Saturday, May 31, 2008

50 Greatest Books

There is no article in todays Globe & Mail Online Edition, specifically identified as one of the 50 Greatest Books. This may have something to do with the email I sent them last week telling them their online edition was wrong, I don't know. Anyway, this review fits the parameters for 50 Greatest Books, so I will assume this is correct. Since it is a short article, I have posted the entire review.

More on memory
May 31, 2008

Readers intrigued by hyperthymestic syndrome, the condition that afflicts poor Jill Price with an ineradicable memory, may be interested to learn that hers is not the first such account. In 1968, the great Russian psychologist A. R. Luria published a book that has since entered the limited library of neurological classics. The Mind of a Mnemonist: A Little Book About a Vast Memory (available from Harvard University Press, 160 pages, $26.50) is a gem of both clinical writing and literary narrative, comparable to the likes of Oliver Sacks's The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.

Luria founded a new genre with this work, in which a patient was treated not as a collection of bodily syndromes, but as a human in full: He called it "romantic science." The human in this case was a young Russian, S., whose memory bank was limitless and who eventually became a professional mnemonist. Luria's exploration of his gift (and his curse) is fascinating, lucid and compassionate. Do read it.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Free the Children - Book Review

Free the Children
by Craig Kielburger
Harper Collins 1998
Free the Children Website

I have been living in Canada for over 7 years now, and I have never heard of Craig Keilburger or the Free the Children Charity that he founded. Not until I found his book on a library shelf this week. This story is so amazing.

As most Canadians would know, this is the story of how in 1995, a 12 year old Canadian boy felt moved by a story he read in the newspaper. The newspaper story was about a young Pakstani boy who escaped from his life as a child labourer and was killed for speaking out against employers who use child labour in his country.

Craig was that 12 year old boy. He and some of his school friends founded a charity called Free the Children, which is still running today. Their office is not far from my home. I must have gone past it dozens of time on the streetcar but never saw it.

Craig published his first book in 1998. It tells the story of how he saw that first picture in the paper, of how he wanted to do something to stop child labourers, of how and his freinds founded a charity called Free the Children. This book also describes Craig's first trip to Asia to see child labourers at work.

Craig describes being on his first raid to a carpet factory in India where the children were taken to the police station for statements and then released to the local social group who promised to educate the children and give them vocational training so thay could do other jobs.

Craig also describes his first conversation with Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien. While Craig was travelling around Asia, he had many contacts and friends who helped him with press conferences. The press and news media were writing some very good stories asking why the western countries were not doing more to help the children.

By a lucky chance, Jean Chretien was travelling around Asia at the same time as Craig was, and eventually they were able to get together for a "chat" in Islamabad. Craig pressed the PM on making a new policy for Canada to stop supporting businesses that use child labour. Chretien agreed with Craig that it would be a good idea, but he refused to promise that that he would make it a policy. Craig did manage to pressure Chretien into putting the subject of child labour onto the government agenda.

I enjoyed this book very much, and I read it for the Canadian Challenge.

Its the end of May

Well it's the end of May. My family got through all three birthdays, pretty much ok. My son turned 6 years old, and got a Star Wars light sabre (a big one with lights and sounds) and a guitar for his birthday. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, we also purchased a new computer as well. The 9 year old PC had to be replaced because it had insufficient RAM and hard drive memory. Which meant that the boys could not play the newer video games on it. (the boys being my 6 year old son and his dad). We have now purchased both a memory card and a video card for the new computer, and the new games are running very nicely now.

May however was not complete without a major upset along the way. About a week after my birthday, I was dismissed from my job. This was the first job I had found after my surgery. So I am back to hunting for yet another job. I hate looking for new jobs.

Because there are no jobs out there that allow me to actually do what I love doing. And what I love doing is surfing, blogging, reading books and reviewing books. I would also like to do bibliography, but with no experience, I cannot make any progress in that direction.

There is one job in Toronto involving books that I would love to do and that is to be a book scanner. For the Internet Archive. They have an office at the University of Toronto (in the Robarts Library) where 12 people do nothing but scan in books (page by page) for the archive. Old books, Rare books. This is one job I would love to do. I have applied twice so far, but all I get is silence. Not even an interview.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Old Friends and New Fancies - Book Review

Old Friends and New Fancies
by Sybil G. Brinton.
Sourcebooks Inc (Illinois) 2007

This is a reprint of the first edition, written in 1913, and originally published in 1914 by Holden and Hardingham, London.

I was at the library this morning, and found another sequel to Jane Austen. But this one is different. This book is actually a sequel to ALL of her books.

At the front of the book is a list of characters - from all the books.
Bennetts, Darcys, Bingleys, Colonel Fitzwilliam, and Lady Catherine de Bourgh from Pride & Prejudice. And other characters such as the Grants, Yates, Bertram, Crawford and Price from Mansfield Park, Morlands and Tilneys from Northanger Abbey, Ferrars, Steeles and Mrs Jennings from Sense and Sensibility, the Elliots from Persuasion and Emma Woodhouse Knightly and her husband from Emma.

Now, to someone like me who has NOT read all of Jane Austens Books (I know Dad, I know she is your favourite, but she's just not my type), there is a lot of crowding, amd but eventually the story settles down to just 2 main story lines, with everyone else as hangers on and the Darcys as the main conduit for all the events that occur.

One reason for my willingness to read this was because of the Darcy story I read a few weeks ago, by which I became familiar with the characters and the language. I also like Elizabeth and Darcy, because they have been written as having good sensible heads on their shoulders, and are not given to flights of fantasy. Certainly not the way young Kitty Bennett is.

Anyway, the main aim of this novel is how to get Georgiana Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam married. At the beginning of this book they were engaged to each other, but are both becoming more and more unhappy. So it is with a sigh of relief that they agree to break off the engagement (with a little help from Elizabeth Darcy). Now Elizabeth must contrive to get both her relatives (Georgiana being her sister in law and Fitzwilliam, her husbands cousin) married off - not necessarily to each other.

Through misunderstandings, gossips, and scandals, fortuitous accidents and happenstances of being in the right place at the right time, this mission is eventually accomplished and the book ends with both Fitzwilliam, and Georgiana being engaged - not to each other. Kitty Bennet also gets her heart broken, because she misinterprets a gentlemans attentions.

Since this is a sequel to all of Austen’s novels, it would be a good idea to have read all of the books before you read this. At the very least, you should have a good familiarity with the scandal at Mansfield Park, the characters of Pride and Prejudice and the personalities of the characters from Sense and Sensibility before picking up Old Friends and New Fancies. From the Austen Blog

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I think I might read some of Austen's other books now. The only one I know that I have read is Pride and Prejudice - over 20 years ago - for an English class. This book I could not put down and read it in just 4 hours. I HAD to know what happened next.

I also read this for the Jane Austen Challenge, and now I am finished. I have seen one movie and read 2 books. (None of which was a Jane Austen Original).

Pemberley Dot Com
The Republic of Pemberley

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Crusader Gold - Book Review

Crusader Gold
By David Gibbins
Headline Publishing 2006

I have been a fan of Clive Cussler's Books, starring Dirk Pitt, for over 20 years. I have also been a fan of Indiana Jones for over 20 years as well. And just recently I found a new underwater archaeologist who is as good as (if not better than) Indiana and Dirk.

His name is Jack Howard, and he runs the IMU - International Maritime University based in Cornwall, England. I think I have found the new Indiana Jones. Jack Howard is the new Man of the Hour, in my book anyway.

In Crusader Gold, (the second book in the series) Jack and his team are on the trail of the Treasure from the Temple of Jerusalem. The temple treasures that were lost after the Romans conqured Judea in 70 CE and when the disapora began.

Jack tracks the treasure to Rome, and then to Constantinople when Rome fell. In 1204 Constantiniople was sacked and looted by crusaders. Jack's theory was that the looting was lead by the Varangians. Varangians were Norse mercenaries, from Scandinavia. The Norse founded the city of Kiev in Rus (Modern Russia), and it was not that far for them to travel down the Volga river to the Black Sea and end up in Constantinople. So Jack follows the Varangians back to the north. But instead of going east to Scandinavia, they went west to Iceland, Greenland, and even to the New world - L'anse Aux Meadows in Newfoundland. The trail then leads south and where the Varangians and the treasure end up is a new twist on history.

Last year I picked up the first book in this series. It's called Atlantis. In this novel, Jack and his team discover the true location of Atlantis. According to the Phaistos Disk. I wont say anymore, other than I really enjoyed this book.

At the end of Crusader Gold, Jack makes a decison on what the team will be looking for next. This is one of my favourite mysteries of all time - because it has not yet been found. The Lost Tomb of Alexander the Great. The Lost Tomb by David Gribbin is due out in September 2008.

L'anse Aux Meadows 2
L'anse Aux Meadows 3 - wikipedia
L'anse Aux Meadows 4

Monday, May 26, 2008

50 Greatest Books - update

About the 50 Greatest Books (small vent) I posted on Saturday. I sent an email to the Globe & Mail newspaper. This is the reply I received.

In the printed newspaper, it's The Iliad and the Odyssey by Mary Beard.
You appear to be right about what is called the online print edition,
and I have alerted the online editor,
Thank you,

Saturday, May 24, 2008

No 50 Greatest Books Post today

I went to the Globe and Mail to see todays 50 Greatest Books Selection.
BUT for some reason, they have reprinted last weeks article - Pride and Prejudice - verbatim.
We Are Not Impressed.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Island of Seven Cities - Book Review

The Island of Seven Cities
By Paul Chiasson
St Martins Griffin PB 2007
Random House HC 2006

This book is written by a Canadian Architect (actually he is a French-Canadian of Acadian origin) with a keen interest in history. Like most people of Acadian origin, his family comes from Cape Breton Island MAP, just off the northern end of Nova Scotia.

In 2002 Paul was taking a walk around Cape Dauphin (see Cape Breton Map - on the east coast north of Sydney) and after climbing a hill, he discovered some stone walls and a road. This led him to beleive that this used to be an old town. The question became - Who built it and when?

Paul spent the next 3 years investigating the old records and documents that cover the history of Cape Breton Island. He eventually had to rule out the Portugese, the French, the English and Spanish. The answer that he came up with - the Chinese - may surprise you. But it also makes a lot of sense with all the evidence he provides. If it is ever accepted as true, this discovery will totally flip Canadian "official" history upside down.

While Paul was writing this book, he was reading a book called 1421 The Year the Chinese discovered the World by Gavin Menzies. In this book, Menzies posited a theory that the Chinese built large boats and sailed all the oceans, before they isolated themselves. The exporation was encouraged during the Ming Dynasty.

I enjoyed this book very much. It has a lot of history, and a lot of research, but it is NOT written in an academic or scholarly style. It is easy to read and understand.

Paul presented his research at a Symposium on Chinese Naval Expeditions at the Library of Congress in Washington DC in 2005. It was received very well.

When Paul tried to inform the Nova Scotia Government and the provincial Museum about his discovery, the Nova Scotia Museum wrote back telling Paul that they were not interested because (and I quote) "There were hundreds of archaeological sites on Nova Scotia and many such claims were received each year. Sincerely etc..." Paul was stunned. If you remember your stories of treasure hunts, The Oak Island Treasure Pit is also in Nova Scotia.

I have already found several refutations (if thats the right word - to refute) of Paul's research.

The CBC reported this story in 2006 just after Paul's Book was published.
No Chinese ruins in Cape Breton (say) archeologists

The archeologists say Chiasson's wall is really a fire break from the mid-20th century. "The first part was constructed in the mid-20th century", Christianson said, "but the major portion of the road was built as late as 1989."

There are also historians out there who say that the Chinese NEVER sailed around the world, because there is no evidence, and there are no written records in Chinese archives.
The Island of Seven Cities - is not true.

It becomes obvious that Chiasson has never seen the remains of a medieval Chinese city, and a single piece of archaeological evidence is sufficient to disprove his theory: with fleets of huge junks harboured in St. Ann’s Bay and thousands of people living for years in a nearby hilltop city, the sand beaches and rocky pastures of the area should be littered with millions of shards of Asiatic crockery, yet not a single one has been reported during centuries of farming, and none were noticed in the author’s many examinations of the site.”

Its up to the reader really to decide who to beleive. Do you beleive on the evidence that Chinese did settl and live on Cape Breton Island for a while, leaving only when the Europeans started sailing west. Or do you think its all a hoax and that the stone walls are really 20th century fire breaks.

I read this book for the Canadian Challenge.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Pride and Prejudice - 50 Greatest Books

Pride and Prejudice - by Jane Austen

I'm posting the entire article today because this book is probably the most famous and well know of all Jane Austen's books.

The 18th-century novel was a baggy, sententious affair before Jane Austen gave it bones. Pride and Prejudice has a classic three-part structure, one that modern readers respond to effortlessly. In certain other respects, the novel is more typical of its time. Reading it after watching the 2005 film starring Keira Knightley (a lively version that puts the livestock into the phrase "gentleman farmer"), you're struck by Austen's lack of sensory detail. Dialogue was her medium, and all she needed. The vividness and complexity of the characters, as revealed through conversation alone, is electrifying. Pride and Prejudice makes you believe in the reality of the past, to the extent that you doubted it.

We tend to say that Jane Austen wrote about lives lived in drawing rooms because that's all she knew. And yet (as Carol Shields points out in her gem of a study for the Penguin Lives series), Austen's family offered all sorts of other material: two brothers fighting in the Napoleonic wars, an aunt thrown into prison for stealing a piece of lace from a shop, a cousin's husband guillotined in the French Revolution, a sister's fiancé dying of yellow fever in India. Austen shoved all of this to the side, along with bereavement, religion, servants and children (though as a maiden aunt, she spent years as nursemaid).

Instead, for that "little bit of ivory (two inches wide) on which I work with so fine a brush, as produces so little effect after so much labour," Austen separated out the most poignant strand of her experience - the fact that a woman's station in the world, her independence, her very survival, depended on the uncertain and often demeaning enterprise of attracting a man who could accept the size of her dowry.

There are a lot of smart, self-reliant young women out there who are passionate about Pride and Prejudice. This is partly due to Jennifer Ehle, who played Elizabeth Bennet (in the 1995 BBC miniseries) with an irresistible combination of serenity and mirth, in spite of the dreadful armpit-waisted muslin gowns she was forced to wear. Why does this novel resonate so powerfully with women who have so many other options in life?

I blame Pride and Prejudice for the fact that the hero of every romance novel is rotten to the heroine the first time he meets her. In my heart, I also blame it for our persistent and anachronistic tendency to regard a man as an embodiment of personal destiny. Well, not Pride and Prejudice alone. But we carry stories around in our bones, and among novels about the sexes, it's the best there is: Elizabeth snagging Mr. Darcy is romantic heroin for the discriminating reader.

Maybe I'm wrong. There are lots of reasons to love Pride and Prejudice, reasons that have nothing to do with romantic identification: Austen's swift and exact insights into character, her lack of sentimentality, her delicious satire, her fluid, intelligent sentences.

And Elizabeth Bennet is a terrific heroine for any age. Witty, spirited and outspoken, she risks everything in being adamantly who she is. At first, she's too rash in acting by her own lights, but in the end, her fidelity to herself is fabulously vindicated. Mr. Darcy's wealth is both beside the point and to the point: He values Elizabeth for her intelligence and unconventional spirit, which is all we require - but this is payback time.

I did ask a 28-year-old friend about her love for Pride and Prejudice, and most of her appreciative comments came back to its language. The attraction between Elizabeth and Darcy is a talky, civilized, celebration of minds: witticisms over the pianoforte, painful disclosures alone in the drawing room, letters deconstructed strand by strand. By the time they plight their troth, the two have gone some distance down the relationship road. Not so much in learning to know each other as in learning to see their own imperfect selves in the mirror of their interaction. How much more interesting their life together promises to be than the lives of lovers in those turgid 19th-century novels, where passion and mystery (i.e. sex) rise like mist off the moors. At 21, astonishingly, Jane Austen knew that talk is the enduring heart of a marriage.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Historian - Book Review

The Historian
By Elizabeth Kostova
Little, Brown June 2005

I purchased my copy of this book a year ago for my last birthday. I'm sad to say that this book sat on my shelves and I never read it. Last week was my birthday so I decided that I really better read it. At over 600 pages, it took me 4 days. And I ended up actually enjoying it - very much. Which is not too surprising really, considering that I have always loved history.

It starts off with Paul telling his young daughter, the story of his search for his missing thesis professor in 1953-54. Paul follows the trail of the Professor's research and eventually ends up in Turkey where he meets Helen. Together Paul and Helen both visit Hungary and Bulgaria (both communist countries at the time).

As well as searching for the Missing Professor, Paul is also searching for someone else. A well know historical Eastern European Ruler who died in 1576. His grave has never been found.

The story is told following two timelines. The 1954 timeline as mentioned above takes up most of the story. The second timeline is in 1973 where Paul tells his daughter his story of his search. We know nothing about the daughter as she is never named. We do know that she was named after her maternal grandmother. In 1973 Paul himself goes missing, so the daughter sets out to find him. Her trail leads her to Southern France, where she finds both her father and mother and together they all find the grave of the medieval ruler.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Critique of Pure Reason - 50 Greatest Books


Kant was a terrible writer. He was honest enough to admit it, and gracious enough to publish his longing for the elegance and clarity of style with which two of his contemporaries - David Hume and Moses Mendelssohn - were born. Kant knew The Critique of Pure Reason was a problem, and his later attempts to revise or summarize it only made things worse. Still, the book is the single greatest work of modern philosophy, and has but one rival - Plato's Republic - in the history of thought. It's not only general readers who are put off by its clumsy, sluggish writing; most university courses spend so much time on the first half that they stop before reaching what Kant said was the point.

So I've taken a quote that many readers never get to, but it shows the Critique at its heart. The book seeks to determine what it means to be real. Unlike many contemporary philosophers, Kant wasn't interested in skeptical puzzles. For him, what is real and what is not was a matter of great moral and political import. The Enlightenment contested the reality of superstitions: Though witches were no longer burned in the 18th century, you could still be sent to jail for denying the reality of demons in free-thinking Holland. Other superstitions were less dramatic but more dangerous: As long as people believed that poverty and illness were God's punishment for one sin or another, they were unlikely to explore ways of eliminating them.

I have vaguely heard of Immanuel Kant, but usually in relation to philosophy - I think. Otherwise, I have never read any of his books.

Harry Potter has performed a new vanishing act

What's a bestseller list with no Harry?
Toronto Star May 06, 2008

For the first time in nearly a decade, the New York Times bestseller lists will be without a title featuring J.K. Rowling's hugely popular young wizard. And the character is finally disappearing from the Canadian rankings as well.

This Sunday's New York Times will be Potter-less for the first time since Dec. 27, 1998, when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (as series opener Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was titled in the U.S.) made its debut on the paper's bestseller list. The streak has ended with the dropping of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, published last July.

Over the years, the Potter books became such prominent mainstays on the New York Times bestseller lists that the paper kept creating new categories to accommodate the phenomenon, first introducing a children's list in 2000 and then, four years later, breaking the children's list into sub-categories, including a separate ranking of series books.

"Most publishers and booksellers welcomed the change, because the Potter phenomenon was keeping new titles off the fiction list," wrote senior editor Dwight Garner on the paper's book blog. "Some observers, though, felt Rowling was unfairly evicted – after all, they pointed out, adults read her books."

In Canada, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows last made it onto Quill & Quire's monthly children's list in March.

"It's relative," said Quill & Quire editor Derek Weiler. "If Harry Potter is petering out as a reading phenomenon, it's petering out from being the biggest reading phenomenon of the last 10 years. I'm sure the books are still selling in healthy numbers."

Thursday, May 8, 2008

40 Days and 40 nights - Book Review

40 Days and 40 Nights
By Matthew Chapman
Harper Collins 2007

When you think of 40 days and 40 nights, I'll bet your first thought is Noah's Ark and the Flood, right? Well in this case, you would be wrong. In this book the title refers to a court case - about creationism and evolution.

The USA has a Consitution on which most of its laws are based on. One of the most important amendments (or additions) to the Constitution is the first one.

It says - Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Source - Wikipedia.

The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits the establishment of a national religion by Congress or the preference of one religion over another, or religion over non-religion.
Source - Wikipedia.

This is why America has had Freedom from Religion for the last 200 years. Anyone can decide for themselves whether or not to beleive, and everyone has the right to not be harrased because of whatever they do decide to beleive.

But in 2004 the Dover Area School Board decided that the students needed to learn a balance about how the universe was formed. Up until then, there was only one accepted theory of the origins of life - Evolution. That is what the students were taught in school. The School board decided that their students needed to learn a balanced view so they started planning to teach their students about Intelligent Design.

Until now, if religions wished to teach their students another version of the origins of life - they were free to do so outside of school. Most of this learning was done at church, sunday school and at home by the parents.

When some of the parents found out what the school board was planning, they were horrified. Not only was this bringing religion into the classroom, this was also breaking the First Amendment of keeping the church and the state seperate.

So eleven parents filed a lawsuit against the school board and the case came to trial in Dover, Pennsylvania, in late 2005. The case went on to have national repercussions, all the way up to President Bush, who said he believed intelligent design should be taught as "an alternative theory" to evolution.

Matthew Chapman (a film writer and author), spent several months covering the trial from beginning to end. Through his in-depth encounters with the participants, [creationists, preachers, teachers, scientists on both sides of the issue, lawyers, theologians, the judge, and the eleven parents who resisted the fundamentalist proponents of intelligent design] Chapman tells an interesting, horrifying, and moving story of ordinary people doing battle in America over the place of religion and science in modern life.

Transcripts and Trial Documents.

And just to make things more interesting, Matthew Chapman is the great-great-grandson of Charles Darwin.

On the last day of the trial, someone stood and asked the Judge this question.
"Your Honor, I have one question and it's this. By my reckoning, this is the fortieth day since this trial began and tonight will be the fortieth night, and I would like to know if you did that on purpose?"
The Judge's reply was instant - That is an interesting coincidence, but it was not by design.

Chapman also included a few timely paragraphs from the Scopes trial of 1925 which was essentially the exact same battle. This was a very interesting book and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Darwin Conspiracy - Book Review

The Darwin Conspiracy
By John Darnton
Anchor Books 2006

This is a novel involving two conspiracies. One regarding Darwin's voyage on the Beagle and his theory of evolution. Was it really his idea? The other about a member of Darwin's own family. This novel is written in 3 different timelines. One is the Voyage of the Beagle, the second is a Journal written by one of Darwin's daughters and the third is the search for these journals in the present day.

The novel starts off with Hugh and Beth both looking for a new research angle on Darwin - something different that nobody else has published before. While Hugh is perusing the Darwin papers at the Manuscripts Room at the Cambridge University Library, he comes across a small accounts book with what looks like a journal written on the back pages.

Hugh "borrows" the journal and eventually discovers that it was written by Elizabeth Darwin, one of Charles's daughters. A daughter about whom very little is known, other than she never married and had no children.

Beth was raised with a family tradition that said she was descended from Charles Darwin. She wants to know exactly how she was descended from them.

The historical narratives in this novel consist of excerpts of Lizzie's journal and the Beagle voyage. Mixed in with these narratives are two very interesting and shocking secrets.

The real characters from the Beagle crew are used in the novel, except one. The surgeon in this novel is named Robert McCormick. According to Charles Darwin's book "Voyage of the Beagle" the real surgeon on board the Beagle was named Mr. Bynoe.

I enjoyed this book very much. There is a lot of infomation on the Darwin family and on the Beagle voyage.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Q's Legacy - Book Review

Q's Legacy
Helene Hanff
Little Brown & Co 1985
Penguin 1986

Another parcel of books arrived from my favourite online bookstore. It arrived at 1pm lunch time today. I grabbed the one book I have been waiting 20 years to read. I read it in 5 hours even while I was working. The book is called Q's Legacy.

I fell in love with Helene Hanff and her letter writing campaign to buy books, in the movie 84 Charing Cross Road when I first saw it back around 1988. Over the next 10 years I found and read copies of all of Helene Hanff's books except two. I read 84 Charing Cross Road, Duchess of Bloomsbury, Underfoot in Showbusiness, and Apple of My Eye. I still have not read Letter from New York, and today I have finally read Q's Legacy.

I loved it.

It made me laugh. Helene was a wonderful writer - she died in 1997. This book is her autobiography. She writes about high school in Philadelphia and finding Q (Arthur Quiller Couch) in the public library. How she learnt to write plays, and how not to write prose. She writes about going to Secretarial School, and hating it, and then spending the next three years working in various offices as a secretary in Philadelphia. All this takes up 8 pages.

The rest of the books details her life in New York, her struggle to be a famous playwright, her correspondence with Marks & Co, and eventually how she came to write each of her books. She also writes about the stage plays based on 84 Charing Cross Road that have been produced in UK and New York. It was a hit in London, but not in NY. Understandable because 84 Charing Cross Road is an English address, not an American one.

This is not a long book - barely 180 pages. As I said, I read it in 5 hours. If I had not been working, I would have probably finished it in 3 hours.

If you have ever wanted to know more about Helene Hanff, and the origins of 84 Charing Cross Road, then this is the book to read.

HH Website

Bourne Legacy - Book Review

The Bourne Lgacy
by Eric Van Lustbader
St Martins Press 2004

This review is the result of forgetting to take a challenge book out with me to read on Sunday. So I was forced to buy a book - and I purchased this one. Robert Ludlum died in 2001. So Eric Van Lustbader (he of the Japanese genre) has agreed to or been chosen to continue the series. This was the first book he wrote. A second book was publoished in 2007 and a third book is due out soon.

David Webb is a professor of English at Georgetown University in Washington DC. He has a wife and 2 young children. One day he is shot at by an unknown asassin. David's hidden persona (Jason Bourne) takes over and puts him into survival mode. David goes on the run and heads for his mentor's home. There he finds the mentor dead along with another friend who was helping him to suppress Jason Bourne's past. The police show up and David goes on the run. He has to, because his car is outside the house and he knows he was set up, and he must find out by whom.

The trail leads David (now being called Jason Bourne again) to Paris, and then to Budapest in Hungary. Along the way he meets his son again. The son Bourne has long throught dead. Many years before David Webb became an assassin, he had a first family in Thailand. A Thai wife and two children. They were all killed. The killers were never found. In his despair and grief, David went to Saigon where he became a CIA agent.

Now his past has come back to haunt him, as together Bourne and Joshua (the son) seek to find out why someone wants Bourne dead.

This was a very exciting book. I read it in 2 days (Sunday and Monday). Could not put it down. If you like the earlier Bourne books by Robert Ludlum, then you will like this one as well. It opens up Bourne's past and make him much more real.

According to Wikipedia the movie rights have been purchased ands negotiations are currently under way to make a film of this book - hopefully starring Matt Damon.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Birthdays and Upgrading the PC

As I said a few days ago, May is the family birthday month. And I get the first birthday.

The birthday money and an extra infusion of cash, meant we could finally purchase a new computer, for the whole family. To replace the old one that was purchased waaaay back in 1999. Now what used to be the "new" computer (the one I am currently using, and that was purchased 2 years ago with Windows XP), is now the old computer. The nice thing is that both computers now have flat screen monitors.

The new "new" computer has Vista. I did not want to buy Vista, but because Microsoft is a monopoly, we didn't really have much choice. I did make a lot of noise at the shop about how useless Vista is. They nodded, they've heard it all before, but they still have to sell them.

Already we have had to purchase extra memory for the RAM (we brought a 2GB board for $70) and are looking to purchase a new video card as well, because the "intergrated graphics" chip that is already installed, seems to be quite useless.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

50 Greatest Books - King Lear

King Lear by William Shakespeare

Shakespeare's King Lear is magnificent, appalling, soaring, banal, cruel, tender, funny and complex; the virtuous are punished, justice is rarely served (and lawyers are unloved). Its scope is so demanding that it's virtually impossible to stage and its end is simply shattering - in other words, it's very much like life. (from the article)

Shakespeare (whoever he may have been) wrote lots of plays. Any of them could be classed as a great book. But who chose King Lear for this list? I wonder if the Shakespeare Geek had anything to do with this choice? He frequently says that King Lear is his favourite play. But it definitely is NOT my choice of a great Play. I don't think I have read it or seen it on stage.

If I were choosing, I would go with the most famous or the most easily recognized. And those would have to be either Hamlet or Romeo & Juliet. Just as long as it is not Macbeth. I HATE Macbeth.

Anyway, better read the article quick because by next Friday you will have to PAY to read it.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

This month - reading challenges and birthdays

Today is May 1st.
This month is birthday month in my family as all 3 of us have birthdays. Me, hubby and son who will be turning 6 years old.

I also have a number of challenges on the sidebar - some of which I have not started. But this month I will be concentrating on my own Shakespeare Challenge and the Canadian Challenge. So for May I must read 2 Canadian books and 2 Shakespeare books, and for June I must read 2 Canadian books and 1 Shakespeare book. After Canada Day (July 1st) I am free to read for the other challenges.

I may or may not be able to read books from other challenges during the next two months, that will depend on what I feel like reading.