Monday, October 31, 2011


This is my 200th post, all you lovely three people who read this blog!  Woo hoo!  And it's only taken me close to four years to get here!  In honour of such an exciting event, I've added two new reviews this weekend.  I've also been combing through my archives and cleaning up stuff: fixing dead links, replacing non-available videos, and adding a ton of book cover pictures that have mysteriously disappeared.  Thanks to those of you who continue to follow my little private reading diary.

Anne's House of Dreams

The title: Anne's House of Dreams
The author: L.M. Montgomery
Publication: Book in Motion Audio, originally 1917
Got it from: Overdrive

I wish I'd thought of listening to audiobooks sooner.  Ever since I got my iPod touch, I've been discovering apps and things that are so much easier to do with just a few clicks, and suddenly it dawned on me last week that audiobooks could be a great way to add more books to my life.  Previously, the thought of sitting next to some sort of stereo and listening did not appeal to me, but now that I can download them through my library in seconds and listen to them virtually anyway - oh my goodness, I'm hooked.  It's such a great thing to have when you're doing housework.  It's so great, in fact, that I was looking for more chores to do last Sunday night because I was enjoying my book so much and didn't want to stop.

Right now, it's the classics that I'm interested in, and catching up with old favourites I didn't have time for and new-to-me-classics that I've been meaning to get to but just haven't.  Anne's House of Dreams has been on my re-read list for years and with its short chapters and familiar story, it was perfect for listening to.  Actually, it's doubly perfect, considering so much of the story is an homage to oral storytelling.  In this fifth novel in the series, Anne is grown-up and marrying sweetheart Gilbert Blythe, who has taken a post as doctor on the other side of the Island.  (We Maritimers always refer to PEI as "the Island," because really, what other island is there?  Um, sorry, Cape Breton.)  They end up in the idyllic town of Glen St. Mary, along the sea, and settle into a little cottage with a long history, and soon make friends with their neighbours: the loveable old sea captain Jim, the hilarious and man-hating Cornelia Bryant, and the beautiful and mysterious Leslie Moore who has a dark past.  Very little of the story focuses on Anne and Gilbert's actual marriage; Anne's pregnancy is only very coyly referred to until suddenly a baby appears - or doesn't.  A tragic infant death reminds us that in Montgomery's world, childbirth was still a very risky business.  It's hard not to think that Montgomery was working out her grief at her own baby's death with Anne's loss.  

There's so much here that Anne fans will love, despite the tragedy: colourful village characters, lavish descriptions of seashores and gardens, and quaint glimpses into a long-gone rural way of life.  It's the kind of story that just goes with a chilly fall evening.  I felt like I was visiting old friends.  I expect to revisit the rest of the series in audiobook sometime soon.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Everything I Know About Love

The title: Everything I Know About Love I Learned From Romance Novels
The author: Sarah Wendall 
Publication: Sourcebooks, 2011
Got it from: Amazon

Sarah Wendall, the co-founder of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, has written a guide to the life lessons romance novels teach us.  I've been a regular follower of the site since 2006 and very much enjoyed their previous book, Beyond Heaving Bosoms.  This book was a much more serious defense of the genre and I was disappointed that there wasn't the same high level of hilarity.  A notable exception was a list of problems the protagonists might face in a romance novel, including, "he is buying her father's company, and he's only doing it because he hates her old man, but secretly he lusts in his pants for her." (p.148).

The book is broken up into chapters highlighting the different ways romance novels are good for us: they help us learn how to solve relationship problems, what to look for in a man, how to have good sex, etc.  The only problem is that for those of us who read the site all the time, it feels like walking down the same path.  A lot of the quotes lifted from readers were taken directly from discussions on the site, which I've already read.  Passages from various novels only highlighted authors the Bitches have been praising since the beginning (Cruisie, Chase, Roberts, et al.)  Readers unfamiliar with the site or readers on the fence about romance may find it refreshing, but for the rest of us it feels like preaching to the choir.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sorcery & Cecelia

The title: Sorcery & Cecilia, or, The Enchanted Chocolate Pot
The authors: Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer
Publication: Harcourt, 1988 
Got it from: DC, 2006

I added a few re-reads to my "must read in 2011" list, and I'm so glad I did because reading this book again reminded me why it's one of my favourites.  The authors originally wrote it as part of a letter game, with each author taking a character and writing letters in that character's voice.  Wrede is Cecelia, a young woman in Regency England with an aptitude for magic.  Stevermer is Kate, Cecelia's cousin, who is embarking on her coming-out in London.  Along the way they uncover all kinds of craziness: Cecelia's brother turns into a tree, there's a wizard planning dastardly deeds, a chocolate pot is draining magic from another wizard, magic gardens appear out of nowhere, and somebody's mother takes finding a husband for her daughter to a whole 'nother level of crazy.  

This book is delightful.  I adore books written in letters, and it helped move the pace along quickly - almost too quickly, as I was enjoying things so much.  Kate and Cecelia are wonderfully sarcastic (Cecelia, on the prospect of listening to Reverend Fitzwilliam's lectures, declares, "I am determined to have the headache Thursday, if I have to hit myself with a rock to do it.")  Naturally, each finds a love interest who is mixed up with the plot, but neither lets the boys get away with anything. (Cecelia to James: "I must tell you that you are very bad at sneaking about. You should not have worn that black coat and crossing the lawn to the pavilion was a completely chuckle-headed thing to do.")  If the Regency were always this fun, I'd never want to leave.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

1001 Children's Books You Must Read

The title: 1001 Children's Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up
The authors: Julia Eccleshare (editor)
Publication: Quintessence, 2009 
Got it from: SC, Dec 2009

I can't say enough about this fabulous book, which has taken me almost two years to read (mostly over hundreds of breakfasts). Nearly all of the 1001 books features a lavish illustration of the original book cover and sometimes an interior illustration, along with a write-up from one of the children's book experts who contributed to this work. The book is divided into five sections based on age (0-3, 3+, 5+, 8+ and 12+) and goes chronologically after that. Although most of the write-ups are from relatively unknown editors, publishers, professors and writers, a few famous writers contribute: for instance, Meg Cabot writes about Judy Blume's Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret and Margaret Atwood talks about her history with Anne of Green Gables.

Fans of children's literature will be delighted to find their favourite children's books (they included The Elephant and the Bad Baby! and Alfie Gets in First!) and probably be outraged that their other favourites were not included (a whole pantheon of amazing Canadian children's literature was left out). The usual big names are there, but also a surprising amount I've never heard of, considering I've worked with children's literature in the library from the age of 13. There are a lot of classics from other countries, but the majority of the works are from the UK, which to be fair is where most of the best children's literature comes from. Oddly enough, the one exception is the 12+ section, which seems to be dominated by Australian works.

I particularly enjoyed the picture book section and reading about the classics from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. After reading this, I can't help but wonder if many of the texts were chosen because of their interest to adults rather than being particularly beloved by children. No matter, this is a book to treasure forever, and to consult for years to come.


Okay, I'm getting giddy with excitement here. Two of my favourite internet ladies have just released new books. Sarah Wendall of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books is publishing Everything I Know About Love, I Learned from Romance Novels and Kate Beaton of Hark, A Vagrant is publishing a collection with the same title. I love Hark, a Vagrant like you wouldn't believe. It actually seems to be sold out, since I got notification shipping was delayed on it, despite having pre-ordered it months ago. This should make my fall reading even more fantastic. Have I mentioned I'll be reading and posting a whole lot more now that it's fall? Boo yeah!