Saturday Sum-Up

Here’s what I found bookish & interesting on my tour around the Internet this week:

read every dayArt from Scholastic.

The Guardian’s Philip Hensher had some thoughtful things to say about reading: This should be a golden age for readers, but it feels like the end of days

I was particularly interested in Mr. Hensher’s assertion that even reading 15 books a year has a positive impact on your life. A mere 15 books, people! Since I intend to do way better than that (I read 62 books in 2013), I’ve already signed up for Savvy Readers’ 50 Book Pledge. It’s easy to use and a wonderful way to see what you’ve read.

Speaking of seeing what you read…

If you are a book voyeur, you need to follow  Savidge Reads regular feature Other People’s Bookshelves  Simon lets people share their reading lives via their impressive bookshelves and it’s always fascinating.

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I am not ashamed (okay, maybe I’m a teensy bit ashamed) to admit that I can’t wait to watch this remake of Flowers in the Attic. Teenagers of a certain age devoured this book (come on, admit it!) and this remake looks a bazillion times better than the 1987 movie.

On this day in literary history:

Albert Camus, author of The Plague, was killed in a car accident near Sens in 1960.

And a recommendation:

If you haven’t already discovered her blog, I highly recommend The Perpetual Page-Turner. Jamie updates regularly with interesting (and often interactive) content. If you are a book-lover, she’s definitely one to follow.

Eleven random questions (and answers) w/ thanks to @Rams_English for asking

I am a sucker for this stuff…comes from my days at Live Journal, I guess. Ken over at Rams English (one of my most favourite education blogs) tagged me to participate in The Eleven Game and as it is blustery outside, who am I to say no?

First, you list 11 random facts about yourself. Second, you answer 11 questions sent your way by the blogger who “tagged” you. Then you create 11 new questions and tag 11 other bloggers. (I’ve listed those bloggers I’d like to respond below and if you do decide to participate  – you are not obligated, of course – please leave a link to your answers in comments so I can go read them.)

Ready. Set. Go.

Eleven Random Facts About Me.

1. I moved around a lot as a kid. By the time I hit high school we’d moved about 30 times. In grade seven alone I went to three different schools. Somehow my mom managed to make each new house and each new place an adventure (I don’t know how she did it, actually). I did manage to stay in the same high school although we switched houses three times. There’s nothing in me that wants to subject my own children to that. I’ve owned two houses and plan to stay-put in house #2 until my kids are – at the very least – through high school.

2. I could eat spaghetti every. single. day. Don’t judge me.

3. I have 500+ books on my To Be Read shelf. I have an addiction. I’d rather have books than clothes (but I don’t read naked, I promise.)

4. I am really, really sentimental. I save letters and cards and ticket stubs, and baby teeth and handkerchiefs and all sorts of other crap. I have ‘the feels’ over long-past relationships. I cry at sappy commercials and when I hear Barbra Streisand sing “The Way We Were” and every time I watch Love, Actually.  Yeah, that kind of stuff.

5. I have three younger brothers, no sisters and I wouldn’t change a thing about that. My brothers are all different from me and each other – but we are pretty close and see each other a lot. (I think my grandmother had something to do with that. See my answer for question #11 below.) I can count on any one of them to help me out in a pinch. They are good, good men.

6.  I would move to Italy in a New York minute. I love the weather, the wine, the landscape and…hello, spaghetti. Yay! (I love New York, too.)

7. I have always wanted to be a writer. Ever since I was a little kid. I was the editor of my university newspaper. I’ve written for tv, radio and print media. I’ve had a couple of poems published…but that elusive novel. But hey, I did NaNoWriMo with my writing students in November and I managed to finish (the light version at least – 30,000 words.)

(7a. Am I really this dull?)

Moving along.

8. Cats are my preferred pet. I have the world’s BEST cat, Lily. She loves to snuggle and sleeps with her head on my shoulder every night.

9. I have an embarrassing crush on Ryan Gosling. (He is, however, just one in a long list of celebrity crushes my friends and family have endured  over the years. Ryan’s awesome-sauce though – on so many levels.)

10. I hate the winter. Yes, I live on the East Coast of Canada where it feels like winter about 8 months of the year, but I hate it.

11. We talk a lot of politics in my family (my brothers are junkies) and while I am not someone who enjoys talking about politics, I am going to take a stand and say I think Stephen Harper is a jerk. He doesn’t represent me or my views.

Here are Ken’s questions for me:

1. What is the best PD book and YA book you read in 2013? Why are they so good?

What is this PD book? Professional Development? Um. I don’t think I read a PD book cover to cover in 2013…but I definitely dipped in and out of  Reading Reasons by Kelly Gallagher a lot. I really like his practical approach to literacy. As for YA reading…I read a lot of YA this year. If I had to pick my absolute favourite it might be Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian or maybe David Levithan’s Every Day. I wish we’d had all these choices when I was a teen. I just think kids (all different kinds of kids) see themselves represented in today’s YA fiction way more than we ever did back in the day.

2. It’s Friday night. Which would you prefer — comfort food at home, or fancy dinner out with your friends?

If my bff Michelle is making the comfort food and there’s Pinot Grigio, I’m there. Usually on Friday night I am content to stay home especially in the winter. That said – I do love to go out. And it doesn’t have to be fine dining either (not many opportunities for that in these parts, anyway).

3. If you could spend an airplane flight conversing with any famous writer, living or dead (for the sake of this question and lest you get bored, we will bring the dead to life), who would you choose and why?

This isn’t fair. If I think back over my reading life, there have been so many writers who have had an impact on me…how could I chose just one? Okay. Carolyn Slaughter. (Because I wrote my one and only fan letter to her and she graciously responded and three of her novels –The Banquet, Magdalene and The Story of the Weasel- have stuck with me over many, many years. That said, I’d love to sit beside John Green for a while. (Maybe not a long-haul flight, though – he’s too energetic for an old doll like me.)

4. Have you ever heard of a “meme”? Would you know one if you fell over one?

Absolutely. Like I said above – Live Journal. Me. Me. They’re the ‘slams’ of the Internet generation. Do you know what a slam is? Or a FB before it stood for Facebook?

5. Yellow mustard or Grey Poupon? Hellman’s or Miracle Whip? Margarine or butter? Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts?

Like ’em both. (It would be pretentious to put Grey Poupon on a hot dog.) Miracle Whip for sure. Butter is better, but I only use it when it’s really gonna count. I’m Canadian so Tim’s (Tim Horton’s). But I don’t drink coffee and donuts are evil…so neither really.

6. What literary character are you most similar to? Explain.

I’ve related to lots of characters over the years. For a couple of decades I felt just like Ellie in Kristin McCloy’s novel Velocity.  Every once in a while I’ll come across a character who speaks to me, but they’re always so much better than I am.

7. Are you addicted to your cellphone? Proud or embarrassed?

Nope. I only use it to communicate with my kids. It’s rarely even on.

8. Congratulations! You’ve won the lottery! Do you continue to teach?

Nope. But not because I don’t like teaching. I’d just rather travel, read, read, read. Maybe open a little bookstore where I could just talk about books with people and drink tea.

9. If you were named principal of your school, what would be your first three executive orders?

More options for kids so they didn’t have to be stuck in classes they have NO INTEREST IN.

Let English teachers decide what texts they want to teach (we have good professional judgement, thanks very much) and make sure there’s $ to buy the books.

Ability to get rid of dead wood teachers.

10. What is your favorite memory from childhood?

Anything and everything to do with my maternal grandparents. They were the quintessential storybook grandparents. My grandfather served in the Royal Navy and had wonderful stories. He adored my grandmother and she adored him and they taught me what a healthy relationship should look like (even if I didn’t quite manage it myself). My grandmother was a wonderful cook and when we lived close enough we had Sunday dinner with them all the time. Everything I did with them, looking back on it, was magical. I miss them.

11. If you could make up any question to answer and call it “Number 11,” what would it be and how would you answer it?

If you had the opportunity to do-over some aspect of your life would you?

Excellent question. 🙂

Trust me, not everything in my life has turned out quite as I thought it might but that said I am not unhappy with where I am today. I have wonderful friends, amazing kids, a job I love and sure, there have been some bumps along the way…but I wouldn’t be who or where I am without the not-so-positive stuff.  So no, I don’t think I’d change any aspect of my life for fear it would alter the final result.

Now my 11 questions for you.

1. What was the highlight of 2013 for you?

2. Describe your perfect day.

3. Name somewhere you would like to visit before you die and explain why.

4. Miley Cyrus: visionary (a la Madonna circa 1984) or skank?

5. What’s one movie you never get sick of watching. What is it about it the allows for repeated viewings?

6. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? Who gave it to you?

7. Which author holds pride of place in your personal library? Why?

8. eReader or physical book? Coke or Pepsi? Coffee or tea? summer or winter? red or white (wine, of course)

9. You just found $500 on the road and there’s no way of returning it to its owner. How would you spend it?

10. All-time favourite television show. Why?

11. Which quality do you most appreciate in a friend? Explain.

I tag:

Michelle

Heather

Barb

Simon

Nathan

Luanne

Andrea

Russell Brand (Yeah, I know, eh? But wouldn’t his answers be potentially hysterical?)

Jamie

Kristilyn

Chris

Always Something There to Remind Me – Beth Harbison

alwaysI’m not a book snob. I like a good ‘chick lit’ book as well as the next gal. I know Beth Harbison is a much-loved, best-selling author of women’s fiction…but Always Something There to Remind Me will have the distinction of being both my first and last book by Ms. Harbison. Blech.

Erin Edwards is a beautiful, successful party planner in Washington D.C., where she lives with her precocious sixteen-year-old daughter, Camilla. She and Camilla’s father are no longer together…not that we know much about their relationship (and not that it matters anyway). Always Something There to Remind Me is Erin’s story to tell and we get the then (in third person) and now (in first person).

Then happened twenty years ago. Sixteen-year-old Erin has her heart set on eighteen-year-old Nate Lawson.

From the first time she’d seen him, his image had been emblazoned on her mind, and when he stepped into view it was as if her mind closed over it like a trap. She didn’t want to think about him, but she couldn’t stop.

His eyes met hers and something clicked.

Ahh. Young love.

Erin and Nate’s teenage romance has all the requisite twists and turns: silly fights, jealousy, sneaking around in the dead of night to have sex on basement floors. But even though Erin really, really, really loves Nate, she still can’t help doing childish things and eventually he dumps her, breaking her heart and leaving her to wallow (however secretly) for the next twenty years.

Fast forward twenty-odd years and she is in a relationship with smart and perfect and handsome Rick who has just asked her to marry him. Erin’s hesitating though because she can’t stop thinking about Nate…even though she hasn’t seen him in forever.

Until the day she’s visiting her mother in the old neighbourhood and she decides to take a walk which invariably leads her past Nate’s parents’ house and – as luck (or fate) would have it – there’s Nate.

I just watched the shock in his eyes as he took me in, and knew mine probably looked the same. Shocked, glad, scared…it was hard to read both what I saw and what I felt.

But I couldn’t look away. And when I saw him try, I realized he couldn’t either. He glanced down, a muscle in his jaw tensed, but then he looked back at me, still unspeaking.

People – you can see where this story is going from like a mile away and that would all be fine except that WHO CARES? Seriously. Erin is annoying as a teen and not even remotely self-aware as an adult. Her daughter, Cam, sounds like a therapist and the treacley ending made my teeth ache.

I bought this book because it sounded like it might have something significant to say about regret and love, but if you want a book that looks backwards at what you’ve left behind, read Losing the Moon instead.

 

 

 

Joyland – Stephen King

joylandAlthough I devoured Stephen King as a teen and young adult, it’s probably been 15 years since I’ve read a King novel (Bag of Bones, which I loved). I decided to give Joyland a go and it was like settling into a comfortable pair of slippers. (I know, it’s ridiculous to compare the Master of Horror to a pair of comfy slippers, but I’m talking more about that feeling of just knowing that you are in really good hands – which you always are with King.)

Joyland is not a horror story really. It’s the story of Devin Jones, a college student who takes a job at Joyland, a Disney-style amusement park (I imagined Family Kingdom at Myrtle Beach, S.C., which I visited once as a teen) in North Carolina.  Devin tells the story of his summer and autumn at Joyland through the lens of late middle age. He says

That fall was the most beautiful of my life. Even forty years later I can say that. And I was never so unhappy. I can say that, too.

Devin’s unhappiness stems from his recent break-up with his first serious girlfriend, Wendy. Devin has an inkling that their relationship has run its course when Wendy doesn’t even hesitate to encourage him to take the job at Joyland, even though it means that they will be separated for the summer. “It’ll be an adventure” she tells him, without realizing just how much of an adventure it’ll actually be.

Devin meets a cast of interesting characters at Joyland and in the little seaside town he calls home while he works there. Characters like Lane Hardy (who shows him the ropes around the park) and Rosalind Gold (the resident fortune teller who makes a couple of astute predictions about Devin’s future) and Emmalina Shoplaw (who owns the boarding house where Devin rents a room and who tells him about the murder associated with Joyland’s  Horror House) add a bit of local character to the story.  Other characters, like Mike and his mother, Annie, have a more profound impact on Devin’s life.

Devin Jones calls that summer “the last year of my childhood” and he is right. King expertly balances the story’s nostalgic look back, and his protagonist’s bittersweet reminiscences (“I still want to know why I wasn’t good enough for Wendy Keegan”). Joyland is as much a coming-of-age tale as it is a murder-mystery. Both aspects of the novel will keep you turning the pages.

End of Year Book Survey

best-books-2013-1024x862Once again, Jamie over at at The Perpetual Page-Turner offers bloggers the opportunity to  reflect upon their blogging year. Who doesn’t love that?

Best Book You Read In 2013? (If you have to cheat — you can break it down by genre if you want or 2013 release vs. backlist)

I’m going to break this category into three:

Best YA: The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie was laugh-out-loud funny and, man, I was rooting for Junior all the way.

Best Other: Our Daily Bread – Lauren B. Davis

I pick this one because the characters just really got under my skin and they’re still under there. I just want to save them all.

Other – A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness

I couldn’t really put this in the YA category because I think you could read this at a much younger age. This is a beautifully written and illustrated novel which had my sobbing like a baby even though I knew exactly what was coming.

Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

Helen Dunmore’s The Greatcoat. I am a huge fan, but I just found this slow-moving. Not saying I didn’t like it, but I didn’t LOVE it.

Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2013?

Never Fall Down – Patricia McCormick surprised me because my son said, “Mom, we tried to read that book in school and even the teacher thought it sucked.” I really liked it.

Book you read in 2013 that you recommended to people most in 2013?

I’ve probably recommended David Levithan’s Every Day the most.

And I still haven’t stopped talking about Our Daily Bread. Read it. Please.

Best series you discovered in 2013?

I’m not really a series reader. I just feel like I’d really have to love the book to want to invest a bunch more time into its sequels. I mean, I will do it if I really have to…but I didn’t find that series this year.

Favorite new author you discovered in 2013?

Tana French. I read In the Woods and I will definitely be reading more.

 Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?

My comfort zone is pretty big and I stay pretty clear of genres I am not interested in – like straight up sci fi or fantasy.

 Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2013?

I raced through the first 200 pages of David Bell’s Cemetery Girl but then it all fell apart. I guess if I had to pick a page turner it would have to be Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places (which is, imho, better than Gone Girl) or Andrew Pyper’s The Guardians.

Book You Read In 2013 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

I won’t be rereading anything. I have WAY too many books on my TBR shelf.

 Favorite cover of a book you read in 2013?

eleanor and parkbellman

YA cover: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

I love the clean, simple look of her covers. Loved the book, too – just not the ending.

Other cover: Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield

 I loved the cover, but I didn’t like the book.

 Most memorable character in 2013?

Hands down – Albert Erskine from Our Daily Bread

Runners up: ‘A’ from Every Day, Auggie from Wonder – R. J. Palacio, Cormoran Strike from Robert Galbraith’s The Cuckoo’s Calling

 Most beautifully written book read in 2013?

A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness

Let my copious tears be a testament to the beauty of the book.

 Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2013?

Our Daily Bread – Lauren B. Davis

It did all the things a great book should do for you – make you think, give you characters to care about, move you.

 Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2013 to finally read?

In the Woods – Tana French

It’s been on my radar (and on my tbr shelf) for a long time. Don’t know why I waited.

Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2013?

Most recently I loved, “When it comes to the past, everyone writes fiction.” from Stephen King’s Joyland

Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2013?

The World More Full of Weeping – Robert J. Wiersema, 101

With My Body – Nikki Gemmell, 480

Favorite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2013 (be it romantic, friendship, etc).

Albert & Bobby and Ivy & Dorothy from Our Daily Bread

Sophie & Otto from Endangered by Eliot Schrefer

Favorite Book You Read in 2013 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness. Big fan and have read the Chaos Walking trilogy.

  Best Book You Read In 2013 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else:

Um, this is sad – but nothing. I’m the person who gives recommendations, but I rarely get them from other people. Sometimes students recommend books, but it doesn’t always end well.

 Genre You Read The Most From in 2013?

Of the 62 books I read in 203, 32 were YA and of those 32, one was non-fic and two were graphic.

 Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2013?

Park from Eleanor & Park because he just doesn’t give up on the girl, even when she’s prickly.

 Best 2013 debut you read?

The Cuckoo’s Calling – Robert Galbraith – who I admire more and more with each book I read. (It doesn’t even really technically count, though.)

  Most vivid world/imagery in a book you read in 2013?

Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick dropped me right in the middle of Cambodia and shook my until my teeth rattled.

  Book That Was The Most Fun To Read in 2013?

Why We Broke Up – Daniel handler.

I loved the format…all the drawings.

 Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2013?

A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness. And I cried hard.

 Book You Read in 2013 That You Think Got Overlooked This Year Or When It Came Out?

Our Daily Bread – despite being long-listed for the Giller, I’d never heard of it. It’s not an easy book and the subject matter won’t be palatable for everyone, but it packs a punch that should not be overlooked.

New favorite book blog you discovered in 2013?

Just found this one:

The Unputdownable Book Club

 Favorite review that you wrote in 2013?

Our Town. I loved thinking about this play again.

Best discussion you had on your blog?

::crickets::

Sadly, not many people stop by.

 Best moment of book blogging/your book life in 2013?

Live tweeting with Lauren B. Davis at the book club meeting where we talked about her book.

 Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

My Reader’s Table got the most views …but that’s a page that is relatively static.

 Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

I’d love to have a lot more interaction with readers…hell, I’d love to have a lot more readers.

 Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

I set a reading goal of 60 books this year and I had reached it by Dec 13th.  My grand total was 62.