Monday, 25 March 2013

Art and books on a sunny Monday morning...

I was at an opening at the UpTown Gallery in Waterloo yesterday where Kerry Ross (http://klrartist.ca/gallery/) was exhibiting some of her recent paintings.  I had purchased a painting from her and was picking it up there, "Portrait in an Orange Bow Tie", which has found a home on one of my walls.  It's fabulous!  It looks like it could be a portrait of an eccentric writer of the 1930s, and it is the perfect piece for my back room.  I'm so pleased with this purchase, and for the chance to support a local artist, who is also a friend.

I started three novels this past week that I will tell you about.  The first is a Canadian novel published in October 2012 by Ian Colford entitled The Crimes of Hector Tomas.  This novel tells the story of a family in an unnamed South American town in the 20th century (I believe it spans from the 1940s to the 1970s) which seems, at first, to be loving and happy.  Enrique, the father, however, has secrets, and when one of his sons, Hector, discovers one of these secrets, he is exiled by his family to live with distant relatives in the countryside.  Accused of terrorism, a crime of which he is innocent, Hector tries desperately to extricate himself from the violence perpetrated by a brutal political regime, and learns that freedom can only come at a terrible price.  Colford, a Halifax author, writes in the traditionally formal style of other South American authors, and does it very well, in this reader’s opinion.  I only got about a quarter of the way through it, though, and felt it was taking too long to read and so I moved on to something else, with the intention and anticipation of returning to finish it at a later date.  I just finished  reading a couple of reviews of this book, however, and they  were not overly favourable, so I may rethink it and just skim the rest of the book to get the gist of the story.  I think it would have a great appeal for male readers, as it involves political unrest, military action, rebellion, and ruthless government tactics to retain power.


The next book I started, and plan to read to the end, is Grave Concern by Judith Millar, another Canadian novel that was published in July 2012 and so fits the requirements for our committee’s consideration (I originally thought September 2012 was the cut-off date, but I’ve since learned it is July).  Kate Smithers, the main character of this novel, returns to her hometown of Pine Rapids, Ontario after her elderly parents are killed in a car accident.  She opens a grave-tending business and, trying to fit back into the town she left so many years before, she meets a host of quirky and puzzling characters that have secrets, some of which concern Kate herself.  It is part love story, part mystery, part reminiscence, and part comedy - as a whole, it is proving to be a cozy, fun read for me, which I will definitely recommend to my committee for inclusion in our considerations for nominees for next year’s award.  I am about half-way through this novel, and hope to finish it in a couple of days.

I was at the library on Saturday and there were a number of copies of Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James on the “New Books” shelf.  I checked out a copy, thinking I would read a few pages just to see what all the fuss is about.  Well, I read about 35 pages and found that it was not as badly written as I was lead to believe.  And I had heard it described as “mommy-porn”, so I expected the main character to be, well, a “mommy”, maybe a bored mother and housewife in her mid-thirties or early forties who meets a dashing, enigmatic older man and becomes entangled in a questionable sexual liaison in which whips, chains and bondage are not uncommon.  Was I ever surprised, and definitely disappointed, to find that the main character, Anastasia, is a college student and the man in question, Christian Grey, is not yet 30!  I can’t decide if I should keep reading or not.  So far, there have not been any sexual encounters, although I flipped ahead to read one such scene and only found the description of Grey’s “playroom”.  I think I should probably just bring it back to the library unread.  Having said that, I don’t think it is any more badly written than any other romance novel I’ve read or seen.  I wonder if it’s the content and storyline that make this one so radically different, which is the only reason I feel I should continue reading, so I can get a real sense of the content.  But really, I’m sure I have other things to read that are more, hmmm, suitable to my reading tastes than Fifty Shades.

And I’ve started a couple of new audio books, having finished Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith, which was excellent and offered a surprise ending that did not disappoint.  The first was Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie .  This mystery novel by Canadian author Alan Bradley features Flavia de Luce, an 11-year-old amateur sleuth who pulls herself away from her beloved chemistry lab in order to clear her father in a murder investigation.  I tried to read this novel a couple of years ago, but it did not grab me, probably because I do not generally enjoy novels told from the point of view of children.  I then remembered that, while I did not enjoy reading Room by Emma Donoghue, a novel told from the point of view of a four-year-old boy about his life in “Room” with his mother, both being kept prisoners by their captor, Old Nick, I was totally drawn into the audio book, which brought the book to life for me - it was as if it was being narrated by a four-year-old boy.  I also enjoyed reading The Town That Drowned by Riel Nason, a novel that describes the fate of an unnamed East-coast town slated to be flooded which was told from the point of view of a 13-year-old girl.  So I thought I would give this a try.  Alas, I did not get caught up in the story.  I personally find the main character, Flavia, to be annoying, and the voice of the narrator heaps irritation on top of this annoyance.  Too bad, because these books, I think there are now five in the series, are wildly popular.  Luckily for me, I had other downloaded books to choose from, and began listening to The Crime of Julian Wells by Thomas H Cook.  This literary mystery begins with the suicide of Wells, author of non-fiction books about serial killers around the world and throughout history, and follows sister Loretta and best friend Philip as they try to determine why he would decide to take his own life.  I’m not far enough into it yet to comment, although I have to say, I’m finding the voice of the narrator to be rather boring and without inflection (the narrator of the trilogy by Tom Rob Smith is excellent - he completely captures the essence of the story, and reads the novels as I expect the author would want them to be read).  Having said that, I’m enjoying the story, so I will stick with it to the end.

Bye for now!
Julie


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