The Invention of Hugo Cabret – Brian Selznick

I bought this book for my 12 year old son for Christmas. He started reading it and then, as boys of his age often are – got distracted and left it on the table in the livingroom – where I picked it up and read it from start to finish.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret is  a straightforward tale, elevated because of its narrative style. Selznick tells the story in words and full page illustrations – 284 pages of them.

Twelve-year-old Hugo lives in the attic of the Paris train station. He lives there because his father has died and an elderly uncle has claimed him. The uncle is responsible for keeping all the clocks in the station running perfectly and he teaches Hugo to do the same. But when the uncle disappears, Hugo is left to fend for himself.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a book that perfectly marries text and images. Selznick stops his written narration, often several pages at a time, and lets his black and white drawings take over. The pictures tell the story, not just supplement the words. It’s brilliant really.

The story revolves around an automaton – a self-operating  machine with human actions- a mysterious man who operates a toy store in the train station, a young girl and a famous French film director.  The joy of how these things connect is for the reader to discover. It’s quite magical.

You can read more about the book here.


30/365 – blogs I love @raychraych

Books I Done Read

I’ve been following this blog for a couple years and it NEVER fails to make me laugh. The blog’s mistress is Raych and she says: “The Done Read is all about the three H’s: Honesty, Hilarity, and H’mad relatives.”  She reviews books – and recently has shared pictures and tidbits about her new daughter – awarding them caterpillars rather than stars. Seriously, who doesn’t want to read a book with 9.5 caterpillars!

I check in with her every couple weeks to see what she’s been reading. Raych is well read and has a writing style that is engaging and original. I also appreciate that her reviews are honest reactions to the books she reads – which is, despite the recent Internet craziness, to be admired.

So, I highly recommend you check out Books I Done Read.

29/365 – Sunday Salon

What’s your favourite childhood book?

I was lucky growing up. Both my parents were readers and there were always books in my home. Trips to the library were a regular thing and there was always the Scholastic flyer to supplement my own collection. (I remember books costing a pittance compared to know and yet I also remember squirrelling away my dimes and nickels so I could buy the books I wanted.)

I actually talked about first literary loves last January. You can read that post here

Then I’d love for you to tell me about those early books – the ones that turned you into a reader.

28/365 – dream of owning a bookstore?

Yesterday I talked about my dream of owning a bookstore. I’d have to be independently wealthy to do it, of course. The bookstore business is really tough.  I think that’s always been true, but I suspect things have gotten even worse with eReaders and online shopping.

Still, it is a dream some people pursue. jlsathre left her job as a lawyer and opened a second hand bookstore. Here’s her list of the top 25 things she learned from doing that.

It’s terrific.

27/365 – Halifax bookstore moving

There aren’t many independent or second-hand bookstores around these days…which is sad. Owning a bookstore has always been a sort of dream gig to me. The thought that I could spend the day surrounded by books, tea and an occasional customer to chat with – well, that’s my idea of heaven.

For anyone who’s ever been to Halifax, Nova Scotia, JWD Books on Barrington is likely familiar.

And good news – they’re not closing, they’re moving.

Check it out.

26/365 – bad reviews

Apparently there was a bit of a kerfluffle on GoodReads a few days back. The gist of the whole thing was that someone took offence to a negative review. The Guardian posted a tidy little summary about whole thing here.

I’ve certainly written my share of negative reviews. So what? Who am I? I am just one voice in a million and I have no special expertise…just my own subjective point of view. I’m a reader; I know what I like.  I can’t imagine my negative feelings will have any impact on an author’s popularity – if I had that much power Dan Brown wouldn’t have sold a bazillion copies of The DaVinci Code and Stephanie Meyer would have called it a day after Twilight. Sadly, I don’t have that much power.

Poor reviews don’t hurt sales, anyway. Check this best seller list out!

The Uncommon Reader – Alan Bennett

Imagine if the Queen had only discovered reading later in life? That’s the premise of Alan Bennett’s lovely novella, The Uncommon Reader. While taking her corgis for a walk, the Queen happens upon a mobile library parked near Buckingham Palace. Intrigued, she boards the bus and meets Mr. Hutchings, the library’s driver and  Norman, a young man who works in her kitchen.  She feels duty-bound to select a book, but when asked what kind of book she likes her response is, essentially, that she doesn’t know.

She’d never taken much interest in reading. She read, of course, as one did, but liking books was something she left to other people. It was a hobby  and it was in the nature of her job that she didn’t have hobbies.

The Queen casts about, looking for something to borrow and discovers a name she recognizes.

“Ivy Compton-Burnett! I can read that.’ She took the book out and gave it to Mr.  Hutchings to stamp.

“What a treat!” she hugged it unconvincingly before opening it. “Oh. The last time it was taken out was 1989.”

“She’s not a popular author, ma’am.”

“Why, I wonder? I made her a dame.”

The Uncommon Reader is full of laugh out loud moments like this one and is, in fact, an utterly charming book. The Queen, despite a rather rocky beginning, turns into a voracious reader. She promotes Norman from the kitchen to a new position, a sort of personal assistant, and that causes all sorts of problems with other staff members.

For a while nothing comes between the Queen and her books. Like all devoted readers, she’s never without one and dinner party conversations invariably turn to the topic of what people are reading. Instead of being told about the books of authors she  meets, the Queen now wants to read their work.

“But ma’am must have been briefed, surely?”

“Of course, ” said the Queen, “but briefing is not reading. In fact it is the antithesis of reading. Briefing is terse, factual and to the point. Reading is untidy, discursive and perpetually inviting. Briefing closes down a subject, reading opens it up.”

The Uncommon Reader is a love letter to reading.

“Books are not about passing the time,” she admonishes Sir Kevin. “They’re about other lives. Other worlds.”

The Queen proves to be, at the end of the day, just like the rest of us who couldn’t imagine a life without books.


23/365 – publishing…your tweets

I am new to Twitter and I have to say, I really like it. I don’t have a Facebook account because FB is the devil, but Twitter is awesome sauce.  People from all over have pointed me to amazing resources for teaching and reading and writing.

Twitter isn’t a personal space for me; it’s not a venue to shout out to the world I love my cat or how awesome my kids are, although people certainly do use it that way. I really just wanted to draw attention to this blog and connect with other readers.

But say I thought my tweets were pithy? I’d have no choice but to go to Ether Press and publish them! Ether Press is a print-on-demand service that allows you to publish your tweets in book form. Okay, yes, borderline narcissistic – but doesn’t social media indulge that side of all our personalities just a teensy bit?

Check out Ether Press.


22/365 – Sunday Salon

Where do you buy your books? Are you an electronic device reader or do you prefer the weight of a book in your hand? I’d love to hear about your book-buying habits.

I am a book-buyer. Book being the operative word – I don’t have an eReader of any description and I have no interest in them (although I can certainly see their appeal, particularly if you travel a lot.)

I buy my books from independent book stores, second hand stores, big box stores, on-line stores, the annual library used book sale, the Scholastic flyer at school…if there’s a pile of books somewhere, I’m stopping and I’m probably buying. This obsession is probably the reason for my huge tbr pile.

So, tell me about your book-buying habits!