Saturday, August 29, 2009

shameless canadian author promotion: The Hunchback Assignments

Hey kids!

Remember when this intermittent blogger said that she was going to be sporadic, but would return for important things like, say, condensing the Aubrey/Maturin series, raving about Derek Landy and if Arthur Slade wrote something new?

Well whatydaknow? Arthur Slade wrote a book. Good on him.

You'll read a full-blown review next week, I am sure.

But, for now, as I am hovering in my apartment; half-dead from laryngitis; home from another long stint away; peppermint tea-in-hand- Gigi in the background ( you sing it, Maurice Chevalier, you SING IT!), I thought I would take a moment to provide you with a fun link:

Hunchback Assignments

Look reading public! You only have TWO Days until a new Arthur Slade novel! YAY! This only happens once a year ( used to be twice-ish when he wrote for Tundra but who is counting?)

oh! and Toronto has a fantastic Word on the Street this fall! With lots of great Canadian authors (including Kenneth Oppel who I recently forgave for Starclimber) check that out here!

And just in case Canadian authors have not tantalized your weekend enough, read about the class act that is Alice Munro here. She pulled out from the Giller this year ( because we all know she would have won it, no matter who else was in the running).

And finally, in a totally un-related vein, thank goodness the new Alatriste is finally going to be released this September. That's right, Arturo Perez Reverte, I am looking at you--- sure, you wrote it ages ago, but you have to get on those translators to get it into my greedy little hands uber quick!

Alright, off to wallow in late-Summer flu-ness.

Go support Canadian authors!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

oh look! I am famous

I was lucky enough to write a guest post for our friend Kailana yesterday! HERE IT IS:

All about Broadway's leading ladies!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Michal by Jill Eileen Smith

rating: **1/2

Beautiful Michal is just growing into womanhood when she first begins to notice the young harpist David as more than a shepherd boy hired to tame her father Saul's tyrranous moods.

With David around the palace speaking with her brother Jonathan and tempering the wrath of the unpredictable King Saul, Michal begins to feel more and more attracted to the brash young man. Sure that David is in love with her older sister, however, Michal tries desperately to hide her feelings.

But, a turn of events at the fateful Valley of Elah catapults David into fame --- and into a very close distance at the palace and Michal must confront her growing love.

Smith retells the famous Old Testament tale in a comprehensive and immensely readable fashion prefacing each segment of the book with its aligning scripture from 1 Samuel.

I must admit that the most fun part of reading Michal was how it immersed me into the story I have known my whole life. The children's rhyme Only a boy named David.... was always at the crevice of my mind as the tale was unfolded in front of me.

As in the scripture, my favourite elements of the story were prevalent: the relationship between David and Jonathan; Saul's wrath and David's constant running ( the first fugitive story, perhaps); the shepherd boy's courage and confrontation of Goliath and the burgeoning belief that David--- a lowly boy--- had been prophesized by Samuel to ascend the throne.

Technically, the book has a few minor faults which I will chalk up to rookie syndrome. There is some awkward onomatopoeia (i.e. Goliath's demise); Harlequinized descriptions( "a mirage with luxurious raven hair"); completely contemporary vernacular interposed with some strange hints of speech of the time period and chapters which start mid-dialogue--- a technique which, unless done well, should be avoided.

Smith is not in new territory here ( see Francine Rivers' Lineage of Grace and Austin's Chronicles of the Kings etc., etc.,) but I commend her tackling of a difficult subject. Michal, like David's other wives, is not a well-developed or exceedingly likeable character. While I do have trouble emptahizing with the Michal of this novel, Smith does offer glimpses of humanity.

Perhaps ( as in Scripture) the most compelling relationship is that of David and Jonathan: a strong friendship preternaturally ordained to usher David to the throne. The fact that Jonathan was willing to forfeit his crown to a shepherd boy has always interested me---- moreover, his protection and fraternal love for David--- is no less than inspiring. Smith does well to establish this relationship.

I will read the next in this series because I saw glimmers of potential. With the renaissance of Biblical stories, I am certain Smith has found her niche.

more Jill Eileen Smith? Follow her on twitter! I do!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Maud and Me

I started ( but like most of my writing ideas abruptly abandoned) a project wherein I was determined to re-read all of LM Montgomery's novels and document the experience. This still might happen. For now, since some people still find this blog, I thought I would re-post them here.

From October 2008:

LM Montgomery has a funny way of creeping up on you. She can attune your ear to a phantom whistle you're dead certain you hear from a path nearby; she can make you believe there is magic in your backyard; make rain seem harrowing and deliciously ominous rather than dour and depressing; make you believe that you are validated by a circle of interconnected readers and imaginative spirits who share your same kindred passion for that which lies beyond the veil of sodden reality.

She makes you see a fairyland just a step beyond the borders of your complacent normalcy.

I had an idea today. What if I were to primarily read all of LM Montgomery's books in a sequence of my choice and document how they effect my mood, routine, my every-day life.

I just finished reading the Magic of Wings : an excellent new biography by Montgomery scholar, Mary Rubio. It left me with Montgomery on the brain. In this state, I could not help but reflect on years of reading and imagining. So many formative kernels of thought have been planted by my literary love-affair with the dreamiest writer of them all.

Montgomery's work fascinates me in part because it is a key to understanding a complex woman. Like any other author who seemingly steals the words from your mind and imrpints them on the page ,my connection with Montgomery is deeply rooted; our thought processes, conceptualizations of romance and books and general world view are so similar.

She is my mental and imaginative doppleganger. Her books have a profound and tantalizing power on me. And, needless to say, on millions of readers. But, do the books have the power to sway a difference in my ordinary life?

What would one's moods be like if completely absorbed in Montgomery's fairyworlds for weeks on end?

This heavily student-loan indebted, 27-year old young professional in the Educational Publishing business is about to find out.

I have a long and academic history with LM Montgomery's canon, her journals, criticism, and life. I mean to shelve this as much as possible ( it will undoubtedly creep in ) to save room for literary experience.

Many of her novels have eluded me for years. I will touch upon the favourites I read perennially, but still make room for those oft shelved in dusty corners.

My setting finds me in Toronto, Ontario where my meagre budget allots me a relatively posh basement dwelling in Forest Hill.

Misplaced, imaginative, social and a consommate dreamer, I have all of the makings of a Montgomery heroine.

Can I transpose her sense of imagination, the purple fields of love and butterflies, into my own daily existence?

What will I sound like, feel like, talk like? I will not have russet red dirt beneath my feed nor the melodic strain of a whistle spiriting a nearby boy to my side.

I'll begin, then, reading and reflecting and communicating a hodge podge of thoughts intertwining my adventures in Montgomery's lands with my own musings and my own seemingly ordinary life.

But ordinary is relative, is it not, and Montgomery has made immeasurable readers strip back the veil to find a completely revitalized world of romance and possibility beyond.

To begin Kilmeny of the Orchard (1910)projects aprubtly abandoned ---if somewhat temporarily) a blog project wherein I was determined to re-read all of LM Montgomery's fiction.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Listed: Favourite Male Characters

Courtney has been doing some lists over the past weeks and I thought I would jump on this one....because, seriously, what girlie bibliophile doesn't want to talk favourite fictional men?


Without further ado!

The list!

1.) Sherlock Holmes ---he needs no introduction. He is not at all how he is usually portrayed in film. He is, instead, young, spry, athletic and sharp. Oh! and he may loathe all of humanity but he loves Watson!

2.) Melrose Plant from Martha Grimes' Richard Jury series. Melrose leapt off the page at me when I first read him in "The Man with a Load of Mischief" ---e'er since I pine for the next Jury installment---especially the first obligatory scene in Long Pidd where Melrose is spotted at the Jack and Hammer: perhaps languidly reclining with his nose in Rimbaud. This Lou Reed-loving; emerald eyed; gold-rimmed bespecked wonder is an absolute fictional favourite!

3.) Stephen Maturin from the Aubrey and Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian.
Stephen is just so demmed interesting. So complex and so vulnerable. I sort of want to brush him up and put him in my pocket. Plus, I love that he plays the cello and that his heart "beats to quarters" every time he sees his one love , Diana Villiers

4.) Horatio Lyle from Catherine Webb's The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle, etc., Sort of a Horatio Lyle/ Doctor Who hybrid, Horatio sprung off of the page and into my heart within ten pages of his first, eponymous novel. I LOVE him! I love that a young adult series boasts an adult protagonist and I LOVE that he loves the children: his proteges Tess and Thomas. His repartee with Tess is one of the best bits of Webb's sparkling writing.

5.) Dr. Neil MacNeil from Catherine Marshall's Christy. Oh goodness. Neil MacNeil sets my heart all aflutter. A smart, rapier-witted Scottish doctor whose loyalty to his people keeps him sequestered amidst poverty and ignorance in the Great Smokies of Tennessee. Young, impressionable Christian school teacher Christy is given more than she bargained for in this stern agnostic. The two spar and battle and fight through one of the most palpable chemistries I have ever read.

6.) Sir Percival Blakeney --The Scarlet Pimpernel of Baroness Orczy's series.
Percy is a swashbuckling; sword-wielding; romantic. He loves stealing to France to slight the intelligence of Robespierre and his personal rival, Chauvelin. Indeed, he may just be the first costumed superhero: disguising himself as a fop to slip into France under guise of attractive clothes. From lavish balls at Lord Grenville's to imprisonment to banter with the Prince Regent himself, Percy is ready for anything. Perhaps what most endears me to him is his adoration of his wife Marguerite. He kisses the stones her feet have trod.

7.) Dean Priest --from the Emily Trilogy by LM Montgomery

Someone please tell me what he is doing in what are otherwise harmless kunstleroman novels? Hunchbacked, emerald eyed and honey-tongued, "Jarback" Priest is undoubtedly the most complex of Montgomery's heroes ( followed closely by Andrew Stuart of Jane of Lantern Hill and Barney Snaith of The Blue Castle). He saves Emily from death and then claims her life for his own. All the while, exorcising his inner Rochester and proving himself the most byronic of byronic heroes. Wracked with jealousy and with a tendence to oddly skulk in corners, Dean just gives me shivers and keeps me diving back for more. I wrote my thesis on Montgomery and Dean figured prominently; creeping into each paragraph, but also into my thoughts for a year consistently. Montgomery mentions a novel-in-embryo she thought might have been her crowning glory entitled "Priest Pond." Perchance Maud shelved the epic that would never be but kept dear Dean and slid him into some of her best work.

8.) Sydney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities ( Dickens)

Sydney Carton is a drunk lawyer who wears his wig askew, who piddles around his office with Stryver long after closing time and who loves Lucie Manette with all of his heart. Sydney never quite lives up to his vast potential. Moreover, he knows it. Instead he bottles all heroism into one of the most shockingly redemptive acts in all of literature. A very big literary crush of mine.

( I made him a facebook account).

9.) Barney Snaith from Montgomery's Blue Castle.

Barney is sort of my leading man. I adore him. I just want to put him in my pocket. In many ways he embodies my ideal: well-read; sarcastic; adventurous; thoughtful; bookish and smart. Barney's independent and has a wonderful, quick humour. He is also the best companion a gal could have. He respects Valancy ( his leading lady) and treats her as an equal. They share one of the most romantic friendships I have ever read. I like that their romance blooms out of comradery: the preternatural kinship Maud often writes of. Barney also has dimples and just happens to be an author---triple word score!

10.) Joseph Gargery from Great Expectations

I am not in love with Joseph; nor do I find him a particuarly attractive hero. He is not, indeed, the hero of the tale at all. But, without Joe, there would be no Pip to star in the tale and to have great expectations realized. Joe is the salt-of-the-earth blacksmith who would give his right arm to make his young, orphaned brother-in-law happy. No matter how badly the rich Pip hurts and mistreats Joe, Joe always holds the forge door wide open.
Joe also boasts a tremendous respect and tolerance of women: even his treacherous wife, Mrs. Joe. The son of an abused mother and a drunken father, Joe vowed never to see a woman put in such a shameful position again. Thus, he bears a difficult marriage having saved his wife and her young brother from destitution.

Honourable Mentions:

Alan Woodcourt (Dickens' Bleak House)
Patrick Harper ( the Sharpe series by Bernard Cornwell)
Locke Lamora and Jean Tannent ( by Scott Lynch)
Horatio ( from Shakespeare's Hamlet)

Sunday, August 09, 2009

the thinking girl's guide to ....William Wilberforce

Can't get enough of the moralist/abolitionist/theologian extraodinaire "nightingale" of 18th/19th Century parliament?
see here and here

you can go right to the source by reading his own work

This Christian hero has been well-profiled in recent years with a popular:


and a few wonderful biographies:

I am currently reading the most recently published biography by William Hague. It is exceptional. Though Eric Metaxas ( who I rave about in this entry) wrote an excellent biography, Hague digs more deeply into the political climate of the time period and offers, if possible, a more objective perspective on Wilberforce's strong Christianity.

Hague has previously written a biography on Wilberforce's erstwhile opponent and close friend William Pitt the Younger which should appeal to those interested in Wilberforce and his circle.

Christian fiction is fun and a great escape but I also like reading Christian history and I can think of few subject matters more influential and with greater, more impacting ripples on our current society.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Miss Match by Sara Mills

Rating: ****

Publisher: Moody Press

Well done Sara Mills! What a fantastic weekend read! The first Christian noir I have ever read and I hope, if Mills is at the helm, not my last.

I had heard a lot about this series online and was delighted to find that Mills lives in Canada ( huzzah! ) I also read a snippet in Margaret Cannon’s column in the Globe ( note: previously I had never ever read a review of a Christian novel in the Globe and Mail so …kudos, Sara Mills).

I found this on the way up north from the city while stopping in Barrie for a coffee. Barrie has a Christian bookstore called “Treasure House”---which is good in a pinch.

I was surprised to find “Miss Match” on the shelf, thinking I would have to order it online. NOPE!

Allie Fortune is a female PI in grainy post-war New York City . She talks directly at the reader like something out of Chandler . Her office is filled with shadows from eerily drawn blinds; she spends damp nights wracked with insomnia flittering through old case files with a catchy, sardonic eye and she strolls the streets of New York in a perfect, luminous fog.

Basically, she is the coolest, cracker-jack investigator ever in the Christian marketplace.

When Allie’s erstwhile partner and FBI agent, Jack O’Connor, shows her a letter from a former flame trapped behind the Iron Curtain, Allie is more than willing to hop a plane and help her friend uncover a dastardly mystery.

Espionage; Soviet soldiers; post-war angst; and fantastic narration ( not to mention flashbacks to gorgeous Casablanca and Morocco markets ) make this the perfect Christian mystery.

Mills’ Christianity is tasteful and not over-bearing. Testament to this is the fact that The Globe and Mail didn’t mention it once in their review.

Mills is a competent and captivating author who unravels a story so different from anything I have read in the marketplace, I was beaming until the end.

There is true suspense here, saturated in interconnected mystery, heart-in-one’s-throat moments and a whopper surprise at the end.

Allie Fortune: you are one of the cleverest female heroines to hit the Christian marketplace in eons!

Fedoras off to Sara Mills, you were EXACTLY what this mystery lover was looking for.

Off to find a copy of “Miss Fortune”

visit Sara Mills here

Monday, August 03, 2009

The Kidnapping of Kenzie Thorn by Liz Johnson

publisher: Steeple Hill Love Inspired (Harlequin)

rating: ***

(Mac)Kenzie Thorn teaches GED classes to the inmates at her local prison. A rewarding position, Kenzie finds her forte is taking control of her classroom and inspiring those in an unfortunate circumstance to reach their full potential.

In fact, Kenzie gets along with most of her class----until Myles Parsons arrives.

Cocky, arrogant and good-looking, Myles doesn't fall as easily into Kenzie's hands. Beguiled by his blue eyes and his renegade ways, Kenzie cannot decide whether to be infatuated---or infuriated---by this new inmate.

And it's not like she has a lot of time to ponder....

Kenzie's grandfather Mac is running for Governor while convincing Kenzie to take a "safe" job as an elementary school teacher.

But Kenzie--capitilizing on the spicier facet of her spicy and sweet personality---enjoys the challenge of her inmates----even Myles Parsons.

When Myles kidnaps Kenzie and spirits her away in her own car--- Kenzie is terrified.

But how horrible a kidnapper can Myles possibly be? The cabin he stows her in is populated by his grandmother and he saves her from a mountain lion.....

Myles swears he is an FBI agent---but Kenzie is unsure.

Soon, they pair together in an adventure that spirals into a surprising climax---- which hits far too close to home to Kenzie.

All the while ...falling in love.

This was my first Steeple Hill Love Inspired novel and I enjoyed it. Johnson knew her characters intimately and wrote them confidently---as if she had plotted the story carefully for a long time. Moreover, I felt she was directly talking to me---with a bit of a smirk ---denoting something she knew that I didn't ---as of yet....

...a tantalizing way to write.

There was some italicized prayer in the novel that may have been omitted----but that is the style of this kind of book.

My one criticism is how quickly the events catapulted into place. I would have enjoyed the suspense of having Kenzie ( still thinking herself the victim of a kidnapping ) and Myles (the kidnapper/FBI agent ( or so he says) stuck in an awkward position with simmering chemistry betwixt them.

Instead, the cabin scenes reflected on the cover are soon over---making way for a road trip which, while exciting, might have proven even more fun with a little more Kenzie/Myles relationship development.

A great book for the cottage!

more Liz Johnson?:

read her blog here