Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I'm back and I am doing OK

I survived the surgery. I have just this minute walked in the door, and I have to tell my readers. Hubby cannot understand the urge I need to post. but you all do, right? I've been cut off from all civilisation. Hubby says something about 2 media choppers crashing over Los Angeles and how the police want to charge the small time criminal with manslaughter. This is what happens when TV media take a police chase to extremes. Anything to get good rating I seriously doubt this charge will stick.


Police identified the suspect as Christopher J. Jones, 23, and said he was booked into jail late Friday night on two counts of vehicle theft, four counts of aggravated assault on a police officer and one count of resisting arrest with other charges expected to be filed later.

Earlier on Friday, Phoenix Police Chief Jack Harris suggested the suspect could "be held responsible for any of the deaths from this tragedy."

The media will do ANYTHING to remove your attention away from IRAQ.

I am very glad to be home

And as I was putting my 5 year old son to bed tonight, he pointed to the Staples on my head and asked me what did they do?
They opened me up and took out the bad thing.
The things that makes you forget?
Yes, thats right (hopefully my memory will improve)
Did they take out the memory chip, Mommy? he was totally serious
No son, it was not a memory chip. We do not have memory chips in our bodies.
Are you sure, he looked at me seriously and asked again.
Yes, I am very sure.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Operation Was A Success!!

Hello to all,

This is cesca_nz's hubby, reporting in on her sugery. The Doctors say everything went very well. She spent 2 days in I.C.U. and is now in a regular hospital room. A nurse and I got her up on her feet so she could take a walk. It was a short walk, but a very good walk. The little walk made her tired, but that's to be expected. The Nurses were impressed that she was able to walk after leaving I.C.U. a few hours earlier. Hopefully she will be released from the hospital on Monday July 30 or Tuesday July 31, 2007. Well that's all from me for now.

Thanks for listening and sending your prayers.


zazou64 (cesca_nz's Hubby)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

VERY VERY last post

Its now 11 pm, and I have to be up again in 6 hours, so its time I went to bed.
This time my blog is definitely going silent.
Until I recover enough to start reading and blogging again.
Ciao for now (again)
And thank you for your all best wishes.

Ana's Story and the Freedom Writers - Comparison

Some weeks ago I reviewed a book written by teenagers called The Freedom Writers Diaries.

As any experienced writer would tell you - and newby writers have been told this over and over again - Write about what you know. Thats how the story is sold. By the emotion of experiencing something you personally know about.

The simple fact is that the Freedom Writers Diaries touched me much more deeply than Ana's Story did, because of the emotional langugage, and the obvious emotional connection. Those teenagers in Los Angeles lived with AIDS, abuse, gang fights, drugs, poverty and so on. It came across in their journals. Nothing like that came across in Ana's Story because the writer Jenna Bush, has not lived it.

She has not truely experienced what it is like to live under those conditions, and so thats why I had no choice but to give her first book a not-so-good review.

Ana's Story by Jenna Bush - Book Review

Ana's story - A story of Hope
by Jenna Bush
Harper Collins ARC
Due to be Published October 2007

This is the story of a young Spanish girl, Ana, from Latin America who was born with HIV and how she deals with it as she grows up. Ana's mother who had HIV, and who died of AIDS when Ana was young. After Ana's father died (also of AIDS) Ana and her sister Isabel are sent to live with their grandmother (abuela).

Ana has to take medicine twice a day every day in order to keep her immune system healthy. Ana grew up with having to keep her HIV a secret. Otherwise she might find herself the subject of abuse and discrimintaion, being ostracised and maybe even expelled from school.

Abuela has a boyfriend who rapes Ana and her sister. Ana confesses to a priest and the priest sends the police to the house. So much for the church promising to keep confessionals confidential. so Abuela kicks the girls out and they go to live with a great aunt, Sonia. Within a year Sonia is abusing Ana because Ana is not being respectful (submissive) enough. Once again Ana is forced to leave.

So Ana spends the next few years being moved from home to home and eventually she ends up in reform school. A year after arriving at reform school, Ana is sent to a hogar, a home for teens and adults with HIV. There she and Berto fall in love and Ana becomes pregnant. "It was only one time without protection" - but as we all know, once is all it takes.

Once again Ana must move, but this time she moves to another Aunts house. At age 16 Ana becomes a mother. She names her daughter Beatriz. The narration ends somewhat abruptly at this point. There is a small epilogue, which could easily have been made part of the main narrative to finish the story more neatly.

I first mentioned this book 3 weeks ago.

If Jenna Bush intends for this book to be an AIDs education book for high school students, well it should help get the message across about why safe sex (or abstinence) is so important in order to stay healthy.

Back then late 80s & early 90s, people were very scared of AIDS, since it is a fatal disease. Noone survives it. Noone knew then, what we know now. That HIV can be managed with drugs and when managed properly, one can live with HIV for quite a considerable life span, instead of dying of AIDS at a young age.

This story was supposed to be "based on real stories" - which it may well have been - but I never felt that this story was real while I was reading.

What it lacks is emotion. There is no connection, no real emotion.
There is no profanity, no real descriptions of despair or of real life in the barrios. The worst phrase used was "poorest part of the city". Not even the word rape was written. The act itself was not described. The drugs that Ana has to take in order to survive are not identified. There are no mentions of neighbours being killed, no gang interactions or drug busts, no doctors names, no hospital names, no barrios names. No real interaction with other people in Ana's life. The city and country are not even named, so we cant make an emotional connection.

This narrative is sanitized. Not just with the changed names, but the language and what stories have been told. There is no real emotion in the words I read. Its just a story. The appendices at the back were very preachy. The word abstinance was mentioned a number of times.

I would not reccomend this book to an adult friend. A female teenager would probably like it, but not the guys. This is a girls story from start to finish.

The cover is sanitized just like the narrative. It does not show a real teenager from the barrios. The girl on the cover looks like a model.

I can remember living in New Zealand when Eve Van Grafhorst from Australia came to live there. She had AIDS, but had received it through a contaminated blood transfusion. When Eve was 3 years old she was diagnosed with HIV and thats when the rejection began. Her family was ostracised, shunned and abused. Even Eve's pre-school demanded that she be removed because they didnt want the other children to be infected. The family moved to NZ where they were welcomed and allowed to live somewhat normal lives. Eve became a tireless advocate for AIDS education in NZ, and her family were willing to open their lives to the country. When Eve died at age 11, her funeral was attended by thousands of New Zealanders. The entire country mourned when Eve died. The Australians did nothing except send a token payment that she was entitled to, because she received contaminated blood.

The book ends with a lengthy appendix that includes several tips on how teens can protect themselves against AIDS and other STDs, and it includes sentences like this one: Whether or not you choose to wait until your married or older to become sexually active, give yourself as much time as you need to make a well-thought-out and mature decision. (Since the book is still in galley form, the final text may read differently.) It's hard enough to imagine President Bush signing off on his daughter's decision to take an unpaid position with the dreaded United Nations, but to have her return and repudiate the administration's position that the only kind of sex education kids should be taught is abstinence-only — why, next thing you know, she'll be marching against the war and the repeal of the inheritance tax.

The above was written on July 2nd, 2007. Today is 3 weeks later. My review copy has the exact same paragraph. However the very next paragraph says this. "There is only one way to be 100 percent certain you won't get an STI - abstinence. There are a lot of ways to show you love or care about someone without having sex. If you decide abstinence is right for you, dont let anyone tell you otherwise." It goes to say that if you decide that you are ready for a sexual relationship, then protect yourself and "use a condom every time. No exceptions - ever."

That sounds like George talking to me.

Comments on the comments & signing off for a while.

Here I am wondering why noone has made any comments on my blog, this week, when I totally FORGOT that I had to moderate them to delete the occasional SPAM comment I was getting. So I log in just now and find 11 comments waiting to be posted. I am sorry to all of you who posted a comment and had to wait so long. Thank you.

(edited to add) Have decided to make the comments unmoderated for now, I can delete any spam comments later.

Another exciting parcel arrived today. My first ARC from HarperCollins First Look program. The review is due by August 30, so I'll have time to read & review it.

I'll make this my last post today. I have to be at the hospital at 6.15AM tomorrow to be prepped for surgery starting at 7.45AM. I'm staying in Hospital for 5 days and then who knows how long I will take to recover sufficiently to start blogging again.

For those who want to know, I was diagnosed with a Colloid Cyst of the third ventricle about 18 months ago. This is a benign cyst deep in the brain, located in the ventricles where the Cerebral Spinal Fluid forms. If this cyst grows big enough it can block the CSF, and cause sudden death. My sister had the exact same cyst and she died very suddenly. Although I have no worrying symptoms, I do have some short term memory problems. Which is why I forgot about changing my comments to be moderated. There may be some further short term memory problems after surgery, but that should improve as the brain heals.

So this blog is falling silent for a while.

Ciao for now.

New Books

I splurged on the weekend and brought one last box of books from Bookcloseouts before I go into hospital. I didnt expect them to be shipped so quickly, but they arrived today. Bookcloseouts is an EXCELLENT online remainder outlet. They do such a wonderful job. Quick, efficient and at great prices. Maybe it's Canada Post that's fast. Or maybe it's because St Catherines (warehouse location) is not that far from Toronto.

Anyway, today I can relax, and hold my new books, skim them, and sigh that I dont have time to read them properly. And then I will have to put them back in the box to wait until I am able to pick up a book and remember what I read.

Books Around the World Challenge

This new Challenge does not have any start or ending dates on it so I'm going to enter this one. The list of books has not yet been finalised, so this challenge can wait until everythings done, and I am back from the hospital.

I would like to try and read 2 books from or about each of the below regions or continents within one year, and I will make it a rule to myself, that none of these books are crossovers from another challenge. That's a total of 26 books - and easily doable within 12 months.

Books around the World Challenge

North America
Central America
South America
Middle East
Central Asia
Southeast Asia

Monday, July 23, 2007

Sixpence House by Paul Collins - Book Review

Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books
By Paul Collins Bloomsbury 2003

I'm reading this book for the Armchair Travellers Challenge.

I chose this book because it was about the town of Hay-on-Wye in Britain (or Wales depending on how accurate you want to be), a town I have heard quite a bit about. This book has been on my wish list for a while, so when I spotted it at the library on Friday, I grabbed it.

The first time I read about the town of Hay-on-Wye was in Lady of Hay by Barbara Erskine. Now finally here was the chance to really learn what the town is like in the present day.

Paul Collins, an American born in Pennsylvania of British born parents, decided on a whim to go live in Britain for a while and see how it compared to California, which was becoming very expensive. So with his wife Jennifer and young son Morgan, they sold the house in San Francisco, packed up and moved to Hay-on-Wye.

Paul had just completed his first book (Barnvard's Folly) which was going through the process of being editing and published. So he was free to find more ideas for a new book. That turned out to be the story of the family's attempt to relocate to Hay-on-Wye.

Try as they might, Paul and Jennifer were unable to find a suitable house that was priced within their financial budget and also was not falling down. Most of the old houses up for sale were close to collapsing. Within a year, they were forced to leave Hay-on-Wye and return to America.

I was disappointed to learn that Hay is a dying town. It's only reason to survive is the Annual Book festival. It was one place I had planned to visit, if I am ever able to travel to Britain in my lifetime.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book - especially the parts where Paul and Jenn were interacting with the locals. There was Diana, their landlady who owned Pembertons Bookshop, which was the only new-books book-shop in town. Hay has 40 books shops, and 39 of them are used-book or antiquarian shops.

The Book seller Richard Booth (who actually started the whole Book Town and Book Festival phenomenon) has a book-shop full of remaindered books. There were new books and boxes arriving every day from all over the world, and these had to be shelved. But the shelving was not done in a consistent manner. And since most of these books were of such unusual topics and titles, they did not sell particularly quickly.

Richard Booth also owned the local castle on the hill above the town. Practically every large town in Britain has a castle, and while most of them belong to the Nation, some are still privately owned.

One very important thing to remember. Paul lost his American passport in the last week before leaving Britain. He foolishly chose to re-enter America using his British passport. That is a huge no-no in immigration circles.
The American government legally requires ALL American citizens to enter America on their American passports. Paul was very lucky to not have been deported back to Britain. Thats because America does NOT recognize dual citizenship - officially.
As a new immigrant, I am familiar with all the picky rules required by both American and Canadian immigration departments. I've been through both systems.

And one last thing. This author has written 3 books. Sixpence House was the second. The third book is called Not Even Wrong: Adventures in Autism. Its about how Paul and Jennifer's young son Morgan begins exhibiting autistic behaviour during their time in Britain and was eventually diagnosed as autistic back in the States.

While Morgan's activities were mentioned a few times during the course of Sixpence House, I did not see anything that stood out as being autistic behaviour. But then, I was not expecting or looking for it. Maybe, I'll need to skim this book again. And when I can, I plan on reading Not Even Wrong as soon as possible. I have seen it on the shelves.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

So Many Books, So Little Time by Sara Nelson Book Review

So Many Books, So Little Time
By Sara Nelson Putnam 2003

I loved this book very much. I could identify so much with Sara in practically EVERY chapter. The idea was to read 52 books in one year (on average one book per week). The only problem I had about this book was that Sara did not write about all 52 books. She mentioned maybe half the list of books that she actually did read. The rest are listed in Appendix B.

Appendix A is the original list she had planned to read. But as Sara mentioned, reading moods change and reading what is listed becomes a chore. I know EXACTLY how she felt.

I also sympathised with Sara whenever she was in decision mode about which books would be the right mood for the occasion, (usually this was involving a trip somewhere outside of NYC) and what extra books should she take in case of any possible unexpected events.

As an example, I took my son to the park playground yesterday, and I took 3 books with me. American Jezebel because I had just a few pages to finish the book. So Many Books which I had not started at that point. And Sixpence House which I was already halfway through. I ended up starting Sara's book and left Sixpence House for today. Fortunately, these two books are about books and they are short. And as of this writing, I have finished both of them. LOL

I had no problems with Sara writing about family members, friends and other personal events, amongst her reviews and other thoughts about the books. These are what made her choices of books more personal. I did learn a few interesting things about her.

Sara is in a multi-racial marriage. Her husband, Leo, is Japanese-American. And they have one son named Charley.

Leo does not like reading books. I can totally understand Sara's frustration with wanting to tell him about a great book she just read, and he is so not interested. My spouse is exactly the same way. Fortunately Leo and my spouse both understand our addiction, our need, to constantly buy more books.

This book was published in 2003. At that time Sara was working in NYC for Glamour magazine. In 2005 Sara changed jobs and is now the Editor in Chief of Publishers Weekly, or PW as it is now called. Definitely a step up for Sara.

Sara's older sister Liza Nelson has also written a novel. It's called Playing Botticelli.

This is the last book for the Non Fiction Challenge.


The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
Nine Parts of Desire by Geraldine Brooks
A Million Little Pieces by James Frey
Rapture by Susan Minot
Heartburn by Nora Ephron (1983)
Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue
John Adams by David McCullough
Call It Sleep, by Henry Roth
Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh
Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott
Turning Japanese by David Mura
The Way Home by Henry Dunow
Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk
Floaters by Calvin Trillin (1980)
The Crimson Petal and the White by Faber
The Brothers Karamazov
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

(There are more books listed at the back of the hard cover book)

American Jezebel by Eve LaPlante Book Review

American Jezebel
By Eve LaPlante
Harper 2004
Website Anne Hutchinson

I chose this book for the Non Fiction Challenge, but it's taken me a few weeks to finish it. Not because of all the religion, but because of the language. Did they really speak like that in the 1600's??

"I did not hold diverse of these things I am accused of, but did only ask a question"

These days we would say, "I only asked a question. What's wrong with that?"

Back in Anne's day (the mid 1600s) there was plenty wrong with asking a question. But she didn't ask just one question. She asked lots of questions. And that was just plain wrong. First because she was a woman. Second because she asked someone who was not her husband, and third because she began teaching other women.

Anne believed that people could communicate directly with God - without the help of ministers or the Bible. This was in direct contradiction with the established religion.

The Puritans adhered very strictly to the Bible - especially the New Testament. Where it says women shall remain silent at worship, Puritan women were EXPECTED (actually it was legalized as law) to stay silent in church. ONLY the men could speak, preach, ask and answer questions.

The Bible also says that a women should ask her husband if she had any questions. Anne persisted in asking the church leaders - none of whom were her husband. He was a merchant and farmer.

And lastly the Bible says that women may teach only other women, Anne began doing that, which was acceptable, until her teachings began straying away from Puritan teaching. The Puritans believed in the freedom to worship, but not the the freedom to think.

Puritan ministers taught that people could only find God by following the teachings of the Bible. And that only they (the ministers) could interpret the Bible correctly. At meetings she held in her Boston home, Hutchinson criticized the teachings of the colony's ministers.

Eventually she was brought to trial, and in a very biased trial (not one woman was allowed to speak on her behalf) she was eventually found guilty and banished from Boston. So the family moved to what is now Rhode Island. Where they lived happily and peacefully for a number of years. Anne's husband, William Hutchinson, died there.

Rhode Island was founded on the belief of "freedom of religion". One could believe whatever one wanted to, as long as one did NOT disturb the peace of the community. There was no church, no organised meetings, and therefore very few records. But when rumours of Massachusetts (and Boston) wanting to expand and take over the Rhode Island colony,started up, Anne decided to move again. She refused to live under Puritan (puritanical??) laws again.

So she and several of her younger children moved to what is now the Bronx in New York City. Back then, it was part of Nieuw Amsterdam under the Dutch. In Massachusetts, the native Indians were somewhat peacful with the Puritan colonists. Anne had never had any trouble with them, in Massachusetts or Rhode Island. She beleived that the same would be true for the Dutch colony. Unfortunately she was wrong.

In the Summer of 1643, Anne Hutchinson and six of her youngest children were scalped and beheaded by the Siwanoy Indian tribe. A seventh child escaped the masscre by hiding in the Split Rock close to the junction of Hutchinson River Parkway and Route 95, on the northern edge of the Pelham Bay Split Rock Golf Course. This child, Susan, lived with the Indians for several years before returning to Boston to be with her older siblings. She eventually married, moved to Rhode Island and raised a large family.

The Title "American Jezebel" comes directly from Governor John Winthrop of Masschusetts, who wrote that Anne was exactly like Queen Jezebel of the Bible - a witch, a whore and a heathen.

Anne Hutchinson had 15 children, all of whom survived infancy - which in that century was very rare. Half of the children were born in England, and half in America. Anne was a midwife. She knew how to birth children and how to keep the family healthy. Two of her children died of the plague in England before they moved to America. Six of them were killed by Indians.

Five of the older children (and also Susan the youngest survivor) survived to adulthood and married, having families of their own. When Anne was banished from Boston, some of these older children stayed in Boston because they already had their own families. And some of them moved to Rhode Island. There are now numerous descendents scattered through America. Including the author Eve LaPlante and Presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt, George H W Bush and George W Bush.

A statue of Anne Hutchinson now stands in front of the State House in Boston. The inscription on the plaque at the bottom of the statue reads:

In Memory of
Anne Marbury Hutchinson
Baptized at Alford
Lincolnshire England
20 - July 1595
Killed by the Indians
at East Chester New York 1643
Courageous Exponent
of Civil Liberty
and Religious Toleration

I enjoyed the book for the very detailed history. Ms LaPlante has obviously spent a lot of time doing the research. But the language (taken directly from trial transcripts) is somewhat difficult to understand.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

This is my Library

Kimbooktu is asking for pictures of bibliophiles libraries. So I took a few pics today and here they are.

This is my TBR pile that sits on top of boxes of other books right next to my bed. Of course there are some books in this pile that have already been read & reviewed. They have not yet been moved to the cupboard - mainly because there is no room.

And out in the hallway is my tall cupboard that is jam-packed full of books. This is the top shelf of the cupboard. More from the TBR pile - mostly hardcover books.

And this is the second shelf of the cupboard - still more books on the TBR pile.

This is the third shelf of good books I have read and wish to keep. The bottom shelf is filled with the same.

There are also dozens of boxes filled with books scattered around the apartment. These books I would like to sell, but dont have time or energy to sit outdoors at a table or photograph each and every book and upload them to ebay. There are hundreds of books.

Harry Potter, Challenges and Surgery

So, now that the Harry Potter Hype is officially over, It's time to move on. Except for those of you are right now reading the final Volume of the series. And of course we all know that HP and the Deathly Hallows was released at midnight local time last night (7 and a half hours ago as I write this). According to the detailed Review on Wiki, it's all about death, and more deaths, so I'm in no hurry to read it.

Right now I am unemployed, and waiting for surgery. I will be going into Hospital on Thursday 26th July, and will probably not be in any condition to write for anywhere from a week to a month afterwards. So this Blog will be silent for a while.

As for the Challenges. There has been quite a lot of discussion on the Challenges Yahoo group about whether or not we MUST stick to those books that we originally nominated for each Challenge. Normally I would try and stick to the list if I can, but right now since I dont have much time, I'm just going to read any book that fits the challenge parameters, because I want to finish as many challenges as possible in the next 5 days.

And I am hereby officially dropping out of the Something about Me Challenge since I probably wont be in any condition to read during August & September.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Rated PG

When I first did this trial last week, my blog was rated G for general - there was only 1 mention of death. After posting reviews of C'est la Vie and The Hacienda, I am sad to report that this Blog is now rated

What is your Blog Rating

Mingle2 - What is Your Blog Rating

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Hacienda by Lisa St Aubin de Teran

The Hacienda
Lisa St Aubin de teran
First Published 1997

I chose to read this book for the New Notions Challenge, and since its set in Venezuela, it's also read for the Armchair Travellers Challenge as well.

In the early 1970's When Lisa was 17 she married Jaime from Venezuela who was 20 years older. He told her stories of living in a big house (Casa Grande) on a large sugar plantation (the Hacienda). Lisa was swept away by these romantic stories and agreed to marry him. He took her back to the mountains of Venezuela where he promptly abandoned her and she spent the next 7 years more or less living on the Hacienda by herself.

Jaime would show up now and then, do what husbands do and then take off again. Eventually he sank more and more into schizophenia and mental illness. Lisa was trapped in a bad marriage, where wives are just chattels and she had no rights. She was forced to run the plantation, raise her daughter Iseult, learn Spanish, live with the sometimes illogical customs and supersitions, try and teach the locals new ways of doing things, and generally just survive before she too sank into a deep depression. She had to depend on her mother to send her books, medicines, food,
newspapers and news from England.

In 1977 Venezuela was hit by a drought which devastated the sugar crops. So the hacienda had to change to growing avocados (which, like olives, take several years to mature) and other fruits and vegetables. Venezuela in the 1970's was a very divided country. The government was raking in the petro dollars from Lake Maracaibo, but very little of it was trickling down to the general population. The rich were getting richer and the poor were getting a lot poorer.

As I read this, I was wondering if maybe life might have improved for the locals in
Venezuela over the last 30 years? Probably not.

It was a hard book to read - took me a week. But I was enthralled with watching Lisa
having to learn to deal with life, servants, and a new language on her own. Eventually, for the sake of her sanity, her daughters health and her own health, Lisa had to escape the prison and the squallor and return home to England.

Lisa has been married 3 times and has 3 children - one to each husband. She is currently living in Holland with the 4th partner. Her daughter Iseult (born 1973) had her first child before she was 20, and has also been married several times. Iseult has also written both a novel and a memoir.

You can read more about this family here (2000) and here (2005)

All of Lisa's books are listed here

Sunday, July 15, 2007

C'est la Vie -by Suzy Gershman Book Review

C'est La Vie
By Suzy Gershman
Penguin 2004 Website - Suzy Gershman

I have always loved Paris and the French culture, the language, the history - ever since I was a little girl. I will read (almost) ANYTHING about France, so this book was an automatic purchase. I saved it for a later time, and the Armchair Challenge was the perfect time to read it. Today was the perfect day to read it.
I took my son to the local splash pool where he spent 6 hours splashing in the water with his friends, shooting water from water guns, blowing bubbles and generally having a good time. I spent most of that time sitting in the shade reading this book.

I enjoyed it. I really did. I just had one small concern. Did she really need to tell us about her sex life with a 70 something old man? I should have paid more attention to the quote at the bottom of the cover. Anyone who wonders about sex with a Frenchman will love this inspiring story of starting life over in Paris.

I have no idea who Suzy Gershman is, I have never seen or read any of her books. Apparently she writes the Born to Shop series of books for Frommers. Her husband was diagnosed with cancer in late 1999 and died in the first week of January 2000. Within 6 weeks, Suzy was packed and moving to Paris.

I thoroughly enjoyed the stories Suzy told of a foreigner trying to rent an apartment, of figuring out the metro and bus services, of learning where the good shops were. Yes, she complained frequently about the high cost of living, but Paris has always been known as an expensive city. And since she obviously had money, and an apartment, and was still writing her books, Suzy was never in any danger of being made homeless.

But when she started dating the Count (Count of Monte Cristo she called him, because she didnt want to give his real title) I thought she was mad. For three reasons. One because her husband had died only 6 months before and wasn't she rushing things a bit too much, secondly she was only 52 and the Count was almost 80, and thirdly, did she really have to regale us with the details of her sex life? It was rather TMI in my opinion. When the relationship broke up, I thought Serves you right for being dazzled by a title.

I got the impression that maybe Suzy was embarrassed, and that was the real reason she refused to identify him. She could easily have chosen to not mention the Count at all. I think she got some very bad editing advice. Add some sex to spice it up a little. Make it exciting so you will sell more copies. Bad advice. But only about her relationship with the Count. The rest of the book I really did enjoy. Now if she had just mentioned meeting Emeril Lagasse, and I might easily have skimmed the parts about the Count.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

What I have read this week

Ok I know the long silence is not acceptable to bloggers, but I've been busy - reading. Let me see - 5 books this week. Most of them light stuff, but one challenge book as well. The challenge book will be reviewed in another post

By Matthew Reilly
Self Published 1995
Pan McMillan (Australia) 2000
Website Matthew Reilly

The Contest by Matthew Reilly - 7 contestants are placed inside the New York Public Library in order to participate in an Intergalactic Challenge called the Presidian. The rules of the Challenge are simple: seven contestants will enter, but only one will leave. The Library has been electrified. Noone may enter or leave during the challenge.

Steve Swain and his 8 year old daughter Holly are unwittingly chosen to represent Earth, and they must not only survive and defeat the other competitiors, they must also defeat the final battle - the huge and very nasty Karanadon.

Think of this as a version of the Jurassic Park 3 movie but inside an enclosed building rather than an island. This was Matthew Reilly's first book. As a mixture of Sci-fi and Action/Adventure, it is exciting, but there are a few unrealistic leaps one must make make, to accept the storyline.

Next up were Two Books by Mary Jane Clark.
These I found at the library. Dancing in the Dark and Nowhere to Run. Remember I mentioned the new book of Clark's I read & reviewed recently - When Day Breaks? I said I enjoyed it because of the characters.

Well Dancing in the Dark had no familiar characters, and the reporter that was central to the story started off as a weak woman - she allowed her boss to threaten her with losing her job if she did not go to New Jersey and do this story, when she was supposed to be going on vacation to the Grand Canyon).

If I was her, I would have said get stuffed and walked out. She caved and gave up the vacation. Her kids were really looking forward to the vacation.

On page 59, I read the following. "Aw Mom, give it up will you. Going to the beach is ok, but we've gone to Amagansett lots of other summers. Been there, done that. I told my friends I was going to the Grand Canyon and now I'll seem like such a dork. If you ask me, the Jersey shore doesn't come close to the Grand Canyon."

Diane's patience was wearing thin. "You know what Anthony? I'm sorry we aren't going on the trip we were planning on. I really am, honey. But if I want to keep my job at KEY news, I have to take this assignment. That's all there is to it. You'll just have to understand. And to tell you the truth Anthony, you sound like a spoiled brat."

That's when I stopped reading. If any author allows a character to be treated like that, and the character then complains about her decision and trys to blame her son, well, this is one story I really do not want to read. The assignment was about teenage girls who claim to abducted and held for several days before being released. It sounds like a case of girls (and author) crying WOLF to me.

The other novel Nowhere to Run was much much better. It was centred around Annabelle Murphy, a producer at KEY News, one of the characters from When Day Breaks, and she too had a husband that was in a bad position. Her husband Mike, was severely depressed after 9/11. He had been a fireman at the towers and lost a number of friends when the towers went down.
When a KEY News producer allows an on-air guest to bring a file of anthrax onto the morning show and show it to the cameras, claiming just how easy it is to get access to the deadly poison, the public starts panicking. Every employee is swabbed and tested. In the space of a week 3 people die of anthrax - one of them being a KEY News employee. Another KEY employee is stabbed to death, and when more anthrax is found in Annabelle's office, the entire KEY News building is locked down until the source of the anthrax is found.

This book I could not put down, and I had to read it all. Who was trying to frame Anna? Who was killing the employees and why? And was it really anthrax in the container that was shown to the cameras?

And lastly another Anna Pigeon Mystery by Nevada Barr. This book was called Blood Lure. Anna is seconded to the Glacier National Park (in Northern Montana snuggled up at the Canadian border), where she is helping to track Grizzly Bears for a DNA project. These are some photos of Glacier National Park

A woman is killed in the park and the hunt begins for her killer. This woman was a photographer. Her camera was still at the crime scene, but the film was missing. Anna thinks she may have taken pictures of something she was not supposed to see.

"What is soft enough to hit without breaking, yet can be swung with enough force to sever a spinal cord?"

I enjoyed this book, especially learning about Grizzly Bears, how the scientists track them, how bears live, what they eat and how they behave.

Nevada Barr

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

New Books I want to read - and the Something About Me Challenge

The Secret of Lost Things

Has anyone read this novel yet? The review I just read looks good - a young lady from Down Under (my old stomping grounds - as we would say) arrives in NYC and gets a job in an antiquarian Book Store.

Now about the Something About Me Challenge. For some reason I thought I had to choose 5 books that I WANT to read that reflect who I am. Thats why I was waiting to choose my books. Today I finally worked it out - I actually get to choose 5 books I have already read that reflect who I am, and choose 5 books from other peoples lists to read for the challenge.

So the 5 books that reflect who I am are as follows.

84 Charing Cross Road - Helene Hanff (NF)
Because I love reading anything about books - and I absolutely LOVED the movie.

Holy Blood, Holy Grail - Baigent, Leigh, Lincoln (NF)
I read this 25 years ago when it first came out. It made a huge impact on my life as I searched for the truth (my version of truth anyway) and I will always be grateful to this book for opening my eyes.

Runaway Jury - John Grisham (F)
I loved this story where the little people win against the big tobacco companies. The movie got changed drastically, and did not give me the same feeling.

Sahara or Treasure - Clive Cussler (F)
Sahara because it involves the ancient libraries of Timbuktu, and Treasure because it involves the Ancient Library of Alexandria. Great Adventure books by one of alltime my favourite Authors.

I am Spock & I am not Spock - Leonard Nimoy (NF)
Because I LOVE Vulcans and Star Trek, and Nimoy does such a fantastic job.

Please note that 3 of these books are non fiction and only 2 are fiction - because I have said a number of times, I do prefer reading non-fiction.

I will post my books to read after I have perused everyone's lists.

ETA about 2 hours later - Here is my list

So Many Books, So Little Time by Sara Nelson (NF) Sally, A Book in the Life, and Vasilly
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (F) (crossed over with another challenge)
The above 3 because they are on my TBR list

The Red Tent by Anita Diamante (F) (sarah miller)
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (F) Dewey
2 popular novels that I havent read yet

Educating Esme by Esme Raji Codell (NF) A book in the life
Papa Married a Mormon by John D. Fitzgerald (NF) Suey
Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books by Paul Collins (NF) Nattie
Parenting your Only Child by Susan Newman (NF) Christina
Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan (NF) kookiejar
Biblioholism by Tom Raabe (NF) Twiga
The Seven Daughters of Eve by Bryan Sykes, (christina) because I am a genealogy addict LOL
And of course a good list of NF depending on if I can find them

Altered Books - Deja Vu

I swear I never knew anything about Scott at Fine Books doing anything on Altered Books. There's nothing mentioned in his blog about it. So when my (July/Aug) copy of Fine Books & Collections arrived at my home today, I was stunned to see in big letters at the bottom left corner of the cover, the following words - Under the Knife ALTERED BOOKS.

Naturally of course I have to read the article first. Usually I would have read Nicolas Basbanes column first. That was actually the third item I read today because then I just had to read the article about Books in Films. The magazine lists 12 films related to books that are worth watching. I was VERY pleased to see probably my all time favourite book/film listed - 84 Charing Cross Road. I was also please to see mentioned, a Johnny Depp movie called The Ninth Gate, which I desperately want to watch - but cannot find anywhere in this city!!!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Bookaholics, Altered Books and Medieval France

Having collapsed in bed at 8pm last night - right after putting my son to bed, I woke up around 3.30am. I need to keep all the lights off, which means I cant read, so I'm online looking for new and interesting book topics to write about. So here they are.

Amazon Bookaholics Guide preview
Taking in small, quirky Web sites like Book Slut, dovegreyreader, Bluestalking Reader, and MoorishGirl as well as large, well-known sites like salon.com, this book will show readers how to investigate literature from distant lands, to find the sites of authors who are yet to be discovered by the mainstream, and to find the pages of book industry pundits who have opened their daily lives to a wider world. Welcome to the honest world of book blogs.

An English book due to be published in October 2007. It seems to list mostly UK based blogs. One of those listed is Dovegreyreader - a blog that I have already discovered and is listed in my sidebar.

Rashi's Daughters

Rashi's Daughters is a series of historical fiction novels by Maggie Anton chronicling the lives and loves of Rashi's three daughters, Joheved, Miriam, and Rachel. Rashi, the great medieval Jewish scholar, had no sons, but his grandsons became the greatest scholars of their generation. This book series explores the lives of the ignored generation - Rashi's daughters.

While I obviously am not a Jewish scholar or historian by any means, I am interested in medieval France. The first book Johaved is already available. The second book Miriam is due out in September 2007 and Maggie Anton is currently writing the third novel about Rachel, the youngest daughter. Check out Maggie's blog

Here is an interview from 2005 for some background information.

Ms Anton makes a comment about the covers of the first two books.

For those who asked, the woman on MIRIAM is from "Portrait of Lucrezia Panciatichi" (a lady in the Medici court) by Agnolo Bonzino of Florence. The original is at the Ufitzi Museum in Florence, next to the portrait of her husband. Of course, JOHEVED is Leonardo DaVinci's "Lady with an Ermine." Both lovely Renaissance paintings.

Some folks ask why we didn't use medieval art, and the short answer is that the women in them are not very attractive, and the whole point of cover art is to attract the potential reader. The great thing about using Renaissance artists, besides that they're great artists, is that they're dead - so they don't charge for using their work and they don't complain if we change it. For example, JOHEVED has blue eyes (as the story requires) but "the lady with the ermine" doesn't, and MIRIAM is a brunet, while Lucreazia is a redhead.

Which leads me into my third discovery.

Altered Books.

Altered book art combines several types of artistic techniques into one unique art form. Starting with a book base, the artist tears away pages and then adds their own creative expressions through rubber stamping, scrapping, collage, photomontage, and writing.

Jenny's Altered Books

Beth Cote's Altered book site

Altered Reliquaries

International Society of Altered book Artists
[An Altered book] is any book, old or new that has been recycled by creative means into a work of art. They can be ... rebound, painted, cut, burned, folded, added to, collaged in, gold-leafed, rubber stamped, drilled or otherwise adorned ...and yes! it is legal!

I love this art form. Some of the pictures on the above sites are gorgeous. It's sort of like scrapbooking, but not so personal. And even though the real Altered Book artist would redo an actual book cover and the pages, I see no reason why one cannot do it in Photoshop as well. I just might try my hand at this one of these days.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Oh Rockin' Robin well you really gonna rock tonight

Oh rockin' robin well you really gonna rock tonight

This line is the first thing that popped into my head when I read on the Literary Feline's blog that she had nominated me for a Rocking Girl Blogger award. The second thing that popped into head, was a huge "WOW, thank you Wendy Cat".

And you want to know why those words of that immortal Golden Oldie song jumped into my head? It is simply my most favourite golden oldie and the reason it is my favourite is because my real name is Robin. (although I use a different spelling).

Now I have to nominate several other Rocking girls. So here they are.

Mirabilis because I love reading up on all the latest archaeological and environmental stories in one place every day, and because she takes the time to scour the media to find them.

Philobiblion in the UK, because she is environmentally friendly and doing her part to show us the way.

Charlene in Quebec, because her book reviews are always well written and excellent to read.

Joy at Thoughts of Joy because if it wasn't for her Non Fiction challenge, I would have never gotten addicted tio challenges in the first place.

And last but not least to Wendy at Caribousmom for starting the Novel Challenge Group at Yahoo where we can all get counselling, and lots more titles for our TBR piles.

Thank you all for the wonderful Blogs you write.

Book News this weekend

I was surfing the Book world and found a few interesting items.

Harper Collins Canada is publishing a book by Jenna Bush (yes the daughter of the fellow currently occupying the White House). I put my vote in at FirstLook to review this book, but will have to wait and see if I am one of the lucky ones. The Book is called Ana's Story.
And Kristin Gore (daughter of Al Gore) has also written a new book. Gore, who has written for television shows such as Futurama and Saturday Night Live, has produced her second comic chick-lit novel, Sammy’s House (a sequel to her first, Sammy’s Hill). Source - Quill & Quire Blog

July 6, 2007: A school librarian in Kindersley, Saskatchewan, has removed children’s author Nikki Tate’s novel Trouble on Tarragon Island from shelves because it contains a scene of bullying, which the school does not permit, and because the bullying includes words that may be offensive to women. Quill & Quire

Friday, July 6, 2007

Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver - Book Review

Animal Vegetable Miracle
by Barbara Kingsolver
HarperCollins May 2007

First up, I have a confession to make. I have never read any of Barbara Kingsolvers novels. So when I was offered a new Kingsolver book to read & review, I assumed it would be another novel. As soon as I realised that it was NON-fiction and a personal memoir to boot, (my favourite genre) I jumped on it.

Guess what? I LOVED it. Kingsolver is hilarious and serious, environmentally friendly and concerned, all at the same time.

This is Kingsolver's story of how the family grew their own food and lived off the land for a year. The process basically entails growing food in a garden for 6 months, spending summer and autumn madly preserving it (canned, pickled, dried, frozen etc) so you can still eat for the other 6 months of winter and spring.

In this book she writes about her family leaving Arizona and moving back to Virginia (not far from where she grew up) in order to live on the family farm. The reason they left Arizona was due to the previous three years of drought and ongoing rising cost of food.

Actually the family have been sort of vegetarian (locavore - which means eating locally grown organic food only) for quite a few years. The only reason they didnt eat meat, was because there was no free-range meat available in Arizona. So by necessity they had to be vegetarian.

In Virginia, the family was able to locate sources of free range meat (pasture raised lambs, goats and calves as opposed to feedlot meat), free-range chickens and turkeys who were not raised in cages, and thus free-range eggs as well.

Kingsolver has 2 daughters - both of whom were born and raised in Arizona. They grew up in a desert climate. Now they were moving to the Appalachians where there are 4 distinct climates - not just hot and mildly cool. Summer in Virginia was described as being like winter in Arizona.

You would think an 8 year old would rebel against this idea, right? Kingsolvers youngest daughter Lily, seems to be the adventurous type. She wanted to see real snow, experience a snow day off from school, and she even started her own business - raising chickens and selling the eggs.

The book is actually written by 3 people. Kingsolver wrote most of it. Her husband Steven wrote some sidebars on the economics and politics of food, and also the environmental and nutritional effects of large scale farming versus small scale farming. Kingsolvers daughter Camille (aged 18) left the farm part way through the year to start college. But she still includes some lovely recipes for each season and some interesting stories about eating organically from a teenagers POV.

My favourite chapter would have to be the one about the turkeys. I literally giggled all the way through it as Barbara tells of how the turkeys had to learn about the "birds and the bees" by trial and error because they had been imprinted on humans instead of other turkeys. The way Kingsolver told the story, the turkeys were so funny, I wished I could have seen them for real.

When the book ended, I had just one question. What happened next?

Did the family immediately go back to McDonalds and takeouts or have they continued their natural life style. Kingsolver gave an interview in May 2007, and answered that very question.

CURWOOD: So you eat locally for a year and you lived to tell about it and the day this project was finished did you run out for what uh maybe uh...

KINGSOLVER: Coca Cola and moon pies? No, we didn't. We forgot to notice the day the project ended. By this time it was just the way we lived. We have a new relationship with where we live. We are what we eat.

As for me, well I live in a huge city (4 million & rising). Fortunately there is a farmers market every Saturday just a few blocks from my home. We do try and buy fresh fruits and veges whenever possible.

Below are some websites related to eating locally grown and organic food.

Organic Gardening Magazine
Mother Earth Magazine
Edible Communities
Restaurants that use Organically and Locally Grown food
Barbara Kingsolvers website
The 20 minute author interview link on the home page is highly recommended.

And last but not least - the website of the book - which includes all the recipes.
Animal Vegetable miracle - A Year of Food Life

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Shelfari finally invents the widget & other news

Yaay, I have been posting my Books on Shelfari for the last 6 months or so, and this week they have FINALLY programmed a widget so you can see my library on my blog.

Other news this week - my Mother-in-law was admitted to Hospital this week with lesions in her lungs and her brain. The doctors suspect cancer, but can't do a biopsy until next week. She has been a heavy smoker for the last 50 years and she has been told that she MUST quit. Despite trying several times, it will very hard for her to go cold turkey.

And I am also scheduled for surgery in 3 weeks time at the end of July. I have a cyst in my brain. It is not a tumour and it is not malignant, but its position is dangerous. If everything goes well, I should be back home inside a week, but will be off work for at least 2 months, maybe more.

All the more time to read and blog.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Cry of the Dove by Fadia Faqir - Book Review

Cry of the Dove ARC
Author Fadia Faqir
HarperCollins Canada September 2007
UK Title - My Name is Salma May 2007
Website - Fadia Faqir

I chose to read this novel because it was about a young Arab (Bedouin) woman living in Exeter in England. Exeter is the same city that some of my ancestors came from. I also wanted to see how Arab women are portrayed within their own culture. Are they strong women? Are they making choices to break with tradition? Are they choosing to live their own lives? Do they want to live like western women? Or do they still think the west is too permiscuous?

I really wanted to read this novel all the way through, and I did get to page 180. I've had to think hard to figure out why I couldn't finish it. But there were two things that stopped me. The first reason is - Salma is far too much like I used to be.

The main character Salma grew up very sheltered, in her home village - just like me. She works a goatherd, playing the reed pipes and looking after the family goats. She does the normal teenage things, teases a local young man, has sex, and becomes pregnant. When she tells him, his reply is so typically chauvinistic, I really cannot read any further.

I swallowed hard and then said "I'm pregnant".
His cockiness collapsed and he turned into a man troubled with a bent back and a trembling voice, "You cannot be. How?"
"I don't know" I replied and stuffed the last morsel of bread into my mouth.
When he finally looked up at me he was a different man, His brown eyes burning with anger rather than desire. He cleared his voice and said "You are responsible. You have seduced me with the yearning tunes of your pipe and swaying hips." he said and he raised his arm about to hit me..."I've never laid a finger on you, never seen you before, do you understand?" he said, wrapped his kufiyya around his head like a mask and walked off into the dust.

Salma is rushed into hiding, and kept under "protective custody" for 5 years!! Her baby daughter is born and immediately given to her family to raise. Salma remains a prisoner.

Eventually word arrives that her family are still looking for her to kill her - to revenge their honour. So she is spirited off to England. Once there Salma is dumped in a foreign country with a fake document (a British passport that says her name is Sally, not Salma) and an entirely new culture.

Salma has to learn how to not attract attention, which is rather difficult to do when she insists on wearing a veil. She has to learn a new language, and also how to talk to other people, both men and women. Fortunately she has one friend - a Pakistani girl named Parvin. Parvin teaches Salma everything she has to know, to survive. Salma gets a job as a tailors assistant, and she enrolls as a part time student to study English Literature.

The second reason I couldn't finish this story is because of the narration. It is narrated in the first person by Salma. The narration jumps backwards and forwards between her present life in England and her previous life in the Levant. The jumps are abrupt and they happen without warning. In my opinion they interrupt the flow of the story and every time they happened, I had to make a mental shift to the new time frame (past or present) and then carry on reading. There is no warning of any time jump. No line break, no asterix break, nothing. It is very disconcerting. Eventually it became annoying. I stopped reading at page 180, when Salma told her boyfriend she was pregnant.

I used to be naive and innocent just like Salma. And I was taken advantage of a number of times. The difference between me and Salma, is that I learnt my lessons, I learnt to say NO, and I learnt not to get into those situations again.

This is Fadia Faqir's third novel. She is Jordanian-British and lives in Durham, England.