Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Clorkwork Angel by Cassandra Clare was majorly on sale at the airport on Sunday as I embarked on another work trip. I thought I would pick it up to read on the plane. Confession: I immediately loved the cover of the novel and had read all about the appearance of another addition to the popular Steampunk genre.

Orphaned Tessa Gray is desolate when her aunt dies knowing that the meager life she led is a comparative solace to the loneliness of being all alone as a young Victorian woman. When her brother sends for her, including a steamer ship passage to London with his telegram, Tessa embarks on a journey across the ocean to the vast, dirty and mystical world of London. Things take a nasty turn when she is kidnapped by the Dark Sisters and made to practice and hone her, until now unknown, shape-shifting ability to help them plan their own infernal purposes. A chance encounter with a dapper young hero named Will transplants her to the world of the Shadowhunters: a community strongly linked with the supernatural. Demons, vampires, goblins and other creatures of the night now populate her world and as Tessa draws closer to this esoteric community and becomes more and more attached to Will and his gleaming, fragile best friend Jem, Tessa learns that she and her brother are part of a much larger mechanism propelling the city from underneath.

A dark, sinister and enchanting tale of human device stripped of soul ( sometimes literally), Clockwork Angel is an engaging, rapid-fast addition to the urban fantasy genre. I really liked Clare’s London: vaguely painted and outlined so that the reader can import their own ideas and colour in the lines. I also enjoyed the peripheral characters and was impressed at how well Clare developed them. It is quite obvious she knows her “World” like the back of her hand and all of the players within it. Finally, the erudite quotes that well-represent each chapter, and flashed at their headings, and the informed way she inserts literary references and Tessa’s affinity to books that feel like home to her, was welcome. Perhaps most welcome was Clare’s understanding of the publishing world of the era. She didn’t slip up once at knowing what would be available and by whom. I was pleasantly surprised. She shows great knowledge and depth in her writing for teens. There is, of course, a love triangle and it will be interesting to see how fellow readers make their choice for which of the dazzling heroes and why. I am very sternly set on my “pick” and would love to discuss if anyone wants to throw their two cents in.

I will definitely read more of this fun and smartly dark series and hope that Clare publishes the next installment shortly. Tessa becomes stronger and more willful as the story progresses and teenage girls should find plenty to admire in her ( more than they would ever find in that stupid, white-faced, fall-over-at-the-drop-of-a-dime- Bella Swan). A smarter offering in this genre --- Readers who enjoy the love triangle of Twilight will find a vastly superior plot and character vehicle here and those pining for the resurrection of the Hunger Games will enjoy its spirited kick-ass heroine and the boys who pine for her. Good Times.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Nurse's Social Media Advantage by Robert Fraser

...And now for Something Completely Different.... If I know you and you write a book, I will write about your book on this here blog. I happen to know a guy who wrote a book. It's about nurses and the fortitude of social engagement, media and promotion to instill a sense of community and outreach while inspiring ideas, collaboration and community. Yes, this book may sound a tad esoteric for those of us out of his field; but for those in Robert Fraser's field, he is quite the thing.... Widely published and well-respected in the field of Nursing in Toronto and beyond, Fraser has optimized social media to engage in the subject most passionate to him and to his extensive academic study. From podcasts to innovative teaching, collaboration and research ( see Fraser's impressive background here), Fraser is utilizing the most creative outlets to speak to professionals in his field and beyond. ->Present and near-past events have presented with certainty the vital and groundbreaking platform Social Media can become when needed to propel and purport ideas into action. For those interested in how Social Media can be used in a myriad of areas--- including Nursing and Health Care, then Robert Fraser's new book is the prime option to start. You can purchase The Nurse's Social Media Advantage on amazon and read more about Fraser and his area of study on his website. Follow Rob on twitter and read his erudite and cited blog. well-played, Robert Fraser!

I love people who claim a vital space for themselves through research and perserverance

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Advanced Screening of Jane Eyre? YES PLEASE

From Eye Weekly ""Their tonal differences amount to a perfectly realized chemistry, rendering one of the most tragic literary love stories indelible and, though appropriately chaste, viscerally hot."

I was thrilled to attend an advanced screening of Jane Eyre last night in Toronto and I am even more thrilled to express that I genuinely respected the new adaptation.

The last Jane Eyre we have is (my personal favourite) the 4 hour BBC 2006 version with Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson. If this is the last Jane Eyre you have seen and considering that the director mentioned that his preferred cut was 3.5 hours in length, you can do nought but acknowledge the story’s brevity.

It is framed by Jane’s arrival at St. John Rivers’ house, traces back to her childhood at Mrs. Reed’s and Lowood and progresses forward to the pivotal year at Thornfield.

We have a quiet, somewhat abrupt and languid Jane Eyre that heavily plays up on its gothic sense. Things go bump in the night, shadows dance on the actor’s faces and Thornfield is an elegant maze of strange, curtained drawing rooms and creaky nooks and paths.

This element helps make this adaptation the most accessible I have seen for those uninitiated. It is craftily filmed and draws on the same use of colour lightening last year’s stunning Bright Star.

Judi Dench plays a venerable Mrs. Fairfax and Jamie Bell does what he can with the thankless role of St. John Rivers.

Mia Wasikowska is a challenging, pure, resolute and straightforward Jane whose iron will is displayed in beautifully rendered scenes when her moral fibre is challenged.

Rochester, of course, is the make-or-break of any Jane Eyre adaptation ( from the disturbing Orson Welles through the nonchalant William Hurt to the barking Ciaran Hinds who yelled his way through his relationship with Samantha Morton to the wholly miscast Timothy Dalton). Michael Fassbender is cognizant that he is playing into the putty of the Byronic ideal and that this character has been defined, often by playing up its aggressive and violent elements, countless times before. This recognition forces him to play with his eyes. Watch his physiognomy as he livens to Jane’s quick responses and his desperation to penetrate her every thought.

The best scene in the film is the scene after the house fire when Jane and Rochester stand in his half-lit chamber. They did this remarkably well and there is a palpable tension.

The dialogue is stripped directly from the novel and the language is delicious and well executed. My main concern comes with the witling of staple plot points like Grace Poole. They evade the Gypsy scene altogether (don’t blame them. That is a tough one).

When the major conflict arises it does so powerfully and yet in a straightforward manner. Jane’s resolution following it is magnificent to behold.

Those who love their Jane drawn out, languid and lovely might be off-set by the abrupt ending and the quick advancement of Rochester and Jane’s relationship. But, this is a condensed version which certainly captures the spirit and essence of the tale in snippets: in scenery, character and feel.

I really enjoyed this interpretation and, like the best stories that you have internalized, that have coloured your psyche and informed your world view, your sense of ownership seems precariously threatened by the unraveling of it in a different medium. Fortunately, Jane Eyre hits the right notes, offers something fresh and inventive and exposes the great, mind-blowing romanticism that has kept it at the forefront of the Western Canon since 1847.

note: fellow Torontonians, Jane Eyre is playing EXCLUSIVELY at the Varsity ( where I saw it last night), so, you know how fast this theatre sells out.... buy tickets early :-)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

"' Cause in Vienna... we were poetry..."

Everyone in the world knows that I am obsessed with Vienna. It is my dream city: a frothy, baroque sphere of ornate fairytale. Tall spires, lush, ornamented buildings, hundreds of gardens sprawling between wrought iron gates, music and cobblestones.

Pastries and ice cream at every corner, fountains reaching the sky, harsh accents and the lyrical cadence of a city separated by rings… a sort of perpetual merry-go-round waltz.

Yes, I am obsessed.

I lived in Vienna imaginatively and mentally and spiritually for years ( since I was 11). When I finally visited last summer and all of its shiny, musical splendour kept me exploring and peeking past every walled gate, palace and crevice, I realized that ( in ironic wonderfulness) it had exceeded my expectations.

It’s a city I am aching to return to.

Every time I hear Mozart’s Konzert fur Flote, Harfe und Orchester, I am back in the Goldener Soll at the Musikverein, watching as men and women dressed to the nines splay their music affront glistening stands.

Every time I hear the espresso machine at Starbucks, I am back drinking weiner mélange at the Mozart Café in the Albertinaplatz ( I swear I tried at least 20 different coffees in Wien!)

I want to share these experiences with everyone and relive them in wonderful books.
So, I give you, a list of books that will take you to Vienna:

Vienna Requiem J. Sydney Jones

Vienna Blood Frank Tallis

A Death in Vienna Daniel Silva

The Seven Per Cent Solution Nicholas Meyer (Sherlock and Watson visit Sigmund Freud)

Vienna Prelude Bodie Thoene ( the novel that sparked my passion for the city at age 11)

The Morning Gift Eva Ibbotson ( a Viennese-born writer)

The World According to Garp John Irving (set partially in Vienna)

The Radetsky March Joseph Roth

Read more about John Irving’s passion for the city here.

What’s your favourite city ? What city would you most like to visit? Have you found books that immediately transport you there?

Monday, March 07, 2011

The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels

Black Heels to Tractor Wheels takes us through the meeting, courtship and marriage of popular “Pioneer Woman” blogger Ree Drummond. I must confess I had never heard of Ree Drummond or her blog previously; but when I saw this book mentioned on Harper Collins’ website, I thought it sounded fun.

Ree has this fabulous way of turning her life story into a spicy Harlequinesque mirror of passion and persistence. Her (then ) suitor and (now )husband whom she calls “Marlboro Man” is a perfect gentleman bred of his family’s Oklahoma cattle ranch. I immediately fell into Ree’s world. Having recently returned from a life of vegetarian cuisine and killer designer jeans in LA, Ree takes a sojourn at her childhood home while planning to move to Chicago to kick-start a career in law. While home, she goes to a bar with some girlfriends and sees the salt-and-pepper-haired Marlboro Man from afar. She boldly approaches him and feels an instant chemistry.

Then, she doesn’t hear from him. For months. Life goes on and Ree solidifies her plans to move to Illinois. But, just as everything clicks into place, Marlboro Man calls and they begin a passionate and incendiary relationship that pulls her from her life of sushi and heels to the red-meated BBQ world of the farm. Here, she learns the ins-and-outs of Marlboro Man’s cattle ranch ( and gives a portrait in fine-tuned, blatant humour), spends hours curled on his couch eating steak and watching action films and falls head over heels in love.

To tell the truth, every female reader who has ever had a penchant for a man clad in levi’s and cowboy boots with a rough-hewed grace will also fall madly in love. Think Josh Lucas in the Reese Witherspoon vehicle, Sweet Home Alabama. What makes the narrative so fascinating is Ree’s complete ownership of her fairytale. She strongly believes she has lived a romance out of a movie and she propels it into colour for you so you, too, will begin the realization of dreams in “real life.” Moreover, she is completely and unabashedly self-deprecating. As sure as she knows that she is colouring you one slant of her dreamy, passionate existence, so she reels you into a world of embarrassing flop sweats, insecurities, and mid-honeymoon vomiting. I enjoyed Ree’s candor and spice for life. As someone who tends to romanticize everything with a graceful sweep of rose-coloured glasses from outstretched hand to brink of nose, I completely understand her willingness to paint her love affair with cinematic scope.This book is delightfully refreshing and focuses on the tender and humorous moments of a great, true-to-life romance.

Any gal who has long given up on finding a cowboy outside of a Paul Newman flick will find it wonderfully exhilarating to read about a normal gal who just happened to lasso a happiness completely removed from the blinders of her poised-and-ready ambition. Moreover, Ree’s story continues on her blog: where you read beyond the courtship and honeymoon to the trials, triumphs and travails of her current role as mother and homeschooler of four children. Ree never sleeps in again.

Ree lives zillions of miles away from Starbucks ( I don’t care what kind of cowboy you are, there are some sacrifices I could never make), Ree gives up fancy heels and fashion design and vegetarianism. Ree is never a size 6 ( her wedding dress) again. Ree has never been happier. What an empowering look and defense at a marriage gone right.

Why pan the shelves of your bookstore for the newest fictional chicklit, when you can easily grab the real thing.

Thursday, March 03, 2011


Since the exciting news of A Dance with Dragons was released and readers itching for the latest George R R Martin feel that their 6 years of book purgatory is over, I thought I would express my similar enthusiasm at the prospective publication date by the latest of a favourite author.

Dear Scott Lynch,

You have no idea how much your books fill my heart and head with glee. No idea.

I LOVE the Lies of Locke Lamora and I LOVE Red Seas Under Red Skies and I think you have a cuttingly winsome sense of humour and a fully-developed magical realm and characters so dimensional you need 3D glasses just to scope them in their tantalizing complexity.

Moreover, you perfectly render the blood and passion and intrigue of a land filled with the periphery of war. As sweet as your prose is, you can turn over a dark leaf and unleash a depth of terror and suspense rarely found in your genre.

I cannot stop talking about the Lies of Locke Lamora. So much so, I think some people buy it just to shut me up ( but then they read and love it ).

The problem is, Scott Lynch, that I JUST CANNOT WAIT for the Republic of Thieves. I can’t. I’ve tried. I’m like one of those mopey George RR Martin fans who, to no avail, refreshes their browser so that the unnamed release date appears Banquo-like in the background.

I cannot wait. I can’t. My fingertips are twitching.

You left us in a rather perplexing place. The fates of Jean Tannen and glorious Locke hang heavily in the air. I am so excited.

Scott Lynch, you are a magnificent wordsmith and you paint a canvas that I cannot wait to jump into again.

I want to return to your kaleidoscope-coloured world and read your gritty, visceral dialogue and have the ends of my eyelids stand on end in scintillating, book-drunk glee.

I have had it on pre-order for ages and everytime I get a note from amazon informing me that the date has changed; something within my reader’s heart shrivels and dies. I know there's not a lot you can do about this and Orion has confirmed November. I just wanted to let you know that as excited as readers are about the Martin, so this reader is excited about the return of her beloved Locke....


Tuesday, March 01, 2011

TLC Blog Tour: the Oracle of Stamboul

The universe seems to be against my blog tour stop for the Oracle of Stamboul.

First, I just received my review copy (as arranged by the lovely folks at TLC) because it was somehow stuck at the post office awaiting me. Secondly, blogger was down yesterday when I tried throwing this up over lunch at work and then last night, the power was out in my neighbourhood.

It’s not faring well for this here blog…. However, the book is SO gorgeously scintillating, I hope that you will forgive tardiness and replace it with anticipation similar to what I am feeling at finally reviewing this book in detail.

Please note that when I DO have a chance to delve further into the novel, you can check back here for my thoughts.

If the haunting and mellow cover is not enough to draw rapt attention from you, then I direct you to the publisher’s description:

“Set in the heart of the exotic Ottoman Empire during the first years of its chaotic decline, Michael David Lukas’ elegantly crafted, utterly enchanting debut novel follows a gifted young girl who dares to charm a sultan—and change the course of history, for the empire and the world. An enthralling literary adventure, perfect for readers entranced by the mixture of historical fiction and magical realism in Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red, or Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, Lukas’ evocative tale of prophesy, intrigue, and courage unfolds with the subtlety of a Turkish mosaic and the powerful majesty of an epic for the ages."

Magical Realism. A favourite genre for those lemony evenings that melt winter into spring. I don’t know about you; but any novel that draws comparison from a myriad of modern classics ( such as Marquez, Pamuk and Pullman) deserves a peek.

Harper Collins allows you to delve a little further into Michael David Lukas’ biography, inspiration and even his favourite books here.

Browse and buy the book here.

Make sure you visit Michael David Lukas’ website where you can find links to several of Lukas’ previous writing.

Please continue to follow the book tour ( even if I am a let-down!)

March 1:Unabridged Chick

March 2: Simply Stacie