Monday, June 30, 2008

Canadian Book Challenge Number 2

OK I have decided that I will do the second Canadian challenge. Which is to read 13 Canadian books in the next 12 months. That should be manageable.

Now last time we were supposed to read one book from every province and territory. But I didn't do that. I did what John calls the Free Spirit challenge - reading any Canadian book I felt like.

Here are the themes for this year.

1. From Sea To Sea To Sea- Books from each province and territory

2. The Prize Pack- Books that have won awards (Gillers, Governor General, Stephen Leacock, etc)

3. New Canadians- Many of our best authors weren't born here (Carol Shields, Michael Ondaatje, etc). Why not celebrate with 13 books they've added to the great Canadian library?

4. The Lesser Knowns- Want to introduce people to authors who haven't gotten the recognition they deserve? This approach would aim to pick 13 books published by small firms or even self-published.

5. Missed Books- Check out the list of books read for the 1st edition of this Challenge. Try to pick 13 books that no one read the first time around.

6. The Double Double- Pick 13 books that also fit the criteria for another book Challenge that you've signed up for.

7. The McClung- How about 13 Canadian books written by women?

8. The Individuals- Many of our authors have been quite prolific, having written 13 or more books. Want to devote the challenge entirely to Lucy Maud Montgomery? Margaret Atwood? Robert Munsch? It's 13 books by a single author.

9. The Provincial/Territorial- Host a sub-challenge if you like! 13 Albertan books, for example, would still fit the mandate for the 2nd Canadian Book Challenge.

10. The Genres- 13 poetry books? 13 picture books? Non-fiction? Sci-fi? If you can find 13 books and define a genre, you can do this approach.

11. Publishers Choice- Pick 13 books all by a single publisher.

12. Titles- 13 books with Canada (or some version of) in the title (ex. Eve Wiseman's Kanada, Will Ferguson's Why I Hate Canadians, or Douglas Coupland's Souvenir of Canada)

13. The Free Spirit- Just pick 13 Canadian books and have fun!

Something tells me I will be doing the Free Spirit Challenge - again.

Here are my first three books - as listed last year and never read.

Unknown Shore: The Lost History of England's Arctic Colony
By Robert Ruby.
Baffin Island, Nunavut

Causeway: A Passage from Innocence
By Linden MacIntyre
Nova Scotia

Emperor of the North
By James Raffan
North Western Territories

I also have the following books which I must read as well.
Yellowknife by Stephen Zipp
The Lost Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill

The Last Oracle Book Review

The Last Oracle
By James Rollins
Harper Collins June 24, 2008

Published just one week ago, and I was lucky enough to get a review copy. Has it already been a year since Rollin's last book was released? According to this blog, yes it has. Time sure goes by fast.

My first thought when I looked at the picture on the cover of this new novel was That is the Hagia Sophia. It sure looks like the Hagia Sophia.

But it is NOT the Hagia Sophia...

It is actually the Taj Mahal.

Now if you remember, at the end of the Judas Strain novel, one of the Sigma Force team members (Monk Kokkalis) died that mission. OR did he? There was a small hook to keep you in suspense until the next book. Well this is the next book, and no Monk did not die. He was rescued by the Russians and subjected to experimentation.

That is the basis of the mission in this new novel. Experientation on certain children by the Russians. These children were born with a certain genetic sequence. The experimentation enhanced their talents and gave them unique abilities. The downside to these abilities is that they could only be active if the child was autistic. One of the scientists involved in this research, discovered the experiments that were going on and escaped in order to alert the west to the barbaric activities of the Russians. He was killed outside one of the Smithsonian Museums and died in Gray's arms. He had a ancient coin in his hand. This ancint coin was Greek and showed the Temple of the Oracles in Delphi.

Gray and the Sigma force goes on the hunt to find the scientist's killer and in doing so they find and free the children, and discover their old teammate Monk, whom they had given up for dead. Along the way Sigma discover that the descendents of the Oracles of Delphi are still alive and living today. They are the Gypsies, The Romani and they originated from India - where the Taj Mahal is located.

This is the cover of the UK edition of this novel - for those readers in UK.

As always I enjoyed this book. I like anything that James Rollins writes. I read it in three days. It always takes me longer over the weekend, because of weekend activities. i also took my son to see the new Movie WALL-E on Saturday.

If you want to know the link between autism, creativity and being a genius, then you have to read this book. If you know who Dr Temple Grandin is, then you are well on your way.
Temple Grandin

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Lost Lands Forgotten Stories - Book Review

Lost Lands Forgotten Stories
By Alexandra Pratt
Harper Collins Canada 2002

In 1902 Leonidas Hubbard attempted a trek across Labrador going north from North West River (at the head of Lake Melville - where Happy Valley & Goose Bay SAC are currently located) all the way to Ungava Bay in Quebec. Leonidas lost his life because he and his team took the wrong river route. In 1905, Leonidas's widow, Mina Hubbard, decided to finish the trek her husband had planned. She took the correct river route and made it all the way to Ungava Bay.

In 1993. the National Geographic Magazine published an article about the Hubbards trips.

In 2000 Alexandra Pratt read this article and vowed to follow Mina's route for herself. She spent a year making arrangements, gathering sponsors and organizing the finance. Alex started the trip in July 2001.

However there were a considerable number of changes in Labrador between 1905 and 2001. The biggest change were the large numbers of dams built on the rivers to create hydro-electricity. This caused the rivers to shrink and now they hold only a fraction of their original volumes.

Another major change was the governments role in "forcing" the native Innu people of Labrador, away from the land and into the settlements where they must live in houses and follow the white man's laws. The Innu have been living off the land for thousands of years. They have also NEVER signed any treaty donating (or giving) their land to the Canadian government.

Alex Pratt started out on her voyage but she and her Innu guide, forgot to factor in the effect of the dams on the rivers. While they managed to make it a fair way along the route, she was unable to complete it, and they had to be pulled out.

This book is the story of Leonidas's trip from which he never returned, and also Mina's trip where she triumphed. It is also the story of Alexandra Pratt and her trip. It is also the story of the Innu native people today, and how the Canadian government has forced an unwanted and drastic change in their way of life.

I really enjoyed this book. Its not big (258 pages), and you learn a lot about the Native people and the history of Labrador - a wild and untamed provice in eastern Canada. I know I would love to visit Labrador some day.

More information about Mina Hubbard.
Buy this book at Amazon

This is my last book for the Canadian Book challenge. I am done. phew!!

The sad thing is that when I started this challenge, I originally mentioned 3 Canadian books I wanted to read. I have not read any of them. Not sure if I want to do the new Canadian challenge. but I will try and read them this year anyway.

Our Mutual Friend - 50 Greatest Books

Our Mutual Friend By Charles Dickens.

Who has not heard of Charles Dickens?
He wrote many well known novels - A Christmas Carol, Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, David Copperfield, Bleak House, A Tale of Two Cities and The Old Curiousity Shop.

But who amongst you has ever heard of, or read, Our Mutual Friend?
Definitely NOT me.

"Strike the keynote!" Dickens liked to tell himself in the terse working notes for his novels in progress. The opening sentence of Our Mutual Friend strikes that keynote dark and hard: "In these times of ours, though concerning the exact year there is no need to be precise, a boat of dirty and disreputable appearance, with two figures in it, floated on the Thames, between Southwark bridge which is of iron, and London Bridge which is of stone, as an autumn evening was closing in." Dickens instructed his artist, Marcus Stone, to accompany the scene with a keynote illustration, titled Bird of Prey: The man, one observes, has caught something - but what is it precisely? A corpse, it transpires. "I will make you fishers of men," our saviour said. He did not mean it in the sense that Gaffer Hexam fishes for his fellow kind (suicides, in the main) out of that filthy river, whose "big stinks" in summer would bring the whole city to a standstill.

Our Mutual Friend is haunted by death and God's grim curse: "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." Dickens himself, during its composition, was lucky to escape being killed (as scores of his fellow passengers were) in the terrible Staplehurst train accident, on June 9. 1865. He, like Hexam in his boat, had a young girl in attendance on that fateful trip - his mistress, Ellen ("Nellie") Ternan. It is plausibly surmised the couple had recently buried their love child (bear the fact in mind reading the death of orphan Johnny in Our Mutual Friend). Plausible too that the angelic Lizzie Hexam may be an idealized portrait of Nellie.


Better read this article fast or you will have to pay to read it.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Life, Inteviews and Summer

Apologies for not posting this week, but I have been busy. I have 3 days to finish my last Canadian book for the Canadian Book Challenge, and I dont think I'm going to complete my own Shakespeare Challenge - oh well. Maybe next year I can do it again.

Anyway I have been busy with job interviews and the end of school. I have had 2 interviews this week. One of them is calling me back for a second interview next week, so that's good. I hope I do get this job. It will be a start in a whole new career. But lets not jinx things too much. I still have to do the second interview.

Anyway the point of this post is that because I have been busy studying for interviews, I havent had too much time to read. I started the last Canadian book, and then I received another new book in the mail from one of my favourite authors. The new book was just officially released a few days ago. So I want to read that as well. Decisions, decisions.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Spinster and the Prophet - Book Review

The Spinster and the Prophet
By A.B. McKillop
McClelland & Stewart 2002

The question is - Who wrote the book An Outline of History? Was it H.G. Wells or was it Florence Deeks?

Florence Deeks was a spinster living in Toronto during and after the First World War. she never married and worked as a teacher, a journalist and as a historian for various employers. She was born in 1864 in Morrisburg, Ontario.

Florence Deeks spent much of the war years in the reading room of the Toronto Central Library on College street, where she researched and wrote her feminist history of the world.

Florence claims she wrote the history, only she called it The Web. She also says she sent the manuscript to McMillan Publishers in Toronto in 1919. Where, she says it sat on someone's desk for a year. She also claims that it was probably sent to London, England briefly where Wells saw it, copied it and then published his own book in 1920. He called it An Outline of History.

In 1925 Florence Deeks sued H.G. Wells for stealing her manuscript. The Literary world was stunned.

This book is the story of that trial. This book is over 450 pages long, and somewhat slow in places, but otherwise very very interesting.

McKillop shows all the details of the man who was H.G. Wells. The man who was married but continued to have numerous love affairs. And assumed that it was his right to be a philanderer. He was also a very selfish, and arrogant fellow. (My opinion only. No wonder I don't like his books.)

But getting back to the trial. Going on court transcripts and MacMillan papers still available in various Toronto and London institutions, McKillop has written a detailed record of the court trial and the subsequent appeals. This includes details of how Florence was questioned, and why she was questioned in a particular way.
Florence lost the case, but appealed. She then lost the appeal and re-appealed to the Supreme Court in London. She travelled to london, and lost that appeal as well. The judges simply ignored evidence of copying, and said that since there was no proof the Deeks manuscript ever went to England, she had no case. Wells was determined to have her pay costs or be declared bankrupt. Florence did not stop there. No - she appealed to the Privy Council and then when she lost that appeal, she appealed to the King.

When she finally lost faith in the British justice system, Florence finally went back to Canada in 1933. Nothing more is known of her, other than she died in June 1959.

During this entire series of events, Florence was dealing with men, and it is my belief that she was denied justice just because she was a woman, and therefore was not "capable" of doing anything more than raising babies and keeping house. This was the 1920s and 1930s. That is what women were expected to do. I am so glad that I was not born in the 1920's.

I have a copy of the Well's Outline of History. Published by doubleday in NYC in 1949. This edition was heavily revised and edited to add the WW2 information. Wells died in 1946. The first four chapters of the 1949 edition are listed as follows.
-How it came to be written,
-The method of writing the Outline,
-Of certain Omission and Additions, and
-Of Two other Outlines that have arisen out of the Outline of History to Complete General Exposition of the Contemporary World.

Of course there is no mention of the Web or of Florence Deeks. But it is curious that these chapters have to be included. WHY would anyone need to state an excuse for having written this book? Probably because of the trial that took place some 17 years earlier in Canada.

I read this for the Canadian Challenge.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

1434 Book Review

1434 The Year A Magnificent Chinese Fleet sailed to Italy and ignited the Renaissance.
By Gavin Menzies Harper Collins June 2008

The Renaissance was heralded through the recovery by Italian scholars of Greek and Roman classical literature. When the movement began, the civilization of Greece and Rome had long been exerting a partial influence, not only upon Italy, but on other parts of mediaeval Europe as well. Source

What if this Greek and Roman orgin was a lie? What if the Renaissance was totally fueld by something or someone else? what if Leonardo da Vinci was NOT the scientist and inventer everyone says he was?

How will you react? With Shock? With Horror?
Will you call me a Heretic? Will you call me a Liar?

What if Leonardo never actually dreamt up and created these inventions? Yes, he drew them, noone denies that, but they were not his original ideas. He was just redrawing them, and making better drawings of someone elses inventions. Whose inventions was he redrawing, you ask? Why, the Chinese of course.

About a month ago, I read and reviewed a book written by Paul Chiasson, in which he claimed that the Chinese had discovered America before Columbus. Island of the Seven Cities. Chiasson mentioned another book - 1421 - written by Gavin Menzies, which hypothesised that the Chinese sent out huge junks (boats) in the early 1400s to map the world. Along the way they discovered the Americas.

Gavin Menzies has now written another book called 1434 - due to be published this month (June 2008). In this book, Menzies states that in 1434, the Chinese travelled to Europe and gave their knowledge of astronomy, cartography, agriculture, machines, weapons, and many other areas of knowledge to the Vatican. This was done so that Europe could reciprocate and pay tribute back to China.

However, a few years later, China cut herself off from the world and chose to isolate herself, and her people from the West. Noone knows excactly why China made this decsion, but Menzies makes a hypothesis. That China lost so many junks and crew during the great exploration of the early 1420s, that as a country, she withdrew into herself to grieve. This caused China to become isolated.

In 1513 Piri Reis of Turkey drew a map of the world. Only the Atlantic part of this world map survives to the present day. This map shows the Caribbean islands and the east coast of South America. Brazil was discovered in 1500, but not settled or explored until the 1530s.

In one of the inscriptions on the map itself, Piri Reis lists these (other) sources, and tells us how he used them: No one now living has seen a map like this. I have composed and constructed it using about twenty maps and mappaemundi; these are the maps which were composed in the time of Alexander of the Two Horns, and which show the inhabited portion of the earth. The Arabs call these maps ja'fariya.

I have used eight ja'fariya maps, an Arab map of India and four recent Portuguese maps - these maps show the sea of Sind, India and China according to mathematical principles - and also a map of the western regions drawn by Colombo. The final form was arrived at by reducing all these maps to the same scale. Therefore the present map is as accurate for the Seven Seas as the maps of our own countries used by sailors.

Another note gives the date and authorship of the map: "This map was drawn by Piri ibn Hajji Muham­mad, known as the nephew of Kemal Reis, in the month of Muharram of the year 919 [1513]."

Charles Hapgood studied the Piri Reis map for a number of years, and wrote a book about it, called the Maps of the Ancient Sea Gods. He finally decided that the older maps that Reis claims to have copied from, must have been made by aliens and UFOs from outer space. Do you beleive that?

While historians accept and beleive that Piri Reis copied his map from other sources originating at the Library of Alexandria, there is no proof of this at all. If anything from the Library of Alexandria had been discovered this would be very exciting news and known world wide. I would surely know about it, as I am an avid student of the Library of Alexandria history.

I believe that those other sources came from the Chinese. It makes logical sense. Reis even mentions that he used a map from India. How do we know that the Indians did not get their knowledge from China? We don't.

1434 is a very exciting book to read, and most definitely an eye opener about an important part of the real history of this planet. I have read about a number of finds in various places that do not fit the "official" archaeological record, and as such they are either ignored or hidden away.

There are also those who are debunking Menzies's theories. Websites such as 1421 Exposed and threads such as this one all debunk Menzies ands say that he made mistakes therefore his evidence and theories are wrong.

Lets put it this way - those debunking Menzies did not themselves go out and correct Menzies errors. No. They just say this is wrong, that is wrong, and then do nothing. They also dont show any proof that Menzies is wrong. I am free to believe whatever I choose. I choose to beleive Menzies. What he says does make logical sense.

Admittedly some of what Menzies says is hard to beleive, precisely because it goes against everything we have been taught. He makes a shocking statement about the Maori's of New Zealand. In NZ (when I was at school) the official story was that the Maoris came from a place called Hawaiki, which has been identified as Hawaii. The Maori's showed extrordinary navigational abilities to traverse thousands of miles of open ocean from Havaiki to New Zealand with no landmarks to guide them. Menzies claims that the original Maoris were actually Chinese.

According to the NZ history website this Chinese origin seems to now be correct - but it is definitely NOT what I was taught in school. Mind you, I have been out of school for 25 years.

If you are willing to be open minded, and to think logically about this book, then you too will learn new things that your teachers did not teach you in school.

The Koran 50 Greatest Books

The Koran - 50 Greatest Books

I am posting the entire article today - mainly because the Koran is such a topical book amidst all of the political and economical events happening in the world today.

How do you measure a book's worth? By its sale in millions, by its perennial appeal to generation upon generation, by the beauty of its language and style or because, as in the case of the Koran, the book is considered sacred and venerated as God's very word. With more than one billion Muslims in the world who believe that the Koran is God's last revelation in human history, the Koran, like the Bible, is one of the most widely read, revered and recited books in the world. Its reach is global, its influence is global. It has been the inspiration to one of the greatest civilizations in the world and is the basis for some of the most impressive art, architecture, literature, philosophy and science the world has ever known.

A relatively short scripture, the Koran is the culmination of a series of revelations that Muslims believe were given to Muhammad, a seventh-century Arab who became God's last Prophet and the recipient of God's final revelation. The book was revealed in Arabic and subsequently compiled in Arabic. Though it has been translated into numerous languages, the faithful nevertheless always try to read the original Arabic because the power of the book lies as much in the oral recitation of the verses as its does in its content. For Muslims, the Koran is central to the good and moral life.

Like most Semitic scriptures, the Koran refers to the big themes: God, prophecy, angels, the eschaton (the end of days), punishment and reward. But it also refers to people of other faiths, namely Jews and Christians. These are people who also received divine revelation, who had their own prophets and who might also be saved in the next world. Thus, Muslims have always shared an ambivalent history with the people of both these faiths.

The Koran also refers to what are understood to be more socio-ethical matters: marriage, divorce, sexual relations, slavery, inheritance laws, poverty, penal laws, ecology and ritual practice. Man worships God not just through submission to ritual but through the ethical relations he forms with the world and people around him.

This is where the greatness of the Koran lies. With its insistence on reflection on God's world and its emphasis on the performance of just and charitable acts, the Koran contains a transformative power. The language is poetic, passionate and persuasive. The narrative is both long and elaborate, and short and choppy. The thread that ties all the different themes together is God' mercy, or rahma. The Koran is itself a reflection of God's mercy and compassion, and must be central to the way we think of one another and the relationships we form.

But like all scriptures, the Koran contains another side. In the post-9/11 world, many in the West are suddenly awake to the power of scripture, and to the fact that zealotry and fanaticism can find their roots in scripture just as much as compassion can. Issues of gender inequalities and a justification for violence are being seen as defining descriptors of the Islamic world with their basis in the Koran.

While academic and popular thinking contest or defend these issues, in so doing they keep the Koran alive. Like every great book, the Koran inspires and confuses, it moves and infuriates, it speaks and demands that we listen. Its Arabian setting, its tales of prophets and messengers, its promise of heaven and its threats of hell all mean that in one page we live multiple existences; we live both in the past and the present and we reflect on our mortality. Philosophy, theology and poetry are all sealed intricately in the book.

This is not an easy book to read, but sacred territory is never easy. The Koran has continued to inspire the faithful for hundreds of years, and it continues to shape the lives of millions from birth to death. The Koran may look like any other book, but for the believer, it is quite simply a call to God.

Mona Siddiqui is the University of Glasgow's professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding, as well as the director of its Centre for the Study of Islam.


It is Allah who causes the seed-grain and the date-stone to sprout. He causes the living to come forth from the dead and He is the one to cause the dead to come forth from the living. That is Allah, so then how are you deluded from the truth? It is He that breaks the day and makes the night for rest and the sun and moon for the reckoning. Such is His judgment, the Exalted in power and the Omniscient. It is He who makes the stars for you so that you may guide yourselves with their help through the dark spaces of land and sea. Indeed we detail our signs for people who know. It is He who produced you from a single soul and then a resting place and a repository. We detail our signs for people who understand. It is He who sends down rain from the skies.

Chapter 5 verses 95-99,
The Chapter of the Cattle

I personally do not accept the Koran as the Word of God - but then I do not accept the Bible as the Word of God either. Does that means I'm neutral?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Book Finds - Book Review

Book Finds - How to find, buy and sell used and rare books
3rd Edition
Ian C. Ellis
Berkley Publishing 2006
First Edition Published 1996

Everything you ever wanted to know about buying and selling used and rare books. How to buy and sell books using very little cash. Most dealers use trades to do business.

I remember back in New Zealand whenever I would haunt the shelves of my favourite local book shop (The Hard to Find but Worth The Effort Second Hand Book Shop). If I had books to trade, I was always offered trade or cash. If I needed the cash immediately I would take the cash, otherwise I usually took the trade.

I found this book to be a very readable and a very educational book. Ian Ellis has been a book dealer for 20 years. He currently owns a bookshop somewhere in the USA from which specializes in science fiction and mysteries. If anyone knows where his bookshop is, or what his webpage URL is, please let me know. Thanks. There is a vague mention of a website but it seems to be offline.

Anyway this book is very detailed for anyone who is interested in getting started with running their own bookshop, how to get started and what to look for when one are buying books.

Chapters include The Book (history of the book); Edition, Condition and Scarcity; Book Scouting; Book Trading; The Internet; Auctions And Catalogues; Signed Editions and Ephemera; Book Repair and Restoration.

Oh yes, and I read this book for the Non Fiction Challenge.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Kyle MacDonald trades up again

Remember the One Red Paper Clip Book I reviewed last year? Well I just spotted an article that says Kyle MacDonald is trading up again. The house in Kipling, Saskatchewan is too far away from Montreal, where his wife Dominique has accepted a new job, so they want to trade the house up for something new, in Montreal.

Just two years ago, Kyle MacDonald managed to barter a red paper clip into a two-storey home in a rural Saskatchewan town.

Now, the master trader is itching to move on, although he admits he has no idea what he can fetch for the three-bedroom, two-bathroom, fully furnished home on Main Street in Kipling, Sask. The web-savvy former Montrealer says it is a tough decision to move, but the right one for himself and his wife.

"I realized I didn't just want to stay somewhere, I wanted to keep moving and keep trading," MacDonald, 28, told The Canadian Press in an interview in Montreal on Tuesday.

"I'm going to put it out there for the world and see what happens. It worked really well last time so hopefully it will work well this time."

Kyle has posted this announcement on his blog.

We're trading the house.

That's right, Dom and I are trading the red paperclip house. With who? For what? Well that's where things get interesting:

We have no idea yet.

I'll be accepting trade offers from now up until 5pm on Friday July 11th and will be in Kipling the week of July 14 to make the trade....maybe with you! I'm not looking for anything in particular in exchange for the house, but I'd really like to trade the house with somebody who plans to live in or operate a business from the house and understands that the house is a tourist attraction in Kipling, and important to the community.

And he has also posted pictures of the house on flickr.

Another Non Fiction Challenge

I read books for this challenge from last year, so I think I will do it again.
Non Fiction Challenge 2008.
It's already started (as of May 1st) and will end September 30th. The idea is to read 5 non-fiction books in 5 months. Some of those books I have already read can be cross overs. Cool. The only rule so far is to read at least one non-fiction book that is different from your other choices (eg 4 memoirs and 1 self-help).

Monday, June 16, 2008

Lolita - 50 Greatest Books

Lolita - Vladimir Nabakov
50 Greatest Books

This February, Woolworth's UK incited parental ire with an infelicitously named girl's bedroom set: the Lolita Midsleeper Combi. A spokesperson said, "... the staff had never heard of Lolita. ... We had to look it up on Wikipedia. But we certainly know who she is now."

That's the kind of dumb that makes headlines. Even if you've never had the exquisite pleasure of reading Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, you know its notorious plot: Middle-aged Humbert Humbert is besotted by his 12-year-old stepdaughter, the "nymphet" Dolores Haze. Lolita is one of those rare titles that has been promoted to a term.

Lolita is not just a love story. It is also a jailhouse confession, a picaresque road trip, a parody of the "Freudian voodoo" Nabokov detested, an intricately plotted murder mystery and an impassioned love letter to the U.S. landscape and language. The prose is exuberant and erudite, cantering and bantering, jam-packed with spot-on mimicry and delectable wordplay, as Nabokov revels in his prodigious adopted vocabulary. Uproariously funny and heart-smashingly sad, Lolita is a virtuoso performance, one that leaves other 20th century novels choking on its gorgeous dust.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Painter from Shanghai - Book Review

The Painter From Shanghai
Jennifer Cody epstein
W W Norton Publishing 2008
Author's Website

This is a fictional biography of a real person. Pan Yuliang (1895-1977) was a real painter in China and in France during the last century. Not only that, she was also a prostitute - sold to a brothel at the age of 14 by her uncle (her parents had already died) who needed money for an opium addiction.

Yuliang (Good Jade) is trained by Jingling, the top girl at the brothel. Eventually Yuliang begins to collect her own clients. One day she meets a local politician - Pan Zanhua. He likes poetry and intellectual people. Yuliang was taught a lot of poetry by her uncle. So they fall in love. Well he does with her anyway. He buys her freedom for 1500 yuan and at age 21 Yuliang becomes Pan Zanhua's second wife. His first marriage was an arranged marriage. Pan Zanhua sets her up in a house in Shanghai where he teaches her how to read and write, and she also starts to dream of painting.

One day Yuliang meets an artist who eventually teaches her the basics of painting and then suggests that she enroll at the Shanghai Art Academy. Yuliang does so, and after two years she wins a scholarship to the Beaux Arts Academy in Paris, France. Yuliang spends two years in France and another two years in Italy before returning to China. In 1937 Yuliang is forced to return to France because her nude paintings are no longer accepted as art, but instead they are denounced as pornography.

She held several exhibitions in Paris during and after the second world war. In Paris she was known as the Lady of the 3 Nos - no art dealers, no lovers and no taking out French citizenship.

I really enjoyed this book. The first half of this novel (When Yuliang is in the brothel) is reminiscent of the book Memoirs of a Geisha. But once Yuliang is freed from the brothel by Zanhua, the rest of the book is totally different.

Another recent blog review
Reading Group Guide
NYT review
Interview with Jennifer Cody Epstein
The Painter's Gallery

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Interviewing Authors - Loaded Questions

I just found one of the most exciting new book blogs around. Well it's not that new. It was only started in August last year. It's called Loaded Questions and the only thing the author (Kelly Hewitt) does is to Interview Authors. In just five minutes of surfing when I first arrived, I found some really good interviews with 2 of my favourite authors.

If you want to know how I found it? I received a new book for review today. The Painter from Shanghai by Jennifer Cody Epstein, so I decided to do a little research. On the first page of the google search results I found a link to an interview with Jennifer. At the Loaded Questions blog. So I am adding this blog to the sidebar.

Monday, June 9, 2008

50 Greatest Books - TS Eliot

This week the Greatest book is TS Eliots Collected Poems (1909-1962)

I am not a fan of poems or of TS Eliot. The only poem I know he wrote, was a poem called CATS. This poem is the one on which the musical Cats is based - I think.

Other than that I have never read this book of poems.

Eric Van Lustbader book reviews

I read and reviewed my first Eric Van Lustbader book at the beginning of May. Now I have read two more. One is the second Bourne book - The Bourne Betrayal - and the other is a thriller/adventure with religious overtones. I love books that involve religious history - even though I currently do not follow any mainstream religion.

Bourne Betrayal
Eric Van Lustbader
Vision Publishing 2008

Jason Bourne is suffering from very painful headaches and flashbacks where all he can see is a broken and bleeding woman dying in his arms. These visions become so bad that Bourne seeks out medical attention at the hands of psychiatrist Dr. Sunderland. However, unknown to Bourne, the doctor is an imposter who is being paid a handsome sum to tamper with his mind.

When Bourne is informed that his best and only friend, Martin Lindros, Deputy Director of CI and head of Typhon, a special terrorist unit, has disappeared while carrying out a clandestine operation in Ethiopia’s Ras Dejen region, Bourne immediately begins a resue operation single handedly.

Bourne rescues his friend easily enough but begins to question who that person really is. Working with Typhon agent, Soraya Moore, is awkward given their mutual distrust yet the evidence she and Bourne uncover begins to point them to a massive terrorist attack about to be launched against the US.

This novel shows Islamic fundamentalists planning a devastating attack on the US. This group are able to place an imposter into a high ranked position within the intelligence agency. This imposter quietly sends the military and Typhon teams on wild goose chases so that his operation can continue with no distractions.

Bourne is continually being told by the agency that he is the traitor. Bourne thinks he is innocent. But he cannot be sure because his memory is still faulty. Bourne must operate outside of the law to find the answers. Eventually Bourne figures out that the dying girl was the key point that sets this Islamic jihad into motion.

The Testament
Eric Van Lustbader
Forge Publishing 2006

Dex Shaw belonged to the Order of Gnostic Observatines, a hidden sect long believed extinct. For centuries, the Order has guarded a lost Testament that could shake Christianity to its foundations. Dexter Shaw was the latest Keeper of the Testament - and Bravo is his chosen successor.

Bravo Shaw always knew his father had secrets. But it was not until his father was killed in a bomb explosion that Bravo discovers just what those secrets were, He also learns that his own life is now in danger. Bravo becomes aware that there are others out there who want to know the Order's secrets as well. One of those people is Bravo's best friend, Jordan. Bravo has no idea that Jordan will betray him. Bravo also does not know Jordan's big secret. Jordan will stop at nothing to gain acess to the Order's secrets.

After Dex Shaw is killed in the bomb blast, Bravo comes into contact with a woman named Jenny who says she is his guardian. Her job is to protect him while he is on his journey to find the secrets. Bravo also discovers that there is a traitor in the Order. Jenny says it is Anthony Rule, a man who practically raised Bravo from childhood. Bravo calls him Uncle Tony. Rule tells Bravo that the traitor is a man named Zorzi. Zorzi is Jenny's mentor and trainer.

One of the secrets of the Order include a small scrap of papyrus with writing on it, that dates from the time of Jesus. The words written on that papyrus are dangerous. This papyrus is called The Testament. The other secret is the vial of Quintessence.

So Bravo must follow the trail of clues and ciphers that his father left for him to decode. He must also find the traitor and neutralize him. And lastly Bravo must also find the Quintessence and the Testament and keep them safe if the Order is to survive.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Woofstock is here again already?

A year ago this weekend I was meeting some fellow book bloggers here in Toronto. And how do I remember this? Because Woofstock was on that weekend. And goodness gracious but it's on again this weekend as well.

I know I am not blogging much, but I still reading and I am also busy looking for jobs. It takes a while to redo the resume and rewrite the perfect letter for every application. I know I am doing good if I can get 4 applications off in any one day. That is - if there are 4 good positions I can apply to.

Now I just need to snag an interview and get the job.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Challenges update

On my sidebar I have several challenges listed. One of which I have totally missed out on - the Themed Reading challenge. Apologies for that. Oh well, I will try that next year if it runs again.

But there are 2 other challenges that I have not yet started and can still do. In Their Shoes (memoirs and biographies) and the Back to History challenge. Both these challenges run from January to December, so I can start reading for these now, and hope I can finish them in the next 7 months. I still have 2 more Shakespeare and 2 more Canadian books to read. Also some of the Themed Reading books I did have listed can be used for the Back to History and In their Shoes/Memoir Challenges.

And one last note, just to make things more complicated, I also have one ARC (Advanced Readers Copy) from Harper Collins I must read and review this month as well.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Truth Will Out - Book review

I read this book The Truth Will Out for the Shakespeare Challenge. I have also posted it to the Shakespeare Challenge Blog. Now I have 4 weeks to read 2 more Shakespeare books.