Friday, April 30, 2010

Friday’s Flick ~ Hard Candy

hard-candy-onesheet

I happened upon this movie on TV at its end back in 2007, and was gripped and hanging off the edge of my seat. I was able to finally catch it from the beginning this week, and I am even more impressed with the tremendous acting, clever writing, and emotive cinematography.

Ellen Page’s performance is intense and far advanced for her years in her role as Hailey, while Patrick Wilson blows you away with his convincing portrayal of a sick and pathetic predator, as Jeff. There is a brief appearance by Sandra Oh, whom I find always a treat. Otherwise Hard Candy is all about the relationship between this fourteen year old nymph and her thirty-two year old pursuer.

Hard Candy is a very well written, psychological thriller wherein victims get a chance to live vicariously through an unlikely hero, Hailey. Typical perverts are represented by a perpetrator who spouts off the most common of excuses and manipulations to justify his behaviour. One of my favourite rebuttals that Hailey offers him after he tells her that he did no wrong, and that she was the one flirting with him: “Just because a girl knows how to imitate a woman does NOT mean that she’s ready to do what a woman does.” Catch the clip below to see this short scene, as well as an interview with Page and Wilson.

Expect to be deceived by your thoughts and feelings while you are watching this film, whether you’ve been a victim or not. The acting is so affective and the scenarios are so bizarre that you are left to ask yourself what you might do in that situation. You won’t have time to answer though, as the movie runs at a hare’s pace as it swiftly races to its finish.

The cinematography is riveting as the director uses lightning camera effects which increase the tension and suspense of the scenes. The colours and shades of the set are grey and muted, with the exception of black, white and blood red. Close-up shots are used to highlight the raw emotion and fabulously tempered acting.

This low-budget, indie film is not for everyone. There are some graphic and audacious scenes, but if you think you can handle its content, it shouldn’t be missed.

5/5 Snakes

Here’s a brief interview with Ellen Page and Patrick Wilson.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thursday Challenge ~ "FACE" (Portrait, Self-Portrait, Happy Faces, Emotions,...)

Dale Hudjik at Spun With Tears hosts a Thursday photography challenge where a theme is announced, and then participants choose a photograph that they have taken relating to the topic and post it on their blog.  To link back to the post and add your blog to the list click here.  I found out about this thanks to Vicky from Reading At The Beach after she participated in the challenge.

DSCF1007

This is a photo taken by my husband in Kilkenny, Ireland, while on a bus tour that we took during our honeymoon last October.  The trip of a lifetime!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Non-Fiction Five Reading Challenge - 2010

nonfiction2010( Click on the button above to link to Trish’s original post for the challenge at Trish’s Books)

I attempted this challenge last year when I first started blogging, but as I’ve mentioned before, I bailed on the whole blogging thing after three months, and as such didn’t get the chance to complete it.

I’m happy to give it another shot this year, since I often feel that I don’t dedicate enough time to non-fiction. 

Below are my choices so far, but I may change my mind about these selections at a later date.

  1. What The Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell
  2. Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis (with Larry Sloman)
  3. See Jane Hit: Why Girls Are Growing More Violent and What We Can Do About It by James Garbarino, PhD
  4. Murder in Amsterdam by Ian Buruma
  5. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan

Wondrous Words ~ April 28th, 2010

wondrouswednesday

Wondrous Words is a weekly meme that I’ve decided to participate in, that is hosted by Kathy at Bermudaonion.  The goal is to define new words (to us) that we’ve encountered whilst reading throughout the week.  Please click on the button above to link to the Bermudaonion post outlining the specifics for the meme.

apologize-apologize

This weeks selections were chosen from Apologize, Apologize by Elizabeth Kelly.  I actually had to narrow it down to these three, as Kelly’s verbosity had me reaching for the dictionary on many occasions.  I’m not sure if this is just her style, or if she was trying to make a point about the highbrow intellect of this old-money family from Martha’s Vineyard.

parochialism - “Typical Catholic pathology – parochialism as an excuse for sadism,” I said with a high degree of personal satisfaction and drawing a derisive snort from Bingo.  Page 101

Babylon.com defined parochialism as narrow-mindedness; provinciality, state of having a limited perspective.

epicene – It’s okay,” I said, handing her a tissue, giving her an epicene squeeze.  “I understand.  Believe me, if I could figure out a way to break up with me, I’d do it.” Page 157

Dictionary.com’s most appropriate definition would seem to be flaccid; feeble; weak.

obsequiousnessIt was Gil’s signature greeting, accompanied by muted voice and deferred glance, his perpetually doffed cap in hand.  The Falcon used to parody his obsequiousness – referring to him as “trouble at the mil Gil” – but nevertheless considered it his due. Page 162

I may have been able to get by on context with this one, but the Dictionary.com answer that suits is servilely compliant or deferential. 

Monday, April 26, 2010

Ireland Reading Challenge - 2010

 

Ireland_Reading_Challenge_2010_pic-1(Click on the button above to link back to CarrieK’s original post at Books and Movies, outlining the rules for the challenge)

I’ve decided to take the plunge and enter a reading challenge.  I attempted a couple when I was blogging last year, but after three months of dedicated entries I made an abrupt exit and consequently did not end up completing them.  So here goes another attempt. 

I love all things Irish.  I have Irish roots and was blessed enough to spend my honeymoon in Dublin, last year, which only enhanced my Celtic allegiance. 

Since this challenge is running through to November, and I still have a fair bit of time, I think I’m going to attempt to complete the Kiss the Blarney stone level, which is six books.

  1. Apologize, Apologize by Elizabeth Kelly
  2. The Country Girls Trilogy by Edna O’Brien
  3. The Commitments by Roddy Doyle
  4. The Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe
  5. Reading in the Dark: A Novel by Seamus Deane
  6. Hood by Emma Donoghue

Library Loot ~ April 21st – 27th, 2010

library-loot

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and Marg that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library, and of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.  Click on the button above to go to the original post and the Mr. Linky listing.

Up in the Air by Walter Kirn

upintheairhardcover-440x663

I’m really excited to see George Clooney’s highly acclaimed film, Up In The Air.  I’ve had the movie for a couple of weeks now but have put off watching it until I could read the book.  I was finally able to snag it at the library and start reading it last night.

 

 

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

the_time_travelers_wife

My girlfriend raves about this book and has been after me to read it for a while now.  She really wants me to watch the movie with her because apparently it’s one of those stories that she can’t get her husband to sit through.  I sure hope I like it, or I won’t want to sit through it either. 

 

 

The Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe

9780385312370

I’m not sure where I heard about this one, but it looks like I’ll be in for an emotional ride.  I plan on including it as one of my reads for the Irish Reading Challenge which I’m signing up for.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Savouring Sunday ~ Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie

I love Shepherd’s Pie.  In some parts of the world Shepherd’s Pie is made with lamb, but here in Canada we call it by the same name when it is made with beef. 
The traditional way of making it is with a crusted mashed potato topping, but with this healthier version that I found on The Food Network website, you use a combination of sweet potatoes with regular ones.  What a treat! 
I absolutely love this dish, so much that it has become my main Shepherd’s Pie recipe.  If you give it a try please let me know what you think. 
DSCF5184  (Click on above picture to see Christine Cushing’s recipe on the Food Network website.)
Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie
Sweet Potato Topping
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed
  • 2 medium Yukon gold potato, scrubbed
  • splash of olive oil, for roasting
  • Pinch allspice
  • Coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup 10% cream (60 ml)
  • 1 tablespoon butter (15 ml)
  • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Meat Filling
  • 1 tablespoon butter (15 ml)
  • 1 pound ground pork (454 g)
  • 1/2 pound ground turkey (227 g)
  • 4 large shallots, finely, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely, diced
  • 2 carrots, finely, diced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh chopped thyme (10 ml)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh chopped savoury (2 ml)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh chopped rosemary (5 ml)
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (2 ml)
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (15 ml)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (15 ml)
  • 1 cup chicken stock (250 ml)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (125 ml)
  • Coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Assembly
  • 3/4 cup 3/4 cup fresh or frozen peas (175 ml)
Directions
Sweet Potato Topping
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Line a roasting pan with foil or parchment paper. Add both sweet potatoes and Yukon gold potatoes. Rub potatoes with a little olive oil. Season with allspice, salt and pepper. Bake at 375 degrees. F until potatoes are fork tender, about 50 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from oven. Peel potatoes and add to a large bowl. Mash gently with potato masher. Add butter, cream, nutmeg, and salt and pepper. Stir with wooden spoon until blended. Adjust seasoning.
Meat Filling
  1. While the potatoes are roasting, add butter to a large deep skillet over medium heat. Sauté the pork, turkey, shallots and garlic until meat is golden, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots and cinnamon and cloves. Continue to sauté over high heat until carrots begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add white wine to deglaze pan, cook for 2 minutes. Add the Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, thyme, savoury and rosemary and stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Season the mixture with salt and pepper. Simmer covered until meat is tender and moisture is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Assembly
  1. Add peas to meat filling and transfer to a medium rectangular baking dish (about 7 ½-inches x 11 ½-inches and at least 3-inches deep). Spoon dollops of the sweet potato mixture on top of the meat filling. Spread mixture with a spatula to completely cover meat. Bake until top is golden and meat filling is bubbling, about 25 to 30 minutes.

 

4/5 Snakes

Friday, April 23, 2010

Book Review – I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

i-know-why-the-caged-bird-sings

Oprah’s hero is a hero to many!

**Spoiler Alert

For those who haven’t read anything from Maya Angelou, then there’s a chance that you’ve at least seen her on Oprah sharing her eloquence and inspiration. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a memoir detailing her struggles bouncing back and forth between her lackadaisical parents in California, and her strict, god-fearing grandmother in the south.

Angelou’s descriptive prowess conjures up images which clarify feelings immaculately.

“…seeing him in the flesh shredded my inventions like a hard yank on a paper chain.”

It is this very skill of hers that has had some people arguing that some of the scenes in the novel are too graphic or disgusting to be provided to teenage readers in school. I personally do not find the telling of her story as inappropriate in any way. It hurts to read these things, and you’ll of course be disgusted, but this is life. There is nothing gratuitous about her words. Countless young victims will take solace in knowing that someone as respected as Maya Angelou was able to endure such atrocities and still make it through life as a successful and inspirational woman. I think any typical young woman over sixteen is emotionally capable of hearing these types of truths in a reverent way.

There is one aspect of the story that has me a little concerned. The descriptions of Maya’s completely natural, yet harmful and damaging responses to the sexual abuse that she encountered – feeling guilty, shameful, pitying the abuser for his being punished, partaking in her silencing that was initiated by the adults in her life - leave me a little perplexed as to whether this book will help young people to realize that she is wrong in her feelings, and thus not feel that way about their own situations, or collude with Maya’s thoughts and feel the same way.

“There was an army of adults, whose motives and movements I just couldn't understand and who made no effort to understand mine.”

How damaging it must have been to Maya to be sent back to Stamps, as though she were being punished for the trauma yet again. All because these adults felt guilty about not protecting her, yet instead blamed her for making them feel uncomfortable because she would not speak to anyone but her brother. They were in fact the ones that encouraged the silencing of Maya when it was said that the incident should never be mentioned again. These types of responses to sexual traumas are the complete opposite of what is healthy for the victim, and I can only hope that any teens that are issued this book to read in school are properly informed of the truth. Children need to know - and Maya Angelou needed to know herself, as a child - what happened to them is not their fault. For the express purpose that teens study I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, I feel as though the end of the book needed to have a letter from Angelou to the reader outlining how she views the tragic events of her life now, as an adult.

Angelou’s understanding of the bigotry realized in her lifetime is admirable, and in my opinion the following quotation that takes place after her being snubbed by a white receptionist regarding a job inquiry at the transportation office in San Francisco, is one of the most accurate explanations for the ridiculous hatred black people had, and often still do have, to endure.

“The miserable little encounter had nothing to do with me, the ‘me’ of me, any more than it had to do with that silly clerk. The incident was a recurring dream, concocted years before by stupid whites and it eternally came back to haunt us all. The secretary and I were like Hamlet and Laertes in the final scene, where, because of harm done by one ancestor to another, we were bound to duel to the death. Also because the play must end somewhere.
I went further than forgiving the clerk, I accepted her as a fellow victim of the same puppeteer.”

If the haters of the world would acquiesce to this philosophy and move on with life instead of being so stubborn, then things would be a lot more peaceful and loving for us all.

Abandonment, molestation, family, and racism are but a few of the emotionally charged topics that Maya Angelou shares with us in this intimate, courageous and truly uplifting story of survival.

Some of Maya Angelou’s wise words:

"The world had taken a deep breath and was having doubts about continuing to revolve.”
"I was a loose kite in a gentle wind floating with only my will for an anchor.”

"She {mother} comprehended the perversity of life, that in the struggle lies the joy.”

Below, watch a brief clip signifying Maya Angelou’s deeper understanding of humanity, as she discusses with Russ Mitchell from CBS news, the impact of words.

4/5 Snakes

Monday, April 19, 2010

Used Book Sale = 19 new books for my shelves!

This might be what addiction looks like...

I did something that I rarely let myself do, last week. I went to a used book sale. Doing such things often results with my husband needing to put together another bookshelf, so he's not such a big fan of my wandering through garage sales, or church bizarres. Especially since there is no more wall space available in our modest apartment.

My sister recently bought a house in a beautiful little town north of the city, and they were having their annual book-sale fundraiser. Well, I couldn't deny a visit and miss the chance to help out her new community. What kind of sister would I be? It just wouldn't be right. So, the kind person that I am, I took one for the team ... and bought 19 books!

Some might ask, why 19? Why couldn't you stop at say, 5? Well, the short answer is, I don't know. It would seem to be some sort of compulsion that I have. I just can't stop buying these books, knowing full well that it will be ages before I will get the chance to read them. Especially if I keep going to the library every week and picking up books I've had on hold there.

Incidentally, it looks as though I've purchased my first duplicate. It turns out that I already have Such a Long Journey by Rohinton Mistry, on my shelf. And it wasn't even that long ago that I bought it either. Tsk-tsk!

Anyway, here are the amazing books that I was able to snag:

For the kids library:
Holes by Louis Sachar
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins


Fabulous Finds:
Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Sula by Toni Morrison
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
Ireland by Frank Delaney
DeNiro's Game by Rawi Hage
Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
Empire Falls by Richard Russo
The Memory Keepers Daughter by Kim Edwards
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden


Canadian Finds:
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
The Way the Crow Flies by Ann-Marie MacDonald
Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry
Such a Long Journey by Rohinton Mistry

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Book Reviews by Author

A
Abagnale, Frank ~ The Art of the Steal
Angelou, Maya ~ I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
Atwood, Margaret ~ The Edible Woman


B
Bertinelli, Valerie ~ Losing It and Gaining My Life Back One Pound At A Time
Blume, Judy ~ Forever


C
Carr, Allen ~ Easy Way for Women to Stop Smoking
Clark, Joan ~ An Audience of Chairs
Coupland, Douglas ~ Generation X
Curtis, Christopher Paul ~ Bud, Not Buddy


D
Davidson, Andrew ~ The Gargoyle
DuPrau, Jeanne ~ The City of Ember


E



F
Francis, Brian ~ Fruit
Frank, Anne ~ Diary of a Young Girl


G



H
Haddon, Mark ~ The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
Hall, Brian ~ The Saskiad
Heller, Joseph ~ Catch-22
Hemingway, Ernest ~ The Sun Also Rises
Hulme, Keri ~ The Bone People
Huxley, Aldous ~ Brave New World


I
Ibbitson, John ~ The Landing


J
Juster, Norton ~ The Phantom Tollbooth


K
Kelley, Kitty ~ Oprah: A Biography
Kelly, Elizabeth ~ Apologize, Apologize
Kirn, Walter ~ Up in the Air
Krakauer, Jon ~ Into the Wild
Kristof, Agota ~ The Notebook


L
L'Engle, Madeleine ~ A Wrinkle in Time


M
MacIntyre, Linden ~ The Bishop's Man
Maclachlan, Patricia ~ Baby
McEwan, Ian ~ Saturday
McNamee, Graham ~ Acceleration
Miller, Henry ~ Tropic of Cancer


N
Niffenegger, Audredy ~ The Time Traveler's Wife


O
O'Neill, Heather ~ Lullabies for Little Criminals


P
Paulsen, Gary ~ Hatchet


Q


R
Richards, David Adams ~ Mercy Among the Children


S
Sachar, Louis ~ Holes
Sapphire ~ Push (aka Precious)
Saramago, Jose ~ Blindness
Schlosser, Eric ~ Chew on This
Schlosser, Eric ~ Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal
Sedaris, David ~ Me Talk Pretty One Day: Stories
Smith, Betty ~ A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Smith, Dodie ~ I Capture the Castle
Spinelli, Jerry ~ Maniac Magee
Styron, William ~ Darkness Visible


T
Tremblay, Michel ~ The Fat Woman Next Door is Pregnant


U - Z
Wizner, Jake ~ Spanking Shakespeare
Young, Terence ~ Rhymes with Useless

Book Reviews by Title

A

Acceleration by Graham McNamee
Apologize, Apologize by Elizabeth Kelly
The Art of the Steal by Frank Abagnale
An Audience of Chairs by Joan Clark


B

Baby by Patricia Maclachlan
The Bishop's Man by Linden MacIntyre
Blindness by Jose Saramago
The Bone People by Keri Hulme
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis


C

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Chew on This by Eric Schlosser
The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon


D

Darkness Visible by William Styron
Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank


E

Easy Way for Women to Stop Smoking by Allen Carr
The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood


F

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser
The Fat Woman Next Door is Pregnant by Michel Tremblay
Forever by Judy Blume
Fruit by Brian Francis


G

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
Generation X by Douglas Coupland


H

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
Holes by Louis Sachar


I

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer


J


K


L

The Landing by John Ibbitson
Losing It and Gaining My Life Back One Pound At A Time by Valerie Bertinelli
Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O'Neill


M

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
Mercy Among the Children by David Adams Richards
Me Talk Pretty One Day: Stories by David Sedaris


N

The Notebook by Agota Kristof


O

Oprah: A Biography by Kitty Kelley

P

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Push (aka Precious) by Sapphire


Q


R

Rhymes with Useless by Terence Young


S

The Saskiad by Brian Hall
Saturday by Ian McEwan
Spanking Shakespeare by Jake Wizner
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway


T

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller


U - Z

Up in the Air by Walter Kirn
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

Friday, April 16, 2010

Book Blogger Hop - April 16th

Jennifer over at crazy-for-books is hosting a weekly blog hop where book bloggers have the chance to introduce themselves by visiting each others blogs through her Mr. Linky list. Please click on the Book Blogger Hop button above to see the post for this week.

I have decided to take part in this weeks blog hop, so take a look around my blog and be sure to let me know you've hopped by if you are here for the first time.

Some new blogs that you might like that I've came across through the hop;


I look forward to chatting with you soon!

Book Review – Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller

Viewer discretion is advised for both this review and this novel!

**Spoiler Alert

The first time I’d heard of Henry Miller was while watching Robert De Niro in Cape Fear, as he tempted the teenage daughter into reading The Rosy Crucifixion: Sexus, Plexus and Nexus. I assumed by the books’ titles that Miller was probably a sexually explicit author. Well, I was right. What I didn’t realize was when these books were written, and how revolutionary that made him.

Tropic of Cancer in fact - one of Miller’s first books - was published in 1934, and due to its graphic content was banned in the United States until its publication there in 1961. This historical piece of fiction actually led to a trial in 1964, looking into findings of obscenity, whereby the ruling of this trial paved the way for other authors and their adherence to changing censorship laws in the United States. This in and of itself makes Tropic of Cancer an important read. Enjoying what is read however, is entirely up to the reader.

Tropic of Cancer is a memoir and sometimes fictional account of Henry Miller’s vagabond years as a starving artist, in search of himself and his artistic freedom, in Paris during the 1930’s. The story follows the lives of Miller and his crass, whoring and boozing ex-pat, artist friends as they try to live life to the fullest on the streets of this ever exciting and romantic (and I use this term loosely) old city. In a sentence, it appears to be a coming of age story for and of the immature man. When we’re not following the wild lives of these childish men and their sleazy antics, we are left to wallow in Miller’s incessant and self-indulgent ramblings.

It may very well be that there aren’t enough brain cells in my head to comprehend what is said to be Henry Miller’s genius, but I found his stream-of-conscious musings to be everything from ridiculously outlandish, to a complete and utter bore. However, once in a while, I will admit, I found him to make sense and say something profound. I appreciated his rants about the stifling and constricting life of America and its fast-paced, rat race, where art is dead and money reigns supreme. He relays his observations that in America there is immense pressure to be something, while in Paris you can just be, and if you end up as something, it was because you got lucky. I think it is important that people take away his message about living life for you and what makes you happy, as opposed to living your life in the brown box that society in America wants to put you in, where happiness is often an illusion. That being said, nearing the end of the book he also comes to terms with his delusions of grandeur which kept him and his friends seeking happiness at the bottom of a bottle, or by staring into the gaping hole of a Parisian prostitute. (This really takes place in the book, with a flashlight, if I remember correctly.) Hence it is through his meanderings that we observe his slow, yet eventual growth as an artist and a man.

Throughout Tropic of Cancer Miller is always ravenously hungry and is looking to be satiated, be it with food, creativity, excitement, sex or companionship. Although he may have depended on his empty pocket to keep him artistically focused, it was simply detestable how he would mooch off of others, even steal from a lowly prostitute, all puffed up and possible based on his beastly sense of entitlement. As soon as someone he was staying with (for free, I might add) would ask or expect something from Miller, he would feel trapped and need to move on immediately.

I’ve heard multiple readers refer to Miller as highly misogynistic, since every woman in Tropic of Cancer is a “whore” or a needy “c@#%” (a nasty four letter word that most women find highly offensive), who is trying to rope a man into marriage. Except of course for the one woman that Miller seems to love - in whatever capacity he is able – Mona. It would appear that the love is unrequited, and maybe that is the reason he puts down women as much as he does; he has been deeply hurt.

In my opinion, Miller is an equal opportunity hater. Most of the people in the world he presents us are deplorable, not just the women. And although he doesn’t run around calling every man he sees a “dickwad” (or whatever the male equivalent to “c@#%” would be), he doesn’t really have to. Their actions speak louder than any label. At any rate, living in a world of cheap sex, where the women are using him as much as he uses them, and where infidelity is the running standard with both men and women, I can kind of see why his views are as such.

Throughout most of the book it would seem Miller’s main point would be that the past is gone and the future may never come. All we have is the present, so enjoy it. Even if it has to be with a case of gonorrhea, while sleeping on a park bench, under a newspaper! Tropic of Cancer will give you food for thought regarding the comparison between old-world, artistic Paris and the new and artistically-benign America. You might scowl or laugh as he bluntly wrestles with the various themes of sex, poverty, writing and friendship, but either way, you will be affected.

3.5/5 Snakes

Below catch a quick, captivating glimpse into the 1970’s adaptation starring Rip Torn as Henry Miller.



Sunday, April 11, 2010

Library Loot: April 7th - 13th, 2010

I love the library. Reaching back into the depths of my mind I can still fondly remember the trips on my bicycle over to our local public book castle. Now that I think about it from an adult perspective, it wasn’t very big or very glamorous, but I guess that was part of its beauty; it didn’t need to be. You could just waltz right in, be greeted by a friendly librarian, choose any book you’d like, a slew if you wanted, and without paying a single penny, lug your loot back to your favourite spot – my bedroom closet, in fact - and dig in. Coming from humble beginnings, this felt like winning the lottery.

Twenty years later I still visit the very same library, and although I’ve moved around and visited many across the city, I still favour this quaint and unassuming haven. The time capsule that it is, I could probably walk to the middle isle of the nonfiction rows and find the exact book where I first learned in depth about the female reproductive system at 9 years old. Now that’s nostalgia!

Toronto is a fabulous city, and I am proud of it for many reasons, but our library system which is the world’s busiest urban public library system, would have to be at the top of the list. Thanks to our reservation system I can wait in cue to get any book in the entire Toronto Library Catalogue shipped right to my home library, something I take advantage of every week.

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and Marg that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

My picks from this past week have been on my TBR list for a very long time, and I'm really excited to finally get the chance to read them. First off are two classics that I'm sure most of you have read.

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Watership Down by Richard Adams



The last one was only published in 2009, but I've been in cue for it at the library for at least 7 or 8 months.

Apologize, Apologize by Elizabeth Kelly



Happy Reading!

That's all she wrote... Spring 2010 Read-a-Thon COMPLETE!



1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
Hour 20, which just happens to be when I passed out!

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
Anything by Ellen Hopkins.

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
Not really. This was my first one and it was all I could do just to keep up with the reading and all the other activities and blogs that I was checking out. It seemed to run smoothly to me...

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
I have nothing to compare it to, so I'll say everything!

5. How many books did you read?
I read three and didn't finish any, lol. But I was a few chapters away from finishing I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings when I fell asl...zzzz.

6. What were the names of the books you read?
The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami (Audio Book), I know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, and What to Expect Before you're Expecting by Heidi Murkoff.

7. Which book did you enjoy most?
I know Why The Caged Bird Sings. Maya Angelou is an inspiration and a beautiful writer.

8. Which did you enjoy least?
The Elephant Vanishes had a few stories in it that left me scratching my head.

9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
N/A It was helpful to get the motivating comments.

10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? I will be participating in all that I can schedule-wise. I think I may just be a reader for a few more, until I get really blog savvy!

So I'm not sure how many total pages I read since one of my books was an audio book, but I'm guessing that I spent about 8-9 hours dedicated to the read-a-thon. It was lots of fun, and I'm sure that with some better planning and taking heed of some of the very useful suggestions by others, I can probably at least double that next time.

See you in October!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

First Post for the 24-hour Read-a-thon



So I was a little late to start, but I don't feel too bad about that because I can imagine that I will be reading into the wee hours of the morning.

I am happy to report that I just won the surprise draw and as a result got to choose two books from the prize page. Yeah me!

My progress so far is as follows:

Hour 6 - Audio book ~ 3 short stories from The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami while doing my daily treadmill workout.

Hours 8 & 9 - 93 pages of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Mini-Challenge!!!

I'm going to take this opportunity to take part in the Feed Me Seymour! mini-challenge that is being hosted by Linus' Blanket.

We are supposed to share a passage from one of our read-a-thon selections pertaining to food that is being eaten or described.

I've chosen a paragraph from I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, page 15, 3rd paragraph:


Although the syrupy golden rings sat in their exotic cans on our shelves year round, we only tasted them during Christmas. Momma used the juice to make almost-black fruit cakes. Then she lined heavy soot-encrusted iron skillets with the pineapple rings for rich upside-down cake. Bailey and I received one slice each, and I carried mine around for hours, shredding off the fruit until nothing was left except the perfume on my fingers. I'd like to think that my desire for pineapples was so sacred that I wouldn't allow myself to steal a can (which was possible) and eat it alone out in the garden, but I'm certain that I must have weighed the possibility of the scent exposing me and didn't have the nerve to attempt it.




Hope you're all enjoying your books. Happy Reading!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Book Review - The Saskiad by Brian Hall

One of those books that you just want to tell everyone you see about

The Saskiad is an extraordinary tale of fantasy and reality melded by a young girl's awakening into adulthood. Saskia is a lonely outcast at her school. She lives on a commune and uses any free time that is not spent rearing the wild bunch of children that live there with her, idolising and reading about epic fictional adventurers. In fact, after I've read Homer and Melville I will have to reread the novel just so that I can understand the countless references made to such classic writers and their genius works. I won't deny that I felt very poorly read as compared to this girl of fourteen who had such illustrious novels under her belt. At any rate, Saskia's reality gets turned upside down as she befriends the new and very exotic girl at school, Jane, and suddenly experiences every young girl's dream...to have a best friend.

Brian hall writes for us a delicious exploration of their obsessive friendship, and how they relate with others around their wavering love. They laugh, cry and grow together, and it is with this growth that eventually their relationship takes new forms, and veers off in countless directions. I often had to remind myself that the novel was written by a male, as Hall's depictions of teenage girls and the intricacies of their relationships was often eerily accurate and familiar. I'm left wondering if he had any help with character development through either his wife or a sister or something.

The Saskiad is also a story about the relationships (or a lack there of) between children and their parents. Thomas, Saskia's father, is deplorable, as are his inappropriate relationships with the females in his life, and you may have to restrain yourself from throwing the book at the wall when faced with some of his antics throughout.

I have heard some other readers complain that the last quarter of the novel is not as eloquent or creatively written as the first three parts, that there is a shift, in that Saskia's fantasies are no longer intertwined in her realities. It would appear to me that this might be intentional as this would seem to showcase that she has matured into adulthood, lost her innocence and sees the world through newly jaded eyes; often a sad but true consequence of growing up.

This glorious story seems to go on forever, until it finally ends and you are left wondering what to do with yourself now that the eccentric and lovable Saskia is no longer there to watch over. Sadly, I was tortured with melancholy over the last lines of this great book.

4.5/5 Snakes

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Book Review - The Bishop's Man by Linden MacIntyre

He might not be everyone's cup of tea, but how I love Linden MacIntyre!

With Linden MacIntyre being one of my favourite journalists, I was thrilled to hear of his novel being honoured as the winner of the Scotiabank Giller Prize for 2009. After reading the synopsis of the story, I knew it would be an uncomfortable read, but trusted in MacIntyre's reverence to make it through. I was not disappointed.

On its face this is a fictional story that in reality has been all too familiar in recent years in Boston, the maritime provinces of Canada, and more recently, in Ireland. It's the telling of the sordid and sinister tale of how men of the cloth betray the most innocent members of society to fulfill their own sexual perversions and gratification.

The Bishop's Man is a story told in spirals, as we twist and turn through past and present fluidly, giving us a clearer picture of the events that can become cloudy through space and time. It is by way of these happenings that we are presented with brutally honest characters living lives of deceit and despair. These tragically flawed people are human in their beastliness, conflicted, damaged, and eternally struggling to break the vicious cycle of pain and suffering.

At times my anger was palpable as the Bishop insisted on covering up the harsh realities of the evil-doings administered by the hands of his precious and misunderstood brotherhood, where he insisted that 'victims' were only the creations of over-active imaginations and troubled youth.

On more than one occasion I wrestled with my understanding of good and evil, and what faith means in today's modern world. I am of the mind that Catholicism and its primitive structures are in need of a revamp in respect to how the world has changed, and what we've learned about humanity along the way. For the sake of Catholics out there, I pray that they will make the changes that are needed to gain back so many members that they have lost due to their closed-mindedness and denial. As naive as some may consider it, I will always believe that faith is an important and necessary part of a happy, moral and fulfilling life.

Amidst the madness and injustice, we pause to take in the haunting and beautiful descriptions of small towns, where you can hear the fiddle and smell the sea salt lifting off the page. MacIntyre has proven to be an adoring poet in his love of the East coast and of the Gaelic and English languages. His words are profound and emotive, and I look forward to picking up his other novels with hopes of more of the same.

Just a couple of his eloquent offerings...

"The future has no substance until it turns the corner into history."
"The bay is flat, endless pewter beneath the rising moon."


5/5 Snakes