no idea what that will be like. Those were really the only ones I had any interest in, most tables had bestsellers from a few years ago.

Also yesterday the sun was out and it was a gorgeous spring day. I spent most of the day outside gardening. I got a few cold weather veggies in the ground: radishes, turnip, swiss chard. I hope it's a good season despite the rain.

How was your weekend?

The People of the Sea by David Thomson: Review

I'm not really sure why I picked up The People of the Sea by David Thomson from the library a few weeks ago. I just happened to be looking through the folklore section for The Once Upon a Time Challenge when it caught my eye.

The People of the Sea are the thoughts and experiences of David Thomson as he travelled around the northern parts of the British Isles collecting stories about seals. David became obsessed with the folklore of seals when he was just a boy as he listened to gossip about a woman believed to have flippers. As a young man, he visited small coastal villages in Scotland and Ireland asking the locals for their memories and old tales. David doesn't need much to get the locals talking. All he has to do is mention he's looking for seals and people invite him to their house for tea and a chat. The stories they tell are heartbreaking or fantastical but each storyteller believes what he is saying. The stories are true no matter how unbelievable. I loved how they tried to put a date to the story when pressed: "That was a hundred years before that..."

David's book isn't so much about those stories, though they are an important part of it, but of the people and places he visits. Instead of just instruments for the tales, the people telling them are fascinating on their own. Like Mairi, a girl David meets twice, once as a child and then again as a restless young woman. Or Michael whose wife has died and left him with several small children to take care of by himself. He translates their personalities, even their voices, to the page. I want to know how Michael made out or if Mairi ever left her island. David also manages to show the divide between the old ways and the new. The old people criticize the younger ones' education or their modern ideas. For them, the old ways are the only ways. He does this all without inserting himself into the stories. He's just an observer.

It took me ages to read this rather short book. It's not a rip-roaring story. David takes his time, writing his thoughts on the landscape or even the weather. I tried to figure out the timeline but it's nearly impossible. It could be months or years that have passed between his visits. Very little changes. You must have patience if you read this book.

If you are interested in the origins of the selkie myths and the people who created them, you might enjoy The People of the Sea. Recommended.

Short Story Review: The Doll

Ever since I heard the news that a long lost Daphne du Maurier story was being re-published, I knew I had to read it as soon as possible. I was so excited to see The Doll in The Guardian this weekend! I read it last night and, as always, du Maurier amazes me.

The Doll starts off as a paper written by a doctor who found a mysterious diary washed up on the shore. Some of the book is illegible and the author unknown. Inside the sodden pages is a story of obsession and sexual perversity. The author is a man who becomes obsessed with Rebecca*, a beautiful but evasive violinist. He is captivated by her playing but when he is with her becomes increasingly frustrated with her aloof manner. One night in a fit of unexpected passion, she reveals to him 'Julio', a life-sized mechanical doll. He's completely freaked out by it:
His face was the most evil thing I have ever seen. It was ashen pale in colour, and the mouth was a crimson gash, sensual and depraved. The nose was thin, with curved nostrils, and the eyes were cruel, gleaming and narrow, and curiously still. They seemed to stare right through one – the eyes of a hawk. The hair was sleek and dark, brushed right back from the white forehead.
Um yeah, that sounds like one creepy doll. She doesn't explain to him why she has it and why she is so attached to the thing. He goes away with a bad case of the heebie-jeebies. Still, he can't shake his obsession for her and breaks into her apartment only to find her in a compromising position.

You got to wonder what was in the mind of Daphne. How weird is this story?! A woman incapable of loving a human being chooses to love a cold, sneering doll. It's so messed up! Yet, it's brilliant. Du Maurier lets the reader know exactly what is going on between Julio and Rebecca without going into the gory details. I can see how this would have made folks back in the day uncomfortable. But why is Rebecca the way she is? What has happened to her to make her loathe men? And why the doll? Daphne leaves the reader with more questions than answers. Then there is the diarist. What does he see in Rebecca that is so attractive? Is it her talent or her independence that drives him wild?

I enjoyed the literary device of the ruined diary. It allows her to be brief and mysterious. With the gaps in the narrative, the reader has to figure a few things out for themselves. Some of it is a bit over the top dramatic but she makes up for it with her brilliant writing.

Why don't you read it yourself and tell me what you think?

*Another Rebecca!

Photo: Stock.xchng

Election Day in Canada

There are times when all the leaders look like idiots and I feel like it will be the same old crap no matter who is Prime Minister but then I see photos like this one. I remember that women fought and still fight around the world for the right to vote. So then I vote.