Still Not Reading Much

>> Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Perhaps it is just that I have done SO much reading over the past 8 months ... now that school is finally done (well, except for my major research paper, and that is waiting on approval from the ethics board and for my proposal to come back from my advisor) ...I just haven't been motivated to pick up a book and start reading.

I HAVE almost finished Stephanie: the rocket scientist's Bete novel though ... am really enjoying it! But as to Canadian fiction, mostly this week, I have been relocating it rather than reading it.

I have bookshelves in my office - two walls of them... and still never enough room for all of my books! Over the time I have been doing the school thing, they have become increasingly chaotic, with schoolbooks and everything else all over the place. So yesterday I started trying to organize them somewhat.

It is slow going - my wrists are weak yet, so moving piles is something I can only do a little at a time, and for a short while, then I have to take a break. Fortunately, I've got time now for frittering now :)


Book Meme

>> Sunday, April 26, 2009

I stole this meme from Stephanie at Ask Me Anything... and she got it from Books and Movies.

1. To mark your page you: use a bookmark, bend the page corner, leave the book open face down? I know better...but I do all of the above none the less.

2. Do you lend your books? Most often I give them away without expecting to get them back. I made the mistake of lending a signed book out once - never again! Never did get it back.

3. You find an interesting passage: you write in your book or NO WRITING IN BOOKS! I write in books - mostly just in books I use for school though, not my pleasure reading (although sometimes those end up being one and the same)

4. Dust jackets - leave it on or take it off? Gotta go! I always mean to put them back on when I'm done reading but, well, you know...

5. Hard cover, paperback, skip it and get the audio book?
I much prefer paperback, especially since I wrecked my wrists. I have a book stand that I still use a fair bit for hardcovers or textbooks. Pain in the butt to actually read with it though - and it doesn't work worth a damn in the tub!

6. Do you shelve your books by subject, author, or size and color of the book spines? I make piles on the floor around my desk, mostly... or beside my bed... or on the bathroom counter. The book fairy comes along and puts them on shelves.... he also finds them again when I need a particular book.

7. Buy it or borrow it from the library later?
I buy it - or whine so my sister gets it for me, cuz she's got connections. I try to avoid libraries as much as possible because they always want you should bring them back!

8. Do you put your name on your books - scribble your name in the cover, fancy bookplate, or stamp?
Hardly ever.

9. Most of the books you own are rare and out of print books or recent publications?
All of the above. I have a lot of signed editions from Canadian authors that attend the Leacock Festival... and also a lot of advance reading copies cuz I am spoiled (or maybe it is that I whine well).

10. Page edges - deckled or straight?
Who cares? Well, people do - including many people who study Public Texts (yeah, that would be me) ... but mostly I care more about what's on the pages than what they actually look like.

11. How many books do you read at one time?
I often have many, many books on the go at once .... unless something really engages me, in which case, all the rest get left where they are until I am done that one.

12. Be honest, ever tear a page from a book?
Nope, although I have once or twice torn a recipe from a magazine at the doctor's office.

If you should decide to do this one, I hope you'll let me know...would love to read it.


Not a Review of Wake by Robert J. Sawyer

>> Friday, April 24, 2009

It would be a review - and I will write one eventually - but right now I am just trying to kill a few minutes while I wait IMpatiently for hubby to finish his breakfast so that we can get out the door and on our way to Peterborough - we're going to be late already and I do so wish he would hurry the hell up!

Anyway ... to keep myself from rushing him which, I know, would have exactly the opposite effect, I'm staying in here at the computer poised to go as soon as I hear him make any indication that he's ready... so I thought I'd write a quick post about Robert J Sawyer's Wake.

Excellent book - it's just loaded with bits that I can use in my viral contagion essay - seems like every time I flip through it, I find more that I can use and hadn't noticed before.

I really enjoyed the main protagonist, Caitlin's story - but for this essay both that thread plus the epidemic in China plot threads give me tons of scope.

Yay ... the dog's cleaning his dishes - we're on our way as soon as I hear a flush :)


Having Faith in The Polar Girls Prison

>> Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Having Faith in the Polar Girls Prison, written by Cathleen With, is one of the three books I am working with for my Major Research Project re: publishing & emerging adults. Published by Penguin Group, it is scheduled for release later this month.

Trista, the main character, is a young native girl who is in the prison with her infant daughter, Faith. Told in her voice, the novel uses a stream of consciousness style, which allows the reader to experience Trista’s confusion and distress as she comes to terms with the possibility of losing Faith to foster care, and with the events that led to her incarcaration.

For a more detailed review, visit Quill & Quire.

My interest in this novel - aside from the fact that Andrea, my sister, recommended it for the project and she gives me free books so ….. is that although the title and cover suggest - to me, and to others in my course as well - a novel for adolescents, it is being released as Adult fiction….which gives scope for discussion in the paper. It also includes a whole bunch of themes that I am dealing with elsewhere - portrayals of First Nations people in literature being the big one, of course.


French Fries - A Short Story by Flit

>> Tuesday, April 21, 2009

This is another of my short stories, previously published on and as well.

And yes, this one is (mostly) true.

Originally, I used made up names for my little darlings but somewhere along the way I changed them and now when I read it (at writers’ festivals and so on) I usually go with their real names. It seems silly to change just the names when the story is based on real events.

Both of my daughters have blogs on, btw…. Jess writes about her job as a early childhood education provider , and Tamara is working on a public relations theme . They’re all growed up now (ha! as IF!) and both have graduated college.

No critters - or children - were harmed in the making of this story…although french fries became a banned substance at our house for a very long time!

French Fries

“Oh, you must miss them” people used to tell me when my kids were away for a few weeks in the summer. Uh yeah. Right. Miss them. Not! I loved it when they went to camp, or to my sister’s, or to – well, just about anyplace I could send them. As long as they were safe and happy wherever they were, that worked just fine for me.

No hockey, no baseball, no last minute runs into town for a piece of Bristol board for a school project assigned three weeks ago, due tomorrow. No constant bickering over every little thing. No competition for my attention. No fighting over who gets to pick what restaurant we go to or what bedtime story or what TV show to watch. No TV in fact; it goes off the day they leave, and stays off. No noise! And most important of all, no stress – by comparison, anyway. I love my girls, really. But some days…!

Like the day Tamara made French fries; that was fun. For some reason that I don’t remember, I had let her stay home that day. A headache or something, most likely. Jessica had gone to school and would be taking the bus home; usually I drove them, but that day I was supposed to have had a late class, and she didn’t want to wait for a ride. My class ended early, but she would have already left on the bus, so I just headed home. We lived about halfway between Barrie and Orillia, then, on the 7th line of Oro, in an apartment above what used to be a motel, but at that point was just a bunch of mostly empty rooms. It wasn’t a great location, but the apartment itself was pretty nice; everyone had their own bedroom, and it had a great balcony with a view. Of course, the view was of a gas station and the highway, but beggars can’t be choosers, or so I’ve heard. The place we had been living in had been sold and we had been forced to move several months before. There wasn’t much available in the city at that point– and what there was had so much competition for it that a single mom with two teenagers and a dog, working only part time while going to school to be a geek…well, I wasn’t a prime candidate for tenancy.

Anyway, so I’m driving up the highway and I’m almost home and there is a fair bit of traffic, which is pretty usual for dinnertime. An ambulance comes up behind me with its sirens and lights going; I pull over, and let it go by, thinking that people that don’t get out of the way are such jerks and idly wondering if there’s an accident up ahead. Um, nope – not an accident. The ambulance is going to a fire. And not just any fire, but a fire that just happens to be in my area. I’m driving northbound on the highway and I’m almost to my house, and I see flashing lights and fire trucks in front of it. Please let it be the gas station or the restaurant or….Oh! Nope, it is most definitely my house. My dog barking her fool head off on the balcony. My front door open, with firemen with hoses heading up the stairs. And my kid on a stretcher being pushed across the parking lot towards the ambulance, which still has its flashing lights going.

And I, of course, am on the wrong side of the blasted highway and I have to drive past my house, take the next exit, stop at the stop sign and wait until it’s clear to turn left and go over the overpass from which I can’t see a blessed thing. And then I follow the road around and there is another stop sign and the school bus has just gone by and had its stupid flashing lights on and kept all the cars waiting while the kids crossed the road and now there is a backlog and I have to sit at the stop sign and wait while my house is on fire and my kid is in an ambulance and the lights are flashing and I can’t see and I can’t get there and…

Finally I am clear to turn left and then right onto the bumpy mess that our landlord considers a road and I am in such a panic I almost don’t register that Jessica is running down the road ahead of me and I don’t want to stop to pick her up but I do anyway. I yell at her to hurry and she does; she has seen the fire trucks too, from her school bus and she is near hysterical, not about her sister, but about her animals. “If any of my animals are dead she’d better hope she is too!” She is not helping, and I ignore her and screech to a stop behind the ambulance and startle the paramedic who is adjusting an oxygen mask over Tamara’s face.

The paramedic must have figured I was the mom and I was a tad stressed; he is telling me that she’s okay, she’s just inhaled a bit of smoke and she’s upset so they’re just giving her oxygen just for a few minutes and then Tamara is crying that she didn’t mean to and she’s sorry and Jessica is still ranting about the animals and …eventually… my heart starts beating again and I remember how to breathe.


Author Letters

>> Saturday, April 18, 2009

Sorry I haven't added anything to this site this week - I think I'm just too swamped in Canadian fiction to write about Canadian fiction right now!

I'm working on an essay (that has to be done by Monday) about Catharine Parr Traill and her children.

CPT, as she is commonly called, was born in England but emigrated to Canada with her husband in 1832. She and most of her sisters, some here and some there, was a writer. In addition to the work that she is most known for, The Backwoods of Canada, she wrote many other works both for adults and for children. And she wrote letters. Many, many letters!

Which is great, because I happen to really like reading people's letters....especially authors' letters. It interests me - not so much the descriptions and so on ...and in this case, I could surely do without some of the preachy content ... but often there are very interesting differences in how an author constructs themself in their letters to various people, and also, I have found, in more than a few instances, that often you can see material from the letters that winds up in the fiction.

I am looking forward to reading some of CPTs later works to see if this holds true in hers as well as it did when I was studying Margaret Laurence's novels and letters. But first I have to get this paper done. And then the next (viral marketing in publishing) and then the 2 short papers and 20 essays to mark and 100 database marks to calculate and submit and OMG I'm never going to get it all done before the 24th!!! What am I DOING here? I should be working!


Canadian Fiction

>> Thursday, April 16, 2009

..... but not necessarily all written by Canadians.

Basically, I expect that this blog will end up being about whatever this particular Canadian winds up reading :)

With a writers' festival, some homework/research and whinging about grad school and having too much to do thrown in for good measure. Hey, you've got to go with what you're good at, right?


The Stone Carvers by Jane Urquhart

>> Monday, April 6, 2009

The book I have just finished, The Stone Carvers , by Jane Urquhart , is one that I expect will be added to my collection of books worth re-reading.

I met Urquhart at last year’s Leacock Festival in Orillia Ontario; she signed a book for me. That book was just a collection of Canadian short stories that she had edited though - not one of hers. I should have bought one of hers at the Festival. But I was being a ~good girl~ … I go to the Festival every year…. almost every event …. and thoroughly enjoy it… but it does tend to get a ~bit~ expensive if I start buying all the books I want to buy there. So I just stayed far, far away from the book table last year.

But then one of her novels, Away , turned up on my Canadian lit syllabus this semester, I had a good excuse to buy that one, right?

I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. So when I saw a copy of another of her novels, The Stone Carvers , used but in perfect condition, for $5 in a used bookstore, I grabbed it.

The Stone Carvers tells the story of siblings Klara and Tilman, who are both carvers, as was their grandfather. It is set predominently in Ontario in the early 20th Century.

Klara, for most of the novel, remains on the family farm, where she supports herself as a tailor, and after the man she loves goes off to war and doesn’t return, is content to be the eccentric spinster who remains on the family farm. Tilman runs away from the farm while still a child, in spite of the drastic lengths his parents go to to keep him there. He returns many years later, after having lost his leg in the battle at Vimy Ridge. Together, they journey back to Rimy to work on the monument being built by Walter Allward .

Urquhart’s prose is as poetic as her poetry, and she does a beautiful job of creating fictional characters that seem every bit as real and fully developed as the nonfictional characters, such as Allward. The Stone Carvers , like Away , makes it ever so much easier to develop a sense of Canadian history….something I very much appreciate, since it is all stuff I need to know if I do go onto Canadian Studies. I’ve never been so great at memorizing dates or that sort of thing… you know, the stuff you need to do if you’re going to sound like you have a clue…. Urquhart’s novels make history real.


Life, Death and Other Trivia By Ruth Dickson

>> Sunday, April 5, 2009

Life, Death and Other Trivia by Ruth Dickson
So…. homework this week (for my Public Texts course) included the task of buying & reading a book from , and writing an email to the author (no direction given as to what the email was to include).

So …I did. Even though I have purchased other books from Lulu, hey…. that doesn’t count cuz this was HOMEWORK. (Any excuse will do Innocent)

I cheated a bit though…. rather than just wade through the way too many books they have listed on Lulu …although I did actually look at some….many of which seemed to be categorized in ….ummm…totally illogical categories…. I chose to put my $$ on a work by an author I already know from .

Not, of course, that I know her - we’ve never met… but she stands out on Gather as someone who writes well and who is extremely witty, funny, and, on occasion, more than a little caustic. Dame Ruth will never be accused of political correctness… but for an extremely intelligent & entertaining view of the world, reading her work is a no-brainer.

I loved Life, Death & Other Trivia - particularly the sections about men & their body parts, and about the author’s view of a better way to choose a president. Oh, and the last chapter about religion and… and… and….

It was most definitely the most fun I’ve had doing homework in….well…. forever!

Dame Ruth also has a blog …which you should visit …but really, you should buy the book .


eReaders Guest Post

The Kindle is a big and exciting topic now that the second incarnation is out there. It’s loaded with cool features and is backed by the conglomerate. I, of course, don’t have one.

Sony eReaderWhat I got for Christmas is a Sony eReader and I’m lovin’ it. There were several reasons I chose the eReader. It can read pdfs and word files, so I could put my own novels in ‘em and bring ‘em. The wireless feature in Kindle didn’t interest me and I liked the Sony’s all-metal case. It looked, apparently, slightly better than the original Kindle (according to reviews) and the size was excellent (I saw one in Borders). And it was cheaper.

But why get an ereader anyway? Well, first of all, I love gadgets and I’m an avid reader. When I travel, I’m used to bringing six or more books with me so the thought of replacing them with one book-sized contraption is appealing. I’m absent minded and am constantly misplacing books so it’s nice to be able to find my favorites. My favorite books I read over and over and over again. Also, at least with the Sony, one can have as many as 8 eReaders using the same library, so I can let everyone in the family have access to my library if I get them a similar unit.

So, how is it? It’s great. It’s much easier to read than a computer, the screen is clear. You can read several days in a row, all day, on the same battery charge. It comes with a nice magnetized leather case (don’t bother buying one) and it feels very solid. The buttons are easy to use. The eReader, at least when I got it, came with 100 classics downloads, the $2 classic books (i.e. public domain) novels out there. That’s quite a hefty number and so I could stock up my Shakespeare and Poe and Dumas and Jane Austen and…

The menu is not desperately intuitive and the Sony eBook store wasn’t as easy to navigate as I would have liked. One can’t read it while charging and the software to transfer books wasn’t perfect.

Still, I have learned to love it and have already begun buying ecopies of my favorite rereadable books so that I never have to do without them again.

Steph: the rocket scientist


Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

>> Friday, April 3, 2009

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
I was thinking about what to write about in this blog today …. something to do with fiction …but something that doesn’t require too much brain power because I seem to be fresh out.

But somewhere along the way while I was sulking about my cruddy day today, I remembered this book. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst is just the right sort of book for me today. I’m tempted, actually, to order a copy, since I no longer seem to have one.

I was surprised to read that this book was first published in 1972! It is definitely a classic. I remember reading it to kids at the camp I worked at, and later, to kids in residential treatment for behavioural issues when I was a Child & Youth Worker…. and of course, I read it to my own kids, as well.

Now I am thinking that I shall have to buy another copy for the grandbabies…. yeah….right…that’s a good excuse, right?

Whatever works :)

What are your favourite children’s books? The ones you think every kid should have?


>> Thursday, April 2, 2009

End of an Era is the novel that Robert J. Sawyer ’s wife recommended when I asked her, via email, for “the best” Sawyer novel to read if one was interested in the topic of viral contagion, since that was the subject of one of my courses this semester.

End of an Era is a relatively short novel, easily read during one rather longish soak in the tub (no, I did not drown) And it does indeed address the topic of viral contagion, although not explicitly so until the latter part of the novel. Archeologist Brandon Thackery and his colleague & friend, Klicks, travel back in time in an effort to study dinosaurs before their extinction, and to attempt to discover the reason for their eradication. And yes, of course they are successful…but beyond that, I ain’t telling.

In addition to dinosaurs, time travel, and viral contagion, the novel includes aliens, space & astronomy - all packed into an engaging and highly readable package. As always, Sawyer succeeds in incorporating so much actual science that by the end of the book you feel like you’ve learned a whole lot - given that it is, after all, science fiction, you don’t necessarily know how much of it could actually happen (might have to Ask Stephanie ) …but it all feels pretty believable. That is, I think, one of the major differences between Sawyer and many other science fiction authors, and it is one I very much enjoy.

To read Chapter 1 of End of an Era , visit Sawyer’s webpage - you can also order signed copies there, at no extra cost. There are also several other resources there, including a A Discussion of the Book’s Opening Line and a Reading Group guide. And of course, and both carry End of an Era as well.


Navigating Canada's Health Care

>> Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Navigating Canada's Health Care by Grosso and Dector
Navigating Canada’s Health Care is, as you might expect, nonfiction rather than the fiction I more often review. But it came in the box of fiction for review - doesn’t that count?

Anyway, Navigating Canada’s Health Care is written in plain, straightforward language. It was written by Michael Dector, an economist who has served as the Deputy Minister of Health in Ontario among his many other roles, and Francesca Grosso, who has been involved in heath policy and health care communication for more than 15 years and who, along with Dector, worked to establish the Health Council of Canada.

The book contains a huge amount of information, and to be honest, I have not read all of it. Rather, I jumped right through the early chapters, in which the authors provide information about having a baby in Canada (been there done that - twice), getting the best care for your child (they do that themselves now that they’re ~supposedly~ all growed up) and child safety in Canada (maybe I’ll read that if/when I ever get to spend more time with the grandbabies) …. and started my more attentive reading in The Middle Years.

Okay, so maybe I fit in the tail end of that section or into the next …but the middle years section includes the sort of helpful information that I can use. It provides advice for finding a doctor - no easy task given the shortages around here - and, once you have one, working with your health care team, and assembling your own health record. I have no doubt that that particular task would be particularly useful for me… although once I started to read it, I kind of lost interest - sounds like a fair bit of work to me! Yes, I am lazy as a matter of fact.

The most useful section of the entire book, at least for me right now, is the last one (after Managing Aging which includes altogether too many sections that apply to hubby & I) …. Navigating Care Swiftly and Safely …. that would be the one that gives guidance and advice about needing to be your own advocate - or have someone that can do that for you - and about being a squeaky wheel. I have read the whole section through once… and will probably read it again once more before I head off to my next doctor’s appointment.

Navigating Canada’s Health Care seems to be a very practical, usable guide to Canadian health care…. I will definitely be trying some of the suggestions.

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