Monthly Archives: November 2013

Travelling On Into The Light

I like novels, the longer and thicker the better, because I hate for them to end. For this reason, I don’t generally read short stories.

I had a pretty decent library of adolescent oriented material in my classroom when I taught grade 7 and 8. I looked for award-winning authors and popular writers of fiction and non-fiction, and tried to find something that would appeal to each class’s divergent interests and abilities.

One of the books I picked up was Traveling On into the Light by Martha Brooks.  It had been chosen as A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, An American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults and A Best Book for the Reluctant Young Adult Reader, among others. And yet it didn’t get read, not by the students, and not by me.

I have just finished reading it and realized what we all missed.

Traveling On into the Light is a collection of jewel-like stories. Martha Brooks is an amazing writer who uses words to paint tiny miniature scenes. Her careful portrayal of motive, character and setting is managed brilliantly. Her work is constructed in an almost Haiku-like perfection. I am in awe.

The stories feature protagonists in their mid- to late teens who are struggling with relationships, family and school. These aspects of life are the focus of most adolescents’ day to day lives.

My favorite story is “The Kindness of Strangers”. Laker, age 16, has become estranged from his family. His mother has chosen unwisely, and her new partner wants Laker gone. The resolution is neat, unexpected and perfectly fitting. And definitely not formulaic.

The actions and attitudes taken by the characters in each story help or hinder them in “traveling into the light” of self-realization.

These stories are best for high school-age readers. Adults would enjoy them too. Most young adolescents don’t have the experience.

I am sorry I waited so long. It is a book to be read and re-read.

Enjoy.

Merilyn

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Review, Teen Books

Who’s Seen Catching Fire?

I’m debating whether to go see it in the theatre, or wait for the DVD.   Who’s seen it? Thoughts?  Also, just to let you guys know, the blog posts will probably be a little less frequent right now, between the book store and my family at this time of year.  I will try to post as often as I can, but I have to sleep sometime, unfortunately.

Happy (holiday) reading.

Christie

5 Comments

Filed under General Awesomeness

One Hour With Roberta Rich

I was very excited (and nervous) about this meeting with Roberta Rich.  I love meeting people, especially authors, but one on one is a bit intimidating.  I still feel like I’m pretending to be a writer, as a blogger, and this lady is definitely the real thing.  Would I think of good questions?  Would I remember to let her talk (once you get me going, duct tape is occasionally necessary, particularly on the topic of books)? Thankfully, even if I had no idea what I was doing, she definitely did.

I brought up her former law career, and the fact that most lawyer/writer transitions ended up with legal thrillers.  Instead, she went with a midwife in 16th century Venice.

RR: There is a bit of legal… there’s a bit of Jewish law in The Harem Midwife.  You know, when I started writing, I was writing mystery stories, contemporary mystery stories, and I was writing… those were about a divorce lawyer in Vancouver.  Those are still in my filing cabinet, and have yet to see the light of day.  And in 2007 I was in Venice and I was in the Jewish ghetto and I was quite transfixed by it, and had the idea for a novel that was set in the ghetto.  I kind of wrote the novel that I wished had been available for me to read, because there are no novels that are set in the Jewish ghetto except for mine… It is a rich environment and I was quite surprised that I didn’t find anything.  This is a gap.  This was definitely a gap.

I told her I liked how she presented the conflict between morals and law, in both books.  Hannah, the midwife in question, keeps coming up against the laws of the country, the good of her family and community, and having to balance them against her moral duty, her ability to help people.   Should she do nothing, in order to protect herself and her family and community, or should she help when able?  Particularly at the time these books are set, as a member of the Jewish community a wrong action on her part could set off retribution against everyone Jewish. This is still relevant today, that conflict between what is legally right, and what is morally right.  That need to be aware of your effect not just on your own sense of right and wrong, but how your actions could potentially, for good or ill, affect everyone around you, particularly in this age of social media and instant fame.

Which, of course, us being in Toronto, brought up Rob Ford.

RR: It’s very hard to turn around these days without seeing Rob Ford’s (unflattering mutter) face everywhere you go.  He’s shameless, really, isn’t he and there are people who think it’s okay! We don’t want an average guy running a city. We want superior guys, right?

Exactly, Roberta.  Can we get her on the voter’s list, somehow?

So, back to the books.  I told her I had been up ridiculously late reading her books, had, in fact, read them back to back.

RR: Did you read them in sequence?

BP: There are people who read books out of sequence? But yes.

And then she asked me which one I preferred.  All of a sudden, I felt like I was being asked to tell a mother which one of her children I liked better.  Um…

So told her that I preferred The Midwife of Venice, because her descriptions were so vivid, I felt like I was right there.  The Harem Midwife was also excellent, but was a little more plot focused, with a little less character development.  In The Midwife of Venice, I felt immersed, I could see the sights, smell the smells.

RR: Well, I hadn’t really considered writing a sequel, I must say, to The Midwife of Venice, and I was quite bowled by the success of The Midwife of Venice, delighted of course, and Random House offered me a two book contract. So then, of course, I had to apply my mind to what I was going to write. So I wanted to write a sequel and the logical place was Istanbul, Constantinople, and I had been there several times, and so I was very happy at the prospect of doing research.  So, I was there, and I had been there years and years ago, and then I went back with my husband, we were there for two weeks, and then we went back the following year, and we travelled to Istanbul and various other places in Turkey. It’s a very interesting country.”

BP: One of the reasons I really enjoyed your books is because it’s funny, you think that all that stuff is in the past, but it’s not as in the past… as we would like to believe. Like polygamy.

RR: Polygamy is an interesting topic for me. The idea of the levirate marriage, for example.  I was talking at a book club in Toronto last year, about the idea of a levirate marriage, and a woman at the book club, who was Muslim, and her family was from India, said that that had happened in her family. So, levirate marriage, which happened five hundred years ago in my book, is something that happens in modern life.  There are… so called “honour killings.” It’s a terrible name for it, it’s a dishonour, not an honour killing.

I told her about the hymen repair surgery specialist in Toronto (Do you think it’s too late for me?” she snickered). The idea of virginity being a vital commodity is raised more than once, particularly in The Harem Midwife.

RR: I’ve spoken to a couple of doctors about this. There is no real way to tell from examining a woman whether she is a virgin or not. Girls that are sporty and athletic probably don’t have hymens that are intact. It’s not a thing that you could tell.  When you see women as property, it suddenly becomes very important.

We moved on to the book business. Amazon (my nemesis) was a topic of conversation.

RR: Amazon is really selling at a loss, they don’t care what they sell their books for. There have been a number of articles about Amazon recently, and their labour policies, which are nasty, nasty.  They’re paying some kids minimum wage to work in these vast warehouses, they’re under the gun, time-wise, they’re – I couldn’t believe this when I read it – the one in Arizona is not air conditioned.  That’s a serious problem in a place like Arizona.  These kids are running around, running around, running around… they have a beeper that tells them how long it should take them to get to a particular stack of books, get a book, and put it in a box, and if they don’t make that, that time limit, they get beeped! I think that would make me crazy.

I mentioned Chapters Runnymede’s imminent closing, and recommended she visit  She expressed disgust at it being turned into a drug store. “Oh god, oh that’s so depressing. ” were her exact words.  Right there with you, Roberta.

RR:   I thought, two years ago (I don’t really know anything about the business from before two years ago) I thought e-books were going to take over, take over, take over.  And it was twenty percent then and it’s forty percent now but I think, it seems as though it’s going to continue at forty percent.  People like holding a book in their hands.  And it’s not just people my age. It’s also young people.  With social media… I often wonder how much information… well, there’s a tremendous amount of information about me, I’m sure.  For anybody who’s interested in finding it out. But, we’ve sacrificed privacy for convenience, haven’t we? That’s the trade-off that most of us have made, myself included.

I recognize the irony that this article is being shared on at least three different types of social media.

I gave her, as a souvenir of Toronto, a maple bacon chocolate bar, which considering that they’ve been making maple-bacon flavoured everything here the last while, including a burger at the Ex, seemed quite apt.  She did a credible imitation of being glad to get it, which I hope she was, but you know, not everyone thinks maple bacon chocolate sounds wonderful.   We chatted about Toronto, and its historical buildings, and from the window I pointed out the church spire that used to be Toronto’s tallest structure.  She said she thought that Toronto had done a better job of maintaining its history than Vancouver (her hometown), and was enjoying her visit greatly.  She was staying with a friend in Toronto’s Cabbagetown area, and had determined that if she ever lived in Toronto, that is where she would live.

She had a quick glance at my web site, and thought it was hilarious that the first article that popped up was the one about copies of Fifty Shades of Grey in the library having herpes virus.  She teased me that I was supposed to be encouraging reading, wasn’t I? I said Fifty Shades was an exception to that rule.   She said she read the first chapter, it was available as a free download, and thought it was boring, and the heroine insipid.  She’d had people tell her, a hairdresser, for example, that it had just aroused them incredibly, which she found laughable.  “It obviously doesn’t take much to arouse them, does it?”  Did I tell you I love this woman?

We parted after an hour.  I thoroughly enjoyed the interview.  She headed off for lunch, and I headed home, very impressed.  Roberta Rich is a hell of a woman, and a hell of an author, and you should go buy her books.

Happy reading – and thinking!

Christie

1 Comment

Filed under Authors, Books, Bookstore, E-Books, Review, Writing

An Hour With Roberta Rich

I was very excited (and nervous) about this meeting with Roberta Rich.  I love meeting people, especially authors, but one on one is a bit intimidating.  I still feel like I’m pretending to be a writer, as a blogger, and this lady is definitely the real thing.  Would I think of good questions?  Would I remember to let her talk (once you get me going, duct tape is occasionally necessary, particularly on the topic of books)? Thankfully, even if I had no idea what I was doing, she definitely did.

I brought up her former law career, and the fact that most lawyer/writer transitions ended up with legal thrillers.  Instead, she went with a midwife in 16th century Venice.

RR: There is a bit of legal… there’s a bit of Jewish law in The Harem Midwife.  You know, when I started writing, I was writing mystery stories, contemporary mystery stories, and I was writing… those were about a divorce lawyer in Vancouver.  Those are still in my filing cabinet, and have yet to see the light of day.  And in 2007 I was in Venice and I was in the Jewish ghetto and I was quite transfixed by it, and had the idea for a novel that was set in the ghetto.  I kind of wrote the novel that I wished had been available for me to read, because there are no novels that are set in the Jewish ghetto except for mine… It is a rich environment and I was quite surprised that I didn’t find anything.  This is a gap.  This was definitely a gap.

I told her I liked how she presented the conflict between morals and law, in both books.  Hannah, the midwife in question, keeps coming up against the laws of the country, the good of her family and community, and having to balance them against her moral duty, her ability to help people.   Should she do nothing, in order to protect herself and her family and community, or should she help when able?  Particularly at the time these books are set, as a member of the Jewish community a wrong action on her part could set off retribution against everyone Jewish. This is still relevant today, that conflict between what is legally right, and what is morally right.  That need to be aware of your effect not just on your own sense of right and wrong, but how your actions could potentially, for good or ill, affect everyone around you, particularly in this age of social media and instant fame.

Which, of course, us being in Toronto, brought up Rob Ford.

RR: It’s very hard to turn around these days without seeing Rob Ford’s (unflattering mutter) face everywhere you go.  He’s shameless, really, isn’t he and there are people who think it’s okay! We don’t want an average guy running a city. We want superior guys, right?

Exactly, Roberta.  Can we get her on the voter’s list, somehow?

So, back to the books.  I told her I had been up ridiculously late reading her books, had, in fact, read them back to back.

RR: Did you read them in sequence?

BP: There are people who read books out of sequence? But yes.

And then she asked me which one I preferred.  All of a sudden, I felt like I was being asked to tell a mother which one of her children I liked better.  Um…

So told her that I preferred The Midwife of Venice, because her descriptions were so vivid, I felt like I was right there.  The Harem Midwife was also excellent, but was a little more plot focused, with a little less character development.  In The Midwife of Venice, I felt immersed, I could see the sights, smell the smells.

RR: Well, I hadn’t really considered writing a sequel, I must say, to The Midwife of Venice, and I was quite bowled by the success of The Midwife of Venice, delighted of course, and Random House offered me a two book contract. So then, of course, I had to apply my mind to what I was going to write. So I wanted to write a sequel and the logical place was Istanbul, Constantinople, and I had been there several times, and so I was very happy at the prospect of doing research.  So, I was there, and I had been there years and years ago, and then I went back with my husband, we were there for two weeks, and then we went back the following year, and we travelled to Istanbul and various other places in Turkey. It’s a very interesting country.”

BP: One of the reasons I really enjoyed your books is because it’s funny, you think that all that stuff is in the past, but it’s not as in the past… as we would like to believe. Like polygamy.

RR: Polygamy is an interesting topic for me. The idea of the levirate marriage, for example.  I was talking at a book club in Toronto last year, about the idea of a levirate marriage, and a woman at the book club, who was Muslim, and her family was from India, said that that had happened in her family. So, levirate marriage, which happened five hundred years ago in my book, is something that happens in modern life.  There are… so called “honour killings.” It’s a terrible name for it, it’s a dishonour, not an honour killing.

I told her about the hymen repair surgery specialist in Toronto (Do you think it’s too late for me?” she snickered). The idea of virginity being a vital commodity is raised more than once, particularly in The Harem Midwife.

RR: I’ve spoken to a couple of doctors about this. There is no real way to tell from examining a woman whether she is a virgin or not. Girls that are sporty and athletic probably don’t have hymens that are intact. It’s not a thing that you could tell.  When you see women as property, it suddenly becomes very important.

We moved on to the book business. Amazon (my nemesis) was a topic of conversation.

RR: Amazon is really selling at a loss, they don’t care what they sell their books for. There have been a number of articles about Amazon recently, and their labour policies, which are nasty, nasty.  They’re paying some kids minimum wage to work in these vast warehouses, they’re under the gun, time-wise, they’re – I couldn’t believe this when I read it – the one in Arizona is not air conditioned.  That’s a serious problem in a place like Arizona.  These kids are running around, running around, running around… they have a beeper that tells them how long it should take them to get to a particular stack of books, get a book, and put it in a box, and if they don’t make that, that time limit, they get beeped! I think that would make me crazy.

I mentioned Chapters Runnymede’s imminent closing, and recommended she visit  She expressed disgust at it being turned into a drug store. “Oh god, oh that’s so depressing. ” were her exact words.  Right there with you, Roberta.

RR:   I thought, two years ago (I don’t really know anything about the business from before two years ago) I thought e-books were going to take over, take over, take over.  And it was twenty percent then and it’s forty percent now but I think, it seems as though it’s going to continue at forty percent.  People like holding a book in their hands.  And it’s not just people my age. It’s also young people.  With social media… I often wonder how much information… well, there’s a tremendous amount of information about me, I’m sure.  For anybody who’s interested in finding it out. But, we’ve sacrificed privacy for convenience, haven’t we? That’s the trade-off that most of us have made, myself included.

I recognize the irony that this article is being shared on at least three different types of social media.

I gave her, as a souvenir of Toronto, a maple bacon chocolate bar, which considering that they’ve been making maple-bacon flavoured everything here the last while, including a burger at the Ex, seemed quite apt.  She did a credible imitation of being glad to get it, which I hope she was, but you know, not everyone thinks maple bacon chocolate sounds wonderful.   We chatted about Toronto, and its historical buildings, and from the window I pointed out the church spire that used to be Toronto’s tallest structure.  She said she thought that Toronto had done a better job of maintaining its history than Vancouver (her hometown), and was enjoying her visit greatly.  She was staying with a friend in Toronto’s Cabbagetown area, and had determined that if she ever lived in Toronto, that is where she would live.

She had a quick glance at my web site, and thought it was hilarious that the first article that popped up was the one about copies of Fifty Shades of Grey in the library having herpes virus.  She teased me that I was supposed to be encouraging reading, wasn’t I? I said Fifty Shades was an exception to that rule.   She said she read the first chapter, it was available as a free download, and thought it was boring, and the heroine insipid.  She’d had people tell her, a hairdresser, for example, that it had just aroused them incredibly, which she found laughable.  “It obviously doesn’t take much to arouse them, does it?”  Did I tell you I love this woman?

We parted after an hour.  I thoroughly enjoyed the interview.  She headed off for lunch, and I headed home, very impressed.  Roberta Rich is a hell of a woman, and a hell of an author, and you should go buy her books.

Happy reading – and thinking!

Christie

Leave a comment

Filed under Authors, Books, Bookstore, Review

Coming Soon…

I had a fantastic interview with Roberta Rich, author of The Midwife of Venice and The Harem Midwife, yesterday.

The interview was a long one, and covered a multitude of subjects, including writing, travelling, women’s issues, food, and Rob Ford (whom you can’t escape when you live in Toronto, no matter how much you would like to).

I will be posting the interview as soon as I can, but I wanted to do it justice, so I am going to take a little while to write it up.

Thanks for being patient!

Christie

Leave a comment

Filed under Authors, Books

I Want A Girl Who Reads….

Reading is sexy! This goes for men too.

Christie

2 Comments

Filed under Books, General Awesomeness, poetry

Copies of Fifty Shades of Grey Positive for Herpes?

Via PopCrush

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.  Snort.  Copies of Fifty Shades in the Antwerp library tested positive for herpes.  No, seriously.

Check out this post from PopCrush:

Ever wondered what diseases library books carry? You shouldn’t, because your local libraries need your help. Still, that didn’t stop two Belgian professors from running tests on the 10 most borrowed books in the Antwerp library and finding out what horrors lie between their spines.

The professors ran each book under a gamut of bacteriology and toxicology tests and found that in addition to all of them testing positive for cocaine (because what doesn’t test positive for cocaine?), copies of the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ tested positive for herpes.

On the plus side — before you go screaming to the nearest doctor to get tested — books cannot pass on sexually transmitted diseases. Which is something we never thought we’d have to type.

The profs said that the traces of herpes were so tiny that they did not pose a health risk and that it would be impossible to get herpes merely by reading a book with herpes.

Still, makes you wonder how those copies got herpes in the first place. Wait, nope, nevermind. Don’t want to know.

Yup, that’s right, Fifty Shades has an STD.  Amaaaaazing.

Christie

2 Comments

Filed under Books, libraries

Thank You For Your Service

To mark Remembrance Day in Canada I have been reading Thank You For Your Service by David Finkel.  Although it is based on the author’s observations of a U.S. battalion that served in Iraq, these touching experiences could easily be those of Canadians serving in any conflict.  This edition included a foreword by General Romeo Dallaire and an introduction by Carol Off (a CBC journalist who wrote a great book about Canadian combat in the Medac Pocket during the Balkan Civil War), which really underlies the relevance for Canadian readers.
It begins with the heartbreaking story of Adam Schumann, who was diagnosed with PTSD and discharged from the army. After falling asleep while holding his daughter, he dropped the newborn.  While any parent would feel guilty, the overwhelming guilt that PTSD sufferers feel caused him to grab a shotgun and jump in his truck, with the intention of taking his own life.
This book contains many such stories.  It also, however, focuses on how their families suffer;  previously loving husbands come home and beat their wives, women who leave their husbands because they are afraid of what they’ll do.
This was a stark, eye-opening book, which I will think about whenever I hear news stories about funding cuts to Veteran’s Affairs and the military mindset that PTSD  is an excuse for cowardly men.  An emotional, well written book that I will recommend to many customers.
Melissa

1 Comment

Filed under Books, Non-Fiction, Review

Maleficent Trailer

Angelina Jolie starring in Maleficent?  Can I get in line now?

Please, please Disney, don’t screw this up.  Nobody wants another Snow White & The Huntsman.

Christie

2 Comments

Filed under General Awesomeness, In The News

Divergent Trailer!

Two and a half minutes of joy.  Fingers crossed that it will be half as good as the books, that should make it an amazing movie.   The casting looks promising so far, but we’ll see.

Oh god, there’s still four months.  Sigh.

Happy waiting!

Christie

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, geek lit, Teen Books