Monday, 22 December 2014

Book Advent Calendar Day 21: Happy Solstice to you

Happy Solstice to you, dear and gentle readers.  It is now the turning of the year and the sun will stay gradually longer each day. 
Winter is not all bad.  It does give us an excuse time to be indoors and read by the fire.  There is a quietness that settles on the earth and in the air up here in the northern hemisphere in our winter.  A time to be still, to dream, and to wait.   Creativity and growth and new life can only come after a time of darkness, and planting seeds.  In my life, in the midst of this PTSD crisis I have been in for the past two months, there is a slow change in me, a settling down again of some of what was stirred up.  The soul has it's own time.  So I am learning how to sit still, and what being peaceful feels like.  These are good things for me.  It's good that it is winter now, I think.  It matches what I need inside me.  I am certainly more calmer than I was, though the anxiety is there, just under the surface. 

My wish for you and for myself  is:   May the coming year be filled with peace, contentment, and many good new books.    May the light increase in your life, and mine.                   

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Book Advent Calendar Day 20: Dark night of the solstice, and some links

    I have declared this a  pyjamas day for us all here in my household.  We are all in various degrees of this virus, with my husband and I having very bad sore throats today.  I think the universe wants me to be silent and listen more.  Which, as it's Dec 20, and the day before the solstice, is something I was hoping to do anyway.  This year the solstice is extra special with the new moon occurring on the same day as the solstice.  So this is like the dark of the year, and the dark of the moon, combined.  Here is a link to a blog where Beth Owl talks about the significance of tonight.
Beth Owl is a tarot card reader and one of my favourite blogs to visit for insights in how to live more naturally with the seasons.  This has been a long-time goal of mine. I've only recently come to realize that I want to hibernate during the winter season, including through some of the holiday season.  This is the second year in a row that we are all sick at the beginning of the holidays, so it looks like we all need some time to be quiet when the holidays start.  Do you notice something similar, or another kind of rhythm, when the holidays start for your family?  Do you go to a lot of social activities - work, school for the children, friends?  I used to do more.  I love gatherings and potlucks and parties, open houses, though as I've gotten older I've realized that I am truly an introvert and gatherings tire me more quickly now.  So it's about finding a balance between social activities and quiet time now.  Have you discovered anything similar for you?

Celebrating the solstice
 There is something refreshing about silence, and about thinking about the meaning of this season.  It is the change from one year to the next, so one thing I like to do is think on what I learned this past year, what I'd like to leave behind, and what I'd like to let in and learn about in the next year.

Some fun links:
 Scary Icelandic terrors for Christmas:    **Shiver.**  These would have been terrifying to hear about as a child!  And I still have to buy two articles of clothing for two of the males in my family.

Crimson Peak:  Oh my goodness, anything that  features Jessica Chastain and Tom Hiddlestone in a Gothic setting is going to be fun!  This is something to look forward to next year when there are no more new Hobbit or LoTR movies to look forward to. Just look at this picture released by the movie company:

Lovely dark stuff. 

Happy last night of the solar year to you. 

Friday, 19 December 2014

Book Advent Calendar Day 19: The Battle of the Five Armies - I wanna go to the movies!

 When Viruses hit:
The nasty cold that hit my children is now hitting my husband and I full on.  It was a day of naps for me, followed by watching Downton Abbey - I've just finished Season 3 this evening.  Then watching some tv with the kids for our nightly cuddle.  I'm fine if I don't move.  I'm so happy most of the shopping is done, and I did the groceries yesterday when I was first starting to not feel well.  I think it will be a quiet weekend, and we are hoping we all get better asap as we have a birthday as well as Christmas next week.  AND, equally important:  so Holly-Anne and I can finally go see The Hobbit:  The Battle of the Five Armies.  I haven't seen it yet and I'm disappointed we have to wait past this weekend!  NOOOOOOO!  So, for tonight, here are some wallpapers to dream over until we can get out to the theatres.   I can't believe I have waited a year to see this movie and now we are so sick we have to put it off!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If you have seen The Battle of the Five Armies, please leave me a comment and let me know if you liked it or not.  But no details!! Even though I have read The Hobbit many times, and The Silmarillion and The Book of Lost Tales many years ago and so have a good idea  what they have changed from or added to creatively outside the books, I still aim to be surprised, delighted, moved, and enthralled when we do get there.  I just want to know if you enjoyed it!!


Thursday, 18 December 2014

Book Advent Calendar, Day 18: in which we are sick, and books I want under the tree

So my family have slowly succumbed to a virus this week.  A cold in one child, a sore throat and hoarseness, and chills in the other child.  Husband is now losing his voice.  And today I could feel it creeping in, the virus, making me move so slowly, and start to ache everywhere.  Throat no deep bookish thoughts or long post today, my dear readers.  Instead, my bookish advent calendar item for the day is a question to you, dear readers:  Is there a certain book or two that if you don't find under the tree this year, you will go out and buy in the new year?  If so, which book is it?  I'm curious to know what you are longing to read.  Myself, I'm really hoping to find The Martian by Andy Weir,

and  The Fabled Coast:  Legends and Traditions from Around The Shores of Britain and Ireland by Sophia Kingshill and Jennifer Westwood.

 A third book I just discovered and REALLY want to read is The Clockwork Dagger by Beth Cato.  It's not on my list, I found it after I'd given my wish list to my husband.

So I suppose the question I am also posing to you is, should I tell him that I've found another book already I really want?

*****Edited to add:  I must be really sick, since I already blogged about wanting the first two books under the tree in an earlier advent calendar post!  lol  I suppose this post is about finding that last-minute book that you really like the look of, and is it too late to ask for it?  

Book Advent Calendar: Day 17: SurLaLune giveaway for fairy tale lovers

Ok, for all the fairy tale lovers out there, and I know there are many of us, here is a fabulous holiday giveaway on SurLaLune blog, open to everyone!!! You have until Dec 22/14 to enter.  The prizes are a must for any fairy tale library: 

"Register for the chance to win a set of 3 SurLaLune Library Titles: Bluebeard Tales From Around the World, Cinderella Tales From Around the World, and Beauty and the Beast Tales From Around the World. Go to the SurLaLune Fairy Tales Giveaway to enter for a chance to win.
To make it more interesting for us all, I am also asking "What fairy tale item is on your holiday wish list?" I will share the answers during this week and and next with the SurLaLune readers, so be sure to give me an "online name" to use when you enter for me to share on the blog. "

I want especially the Beauty and the Beast Tales From Around the World, and Bluebeard Tales From Around The World. 

I  enjoy comparing how the tales change from country to country and century to century.  All the little tweaks and changes give clues to what is changing in that society. What concerns are new?  Are the stories being changed for the audience?  How are adult versions different from children's versions, if there are any? So yes.  This is a lovely giveaway for the holidays. 

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Book Christmas Advent Calendar Day 16: Connie Willis short story e-treat

A special treat for science fiction and Christmas readers:  Connie Willis' new e-book All Seated on the Ground is available through Subterranean Press (link here) at a low price (really low!) for the next few days.  This is a new story by her featuring her trademark humour and romance.  As the site says, ...."she's also a huge fan of the holidays and their accompanying frivolity and nonsense, and has written a marvelous array of Christmas stories, including Miracle and Other Christmas Stories, “Just Like the Ones We Used to Know” (made into the CBS movie Snow Wonder), “deck.halls@boughs/holly”, and now the hilarious “All Seated on the Ground.”  
Sadly this book is not available in e-book in Canada!  *sob*   Nook book (Barnes and Noble), Amazon in the US, and Kobo in the US only. So, if you are in the mood for some humour and a good Christmas story, and you live in the US, this is your e-book advent calendar treat for the day.  It sure is would have been mine.  Happiness is a new Christmas story from Connie Willis!  Extra happiness would be if it was available to users everywhere. I hope the publishers are taking note......At least I just received a copy of her book Miracle and Other Christmas Stories for my X-mas box.  I can console myself with at last being able to read these through the holidays. My advent calendar treat for the day!


Book Christmas Advent Calendar day 15: the Times 100 Notable Books and The Interestings book review

I was looking at the New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2014.  I'm not sure why I look at these lists of regular fiction.  Somewhere in me the English Honours graduate is hoping I'll someday turn into a literature reader, I think.  It's time for a change, though.  Out of this list of 100 books published last year, I have heard of 16.  Ouch!  One I've been waiting for:  Hermione Lee's biography of Penelope Fitzgerald.  I don't know whether to be happy that I've heard of that many fiction and non-fiction books, or sad that I only know about those few. Because really, this list is about regular fiction.  There is no genre fiction on it:  no historical fiction, and especially, no mysteries, science fiction, or fantasy (or horror for that matter).  And the change for me is, I have to admit to myself that I am a genre reader mainly.  I love mysteries, fantasies, science fiction, and poetry.  There is one poetry book on the list, of which I'd just heard of so I could count it.  Kind of literature-studying self is slumped in the corner, drinking a hot chocolate and wondering moodily if I will ever finish Les Miserables, or Bleak House, or Moby Dick, all of which I've started in the past two years.  Will I throw over the Establishment and proudly declare I love genre fiction?  Of course I do!  and yet....when I read Middlemarch for  the first time 5 years ago, I loved it, completely and utterly loved it.  Jane Austen is by far one of my favourite authors of all time, her books read and reread through the years.  I'm not completely hopeless when it comes to classical literature. 

A book review:  The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

So......maybe I should just say, most modern fiction doesn't interest me.  And before you wave your hand, I will also say this:  I read The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer earlier this year, which was on the 2013 100 Notable books. I enjoyed it, in parts it was very good, though I found it an odd novel too.  It would draw me in, I would be completely wrapped up in the story, and then something would throw me out of it.  The big something is what the core of the story is about, our value system. I disagreed vehemently with what the Goodman family decides in their time of crisis.  So much so that I put the book down and it took almost two weeks to decide that I could pick it up again, at least because I wanted to (hoped) they wouldn't do what they did.  They did, and for me, it changed the novel.  The Interestings is supposed to be about Jules Jacobson and her friends she meets at an arty summer camp when she is fifteen:  Ash and Goodman Wolf, Ethan Figman, Cathy Kiplinger, and Jonah Bay.  Everyone is exceptional except for Jules.  She is the narrator of the story, the one through whose eyes we see the others take central stage around her.  I liked Jules, though I got annoyed with her and wanted to slap her when she just couldn't see that the others weren't special at all.  It takes her too long to see it, though as she represents middle-class America infatuated with the wealthy 1% which the Goodmans represent, it makes a kind of sense.

The Interestings takes its title from the idea, the hope that 15 year olds have that the whole world is waiting for them, and they (all 15 year olds) have something to offer that the world wants.  Some unique art or talent or voice, some expression that the world needs.  The book goes from the 1970's through to present day.  I really enjoyed the early parts, the 1970's, which I grew up in.  The 1980's are not my favourite time, and it feels like in the book the author doesn't know how to make it fit into Jules idea of how to make your mark in the world.  To give the characters credit, they all try hard to succeed.  And bless Ethan, because he is the moral center of the story.  Gifted and almost ugly, he has a shining soul that sings out from the novel and makes it a better than average novel. 

One of the problems with the book is that the things I wanted to know about, such as when Ash and Jules get pregnant at the same time, I wanted to go through the experience with them.  What was it like for Jules to be so poor, and Ash so rich?  How was their medical experience different?  Didn't they compare notes being pregnant, as very close best friends do?  We don't get to see much of this, Jules (and the author) skip over this with a brief mention, and it's this that made me realize that the book doesn't focus on what makes people interesting, which is the stuff of their lives.  What makes them individual.  Indeed, it takes Jules almost the whole book to come to this realization, that Ash and Goodman aren't good people, and aren't that interesting.    We do get some things like how Ash and Ethan offer Jules and her husband money to move to a bigger apartment in New York City.  Ethan is the only successful one of the group, he becomes a millionaire, and he is desperate to keep his friends close to him.  It's an odd moment, and not one that sits comfortably with Jules and Dennis, or me the reader. 

It's only when Jules and Dennis buy the same camp they met at and run it for a year when she is in her 50's, that she comes to realize she can't buy her happiness back, and that she can't create it for anyone else.  The Interestings is really about how we make the story of our lives while we are living it.  And Jules, desperate to escape her boring suburban life as a teenager, only realizes long into adulthood how cruel she was to leave her mother and sister behind in her attempt to escape.  Jules really isn't that nice a person. 

This is the problem I have with modern fiction: it doesn't seem to know what story to tell about the times we are living in. There isn't a shape to our society any more.  The rules that could be broken, have been.  And so while The Interestings is interesting, enjoyable, funny and sad, and deeply involving in places, it also is superficial, too.  As a comment on modern life, this is how the novel works.  This is the times we live in.  Art is a by-product of luck, knowing the right people, and having a gift.  And hard work does not make up for not having a true talent. 

I recommend it, as a 4/5.   It's good, but not great. 

So what do you think?  Is the 100 Notable books of the year a worthy list?  Do you read many books off of it? 

 Hurray!!!! I read two books off the 2013 100 Notable books!!!!  Doctor Sleep by Stephen King is on it also!!!!!!! Ok, so maybe not all is lost for this list.  Maybe this was just a bad year for genre fiction....though, truly I do read genre fiction for the most part.  And I think the very best of sf, fantasy and mystery should be on the 100 Notable books of the year.  What do you think?  Why aren't they?  And Longbourn, which I will review!  That's three!  I won't review it today's late, and sleep beckons. 

Big breath:
I am a genre reader.  There!  I said it!  *whew*  the world didn't crumble, despite my English honours grad staring our the window, longing for some Hardy to match her mood of gloom.  On to my science fiction book In Conquest Born, which I am enjoying.