Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Navigator - Book Review

The Navigator
by Clive Cussler
Published July 2008 (PB)
Published June 2007 (HC)

As most of you know, I have been reading Clive Cussler's books for the last 20 years. While I prefer Dirk Pitt because he is the original hero, I have discovered that I also like the new hero Kurt Austin as well.

Kurt has taken over Dirk Pitt's old job as Leader of the Special Operations Team in NUMA. Dirk got promoted to Director of NUMA. Admiral Sandecker is now the Vice President of the USA. I have been somewhat reluctant to switch to a new hero, but having now read The Navigator, I think Kurt Austin is an excellent replacement for Dirk.

Dirk Pitt is mentioned several times in his position as Director of NUMA. Which helps to keep the continuity of the changeover. A new Specials Operations team has been formed. This new team has 4 members. Whereas Dirk and Giordino used to be on their own as a team and preferred it that way.

The Navigator refers to a large life size statue of a sailor. On this statue is a map. This statue used to sit in the basement of the Baghdad musem for many years. Until the US army occupied the country in 2003. Since then, a lot of irreplaceable art has been stolen from the Baghdad museum and sold on the illegal arts market.

One of the statues stolen is the Navigator. It was dated to Phoenician times (about 1000 BCE). The Phoenicians were a great trading and seafaring people. Their home land was the coastal area we know as the Levant - which covers Palestine and Lebanon. The Phoenicians were known to have traded all over the Mediterranean, and possble along the Atlantic coast of North Africa and Southern Europe as well.

When Carina Mechadi (a former journalist and now an art detective) is given the opportunity and the money to find the Navigator, she tracks it down using all her contacts in the Middle east - especially in Iraq. When she finds it, she gets it packed up and placed on a container ship. Carina then purchases a passenger ticket on the same container ship in order to stay close to the statue, and travels with the statue back to USA. The statue is to be the centre piece of a museum display and tour.

En route to USA, the container ship is attacked by pirates, who attempt the steal the statue. By chance Kurt and Joe are on board an ice patrol ship in the vicinity catching icebergs and towing them to a safe place, so that they do not hit the oil rigs and platforms dotting the North Atlantic.

When the container ship captain does not answer the radio, Kurt and Joe head to the ship to find out what is happening, and to steer it away from the oilrig directly in its path.

This novel has penty of action. Kurt. Joe and Carina work together to find out who wants the statue so badly, and why. They also travel to Turkey where they locate a second statue. Together they find gold mines, maps, scrolls, a ship that should not be there and a startling letter from Thomas Jefferson (the 3rd president of the USA) which reveals that if the scrolls are released to the world, their contents could cause unrest and possibly war in the Middle East. Carina also finds out a stunning secret about her ancestry.

I give this novel a 5 out of 5 - just as good as the Dirk Pitt novels.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Get Out of Bed - Munsch

Get Out of bed
By Robert Munsch
Illustrated by Allan and Lea Daniel
Scholastic Canada 1998

The Official Robert Munsch website
It takes a while to load up, so be patient.
Get out of Bed - the story behind the story

One night Amy went downstairs to watch TV. She watched the Late Show, the Late Late show, the Late Late Late Show and then she watched the Early Early Early Early Show. She finally went to bed because she felt somewhat tired.

At breakfast the next morning, Amy did not arive at the table. Her brother,father and mother all tried to wake Amy up. Amy continued sleeping.
What will we do, said her mother. I have to go to work.
So do I said Amy's father.
And I have to go to school said Amy's brother.

I know said Amy's brother. Let's take her to school in her bed.
Good idea said the parents.
So Amy's bed is carried along the road to school. It was carried right to the classroom and set down at the back. Amy slept in her bed all through reading, arithmetic, gym class, art, and still she did not wake up. At the end of the day the principal called the parents to come and get Amy and take her home. Amy stayed sleeping right through until the following morning.

The next day Amy came down to breakfast and said, I had a wonderful sleep, but I had strange dreams.
When Amy arrived at school that day, the principal said Hello Amy, how are you today.
Wonderful, thank you but I did have some strange dreams. said Amy.

When Amy arrived at her classrom, it was full of beds and everyone was snoring.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Going Inside - Book Review

Going Inside
A couple's journey of Renewal into the North.
By Alan Kesselheim
McClelland & Stewart 1995.

In 1989 and 1990 Alan Kesselheim (an outdoors writer) and his partner MaryPat Zitzer (both from Bozeman, Montana) were having problems in their relationship. They had been trying to have children. After more than 5 years and several miscarriages, they were still childless.

So they did what they knew how to do best - they went canoeing down a river. First they had to plan the trip - that took a year. They had to gather enough dried food, clothes and other necessities for a year in the Canadian wilderness.

In the summer of 1990, Alan and MaryPat (MP) and all their gear (food, clothes, maps, canoe, paddles, lamps, tents, sleeping bags, lighting fluid, etc) was transported by road to a small town called Grande Cache in west central Alberta not far from the Rockies. Grand Cache is south of Grande Prairie, on the Smoky River.

The plan was to canoe down the Smoky River, continue down the Peace River and end up at Lake Athabasca. There they would hole up for the winter and spring, and then continue canoeing north along the Kazan River (through what was then NWT and is now Nunavut) to Baker Lake and the Hudson Bay. That was the plan. They pulled it off almost perfectly with no major mishaps.

I say almost perfectly - because there was one little mishap - if you can call it a mishap. MaryPat finally became pregnant during this first half of this trip and ended the trip still canoeing while she was 6 months pregnant. She gave birth to their first son (Eli Kazan) in October 1991. MP has since had 2 more children . Marypat and Alan are now married (to each other).

The point of this book IMO is the description of the wilderness, the trip and the personal feelings between these two people while they were trying to find themselves. MP discovers she is pregnant in January when they are snowed in at Otherside River Lodge for the winter.

I found the story of the first half of the trip and the winter overstay on Lake Athabasca very enjoyable, and nicely detailed. But when winter and spring were over, the last half of the trip (during which MP is becoming more pregnant every day) is rather less detailed than the earlier parts. Possibly because all Alan could think about was Mary and her "delicate" condition.

But if you really want to know what it is like to LIVE in the wilderness (northern Alberta and northern Saskatchewan) then this is one of the MUST-HAVE books to read.

Alan and MP had completed an earlier canoe trip back in 1985. On that trip they had canoed down the Athabasca River from the source to Lake Athabasca, and then did the same overstay at Otherside Lodge over winter. They then continued their trip by canoeing down the Kazan river to Baker Lake in the summer. Alan also wrote a book about that trip as well.

The largest freshwater delta in the world is at the western end of Lake Athabasca where three rivers meet - Peace, Athabasca and Slave Rivers. I learned that from this book.

The more I read these types of books - people going on interesting trips through the wilderness - the more I know that I have to travel to all the other provinces and territories in the next 40 years of my life. So far I have only been to Ontario and Quebec - and that was just to Montreal.

Oh yes and I read this for the 2nd Canadian Challenge. And that is 8 books this month so far. There are 10 books listed on my sidebar, but I am doing the Munsch books as a separate challenge to my main free spirit challenge. So I dont count the Munsch books as part of the total. And thats why I list them as Munsch on the sidebar so we can all tell who wrote what. LOL

50 Greatest Books and other stuff

This is my 400th post since I started posting in March last year.
Also today is the one year anniversary of my surgery. (See yesterdays post).
And lastly here is the Greatest Book for this week.

Madame Bovary, c'est tout le monde

Madame Bovary had no precursors, was radically original. In a letter Flaubert sent to his mistress, Louise Colet, in 1852, while writing the novel, he said, "What I would like to write is a book about nothing, a book without exterior attachments, which would be held together by the inner force of its style ..."

One aspect of that style was an acute attention to detail. The fulsome descriptions of food and clothing at the Bovary wedding, or the hotel room in Rouen where her trysts with Léon take place, reflect to perfection prevalent bourgeois obsessions. It is a novel constructed of details, as if the thrust of the story were an avalanche of objects gaining speed as they rumbled downhill to the dénouement, and that somehow they were pulling the characters along with them.

At the same time, every detail fits, each adds to the whole, nothing is wasted. The inevitability of the plot resonates with the inevitability of the words chosen. The novel feels like a world built up out of atomic particles, following an ineluctable yet mysterious order.

[read the link fast or you will have to subscribe to the online newspaper to read it]

Friday, July 25, 2008

Book Meme for 2008

I dont think I have done one of these for a very long time, so here is a catch up meme on what books I like. I found it at susan's blog

Do you remember how you developed a love for reading?
I do not remember being taught to read. My father says I learned to read by flash cards. He showed me the flash cards - with words on them - when I was a child, because he was wanting to teach me to speak clearly. I have a hearing problem and I taught myself to lipread (although it is supposed to be called "speech reading" now). Anyway all those flashcards means I learnt to read by the time I was 4 and 5 years old. I remember having to take speech lessons when I was about 8 years old - to stop me from "gabbling" - which means I spoke to fast and not always clearly.

What are some books you read as a child?
Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, The Bobbsey Twins, Enid Blyton mysteries - Famous Five, Secret Seven, Adventurous Four, Mallory Towers and St Clair school series, The Chalet School Series by Elinor m. Brent-Dyer and of course Laura Ingalls Wilder,

What is your favorite genre?
Non Fiction mostly - especially History. But I also like Action & Adventure novels.

Do you have a favorite novel?

Where and when do you usually read?
on the bus to and from school (or work), lunch time, and in bed at night.

Do you usually have more than one book you are reading at a time?

Do you read nonfiction in a different way or place than you read fiction?

Do you buy most of the books you read, or borrow them, or check them out of the library?
Mostly buy. Sometimes I borrow from the library.

Do you keep most of the books you buy? If not, what do you do with them?
I keep the good ones. Every now and then when my book shelves/cupboard/piles get too full, I clear out the old books and donate them to Goodwill.

If you have children, what are some of the favorite books you have shared with them? Were they some of the same ones you read as a child?
My son likes Robert Munsch, and books based on his favourite TV series. No, he has not shown any interest in any of the books I liked a child - but 40 years ago, there was not a lot of colour or action in children's books. And none of my books were based on TV series.

What are you reading now?
You mean right now?
Going Inside by Alan Kesselheim
Legerdemain by James J. Heaphey
WhoopiGoldbergBook by Whoopi Goldberg
The end of America by NAncy Wolf
All NON-fiction

Do you keep a TBR (to be read) list?
I keep a TBR cupboard and TBR piles? Do they count?

What books would you like to reread?
Helene Hanff - she is about the ONLY author I can read over and over again.

Who are your favorite authors?
So many!!
Helene Hanff
James Rollins
Clive Cussler
Steve Berry
Matthew Reilly
James Burke from UK (NOT James Lee Burke)

Art Thief - Book Review

Art Thief
by Noah Charney
published by Atria - September 2007
Amazon website
Video You Tube (3 minutes)

I LOVE Art History. I love reading books about Art, Stolen art, Art crimes and Art auctions.

The premise of the novel is that three paintings are stolen from 3 different countries at (more or less) the same time. A Caravaggio disappears from a church in Italy. One Malevich disappears from the Malevich Society in Paris and another Malevich is stolen from the National Gallery in London. Also a small unnamed Suprematist painting disappears from a collector's house in London. All of these thefts are related somehow.

The key characters in this book are the French police, in the form of Jean-Jacques Bizot, as well as Genevieve Delaloche, the Director of the Malevich society in Paris and Elizabeth van der Mier, Director of the National Gallery of Modern Art in London. Other major characters are Gabriel Coffin (an American art professor presently teaching at Cambridge University), and lastly Profesor Barrow.

There is a lot of art history done in the form of lectures by Barrow and Coffin, but I enjoyed them very much. Barrow does art history and iconography. Coffin does art crime and profiling.

One very detailed and interesting lecture was about the iconography of The Marriage Contract by Jan Van Eyck. Another lecture was about oil paints and how to tell which families (who comissioneed the painting) were rich and who were poor. The answer is lapis lazuli.I apologise for going on about the details, but I do love art.

Back to the novel. Do these three missing paintings ever turn up? Well...Yes and No. It turns out that two of the main characters were involved in the thefts. But the author did a very good job of not giving things away until the very last moment. The twist was totally unexpected - by me anyway.

The Amazon reviews say that this book is written very chunkily. If that means there is a lot of long boring parts done in the forms of spoken lectures, well yes of course there is. The author is an art historian himself, educated at Cambridge. Of course he wants to show off his knowledge. IMO only a person who really likes Art History would enjoy this novel. I certainly did.

1 year anniversary of my craniotomy surgery

Craniotomy - A surgical operation in which part of the skull, called a bone flap, is removed in order to access the brain.

Actually the 1 year anniversary is tomorrow (Saturday 26th) but I'm mentioning it today because my weekends are usually pretty busy.

Anyway, one year ago tomorrow, I was up at 5 am walking to the hospital to be in the operating room by 6.30 am for surgery which was due to start at 7.45.

I can still remember telling myself (as I was walking) that things were now out of my hands and if I should not survive the surgery - well at least I wouldn't be aware of it because I would already be unconcious. I dont beleive that heaven or hell actually exist, so I did not expect to go to in either of those places.

As it is - I survived my craniotomy with no problems at all. This is what I looked like after my surgery and after I had all my hair cut off. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to see what I would look like with no hair. Thank goodness I dont need to do that again.

I am now back in school because I have not been able to find any long term job since my surgery. After I lost a job opportunity I really wanted, I decided that it was time I went back to school to update my skills.

So that is what I am doing right now - one year after my surgery - back in school.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Laughing on the Outside - Book Review

Laughing on the Outside
The Life of John Candy
By Martin Knelman
Penguin Books 1996
Home of Everything John Candy

This book is the biography of the Canadian comedian and actor, John Candy. It describes how he grew up in Toronto, and worked hard at being the class clown. John attended Neil McNeil Catholic High School on Victoria Park Avenue, between Kingston Road and Queen street and not far from the Beaches area. John's father Sidney died of a heart attack when John was just 5 years old. So John grew up in a single parent family with one older brother James.

In the 1970's John graduated from High school and started working as a comedian. He won a few small bit parts in movies, but his real fame began when he won a spot on the cast of the SCTV. From there, he moved to Chicago, and then to Pasadena in Los Angeles. Eventually he was offered a role in the movie Splash which finally gained John the fame he had been hungering for.

John had the need to always please people so he found it very very hard to say NO. This is one reason why his movie career never rose much above the B-line. He could never say no to movies being written or produced by his friends. Most of these movies bombed at the box office.

Another reason John never said no was because he had an urge to always been working. He spent many weeks and months away from his wife Rose and his children (Jennifer and Christopher). When he completed a project, he would soon feel as if he was bored and would hunt around looking for something else (anything else) to do.

The third thing that John would do when he was bored was to eat, drink and generally pig out on junk food.

One other thing - John was a part owner of the Toronto Argonauts (Argos) football team during the early 1990's. His movie career declined during this time, because he spent so much time in Toronto, looking after his football team. One of the last movies John ever made was Cool Runnings (1993).

John died of a heart attack in Mexico while filming Wagons East in March 1994. John was just 43 years old. He weighed over 300 pounds. His alma mater (Neil McHeil High School) in Toronto named their Visual Arts Studio in his honour after his death.

Of all John's movies, I personally though that Cool Runnings was the best and the funniest. He was good in Splash, Home Alone and Uncle Buck, and I didnt really like Planes Trains & Automobiles very much. I don't think I have seen any of his other movies.

I found this book to be very good. It describes John's personality in detail. It also explains the reasons why John made the decisions that he made, and how those decisions affected his career.

I read this book for the 2nd Canadian Challenge, and for the In their Shoes (Memoirs) Challenge.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

We Share Everything - Munsch Book Review

We Share Everything
By Robert Munsch
Illustrated by Michael Martchenko
Scholastic Canada 1999.

Amanda and Jeremiah have just started Kindergarten. And in Kindergarten, they both want the same book. So they start both pulling at it.

"If you dont give me that book, I'm going to scream" said Jeremiah to Amanda.
"I dont care" said Amanda, so Jeremiah screamed.

The teacher came running over and said, "Now look, This is Kindergarten, and in Kindergarten, we share everything." OK OK OK OK OK OK OK said Amanda & Jeremiah

This happened again with the building blocks and with the paints. Each time one of them screamed, and each time the teacher told them that "...In Kindergarten, we share everything".

So the kids carried this idea of sharing to its logical conclusion. They started sharing their clothes. They shared their shoes, their shirts and their pants.

When the teacher saw them, she said, "Its good to see you're being so grown up and sharing. Those are nice...Pink Pants? Jeremiah, whose pinks pants are those?"

"Oh, it's ok" said Jeremiah. "Amanda and I shared our clothes."
"WHAT???" yelled the teacher. "WHO SAID YOU COULD SHARE YOUR CLOTHES??"
And all the kids said (in unison) "Now look, This is Kindergarten, and in Kindergarten, we share EVERYTHING."

This is for the 2nd Canadian Book Challenge.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

50 Greatest Books Review - Moby Dick

Tale of a Whale is a Whale of a Tale.
By Adam Sol
Moby Dick

What do we look for when we read a novel? A gripping story. Memorable characters, who are recognizable but also unique and compelling, even if they are villains. Well-wrought language that occasionally - but not too often - reaches toward the poetic. And perhaps most important, we look for something that takes us outside, or perhaps deeper inside, our own lives. "Spiritual truth" may be too strong a term, but it gets at the essence of our encounter with great art.

The story of Moby-Dick is familiar: Ishmael climbs aboard the Pequod, unaware that Captain Ahab is not just hunting whales, but hunting one whale, the whale, Moby-Dick, an albino monster who had "dismasted" him years before. The fact that the story is so quickly translatable, and has been imitated and parodied so often, is a good indicator of its power.

What you might not know about Moby-Dick is that it is also hilarious, romantic, scientific, satirical and often astonishingly beautiful. There are whole paragraphs that scan in iambic pentameter. There is slapstick comedy. There is romance between Ishmael and Queequeg, the heroic harpooner-cannibal, whose body is covered in tattoos. The Pequod represents a cross-section of humanity that puts contemporary "multicultural" novels to shame. (That is, of male humanity. It must be admitted that while Moby-Dick has enormous amounts to say about a lot of subjects, it has almost no women in it at all. To my mind, this is the only possible reason to keep it off any list of great books, whether that list has 50 books or three.) Ahab's quest is not just the supreme act of revenge, or a hateful death wish. It is also a spiritual encounter with an unjust universe on a scale that rivals the great tragedies of Medea, Oedipus or Lear. For Ahab, Moby-Dick is not just a whale: He is the representative on Earth of that force - God, Fate, the Devil, whatever - that has crippled him and robbed him of his manhood. And because he cannot undo what has happened to him, because he can neither grasp nor accept the spiritual meaning of his fate, he must strike against it. Ahab hunts the whale because he can't throw stones at God.

Meanwhile, we live in the company of Ishmael, a self-proclaimed authority on whales. Much of the humour of Moby-Dick (and much of its length) consists of Ishmael's elaborate and often tongue-in-cheek analyses of whales, particularly sperm whales. It is no small task. Because, like the spiritual realm they seem to represent, whales are ultimately unknowable.

In the end, we sense that Ishmael's quest to understand the whale is no less audacious, no less doomed, than Ahab's quest to destroy it. The powers that are beyond us will always be beyond us, and even someone who has done the scholarly research and "fieldwork" often ends his discourses on the whale with uncertainty. Melville writes: "God keep me from ever completing anything. This whole book is but a draught - nay, but the draught of a draught. Oh, Time, Strength, Cash and Patience!"

Which brings us back to what we're looking for in a novel. When you read the first paragraph of this article, did you agree that you hope for some "spiritual truths" when you read novels? How dare you! Don't you know it's hopeless? But of course, our need to strive for the impossible and the unknowable is humanity's most unique, tragic and heroic character trait.

Moby-Dick aims for the some of the most profound questions about our place in the world. It is also a ripping good yarn, with acts of heroism, humour and daring that still thrill after more than 150 years.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Ghost of Hannah Mendes - Book Review

The Ghost of Hannah Mendes
by Naomi Ragen
Published 2001

This is a novel by Naomi Ragen (author of Jephte's Daughter and Sotar) based on the true life story of Dona Gracia Mendes who grew up in Spain and Portugal during the beginning of the Spanish & Portugese Inquisitions. It is also the story of Gracia's fictionalised descendents now living in USA.

Dona Gracia Mendes was from a Jewish family living in Spain under the Moors. In 1492 the last of the Moors were forced out of Spain, and that same year, all the Jews who did not convert, were expelled as well. Those Jews who did convert to Catholicism were called Murranos or Conversos. Most of them converted only to stay alive and stay at home. Which meant they were required to go to confession and Mass on a regular basis, and to eat the communion (mass) wine & bread representing the Lord Jesus Christ who died and rose again. These converso Jews took the host on their tongues, and then spit it out as soon as they were able. At home, they had their own sabbath meetings in private underground basements where they read from the talmud, lit candles and celebrated the Passover and Purim festivals.

Gracia Mendes had been given the secret Jewish birth name of Hannah Nasi (the family name was Nasi) and the christian name of Beatrice de Luna. Gracia is the spanish version of Hannah. When she grew up, Gracia married Francisco Mendes (also a Jewish Converso). Francisco and his brother Diego owned ships and they started the spice trade in pepper from India to Europe. The Mendes family became very very wealthy.

In present day New York Catherine Nasi da Costa is saddened that her only daughter and her two grandaughters have no interest in their Jewish heritage. Catherine is dying, and she decides to send her granddaughters to Europe to look for the legendary lost manuscript of Dona Gracia Mendes. Catherine's granddaughters (Francesca and Suzanne) both end up falling in love with good Jewish men in Europe. Marius is a rare book seller based in London. He helps Francesa and Suzanne in their search for the manuscript pages. The other man is Marius's best friend, Gabriel, a doctor whose family lives in Gibralter (an English colony at the southern tip of Spain).

I picked this book up because of the family tree hunting. I love genealogy. I also love history. There was one thing that was somewhat unrealistic in the story. The Ghost of Gracia Mendes. She appeared to Catherine, Francesa and Suzanne at various times during the journey. But despite the ghost, I ended up enjoying this book a lot more than I expected to. It has been very well researched, and I loved the details of Jewish life as a converso in the middle ages - having to live a double and secret life.

I also loved that Gracia was not treated like a chattel by her father. She was allowed to choose her husband. She was also educated, taught to read and write (spanish, portugese and probably hebrew). This is a true story about a women who is treated with respect by her father, brother and husband in a time where women were normally sold by their fathers to the highest bidder for the largest dowry. This is also the story of Gracia's family and how they are forced to move from country to country staying in front of the Inquisition, just to find a place they could finally call home.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Rilla of Ingleside - Book Review

Rilla of Ingleside
by L.M. Montgomery
Originally published 1921

Anne and Gilbert have now been married for 24 years. Jem is 22, Walter 21, Nan & Diana 19, Shirley 17 and Rilla is 15. The year is 1914, and we all know what happened in 1914. The Archduke of Austria is shot and killed in Sarajevo and war breaks out.

This war is later known as the Great War (but we know it as World War One). Fortunately it did not encompass the entire planet. It was confined mainly to Europe, although soldiers from many parts of the British empire did travel to Europe to fight.

At the beginning of the war, Jem and Walter sign up and head off to Nova Scotia to do their basic training and then they are sent to England. From there, they are sent to the Front lines. Newspapers, radio and letters give details of the major battles.

Rilla starts a junior Red Cross group, and finds a baby with no parents. The mother died in childbirth and the father had signed up and was in the army. So Rilla brings the baby home to Ingleside in a Soup Tureen. (there being no cradle or basket available). Rilla's father tells her that she must be responsble enougfh to look after the baby if she wants to keep it, or she can give the baby to the local orphanage. Rilla decides to raise the baby and names it "James Kitchener Anderson" but everyone calls him Jims.

Walter is killed in the war. Shirley turns 18 and signs up for the newly created airforce. He and Jem do come home safely from the war. And Rilla's sweetheart Kenneth Ford (son of Owen Ford and Leslie Moore from Anne's House of Dreams) also comes home from the war safely and finally proposes to Rilla on the last page of the book.

I remember reading a comment on a book forum somewhere where the thread is talking about the very successful Sullivan TV miniseries starring Megan Follows (1985 & 1987). The third series was about Anne Shirley following Gilbert to Europe during World War One. Their comment was - But...But That's Rilla's war.

I rather liked that 3rd series, but the reality of the books is that it should have been Rilla's war. Anne was just turning 50 at this time. In the third Tv series Anne was still in her 20's.

I liked this book. The only reason it took me longer than usual to read it, is because I needed a break from Anne Shirley (after reading 3 books in a row) and also having to deal with going back to school as well.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Life as a student

Well I survived Day 1 of my new life as a student. You can read about my studies and life at college in my new blog - Historia goes back to school.

I am still trying to finish Rilla of Ingleside, but the homework must come first. LOL

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Anne of Ingleside - Book Review

Anne of Ingleside
By L.M.Montgomery
Originally Published 1939
Ingleside website
Chronology of the Anne series.

This is the story of Anne's family during the early 1900s. Anne has 5 children and is about to give birth to her 6th child.

So the family at the beginning of the book is (according to the chronology)
James (Jem) aged 7,
Walter (the sensitive one) aged 6,
the twins Nan and Diana aged 4,
and Shirley aged 2. Shirley is a boy - not a girl.
The last child is Bertha Marilla Blythe (Rilla) who is born shortly after the start of the book.

Also part of the family is Susan the cook - who has been with the family since before Jem was born.

In the first two chapters Anne is back in Avonlea after attending Gilbert's fathers funeral. Gilbert went back to Ingleside after the funeral (because being a doctor, he has patients he cannot leave for long) and he must see to the children as well. Anne stays a few extra days to see Marilla, Rachel Lynde and Diana.

The rest of the book is about the kids. Most of the children are developed over 6 years, and learn interesting life lessons.

Jem the eldest wants a dog. So he gets on, and eventually the dog dies. So he gets another dog which unfortunately pines away for its previous owner. Jem vows to never have another dog.

Walter writes poetry. He gets teased a lot by the neighbour children because he reads and writes a lot.

Diana is very naive. She makes best friends with any girl who tells marvelous stories and tends to beleive all the stories. One girl told her stories about her family, and Diana beleived every word until the day when Diana went to visit her friend at home and discovered that the house was not a mansion, but intsead was just an old falling down cottage.

Diana makes friends with another girl, Delilah, who starts telling Diana stories about her aunts and uncles having lots of adventures and how her stepmother beats her and how she is forced to work as a slave and clean the house and how she must eat with the servants, and cannot have any sugar on her porridge and she tells Diana she is a martyr.

You know Susan, she had an uncle who committed suicide twice. Diana tells Susan. (that one made me laugh)

One weekend Anne and Gilbert are both away and Susan is looking after the children. Delilah invites herself to Ingleside and spends the night there. In school the following Monday, Diana overhears Delilah telling fibs about the Blythes and about the house, and learns a hard lesson. Not to beleive everything you hear. She has had to learn that lesson twice.

Nan is also gullible. She gives her new red parasol away to Dovie Johnson, a girl who said she knew a secret about Nan and demanded the parasol as payment. When Nan gives her the parasol and demands to know the secret, She is told that she is not really the Blythes child. She has brown hair while her twin Diana has red hair. Cassy Thomas from the harbour has red hair. She is the real Blythe, not Nan.

Twins always look exactly alike. (not true.)

Nan is devasted and goes to see Cassie Thomas and ask her about this. But when she finds Cassy's house, Cassy is out, so Nan speaks to Cassy's mother. It turns out that Cassie was a year older than Nan and that Nan looks just like Gilbert's mother. Nan also learns that she is very green to beleive a silly tale like that.

The cutest child in the family is Rilla, the baby. By age 5 she has a lisp. There is one funny story about Rilla at the end of the book. Susan asks her to take a cake to the local church for a function. Susan explains that the function is to raise money for children who dont have any mothers and fathers.

I'm the next thing to an orphan. I've only got one father and mother. says Rilla.

Rilla does NOT want to be seen carrying a cake through the town. She just knows she will be laughed at. That is what servants are for - to carry the cakes. She tries everything she can think of to prevent her being forced to carry the cake. So she prays to God. [This is a bit of snobbery in the girls - but that seems to be normal for those times].

Plethe dear God, make it rain hard. Make it rain pitchforkth. Or elth make Thusanth cake burn...burn to a crithp. That did not work.

Rilla gets desperate and tells Susan My doll hath been tooken ill. I mutht put her to bed and thtay with her. Maybe its ammonia. (another giggle here)

Nothing works so Rilla puts on her best sunday dres and shoes and heads off to town. On the way there, she meets up with the sunday school teacher. Heavens, this will not do for Rilla to be seen by the sunday school teacher carrying a cake. So Rilla throws the cake over the bridge rails and into the river. Shortly after she meets up with the teacher and discovers that the teacher is carrying a cake as well. Rilla is cross that she threw away an opportunity to be seen walking through town with the teacher, both carrying cakes.

There a few chapters about the Ladies aid and they sit around quilting and gossiping. I skipped those chapters. Anne was not part of that circle. I felt that those chapters were not really helping to move the story along.

The book starts with Anne and must end with Anne as well. So then we get a few chapters of Anne being run down, and feeling like maybe Gilbert does not love her anymore. He seems to be taking her for granted. Then a letter comes that invites Anne and Gilbert to a party which Christine Stuart will be attending. Christine Stuart was the young lady stepping out with Gilbert back in College after Anne turned down his proposal. (see Anne of the Island). Gilbert forgets to give her a gift on their fifteenth wedding anniversary - so Anne chooses to not give him his gift either. At the party Christine flirts with Gilbert and then takes him into the garden and keeps talking.

After the party when they get home, Gilbert makes a telephone call and then bounds up the stairs to hug Anne and says happy anniversary. It turns out that Gilbert has only been thinkling about a very sick patient, and totally was not listening to everything Christine said in the garden. His gift from Toronto arrived late (on the day of the anniversary while they were at the party) which is why he couldnt give it to her that morning.

You do still love me Gilbert? I'm not just a habit with you? You havent said you love me for so long. Anne asks anxiously.

My dear dear love! I didn't think you needed words to know that. I couldn't live without you. Always you give me strength."

They plan a trip to Europe for a second honeymoon.

I did not read Rainbow Valley because I understood it to not be about Anne, but now that I have read Anne of Ingleside and come to know the children, I might read Rainbow Valley - after I have finished Rilla of Ingleside.

Anne's House of Dreams - Book Review

Anne's House of Dreams
By L.M.Montgomery
Originally Published 1917

Anne and Gilbert are finally married and move to Glen St Mary - some 60 miles from Avonlea. Gilbert's Great Uncle David has been a doctor there for a number of years, and he wishes to retire. He likes the idea of his great nephew taking over his practice.

They find a small house that becomes Anne's House of Dreams. This is their home for the first two years of their marriage. Further along the brook past their house is a large house where Mrs Leslie Moore lives.

Leslie's story is rather tragic. She was married at age 16 to a man named Dick Moore. Dick was not a nice man and eventually he left on a ship to sail the world and disappeared. A few years later he was found in Cuba totally clueless about his identity. It appears he met with an accident involving a head injury and was no longer right in the head. Leslie has spent the last 12 years looking after this baby because he was her husband.

There are two other characters we meet in this story. One is Miss Cornelia Bryant - the local gossip. The other is Captain Jim who runs the light house at Four Winds Point. Jim has many stories to tell about his life sailing the world, and now all he wants, before he dies, is for his story to be written down so he can be remembered.

The house that Anne and Gilbert are living in previously had 2 other brides. Several years ago it was the School masters house. The schoolmaster was named John Selwyn. His bride - Persis Leigh - was due to arrive at PEI by ship in mid-July, but the ship was overdue. It eventually arrived 8 weeks later in mid-September. John dreams that the ship sailed around East Point and that he will be with his bride the next day. And thats exactly what happened. [Which means Glen St Mary must be near the Eastern end of PEI, not the Western.] The ship had been delayed by a number of bad storms. John and Persis lived in the house for 15 years before they moved to Charlottetown. John and Captain Jim were very good friends. I mention all this because it relates to the story.

Shortly after Anne & Gilbert arrive, Anne becomes pregnant but gives birth to a still born daughter - Joyce. The following year Anne has a healthy son named James Matthew Blythe - to be known as Jem.

Leslie Moore takes in a boarder - a writer named Owen Ford. Owen is hired to write Captain Jim's life story. It turns out that Owen Ford is the School masters grandson. John & Persis Selwyn had a daughter named Alice. Alice Selwyn is Owen's mother. Captain Jim is delighted to discover this information. He had often wondered what happened to his good friends after they moved to Charlottetown.

Gilbert Blythe discovers a new method for restoring memory. He wonders if this operation can be performed on Dick Moore so that he can recover his memory. Anne thinks that things should be left well enough alone. Gilbert tells Leslie about this new operation and gives her the chance to accept it or not. She chooses to accept it. So Leslie and Dick travel to Montreal.

After the operation, Leslie calls him Dick and the next thing he says is, "I'm not Dick. He died of Yellow fever yesterday. I'm his cousin George". Dick and George Moore had always looked enough alike to be mistaken for each other, but noone had made this connection. So Leslie learns that she has been a widow for the last 12 years and is therefore finally free to marry again.

Gilbert's practice is thriving and after Jem is born, he starts looking for a bigger house. Eventually he settles for the old Morgan house that is somewhat closer to town. So Gilbert, Anne, Jem and their cook Susan all move to the larger Morgan house, which is eventually renamed Ingleside.

Leslie marries Owen Ford and they move into the old school masters house that used to be Anne's house of dreams.

This was a good story with a totally unexpected twist.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Anne of the Island - Book Review

This year, 2008, is the 100th anniversary of the very first Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables) book being published. I decided it might be nice to read some of the later Anne Shirley books, because for some reason in all the 40+ years of my life, I have never read them.

I chose the following four books
Anne of the Island
Anne's House of Dreams
Anne of Ingleside
Rilla of Ingleside

These are all for the second Canadian Book Challenge.

Anne of the Island
By L.M.Montgomery
originally published 1915

I actually read Anne of the Island online at Gutenberg, (see link above) because it was not on the shelf at the local library. This is the story of Anne Shirley while she is a student at College.

At age 18 Anne leaves Prince Edward Island and travels to Kingsport in Nova Scotia where she attends Redmond College. Gilbert Blythe also attends Redmond College as well.

During Anne's 4 years at Redmond, she makes a new friend with Phil Gordon who becomes a roommmate along with Priscilla, Stella and Aunt Jamesina in a small house called Patty's Place.

Anne recives four proposals while at college. The first one is from Jane Andrews' brother Billy - submitted to Anne via Jane herself. Ann turns him down. The second proposal comes from Samuel, a local farmer.

Halfway through their studies, Gilbert proposes to Anne. Anne turns him down saying that she would prefer to be just friends. Gilbert then stays away from Anne while he finishes his studies. Anne hears rumours that Gilbert is going out with Christina Stuart.

That summer Diana Barry gets married to Fred Wright. Anne is the bridesmaid and Gilbert is the best man. Thus an awkward situation ensues, but the wedding goes off without a hitch.

Back at College Anne meets Royal Gardner (aka Roy) who begins to court her. Near the end of Anne's final year at Redmond, Roy proposes to her, and just when Anne is about to say yes, she realises that she does not want to spend the rest of her life with him, so she refuses him. Roy gets very upset with her for leading him on all this time.

After Anne graduates from College,(now 22 years old) Anne visits the Irvings at Echo Lodge for a few weeks. When she arrives back at Avonlea, she hears that Gilbert is very ill with Typhoid fever, and Anne spends the night in her window bay praying that she does not lose the man she truely loves.

Gilbert survives and within days he proposes to Anne again. This time she says yes. But their wedding will have to wait because Gilbert has been accepted to medical school,and that will mean another 3 years of study. Anne spends those 3 years as the principal at Summerside High school. That story is told in the next book Anne of Windy Poplars.

An Excellent novel. Finally Anne and Gilbert are together. Gilbert says he has been in love with her ever since that day at school when Anne broke her slate over Gilbert's head.

50 Greatest Books - Herodotus

The Father of History.
The Histories by Herodotus Globe & Mail

July 12, 2008
Tom Holland

History, like poetry, began with war. Around 440 BC, some three centuries after Homer, singing of the wrath of Achilles, composed The Iliad, a Greek by the name of Herodotus embarked upon a project no less epic. His goal was to explain what would now be termed "the clash of civilizations": the inability of the peoples of East and West to live together in peace. A fateful and enduring theme - and prompted, in Herodotus's case, by a concern to explain how the King of Persia, the most powerful man on the planet, had recently sought to conquer Greece.

The onslaught had been launched back in 480 BC. Set against the unprecedented juggernaut of the Persian invasion, the Greeks appeared few in numbers and hopelessly divided. The result seemed a foregone conclusion. And yet somehow, astonishingly, against the largest expeditionary force ever assembled, the Greeks had managed to hold out. The invaders had been turned back. Greece had remained free.

Two and a half thousand years later, and the story remains as thrilling and remarkable as ever. So stirringly did Herodotus tell it, and with such an epic sweep, that it has come to serve as the very founding myth of European civilization: as the archetype of the triumph of freedom over enervated despotism. Yet it is a startling fact that what will perhaps most strike the reader of Herodotus is not any tone of xenophobia, but rather the very opposite: curiosity and open-mindedness. "Philobarbaros," one indignant compatriot labelled him: the closest to the phrase "bleeding-heart liberal" that ancient Greek approached.

The truth is that Herodotus was both intensely a man of his background, and inexhaustibly curious about the world that lay beyond that of the Greeks. Indeed, such was his enthusiasm for pursuing the line of a good story that it ended up giving to his great work something of the character of a shaggy dog story. Readers who start The Histories in the expectation of reading about the heroics of Thermopylae or Salamis will find they have a long way to go. Only a couple of pages in, and suddenly Herodotus is giving us a strange tale about a king who presses a bodyguard to have a peek at his naked queen - with predictably fatal consequences.

Then comes a story about a musician who is captured by pirates, and escapes them by jumping into the sea while playing his lute - and is promptly rescued by a dolphin. No wonder that Herodotus, "the father of history," has also been sneered at as "the father of lies."

But that is unfair, for not only does it overlook the extraordinarily subtle ordering of themes that gives such an underlying unity to his material, but also - and even more crucially - misrepresents how he saw his own role. "For my job," Herodotus explains at one point, "is simply to record whatever I am told by each of my sources."

Here, as he well appreciated, was something new. For the first time, a chronicler had set himself to trace the origins of a great event, not to a past so remote as to be utterly fabulous, nor to the whims and wishes of some god, nor to a people's claim to a manifest destiny, but rather to explanations that he could investigate personally. Committed to transcribing only living informants or eyewitness accounts, Herodotus had duly toured the world - the original anthropologist, the original foreign correspondent. The fruit of his tireless curiosity was not merely a narrative, but a portrait of an entire age: capacious, various, tolerant. The word that gave to his achievement was one that well deserved to stick. "Enquiries," he termed it: historia.

I first read Herodotus when I was 10. Since then, I have returned to him many times, and never once been bored. It is hard to think of another author of whom I could say the same, let alone one who wrote two and a half millennia ago. "Herodotus," Edward Gibbon declared, "sometimes writes for children and sometimes for philosophers."

And also, thank goodness, for everyone in between.

Tom Holland is the author of Persian Fire. He is currently translating Herodotus for Penguin.

Gutenberg Project - READ the Histories.
The Histories of Herodotus Volume 1
The Histories of Herodotus Volume 2

This is one classical book I have started reading,several times, but never quite managed to read all the way through.

Friday, July 11, 2008

My future career - student

Sometime towards the end of last year, I wrote a post in which I was going to do a Records and Archives Management course. Unfortunately that didnt work out, because I never got the money to pay for it. I did not have a job at the time.

It has now been (almost) a year since my craniotomy (brain) operation last year and in that time I have had only one job and that lasted only for 2 months. While I can get the interviews reasonably ok, I am not getting any job offers. Last week, I had a second interview for a job I really wanted, and did not get it.

I do not have anything useful on my resume. Just my jobs, and my grey hair. The grey hair says I am getting old, and the 7 jobs in the space of 5 years labels me as a job hopper. I do not see why I SHOULD colour my hair just to get a job. Once you start doing that, then you cannot stop - and the fumes are very irritating.

So I am doing something I vowed never to do. Take out a student loan. I am going back to school (Trios Career College) to do an Honours Business Administration Diploma. This will include the Microsoft Office suite, Accounting, Human Resources and Marketing.

This will build on all the administration and marketing knowledge and experience that I already have. The course will be 12 months and I start on Monday. This is the only way I feel I can beat the competition by having a decent qualification and having a lot more variety and experience than a high school or college graduate does.

Right now I am a high school drop out - I never did the last year of high school that would have allowed me to be more successful in university. Back then (20+ years ago) NZ had 13 years of High school and at that time, the last year was the same as the OAC year that Ontario Schools used to have - but dumped a few years ago. I do not like going into debt, but I do not want to be doing crappy jobs (such as survey interviewing) for the rest of my life either.

While I do still intend to do Bibliography and Archives/Records courses, they will have to wait until I can find a long term job, so I can afford to pay for them. I will continue to read and review books. If I don't finish any challenges, well thats ok. I'm not going to stress out.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Book of Negroes - Book Review

The Book of Negroes (Canada)
Somebody Knows my Name (USA)
By Lawrence Hill
Harper Collins 2007
Lawrence Hill Website

This is a great novel. I read it in 2 days and could not put it down. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

This is the story of Aminata Diallo, a young African girl from somewhere deep in Western Africa (possibly Mali), who at age 11 was stolen from her village and taken to the Slave Coast. There she was sent to Charles Town in South Carolina and she was sold as a slave to an Indigo plantation owner and merchant named Appleby.

Back in Africa, Meena (as she was named in Charles Town - because noone could pronounce Aminata properly) had been taught by her mother how to be a midwife. They called it catching babies.

In the Thirteen colonies, Meena was a slave on the indigo plantation for several years. When Meena was 16 she gave birth to a baby boy by a fellow African slave who also arrived in Charlestown on the same boat she did. When her son was 10 months old, both Meena and her son were sold - to different families.

During this time on the indigo plantation, Meena was secretly taught the basics of English - reading, writing and speaking. This was against the rules as no slave was permitted to be educated. The white plantation owners preferred to think of their slaves as savage ignorant people from Africa and that was how they were treated.

When Meena moved to her new home in Charles Town, she was set up as a contractor for midwifery jobs. She had to give a certain percentage of her earnings to the Master. She was also taught to read and write more fluently so she could keep the master's books. Meena spent about 15 years in Charles Town. Then one day her master took her north to New York which was still under British rule. That was when the riots began. During the riots, Meena escaped from her master and became a free woman. She survived by teaching other negroes how to read and write.

When the British pulled out of the 13 Colonies, they were willing to help those Negroes who helped them in their battles against the Americans. Over 3000 black slaves went to the Maritime's in 1783, mostly to Nova Scotia. In Nova Scotis they were told they would be free, they could farm their own land. Meena gives birth to another child - a daughter named May. But the Negroes were assigned to a slum area called Birch Town. The Negroes were willing to work for a lower wage, so white people started losing jobs and eventually they started rioting against the blacks. During these riots, Meen's daughter May was whisked off to safety by her white employers. Meena gave up looking for her daughter after 5 years.

Then came rumours of a free country for slaves in Africa. So Meena decided to go back to Africa. There is nothing more for her in America.

In Freetown (now the capital of Liberia) Meena tried to find ways of getting back to her home village in Mali. It took her about 10 years to finally bribe a slave driver to take her up river. A few weeks after the trip began Meena overheard the slave driver saying that he wanted to sell her as well. So once again Meena ran away, back to the coast where she found a ship that could take her to England.

In England slavery was in the process of being outlawed. Noone could buy any new slaves in England - although slaves previously purchased were either kept or given their freedom.

Meena helped the abolitionist movement to force the English Parliament to change the laws. The abolitionists then wanted to write Meena's story, so they could edit her words. Meena refused to allow them to change any of her words. She wrote her life story and then finally allowed herself to stop running. By this time she was about 60 years old.

Totally unexpectedly Meena was reunited with her daughter in England. Her daughter had been lost to her for 15 years and was now a young woman. That was something I did not expect and was very pleased that at last Meena had found one of her children.

This was a very well written book. As I said above, once I started reading, I could not put it down. I like Aminata. She is a strong female character. She quickly learned that power came from language and literacy.

This book has been very well researched, and the details of the slave chains, the slave ships and the plantations is totally riveting. Also the research of the British during the revolution, and life in Nova Scotia and in Freetown.

Lawrence Hill's novel The Book of Negroes (published in the United States as Someone Knows My Name) was awarded the overall Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best Book at a ceremony in Franschhoek, South Africa on May 18th, 2008.

I read this book for the Second Canadian Challenge.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Look at Me - Munsch Book Review

Look At Me
By Robert Munsch
Illustrated by Michael Martchenko
Scholastic Canada 2008

This is the most recent Munsch book. Madison finds a ticket for free face painting at the park. She asks for "a small perfect rose that look really real" on her cheek. So the face painter takes a really really long time painting a small perfect rose on Madison's cheek, that looks really real.

Shortly after, while Madison is at the hardware shop with her dad, she comments that she thinks the rose is growing. When her father looks at her face, he sees two roses on Madisons cheeks. "But I think it was that way already" her father says.

Later at the Kitchen store with her mother, Madison says her flower is growing again. There was just one rose, now there are three. Her mother looks at her face closely and says "I thought you just asked for one rose." Madison says she did ask for one rose. "Well, I guess that face painter gave you three" says Madisons mother.

At the ice-cream shop with her Grandma, the flowers start growing all over Madisons body. Grandma watches as more roses grow down Madisons arms. "This is terrible" says Grandma and takes Madison to the doctor. The doctor says she knows a lot about people, but not a lot about plants.

"Let's try the garden store" says Madison. At the garden store, the owner suggests weed killer. Madison disagrees. And then she comes up with a solution. "I know" says Madison. "Let's be nice to the rose. I will go home and take a nap with a large flower pot beside my bed and maybe the rose will go and live in the flower pot".

And thats exactly what happened - sort of.

This is my son's current favourite Munsch book. I have been reading it almost every night for the last 4 months since I bought it. The weird thing is that it's all about a girl, but he doesnt seem to mind that.

This review is for the 2nd Canadian Book Challenge.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Unknown Shore - Book Review

Unknown Shore
By Robert Ruby
Henry Holt 2001

Unknown Shore recounts the practically-forgotten story of the Frobisher expeditions and the first attempt to colonize the New World. Martin Frobisher (ca.1535-1594) initially set out to discover a northwest passage to Cathay, but instead stumbled across the Arctic, a place that was still a mysterious Ultima Thule to the English.

During his first stay off the coast of Baffin Island (Actually they were on Resolution Island), he managed to kidnap an Inuit to take home and display as a “curiosity,” accidentally leave five of his men behind when he left, and—most importantly, as it turned out—discover a strange kind of “black rock” which, when examined by assayers back in England, was reported to contain significant amounts of gold. Seized by gold fever, the English decided to send Frobisher back for more black rock, along with enough men and supplies to start a mining colony in the new land he’d discovered.

You don’t have to be a history major to know where this one is going: the would-be colony fails to take hold, and the black rock turns out to be worthless. And the route to Cathay? Never found—no such thing existed. The whole painful incident might have been buried by history, if Frobisher’s angry investors hadn’t made such a noise about their lost money. As it is, the voyages and their humiliating outcome remain a little-known historical footnote, despite the fact that Frobisher and his men were the first English people to set foot in the New World -1576 to 1578 . (Was this before or after John Cabot?)

Interwoven with this story is the tale of an American, Charles Francis Hall (1821-1871) an eccentric Arctic enthusiast who set out, entirely on his own, to discover the fate of the lost Franklin expedition. Along the way, he learned from the Inuit of another, much earlier group of white men who had come to their land. Investigating, Hall found the island that was to have housed the English colony, and the centuries-old trenches that marked their mining operations. He also proved once and for all that Frobisher’s Strait, the body of water Frobisher had insisted was a waterway, was actually a bay.

Ruby tells the story well. The biggest thing that stayed in my mind was the assumption of the English that the Inuit were cannibals. And how did the English arrive at that conclusion? Because the Inuit are raw fish. So if they ate raw fish, then they probably also ate raw people. This affected their relations with the Inuit - treating them like primitive and uneducated people.

The one major flaw in the book’s storytelling is the chunky “intertwining” of the parallel tales; Ruby spends a few chapters on Frobisher’s adventures. And then, just when you’re really getting into the story, he cuts away to Hall’s adventures. By the time you’re well into Hall’s story, it’s back to Frobisher again. Both stories are interesting, so interesting that you want to follow each one through right to the end—no breaks.

I read this book for the Second Canadian Book Challenge and also for the Non-Fiction Challenge. I should have read this for the first Canadian challenge, but never got around to it. I read this because John wants to know what this book is about. He has never heard of this book and he lives on Baffin Island - or he did live on Baffin Island up until last month. I believe he has just moved to Yellowknife in NWT.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

50 Greatest Books - Ficcones

Ficciones, by Jorge Luis Borges

When it comes to imaginative influence, size really doesn't matter. Ficciones, by Jorge Luis Borges, a slim collection of 17 short stories that first appeared in 1944, has, over time, made waves in the pond of literature that only a door-stopper of a prose epic such as Joyce's Ulysses can match. Borges's collection whispered from the library that literature had a new subject: literature itself. A glance at what happened to that collection lets us track how that whisper became a roar, and how a writer could surf a wave that he himself had started.

The anglophone literary world at that time made use of a set of pigeonholes, and the work of Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) fit nicely into several. First, it came out of nowhere, because that is where Argentina was for even the most cosmopolitan English-bound sensibility. Spain had shrunk from world-historical empire into wrecked state squeezed into the grip of a fascist dictatorship. Argentina was a place near the South Pole ruled by a Hitler-leaning populist despot whose regime was boosted by his pop-tart wife, the stuff of romance and even - as time proved - musical theatre. The prospect of colonial outposts generating artistic energies powerful enough to thrust that mother tongue into the centre of world literature seemed remote, something out of science fiction. [more]

I have heard of this author, but I have not read any of his books

Friday, July 4, 2008

Comics are NOT read-aloud material

My son received a set of LOL Library Reading Club materials (poster, book and stickers) when his daycare class went to the public library yesterday. I mention this because my good friend Patricia Storms was contracted to illustrate the reading club material this year. Anyway, my son took his library card with him, and you want to know what books he got out? Remember he is only 6 years old. He got out one comic book about Sonic the hedgehog and one Anime graphic novel.

I had trouble readng these to him last night at bedtime.
Comics are just NOT read-aloud material.
My son loves anime. I dont. Most of the anime shows I see on TV are too violent. (Anime is available in books and on TV)

So what do you think of comics and graphic novels as reading material?

Thursday, July 3, 2008

USA Censorship and Books

I apologise for the harsh title of this post but facts are facts. Last year I read and reviewed a book called the Freedom Writers Diary, which was also made into a movie starring Hilary Swank.

It was an excellent book written by Asian, Caucasian, Latino, Hispanic and African-American teenagers about their own lives in the inner city of Los Angeles. These students were all expected (by the teachers) to drop out, end up in jail or on the streets or worse. Instead every one of them graduated from High School. These teenagers learnt to rise above the poverty, the drug abuse, the guns and other crimes in their neighbourhoods. They learnt to beleive in their dreams, to make goals for themselves and to strive to reach those goals. And one of the things they did was to set up a Freedom Writers Foundation.

Well today I read a news article that says this.

An Indiana teacher who used a much lauded bestseller, The Freedom Writers Diary, to try to inspire under-performing high-school students has been suspended from her job without pay for 18 months.

This high school teacher attended a work shop at the Freedom Writers Foundation. She was DENIED the opportunity to allow her students to READ and learn from this book - The Freedom Writers Diaries. Apparently one school board member objected to the language. ONE person objected to swearing - language that everyone speaks and hears all day, every day, even me.

One has to wonder if it was the swearing the board member really objected to - or whether it was the clear message of the book that kids can turn their lives around, and take charge of their own destinies. There are some in academia, unfortunately, who can't stand it when kids don't live down to their expectations. The real obscenity here is not the swearing, but the refusal by the board to give this teacher permission to use a very powerful tool to help these kids excel. WRH Rivero

What makes this worse is that in todays world, this story is not reported in the US media. No, we have to read the non-American press to find stories like this.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Happy Canada Day & Centre Island

Today is Canada day. July 1st. The date of Confederation. This is the date in 1867 when the Confederation of Canada was born. While Canada is an independent country, it is still a member of the British Commonwealth.

Here in Toronto the weather was gorgeous. Sunshine, blue skies, cool winds, and a temperature around 26 degrees Celcius ALL day. My son and I went to the Harbourfront Centre, which is of course on the Harbour front. We even went on a Harbour Boat ride across the harbour to Centre Island (link1)(a small group of islands in Lake Ontario) although we did not disembark.

I learned some new things about Centre Island (link2) today. There are 600 residents living on the island and they are required to live there under some pretty interesting restrictions. The government owns the land so residents only own the house and not the land. Houses are not sold on the open market, but instead they must get permission from the residential council to sell their houses, and they can only be sold at 1950 prices (between $50,000 and $300,000) and only to someone who will live on the island ALL year round.

Yes there are ferries plying back and forth every day between the islands and the mainland - as Toronto is called. Because houses cannot be sold at open market prices, owners tend not to sell, but to instead gift or leave these houses to their descendents (children and grandchildren) especially if they grew up on the island. For those families that do live on the island, the parents either usually work downtown, or work from home (such as artists and writers).

There is an elementary school on the island. In fact I know of 3 children in my neighbourhood (St Lawrence - just east of Downtown Toronto) who actually do take the ferry to Centre Island School and back every day. There are no cars on the island, only buses and a few council trucks, and some golfcarts I think.

During the summer there is an excellent amusement park running, called Centreville.

The second canadian book challenge

The second Canadian book challenge allows us to read 13 books by one author if we so choose. 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.

I see Robert Munsch has been approved. I have just checked my 6 year old son's bookshelves and guess what - we have 16 Robert Munsch books already. So technically I can do this challenge just by reading these books.

Personally, I dont think Robert Munsch Books should be allowed. They are too skinny and only take 5 minutes to read. But since he is listed, I am going to read/post one Robert Munsch books as well as a "free spirit" book every month. Thats my challenge to myself. Or when I don't have anything else to write, I can post a Robert Munsch Book review.

I already have one Robert Munsch review on this blog. LOL