Sunday, March 22, 2009

I found a new author from watching a movie!

We rented a few movies over the March Break. My choice was The Other Boleyn Girl. I like historical fiction, especially the Tudor period. I particularly enjoy when the historical fiction is closely related to the known facts.
Typically I won't watch the movie until I've read the book first, but I didn't know that this movie was based on a novel by Philippa Gregory until my friend's 14 year old daughter told me so. She has enthusiastically read many of Gregory's novels. I had heard of the author but thought she was more in the romantic fiction genre, similar to say, Catherine Coulter. Its not that I don't read books from this genre, I do, but am picky with these.

So, I watched the movie the other evening, and it was very well done, beautiful cinematography, period costumes and settings, well acted. But was it true to the events of the time? I was intrigued and thought I'd check out the author's website. The best part of this site is that for every one of her novels she writes a page of background history surrounding the novel and also some professional research to support her findings. Gregory discloses how she attempts to fill in the gaps that history didn't record or has been unable to reach consensus on to tell the story in a first person narrative. This site alone is very interesting, I spent a long time immersed in reading the history of her characters.

So, my summer reading list expands again! I'm not sure which one to start with - I'm going to go through the novels and piece them together in a chronological timeline. I don't want to read about Queen Elizabeth I before Mary Tudor or their dad, King Henry VIII etc. If you are a Philippa Gregory fan and know which one comes first historically, please let me know.

(I'm sorry to report that I did indeed give up on The Historian. I gave it, for me, a valiant effort, almost 200 pages and finally pronounced it dead. I'm sorry the author spent 10 years researching and writing this book; I felt like I aged 10 years reading the first 200 pages. Just not that into it.)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Third Robert Langdon Novel Coming Soon

It seems that Dan Brown may be close to completing the next Robert Langdon novel, The Solomon Key. My favourite remains Angels and Demons, even though The DaVinci Code received all the acclaim. Maybe that will change when the new movie comes out. I wasn't a big fan of the DaVinci Code movie, even though I generally like Ron Howard's films. They certainly create a buzz of controversy though.
Right now I'm struggling to finish The Historian, " plodding through the pages waiting to "get hooked." I usually give myself about 150 pages with a large novel, and I'm getting dangerously close. (I remember when a friend introduced me to Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series about 10 years ago, she said give it about 150 pages and you won't put it down. So true, for the first four books. Beautiful series, should have stopped there.) I think I'm just not loving the world's latest literary darling, the vampire. I really tried to make it through the Twilight series, for the sake of my daughter who declared they were far superior to the Potter series (yeah, Rowling is a MASTER, not even in same league as Meyer).
I'm giving The Historian 32 more pages before I decide if I'm cutting loose.
One book that I do recommend that has absolutely nothing to do with vampires, but is a nice throw back to the old gothic style, is The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. It has a slow pace as well but is something different than what I've read before. Many interesting twists, some predictable, some not.

More Books to Read.....Need More Time

My summer reading list continues to grow. I believe by the time July comes I will have established a list worthy of many summers. I do read every day, but often can only squeeze in about 30 minutes between work, kids activities, my course work, and the crazy amount of time that I am glued to my computer. I love summer reading because I can languish in a story for undetermined amounts of time. Rainy evenings when the power goes out and we light so many candles (husband never impressed - major fire hazard - I let him be keeper of the flames) that we continue reading late into the night (husband also says this ruins eyesight, I've wanted glasses forever, but to date, eyesight still better than 20/20).

Favourite summer reading memories:
As a child, I spent my summers at a family cottage about a half hour from our home. The cottage is nestled on an embankment overlooking Lake Erie. There was a tiny community library where I obtained lending privileges and took out as many Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon books as my heart desired. These were the days of suncots that were as thick as a mattress, baby oil and not sunscreen, jumping from the front to the back seat on long car drives - if you were small enough you got up into the back window to make faces at passengers in the car behind you, visiting the corner store to buy penny candy -remember Mojo's?, playing at the beach and someone always getting scraped by that horrid metal protrusion on the tractor tire inner tube that like 6 cousins fit on at a time, simple card games like Hearts and War, sleeping on a veranda, where we thought it was exotic that our Mom's took our clothes to a Laundry Mat and we could get an ice cream at the Dairy Bar and the height of this sophistication extended to driving a ways out of town to the Kentucky Fried Chicken!!!!!!!!!!!! to purchase a Sunday buffet... the salads, the whole loaf of bread (remember that), everything but the white plastic Colonel Sanders bank. These were days that although I was outside from sun-up to sun-down, my books were never out of reach. I have to admit that I probably returned them to the library a little worse for the wear, maybe a bit dusty, grainy with sand, a splotch of baby oil, a dab of ketchup, but no books were more beloved than these.
So, today I will purchase yet another lottery ticket with a big dream of capturing that endless summer where everyday includes a good book. Wish me luck!

Here are my new finds:

family's journey to five continents.

What do you do when you meet the love of your life when you're six years old? And he's 36, but he's really only eight years older than you are? If you're Clare Abshire, you wait for each of his visits throughout the years until you meet him in real time.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Out of the Mouth of Babes

What's the expression? "Out of the mouth of babes." I came across these in one of my Google Reader subscriptions. I hope they make you chuckle.

March 14:
The link on this blog may have expired. I'm sorry if you can't see these. They were quite cute.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Famous First Lines.......Children's Books, Silly!

Tonight, I just wanted to have some fun. To let my mind wander from the daily atrocities around the globe, my work, essays due, and of course... the impending doom of income tax season. Play along. I'll post the answers underneath "Books I'm Reading".

Famous First Lines:
(Score yourself 1point for the title and 1 point for the author) /24

1. All children, except one, grow up.
2. In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.
3. When Mary Lennox was sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle everybody said she was the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen.
4. "Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents," grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.
5. Ba-room, ba-room, ba-room, baripity, baripity, baripity, baripity --- Good.
6. It was seven o'clock of a very warm evening in the Seeonee hills when Father Wolf woke up from his day's rest, scratched himself, yawned, and spread out his paws one after the other to get rid of the sleepy feeling in their tips.
7. "Where's Papa going with that ax?" said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.
8. For many days we had been tempest-tossed.
9. The first place that I can well remember was a large pleasant meadow with a pond of clear water in it.
10. These two very old people are the father and mother of Mr. Bucket.
11. In the light of the moon a little egg lay on a leaf.
12. "Did Mama sing every day?" asked Caleb.

I hope this short quiz put a smile on your face and brought back pleasant childhood memories.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Is this the face of Shakespeare?

LONDON, England (CNN) -- A portrait painted 400 years ago and kept anonymously in an Irish home for much of the time since is now believed to be the only painting of William Shakespeare created during his lifetime.

Apparently this portrait was completed in 1610 when Shakespeare would have been 46 years old. He looks pretty good for a 46 of the 17th century! He died only 6 years later. Here is my favourite Sonnet (William Shakespeare, 1609):

Sonnet 116 Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Summer Reading List: First Ten Choices

Here is a list of the books I hope to read this summer.

1. The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill
2. Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
3. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
4. Memory Keepers Daughter by Kim Edwards
5. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
6. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
7. Last Summer of You and Me by Mary Ann Brashares
8. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
9. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waught
10. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

Saturday, March 7, 2009

One Amazing Story

This video clip is worth watching. I won't give away any spoilers, but if you are in need of a "feel good" story, this is the one for you. It made my day. Thanks to every teacher (and coach) that promotes inclusion. We have so much to learn from each other.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Book of Negroes wins "Canada Reads" Today

"When The Book of Negroes emerged today as the winner of this year's Canada Reads showdown on CBC-Radio, it was but the latest in a series of triumphs for Burlington author Lawrence Hill's 2007 bestseller. Set in the 18th century and involving the story of a young African girl who regains her freedom after being sold into slavery, The Book of Negroes previously won the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize in 2007 and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize a year later. The recognition boosted the book's sales past the 100,000 mark in Canada, while helping its publication launch in the U.S., the U.K. and elsewhere. "
This book is on my summer wishlist. I'm keeping a list of all of the books that have been recommended to me and I hope to eventually get to all of them (I also have a list of all the tasks I have to do to make my house neat and tidy, but this will have to give, in order to support goal above).
My friend Becky suggests that this book be read incrementally as the contents are disturbing and have the tendency to overwhelm the soul.
Heeding her sage advice, my plan is to read this book during the late summer afternoons when the sky turns orange and the lake quiets down, in a place that constantly reminds me of just how privileged I am to be free, secure and at peace.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Thoughts on Dreams

"There are people who put their dreams in a little box and say, 'Yes, I've got dreams, of course I've got dreams.' Then they put the box away and bring it out once in awhile to look in it, and yep, they're still there. These are great dreams, but they never even get out of the box. It takes an uncommon amount of guts to put your dreams on the line, to hold them up and say, 'How good or how bad am I?' That's where courage comes in."
-- Erma Bombeck

Hold fast to dreams

For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

Langston Hughes

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be
revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Authors and Artists: Chevalier and Vermeer

I bought Chevalier's book last year, The Girl With the Pearl Earring, mainly because I was intrigued by the painting on the cover. I had heard of the movie, but hadn't seen it. I'm one of those people who prefer to read the book before I see the movie. Always, always prefer books to movies. Exception being Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy. I really did try to read Tolkien. Have you ever read Tolkien? I made it about 1200 pages into the... prologue... and was utterly lost. Lots and lots and lots of middle earth history. Ok, I'm becoming tangential, but looking forward to 2010 release of The Hobbit, which was my favourite read aloud from my school days.
So, back to Tracy Chevalier's novel. A new author and a completely different book choice. I typically am a sucker for big sweeping historical epics or lengthy sagas (think Gone with the Wind, Princes of Ireland, Pillars of the Earth, etc). But this novel really spoke to me. The story is about a young maid in the 17th century who becomes the model in Vermeer's famous painting. Chevalier's writing style is sparsely simple, yet so fluid that the quietly paced text draws you in while she brings her characters, even those less central, to life, flaws and all. Although this is a "mellow" novel, it was a great read. I still haven't seen the movie, not so sure I need to. But, I'm definitely going to put more Chevalier titles on my wishlist.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Left is Right for Me

I found myself thinking today about my handedness as I fought with a workstation computer and mouse. Away from my office, it is difficult to adjust to a portable station. (I can't believe that I found this cartoon in less than a minute, the power of search engines...phenomenal). This may not seem like a very big deal to most people, but sometimes a leftie gets weary of working harder to adjust to the right handed world. Am I a better, stronger, wiser person for it?
I don't know. Sometimes I think research statistics are made up to make lefties feel better for the long history of malignment we have received. While it is reported that more geniuses have been lefties (DaVinci and Einstein) it has also been publicized that we have a shorter lifespan (although recent research now disputes this). My invitation to Mensa (membership of lefties over 20%) has been permanently delayed in snail mail, so I would like to appeal for those extra seven years to bring me to par with my right handed peers.

Here's just a short list of things I have found awkward and difficult as a leftie:

  • scissors --- ouch, painful, had to purchase my own but they have disappeared into the void where my single socks reside

  • knitting - had to learn from a "how to" for lefties; left handed knitting looks different than same pattern made from rightie - I prefer left!

  • dance and skating choreography - most steps are right side dominant, think about wearing a ball glove or holding a hockey stick on the opposite hand, while playing at a competitive and national level in a sport

  • table settings - ugh, I dread dinner parties where I'm seated with a rightie to my left

  • fishing pole- have tangled miles of line on reel - now take photos instead, but don't get me started on problems I have with cameras

  • ink on hand- left pinky to palm always smudged with ink

  • guitar - ok, I don't play guitar, but if I did it would be more expensive to buy a left handed guitar

  • car - the control panels are all mounted to the right- would fit in if moved to UK- but even this tradition started to accommodate horse carts so whip could be used with right hand!

    Did you know:
The devil has been frequently pictured as being left handed. This stems back to a belief that he baptised his followers with his left hand. The left hand historically has been a symbol for evil.
The superstition of throwing salt over your left shoulder to ward away bad luck started in Roman times. Spilling salt (which was a very expensive commodity )was thought to generate bad luck or spirits. Throwing salt over the left shoulder was thought to placate the devil.
It has been said that ghosts can only be seen over the left shoulder.
Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431 for being a heretic and a witch. She is depicted as a leftie but that may be biased to demonstrate her association with the devil.
Ringing in your left ear means someone is cursing you.
The tradition of wedding rings being worn on the third finger of the left hand originates from the Romans and Greeks who wore rings on their left hands to ward off evil.
The left hand is considered female.
If your left eye twitches you will see an enemy.
If your left foot itches before a journey, it will end in sorrow.
It is considered bad luck to pass a drink to a person with your left hand.
A left handed compliment is defined as " A compliment with two meanings, one of which is unflattering to the receiver."
Change is a long time in coming. Some of these superstitions have roots that are thousands of years old. I'm a leftie and even I throw salt over my shoulder!
But I believe changes are happening. Think about the "Yes, we can!" movement.
Barack Obama is left handed.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Author's Spotlight: Happy Birthday Dr. Suess!

When I signed into Google today, I noticed that the usual logo for the search engine had been replaced with some familiar and beloved childhood characters, such as the Cat in the Hat and the Grinch. This piqued my curiousity. So, I googled! March 2nd is the birthdate of Dr. Suess, Theodor Geisel. He would have been 105 years old today.
As a young child, I was drawn to the engaging poetic meter found in various forms in over sixty children's texts penned by Dr. Suess/Theo. LeSieg . I giggled and groaned through the silly and often nonsensical phrasing. I was too young to consider the genious behind those carefully chosen words so fluently strung together. Suess was using similar meters to that of the literary giants, including the Bard himself! He labored for months meticulously selecting text; it was much harder than it appeared. Nor did I consider that Dr. Suess had an intent beyond simply entertaining children through his text and illustration. Those silly phrases turned out to be enduring social commentaries. Notable examples are The Sneetches (1961) and The Lorax (1971).
Suess could also be found in the medium of television. Its difficult to imagine now, a world where you waited with baited breath for that once a year viewing of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (1966). If you weren't home glued to the TV on that particular Friday evening in December, then you were doomed to wait twelve months more for those precious thirty minutes. You know, I still prefer the original Boris Karloff narrated version which remained faithful to the spirit of the original book.
What a fabulous body of work he has left us!

My Dr. Suess favourites:
If I Ran the Zoo 1950 Caldecott Honor Book
Bartholomew and the Oobleck 1949 Caldecott Honor Book
Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! 1972

My Theo. LeSieg favourites:
Ten Apples Up on Top 1961
In a People House 1972

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Remembering Paul Harvey

How I will miss Paul Harvey. A master storyteller with a uniquely familiar voice that kept me company on many a long car ride, rainy afternoon, or quiet winter evening. He swept me back in time and kept me hooked with his trademark pregnant pauses as I willingly journied with him to hear "the rest of the story." For those who believe in the tradition of oral storytelling, the power of the read aloud, and the human connection that voice brings to text and resonates to the world through multiple forms of media, know that he must be counted amongst the modern masters. Thank-you, Mr. Harvey.

Watch this video broadcast: