Friday, 31 October 2008

Short Stories

Are you a fan of Short Stories? I have really only started to enjoy them in the past year of so. Prior to that I felt that I needed a longer story to really get in touch with the characters. Not so.

I was thrilled when the author of a blog I follow agreed to post her short story that she has written for a school assignment. I think she has done a terrific job. She has captured my imagination and has me wondering about 'him' and what will happen to 'him' at the end of the story.

If you like this genre, be sure to travel across the pond and visit Who is that girl?, give her story a read and leave her a comment. She'll love to hear from you.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

eeks, snow

Yesterday we woke to a surprise. Our yard has been transformed. This is the view of my side yard at about noon. Quite the difference from the picture I posted only 2 weeks ago.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Kiss of the Fur Queen by Tomson Highway


Champion (Jeremiah) and Dancer (Gabriel) are the youngest sons of Abraham and Mariesis Okimais, Cree, who live in the Northern reaches of Manitoba. At the young age of 7, both boys are sent south to be educated by the Catholic priests.

The priests' 'education' tries to remove all the 'Cree' from the boys and replace it with 'white'. Their language, their beliefs, clothing, food etc are taken away from them. They also suffer sexual and other abuse at the hands of the priests.

The impact of the Church and its 'education' follows the boys for the rest of their lives. The Church has tried to turn them into 'white men' but the colour of their skins won't allow for that to happen. Society continues to view them as 'only indians'. While each boy reaches the pinnacle of their chosen career they are viewed as 'the indian pianist' and 'the indian dancer' and not as 'the Pianist' and 'the Dancer'. Each of them struggles with what they know in their hearts, with what the Church has tried to force them to be and with how their families are twisted with 'white mans' ways.

This is a wonderful book. It brings the issue of Residential schools to life. Mr. Highway attended a residential school in the 1950's along with his brother Rene. He is a playwright and also has authored three children's stories (which I will review later this week).

Residential schools were a fixture in Canada for many decades with the last one in Saskatchewan closing in 1996. It was in the 1980's that students began speaking out about the abuses they had suffered. The Assembly of First Nations and the Canadian Government are still working toward a resolution to this serious issue.

This is my first book for the Canadian Book Challenge. Thanks to Kathleen Molloy for suggesting Mr. Highway as a author.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

To Serve and Submit by Susan Wright

This novel is set in a mythical world that seems to bear some resemblance to Newfoundland and Labrador.
Marja is a young woman living with her family who survive on what they can coax from the land. When a traveller arrives at their home offering to buy Marja, it seems a salvation to them.
She willing leaves with Lexander a year later when he returns with the promised payment. From this point forward, Marja's life changes in ways she had never imagined. In his travels, Lexander buys men and women and then trains them in the ways of being a slave in a "pleasure house" in his homeland.
Marja quickly learns that her true nature is that of a 'submissive'. Through the remainder of the book the reader, as well as Marja, learn that being a submissive does not mean that you become a 'doormat' and get trodden over in all aspects of your life. With the guidance of other women, Marja learns to take control of her life and her destiny. She learns that she can be a submissive in the sensual areas of her life yet still main control and responsibility in the other areas.
I'll admit that I had no idea what this book was about when I picked it up. The sub-title 'A Novel of Fantasy' caught my attention. After a tough week, a bit of fantasy can't hurt.
I liked this book. It showed that women can be both soft and yielding/nurturing but have spines of iron and wills to match.
Susan Wright is a well established writer with over 25 titles to her credit including 11 Star Trek novels. She is also the Spokesperson for the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom in the USA.

Friday, 17 October 2008

helpless by Barbara Gowdy

Celia is a video store employee by day and a lounge singer by night. Her young daughter Rachel is drop dead gorgeous. It should come as no surprise that someone has nefarious plans for Rachel. She is snatched from her front yard during a blackout in Toronto by a man who has been stalking her.

I have read a number of abduction themed books, and in most cases, the focus is on those investigating the events. This story is different. It focuses on Ron, the abductor, and the events in his past that led him to take this action. On Nancy, his girl friend, and why she at first supports Ron, but why she defies him in little ways. And finally there is Celia who questions whether she is worthy of such a wonderful daughter.

This is a wonderfully crafted novel. Ms. Gowdy kept me guessing if and how she would re-unite Rachel and Celia.

I found this a hard book to listen to. Several times I had to wipe away tears. The topic of child abduction is one I prefer not to delve into and thus would not recommend it to other sensitive readers.

As for the book being on MP3-CD, I was pleasantly surprised. Laurie Brown, the reader, has a lovely voice. She is well able to convey the anguish of Celia, as well as Nancy's concern and confusion. The disk format allowed for easy movement between chapters. My children think this is a 'cool' way to read.

If you haven't listened to an audio book since the cassette tape ere, then you should give it another try. I think you'll be happy you did.

While this book is by a Canadian author, I have chosen not to count it in my challenge as I am planning to read First Nations Authors. I would welcome your suggestions of authors and titles.

See Marie's review.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

The Black Tower by Louis Bayard

"Never let your name be found in a dead mans trousers." Hector Carpentier
This novel is set in Paris in the year 1818, while King Louis XVIII sits on the throne. Our main character, Dr. Hector Carpentier has been linked to the untimely death of Chretien Leblanc. From this point on Hector is compelled to work with Police investigator Vidocq to determine why Chretien was travelling to see him, a man he had never net.
We are quickly drawn into a web of political intrigue that dates to 1794 and the imprisonment of Louis-Charles, son of Louis XVII and Marie Antoinette.
It is fascinating to follow along as Vidocq pursues his investigation without the benefit of modern forensics and CSI techniques. Careful observation is paramount.
I enjoyed the growth of Dr. Carpentier from a self absorbed student/researcher, into a confident, responsible member of society. This was clearly illustrated when Hector was still trying to protect Charles Rapskeller as they were awaiting their fate at the guillotine.
I admit that at this point I slammed my book closed and thew it across the room as I cried 'no'. It was the next day before I could continue reading. While I will often cry along with a character, this was the strongest emotional response that actually sent me 'fleeing' from the room. A totally compelling read. The intrigue kept me guessing till the final pages. I look forward to reading more by Louis Bayard. This is his third historical novel.
The character of Vidocq is based on the real life Eugene Francois Vidocq who was appointed the first chief of the Surete in 1811.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Autumn Leaves

The leaves in my backyard are gorgeous right now. Hope you enjoy them.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Mind Game by Christine Feehan

A para-normal romance between Dahlia Le Blanc and Nicolas Trevane.
I had been hoping that their "powers" would be the main thrust of this story, turns out it is mostly about the development of their relationship and their trust with each other. They both have some pretty major and possibly dangerous hurdles to cross, but they both keep working at it, looking toward success.
I find that a romance that focus's on communication and trust is good to read every so often. Those are areas in which many of us could use a reminder. Life and relationships don't just happen and stay healthy for long periods of time without effort being put into them.
Christine's latest novel, "Dark Curse" was the number 1 Best Sellers Fiction pick on the New York Times Book review list of September 21, 2008.
A good choice of novels to finish off my list of summer reads.
This book was suggested by my blog friend Sherrie.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

I'm sewing like crazy so my reading is on a CD book

I am in the crunch with my sewing project and haven't had much time for reading. arg, I hate to say that. I do fit a few minutes in when I am driving, have my first book on CD. Its a 7 hour, Uun-abridged story. I have to admit that I am rather enjoying this format, now I need a longer drive such that I can listen to more chapters in one sitting.

Will report on it when finished.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Title for your Auto-Biography

If you were to write your auto-biography, how would you title it?

This random thought cross my mind this morning, and its kinda sticking with me and I have to answer it.

So, I have to think about myself. I like to travel, even if I don't do it often. Love to read about other people and places. Studied environmental studied, geography and mapping at the University of Waterloo. When I'm reading I keep and atlas at hand so I can find where the characters are located. I am a crafty person, like to take bits of stuff and put them together. Taking this all into consideration I've come up with the following title.

"Making My Own Map".

Let me know how you would title your auto-biography and why.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka

I had no intention of reading this book. I honestly thought that it was about Tractors that had been built in the Ukraine. Not a far fetched thought as my father collects scale model vehicles and has given my son a few that had been manufactured in the USSR.
I was at a Bookcrossing meeting when this book landed on the table and I was set straight of my misconception. So I brought it home.
The first 10 pages left me a bit confused, possible due to the use of various nicknames for Nadezhda/Nadia and other family members. A few more pages and I got the hang of it.
Nikolai reminded me a bit of my Ukrainian grandfather. He would also have been chasing after Valentina with the exception that my grandmother would have smacked him on the back of the head and told him to behave.
I enjoyed the interactions between Vera and Nadia. Yes, they were upset with each other regarding the inheritance from their mother, but when their father needed them, they put that dispute aside and pulled together to help him.
The quick camaraderie between Nikolai and Dubov (Valentina's ex husband) was a balm to the ill feelings created by Valentina. Even though he was a rival for her affections, Nikolai had to like him. Dubov was many things that he respected. I am sure the two of them could have been the best of friends in different circumstances. There I go, turning them into real people, I can't help it, I was so caught up in their interaction.
Even though the thought of reading an historical perspective on tractors did not appeal to me initially, when I saw that one of those italicized passages about the tractors was approaching, I read quicker so I could get to it sooner. I found them very interesting and was wishing that were more.
In reading an online biography of Marina Lewycka I came across a most interesting quote, "When A Brief History of Tractors in Ukrainian (2005) was first published, it was allegedly mis-shelved by many booksellers in their agriculture or engineering sections."

Additional Reviews of this Book:

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