Saturday, September 27, 2008

Saturday Word Play: Nonfiction Syllacrostics

This week's edition of Saturday Word Play is inspired by Joy's Non-Fiction Five Challenge which ends at the end of this month. Congrats to all all those that participated, and especially to those that succeeded. Here's hoping she hosts another edition in the months to come.

With this syllacrostics puzzle, I'll give you the name of a popular nonfiction title, the number of syllables in brackets, as well as the number of letters. And as if that wasn't enough help, I'll also give you all the possible syllables at the beginning. It's an easy one this week folks! As always, feel free to do them all at home, but only answer one in the comment section, that way 10 people will have a chance to play. Pay attention to the answers that have already been given, they'll eliminate the useless syllables for you:

1. Salt: A World History (3) _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
2. A Short History of Nearly Everything (2) _ _ _ _ _ _
3. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings (3) _ _ _ _ _ _ _
4. The Last Spike (2) _ _ _ _ _ _
5. In Cold Blood (3) _ _ _ _ _ _
6. Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (2) _ _ _ _ _ _
7. Jackie Oh! (2) _ _ _ _ _ _
8. Eat Pray Love (2) _ _ _ _ _ _ _
9. Dreams From My Father (3) _ _ _ _ _
10. The Wealthy Barber (2) _ _ _ _ _ _ _

And while we're at it, what are your favourite non-fiction books?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Great Wednesday Compare #3- Clive Barker Vs. H.P. Lovecraft

The winner of the last week's Great Wednesday Compare (Clive Barker Vs. Joe Hill) with a final score of 6-5 was Clive Barker.

Close race, with a lot of comments suggesting that those not voting for Joe Hill simply hadn't read him. Perhaps time and success will vindicate him. In the meantime, does anyone know the story behind his name? I understand his real name his Joseph Hillstrom King, so I guess it wasn't a total rip-off off the labour activist. I also understand wanting to prove one's worth as an author without riding on a father's coattails. But doesn't the beard suggest otherwise? I'm thinking a shave and a blond mohawk might have disguised the identity a little better.

Anyway, thanks to April for suggesting Joe Hill. This week, I'm going with another suggestion. From Shannon, it's H.P. Lovecraft.

Remember, vote simply by adding your comment below, base it on whatever merit you choose, voting does not end until Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. (Sept. 30th, 2008), and if you want your author to get more votes, feel free to promote them here or on your blog!

Who's better?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Reader's Diary #399- Willa Cather: Paul's Case

Short Story Monday
My version of Willa Cather's "Paul's Case" is found in an old Scholastic short story compilation simply called Famous Stories (though it can also be found online here). At the beginning of each story, editor Norma Reudi Ainsworth poses a question or states a one-line comment that I assume is meant as a sort of summary of the story's theme.

For "Paul's Case" she simply asks, "Can reality ever equal Paul's dreams?" It's an interesting question that suggests she blames the tragedy on Paul, implying that naivete did him in. I didn't see it that way. Perhaps it's the liberal teacher in me, but I thought the system failed Paul. Paul's dreams, as they were, were not well defined at that point. He seemed to enjoy the fine arts, especially the theatre, yet he "had no desire to become an actor, any more than he to become a musician." The teachers, and it would seem Ainsworth too, found Paul's enchantment with fantasy problematic. Sure he was naive and immature. Who isn't at that age? But instead of stifling this component of his personality, couldn't it have been harnessed in some way? Or, seeing as Cather used a lot of flower imagery, couldn't they have offered him fertilizer and sunlight, rather than being critical of where he chose to grow?

The way Cather presents Paul, including the title, suggests to me this is just the sort of debate she'd been aiming at.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Reader's Diary #398- Ian McEwan: Saturday

In the past week I was reminded twice why I love reading. First there was Randall Maggs' brilliant Night Work: The Sawchuk Poems and now it's Ian McEwan's Saturday.

Saturday is one day in the life of Henry Perowne, a neurosurgeon living in London, 2003. Though I've read some people suggest that the book is slow or boring, I thought it was a rather event filled day. Beginning with Perowne waking up early to see a plane on fire skirting across the night sky, he is later attacked by muggers as he heads to a squash game. There's more but I don't want to ruin it, and in any case, I would think these two events alone illustrate that there is action in the book.

It's the see-sawing of the macro and the micro that define the story. Witnessing the plane brings Perowne's thoughts immediately to 9/11, there's a huge anti-war protest in the city, and the crisis in the middle-East is never far from Perowne's thoughts even as he's making a fish stew, using the bathroom, and performing an operation. What is McEwan's getting at? Sometimes it's easy to draw parallels with Perowne's individual dramas to those happening on the global scene. But I don't think he means necessarily to suggest one is an analogy for the other, or that small violence leads to greater violence. Perhaps all he's saying is that catastrophes, like that which happened to the World Trade Center, have far-reaching implications, including having the capacity to colour or skew the way we see day-to-day events.

I also enjoyed his writing style. Certainly having a plot take place in a 24-hour period is not an original idea (Mrs. Dalloway?). Nor is using stream-of-conciousness. Yet, McEwan's take is one of the better examples I've read. I've never been a fan of stream-of-conciousness, often finding it confusing and too experimental. It helps, of course, that Perowne is mostly likeable (though not flawless), but what I really appreciated was McEwan's simple manner. He didn't need to resort to sentence fragments or ellipses or any outlandish stylistic device capture Perowne's train of thought. Words are always going to be an approximation of our thoughts; why not accept that and forgo the artistic pretensions? McEwan was able to take me into Perowne's mind, minute-to-minute, slipping from one idea to the next, but making the transitions easy and believable.

It's been a great Saturday.

The Soundtrack
1. Paper Planes- M.I.A.
2. One Day In Your Life- 54-40
3. Double Crossing Time- John Mayall
4. Bang, Bang, Bang, Bang- John Lee Hooker
5. Goldberg Variations- Angela Hewitt

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Saturday Word Play: Genre Fiction Hide and Seek

This week's Saturday Word Play is inspired by the Genre Fiction Challenge hosted by Samantha at Bookworms and Tea Lovers. In "Hide and Seek" the answers are hidden in plain view. Only one of each set of three letters is correct and counts towards the answer. For instance, "John" could be hidden as follows (bolded in the example only!): jkl fog nhl gxn. In this version of the game, I'll give you the genre, you tell me the author (last name only). As always, feel free to do them all at home, but only answer one in the comment section, that way 10 people will have a chance to play.

1. Detective fiction- fgh rty opa dfg tyu iop nmq

2. Horror- lip one egg

3. Thriller- fvr olm olm olm edc tgb tgb

4. Romance- mad men vie wea rsa sas mus tax

5. Science Fiction- ace jak for bid

6. Action/Adventure- def uvw mno abc rst

7. Realistic Fiction- his hid lie die lid led she

8. Historical Fiction- cav eus age luv

9. Western Fiction- jnl rfa bym tyo cru swr

10. Crime Fiction- abc kil loc cke ask

Friday, September 19, 2008

Reader's Diary #397- Randall Maggs: Night Work The Sawchuk Poems

I received Randall Maggs' Night Work: The Sawchuk Poems from the Mini Book Expo for Bloggers site, one of my new favourite websites. It helps that the first book they sent was this one. I loved it.

Published by Brick Books, their enthusiasm in this project shines through. With my copy they'd included a faux-hockey card with Sawchuk on the front and lines from one of Maggs' poems on the back in lieu of the typical career highlights or biography. And, in a stroke of genius, the book was launched where else, but the Hockey Hall of Fame, complete with a promotional video from BookShort film. It would be easy to suggest that those of us heaping praise upon the book have been bought off with hockey cards and hype. But I think the people at Brick Books merely recognized what a brilliant book they were sitting on.

Told in a series of mostly narrative poems, this is the biography of Terry Sawchuk, one of the NHL's greatest goalies of all time. I'm sure followers of hockey, especially in its "good ol' days," would recognize more of the players, nicknames, and actual games and most likely enjoy this book. But I'm proof that being a hockey fanatic is not a prerequisite. Had Sawchuk been an entirely fictional character, Maggs' poetry would stand on its own. That Sawchuk actually existed simply adds to the mystique.

It's a mystique that Maggs' somehow manages to salvage, while paradoxically making Sawchuk more human. How can you relate to a man that spits out bits of his teeth and continues to play a game? Because he feels the rejection of fickle fans. Because he doesn't always behave responsibly. Because he knows the pressure of expectation. Maggs presents a quintessential hero with humanity.

The strengths of Maggs' poetry are many. Often told from varying points of view (Terry, other players, Maggs himself) I was initially confused by the changing perspectives. Though, when it comes to hockey, it is nothing new to me to lose sight of who has the puck. I eventually got used to the style.

I also came to appreciate the way Maggs captured the language and feel of the game without patronizing it or dumbing it down. "Arse" has never sounded so poetic.

In "Our Trio" Maggs captures the sometimes awkward moments between journalists and athletes:

"'So what's the game plan boys?' the interviewer asks
to get things rolling. 'What were those golden thoughts when
you woke this morning?' The boys do all they can. 'We win each battle
on the boards, we'll be okay.' 'Howie, this team does its talking
on the ice.' While not a week before in a different city,
our three concoct a brilliant goal in overtime,
a coughed-up puck, two letter-perfect
passes and a tip-in off the post."

If Maggs' point was to show the futility of asking these hockey players to summarize a brilliant play in words, maybe there's a contradiction in Maggs' ability to use words to put it all in perspective.

Another strength was the pacing. In off-ice times, he pulls it back creating a more reflective, often depressing atmosphere (many are synopses of photographs), but speeds it up in the frenetic atmosphere of a game (see the way one stanza jumps to the next in "Something Burning in Chicago"). There's also the clever way he uses varying ice conditions as mood-altering imagery. The list of virtues is as long as Sawchuk's career.

Quite frankly, this is the best biography I've ever read. Capturing most of the finer points of the book, is "Tidal Fears."

Tidal Fears
the mind clings to the road it knows
-Mary Oliver, "Robert Schumann"

"I'm through. This is it.
You saw me out there and I was shit."

Terry, talking to some friends outside the Stadium
players' gate. A little accidental poem of embarrassment
after the opening game in Chicago.
The noisy crowd had loved it when he seemed
a moody beat-up goalie winding down.
Cheerfully they sang him off the ice.
Good bye Terry good bye,
Good bye Terry good bye,
We'll see you again but we don't know when,
Good bye Terry good bye.
How many times that season he had tried to call it
quits. His back was bad, the famous crouch had left its mark,
two ruptured vertebrae, he couldn't straighten up. He couldn't sleep
two hours at a time. You'd hardly think of it as fun, the years
of nerves before a game, the lashing out, the guilt,
the dreaded waking up and being wide awake at 3 a.m.,
of getting drilled by pucks, his nose half ripped away,
his eyeball sliced, the backs of both hands
opened up by skates.

What was it kept him going?
You'd think you'd want October with your family
in the woods, making up for awful times, or jumping on the course
behind the house, the rustle of leaves beneath your feet,
one last round before a killing frost,
or stretching out and reading by the stove.

You'd think at forty you'd feel silly
getting dressed with thirty other guys, buckling on
a flaccid garter belt and wearing regulation ties and making
wisecracks on the bus. What always brought him back
for one more year? Seven kids who needed shoes?
The skim of ice on puddles in the fall?
A tidal fear of being swept to sea?

"Hell, you saw me out there"--same guy,
ten days later, same place, after shutting down the Hawks.

("I got no squawks," said Billy Reay, a man
who saw the game in its entirety, "the guy they had
in goal was just too good.")

"Hell, you saw me out there--I can play this game forever."

--Randall Maggs, 2008
(Used with permission)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

If you hold a mirror to my mouth.

Yes, I'm still alive. Sorry that I haven't been as active on the blog circuit. Especially with BBAW participation. I really haven't been keeping up. I just started a new job AND my inlaws are visiting us all the way from Newfoundland. I'm still trying to squeeze in my own posts, but I haven't been commenting on a lot of others. I'll make it up to you all later!

The Great Wednesday Compare 3: Clive Barker VERSUS Joe Hill

The winner of the last week's Great Wednesday Compare (Clive Barker Vs. John Grisham) with a final score of 9-5 was Clive Barker.

The only books I've read by both of these authors were Everville (Barker) and The Testament (Grisham). I didn't really enjoy either (though in hindsight, Everville was more creative and I probably would have enjoyed it more had I read the first in the series), so I can only compare their movies. Surprisingly, the only Grisham movie I think I've seen was The Client. And that annoying little kid had nothing on Pinhead from the Hellraiser movies (I loved those as a teenager). So, I'm content with Grisham's loss.

This week, I'm turning over the control (somewhat). I had asked last week for BBAW participants to give me their suggestions for the next contender. I had a lot of good names thrown out, but I had to settle on just one (though not to worry, a few others are put on reserve!). I'm going with April's pick: Joe Hill. I thought this was an interesting choice since Stephen King is quoted as saying "I have seen the future of horror, his name is Clive Barker" and said Barker is "so good that I am literally tongue-tied. He makes the rest of us look like we’ve been asleep for the past ten years." Yet, Joe Hill was recently revealed as Stephen King's son. But this is not WWSKD (What Would Stephen King Do?) this is your decision.

Remember, vote simply by adding your comment below, base it on whatever merit you choose, voting does not end until Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. (Sept. 23rd, 2008), and if you want your author to get more votes, feel free to promote them here or on your blog!

Who's better?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

An Interview With Terry Doherty

One of the many fun actvities going on over for Book Blogger Appreciation Week, is Blogger Interviews. Participants are randomly paired with another to interview them about their book blogs. One of the major pros of BBAW is discovering how many fantastic book blogs are out there. I knew it was a large scene, but no idea how large and diverse it truly is. One of those discoveries was my interview-mate, Terry Doherty of Scrub-a-Dub-Tub, which sort of acts as a sister blog to her other website/organization The Reading Tub. Scrub-a-Dub-Tub focuses on children's literature, literacy, and other related issues. As a teacher and a parent, I'm glad I found this resource!

A few tidbits about Terry: She is a mother, a former research analyst, and the executive director of The Reading Tub. She also just had her 18th wedding anniversary, so you should head over there and congratulate her!

TBMS: Where did you get the idea for your blog title?

Most of my ideas come either while I’m weeding, cooking, or in the shower. When I decided to create a blog, I knew I wanted something that was emblematic of the “tub” part of The Reading Tub ®. I liked the sound of scrub-a-dub-Tub as a play on the nursery rhyme scrub-a-dub-dub, and ‘blog” wasn’t too awkward as a rhyme with “tub.”

Scrub-a-Dub-Tub is the official site blog, but I also wanted an outlet for expressing my thoughts, too. I created TubTalk to be a place for chatting about Reading Tub® stuff. I use it to share ideas on reading and literacy, as well as my Op-Ed page. When I sit down to write for TubTalk, I grab a cup of coffee and put on my editor-in-chief hat. I want TubTalk essays to resemble the letter in the front of a magazine: informative and welcoming.

TBMS: Could you describe The Reading Tub? How many volunteers does it have and how does one get involved?

The Reading Tub is a public charity for children’s literacy. We promote reading as a family activity. We offer tips and articles on how to encourage your kids to read (let them catch you reading) and through the reviews on the website help you find book that match your child’s interests … but that don’t have a commercial tie-in.

We have volunteers all over the country. Some of our adult reviewers are moms and dads, some are librarians, and a few are teachers. We also have groups of student reviewers as part of our Use Your ABCs program. Essentially, we send books to teachers who are working with at-risk readers. As part of their class assignment, they must read the book and write the review. We post their review on the website with their school’s logo. It’s a chance for them to practice comprehension and writing, and offers a little ego boost, too.

TBMS: Who uses Reading Tub recommendations mostly?

I don’t really know. We routinely get thank you notes, but they are just as likely to be from a parent as a librarian or a teacher. To be honest, I don’t spend a lot of time parsing and dissecting the traffic stats. I know our numbers continue to grow up and the inbox has more mail every day…even after you filter out the spam. I’m more interested in that.

TBMS: Why children’s books?

I have always loved reading. Our house is filled with books, and even before my daughter was born she had her own library. There are two reasons why I started the Reading Tub. First, finding good books at the library was hit or miss. Books that looked great – even ones my daughter picked out herself – often fell flat. Second, we are an adoptive family, and it isn’t easy finding children’s stories in the library. I was spending a small fortune trying to find good books.Just as you won't find many titles in the library, you won't find many in the bookstores either. So it's a continual cycle of ordering, waiting, and hoping you like it. I figured there had to be a better, more reliable way to find great stories. When I couldn’t find what I wanted, I created it.

Children love learning and exploring, and books are such a wonderful way to feed their natural curiosities. It is so important to engage kids in reading before they have to do it themselves. If we can get them excited about stories when they’re young, we have a better chance of keeping them learning later on.

TBMS: Any books you'd recommend dealing with adoption?

That's a hard call. Each journey to becoming an adoptive family is just a little bit different, and we all want to find a book that matches our story. Not everyone chooses international adoption; not everyone chooses to adopt an infant. We read lots of different stories so that families can see if this might "fit" their goal ... without having to buy it first. I'm still focused on good picture book stories or collections of short stories. Even though ours is not an international adoption, I loved Toni Buzzeo's The Sea Chest. The story is beautiful and the illustrations (oil) are just breathtaking. The story opens with a little girl listening to great-grand Aunt telling the story of her childhood and the day she found a sea chest that had washed ashore after a big storm. In it, of course, was a baby. Now, the girl is excited because she, too, is waiting for her parents to bring home a baby "from across the Atlantic."

I also like Beginnings: How Families Come to Be by Virginia Kroll. It's a collection of six short stories, each describing a different path to becoming an adoptive family. Every story opens with a child wanting to hear (for the millionth time) how they became part of the family. You're likely to find your story in the collection, but you also get a chance to share the idea that every family is unique.

November is National Adoption Month and I'm writing a piece now that talks about finding adoption books, particularly books for older kids with positive messages.

TBMS: Two of your features are “Book Bags” and “Reading Ahead.” How do you describe the goals of each, and how do you decide which books to include?

These are two of the more fun posts to write every two months. Frankly, I wish I could write them every month, but they are time-intensive and I prefer to spread that out a little bit.

The Book Bag is a round-up of some of our favourite books in the preceding two months. Our reviewers write between 20 and 30 books reviews per month, and all of those are posted on the Website. What we try to do with the Book Bag is highlight the ones that really stood out in our reviewers’ minds. I try to limit it to no more than 10 titles in any one age group.

The Reading Ahead post is my review preview column. This is a short list of some of the books we received in the previous 60 days. All of these books are in our TBR pile, but they made a great first impression. When I load books into our data base, I have a chance to read the blurb and scan the pictures. It could be the story looked unique; it could be that they would attract reluctant readers; or it might be beautiful art. There was something about them that made them stand out.

TBMS: I’ve noticed that some of your bag books come with age recommendations. How do you come up with these ages, and how important do you feel they are?

Good question. This summer we did a survey asking readers whether they thought the “ages x to y” printed on a book was the (a) reading level; or (b) interest level for the book. The answers told us there is some definite confusion. The short answer to your question is, I rely on the publisher/author for guidance, and then I do the math. When a new book arrives, one of my jobs is to determine the reading level. You would think that it would match the “ages x to y” on the book, but that isn’t always the case. Sometimes the reading level is much higher than the age; sometimes the reading level is lower than the age.

For my purposes, it is important, because we get requests from parents and teachers who want books at a certain readability level. They want books that will engage a high school student who is still reading at an elementary level; or they want books that are appropriate for a younger reader, but at a higher reading level.

Having that information is helpful. If you are trying to encourage a child to read, you don’t want to hand him a book that is far beyond his capability. It will only frustrate him. Knowing the reading level is a tool. You also need to know your child’s interests and maturity level. It just drives me nuts when I hear that an adult has told a child s/he can’t read a book because it’s not in their age group.

TBMS: What would your top 10 children’s books be?

Wow! My top ten. Can I list ten separate Nancy Drew titles? Just kidding. One of my all-time favourite books is The Scarlet Pimpernel. Coming up with rest of the list is a lot harder, because my personal favourites are crossovers: anything by Jane Austen, Silas Marner by George Eliot, Gone by Michael Grant, and stuff like that.

Here are some of the books I am happy to read every time my daughter picks them from the shelf:

The Best Place to Read by Debbie Bertram and Susan Bloom. A young boy is trying to find a good spot to read his new book. Then he finds the best place: Mom's lap.

My Name is Not Isabella by Jennifer Fosberry. Isabella is a young girl who changes her identity throughout the day. At any given time, she's Rosa (Parks), Sally (Ride), Marie (Curie), Annie (Oakley), and even Mom. This is a wonderful picture book for introducing girls to women who changed the world, as well as biography.

Miss Spider’s Tea Party by David Kirk. We love Little Miss Spider as an adoption book, and this is a great follow-on for friendship.

Time for Bed by Mem Fox My daughter is the queen of the procrastinators, so she doesn't often pull this out. When she does, we know she's tired and she will happily pretend to be the various baby animals getting ready for bed.

Ruthie Bon Bair: Do Not Go to Bed with Wringing Wet Hair by Susan Lubner Every little girl wants long hair, but not the tangles. That's why Ruthie doesn't want to dry her curly hair. This is a hilarious take on the consequences of not drying your hair.

Wild About Books by Judy Sierra We love the rhyme and the illustrations. There isn't much I can say new about this one.

Cotton Candy Catastrophe at the Texas State Fair by Dotti Enderle This is a tall tale in pink. When Jake gets his cotton candy, catastrophe strikes: the machine won't turn off, so he's pulling the pink stuff through the fair grounds.

When Dinosaurs Came with Everything by Elise Broach I wouldn't describe my daughter as a dinosaur fanatic, but she can name a lot more prehistoric creatures than I can. She LOVES this story and we do too. The story is cute, Mom shows how you can turn frustration into a positive, and the illustrations are very expressive.

Finklehopper Frog by Irene Livingston When Finklehopper decides he wants to be cool and jog, it doesn't work out well. He's not a good jogger, and other joggers let him know it in the meanest way. But he learns from a bunny friend that he's great at what HE does: hop! This has a good lesson about bullying, but it's not in your face like so many others we've read.

TBMS: Do you have any favourite Canadian children's authors?

I do! I just discovered Kathleen McDonnell, having just finished The Songweavers. It’s the last book in the Notherland trilogy, but the first one I’ve been introduced to. I’m excited to get the others.

The other Canadian author is Rebecca Upjohn. She wrote Lily and the Paper Man, which has on my daughter’s nightly short-list for the past two weeks.

Also, I love Just One More Book, with Mark Blevis and Andrea Ross. I have learned about so many great children's books and met lots of authors. Their podcast reviews and interviews are just incredible!

TBMS: When you're not reading children's books, what do you read?

Sports Illustrated! I love sports and I love sports journalism. You don’t find that kind of writing in our local paper. I also read cookbooks. My husband swears I never cook the same thing twice. I do, he just doesn’t remember!

TMBS: Thanks Terry!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Reader's Diary 396- David Foster Wallace: Good People

Short Story Monday
David Foster Wallace by Steve Rhodes, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  Steve Rhodes
From The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 14th, 2008:
"CLAREMONT, Calif. -- David Foster Wallace, the author best known for his 1996 novel 'Infinite Jest,' was found dead in his home, according to police. He was 46.

Mr. Wallace's wife found her husband had hanged himself when she returned home about 9:30 p.m. Friday, said Jackie Morales, a records clerk with the Claremont Police Department."

Asides from hearing of Infinite Jest, I haven't had any encounters with David Foster Wallace's writing, so it seems like the appropriate time to remedy that.

A quick Google search found me his short story, "Good People" published in the New Yorker, February 2007. Odd that both this week and last I've stumbled upon a short story with strong religious themes.

Plot-wise some might say "Good People" is pretty simple: a young, unwed and devoutly Christian couple find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy and are considering their options. Told from a limited third-person narrative, the story's real depth unfolds as a set of ethical and religious dilemmas for Lane, the male of the relationship. Weighing over them most heavily, is the appointment Sheri has made.

I appreciated many aspects of the story. Most notably, the depth and sympathy with which Wallace painted this couple. I'm not sure if you've watched the documentary Jesus Camp, but I remember looking forward to it, mostly because I believed what the distributor had said, it "doesn't come with any prepackaged point of view" and tries to be "an honest and impartial depiction of one faction of the evangelical Christian community." Well, that turned out to not be entirely true. It was very clear, very early on what the point was.

Because I don't want to get into any religious or political debates here, I'll avoid stating whether or not I agree with the point of that movie. I will say, however, that no person can be reduced to a religion. People are far too complex for that and generally wrestle with "right" or "wrong" regardless of their faith. I thought it was very refreshing to read Wallace's depiction of these people without any trace of judgement on his part.

I wasn't fussy, however, on the awkwardness of his writing. The clumsy first sentence,
"They were up on a picnic table at that park by the lake, by the edge of the lake, with part of a downed tree in the shallows half hidden by the bank."
was typical of the rest of the story. Not only did I stumble over that repetition, but I never did get a very clear sense of the geography of the place, and found Wallace's descriptions less than helpful. But, there were enough questions raised after the first reading, that it warrants a few more: What was the point of the man staring across the lake? Was it significant that the word abortion was never used despite all the references to Sheri's appointment? And if it was significant, was it supposed to have some parallel to the fact that Lane had never used the word love with Sheri?
It looks as if Wallace was able to construct a very compelling story. And, as with every suicide, the world is at a loss for words.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Saturday Word Play: Shakespearean Cryptogram

So last week's first edition of Saturday Word Play wasn't the roaring success I hoped it would be but three people played along at least. I'll still chug along with a few more editions. Hopefully some of the games will appeal to more people and maybe it'll build a following that way. In the meantime, I won't give away any answers from previous weeks, so if you you want to go back and give last week's anagram edition a shot, go ahead.

This week's edition is cryptograms. For those unfamiliar with a cryptogram, it's a simple code in which one letter represents another.

Can you decode these Shakespearean characters? As with last week, do them all at home, but answer only one in the comment section. That way, at least 10 people will have a chance to play. Unlike last week, the more people that play along, the easier it should get, because they've already cracked some of the code that you'll need. Therefore, if they've already figured out that C = G, you can use that information to figure out another.

Shakespearean Characters

1. Efcg

2. Pntehw

3. Ogkegtfvnb

4. Gimhtef

5. Ogkuhtef

6. Ikgbihkg

7. Inoa

8. Igkwef

9. Thvvgq

10. Jhfwkeoh

Have fun!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Reader's Diary #395- Kari Anne Roy: Haiku Mama

When we first moved to Yellowknife, there appeared in the city paper an epitaph for someone's beloved pooch... written in verse. It was bad. So bad it was good. I clipped it and have it kept. Originally I considered posting it here, but I couldn't figure out how to change the name of the dog and still keep all the (unintended) humour in tact.

Plus, believe it or not, I do have some sympathy. No doubt working through those emotions with rhymes, or near rhymes, offered up some sort of catharsis for the owner.

So what if it wasn't Frost or Eliot or Seuss? Someone, perhaps more, found solace in those words. It's the same way with Hallmark cards. God knows I've had my fun at their expense, as have most poetry buffs, but how many cards do they sell each year? Compare that with the sales of pretty much any publisher of poetry collections.

I'm not saying sales represent quality. Patricia Cornwell has probably sold more books than Jose Saramago, but it doesn't mean she's a better author. It could mean, however, that more people enjoy her books. While I might like the latter more, I see no harm in anyone reading the former. If you want to differentiate between entertainment and literature, be my guest, but that's not my point.


After reading Kari Anne Roy's Haiku Mama, I was about to write a scathing review. That sentence should suffice in illustrating how I personally felt about the book. But then I read some of the reviews at Assuming these weren't merely friends of Roy, some readers actually found these poems amusing. One calls them "funny, sweet and memorable." Another even calls her a genius. I don't know if I can stretch my diplomacy that far, but at least they clarify why they took to these poems: for the most part, they reminded them of the sometimes comical, sometimes sweet, and often gross moments of motherhood.

That's part of why I so badly wanted to enjoy the book. I've spent a couple years as a stay-at-home dad and I'm a poetry nut. I thought the idea of taking poetry out of the lecture halls and coffee shops and throwing them into the middle of domestic bliss chaos, was a wonderful idea. I didn't want another Tim Lilburn type, writing about some dead philosopher I'd never heard of. I wanted poems about diapers and crayons in the dryer. It may have been too much to want them to be well-crafted as well, instead of just random thoughts hastily condensed to 17 syllables.

I reiterate: at least some people found enjoyment from the book. I suspect it'll be a common gift at baby showers for years to come.

You can read some of Roy's haiku here.

And you can read mine below:

Mama's haiku is
(not whole wheat, has no flax seed)
okay with Cheez Whiz

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Today's BTT:
Today is the 7th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. I know that not all of you who read are in the U.S., but still, it’s vital that none of us who are decent people forget the scope of disaster that a few, evil people can cause–anywhere in the world. It’s not about religion, it’s not about politics, it’s about the acknowledgment that humans should try to work together, not tear each other apart, even when they disagree.

So, feeling my way to a question here … Terrorists aren’t just movie villains any more. Do real-world catastrophes such as 9/11 (and the bombs in Madrid, and the ones in London, and the war in Darfur, and … really, all the human-driven, mass loss-of-life events) affect what you choose to read? Personally, I used to enjoy reading Tom Clancy, but haven’t been able to stomach his fight-terrorist kinds of books since.

And, does the reality of that kind of heartless, vicious attack–which happen on smaller scales ALL the time–change the way you feel about villains in the books you read? Are they scarier? Or more two-dimensional and cookie-cutter in the face of the things you see on the news?

Though lately I find myself inadvertently (or subconsciously) reading books or stories that use 9/11 as a backdrop or focal point, I don't know how much that event has affected my perceptions of book villains.

I've always been able to differentiate between vampires and serial rapists, so I don't think the terrorists changed that. Granted I was never all that into Tom Clancy books or those novels that use world politics as a theme, so maybe I would view fictional terrorists under a 9/11 lens now, I'm not sure. There are all sorts of evils, it's not just a real or fake dichotomy.

Perhaps the only affect 9/11 has had on my reading has been increasing my non-fiction choices. Not all Noam Chomsky material or seriousness either, but it did slightly steer my attention away from the unreal.

I suspect even more time will need to pass before we are able to assess how it's affected us all as individuals and societies.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Great Wednesday Compare 3: Clive Barker VERSUS John Grisham

The winner of the last week's Great Wednesday Compare (Anne Rice Vs. Clive Barker) with a final score of 8-0 was Clive Barker.

Despite Carl's prediction that it would be a runaway steal for Anne Rice, it was a shut-out against her. I've only read Interview With A Vampire and seen the movie, so I can't speak too much about her or her books. Like all vampire books, I wanted badly to like that one but they all fall short for me. I appreciated the feel of the New Orleans setting but I found the story just dull. I'll give it credit for inspiring Concrete Blonde's Bloodletting though. I love that album.

Moving on. (Note the surpise following the photos...)

Remember, vote simply by adding your comment below, base it on whatever merit you choose, voting does not end until Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. (Sept. 16th, 2008), and if you want your author to get more votes, feel free to promote them here or on your blog!

Who's better?

Next week is Book Blogger Appreciation Week. And while I wasn't up for any awards (dagnabbit!), I'm not going to let that ruin my fun. So, in honour of that occassion, for the first time in the history of the Great Wednesday Compare, I'm going to let someone else pick a contestant. If you have signed up to be a BBAW participant you can pick who you want to go up against either of these two gentlemen next week. Email me with your picks, stating two possibilities, i.e., "If John Grisham wins, I think he should compete against ___. But, if Clive Barker wins, I think he should compete against ___." I'll pick one contender from all the responses recieved (assuming I get any!) I can be reached at jmutford AT hotmail DOT com.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Reader's Diary #394- Meg Waite Clayton: Perfect Circles

Short Story Monday

I found this story via Alessandra who reviewed it as part of C.B. James' Short Story September Challenge.

I grew up in a very secular household. Though we partook in such festivities as Christmas and Easter, the primary focus was never religion. While we went to church occasionally when I was really young, that tapered off eventually, and that was that. On those rare Sundays when we had gone, it was to the either the United or Anglican church. My hometown had four main denominations, the two mentioned above plus Salvation Army and Pentecostal. As a child I'd hardly even heard of a Catholic. As a teen, I knew they had a pope and threw holy water at foul-mouthed little girls and that was about it. It was around this time that the news of Mount Cashel broke...

After that everyone seemed to have their opinions, mostly negative, about the Catholic Church. While I felt horrible for the victims, I still didn't give the Church much thought, until I moved to St. John's to go to university. That part of the island had much more of a Catholic presence, with Catholic-run schools, the Basilica, and of course the orphanage which was just after being torn down by the time I had arrived.

Eventually, I met and became friends with many Catholics and despite all the issues people have had with their faith, I found their ceremony and traditions mesmerizing. The first time I'd seen my roommate with ashes on his forehead, I giggled and said, "you've got a huge smudge of dirt on your head!"

Reading Meg Waite Clayton's "Perfect Circles" brought back a lot of that fascination for me, and some of the humour. There was something about performing mass in a kitchen that seemed so counterintuitive to the seriousness of the rite. That a conversation about the Chicago Bulls would prelude psalm 31, that Katy wondered if rules against women behind an altar applied to kitchen island altars, or that the Penitential Rite would be interrupted by a phone ringing and sounds of the answering machine cutting in, all added to my amusement. But it was an uncomfortable amusement that added to the tension between Katy who has left the Catholic Church (and is now engaged to a divorced man) and her brother John who is a priest.

Though I found that I couldn't look away, I'm sure I missed some of the finer points of the story. Alessandra remarked in her review that she enjoyed the symbology of circles (as the title would suggest we should), but I didn't really get it. That Katy was serving pancakes to her family while her brother offered communion bread, seemed like an obvious contrast. But was it just about showing differences between the two or are there Catholic implications? I know pancakes are eaten on Shrove Tuesday, but how this might apply to the story isn't really clear to me. And even though the final sentence had an annoying "I'll spell it out for you" feel:

"I turned to the griddle, then, and stirred the batter one last time, and I poured the last of it out into three perfect circles, each one as round as a communion host."

some of the symbols still didn't register. Three? Does that have something to do with the Holy Trinity? How does that apply?

Maybe you'd need to be a Catholic to fully appreciate the story.

I felt like I'd just watched a Wes Anderson film. Interested, squeamish and amused, but completely lost.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Saturday Word Play: Anagrams

So, I'm adding another weekly feature that'll prevent me from actual reading. Sigh.

This week's Saturday Word Play is anagrams. Or as they say in the biz "an arm sag." Can you unscramble these to identify the authors? Do them all at home, but answer only one in the comment section. That way, at least 10 people will have a chance to play.

1. barn rooster
2. a remodel loner
3. intro speak
4. win ravioli fog
5. eagle colon lens
6. commit blah
7. one faded lie
8. moose jar saga
9. laymen rant
10. rob riverbank galas

Have fun!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Reader's Diary #393- Connie Fife: Beneath The Naked Sun

Beneath the Naked Sun is the first collection of poems, from Connie Fife, a poet who described herself as an "indian lesbian living in a racist, homophobic society."

This proclamation comes at the end of Beneath The Naked Sun, and seems wholly unnecessary at that point. Not only is she described that way by Beth Brant on the back cover, but a reader should get no further than a few poems in before it's pretty obvious.

This is not a complaint in and of itself. It's no secret that plenty of people turn to writing (or reading) poetry for therapeutic and/or political reasons. If Fife wants to use poetry to influence society at times and to merely cope with it at others, more power to her.

However, to be effective as a protagonist for change, such poems, especially, should avoid cliches and stale sentimentality. Unfortunately, it's lines like "Walk across the crystal lake of my heart," or "i sit here and read your work/ the colour of your words/ the shape of your heart" that left me groaning rather than taking Fife seriously. Be as loud as you want, but say something meaningful else you become white noise.

There were better moments than this. In "These are the spirits" I especially liked what she did with the lines, adding in the slash / without actually breaking them (similar in the way I quoted her above, using slashes to indicate where the line actually broke) :
"there are spirits flowing through my veins/ some are old/ others are young/ there are women in my blood who scream loudly with contorted mouths/ and men who drown in alcohol then beat those screaming/"...
When it's a poem about ancestral spirits, it's a brilliant metaphor to not break the lines.

It was rare glimpses such as this, into what Fife is actually capable of as a poet, that salvaged the book for me and keep me interested in reading what she has to say today.

This is the only poem from Beneath the Naked Sun that I could find online:

by Connie Fife

last night
deep in the
womb of
mother earth
my prayers
for you
whispered to
my grandmothers
were answered.

(Read the rest here.)

This is my fourth book for the 2nd Canadian Book Challenge, covering Saskatchewan.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Reader's Diary #392- Saul Bellow: A Theft

Saul Bellow was born in 1915 in Lachine, Quebec and lived there for the first nine years of his life. Then he moved to Chicago, where he spent the greatest part of his life, becoming a naturalized American in 1941. Still, I've chosen his novella, A Theft, for the 2nd Canadian Book Challenge.

No, I wasn't setting out to reclaim him, but I thought his work could provide a bit of insight in the nature of the Canadian literature. Using Will and Ian Ferguson's criteria for a Canadian novel, I've set out to determine if those first nine years of Bellow's life were formative ones, and following that, if A Theft is Canadian. 0 indicates a poor match, 1 is questionable, 2 is a perfect match:

1st. "Setting – Setting is important. It has to be bleak and foreboding: maybe Cape Breton or outport Newfoundland or a cabin in northern Ontario."

Score: 0 While I'm sure there are those with the opinion that New York is bleak, I don't think this is what the Fergusons had in mind. Nor is it in Canada.

2nd. "Plot – Avoid this at all costs. Instead, the characters should just sort of mope from scene to scene, maybe staring into the distance now and then to remember events that happened long before. You don’t want a sense of forward momentum in a novel. You want “atmosphere.”"

Score: 2 While someone could reduce A Theft to woman loses ring twice, it barely suffices as a plot. Keep in mind, the Fergusons were being facetious; Canadian novels have plots, they're just often fog-like. As for the remembering of events, that's all Clara seems to do: dwell on her past husbands and the one that got away.

3rd. "Humour – God, no. Instead of humour, you want irony. And lots of it. Your book should be drenched in irony. Soaked in it, even. When someone squeezes your book, irony should ooze out from between the pages. It should reek of postmodern alienation and ennui. The more postmodern the better."

Score:2 The funniest line I could find in the whole book comes from Ithiel talking to Clara about psychiatrists, "Those guys! If a millipede came into the office, he'd leave with an infinitesimal crutch for each leg." Oh wait, did I say funniest? I meant "funniest."

4th. "Character – In Canadian novels the men – especially the father figures – should be brooding alcoholics, or brooding violent alcoholics, or pathetic losers who aren't really alcoholic but are still quite pathetic, or recovering alcoholics, or violent losers, or brooding pathetic recovering alcoholics who are also violent.

The main female character must be victimized. That goes without saying. She has to be victimized. But here’s the thing – she should also be empowered. That’s right. In Canadian novels, you get to have it both ways: “empowered victims.”"

Score: 2 The father here falls into the "pathetic loser" category. In Bellow's defense, he's also not much of an issue to the story. Then, neither are the kids. Shouldn't these people have some relevance?

And as for the victimized female being empowered, I'd say Clara is more like an empowered female being victimized. (She's a corporate executive who can't get her man and has her ring stolen. That's pretty tragic, isn't it?)

5th. "Style – Keep it simple. Stark. Unfurnished. Underwritten. Subject + verb + object again and again and again and again. SVO. SVO. Stick to the bare minimum offered by the English language. Do not use adverbs. And if you have to use adjectives, keep them short and simple and obvious to the point of redundancy (i.e., “blue sky,” “white clouds,” “wet rain,” “unfaithful husband”). "

Score: 1 To be honest, I'm not sure I agree with the Ferguson's on this point, but I weighed A Theft against their observation anyway, and found that, like most novels I've read, there are simple sentences and more complex, descriptive sentences. I'll note that there is a preoccupation with race as an adjective (i.e., the Chinese-American confidante, Frenchy slickness, etc).

So, the science has it. With a 7 out of a possible 10 points, A Theft, is a Canadian novel after all.

When I think about it, it wasn't just the Canadian/American identity crisis of which the book suffered. Instead of coming across as complex, Clara's motivations seem disjointed. I'm sure emotionally unstable yet successful businesswomen exist, but I didn't buy it with Clara. And was this a novel about love or about race relations? Plenty of great authors could have tied the two themes together, but while I hear Bellow was supposed to belong to that exclusive club, he failed to do so.

Hey Americans, do you want it back?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Great Wednesday Compare 3: Anne Rice VERSUS Clive Barker

The winner of the last week's Great Wednesday Compare (Sidney Sheldon Vs. Anne Rice) with a final score of 10-1 was Anne Rice.

Bye-bye Sidney. Guess Anne took a bite of him. Again, I still haven't read anything by him, but probably will at some point. I went through a phase many years ago in which I decided to read a bunch of authors whom I'd prejudged to assume I wouldn't enjoy. A friend of mine suggested that I not waste so much time on them, when almost without fail, they lived down to my expectations. I justified it by saying that an opinion without knowledge is just snobbery. But after a while I realized, there are just so many books out there, including ones I expect to like, that I'll never get around to them all; so why not focus on those that look promising? But, Sidney Sheldon was supposed to be part of that original experiment, and I'll still make time for him...someday.

With this week's two competitors, it seems like a good time to wish those of you participating in Carl's R.I.P. III Challenge, the best of luck... with your reading, and your sleeping! I'm hoping to partake in Peril The First, and will be reading Dark Masques, a collection of short stories featuring Stephen King, Robert R. McCammon, Ray Bradbury and others.

Moving on...

Remember, vote simply by adding your comment below, base it on whatever merit you choose, voting does not end until Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. (Sept. 9th, 2008), and if you want your author to get more votes, feel free to promote them here or on your blog!

Who's better?

Monday, September 01, 2008

The 2nd Canadian Book Challenge- 2nd Update

Only two months in and already we're up to 204 books!

Before getting into the update, I'll throw a question out there that's been asked of me many times now: What books should be included in the Challenge? Children's books? Rereads? My quick answer is yes and yes. But, that's just me, and while I might be the host, the Challenge by and large was meant as an individual challenge. Any decisions about what to include and what to rule out, is entirely your own. Richard recently decided against using Harold Reinisch's Tom Thomson's Shack since he had already read it earlier this year and had just reread it for work. Personally, I would have been fine with it, but can understand his reservations. What criteria do you use? Somewhat entwined with this question, what do you think constitutes a Canadian book? I once thought I had it reasonably defined as a book written by a Canadian (past or present, to include such authors as Saul Bellow and Carol Shields), or about Canadians (to include such books as E. Annie Proulx's The Shipping News). Then Kathleen asked me if translations by Canadians counted. Hmmm. And after reading Zachariah Wells' postscript to Jailbreaks, an anthology of Canadian sonnets, he points out that even the definition of a Canadian is fuzzy. Despite Malcolm Lowry's Governor General's Award in 1961, Wells recalled a similar anthology that omitted his work because he had never held a Canadian passport. I thought that was a bit too exclusive, and was glad to see Wells added him in. However, I'm also reminded of a This Hour Has 22 Minutes sketch that poked fun of Entertainment Tonight Canada because of their tendency to play Six Degrees of Canadian Bacon. If Helen Fielding's neighbour once vacationed in Banff, does this mean Bridget Jones's Diary should count towards the Challenge? Again, this should be your call.

Here are the standings so far (* indicates a new review). Interesting that so many have read Jane Urquhart and Timothy Findley already in this Challenge, when only a few people read them in the 1st edition. I'm also amazed by the number of people having read Andrew Davidson's Gargolye already when it was only released in August.

Nunavummiut (13 Books)

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians (12 Books)

Albertans (11 Books)

Saskatchewanies (10 Books)

- I Married The Klondike by Laura Beatrice Berton*
- After by Francis Chalifour*
- Going Inside by Alan Kesselheim
- Laughing on the Outside: The Life of John Candy by Martin Knelman
- Rilla of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery
- Anne of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery
- Anne's House of Dreams by Lucy Maud Montgomery
- Anne of The Island by Lucy Maud Montgomery
- The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill
- Unknown Shore by Robert Ruby

- Run of the Town by Terrence Rundle West*
- Volkswagen Blues by Jacques Poulin*
- Natasha and Other Stories by David Bezmozgis*
- An Acre In Time by Phil Jenkins*
- Kiss The Sunset Pig by Laurie Gough
- Psyche's Children by Catherine Joyce
- The Lidek Revolution by James Stark
- Pure Springs by Brian Doyle
- Speak Ill of the Dead by Mary Jane Maffini
- Without Vodka by Aleksander Topolski

Yukoners (9 Books)

Paul P
- Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb*
- The Wars by Timothy Findley*
- Famous Last Words by Timothy Findley
- As For Me And My House by Sinclair Ross
- Beautiful Losers by Leonard Cohen
- Pilgrim by Timothy Findley
- The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence
- Effigy by Alissa York
- Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood

Prince Edward Islanders (8 Books)

British Columbians (7 Books)

- Red Plaid Shirt by Diane Schoemperlen*
- The Girls Who Saw Everything by Sean Dixon*
- Degrees of Nakedness by Lisa Moore*
- The Tracey Fragments by Maureen Medved*
- Exotic Dancers by Gerald Lynch*
- Stunt by Claudia Dey*
- A Week of This by Nathan Whitlock*

- Passion Fruit Tea by Elenore Schonmaier*
- Turtle Valley by Gail Anderson-Dargatz*
- a week of this: a novel in seven days by Nathan Whitlock*
- The Birth House by Ami McKay*
- Baltimores Mansion by Wayne Johnston*
- Mercy Among The Children by David Adams Richards
- The Skating Pond by Deborah Joy Corey

Northwest Territorians (6 Books)

- Starclimber by Kenneth Oppel*
- Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson*
- The Horseman's Grave by Jacqueline Baker*
- Newton and the Time Machine by Michael McGowan*
- The Shooting of Dan McGrew by Robert W. Service and illustrated by Ted Harrison*
- The Seance by Iain Lawrence

- The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill*
- lullabies for little criminals by Heather O'Neill*
- Late Nights On Air by Elizabeth Hay*
- A History of Forgetting by Caroline Adderson*
- JPod by Douglas Coupland*
- The End of East by Jen Sookfong Lee*

- No Clean Clothes! by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko*
- Boo! by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko*
- Smelly Socks by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko*
- Get Out of Bed! by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Allan and Lea Daniel
- We Share Everything by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko
- Look At Me! by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko

- The Film Club by David Gilmour*
- Nikolski by Nicolas Dickner*
- What Happened later by Ray Robertson*
- King Leary by Paul Quarrington
- The Game by Ken Dryden
- Midnight Hockey by Bill Gaston

- Hero of Lesser Causes by Julie Johnston*
- Lisa by Carol Matas*
- Ticket to Curlew by Celia Barker Lottridge*
- Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
- Thumb In The Box by Ken Roberts
- Dippers by Barbara Nichol and illustrated by Barry Moser

- Innercity Girl Like Me by Sabrina Bernardo
- The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews
- Beautiful Girl Thumb by Melissa Steele
- An Audience of Chairs by Joan Clark
- Where The Pavement Ends by Marie Wadden
- Naomi's Road by Joy Kogowa and illustrated by Matt Gould

Manitobans (5 Books)

- The Witness Ghost by Tim Bowling*
- Forage by Rita Wong*
- Slash by Jeannette Armstrong*
- Ontological Necessities by Priscilla Uppal
- Time Was Soft There by Jeremy Mercer

- A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah*
- Conceit by Mary Novik
- Forage by Rita Wong
- Porcupine by Meg Tilly
- The Alchemist's Dream by John Wilson

- The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence*
- The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields*
- Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson*
- The Birth House by Ami McKay
- Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

- Yellowknife by Steve Zipp*
- The Wars by Timothy Findley*
- Great Canadian Short Stories edited by Alec Lucas*
- The Fire Dwellers by Margaret Laurence*
- The Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro*

New Brunswickers (4 Books)

- Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson*
- Surfacing by Margaret Atwood*
- As For Me and My House by Sinclair Ross*
- A Bird In The House by Margaret Laurence*

- The Killing Circle by Andrew Pyper*
- Fast Forward and Other Stories by Delia de Santis*
- The Gum Thief by Douglas Coupland*
- Selected Poems (1972) by Al Purdy

- Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje*
- Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson*
- Look for Me by Edeet Ravel
- Horseman's Grave by Jacqueline Baker

- Clauda by Britt Holmstrom*
- The Only Snow in Havanna by Elizabeth Hay
- The Bone Cage by Angie Abdou
- Wolf Tree by Alison Calder

- Bones to Ashes by Kathy Reichs*
- Consumption by Kevin Patterson
- The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
- No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod

Traveler One
- Random Passage by Bernice Morgan
- Kiss The Joy As It Flies by Sheree Fitch
- Late Nights On Air by Elizabeth Hay
- The Mountain and The Valley by Ernest Buckler

- Kit's Law by Donna Morrissey
- Latitudes of Melt by Joan Clark
- A Student of Weather by Elizabeth Hay
- The Calling by Inger Ash Wolfe

Nova Scotians (3 Books)

- Anne of The Island by Lucy Maud Montgomery*
- Unless by Carol Shields
- Fifth Business by Robertson Davies

- Black Ice by Linda Hall*
- Blood Lies by Daniel Kalla
- Bone To Ashes by Kathy Reichs

Sam Lamb
- A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews*
- The Given by Daphne Marlatt*
- A Map of Glass by Jane Urquhart*

- The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis*
- At A Loss For Words by Diane Schoemperlin*
- The End of East by Jen Sookfong Lee*

- The Rez Sisters by Tomson Highway*
- Yellowknife by Steve Zipp*
- Consolation by Michael Redhill*

- Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson*
- A Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood*
- Icefields by Thomas Wharton*

-Don't Lets Go The Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller*
-Eleanor Rigby by Douglas Coupland*
-Traveling Music by Neil Peart*

- Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere by John McFetridge*
- The Killing Circle by Andrew Pyper
- The Order of Good Cheer by Bill Gaston

- Nova Scotia by Tanya Lloyd Kyi*
- Tottering in My Garden by Midge Ellis Keeble*
- The Pioneers of Inverness Township by Gwen Rawlings

- The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood*
- Charley's Web by Joy Fielding
- Anne of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery

- The Killing Circle by Andrew Pyper
- The Line Painter by Claire Cameron
- Indigenous Beasts by Nathan Sellyn

Quebecois (2 Books)

- Prarie Bridesmaid by Daria Salamon*
- Saltsea by David Helwig*

- The End of the Alphabet by CS Richardson*
- Open Secrets by Alice Munro*

- The Birth House by Ami McKay*
- The Stone Carvers by Jane Urquhart*

- Arctic Migrants/ Arctic Villagers by David Damas*
- White Eskimo by Harold Horwood*

- My One Hundred Adventures by Polly Horvath*
- All-Season Edie by Annabel Lyon*

- Stolen by Kelley Armstrong*
- Bitten by Kelley Armstrong*

- The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood*
- Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

- The Best of Robert Service by Robert Service*
- Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

- Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb*
- The Droughtlanders by Carrie Mac*

- Since Daisy Creek by W. O. Mitchell*
- Prospero's Daughter by Constance Beresford-Howe

- Claudia by Britt Holmstrom*
- The Bone Cage by Angie Abdou*

- The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson*
- Song of the Paddle by Bill Mason*

- The War On Women by Brian Vallee*
- Truth and Rumors: The Truth Behind TV's Most Famous Myths by Bill Brious*

Mary Ellen
- The Whirlpool by Jane Urquhart*
- Margarita Nights by Phyliss Smallman

- Life of Pi by Yann Martel
- The Cure For Death by Lightning

- Memories Are Murder by Lou Allin
- Pandemic by Daniel Kalla

- Shelf Monkey by Corey Redekop
- The Time In Between by David Bergen

- Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
- The Game by Teresa Toten

Nathan Smith
- A Secret Between Us by Daniel Poliquin
-The Wars by Timothy Findley

- Runaway by Alice Munro*
- Away by Jane Urquhart

Ontarians (1 Book)

- Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen*

- How To Be a Canadian by Will Ferguson and Ian Ferguson*

- Alice, I Think by Susan Juby*

- Niagara, A History of The Falls by Pierre Berton*

- The Birth House by Ami McKay

- An Imperfect Offering by James Orbinsky

Literary Mom
- Late Nights On Air by Elizabeth Hay

- Loyalists and Layabouts by Stephen Kimber

- Barney's Version by Mordecai Richler

- Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

Mrs. Peachtree
- Stella Fairy of the Forest by Marie-Louise Gay

(Note: If these standings are not correct, please accept my apologies. I've tried as much as possible to visit each and everyone's links on a regular basis, but I may have overlooked something. Please continue to email me whenever you finish a book and review it somewhere online, providing me with a link. Also make sure your link is active on the sidebar-- I'm having trouble accessing some of them. Let me know if this update is innaccurate. If it's any consolation, last month I even forgot to include my own review!)

And now for the goodies...this month I have three autographed Cheryl Kaye Tardif novels up for grabs, for three lucky winners. The first is Whale Song.

(from Kunati Books)

To win Whale Song, locate these three comments from the reviews marked by * above. Email me (jmutford at hotmail dot com) and for each comment, tell me a)who said it b)whose review and c)which book:

1. Today during lunch, my dear girlfriend Dunn confessed that she might love her garden more than she loves her beau.

2. I was underwhelmed by Monday Mourning...there was an idiot subplot I saw five miles away.

3. I really liked this one too!! I thought it was fantastic, and I'm really not much of a non-fiction reader.

As an added bonus, the winner of Whale Song will have a chance to interview the author! Check out the Shereadsbooks review of Steve Zipp's Yellowknife above. It's quite a great opportunity to be able to discuss the book you've just read with the author. I'll pick a random winner from all those who respond correctly by midnight Sept 7th, and announce the winner on the 8th.

For those of you not yet reading the other reviews, I encourage you to do so. Not only are most very well written, but I guarantee you'll vastly increase your tbr piles! Also, when you're visiting another blog, it's a good idea to leave a comment. We love to know who our readers are.

To win Tardif's The River or Divine Intervention, this contest, which I like to call "The Spotter," is a bit more complicated, so pay attention:

1. Look in the sidebar of this blog and find someone who has yet to begin the challenge, i.e., somewith with a goose-egg by their name.

2. Pick one, and only one, of these people to "spot". In the comment section of this post, tell me who your selection is. If someone else has already chosen that person, you'll have to choose another. Choose wisely; some of those with a "0" have links/blogs that haven't been updated in a while...

3. If that person reads and reviews one book for the 2nd Canadian Book Challenge by midnight of September 13 -and notifies me so that I can change the number to "1"- both names will be put into a random draw so that you and your "partner" could each win a book. The spotter (you) can choose between The River or Divine Intervention, and the spotted will get the other.

4. Feel free to increase your odds: Cheer your partner on, coax them. Just remember, there's a fine line between encouragement and harassment and if the partner complains, I'll have to disqualify you!

5. The winners will be announced on September 14th.

In other challenge news:

I. Mel, of Ontario, was latest to install a 2nd Canadian Book Challenge Display at the library where she works. Check it out:

In case you missed some of my previous posts, this makes 3 libraries to help promote the challenge now. The first was here in Yellowknife and the 2nd was the Jane Dundas branch of the Toronto Public Library. If you work in a library or bookstore and would like to make a display of your own, please be my guest. If you want ideas or promotional flyers, email me at jmutford AT hotmai DOT com, but feel free to improvise.

II. The Canadian Book Challenge Touque is finished. Knitter Sam Lamb has created the touque of touques. I won't lie, it's going to be hard to give this prize away (I want one for myself!) This is her husband Jay modeling said touque.

III. If you're a member of BookCrossing, Kathleen Molloy has 14 Canadian novels to trade. Check out her titles here.

Until next month, have fun celebrating, promoting and exploring Canadian books!