Tuesday, September 28, 2010

30 Day Book Meme - Day 10

Day 10 - A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells. Normally it's not my kind of thing at all, but after seeing the movie, I decided to give it a try and Wow! Did I love it! The way Wells captured the period and locale, her characters and their complicated relationships just sucked me right in. I couldn't put it down and had to find out what happened to take Sidda and Vivi to the point of breaking the mother-daughter bond. I didn't, however, read its prequel, Little Altars Everywhere - somehow, it just didn't appeal. Maybe I should try it, though...

Care to share which book surprised you?


Sunday, September 26, 2010

30 Day Book Meme - Day 09

Day 09 - Best scene ever: The reunion scene in Sharon Kay Penman's Here be Dragons.

Please be advised - there are spoilers in this blog post, so if you still haven't read Here Be Dragons and intend to do so, you might not want to read any further. Ok - that said, my favourite scene ever in a book is the reunion between Llewelyn and Joanna, close to the end. Though their marriage was for the most part a happy one and they genuinely loved each other, tensions did exist which, at one point, drove her into the arms of another man. Llewelyn banished her when he found out, and tried to move on with his life.

Meanwhile, Joanna spends her exile torn up with guilt and grief, so when Llewelyn comes to see her after close to a year apart, she once again begs for his forgiveness. Though his trust and heart were broken by her betrayal, he acknowledges that he was not perfect and realizes that his love for her is strong enough to overcome it. The moment when Llewelyn gives into his love for Joanna always brings me to tears, these lines in particular - as he makes his decision, after she asks if he yet knows what he will do about her:

"I've always known what I ought to do.' He reached for a starnd of her hair, entiwined it about his fingers. "But now...now I know what I want to do."

"What?" she whispered, not daring to move, to risk breaking the spell.

"This," he said, and leaned toward her. The kiss was very gentle, almost tentative... (1)

No-one will ever really know the true feelings that existed in their very political marriage, but Penman's imagining of it has always rung true for me, especially given that Llewelyn established a monastery to honour Joanna at Llanfaes after her death in 1237.

What scene do you think is the best you've ever read?


(1) Penman, Sharon Kay. Here be Dragons. New York: Ballantine Books, 1985. Print. p. 678

Friday, September 24, 2010

30 Day Book Meme - Day 08

Day 08 - A book everyone should read at least once

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. I think it's really an important book for everyone to read - to understand one of the most heinous crimes of the 20th Century. As we get further and further into the 21st Century and the war fades from memory, I truly believe that everyone should read this book during their teens - or even later, to help keep the memory alive of what can happen when a megalomaniac with an agenda is given absolute power.

What other books do you think are important for everyone to read?


Thursday, September 23, 2010

30 Day Book Meme - Day 07

Day 07 - Least favorite plot device employed by way too many books you actually enjoyed otherwise

The Big Misunderstanding...I hate when writers include a misunderstanding that can be cleared up easily if two characters just talk to each other. I literally cringe when I read the scene and hope against hope that the author will clear it up quickly. Some do, but most don't, preferring to use that misunderstanding to increase the conflict between the protagonists. I hate that. Hate, hate, hate it...Even so, if the rest of the story is good and I actually like and sympathize with the characters, I'll keep reading. But if this is thrown in on top of a book over which I'm already wavering, then that is usually the key for me to close it and walk away.

Authors that avoid these kind of misunderstandings - or use them as a brief story point, the resolution of which brings the characters closer together, are the ones that keep me coming back to their stories again and again. An example of an author who proved that misunderstandings can serve as brief plot points that build a couple's relationship is Shana Galen - she used it to great effect in The Making of a Duchess (read my review).

So what is your leave favourite plot device?


Currently Reading: The Exile of Sara Stevenson by Darci Hannah

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

30 Day Book Meme - Day -06

Day 06 - Favorite book of your favorite series OR your favorite book of all time

The Chalet School in Exile is my favourite book in the entire Chalet School series. It touches on so many important things - the war, the horrid prejudices that drove it and most especially, the fact that so many people from both sides were stuck on opposing sides, people who had been friends. As war approaches, the girls form a Peace League, knowing that the many German schoolgirls will be behind enemy lines before long. A few of them even jump to the defence of an old Jewish man in a village, which brings down the wrath of the Nazis who are there. From that point forward, the book moves at a frantic pace.

After hiding their Peace League charter, those involved in the incident in the village are forced to flee for their freedom. The story then picks up with the school in Guernsay and we see how some have escaped Europe, but their loved ones have been left behind. Then two German airmen crash and the girls face a terrible dilemma - it's brought home to them that while Hitler has a reason for the war and his need for supremacy, many of those fighting on his side are young men not much older than themselves who do not necessarily share his views. It really brings home the horrors of the war and the realities faced by those who experienced it.

So, what book is your favourite in the series you like best?


Currently Reading - The Exile of Sara Stevenson by Darci Hannah

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

30 Day Book Meme - Day 05

Day 05 - A book or series you hate

Hating any book is beyond a true book lover like me, but I will confess that I did not enjoy reading Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. It was required reading for my first year English course at university, many years ago now. Though only around 100 pages, for me, the book might as well have been 1000 pages. Nothing about the story interested me remotely and I just found it  difficult to wrap my head around. I couldn't sympathize with the protagonist and though my half-Polish soul wept at me rejecting this work by a son of Poland, I put down the book with relief when I was done. Would it be different today? I don't know.

So - is there a book or series you hate?


About to start reading: The Exile of Sara Stevenson by Darci Hannah

Sunday, September 19, 2010

30 Day Book Meme - Day 04

Day 04 - Your favorite book or series ever

This is easy...The Chalet School Series by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer. I own more than half the 60-odd books in the series and when I need a true comfort read, I pull one out. For those of you not familiar with it, this set of school stories was written by Ms. Brent-Dyer (herself a school teacher/headmistress) from the 20s through to the 60s. The story starts with Madge Bettany deciding to open a school in Austria as a means of supporting herself and her fragile 12 year old sister, Jo. Though she has only 6 pupils to start, the school very quickly meets with great success as parents from around Europe and beyond hear of it. The books are typical of the school story type - prefects, mischievous middle school students, midnight feasts and plenty of antics. Its location is one of the charms - what 10 year old girl doesn't love to read about tramps through fresh snow, hiking up into the alps and camping in shady woods in a foreign country. But it's Brent-Dyer's characters that really charm. Jo is a headstrong tomboy who blossoms once she moves to a climate more suited to her health. Also a typical school-story heroine, she saves many of her friends from unlikely but fascinating situations, leads her group of friends and even after graduation, remains the heart of the school. As a child I dreamed of being able to go to a school like this.

The series moves location several times as the school is forced from Europe at the beginning of WWII (The Chalet School in Exile), initially to Guernsey, then Wales and Switzerland and many of the original characters reappear, either as teachers or parents of later students. Occasionally Brent-Dyer loses track of some and names occasionally change - most famously that of Madge's partner and successor as Head Mistress, Mademoiselle Lepattre, whose first name changes, IIRC, from Thérèse to Elise - but these slight inconsistencies are all part of the series' charm and appeal.

Parents of girls today might want to check out a couple of the books before recommending them, simply because they do contain references to religion and some moralizing does occur. They are not inspirational, in that religion is not the focus, but as was current at the time they were set, the majority of the girls and their teachers belonged to and were active in either the Church of England or the Roman Catholic Church. Many girls today might simply find them boring compared to the vampires and wizards they read about today.

All that said, many who grew up reading them in years gone by are still huge fans, as is evidenced by the existence of at least two international organizations devoted to this series of books - Friends of the Chalet School and The New Chalet Club.

What about you? Are you a Chalet School fan? Have you read other school series you liked?
Currently Reading: Shadow Baby by Margaret Forster

Friday, September 17, 2010

30 Day Book Meme - Day 03

Please note that on Saturdays and Mondays, I won't be posting entries for this meme.

Day 03 - The best book you've read in the last 12 months:

Another really difficult one. For this one, I'm going to go with Rain Before Morning by Michael Poole. Most of you won't have heard of this book as it was written by an author here on the Sunshine Coast and published Harbour Publishing, a small publisher located a few kilometers north of where I live. The novel is a powerful piece set before and during WWI, following the love story of a young couple, Leah and  who meet when she moves with her family to a village on the Sunshine Coast. Her mother disapproves of the romance and finds a way to separate them. Leah ends up in France during the war while Nathan spends time in logging camps, trying to earn enough money to support them. When conscription is invoked, Nathan and Leah face their biggest challenge yet.

What I loved about this book is the atmosphere - the dripping trees, the cold, the smell of the sea and the sound of the wind. Poole, who grew up in this area, captures it effortlessly. Combine this atmosphere with a rivetting story that pits a group of young men who are evading the army and you have a novel that grips and envelops its reader. In dealing with the politically charged issue of conscription, and the varying reasons young men opposed it, Poole addresses an aspect of history not often discussed any more. He also deals with Leah's disgust for the early 20th century military attitude towards shell-shock. Though this book is by no means an easy read - at times it all but overwhelmed me emotionally, it is compelling and well worth taking the time to curl up with.

Currently Reading: Shadow Baby by Margaret Forster

Thursday, September 16, 2010

30 Day Book Meme - Day 02

Day 02 - A book or series you wish more people were reading and talking about

Tracy Chevalier's Remarkable Creatures. It's her latest book and just wonderful, focussing as it does on Mary Anning, the young woman who made major fossil discoveries on the South Coast of England in the early 19th century. It also deals with her friendship with her patron, Elizabeth Philpot, a woman who shared her fascination with fossils but who didn't have the same degree of success in uncovering them. Not only did Ms Anning find the fossils, but she cleaned and reconstructed them. All this in a small house in Lyme Regis.

As with all her books, Ms Chevalier brings historical figures to life, immersing us in their daily routine so that we feel we could turn around and bump into them. So skilled is she at weaving in historical fact that we learn about them and the world around them without being subjected to info dumps, a technique which contributes to the feeling of being transported back in time through her prose. She also examines the difficult nature of female friendship and rivalry, in a time in general when women were excluded from academic life and relegated to the drawing room and nursery.

Until I read this book, I had no idea about the important contributions to science and history made by Ms Anning, an ordinary woman with an extraordinary talent and the drive to persevere. To learn more, you can read about the book and/or visit the online version of the Philpot museum in Lyme Regis.

Currently Reading: Shadow Baby by Margaret Forster

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

30 Day book meme...Day 01

I found this at Cate's Bookshelves and have decided that this is one way I can keep my blog updated without taking too much time away from my school work. The topics are right there for me and very specific...Cate found this meme at another blog, Christina Reads!

Feel free to join in :) And now, as they say, on with the sh--- er, meme.

Day 01 - A book series you wish had gone on longer OR a book series you wish would just freaking end already (or both!)

This is a hard one for me to answer, I fully admit, as I don't always finish a whole series. After all, I still haven't gotten any further than Drums of Autumn (though I do have the other books). Still, I hated to see Sharon Kay Penman's Welsh series - Here be Dragons, Falls the Shadow and The Reckoning - end. It was masterful and I would have loved to have seen her continue the story somehow, even though the central character dies. I remember waiting on tenterhooks for each book in the series to be released, diving into it with the eagerness of a boy let loose in a Matchbox Car factory. Here be Dragons remains one of my favourite books to this day. For those of you who haven't read these books, they follow the story of the last Welsh princes of Wales - Llewellyn Fawr through to his grandson, Llewellyn the Last. There's political intrigue, war, family disputes and romance - everything any afficiando of historical fiction craves. If you haven't read them, I highly recommend finding them at your local library or bookstore!


Thursday, September 09, 2010

Where did the summer go?

I can't believe we're down to the last official weeks of summer! Granted, here on the BC Coast, the weather didn't even get decent till the first full week of July and I was in school from May till early August, but still...

Regardless, we had a wonderful season :) In May, Sean and I took our camper to Harrison Hot Springs in the Fraser Valley and had a fantastic time, despite a flat tire on the truck and getting lost on a muddy trail.

Cheam Peak

Camper in situ

Harrison Lake

Clematis in bloom

One of the highlights of the summer on the Coast was the presence of a grey whale that fed up and down the coastline from Roberts Creek to Halfmoon Bay. Sean and I just happened to be down for a sunset walk at Davis Bay on one of the evenings it was very close to the beach. Fortunately I had my camera, and snapped this pic of it!

Whale at Davis Bay

Other nature encounters included the bear and a heron. I'm particularly pleased with the photo of the heron on wing:

Bear on an early morning vist


Soon after finishing my English lit course (which was fantastic), my sister and her family came to stay - we had a busy but fun 10 days together:

the gang out at Smuggler Cove

Meanwhile, I'm still working at the library - in fact, in May I officially became a part-time employee :) Up until then, I'd been a Casual. I still love my job and love being able to apply the things I'm learning about in school.

Finally, the cats continue to be their happy-go-lucky selves - running around, playing, snoozing and generally enjoying the life of Riley.

Chloe and Cleo enjoying the sun in the living room

Chloe and Cleo enjoying a post-dinner snooze in the spare room

On Tuesday I started school again and it's going to be a busy term! One of the courses is a cataloguing one and the other is about the history of libraries (yeah, that one's really tough to take!) I'll try to pop in again at least once or twice before Christmas...

Currently Reading: Solo by Jill Mansell