Archive for April, 2009

Another week of mediocre reading

April 23, 2009

Yep, it’s been a whole week since I dazzled you with my not-so-brilliant book reviews, and it’s been a week of dud, dud, dud.

Ok, only two duds. But considering I only read two books, that’s pretty bad.

Astonishing Splashes of Colour by Claire Morrall

It wasn’t a BAD book. But it’s not one that’s going to linger in my memory, nor one I’m likely to pick up again.

Kitty, our heroine, has synesthesia, a condition that causes her to perceive the world through colours, hence the title. Although initially the author does a great job of conveying the difference in perspective, the narrative bogs down after a while, and Kitty’s unique view of the world doesn’t seem to be nearly as relevant as the fact that her father and brothers are emotionally unavailable, self-centred jerks. The surprise three-quarters of the way through, by the time we got to it, wasn’t a surprise by that time, and the remainder of the story was slightly unbelieveable.

I don’t know what the author intended the message to be, but I did find some value in what I took from it – namely the themes of self-delusion and denial, which are interesting to examine. Kitty’s brothers seemed equally mired in these pursuits, making her synesthesia not nearly as important as I suspect the author hoped it would be.

Curious Incudent of the Dog in the Night-time did a MUCH better job of showing the world through the eyes of someone who sees “different”.

The Secret Lives of the Sushi Club by Christy Yorke

Yet another tome about four women who like each other, then don’t, then do again. But it’s also about nature and ecology. And  rivers. And terrorism.  And Game Boys. And there’s nothing about sushi.

There’s just way too much going on in this book for it to truly focus on what it purports to be about – the relationship between four friends and how it’s affected by the actions of one.  The first chapter/intro just about lost me – I stuck with it though. And waited, until the very last sentence, for it to get better. It didn’t, much. It’s also got half a dozen viewpoints, and they’re not necessarily neatly divided. Hard for the reader to keep track of – and hard for the writer too, apparently, as I caught two or three instances of head-hoppping along the way.

It’s kind of about women and friendship. And love and loss and regret. And a river.  If the river had been just a backdrop, it might have worked, but the author seemed to want the river to be more than that.

If you’re looking for a book about women and friendship, try Angry Housewives Eating Bonbons instead.

So I’ve now read my 4 books for $10, and it wasn’t worth it. In desperation, I’ve started re-reading Tell Me Lies by Jennifer Cruisie for the third time, because at least I know I’m going to like it. And it looks like the next Diana Gabaldon Outlander series book is coming in September!

Mid Week Book Review

April 16, 2009

I’ve been on a reading frenzy the last few weeks. I’d picked up a new book by a favourite author for my week away, went back and re-read a few of her others and decided it was time to read something new. Not as a result of being disappointed in the re-reading, mind you, just a desire to get out of a rut.

So off to Chapters, gift cards in hand, I did go. For once, I managed to cobble together a few likelies from the 4 for $10 table, and picked up some extras to boot. I’m still working through that pile, but I’m not feeling way satisfied so far.

Here’s my take on the pages I’ve perused these last few weeks:

Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy

You can’t go wrong with Maeve Binchy, or at least I can’t. I love love love the way she writes, and the way her writing has evolved over the years. I first fell in love with the lady’s writing at the tender age of 10 or 11, when I read an excerpt from Light a Penny Candle in my mother’s Good Housekeeping Magazine.  I eventually caught up with all that she wrote through the 80s and 90s and have been able to keep pace with her releases for the last several years. Heart and Soul brings together characters from several recent books – Nights of Rain and Stars, Whitethorn Woods, even Evening Class, and others and expands on their stories, as well as introducing new characters. I love how this has become a pattern in the books of the latter part of Binchy’s continuing career. This was the vacation book – nice, light reading that is both new and familiar all at once.

The Ten Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer

The back-cover copy and a quick flip-through were intriguing enough to make me buy, but once I got started I found myself reading it just so I could say I finished it. It’s a familiar refrain – successful career woman puts it all on hiatus to stay home and mother and then starts to wonder if that’s all there is? I have a really hard time relating to characters like this or having any sympathy for them – their money angst stems from trying to afford private school and piano lessons on hubby’s six-figure salary alone and they just don’t walk in a world that’s familiar to me. It’s not about working or not working, or what’s more fulfilling – these women just don’t seem to ever consider that there might be a happy middle ground. I had the same issues a few years ago with I Don’t Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson. While Nap’s women aren’t quite as…bitter…I still didn’t find them likeable, and therefore, it was hard to muster a whole lot of compassion.

My Sister From the Black Lagoon by Laurie Fox

This novelized version of the author’s life growing up with a mentally ill sister started strong. She did a good job of illustrating the confusion and conflict I could imagine a young child experiencing in that atmosphere, but the later chapters just seem to…wander. I kept waiting for the triumph, the epiphany, as it were, but it never seemed to come. Perhaps she does succeed after all, then…it’s an age-old lesson that you bring who you are with you wherever you go.  Where I get hung up is my personal belief that it’s not about how life events have shaped who you are…it’s what you do with who you are. Again, I finished it to finish it. There was a line though, that resonated…and I’m paraphrasing here: “When I run out of gas, everyone that’s riding in my car stops too.”

The Solomon Sisters Wise Up by Melissa Senate

Just to prove I’m a walking contradiction – I couldn’t really relate to any of these characters either but I loved the book. It’s funny, sad, compassionate and complicated, but it works. I’ve only read one other Senate novel, The Break-Up Club, and liked it, but this was WAY better. Classic chick lit, in its way, but with more meaning. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for girls with daddy issues. This would make a great movie too – I could see the scenes as I was reading, and was almost disappointed when it was over.

So, there’s where I’m at. I’ve just started Astonishing Splashes of Color by Claire Morrall, so it looks like I’m continuing on the exploring mental illness theme. This, however, is flowing, and even early on there are some twists that keep the pages turning. I hope it stays good. And I really, really wish that my local bookstore would carry Lani’s books. Also, how long until the next Diana Gabaldon? Summer’s coming!

I’m going to believe in Karma anyway

April 4, 2009

Those who have followed my leap-frogging from blog host to blog host may recall that many, many moons ago, I wrote of the child who’d had her bike stolen. Repeatedly.

The child is now getting pretty close to grown up.  So grown up that earlier this week, she took her hard-earned savings -money she’s earned and saved over the last three years, first delivering flyers, then from various part-time jobs (sometimes more than one at once!) – and bought herself an e-bike.

The kid is a good kid. She studies hard, works hard, and though we’ve certainly had our clashes, she’s generally pretty co-operative. In deciding on this purchase, she researched, figured out how it would work when she goes away to school next year, thought about it, rethought it, and thought a third time. 

An e-bike, for those who don’t know, looks like a Vespa but runs on an electric motor. They are legal in Ontario, following mostly the same rules as a bicycle-  wear a helmet, adhere to the rules of the road. They go a maximum of 35 km/h, a charge lasts about 100 km and they cost as much to charge as it does to plug in a toaster. No licence, but there is an age limit, and no insurance. They are financially and environmentally an excellent choice for urban transportation for a young adult.

Tonight, the kid came out of the mall from her four-hour shift and into the parking lot and discovered that someone – likely a driver pulling into the parking space without paying attention – had knocked her e-bike to the ground. One brake handle was broken right off and the thing had been hit so hard that the battery compartment had popped open and the battery was lying on the ground.

Need I mention that there was no note saying “sorry, here’s my number, I’ll pay for any damage”?

I think this is a kid who truly tries to be good for the sake of being good. And it’s hard to do that when you are repeatedly reminded that Some People don’t subscribe to the same philosophy. It’s hard to remember that what you put out into the universe will, eventually, come back to you ten-fold.  But she just keeps on being a decent person. I’m proud of her.

What goes around, comes around. And that goes not just for the good, but for the jerk who hit the bike too – karma will kick you in the butt, rest assured.

Particularly if your little hit-and-run is identified by the mall parking lot security cam when they have a look at it tomorrow.

One less story

April 2, 2009

When I was a little girl, my grandparents took care of me most days while my parents worked. And, as indulgent as they definitely were, (who am I kidding, they spoiled me rotten) there was one point on which they did not budge:

Children’s TV programming did not have priority over Grandma & Grandpa’s “stories” in the afternoon.

As a result, I was about seven or eight when I finally figured out that if you couldn’t beat ’em, you might as well join ’em.  And thus, the great love affair between me and The Guiding Light was born.

Oh sure, there was a raging inferno that summer on As The World Turns, but it couldn’t really hold a candle to the Morgan/Tim/Kelly triangle. And when Morgan and Kelly got married at Laurel Falls to the sounds of “You Needed Me” by Anne Murray, well, what girl with a heart wouldn’t have shed a tear or two? And that was in spite of Nutty Nola trying to screw the whole thing up. And never mind the controversy behind what really happened to Jackie and Justin’s baby.

It’s possible several storylines have melded into a single summer season in my mind – let’s not forget, I wasn’t 10 years old yet.

Time went on, and school started, and another summer arrived, and on and on…and no matter what, on the last day of June I could turn on the TV at 3 o’clock in the afternoon and there they’d be – the residents of Springfield USA, doing their deals, swapping spouses, discovering long-lost children. It would take a day or so to get the gist of what had happened during the school year, and then I’d be all caught up and ready to re-engage again.

What? If it hadn’t been for Guiding Light, I might never have looked up from a book. Plus, during my various sojourns in Nowhere, Northern Ontario, we got two TV channels. I watched Guiding Light on one, and All My Children on the other.

Fast forward to the late eighties/early nineties. Here were Philip and Beth and Rick and Mindy, off to the high school prom while I spent the summer gestating and getting ready for grown-up ‘hood. And Reva and Josh. Oh Reva. Oh Josh.

And then it was the mid-nineties, and I was home again, and Reva and Josh were STILL trying to get it together. And Baby Alan-Michael had SORAS-ed (Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome) from 6 months to 18 years old in eight years.  And Philip (Grant Aleksander) was over on All My Children?

I haven’t watched Guiding Light hardly at all in the last year or two. Even when I do happen to turn on the TV at the right time, there was just no connection happening; between the new filming technique and the destruction of once-loved characters (seriously, Reva and Josh – you’re each other’s lobsters, fercryinoutloud, would you work it out already?) Last week I popped it on, and lo and behold, there were Philip and Beth and Mindy and Rick at their 25th high school reunion.

And now, it’s over, or almost – in September, Guiding Light, daytime’s longest running serial will go off the air.   The soap that was a credit to  countless acting careers – Kevin Bacon, Hayden Panitierre, Cindy Pickett, JoBeth Williams, Ian Ziering, Sherry Stringfield, Melina Kankaredes, etc. – is done. The lighthouse will be dark, and no one will ever know whether Reva and Josh finally get their act together and keep it there.

But I bet they do.

Goodbye, GL.  I can’t say, exactly, that I’m going to miss you – I don’t really know you anymore. But I will miss knowing that you’re there.

One last thing – where, exactly, is Springfield, anyway?