Sunday, November 30, 2008

Ten Mile River by Paul Griffin

Two boys have been in and out of the foster care system and juvenile detention centres in New York City. Jose is 15 and Ray is 14. They are "friends to the ends," totally loyal to each other, and live with a pack of dogs in a shack on a wooded hillside. Break and enters, shoplifting, car theft - they do what they must to survive. Jose expects his life to be short, so he isn't afraid of taking risks. Ray has a tender heart and a strong moral compass; both qualities create conflict with Jose and the life they are leading. This gritty and moving novel is The Outsiders for the 21st century.

Ghostgirl by Tonya Hurley

This book has a very attractive design: it is a little taller and narrower than the average hardcover teen novel; the cover has the silhouette of a girl in Tim Burton-style art seen through a cutout in the shape of a coffin; the pages are of heavy, good quality paper, edged in silver; pink Art Nouveau florals adorn each page; each chapter begins with a quote by such luminaries as Oscar Wilde and Edgar Allan Poe... And now I've run out of good things to say.

From the back cover: "Charlotte Usher feels practically invisible at school, and then one day she really is. Even worse, she's dead. In this satirical yet heartfelt novel, Tonya Hurley explores the invisibility we all feel at times and the lengths we'll go to be seen."

The message may be a good one, but I found the story such a slog that after reading the first third of the book, I skipped to the final chapter. Teen readers who like school clique stories will probably be more patient.

Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon Hale, Dean Hale and Nathan Hale

Rapunzel in the wild west. When she escapes (without anyone's help) from her tower prison, her face appears on posters: Wanted! Dead or Alive! In her quest to free her real mother from slavery in the mines and to stop the wicked witch from doing any more harm, Rapunzel helps to right injustice wherever she encounters it. She's got twenty feet of braids to lasso the bad guys and whip their pistols right out of their hands. Yahoo buckaroo!

A full colour graphic novel for all ages.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Kitty Kitty by Michele Jaffe

Seventeen-year-old amateur sleuth Jasmine Callihan attracts trouble even when she's trying to be a Model Daughter. On the day before school was to start, her evil father, Dadzilla, announced they were moving to Venice for an indefinite period of time. Jas misses Jack, her rock star boyfriend and her friends in California but she has been banned from using the internet ever since her dad saw the bill for the time she spent fourteen hours hitting the GET MAIL button, praying for Jack's name to pop into her inbox. Jas's new friend from Italian class, Arabella, is fun - but paranoid. She thinks someone is trying to kill her.

When Arabella ends up dead, Jas doesn't believe that it is suicide. She immediately gets embroiled in something dastardly. Her trusty friends introduced in two earlier novels (Bad Kitty and Bad Kitty: Catnipped) fly in from the U.S. to help keep Jas from the same fate as Arabella.

Polly has couture superpower; the ability to outdress anyone. Roxy's superpower is to be able to build things, like a taser out of tweezers. Tom's superpower is to perfectly imitate anyone's voice. Jack's superpower is to disable people with his smile. Poor Jasmine! Her only superpower is that she is attractive to cats.

When Polly arrives, she is horrified to find Jas wearing white leather pants. It doesn't take her long to restyle them into a cute pant-jacket. "The waist of the pants was now the neck of the jacket, and one of the pockets went across the front with a button. Polly was just explaining the safety features of the ensemble - 'The button on the front can be used as a cutting device, the hem of the dress detaches for restraining your hair or bad guys, the pocket can be ripped off and has been reinforced with your Wonderbra underwires to function as a throwing star, the cuff has a two-way radio built in, and we added a Skittles-based tracking device to your boots' - when her phone rang."

Jasmine's first person voice is highly entertaining. At a solemn, conversation-stopper moment "we all got really silent and stared at our nails like we were trying to be best friends with them. Hello tiny pals! Look at you putting the CUTE in CUTICLE!" After a long stretch of little sleep, she declares, "my bed looked like a slice of linen meringue pie and I dove right into it."

Madcap thrills, a touch of danger, amusing sartorial commentary and general hilarity ensue. In the end, everything is "hunky with a side of dory."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Dance Hall Road by Marion Douglas

Quirky, eccentric, oddballs... these are the kind of people you will encounter in Dance Hall Road. It is set in small-town Ontario in 1969-1970.

Adrian, the central character, is a teenager assigned to a special education class. He isn't dumb, but his mind works differently from most. I enjoyed getting into his view of the world. Randy, his best friend, is in the same class. Randy has epilepsy and obsessive compulsive tendencies. (He lines up coloured gumdrops to make his favourite NHL team win, for example.) Cheryl is Adrian's girlfriend for part of a year, until a tragedy occurs.

The exact nature of the tragedy, how it happened, and the many satellite and parallel betrayals and ramifications are the substance of the book. Anyone who has felt misunderstood (is there anyone who hasn't?) will find someone with whom to identify. The themes include bullying, the desire to escape the scrutiny of a fishbowl existence, family dysfunction, love and desire, vengefulness and the human capability for self-delusion. The language is so evocative that I kept stopping to mark passages. Calgary author Douglas has expert control of multiple storylines, interweaving them in a leisurely pace to a hopeful conclusion.

This adult novel will appeal to older teens who enjoy literary coming-of-age stories. Martha Brooks, John Green, Marian Toews and Camilla Gibb have similarities in their work.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Compound by S.A. Bodeen

The premise of this book is fantastic. An ultra-rich man builds a luxurious underground bunker to save his family in the event of nuclear war. When Eli is 9, he and his parents and two sisters enter the bunker in a state of panic. Eli's twin brother, Eddy, is locked out, along with their grandmother. The door will not re-open for 15 years.

The story is set 6 years after they entered the compound. There are a great many plot holes, but I did keep turning the pages to find out what would happen. It soon becomes clear that the father is a psychopath of the mad scientist sort, an evil genius. In fact, this book reminded me very much of Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks. (But I liked that one better.)

Things that made me go hmmm: Why would there be two giant ovens in the kitchen? Perhaps only to bring Hansel & Gretel to mind - and to remind us that a psychopath is in charge. Grain seems to be the only food supply for the cows; this isn't a diet they can survive on for long, certainly not for 15 years. How can it be that Eli has not set foot in his father's office in 6 years? And then when he does, the reason is for help with algebra? He hasn't needed any help before now? Pitiful plot device. And how many people are they planning to fit into a helicopter? I won't go on.

Readers who enjoy James Bond-style outlandishness combined with spying (well, snooping) and some psychological suspense will probably forgive the details that don't add up.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Madapple by Christina Meldrum

Brilliant student Maren is 15 when she leaves Denmark in 1987 to study botany in New England. Maren's older sister is divorced with a young child. At Maren's request, she joins her sister in the U.S. It turns out that both sisters are pregnant. Maren seems to believe that she has conceived immaculately. Fast forward to 2003.

Aslaug describes her very unusual, secluded life with her crazy mother, Maren. Aslaug's education has been more than thorough; she reads Danish, English, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, Sanskrit, Coptic, the runic alphabet and a bit of the Celtic languages. Whew! Aslaug is 15 when her mother dies of cancer. She learns something new - she has an aunt Sara and two cousins - and ends up living with them in the pentecostal church where Sara is pastor.

Something goes tragically wrong, but what exactly happened is a mystery. Chapters with Aslaug's first person narration alternate with courtroom transcripts from 2007. The leisurely pace of the first, with Aslaug describing nature, myth and science as she rambles through her version of events, contrasts strongly with the clipped pace of nothing-but-the-facts transcripts and their building sense of dread and suspense.

An unusual and satisfying book.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd

In 1981, at the height of the Troubles, 18-year-old Fergus McCann lives in Northern Ireland, just across the border from the Republic. Fergus and his uncle Tally find a child's body buried in peat; her origins are mysterious. IRA bombings are so common they are barely news anymore. Fergus's older brother, Joe, is in prison for terrorist activity. There is a hunger strike protest in the prison and prisoners are dying. Amid all this bleakness shines the triumph of human spirit. First love. Courage. Hope.

Siobhan Dowd was an Irish author of immense talent. She died of breast cancer last year. All three of her novels, A Swift, Pure Cry, The London Eye Mystery, and Bog Child are luminous.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Frost by Nicole Luiken

I was immediately drawn into this story. Kathy has her arms around Johnny as they speed through cold air on a snowmobile. But who is speaking inside Johnny's head? "You know what you have to do." What does Johnny have to do?

The setting is Iqaluit. Something is wrong with Johnny, a star hockey player and one of the most popular guys in school. He is behaving so strangely. His friends and his brother try to understand and help. But what can they do against Frost, a supernatural power older than humankind?

Wow! I'm so glad that some teenager suggested this title as one of the 10 to be chosen for next year's Teen Survivor Online Summer Reading Club. A colleague and I were sifting through the 130 or so titles that were nominated and neither of us was familiar with this one. I think it will make a fine contender. I'm also pleased to have an Edmonton author on the list.

There was a line from Johnny's Inuit ex-girlfriend that jolted me. Cheryl was telling him about a bird she'd seen that "made her think of her dead baby sister, and how in the old tales dead souls lived for a time in animal bodies before being reborn human." I was just reading Helen Frost's Diamond Willow yesterday, and in that book a baby sister (and other people) have animal form. I love these sorts of connections between books.

In Odd We Trust by Dean Koontz and Queenie Chan

This kind of manga is much more to my taste than One Piece; it is complete in a single volume and the artwork is easy to decode. An additional bonus is the complexity of plot and characterization. (To be fair, maybe I would have got these from One Piece too, if I had started with volume 1 and then stuck with the series, instead of starting at vol. 19. But I doubt it.)

In Odd We Trust is my first-ever Dean Koontz. Why have I stayed away so long? Mostly because the horror genre is even less appealing to me than romance. What a nice surprise to discover Odd Thomas. He's a fry cook with a strong moral compass and a kind soul. He's also the only one in town who sees dead people. Koontz has written four other novels about him but this is the first in graphic novel format. It was created in collaboration with mangaka Queenie Chan from Australia.

A seven-year-old boy is murdered and his killer appears to have other child targets... or is it the nanny who is a risk? Odd Thomas tracks the culprit with help from the spirits and his feisty girlfriend, Stormy -- and the police, of course.

There is very little blood (in b&w) or violence depicted and the bad guy gets his comeuppance. Edmonton Public Library has catalogued this in adult fiction (with the rest of Dean Koontz) but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to readers in Grade 7 and up who are looking for suspense.

Extra material at the back includes a sample chapter from Odd Thomas. Here is an example of his lyrical language: "Like a pair of looms, using sunshine and their own silhouettes, two enormous California live oaks wove veils of gold and purple, which they flung across the doorway." Writing like that sucks me right in. I plan to read the rest of Odd Thomas and I hope that it won't be too scary.

One Piece by Eiichiro Oda. Volume 19: Rebellion

It isn't often that I'm caught without a book to read, but that's what happened when I bailed on The Luxe. So, for the bus ride home from work, I read a manga. I've been curious about One Piece for quite a while, since it is so popular. I learned that it is not a good idea to start on volume 19.

The format appears to be about 10 chapters in each volume, so I was starting with chapter 167. As you can imagine, I missed a whole heap of backstory. The larger story is that of Luffy and his dream to locate the One Piece treasure and become the Pirate King. I studied the characters introduced at the start of volume 19, but it still took me a couple of chapters before I began sorting out who was who.

It's shonen, which is action/adventure manga. I had so much trouble figuring out what was happening in the action scenes that I gave up trying to decipher those images and relied on the word balloons and non-action panels to get the gist of what was going on. Some of the sound effects in the background seemed out of place to my western mind. I associate WOOOO with spooky scenes and AHHH with happiness or satisfaction, not fight scenes. I realize that this is a culture difference, like dogs barking ruff ruff in English and ouah ouah in French.

In between chapters, the author has little chats with the reader. At first, I dismissed these as annoying interruptions. Then I found them really funny. The explanation of the three kinds of transponder snails on page 146, for example.

So anyway, in volume 19, Luffy and his band of pirates get into a scrape and get out of it but their getaway is obviously temporary, with Sir Crocodile hot on their trail and the kingdom of Alabasta embroiled in civil war. I discovered that the next volume is not due out until February 2009. I would pick up One Piece again... but probably only if I'm stuck with nothing else to read.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Diamond Willow by Helen Frost

Nancy Pearl says there are four doorways into books; story, character, setting and language. It is the last of these that beckoned me into Diamond Willow.

Helen Frost sets the bar high for verse novelists. Two of the author's earlier books, Keesha's House and The Braid would be included on my list of the very best verse novels published... if I was to compile such a list.

The pages of Diamond Willow are visually stunning, with each poem shaped like the markings that give diamond willow its name. And like the scar where a limb falls, causing the pattern on diamond willow to form, there is a hidden message in each poem in bold font.

It's the story of a 12-year-old girl and her beloved sled dog, set in Alaska. Interspersed with the diamond-shaped poems, there are short prose pieces in the voices of various ancestors - ancestors now living in animal or bird form.

I found it a touch too sweet, but it may just be that I'm not in the mood for that today. The gentle cover illustration - a girl and a dog looking at each other - should draw in young readers who like this kind of story.

The Luxe by Anna Godbersen

This book is 433 pages long and I'm about 100 pages in and I'm not going any further. It's a soap opera set amid high society teens in 1899 New York.

Penelope and Elizabeth are best friends because Penelope considers Elizabeth her greatest rival and must keep her close. Penelope plans to marry rich bad boy Henry because she wants "everyone to look at us and just dry up with envy that two people so superior in every respect have found each other." This sort of shallowness is a big tip-off for me; not my kind of book. And the other characters aren't much more interesting. Penelope has a male friend, Isaac, who is good at putting on a party. "He always knew where to get the freshest flowers" and "He knew how to shriek at the cooks so that the meats would come out just done enough." Allow me to roll my eyes here. Can professional cooks not do their work without teenaged supervision?

Elizabeth is in love with a stable boy, Will. (Will's eyes are a "bright, wounded blue" - what colour exactly? wounded blue?) Anyway, Elizabeth's maid, Lina, is also in love with Will. Speaking of shallow, Lina aspires to a time when her life will not be so simple and plain, a time when she will have the elaborate clothing and fine manners of her mistress.

But Elizabeth's family has lost their fortune and so she must obey orders to marry Henry, a match Henry's father has arranged to settle his son and keep him out of scandal. So Elizabeth fakes her death in order to wriggle out of her role in society. I'm not even curious enough about the outcome to skip to the end of this book. I'll just drop it in the library return bin.

Restless Spirit: The Life and Work of Dorothea Lange by Elizabeth Partridge

I picked up Restless Spirit for two reasons. In Nashville recently, Lange's work was part of a photography exhibit at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts and I was reminded of how much I like her work. I am also always looking for non-fiction titles that are specifically of interest to teens, and I thought this might fit. After reading the book, I'd say Grade 5-8 students are the main audience, so it is best shelved where it is, in the children's section, not in the teen area.

The book has wonderful quotes from Lange. My favourite: "I realize more and more what it takes to be a really good photographer. You go in over your head, not just up to your neck."

The story behind her most famous photo, Migrant Mother, was interesting. No mention was made, however, of the different editions of this photo. The one in the book has the edited thumb in the lower right corner. (I knew to look for this after comparing 2 versions at the Frist.)

I was a little surprised that no mention was made of her trip to County Clare, Ireland. The book with those photos was published in 1996 and I believe it sold very well. Restless Spirit was published in 1998. There was a fascinating documentary made when her son, Dan, who had accompanied Lange on her Irish trip in 1954, returned to Co. Clare in 2005, looking for the subjects in his mother's photos.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

GLBT list for high school

A teacher librarian asked me for suggestions of books with gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender content suitable for Grades 10 - 12. I’ve indicated Canadian authors with an asterisk.

Martha Brooks* - Mistik Lake
Peter Cameron – Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You
Stephen Chbosky - The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Kristyn Dunnion* - Mosh Pit
M. Sindy Felin – Touching Snow
Brian Francis* – Fruit
Helen Frost – Keesha’s House
Alma Fullerton* – In the Garage
Brent Hartinger – Geography Club; also the sequel: Order of the Poison Oak (Geography Club is about students setting up a gay/straight alliance club)
Susan Juby* - Another Kind of Cowboy
David Levithan – Boy Meets Boy
Perry Moore – Hero
Julie Anne Peters – Far From Xanadu (anything by Julie Anne Peters is popular)
P.E. Ryan – Saints of Augustine
Alex Sanchez – anything by this author is popular, but best is the series: Rainbow Boys; Rainbow High; Rainbow Road
Shyam Selvadurai* - Swimming in the Monsoon Sea

Two titles that specifically focus on transgender teen experience:
Julie Anne Peters – Luna (transgirl)
Ellen Wittlinger – Parrotfish (transboy)

These are in the Orca Soundings Hi/Lo series for reluctant readers:
Carrie Mac* - Crush
Robin Stevenson* - Big Guy

Excellent graphic novels with gay/lesbian content:
Abby Denson – Tough Love: High School Confidential
Debbie Drechsler – Summer of Love
Mariko Tamaki* - Skim

All of the above titles are included in Edmonton Public Library booklists available online here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Diamond of Drury Lane by Julia Golding

Catherine (Cat) Royal was left as a baby on the steps of the Royal Theatre in London and that is how she came to be raised in the theatre. In the winter of 1790, Cat becomes embroiled in a mystery; there is a diamond hidden in the theatre. Lots of rapscallion adventures in this book; I would suggest it to readers who enjoyed Pullman's The Ruby in the Smoke.

Not Quite a Canon: Thirteen Canadian Teen Novels

My friend Claire, in Auckland, asked for my personal canon of teen novels. I decided to send a selection of Canadian teen novels that cover the spectrum of what's out there. It was hard to pare this list down, but one criteria was that that the title be available at the Auckland City Libraries.

Martha Brooks. Mistik Lake OR The True Confessions of a Heartless Girl (literary, contemporary fiction)

Chester Brown. Louis Riel. (history of Canada’s Metis people in comic strip format; Louis Riel is Canada's best-known folk hero; valuable alternative historical perspective) NOTE: I couldn’t find any Canadian Aboriginal authors listed in the Auckland City Libraries, so this is as close as I could get.

Christopher Paul Curtis. Elijah of Buxton (historical fiction told in dialect)

Charles De Lint. The Blue Girl (urban fantasy)

Deborah Ellis. Parvana OR I Am a Taxi (or read them both; they’re worth it – hardships of contemporary young people in other parts of the world)

Susan Juby. Alice, I Think (hilarious diary format)

Graham McNamee. Acceleration (suspense thriller of the sort boys like)

Lucy Maud Montgomery. Anne of Green Gables (a classic, of course)

Kenneth Oppel. Silverwing (animal fantasy) OR Airborn (steampunk fantasy)

Joanne Proulx. Anthem of a Reluctant Prophet (supernatural elements in an otherwise gritty novel; also a good example of a novel aimed at the older end of teen readership)

Shyam Selvadurai. Swimming in the Monsoon Sea (multiculturalism is a hallmark of Canadian lit; this one is set in Sri Lanka)

Sean Stewart. Cathy’s Book (I recommend this as a read-alike for Stephenie Meyer because it has romance and the supernatural in a contemporary setting. The hardcover edition in Canada had a whole bunch of loose paper elements that were integral to solving the mystery, in addition to an internet site, but the paperback version was less tactile, with the extras bound in. Also, the initial edition had product placement – a recent trend – that was dropped in the paperback editon.)

Mariko Tamaki. Skim (graphic novel format coming-of-age)

Life Sucks by Jessica Abel, Gabe Soria and Warren Pleece

It sucks to be a young vegetarian vampire, working the graveyard shift at a convenience store in Los Angeles. But when Dave falls for Latina goth girl Rosa, life gets more interesting. Too bad for Dave that a rich surfer hunk of a vampire is also interested in Rosa. Twilight fans will like this book, especially those in Jacob's camp.

A graphic novel in luscious full colour with an entertaining cast of characters.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Shimmerdogs by Dianne Linden

When I heard that a local author's work had been shortlisted for a Governor General award, I immediately requested a library copy. It wasn't until I'd finished reading Shimmerdogs yesterday that I realized that I'd heard the author, Dianne Linden, speak eloquently at Raffaella Montemurro's funeral mass in October.

Shimmerdogs is about two children who move in with their uncle in Edmonton while their mother, a single parent, is on a peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. It is told in Mike's voice - he's around 7 years old. Mike is an unusual and endearing young fellow with theological concerns. His mental functioning is not the same as most other kids. His dog talks to him, for example.

A similar read might be Guus Kuijer's The Book of Everything, another book for children that has sufficient depth to draw adult readers.

It was serendipitous that the very next book that I picked up after Shimmerdogs was Jonah Winter's The Secret World of Hildegard, which is about another child with the power to see and hear things that other people cannot. Winter's picture book focuses on Saint Hildegard von Bingen's mystic visions.

I really liked the opening scene in Shimmerdogs, where Mike drowns and then comes back to life (with the help of a spirit dog). It is another point of serendipity that a very similar thing (without the spirit dog) happens at the beginning of Lu Vickers' Breathing Underwater, a book I read about a month ago.

Breathing Underwater is a lesbian teen coming-of-age story set in Florida in the 70s. Don't let the ugly cover put you off; it is a powerful and lyrical novel.

The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber

Correspondence from February 2004:

My stack of books to read grew while I was immersed in The Crimson Petal and the White. I LOVED that book. Sugar is a character I’ll remember always. And it has a really good ending too--with lots of room for possibilities. At the same time as I was reading Crimson Petal, I was taking The Professor and the Mad Man by Simon Winchester back and forth to work, Faber’s book being too heavy to lug around. Dictionaries have been my friends for years, so I enjoyed learning more about them. I was just a little disappointed that it wasn’t better, somehow, because I remember all the hype when it first came out. I felt the author over-sensationalized in some parts, if that is a word. (I’m not looking it up! My dictionary needs to rest after all the use it got while I read the damn book!)

The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier

Correspondence from February 2004:

I’ve read another book that I wouldn’t recommend: The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier (author of The Girl with the Pearl Earring). I liked it better than The Red Tent and it did make me want to go back to the Museum of the Middle Ages in Paris to see the series of unicorn tapestries there again. Some parts of the book were good. I liked reading about places I recognized in Paris. I learned a lot about the making of tapestries and feel I’ll have a deeper appreciation of them next time I see some. I also enjoyed the shifting points of view -- there are about 7 different narrators.

It needed a better editor, unfortunately. Some sentences don’t make sense, like “I would like my hands to be soft as the rose petals these Ladies in the tapestries must soak theirs in.” Also, Nicolas tells us “I bowed so low my head throbbed. It never hurt to bow low.” Well, which is it? Throbbing or not hurting? I understand what the author means to say about subservience being useful to a poor artist, but I think it is an unfortunate combination of sentences.

There’s a line “Birds finding their mates indeed” which has absolutely no relation to anything said previously, although later in the betrothal feast (of Claude to a young nobleman), pairs of large birds are served for the meal. Either something was cut out or paragraphs were shifted without taking this reference to mating birds into account.

Some characters behave inexplicably. The 14-year-old love interest, Claude, is sucking on a clove because she has a toothache, yet she laughs and skips and teases Nicolas, the painter commissioned to design the tapestries. (Why not have Claude sucking on a clove later in the story, when she stays home sick and the rest of her family goes out? The author could still show off her knowledge of medieval remedies and the toothache would play a believable part in the plot.) Claude also refers to her mother as “my mistress” the first time we meet her, when neither the reader nor Nicolas know that she is a daughter of the house. Every other time, she calls her mother “maman”, yet there is no other indication that Claude purposely misled Nicolas into thinking she is a servant.

I’m guessing you aren’t going to read The Lady and the Unicorn, but if you do, don’t read this last paragraph coming up.

Most inexplicable is why the lady-in-waiting, Beatrice, would marry Nicolas. The reader is given to understand that Claude’s mother and Beatrice together conspire to this wedding arrangement in order to punish both Nicolas and Claude for their previous indiscretion. Beatrice has shown no interest in Nicolas, neither has he to her, and she knows he is a womanizer who cares not a fig for the bastard babies he fathers. And that is how the story ends.

Emma Donoghue

Just to get things going on my blog, I've decided to paste in some old correspondence. The following is from January 2004:

My lesbian book group is discussing Emma Donoghue’s Hood tomorrow night, so I’ve reread it. It was as good or better than my first reading of it. I like it best of all her books. Kissing the Witch is my second-favourite. Sara Nelson mentions Slammerkin in her memoir, So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading. Nelson LOVED Slammerkin, which she describes as being all about fashion in 18th century England - maybe that’s why I found this novel tedious. It was a slog for me to finish the book, and I only persevered because I had enjoyed 3 other books by her. Nelson compares it to the similar storyline of Alias Grace, which she found to be “didactic and moralistic.” I disagree totally, vastly preferring Atwood’s story over Slammerkin. Anyway, Nelson wrote that Slammerkin was Donoghue’s first novel, which irritated me to no end. Stir-Fry and Hood were both published in the USA, so that’s no excuse for her ignorance. Still, I enjoyed Nelson’s memoir and could relate to many of her confidences about the experience of reading, even though I didn’t necessarily agree with her tastes.

Update November 2008:
Our book group discussed Slammerkin earlier this year. Find more about the group at

Why a blog about books I've read?

Since 1993, I've been keeping a paper journal of the books I've read. I decided to try doing this electronically instead, just to see if I prefer it. Not only will I have space here to jot down my thoughts, but other readers can also comment. So, I'll see how it goes.