Thursday 29 March 2012

Book talk, film talk, and a cup of tea...

I think I'm getting used to this posting time... I feel more "inspired" tonight than I have since beginning this new schedule.  And I have a hot cup of "sweet milky" tea by my side on this cool evening...mmmm!

I got the second book in the "Jackson Brodie" series by Kate Atkinson on the weekend, and started reading it instead of my book club selection.  Alas, One Good Turn is not as good as Case Histories or When Will There Be Good News, in my opinion.  It seems less focused, more disjointed, than the others, and Brodie features in this book less often as well.  It also seems to offer less "life lessons" than the others, so I'm finding it less satisfying and had little difficulty putting it aside once the time crunch came for my book club selection.  I will finish the Jackson Brodie book, but just not right away.  Having said that, I really do recommend the series, at least the first and third books, as they have proven to me to be "un-put-down-able".

I have been plugging away at Best Laid Plans to have it finished in time for Saturday's discussion.  I'm nearly finished, and hope to get to the last page tonight after writing.  Then I will have one night to look over my background notes and think of discussion questions (not that there's ever been any need for me to keep the discussion going with pre-arranged questions, but I like to come prepared just in case).  This humourous Canadian novel is about a man who has worked in government for a few years and just wants to get out.  He manages to move away, but because of a promise and some very bad behaviour on the part of a popular politician, he ends up back in the fray with a most unlikely (and reluctant) successful MP in tow.  There is a love story, a moral and ethical member of parliament, and the young learning from and appreciating the wisdom of "mature" members of society.  It has all the bases covered, and should appeal to just about anyone.  I'm sure there will once again be lively discussion about this selection.

I wanted to mention something I came across while looking at a library catalogue.  This particular library was advertising a "Reading Potluck", which featured a "menu" that patrons could print out, complete and submit in order to be entered into a draw.  The menu consisted of an appetizer (short story or poem), soup (a heartwarming book that you enjoy reading and re-reading), salad (light fiction), entree (a book with meat), dessert (an indulgence) and wine (memoir, autobiography, biography or travel).  What a wonderful idea!  I want to arrange it like a menu and give it to my book club members to fill out - I'm sure it would be really interesting to share our titles with the other members.  I've been thinking about these categories and have only been able to come up with a title for some of them.  I think my soup would be The Winter of our Discontent and my entree would be We Need To Talk About Kevin.  For the wine, A Year in Provence.  I'll think about the others and get back to you.

And speaking of We Need To Talk About Kevin, I went to see the film version on the weekend.  Tilda Swinton was amazing!  She was perfectly cast as Eva, and the actor who played the older Kevin, Ezra Miller, was fabulous in a creepy, disturbing kind of way.  It was pretty good - of course the book was much better, deeper, more personal and engaging, but they did a fairly good job of capturing the essence of the book, Eva's feelings of parental ambivalence, disengagement and even resentment towards Kevin, and her subsequent guilt after Kevin is imprisoned.  She was so tortured - it was a difficult, heart-wrenching film to watch, and possibly even more difficult than reading the book because it was compressed; there were less of the "good times" presented in the film, and the suffering and "bad times" were so vivid and so very frequent.  Not a "feel-good" film, that's for sure.

And on another film note, I've watched a series called "Foyle's War" starring Michael Kitchen as Detective Chief Superintendent Foyle.  This series is set in the fictional British coastal town of Hastings during WWII, where the war is the backdrop for the various crimes that take place in the town.  While I was watching an episode last night, I realized that the screenplays for these episodes were written by Anthony Horowitz, whose name I am familiar with from working with Children's and Young Adult fiction - he is an author of novels, mainly for boys in those age groups.  I have watched all of the episodes at least once and have recommended the series to more than one person, and yet I'd never thought to check on what this series was based, or who wrote the screenplays.  I would highly recommend this extremely watchable series - there's crime, war, more than one lovestory, loss, history, and coastal scenery... what more could you ask for?!

I'd better go and finish my book now.  This was a bit of a "potluck" entry.  Actually, it was a bit like throwing together a lunch at the end of the week - a little bit of this and a little bit of that, whatever is left in the fridge before going out to get groceries.  Sometimes those are the best lunches of all...

Bye for now!

Thursday 22 March 2012

Another Thursday evening post...

I'm trying to make this my routine posting time, but I have to say that by Thursday evening after a week of work, I'm not generally feeling very inspired or enthusiastic.  If you notice a change in writing tone, length of posts, or any other variations, that's probably the reason.  I'd like to try doing this on Sundays, but weekend timeslots are unreliable, as plans are usually made, especially with the summer coming.  Alas, I'll have to try to be more inspired... or maybe I'll change my posting time to Monday evenings... hmmm...  that may be worth a try.

I finished reading Case Histories by Kate Atkinson, and it proved to be interesting and well-written right to the last page.  The three "case histories", and the characters involved in them, were interesting in and of themselves, but woven together through the entire novel, they made a tapestry of depth and beauty (it that textile imagery too much?  sorry!).  I don't think I will listen to the second book, but rather read it - I seem to recall that I tried to listen to One Good Turn some time ago but did not like the narrator.  It is the one book of the first three in this series with which I am least familiar.  I'll see if the library has a copy and try to get to it soon (I just put it on hold).

Since finishing the Atkinson book on Sunday, I've been mired in a book rut.  I didn't know what I wanted to read, it seemed too early to start my next book club book (but I did anyways), there wasn't enough time to start a serious reading project that I could reasonably expect to finish before I had to diligently read and finish my next book club selection, so it was just one of those kinds of weeks, unfocused and book-drab.  I started, but am not making a serious effort yet to get into,  Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis.  It's OK, but not really my type of book.  It reads too much like a non-fiction "memoir", which I never read, and I don't usually read humourous novels.  It is interesting enough that I will finish it in time for my book club meeting, but it's not one of those books that I just can't put down, so I haven't been reading it with much gusto this week.  The unusual heat, my continuing dental problems, along with a few other issues, made me a less-than-enthusiastic reader recently - I needed something I could really sink my teeth into (figuratively, of course!).

Now it's too late to read something else, as my book club is meeting in a week, so I have to stick to the Fallis book.  It was the One Book, One Community book choice in I believe 2010, and it won the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour.  The author released it as a podcast chapter by chapter, read by himself, then self-published it, so it has an interesting history.  I'm sure it'll be a good read, just not what I want to read right now.  That's what happens with book clubs sometimes, though - you have to read something at the time it is scheduled, not at the time you personally feel in the mood to read it.

On another note, I am planning to go to the Princess Cinema this weekend to see the film version of "We Need to Talk About Kevin", and I'm not sure how I will feel about it.  The book was perfectly written, I can't think of any way that it could have been improved, so I'm afraid to see it translated on the big screen in case it is missing some of the elements that make it such a fabulous story.  The book does not have much in the way of action, it consists mostly of episodes and reflection, and I quite liked imagining the scene, or episodes, in my own way and then envisioning Eva's and Franklin's responses to them as reflected through Eva's recollections alone.  I hope I'm not disappointed, but really there are excellent actors cast for the parts, although I can't really imaging Tilda Swinton as Eva, as good an actress as she may be.  She may surprise me, though, and I think John C Reilly will be perfect as Franklin.  I don't know anything about the actor who plays Kevin, but what an awfully difficult (and awful!) role to play.  I'm so excited, but also worried that I will be disappointed.  Still, I've been waiting for this film to be released for YEARS!!  I can't NOT go and see it.

On that note, I will close.

Bye for now!

Thursday 15 March 2012

Thursday evening post...

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have started a new job this week and so I will be experimenting with different posting times to find one that suits my schedule as well as my old time did.  And I suspect that this will be a short entry, as I'm tired from all the new things I've been learning.  But, unlike my prediction, I do in fact have a hot cup of steeped chai tea beside me as I write this on a Thursday evening... mmm, my first cup all week!!

After I finished Rankin's The Impossible Dead, I decided to read the next Elizabeth George mystery in the series, which I had on my shelf at home.  For the Sake of Elena tells the story of a Cambridge student who is murdered while running one foggy morning.  The case is complicated because the student was deaf, which added additional possible motives for her murder on top of those that existed because her father is a well-respected member of the staff at the school who is being strongly considered for a highly coveted promotion.  The mystery and the investigation were definitely up to the standard I as a reader have come to expect from George, and of course there was the inevitable romantic element of Tommy and Helen.  But I felt that this novel was really exploring the nature of the relationships people have, all sorts of relationships, from fathers and daughters to husbands and wives, and every type of relationship in between, and the expectations people have of others in these relationships, often differing greatly from one party to the other.  While this was not the best mystery I've ever read, it was certainly complex enough and had enough additional storylines to keep me reading diligently to the end.

Having said that, this novel was not what I wanted to read next.  I looked at the notebook where I write down all the books I've read (yes, a handwritten list in a coil notebook!!) and noted that, of the last maybe 10 books I read, 8 of them were British mysteries.  I wanted a variety once I finished that novel.  But since I am no longer working at the library, and so am not surrounded by an endless supply of books every day, I had to resort to checking out my own bookshelves.  I actually want to write a whole post about personal libraries as compared to public ones, but that's for another day when I feel more inspired.  (Don't worry, I still work in a book-related job, but it's in more of a buying capacity than a borrowing one).  I was unsure of what to read, but I've listened to Kate Atkinson's novels, at least 2 of her "Jackson Brodie" series, and really enjoyed them.  While they are also British mysteries, there is, in my opinion, a more personal aspect to these novels, where the reader feels that she is really getting to know the main characters' lives and personalities, and it is just incidental that mysteries happen to be part of the exploration into their lives.  Generally, the murders or mysteries took place many years ago, and Brodie is just trying to solve these "cold cases" to help those left behind to find peace and move beyond their tragedies.  I really enjoyed When Will There Be Good News? (that's an excellent title, don't you think?!), the third in the series.  It was the first of her books that I read, and actually I didn't read it, I listened to it.  Then I think I listened to Case Histories, the first in the series.  I don't think I listened to the second, One Good Deed, , but since these have all been made into a 6-part BBC series entitled  "Case Histories", I've at least watched it.  The reason I mention all this is that I have a copy of the fourth book, Started Early, Took My Dog, and was going to pick it up and read it, but decided that I should actually read Case Histories first in order to refresh my memory.  Conveniently, I also had a copy of that book on my shelf.  I'm reading it now and it's great!!  I don't think it should be shelved among the Mysteries in a library or a bookstore, because it's so much more than that, like a slice of life, a "human interest" story taken beyond the short paragraph in the newspaper and explored fully to resolution.  There are three "Case Histories" in which Jackson becomes involved in this novel, a young woman who was shot at work by a man in a yellow golfing sweater who came into the law office looking for her father a decade ago, a 3-year old who disappeared from a tent in her backyard where she was sleeping with her sister 34 years ago, and a woman who may or may not have used an axe to kill her husband as she struggled with post-partum depression 25 years earlier.  There is something haunting and sad, but ultimately "human" about Atkinson's novels that compel this reader to read at every available moment.  I'm not sure whether I will try to read them all in order before I read Started Early, Took My Dog, but now I think I'm hooked!!  (That's not necessarily a bad thing!)

Alright, it's getting late and I still haven't read at all tonight, so I better sign off.  Hopefully I'll get into a posting routine and will feel more inspired next time.

Bye for now!

Tuesday 6 March 2012

Tuesday morning post...

I've been having some technical difficulties this morning, so I'm a bit behind and am on my second cup of tea already, before I even start writing.  And it's Tuesday morning, not my usual time to write, so this maybe a bit different from my usual posts.  Speaking of different, I will be starting a new job next week, and will be working straight days.  This means that I will have to find another time to write, either an evening or maybe on Sundays.  I wonder whether that will affect the tone of my posts.  I certainly don't spend the time in the evenings savouring a steeped cup of chai tea, so that will certainly be different.

First I want to talk about my book group discussion from last Friday.  We were discussing Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, and I would say that the group members unanimously enjoyed it.  This novel tells the story of a cathedral being built in England in the 12th century, and the challenges faced by the characters involved in this project.  The Church and various political figures play prominent roles in the advancement or setbacks of this project.  During our discussion, we agreed that this very long novel had something for everyone:  historical details, artistic considerations, love stories, family dynamics, war, religion, and politics.  The characters were interesting, none being so purely "good" that they were unbelievable, but some characters being so purely "evil" that there was no redemption in the reader's eyes.  The plot was of course complex, and most of us had a challenge keeping the political details straight, but we generally got the gist in the end.  One criticism was that, while the historical details were clearly well-researched, sometimes the author would use a modern turn-of-phrase as part of a character's dialogue, which really stuck out as inappropriate.   And the ease and speed at which some of the (mainly female) characters transitioned from being young and naive to strong and influential was a bit unbelievable.  At the beginning of our meetings, we all usually sit down at the table and put our books and notes/notebooks in front of us.  That way, we can see the different copies everyone has, and we sometimes compare the various cover designs, or discuss whether our copy has drawings or pictures included, etc, as well as making our copies accessible for reference purposes.  Well, on Friday everyone was setting out their books and I set the three-disc miniseries in front of me, since I was heading to the video store after the meeting to return them.  I was willing to admit that I hadn't read the book, but after the discussion, I definitely wanted to read it for a variety of reasons, mainly because it sounded as though some of the characters and their relationships were portrayed very differently in the  film version than they appeared in the book.  Our next book selection in The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis.  

I finished The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin earlier this week, and it was very good.  It tells the story of a detective who is heading up the Complaints Department as he and his team investigate possible cover-ups and corruption in the Fife Police Department, an investigation that takes the team into territory spanning more than twenty years.  It was suspenseful, it had mystery and corruption, it involved players from different levels of police and government, and it also included a domestic element regarding the main character's father and sister.  It's been so long since I've read anything else by this author that I can't really compare it to his "Inspector Rebus" series, but I definitely would read others in this series as they are published.  This is the second in this series, so I have at least one other to read now, if I choose to do so.

Now I'm trying to decide what to read next.  I had requested The Chrysalids by John Wyndham from the library, and I started it, but I'm not really in the mood for this type of novel right now.  It's too early to start reading the next book club selection.  Maybe I'll see what I have on my personal bookshelf that will suit my mood (I'm not sure what my mood is, so that's a bit of a problem).  Oh well, I'll find something.  In the worst-case scenario, I can always reread something I've enjoyed in the past.  I was considering rereading We Need To Talk About Kevin since the film is playing at the Princess Cinema in a couple of weeks, but I think I need to see the film with "fresh eyes", or at least as untainted as possible since I've read the book numerous times already.  I think I'll go and check out my personal library this minute.

Bye for now!