Monthly Archive May, 2011

Mondays are murder
Bookmark and Share

There has been enough frivolity around here lately.  I almost wish that I had read this week’s pick alongside Jan Merete Weiss’ These Dark Things.  There are parallels in tone that I think would complement each other well.  Then again, we have a nice segue from last week’s delightful wordplay as well.

I first read Don DeLillo’s The Names back during my undergraduate days, and I have re-read it periodically since then.  I had a couple of professors in the English department who were very much mentors of mine.  They were DeLillo devotees.  Now that I think about it, they were also mystery devotees.  Granted, most of what they read was of the noir and hard-boiled variety (Hammett, Chandler, anything about the dark underbelly of postwar US cities).  But their interest in mysteries led me around as an adult to literary murder.  So, thank you, Dennis and Nina!

Back to DeLillo.

cover image

James Axton is an American adrift.  He lives in Athens, traveling here and there throughout the Middle East gathering data in his role as a risk analyst.  His estranged wife and their son are living on Kouros, a Greek island many hours distant. Kathryn is a devoted amateur on an archaeological dig, and Tap is writing a novel.

Nothing much happens.  James travels for work.  He dines with his fellow expatriates and their associates.  He visits his family.  He talks late into the night over wine in candlelight, buffeted by warm, honey-scented winds.  (Or donkey-scented, exhaust-scented, market-scented – so much depends on the where.)  The Namesat times reads like a eulogy to every philosophically-minded adult’s dreams of what adulthood could have been like.  (This is part of the reason I love it so much – Delillo wrote my dreams, and he did it in 1982.)

But where, you might be asking, is the murder?  The murder is there.  Faded far into the backdrop of the story.  It appears that a mysterious group, a cult, a shadowy collection of filthy people who turned up on Kouros only to depart again, is murdering people at locations scattered throughout the Middle East.  There is not so much solving to be done here as there is understanding.  There is a why buried in the shifting sands and crumbling tablets.

Perhaps the most unsettling thing about this book is it’s timeliness.  Despite the fact that DeLillo wrote The Names in 1982, his observations remain prescient.  Air-travel, risk analysis, the relationship of the US to the rest of the world.  It is a surprising reminder of just how much the post-9/11 world really does resemble the pre-9/11 world.  Give James a Blackberry, have Tap write his novel on a netbook, watch Kathryn record find details on a tablet - it could all be happening now.

Talking Book
Bookmark and Share

So here I am again, This time I have chosen a talking book entitled  ”The Collectors” by David Baldacci.  There are three readers and I will comment on whether or not one reader is better than three. Of course one would expect the story to be a page turner since it is written by David Baldacci.

A Long Vacation
Bookmark and Share

My long vacation is over and I am back to blabber about talking books.  The second one I checked out was ” A Painted  House by John Grisham”.  Have no fear listening to someone read to you.  David Lansbury has a great voice.  The book is set in set in rural Arkansas in 1952 and is quite interesting.

Think of all you can do while listening to a great book.

Daphne

What’ll it be? – Home to Woefield/The Woefield Poultry Collective
Bookmark and Share

When I heard that Canadian Susan Juby had written her first adult fiction book, I was super-excited.  I’ve read and enjoyed her YA titles so I immediately added my name to the hold list for Home To Woefield

Prudence Burns is an idealistic twentysomething New Yorker, full of back-to-the-land ideas but lacking experience.  When she inherits Woefield Farm, she does her best to implement her ideas.  Unfortunately, the farm is in danger of foreclosure and Woefield Farm is 30 acres of scrub land, dilapidated buildings and a lone half-sheared sheep.  With her banjo playing seventy something foreman, a farmhand that has been in seclusion for the past few years due to a traumatic incident with his high school drama teacher and 11 year-old Sara who needs a home for her prize-winning chickens, can Prudence find a way to save her farm?

Thank goodness that Prudence has energy and enthusiasm, because her farming skills need a little work.  I also suspect that anyone else would have taken one look at Woefield farm and turned tailed, never to been seen again.  The story is told in alternative chapters from these four protagonists.  Once I got started, I didn’t want to put the book down.  Even though I just finished it, I’m not sure I can pinpoint a favourite character.  Ms. Juby has created four very distinct voices and I liked how we would see the some of the same incidents from their different perspectives.  They are very much a set of characters that now feel like family, with whom I’d love to visit again.

Down-to-Read with Daniela: Skim by Mariko Tamaki
Bookmark and Share

skimrough photo

Illustrator:
Jillian Tamaki

Age Group:
Adult

Genre:
Canadian Literature, Realistic Fiction, GLBTQ, Graphic Novel, Humourous, Young Adult

Summary:
Kimberly Keiko Cameron, aka Skim, is just your average “not-slim, would be Wiccan goth” who attends a private school for girls. In this glimpse of life story, 16-year-old Skim finds herself at an interesting crossroads of self discovery.

When her classmate Katie Matthews is dumped by her boyfriend John, who later commits suicide, the gossip train starts. Soon rumours suggest that John was gay and suffering from a broken heart.

Alongside this plot, Skim finds herself falling in love. She’s not sure how to deal with all these new feelings, and things are about to get a whole lot more complicated.

sketch233 793172 photo

My Thoughts:
A fast paced, whimsically illustrated graphic novel by the Tamaki cousins. Confronting many themes ranging from suicide, depression, and love to crushes, cliques and being gay or not, teens and adults alike will relate to Skim as she navigates the treacherous waters of high school.

Borrow Skim from your local Vaughan library today!

Share: Who was your crush when you were 16?

Mondays are murder
Bookmark and Share

Who else likes funny?  I like funny.  I like wordplay.  And when one can find murder with the funny, that is just an lip-smacking blend of impeccable perfectionness.

I think I might have gotten a little carried away.  Back to the task at hand.

Donna Andrews knows funny.  And Donna Andrews knows murder.  Donna Andrews writes the Meg Langslow mystery series.  Meg (Langslow) Waterston is usually a blacksmith.  Her husband Michael is a drama professor at their local university.  Meg is not a blacksmith now because she is due at any moment with the couple’s inaugural offspring - twins no less.  So Meg spends a lot of time traveling back and forth between the bed and the bathroom. 

This journey is complicated by the fact that the university lacks heat in the dead of winter thanks to a busted boiler.  Why does this complicate Meg’s journey in her own home, you ask?  Well, because she and her husband are housing half the drama department as a result.  Not to mention the fact that her basement is full of computer science interns from her brother’s video game company, all of whom are also students at the university.

Are you exhausted just thinking about it?  Throw in a semi-senile playwright from Spain, two of the most unpopular university administrators in history, a frustrated university donor, a potentially-poisoned dog and a dead body in the library and see how you feel then!

cover image

I think that summary of Stork Raving Mad should be enough to let you know whether or not you are going to enjoy it.  I hardly need mention that Meg and Michael spend the whole book referring to the twins as whatever famous duo pops to mind in the moment (and I don’t think there is one repeat in all 309 pages).  I don’t need to talk about how Meg essentially solves the mystery while walking back and forth between the bedroom and the bathroom.  (It’s not her fault people keep “confessing” things to her!)  Perhaps the greatest tragedy of the book is that Meg never does manage to get a nap.

Anyway, enjoy!  I sure did!

The Maze Runner
Bookmark and Share

You read the Hunger Games trilogy and loved it…so what are you going to read next in the dystopian YA (Young Adult) genre? 

 

There are lots and lots of great choices, too many to mention here.  This genre is doing very well commercially, and many similar books have been published; most are entertaining but forgettable.  A few authors stand out as leaders of the pack, so to speak. 

 

One of these authors is James Dashner, author of The Maze Runner series.   This is the first book in a series; the second book “The Scorch Trials” is also available, and the third book “The Death Cure” will be released in October 2011. 

 

maze-runner-picture1scorch-trials-picture1

 

I consider this series to be gender neutral.  There is only a hint of romance so teen boys will not be deterred from reading this action-packed series.

 

The book opens with Thomas being dropped from an Elevator shaft into an enclosed area inhabited by a bunch of teenage boys.  He has no prior memories.  Outside of the area, is a huge maze where a select group of boys “run” during the day to try to figure a way out.  They must return to the enclosure every night or risk being killed by vicious machines/beasts called “Grievers”. 

 

The author never gives away too many secrets, so the reader is always wondering “what is going on!”   But of course, the curiosity about these secrets is what propels the reader to keep reading until the end. 

 

I, for one, will be among the first on the waitlist when the next book comes out next October.

What’ll it be? – The Patron Saint of Butterflies
Bookmark and Share

I’ve been reading a lot recently so rather then mention just one title, I thought I would briefly mention three YA titles that I really enjoyed.  Two are realistic fiction - The Patron Saint Of Butterfliesby Cecilia Galante and The Piper’s Sonby Melina Marchetta, and the third is a fantasy - The Amaranth Enchantment by Julie Berry. 

The Patron Saint Of Butterflies is about two best friends, Agnes and Honey.  They’ve grown up together in the Mount Blessing commune but recently have drifted apart.  Agnes has become very devout to her faith while Honey is often at odds with the commune leaders.  When Agnes’ grandmother stops in for a surprise visit, she is horrified to learn the commune’s secret and decides that the only thing she can do to keep them safe is to take them away from all that they have known.  Can they survive outside the commune where normal modern life is so different?  Will their flight tear them further apart and destroy their friendship forever?

The Piper’s Son brings us back to the group of friends in the author’s book Saving Francesca.  Five years have passed and this time, its Tom McKee who needs saving.  His uncle’s death in a subway bombing has devastated his family and caused it to implode.  Tom is trying to find oblivion to escape his pain and has turn away from his friends, family and his music.  When his roommates kick him out after a night he can’t even remember, he moves in with his pregnant aunt and slowly starts to find a way to move forward.

We all know the story about a girl who went to a ball to find a prince.  In the Amaranth Enchantment, Lucinda’s parents went to a ball when she was five and never came back.  Orphaned, she was taken in by her goldsmith uncle-by-marriage and has worked for 10 years as her stepaunt’s unpaid servant.  One morning, the store is visited by two visitors who change Lucinda’s life forever.  One visitor is the Witch of Amaranth who wants Lucinda’s uncle to reset a gem and the other is the Prince, who came looking for a special present for his betrothed who is arriving in the city the next day for their first meeting.

Down-to-Read with Daniela: That’s why we don’t eat animals by Ruby Roth
Bookmark and Share

 photo

Full Title:
That’s we don’t eat animals: A book about vegans, vegetarians, and all living things

Age Group:
Children

Genre:
Non-Fiction, Animal Welfare, Endangered Animals, Vegetarianism/Veganism, Picture Book

Summary:
Ruby Roth both writes and illustrates this compelling narrative contrasting the natural instincts of animals with the manufactured, industrial lives they are forced to endure.

With a sensitivity toward the subject matter and the tender ages of her young audience, Roth manages to convey a big message with minimal text. Her unique and modern illustrations evoke compassion while conveying the emotions of these sensitive creatures. In simple, straightforward language, Roth succeeds in transmitting a message that can be very complicated to explain to a young child.

My Thoughts:
This book is central to the issues of our times: preservation of the environment, concern for the welfare of animals, and the realization of our consumer power.

I wish I had read this kind of book when I was an 11-year-old child making the choice to become vegetarian. It would have validated my decision and provided me with the confidence and knowledge to defend my choice. This is a meaningful book to teach children about the vegetarian/vegan lifestyle.

Borrow That’s why we don’t eat animals from your local Vaughan library today!

Share: Are you vegetarian/vegan and why?
Have you recently considered becoming a vegetarian/vegan?

Baby Brainiac: Starting Your Child Off Right
Bookmark and Share

Theme: Bullying

 

Book: photo cover imageOne, by Kathryn Otoshi

A number/color book reminding us that it just takes one to make everyone count.

 

Song: Cool to be Kind

My name is ___, and I’m not a fool
I know that manners are a way to be cool
It doesn’t matter if I’m home or at school
Manners can be really cool

 

I’ve seen the kids who don’t know how to behave
Nobody likes them when they don’t act their age
Nobody wants to be a friend anyway
To a silly kid who doesn’t behave

 

I don’t want to be a bully with an attitude
Whose mouth is like a trashcan lid
I don’t want to be a person who is mean and rude
I just want to be a cool kind kid
I just want to be a cool kind kid

 

So come along with me, and you will find
It’s so cool to be kind
It’s so cool to b e kind

 

Activity: Caring Chain to Stop Bullying

 

Tip of the Week: Read aloud signs, labels, and menus to your child and where there are only a few words, point to them as you read them. A child who is more comfortable with printed words will feel more comfortable with books and will know that printed words are useful.