Sep 29, 2009


posted by Jennie

I love everything by Fred Vargas, especially the quirky Chief Inspector Adamsberg series. The Chalk Circle Man is the best of the lot.

Publisher Comments:

Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg is not like other policemen. His methods appear unorthodox in the extreme: he doesn't search for clues; he ignores obvious suspects and arrests people with iron-clad alibis; he appears permanently distracted.

The Chalk Circle Man is the first book featuring Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg, one of the most engaging characters in contemporary detective fiction.

When strange, blue chalk circles start appearing overnight on the pavements of Paris, the press take up the story with amusement and psychiatrists trot out their theories. Adamsberg is alone in thinking this is not a game and far from amusing. He insists on being kept informed of new circles and the increasingly bizarre objects which they contain: empty beer cans, four trombones, a pigeon's foot, four cigarette lighters, a badge proclaiming I Love Elvis, a hat, a doll's head. Adamsberg senses the cruelty that lies behind these seemingly random occurrences. Soon a circle with decidedly less banal contents is discovered: the body of a woman with her throat savagely cut. Adamsberg knows that other murders will follow.

Vargas' novels have a specific kind of appeal: they are, of course, superbly constructed puzzles, but above all they're wholly original crime novels with a different kind of outlook on the form: they're a bit bonkers, a bit maddening, a lot gripping, and vastly entertaining. They're not for people who demand gritty realism from their crime fiction, but as exercises in the flightful pleasure of reading a crime novel written from a slightly different angle, they are the absolute best you can find. This is a superb first entry in the Adamsberg series.

Fiona Walker
March 2009


posted by Jennie

I like everything that Harrison has written except his last fiction which I didn't like at all. Maybe it was a test. I like this book of poetry very much.

"Jim Harrison has probed the breadth of human appetites - for food and drink, for art, for sex, for violence and, most significantly, for the great twin engines of love and death. Perhaps no American writer better appreciates those myriad drives; since the publication of his first collection of poetry . . . Harrison has become their poet laureate." -

Maybe the problem is that I got involved with the wrong crowd of gods when I was seven. At first they weren't harmful and only showed themselves as fish, birds, especially herons and loons, turtles, a bobcat and a small bear, but not deer and rabbits who only offered themselves as food. And maybe I spent too much time inside the water of lakes and rivers. Underwater seemed like the safest church I could go to . .

SKELLIG by David Almond

posted by Jennie

I loved this story. For ages 9-12.

review by Jill Murphy at
The Bookbag

... a sensuous, magical book and a fantastic introduction to David Almond's work.

Michael's life is turning upside down. His mother has just had a baby - a new sister for him. But she was an early baby, far too early, and she's very, very ill. She's is in and out of hospital and there is a great fear she might die. His mother and father are distraught and they're living in a tense atmosphere of fear and worry. They're a close family but it's hard to keep it all together under such circumstances and sometimes Michael feels lonely and left out. Then he feels guilty for being so heartless. Making matters worse is that they've just moved house, right across town. Michael elected to stay at the same school but he needs to take a long bus ride to get there and he can't just walk out of his house to join a football game with his friends any more. The house is in need of complete renovation too and it seems to Michael as though all his familiar comforts have deserted him.

And then, one day, Michael goes into the derelict garage at the bottom of the garden. It's an adventure - he's not allowed down there at all for the structure is dangerously unstable and could collapse at any time. While he's exploring Michael discovers another derelict - it's a man living in the garage, feeding himself on the flies and spiders he finds within. It's Skellig. Skellig begs him to tell no one that he's there and instinctively Michael senses that there's something strange, something special about this scruffy, ragged man and he keeps the secret from his parents. He tries to help Skellig, although he's half afraid and half excited, bringing him medicine and food and drink.

I closed my eyes and tried to discover where the happy half of me was hiding. I felt the tears trickling through my tightly closed eyelids. I felt Whisper's claws tugging at my jeans. I wanted to be all alone in an attic like Skellig with just the owls and the moonlight and an oblivious heart. And then Dad's car came, with its blaring engine and its glaring lights, and the fear just increased and increased and increased.

more on THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER by Stephen Chbosky

Jennie loves this book.

reviewed by jingle at

A book for your soul

Have you ever thought to yourself, "I'm so lucky that this person came into my life," and if you had been in a different place at a different time, you wouldn't have met, and how unsettling that feels? That's how I feel about The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I am very glad that I happened to be in the library and that I randomly found this book out of all the other books in there. It is a book that reaches to your soul and makes you feel.

The book is about a young teenage boy called Charlie and is in letter format. Who does he write these letters to? We don't really know. They always start with "Dear friend," and always end with "Love always, Charlie." Once I got into the book I found that I ignored the letter format and it read like a regular 1st-person story.

The character of Charlie is a very interesting and likable character. He is honest, blunt, emotional, and deeply caring of others. From the start it seems that Charlie has a unique way of thinking and acting, and you may spend a lot of time trying to work out what's "wrong" with him. Does he have some kind of mental illness? After a while I realised that I related to Charlie a lot more than I thought, and that we all probably relate to Charlie in some way or another. Sometimes we can feel alone in how we think, and we keep things to ourselves because we don't believe that anyone else thinks that way. We don't want to be seen as a freak.

Sep 28, 2009

Ayn Rand and Ralph Nader?

Posted by Josee Corrigan

I was driving back from what was possibly my last camping trip of the year - wah! - and listening to one of my fave radio jockeys on CBC, Jian Ghomeshi. He was in discussion with Ralph Nader about Nader's new book entitled Only The Super Rich Can Save Us! While Ghomeshi teased him about the title, Nader elaborated on topic of his book - that the wealthiest 1% have the power to change the world and are beginning to care. Of course the four-time US presidential candidate's new book has a special focus on our American neighbours to the south, regardless Nader's theory about wealth and responsibility is worthy and timely during an era in which the rich have been demonized for their lack of altruism (see Michael Moore's new film Capitalism: A Love Story) .
Interestingly, Ayn Rand and her famous novel, The Fountainhead, emerged throughout the conversation, at which point I really perked up my ears. Synchronistically, over the past few weeks I've picked up a biography of Ayn Rand by Anne C. Heller called Ayn Rand and The World She Made. Rand was a fascinating writer and theorist who expounded the themes of narcissism, capitalism, and individualism through the characters in her novels. According to both Heller's biography and Ralph Nader, her book The Fountainhead is one of the top five books read in America and has had a profound influence on the cultural development of the United States since its publication. With this in mind, it's interesting to examine Nader's arguement that it is the richest 1% who should and are, in some cases, promoting altruistic cultural action in this tragic age of disintigrating American values. Hmmmmn. So, what do we all think about that?

For more interesting facts and info about Ayn Rand look to the Ayn Rand Institute at
To listen to Jian's interview from this morning go to

On another note entirely, Jennie lent me an excellent book from the coming-of-age genre. The novel is called The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. The anti-hero, Charlie, describes his life in the form of letters written to "Dear Friend," from the perspective of a highschool student/teenager. I love him! Although perceived by the 'cool' crowd as a loser/freak/weirdo, he is sensitive (cries a lot), smart, and perceptive. The novel details his life including descriptions of his group of similarly mifit, but also wonderful friends; a boy-crazy sister; a college-attending jock brother; a wacky, embarrassing, exended family; a set of unbelievably chill parents; and one thank-god-for-him english teacher. I really enjoyed the books that this kid reads and reviews as his teacher assigns them for extracurricular - Ayn Rand's Fountainhead being one of them. This book is worth reading, especially for those who are currently experiencing the joys and pitfalls of highschool.

Sep 25, 2009


Posted by Jennie

Last year my favourite literary fiction was Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson. It takes place in Norway and gives us a man's life, how everything changed when he was fifteen and out stealing horses, and how that change echoes in his old age. It's a simple story, quiet and intense at once.

--Review by Ken Worpole on 31/05/2006

This fine novel, translated by Anne Born, was the surprise winner of the 2006 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and it really is a book to cherish and remember.

Out Stealing Horses eschews the knowing realism of much contemporary fiction in favour of the episodic ebb and flow of the "unending conversation" in the mind of the narrator, as he looks back upon a series of traumatic war-time incidents in the past, and in the face of approaching old age. The narrator, Trond, has returned, following the death of his second wife, to a remote settlement in Norway where he and his family spent their childhood holidays under German occupation. Not only do old faces re-appear, but he has to try to finally understand the familial and political betrayals of that bitter period of resistance and collaboration, and the breaking of families.

The detail of the daily round of wood-chopping, shopping, cooking, dog-walking and immersion in the life of the forest of an ageing widower is beautifully achieved. There is also the occasional drink with a neighbour, and a nightly reading of Dickens, the novelist whose work shaped the imagination of the young Norwegian who, like David Copperfield, desperately hoped to become the hero of his own life. That question overshadows the whole novel: did he achieve this heroic role?

Tragedy and epiphany recur in equal parts, though the deep forest interiors seem to absorb all of human hope and suffering. In his childhood Trond remembers the milkmaids singing the cows home every evening just as vividly as the presence of the Germans and the secretive night-time manoeuvres of local partisans. However, there was one terrible incident involving the accidental shooting of a child by its twin brother, that provides the fulcrum of the novel, and seems to instigate a pattern of family ruptures that marks the lives of nearly all of the male characters we meet. The narrator, like his father before him, and his best friend, at some point in his life walks out on his family, never to return or even maintain contact. Going missing seems to be the price men under stress have to pay in these taciturn, unforgiving times and places.

There is salvation in this world through physical labour. The scenes of harvesting and tree-felling (and the subsequent rolling of the trees into the river to be manoeuvred downstream to the sawmills) are imbued with a Tolstoyan love and deep nostalgia. If these days are happily foreshortened by the blue hour of dusk "when everything draws closer", so too are the final days and months of the narrator as he slowly untangles the mysteries of childhood; the threads of fragmented family and village relationships are gathered in again, and finally understood.

Don't be put off by the title and its unfortunate echoes of Cormac McCarthy's overly poeticised All the Pretty Horses, nor the jacket photograph of the author in full horse-whispering mode. Inside is the real thing, a novel artfully conveying a profound sense of time passing, the consolations of landscape, and a prose style and folded-in geology that makes every sentence do the work of ten.

Sep 23, 2009


Posted by Jennie

One of my favourite books is back in the store. The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt. It has a most clever method for learning a new language. It has single mother angst and single child quest. I loved it so did all my friends, well, the ones that read it. It's not the movie script, but it is all about it. It's very original and very good! And it seems to be going out of print...

Helen DeWitt's extraordinary debut, The Last Samurai, centers on the relationship between Sibylla, a single mother of precocious and rigorous intelligence, and her son, who, owing to his mother's singular attitude to education, develops into a prodigy of learning. Ludo reads Homer in the original Greek at 4 before moving on to Hebrew, Japanese, Old Norse, and Inuit; studying advanced mathematical techniques (Fourier analysis and Laplace transformations); and, as the title hints, endlessly watching and analyzing Akira Kurosawa's masterpiece, The Seven Samurai. But the one question that eludes an answer is that of the name of his father: Sibylla believes the film obliquely provides the male role models that Ludo's genetic father cannot, and refuses to be drawn on the question of paternal identity. The child thinks differently, however, and eventually sets out on a search, one that leads him beyond the certainties of acquired knowledge into the complex and messy world of adults.

The novel draws on themes topical and perennial--the hothousing of children, the familiar literary trope of the quest for the (absent) father--and as such, divides itself into two halves: the first describes Ludo's education, the second follows him in his search for his father and father figures. The first stresses a sacred, Apollonian pursuit of logic, precise (if wayward) erudition, and the erratic and endlessly fascinating architecture of languages, while the second moves this knowledge into the world of emotion, human ambitions, and their attendant frustrations and failures.

The Last Samurai is about the pleasure of ideas, the rich varieties of human thought, the possibilities that life offers us, and, ultimately, the balance between the structures we make of the world and the chaos that it proffers in return. Stylistically, the novel mirrors this ambivalence: DeWitt's remarkable prose follows the shifts and breaks of human consciousness and memory, capturing the intrusions of unspoken thought that punctuate conversation while providing tantalizing disquisitions on, for example, Japanese grammar or the physics of aerodynamics. It is remarkable, profound, and often very funny. Arigato DeWitt-sensei.

Review by Burhan Tufail at

GRACELING by Kristin Cashore

In a world where people born with an exceptional skill, known as a Grace, are feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of a skill even she despises: the Grace of killing.

She lives under the command of her Uncle Randa, King of the Middluns, and is expected to carry out his dirty work, punishing and torturing anyone who displeases him. Breaking arms and cutting off fingers are her stock-in-trade. Finding life under his rule increasingly unbearable Katsa forms an underground Council, whose purpose is to combat the destructive behavior of the seven kings - after all, the Middluns is only one of the seven kingdoms, and each of them is ruled its own king with his own personal agenda for power.

When the Council hears that the King of Liend's father has been kidnapped Katsa investigates . . . and stumbles across a mystery. Who would want to kidnap him, and why? And who was the extraordinary Graced fighter who challenged her fighting skills, for the first time, as she and the Council rushed the old man to saftey?

Something dark and deadly is rising in the north and creeping across the continent, and behind it all lurks the shadowy figure of a one eyed king . . .

Reprinted from Orion Publishing Group

“Cashore's prose is smooth and unobtrusive. But for all its lightness of tone, Graceling is not a simple novel. indeed it deals with some very difficult subject matter. Its inevitable love story is sweetly unconventional and unabashedly feminist. Katsa herself is a rich character. The growth of her trust and self-esteem is the understated heart of the novel. This is always Katsa's story and enjoyable fast paced it is too. An immensely fun, good-hearted read”


“A WOW of a book! I HAD to know how it ended”


Sep 20, 2009

more on ITALIAN SHOES by Henning Mankell

Jennie's favourite book of the year.

Frederick Welin was once a surgeon until an act of medical negligence brought him into disrepute. It was not so much what happened as the fact that he attempted to avoid the responsibility which brought the disgrace and he retreated to live on a skerry in the Stockholm archipelago, cut off from all but a very few people. Twelve years into his self-imposed exile, Welin, now in his mid sixties, wakes one morning to see an old woman with a Zimmer frame struggling across the frozen sea to his cottage. It was Harriet, a woman whom he had loved and then abandoned without warning some forty years before.

You'll struggle to warm to Welin, who's moved through life without accumulating much in the way of companions and his most meaningful relationships are with the postman and the coastguard. He's a snooper and it's whilst he's going through Harriet's handbag that he discovers she's in the later phases of a terminal illness. She's sought him out because she wants to hold him to a promise he once made to take her to a remote lake in northern Sweden. It's an eventful journey which forces Welin to think about the way his life has gone – but ill as she is, Harriet has a shock in store for him.

As do most people outside Sweden, I came to Mankell via his Wallander police procedurals and it was only when I was deprived of those that I moved on to Depths and was won over by the anti-hero, Lars Tobiasson-Svartman, and Mankell's ability to evoke the fog- and ice-bound islands of the archipelago. I was slightly disappointed by Kennedy's Brain which was written from burning anger and lacked the clinical precision of Depths, but it's with Italian Shoes that I feel Mankell has come into his own.

We have another anti-hero in Welin and whilst the book has the familiar themes of estrangement and isolation, the overt violence of Depths has gone, to be replaced by redemption and a glimmer of hope. It's another journey into the heart of a man and an examination of aging and death – those which come suddenly and without warning and those which are long-heralded and perhaps greeted with relief. The book lacks a towering female character such as Sara Fredrika in Depths, but Harriet and the other women who come into Welin's life are vital – despite the fact that one is terminally ill – and contribute greatly to the uplifting feeling that the book gave me. I finished the book with a feeling of hope that there was a better future ahead – which is rather unusual With Mankell's books.

Italian Shoes may well lack the technical brilliance of Depths but for me it's the best of Mankell's work. Difficult themes – aging and death – are dealt with sensitively and back lit by the bleak settings of the Stockholm archipelago and northern Sweden. The writing is elegant and Laurie Thompson's translation as brilliant as ever. Add to this a thought-provoking and intriguing story and it really is difficult to ask for more.

review by Sue Magee of The Bookbag

Sep 19, 2009


Reviewed in Books For Keeps No. 169 (March 2008) by Joanna Carey (JC)

Sara Fanelli, an Italian now living in London, has influences that range from artists of the Russian avant garde and the Dadaists, to the African American painter Jean-Michel Basquiat. Her distinctive work has a very personal visionary quality, that makes it virtually inimitable. Well known for Dear Diary, Mythological Monsters – and her brilliant Pinocchio, her latest book (not aimed at children, but widely accessible) has the intimate, slightly chaotic feel of a scrap-book, and is packed with drawings, etchings and collages, all inspired by literary quotations – hence its title Sometimes I Think, Sometimes I Am (Paul Valery).

This enchanting book ushers you into the labyrinthine world of Fanelli’s imagination, a place inhabited by birds, angels, sprites, devils and tight-lipped onion-headed marionettes with pointy noses and clackety little boots. Like eccentric street performers, they act out the wit and wisdom of the sayings of assorted luminaries like Robert Louis Stevenson, Napoleon and St Augustine, Nabokov, Virgil et al. The drawings are playful, anarchic, romantic and mysteriously disturbing by turns.

Fanelli has a graphic language all her own, wanton loopy scribbles appear to denote energy, lust and confusion, while elsewhere, arrows move purposefully across the pages like guided missiles, or in clusters, as in the Bayeux tapestry. Who knows what it all means – we all see things differently. Saul Steinberg is one of Fanelli’s heroes and in one of the quotes she illustrates (a drawing of an onion-headed sphinx with an enigmatic smile) Steinberg says "The beauty of the sphinx is that you yourself must do the interpreting… interpretation probably does not give us the truth, but the act of interpretation saves us."


Sep 17, 2009

Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography

Posted by Noam Ash

One of my all-time favourites. Chester Brown has an extraordinary gift for using spare, simple illustrations to convey a depth of human emotion and complexity. He portrays individuals not caricatures, and offers unique insights into the minds of historical figures on both sides of the Red River Rebellion. Highly entertaining, this is a must read for anyone interested in Canada's campaign of Western Expansion during the early years of confederation.

Drawn & Quarterly

Chester Brown reinvents the comic book medium to create the critically acclaimed historical biography Louis Riel, winning the Harvey Awards for best writing and best graphic novel for his compelling, meticulous, and dispassionate retelling of the charismatic, and perhaps insane, nineteenth-century Metis leader. Brown coolly documents with dramatic subtlety the violent rebellion on the Canadian prairie led by Riel, who some regard a martyr who died in the name freedom, while others consider him a treacherous murderer.

"It has the thoroughness of a history book yet reads with the personalized vision of a novel."--Time Magazine

"If you love to read a gripping story, if you are awed by the talent of an artist, then look no further: Chester Brown's Louis Riel is
comix history in the making, and with it, history never looked so good."--The Globe and Mail Book Review

"The starkly told story of a crucial figure in Canada's history--yet one whom most Americans have probably never heard of. It's a credit to Brown's plainspoken artistry and flair for narrative that it's a page-turner till the end."--The Boston Phoenix

"This is an ingenious comic and a major achievement." --Publishers Weekly Starred Review

Sep 15, 2009


Posted by Noam Ash

Set in the present, The Last Musketeer stars the by-now centuries old (for no explained reason...and it doesn't matter) musketeer Athos, who has been reduced to a suavely dressed but useless near-panhandler trading on his now almost extinct fame. (Aramis has forsaken his musketeering ways, and Porthos...well, Porthos isn't around any more. Don't ask.) All this changes when one day the Martians attack Earth. Suddenly there is a need for swashes to be buckled, and Athos leaps back into the fray with a vengeance. Robots, evil alien emperors, beautiful alien princesses, rayguns vs. swords, treachery, secret corridors, cool-looking robots...The Last Musketeer is vintage sci-fi adventure with a unique twist from an internationally acclaimed cartoonist.

For those unfamiliar with his work, the Norweigan artist known as Jason primarily toils in the realm of genre mash-ups. What keeps these books from being mere sheer exercises in style, however, is Jason’s strong, memorable characters, his sharp sense of humor and his deep sense of empathy. He consistently draws in a flat (though colorful and well-detailed) style and rarely if ever allows his anthropomorphic characters to show even the barest hint of emotion. Yet its through clever and subtle use of these tools that Jason is able to wring an impressive amount of pathos from his cast. A slight hand movement here, a silent panel there, quick cuts between scenes or periods of time make all the difference. He has the best sense of timing of any cartoonist working today.

SUMMER BLONDE by Adrian Tomine

Posted by Noam Ash

Tomine constructs tales of emotional disconnection with an ear for painfully real dialogue. The conflicts between emotional gratification, narcissistic neediness and moral discernment mark the title story in which a socially crippled man nurses an obsessive crush on a young woman. He watches close up, paralyzed by his guilt, as her beauty catches the eye of his neighbor: a hip, selfish young man with a short attention span. `Hawaiian Getaway` features Hilary, a telephone service rep who is having the worst week of her life. Reaching out to random strangers on the phone, Hilary is looking for someone to help her. In 'Alter Ego' a successful young author has writer`s block. He can`t, or won`t, decide between another ghostwriting gig and finishing his second ‘real’ novel. He stalls on committing to his novel and his girlfriend when a chance postcard leads him to flirt with fantasies of changing the past. Finally, 'Bomb Scare' documents the early unease of his generation by setting this coming-of-age story during the tense months of the Gulf War, the event that ushered in the 1990s.

Tomine infuses tender moments and a heavy dose of realism into the graphic novel genre. The people in the book may at times be flat, but they're not boring. They're the typical freaks and geeks we meet in high school and adulthood, they all have their issues and they try to deal with them as best they can. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. What's important is that we can relate to these characters. They're the weird kid you saw sitting next to you in homeroom or the creepy old guy on the bus. The book is a compelling work of fiction that serves to remind us that everyone is just a little bit messed up.

THE GREAT HOPEFUL SOMEDAY by Elizabeth Belliveau

Posted by Noam Ash

from Conundrum Press

The Great Hopeful Someday is the updated version of Belliveau’s popular collection of zine work called Something To Pet The Cat About. It includes three new zines and comes with a DVD of animations she has been working on for the past few years while attending residencies at The Banff Centre, the NFB (Montreal), The Klondike Institute for Arts and Culture, and Struts Gallery in Sackville New Brunswick. The book contains Belliveau’s most recent zines. Her finely inked images and text packed with nostalgia, which explore the beautiful in the mundane, have already received high praise:

"There’s something appealing about the immediacy and honesty of these pages. The drawings are evocative and charming, and an occasional self-consciousness in her writing is mitigated by self-satire.... Elisabeth Belliveau’s drawings gently capture people in odd moments, unsuspecting. Her perspective is detached, cautious, and spare, seeking out meaning in the mundane. Her moments of lyrical clarity are lovely." — Montreal Review of Books

"Every page takes my breath away, quickly and easily. I love the writing, and the artwork, the exquisite imagery, the seashells and the time, the thought, the effort put into drawing." — Broken Pencil

Sep 14, 2009

Apocalyptic Atwood

Posted by Josee Corrigan

I am a fan of Margaret Atwood and not just because she is a prolific Canadian writer. Her writing makes me feel disgusted, overjoyed, fascinated, and hateful all at the same time. (Sounds good doesn't it?) My favorites from the genre of horrible-future-focused-depictions-of-the-world-twisted-just-slightly-beyond-recognition-yet-uncomfortably-familiar, are The Handmaid's Tale (1985), and Atwood's more modern depiction of our doomed world, Oryx and Crake (2003). Oryx and Crake is especially creepy in that "I need to take a shower and watch some romantic comedy drivel to get this off of me!" kind of way. The Year of The Flood, her newest book, sounds like another doozy. Watch for it. The Year of The Flood is reviewed by the Globe and Mail at:

The bookclub I belong to is currently reading Honeymoon in Purdah (2000) by Canadian author, Alison Wearing. I can't wait to get to it. Here's a description:

"To go beyond the legacy of revolution, religious fundamentalism and veiled women and find the real people of Iran, a young Canadian dons the cloak of Islam. The result of Alison Wearing's journey is a warm, funny and shocking collection of riveting portraits and stories about the generous, irrepressible people she met. With a novelist's love of language and eye for detail, she takes the reader into the homes and hearts of people whose spirit, intelligence and laughter enlighten and impress. Beautifully written, engaging, fascinating at every turn, Honeymoon in Purdah reveals an Iran rarely seen by Westerners and leads this exceptional bestselling young writer across new literary borders."

I'll keep you posted.

The best-selling author of Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami, recently published a memoir called What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. A marathon runner and triathalete, in addition to novelist, his memoir explores the intricacies of writing and oddly running. For those, like me, who are fascinated by this writer, this biographical work reveals the author through two subjects in which he is passionately involved. He is an author worthy of further exploration.

Finally, The Slap by Australian writer Christos Tsiolkas is another book I've got on the go. This book is like a sail in the wind, twisting and turning; I am both fascinated and disgusted by the lives of the characters. So far, I like it and am surprised to like it! Tsiolkas reveals the underbelly, what is unlikeable, within his characters - for example, egotistical, violent men, obsessive mothers, and painfully self-conscious, misguided teenagers. However, it reads "real"; I like the grit. The characters in The Slap become so close you can see their pores, smell their breath, and hear their hearts racing. I can see why Tsiolkas won the Commonwealth Prize for Best Book with this novel. He's nailed human reaction on the head and uncautiously depicts racist, sexist, ethnic Australian stereotypes. It's interesting. However, that's only my opinion. Here's a contrasting review from the Globe and Mail:
Let me know what you think...

Sep 11, 2009

Haruki Murakami and Anne DeGrace

Posted by Josee Corrigan

I've discovered another author (new to me), actually Diana discovered him for me - Haruki Murakami. Right now I'm reading Kafka On The Shore. The novel follows two intriguing characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home hoping to find his missing mother and adopted sister; and an aging simpleton Nakata, who was involved in a strange wartime incident from which he has never recovered. Nakata is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom.

"As their paths converge, and the reasons for that convergence become clear, Haruki Murakami enfolds readers in a world where cats talk, fish fall from the sky, and spirits slip out of their bodies to make love or commit murder. Kafka on the Shore displays one of the world’s great storytellers at the peak of his powers."

Jennie has several of his novels on the shelves and all of them are very good.

Local author Anne DeGrace came into the store today to promote her upcoming book launch and reading happening September 17th at 7:30pm at the Nelson Library. Anne DeGrace is the author of Treading Water and Wind Tails. Her short stories and essays have appeared in The New Quarterly, Room of One's Own and Wascana Review. Her third novel, Sounding Line, draws from her family's Nova Scotia roots. You can find her books on our shelves or get a signed copy of her newest at the reading on the 17th.
Check her out at

On an entirely different note, we have some of the most beautiful cotton scarves in the store right now for only $20. They are a screaming deal in my not-so-humble opinion.

p.s. check out quill and quire blog link below in left column. Zoe Whittal has some interesting comments about the new trend in goofy memoirs (i.e. My Year of Doing Something Weird or Stupid or Virtuous Memoir).
p.p.s. (I just can't stop) Euro Crime - also find below left column- has info on Agatha Christie talks that have never been released on BBC. If you like her books then you'll want to know...

Sep 10, 2009

Yoga Inspiration

Posted by Kate Storm Guthrie

Books on yoga connect us with the greater yoga community, wisened practitioners around the world and the lineage of teachers that is the backbone of this ancient art. For me, yoga literature is an important inspiration. When I feel dry on the mat, disconnected from the "why" of stretching, stillness and breath, the words of someone old, wiser and further along the path can stir me towards meaning.
One of my favorite books on yoga is The Woman's Book of Yoga and Health, by Linda Sparrowe, former managing editor of Yoga Journal, and Patricia Walden, a widely respected Iyengar teacher. Sparrowe offers well-researched discussions of specific issues, from the more general including depression, premenstrual syndrome, menopause and digestion to the more particular, including eating disorders, pregnancy and osteoporosis. She draws from personal experience, Western medicine, Ayurveda and more. Each discussion is followed by a brilliant sequence designed by Walden. While the focus is on women's health, the information and sequencing for indigestion, poor immunity and back pain is appropriate for men as well.
A classic on the shelf is Vanda Scaravelli's masterpiece, Awakening the Spine. A student of B.K.S. Iyengar, Scarvelli was a renowned yogi from Italy. She is famous for her authentic, if not eccentric, relationship to yoga. One of her practices was to stand in tadasana (mountain pose) for an hour or more, rooting into the earth. Most of her book is comprised of a series of personal, philosophical essays on such topics as Matter and Energy, Beauty, Transformation and Going Round (which she means literally). This is followed by her primary asanas.
Inner Beauty, Inner Light, by Frederick LeBoyer is a beautiful treat for pregnant mommas. Author of the groundbreaking Birth Without Violence, LeBoyer's exploration of yoga reads likes an honest, deeply moving poem. The words are complemented by black and white photos of Vanita Iyengar, the teacher's daughter. I enjoy reading a page or two of this book and exploring an asana with LeBoyer's reflection echoing in my mind (even though I'm not pregnant).
As smalltown yogis, books can offer a source of inspiration when we need a boost on our mats. Probably because Jennie is a devoted practicioner, her bookstore has an excellent section on yoga for everyone, including women, families, older folks and people with specific issues.

Sep 7, 2009

picture books

Posted by Sam Simpson

Picture books are an obsession I’ve been indulging for well over a decade before I became a grandma. For the past five years I just have a more socially acceptable explanation for those lacking the imagination to share my delight. Jennie’s is, of course, a great place to indulge…

The Odd Egg, (written & illustrated by Emily Gravett) is a droll retake of the ugly ducking story that ditches the beauty myth and retains the attachment theme. Somebody on the back cover thought it was a good book for the two-year-old crowd, I would revise that up to “all ages”.

Staying with the egg motif, On My Way to Buy Eggs (written & illustrated by Chih-Yuan Chen) tells a simple tale of a young girl’s errand to the store. Reminiscent of Ezra Jack Keats’ classic Whistle for Willie, it enchantingly portrays her urban neighbourhood.

Although a city landscape is not as difficult to find for the preschooler crowd as it was 30 years ago, it is a refreshing relief from the overdone grandma and grandpa’s farm scene. A bonus feature is that she’s going on the errand for her father who then cooks the eggs. A plus for urban agriculture is that there are chickens (seemingly free-range!) on the street on her way home.

Set in South Africa, Gift of the Sun, (written Dianne Stewart, illustrated Jude Daly) is a classic rural trading tale where each trade by the hapless husband results in a new disaster. Unlike many folktales of the genre however, the marital conflict is resolved in mutual good humour. The lovely spare illustrations nonetheless give a wealth of delightful detail of the African setting.

More picture books another time.