Saturday, September 29, 2012

Book spree in Paris

I had $150 in library dollars to spend on teen novels in France. We can get québécois French books pretty easily in Alberta, as well as novels translated into French, but not so many French from France. I had fun choosing 12 books... And now my suitcase is very heavy! I'll be flying home to Edmonton tomorrow, so I expect to resume regular review posts soon.

NOTE added Oct 9 2012: For those of you wondering where the best bookstores are for buying YA in Paris, I found knowledgeable staff and a great selection at L'Oeil Ecoute (77 Bd Montparnasse) as well as a decent selection at L'Arbre du Voyageur (55 rue Mouffetard).

Bookstalls along the Seine

Outdoor book browsing on a sunny autumn day...

Friday, September 28, 2012

La dame au balcon by Henri Ottman

Rouen, the city where Joan of Arc was burned at stake, has a delightful fine arts museum. That's where I found this impressionist painting by Henri Ottman (1877-1927).

La dame en rose, 1908 by Raoul Dufy

Raoul Dufy (1877-1953) is one of my favourite artists. His model in this painting looks like she needs a book in her hands. Something lighthearted might be nice.

La liseuse, 1920 by Pablo Picasso

Picasso (1881-1973) has painted women doing many different things, including pissing. This one, in comparison, is very sedate. It's at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

Helene, lisant by Henri Rouart

The full title of this painting is 'Helene, fille de l'artiste, lisant, rue Lisbonne.' Henri Rouart (1833-1912). Rouart's daughter was often his model. Reading would be an excellent way to pass the time while sitting for a portrait. Painting is from a private collection, currently on exhibit at the Musee Marmottan Monet in Paris.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Books in Slovakia

Good Books bookstore
Game of Life is the title of
The Hunger Games in
Can you spot Snowdrops in this stack
Bojnice Castle
I was not surprised to find a Slovak translation of The Hunger Games prominently displayed in a bookstore in Bratislava. It was fun to see another book that I recognized - AD Miller Snowdrops - which is next up on my audio TBR list. I will be listening to that while on a train travelling between Zurich and Geneva tomorrow. Here are some images from Slovakia.
Bratislava Castle
Houses in Cicmany are painted in
beautiful designs

Monday, September 3, 2012

What I'll Be Reading While Travelling for a Month

I know that someone will be
missing me while I'm away...
This might be my last post for a month, since I'm flying to Europe today and won't be back until October. Depending on internet access, I may email a few posts enroute, but I'm not sure about that. This is what I've got lined up on my iPod Touch to read while I'm away:

eBOOKS (Borrowed from all three of the Edmonton Public Library's eBook databases: Overdrive, Freading and EBSCO eBooks.)

You might think an iPod screen is too small for reading books, and I used to think the same thing... until I tried it. The only way I could get We the Animals quickly was in eBook format and I flew through it. I've been a convert since, although I prefer paper whenever possible. There's no way that I would or could pack all of these in paper for a trip, however. My suitcase is small enough to carry on the plane.

A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif (Hanif will be at the Vancouver Writers Fest in October)
Princes, Frogs & Ugly Sisters: The Healing Power of the Grimm Brothers’ Tales by Dr. Allan Hunter (The enduring appeal of folktales fascinates me.)
Scars by Cheryl Rainfield (A gritty autobiographical novel by a Canadian lesbian.)
Tommy Boys, Lesbian Men and Ancestral Wives by Ruth Morgan (The title was enough to hook me.)
Frommer’s Switzerland
Memorable Walks in Paris
Paris Eyewitness Guide


Audiobooks are perfect for travel. On a bus or train, I'm prone to motion sickness when reading a printed book, plus, with audio, I get to see what's going on around me while listening. On a plane, I close my eyes and via headphones I'm immersed in the narrative and I forget to think about claustrophobia and time passes quickly. The following are all borrowed from the library; some are eAudio from Overdrive or One Click, others are from CDs transferred to my iPod.

The Assassin’s Song by MG Vassanji (I'm partway into this one and it's reminding me of Salman Rushdie's style. So far, it goes back and forth between mythological time and Gujarat around the time of India's struggle for independence. Vassanji will be at the Vancouver Writers Fest. 
For the Win by Cory Doctorow (Doctorow is intellectually stimulating. I've enjoyed his previous books and I love his Boing Boing site and I'm excited that I'll hear him in Vancouver in October at a session where he'll be in conversation with William Gibson.)
The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz (Gavin of The Readers podcast praised this new Sherlock Holmes tale. Also, I know that Horowitz can write a pageturner, based on his Alex Rider teen series.)
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (Not sure about this one. The publisher's blurb compares it to Anne Rice and the Twilight series and I've read one of each of those and that was enough for me. Also, Danielle Trussoni, author of Angelology, has a blurb on the back of the audiobook. Oh dear. I'll see how far I get.)
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (A review in Booklist sums up why I'm interested -- Writing in a combustible mix of slang and lyricism, Díaz loops back and forth in time and place, generating sly and lascivious humor in counterpoint to tyranny and sorrow.  Plus, Diaz is another who will be at the Vancouver Writer's Fest.)
Collected Stories by Lydia Davis (Someone -- maybe Michael of Books on the Nightstand? -- recommended Davis. I love short stories.)
The Code of the Woosters by PG Wodehouse (Humour is always welcome and I've been meaning to read Wodehouse for a long time. Jonathan Cecil's narration has been recommended as the best choice.)
Snowdrops by AD Miller (Character-based novel set in contemporary Russia)
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (I think Nancy Pearl championed this one?)
Drift by Rachel Maddow (I've only heard Maddow a few times on television when I've been travelling in the States, but her quick intelligence impressed me enough to pick up this book, even though "The Unmooring of American Military Power" isn't normally a topic I'd choose.)
Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff (A true story of adventure and survival following an American plane crash in Dutch New Guinea in 1945.)
Slovak for You (The audio portion of my textbook. I've also got Mango Languages app with Slovak loaded on my iPod. I've gone all the way through the lessons, but I like reviewing.)

These next audiobooks are all downloaded free through the 'SYNC YA literature into your earphones' summer program:
The Last Apprentice by Joseph Delaney (I'm curious about this fantasy series that has been very popular with elementary school boys. It's about a boy learning how to get rid of boggarts, witches and ghosts.)
Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake (Ghost hunting again, this time in Thunder Bay, Ontario - it was Liz's review at A Chair, a Fireplace and a Tea Cozy that caught my eye)
The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud (I fell in love with the djinn Bartimaeus from my first reading in 2004, when I was working at a B&B in the south of France. Most recently, I reviewed Stroud's Ring of Solomon.) 
Guys Read: Funny Business by various authors (Jon Scieszka, Adam Rex, Jeff Kinney, Christopher Paul Curtis, Jack Gantos and more; what a great line-up!)
Irises by Francisco Stork (I'm looking forward to another by the same author who wrote the fantastic Marcello in the Real World)
The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County by Mark Twain (Can't go wrong with Mark Twain)
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (I've known the opening passage for years, so it's about time that I encounter the rest of the words...)
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (I first read this in high school and loved it so much that I went on to read everything else by Steinbeck.)
Tales from the Arabian Nights by Andrew Lang (I've been enthralled by these since childhood)
Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (I don't know, this one is mostly as a back-up, but maybe I'll get drawn in. I'm afraid it might be like Jane Eyre, which I hated.)
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (I have high hopes for this one, which I've been meaning to read for decades. I might save it for the plane ride home, as a treat.)

PODCASTS - I've got a few of each:
Books on the Nightstand
The Readers
CBC’s Writers and Company (with Eleanor Wachtel)
The Guardian Books Podcast
CBC’s Definitely Not the Opera
CBC Ideas

And I do have actual PAPER books, of course!

What Becomes by AL Kennedy (Complex, layered short stories written by a master of language. I'm very excited about hearing her at the Vancouver Writers Fest.)
Beechcombings: The Narratives of Trees by Richard Mabey (A gift to me last year, but I didn't get far into this trove of information about beech trees, even though I immediately loved Mabey's style, because I set it aside to finish library books that had to be returned. The Sunday Times: "Bursting out is a leaf-storm of philosophical musings, journeys of mind and body, reflections and anecdotes that imprint the tree on human culture." I'm really looking forward to getting back to it.)
Slovencina pre vas (Slovak for You) textbook + a Slovak/English dictionary

See you in October!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

One in Every Crowd by Ivan E. Coyote

Ivan E. Coyote's autobiographical stories are especially chosen for a teen audience in the collection One in Every Crowd. I was pleased to encounter many of my favourites from previous collections. In the same way that I like listening to some songs over and over, it's nice to read a good story more than once. I don't usually allow myself this pleasure, since I don't often reread books. (Mostly because there are too many new books to get to.)

"No Bikini" -- about not being trusted with a two-piece bathing suit as a child -- is in here. So is "The Red Sock Circle Dance" -- about a friend's child who started crossdressing when he was still a toddler. There are also three more stories about this boy, Francis, and it's nice to see him get older through Coyote's eyes. In "Imagine a Pair of Boots," Coyote talks about gender pronouns, saying she doesn't have a preference because neither one fits her: "she pinches a little and he slips off me too easily."

Coyote writes about her childhood in Whitehorse, Yukon, and about her current home in Vancouver. Many of the newer pieces are about Coyote's storytelling performances in schools across Canada. Her anti-bullying message is so important, as she explains in "As Good as We Can Make It":

"Bullies grow up -- their behaviour gets modified and sometimes their language gets slicked over with education -- and they become the political, financial, and social arbiters of life as we know it. I bet you any money that Prime Minister Stephen Harper was a bully in school, and don't we all wish now that someone had nipped him in the bud before it was too late for Canada." (Yes, I certainly do.)

Coyote speaks directly to young butches later on in the same essay. "Do not cave into the pressure from the queer community to fit in, either. Make your own decisions, and trust your own heart. Being butch is not just a bus stop on the highway to transitioning."

Twenty years ago, I sang in Edmonton Vocal Minority, a gay and lesbian community choir. One of the other altos always wore a dress shirt and skinny tie. She was a little more than 5 feet tall and totally butch. During a break in rehearsal one day, when she complained that customers at the electronic store where she worked always called her "sir," one of the other lesbians suggested that it might be because she wore men's clothing. The petite butch was rightfully indignant: "They're not men's clothes, they are my clothes."

Gender nonconformists are teachers, whether they choose that role or not. Coyote's storytelling has an educational element, no matter what age her audience happens to be. Best of all, she is genuinely warm and funny, whether on the page or in person. I'm looking forward to hearing her again at the Vancouver Writers Fest in October 2012.

The young person illustrated on the cover of One in Every Crowd looks both tough and vulnerable against a background of school lockers; someone who is beginning to grow callouses from daily verbal abuse. Someone who may, or may not, live to survive high school. The art is by Elisha Lim, who also did the cover for Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme (which is on my TBR pile). Lim obviously has a thing for butches; one of her recent creations is a graphic novel, 100 Butches. Images from 100 Butches can be viewed here, and isn't it delightful?