30 Day Book Meme – Day 30

Your favourite book of all time

I don’t know whether or not I have a favourite book of all time. I mean, who knows what’s right around the corner…of my bookshelf. Maybe I haven’t read my favourite book of all time yet.  Instead of trying to name one book, I am going to direct you to my reader’s table, an idea dreamed up by Simon over at Savidge Reads.

Back when I worked at Indigo, my favourite thing was to talk with customers…and I loved putting books into their hands. You must read this. Now I do it with my students and there is no greater feeling than when a student comes back to me and says, You’re right. That was a great book. I love it that my students know that I am obsessed with books.  I loved Simon’s idea of a book table – something that might greet visitors at your house, a place to display all your favourite books, with copious copies to give away.

I have spoken, over the past 30 days, of many of the books on my reader’s table. If you have a reader’s table on your blog, I’d love a link!

I just want to, once again, thank the Portrait of a Would-Be Artist as a Young Woman for coming up with this book meme. I have enjoyed thinking about each and every one of these book-related questions…and it was fun to post something every day, something I haven’t done since I started this book blog. It’s been so much fun.

What Love Mean to You People – NancyKay Shapiro

I started to read NancyKay Shapiro’s debut novel a couple years ago, got about 40 pages in and put it aside. I’m not really sure why I stopped, I just wasn’t groovin’ to the story. And I desperately wanted to like it. See, NancyKay Shapiro was something of a Big Fandom Name back in my days in a certain fandom (which shall not be named so I don’t out her). She wrote a different pairing than I did and I didn’t always agree with her characterization, but there was no question that she could turn a phrase.

In a way, What Love Means to You People is sort of like reading her fanfiction. The writing is smart and often quite beautiful, but I had serious problems with the characterizations of her three main characters: Jim, a widowed gay man in his early 40s; Seth, Jim’s new beautiful, troubled, much younger lover and Cassie, Seth’s sister who shows up and causes all sorts of trouble for the men.

Jim is a rich advertising guy. He’s been single ever since the love of his life, Zak, died. One day, he meets Seth McKenna:

Rippled nose with a slender ring in one nostril. Cheekbones and a clean jaw. Shorty bleached hair in trailing bangs, pointy sideburns. Silver rings climbing one earlobe, small, smaller, smallest. An appealing athletic body, too, in white chinos and a tank shirt. Quite nice, despite the trivializing modifications.

Jim is smitten. They have dinner. Seth tells a lie. Or two. Seth, it seems, has a past from which he has tried desperately to distance himself. It looks like none of it will matter, until his younger sister, Cassie, shows up with her small-minded attitudes about gay men and the key that opens the door to Seth’s past.

There are lots of plot twists, relationships fractured and pieced back together. Lots of graphic gay sex, too, if that’s your thing. I think Shapiro was aiming for a story that examines families, and how sometimes the ones we choose are better than the ones biology gives us but, ultimately, for me, What Love Means to You People wasn’t really much more than a well-written soap opera, complete with stock characters and a neatly tied bow of an ending.

30 Day Book Meme – Day 29

A book everyone hated but you liked

Billy Dead.

Lisa Reardon’s novel was chosen by several top ten book lists and Alice Munro called it a “brave, heartwrenching debut.”

People lose people. I don’t know why we’re all so damn careless. Folks lose their kids, men lose their women, even friends get lost if you don’t keep your eye out. I look through the windshield at the houses going by. For every person sitting in them houses, watching TV or eating a ham sandwich, there’s someone somewhere wondering where and why they lost them. All those lost people, carrying on their everyday business like the air’s not full of the sound of hearts breaking and bleeding.

Reardon’s novel tells the  story of siblings Billy, Ray and Jean. They’ve had nothing close to an idyllic childhood and now, as adults, they are estranged. I chose this book as my book club choice several years ago and I read it with a knot in my stomach. The subject matter is not easy and I knew that no one in my group would like it. And I was right.

But Billy Dead is a beautiful book about what it means to be family, love and redemption, forgiveness. It is also a love story, although the lovers might cause some discomfort for some (most) readers.

Lisa Reardon herself has had a troubled life. She was recently arrested for shooting (but not killing) her father. After reading that I wondered whether or not the subject matter of her books (dysfunctional families, violence) weren’t perhaps subjects with which she was intimately familiar.

She’s an amazing writer and Billy Dead is a fantastic book.

 

 

30 Day Book meme – Day 28

Favorite title(s)

I guess titles are important. As a writer, I am really happy when I come up with a title that speaks to the story;  sometimes I have the title before I even know where the story might be going, but that’s rare.

Sometimes the titles are the only good thing about the book.

Sometimes they pique your interest and you get lucky – the books live up to the promise in the title.

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly is a great title and it’s an even better book.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows didn’t quite live up to its mouthful of a title.

Billy Dead by Lisa Reardon hints at the trouble ahead.

30 Day Book Meme – Day 27

The most surprising plot twist or ending

I don’t think it’s actually fair to talk about this. I certainly don’t want to give anything away! All I will say is read Fingersmith by Sarah Waters. It has plot twists galore and every single one of them is jawdroppingly fantastic! That book is SO much fun to read.

In the same vein, The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, has a few twists and is definitely worth the read. And the ending of One Day by David Nicholls amps up the story in a really remarkable way. Loved it.

Of course, if you’re looking for twists – you can’t go wrong with Thomas H. Cook. I have yet to finish a novel by this master of mystery/suspense and not been totally surprised. He’s fantastic.

30 Day Book Meme – Day 26

A book that changed your opinion about something

I don’t read that much non-fiction except for books that relate to teaching, reading and writing. I am always interested in ways that I can be more effective and motivational in the classroom. I am privileged to teach writing and I am always looking for mentors. I am a huge fan of Penny Kittle’s book Write Beside Them, a book that reinforced my notion that you can teach writing and make it fun and relevant. Writing is important. Kittle didn’t change my opinion about anything, but she made me feel that anything was possible in the writing classroom. I refer to her book often and was lucky enough to attend a one-day workshop she gave in my home town this summer. I think she’s amazing.

30 Day Book Meme – Day 25

A character who you can relate to the most

I think when a book is well written you can relate to almost any character. Obsessive lovers. Crazed psychopaths. Adulterers. I think that’s the beauty of literature and why our reading tastes change over the years. A good writer can make any character relate-able on some level. That’s why I believed the brother/sister relationship in Billy Dead; the reason Judas Coyne, egomaniac ex-rock star of Joe Hill’s fabulous Heart-Shaped Box was essentially sympathetic; why I laughed out loud with Becky Bloomwood (from Confessional of a Shopaholic.) It’s the reason why Stephen King’s books are so successful – the people in peril are everyman/woman types; they could be us.

Even the characters I don’t relate to can be learned from. I can scoff at them, say I’d never behave that way or laugh at their foibles. Characters are friends…for the time I am with them.