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Showing posts from 2014

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

November 11, 2014

“And you’d thank everyone for coming. We all raise a glass to Maya.
Everyone goes home happy.” “So it’s basically a book party.” “Yeah, sure.”  Lambiase has never been to a book party. “I hate book parties,” A.J. says.  “But you run a bookstore,” Lambiase says. “It’s a problem,” A.J. admits.

—from The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
Book parties aren’t the only thing A.J. Fikry hates. He is not fond of book blurbs, summer people, ghostwriters, children’s books (or children, for that matter), celebrity picturebooks, “…’postmodernisms, postapocalyptic settings, postmortem narrators, or magic realism … and… this goes without saying, vampires’”. He does not like how much he drinks (that is, too much), or the frozen Vindaloo entrees and the loneliness that accompany them. And since his wife died, he has hated the work of being what he is, a bookseller on a small New England island.

Despite his closely held list of professed dislikes, Gabrielle Zevin’s A.J. F…

"Mr. Fox" by Helen Oyeyemi

"Solitary people, these book lovers.  I think it's swell that there are people you don't have to worry about  when you don't see them for a long time,  you don't have to wonder what they do, how they're getting along with themselves.  You just know that they're all right, and probably doing something they like."  -- from Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi
Writer St. John Fox has a penchant for killing his heroines and the women in his life don't like it, not one bit. Nor are they terribly keen on each other. So it is that Mr. Fox's wife, Daphne, and his muse, Mary, each vie for his attention and affections while trying to avoid the inevitable losses that come with love. To Oyeyemi's great credit, their insightful discoveries touch upon habits, idiosyncrasies and dilemnas of all who seek love and understanding from those we care for the most.
"The girl tried, several times, to give her love away, but her love would not stay with the person she …

"The Lifeboat" by Charlotte Rogan

"But wouldn't you want to live anyway?"  I asked, astonished by his vehemence.  "Don't you want to live for yourself?" 
So asks 22-year-old Grace Winter of Mr. Preston, who sits beside her in an overcrowded lifeboat after the Princess Alexandra sinks in the Atlantic Ocean. It is 1914 and Grace finds herself, suddenly, both newlywed and widow, adrift and waiting for rescue in Charlotte Rogan's The Lifeboat.
But when the hardtack is gone and the drinking water run dry, the days wear on with neither land nor salvation in sight. A strange and mysterious separation emerges between passengers with the will to live and lead, at any price, and those made weak--or noble--by their circumstances. This  menacing rift swells and dangerously divides the passengers from "the only person among us who knew anything about boats and currents and the boiling sea." 
A tension of opposing forces builds to one of the few decisive acts that Grace will take in her yo…

"The Chief Factor's Daughter" by Vanessa Winn

June 22, 2014

Think of it, Margaret… Dark skin, a country upbringing-- you would be a curiosity on a visit, but beyond that,  you would never be accepted. -- from The Chief Factor's Daughter 
by Vanessa Winn, Touchwood Editions, c. 2009
As Margaret Work fears herself rapidly approaching spinsterhood, her hopes for marriage and full acceptance into society begin to fade. Her Irish-Metis heritage is a source of insecurity she cannot overcome, despite a respectable social standing established by John Work, the family patriarch, as Chief Factor of the Hudson's Bay Company outpost in Fort Victoria. 
"A courtship with her, she was painfully aware, would be a one-way passage for Mr. _____.  To marry her would also mean marrying the colony. She was born to the country, and to take her back to the Old World would be nearly unthinkable."
Even in her admirers, Margaret detects a disconcerting tendency to scrutinize her features and suspects they are trying to trace her bloodline …

Strings Attached: One tough teacher and the gift of great expectations

May 26, 2014

If they could have seen their futures from childhood, Melanie Kupchinsky and Joanne Lipman might well have wondered how they might bear the worst of what fate had in store.

Melanie, the daughter of two musical parents, would know tragedy from an early age. Her mother was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis before Melanie, the eldest of two girls, was five. Virtually housebound, Jean Kupchynsky was unable to attend her daughters’ music recitals and performances, and was often hospitalized for long periods of time. Years later, the mysterious disappearance of Melanie’s sister, Stephanie, at the age of 27, left a void in the small and already splintered family. It would be seven long years of not knowing before Stephanie’s fate was resolved, confirming a tragic end to a talented young life.

Joanne would one day flee the basement of the World Trade Centre and watch the towers collapse from a few blocks away. Later, as a working mother, treatment for breast cancer would sap her…
May 1, 2014 Congratulations to Jhumpa Lahiri and all the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction 2014 finalists!
"After she became a mother she told Subhash it made her love him more, knowing what he'd done."--from "The Lowland" by Jhumpa Lahiri
— Victoria Miles (@victorianunuk) February 15, 2014

Stormy Weather

April 12, 2014

"..during a time of Depression, and drought and dust storms" Jeanine Stoddard takes her chances. On a horse named Smoky Joe that runs like a rocket, on an abandoned family farm in Texas and on a widowed man who may be her saving grace if she can only bring herself to say yes.

Paulette Jiles' Stormy Weather tests her heroine's grit, determination and loyalties to the limits. A wise woman makes her own luck in hard times and Jeanine's instincts for what will be and what is worth having above all proves wise indeed.

The One World Schoolhouse

May 1, 2014

Sooner or later almost every mere mortal meets their Waterloo in math. For Salman Khan, not the Bollywood-star, but a self-proclaimed math nerd and graduate of MIT and Harvard Business School, it was when he hit a wall tutoring his cousin in sixth grade math. Traditional coaching wasn't getting through, and Khan was troubled as to why his cousin (who was bright, engaged in school and had always done well in math) was even struggling with this particular unit in the first place. Not living in the same city, let alone the same state, was an obstacle quickly resolved when Khan realized that there could be more to Youtube than fluffy cat videos.

An advocate of mastery learning over good-enough grades, Khan developed a digital age method of tutoring his cousin that quickly spread to include other family members and students who needed similar support. The roster of videos grew, as the blackboard of the Internet site is never erased, allowing students to master a unit at th…

The Smitten Kitchen

If you haven't done more with kale than pass it over in the produce aisle; if you've never spatzkoched a chicken or assembled a ratatouille sub, or if things have just gotten so downright dirty between you and your stove that you just want to kick all four elements to the curb… you may be overdue for a taste of The Smitten Kitchen. 
Based on her award-winning food blog, Deb Perelman's Smitten Kitchen is a down-to-earth place where there's never enough counter space, milk is measured by the "glug",  zucchini salad is the only solution for supper on a hot and humid New York night and a six-inch cake pan positively "brims with good intentions". Well, of course it does.
Flat-roast a chicken in 40 minutes? Shave asparagus for pizza? Put peaches in pancakes? When the chemistry is right, it's right as Perelman proves one recipe after another. Take heart then, a boost from The Smitten Kitchen and you might just fall in love with yours again, crappy old…

A grateful author thanks her reviewers

January 30, 2014

I actually meant round these up over Christmas, but I did more reading than writing over the holidays and it's taken until now to sit down for a really good gratitude moment. Just like in the days when I was writing Mimi Power, Daphne is in the bath and the kitchen table is a quiet place to be. Apart from me and my laptop, the kitchen table is the collecting place a sprawl of sparkle pens, a paper fortune-teller, a silvery blue Knot Genie, a Klutz kit for making Clay Charms, a Cursive Writing exercise book and a Grade 4 agenda with a reminder in it to bring home spelling words for practice tomorrow. There are also a few stuffies on the surrounding bench backs, some coloured stamp pads for fingerprint art and six little ceramic animals on the windowsill--part of my mother's collection from boxes of Red Rose tea thirty-odd years ago.
This would be a light load for our dinner table/craft station/homework centre. Stuff moves around, but it never really gets clean…

School Library review clip of Mimi Power

January 20, 2014

You can double-click on this image to read the cute review.

Mimi Power a 2014 Red Cedar Book Award finalist

January 6, 2014

Being a finalist alongside the likes of Gordon Korman, Karen Rivers, Marie-Louise Gay and other wonderful children's writers, it's easy to think: "Mimi Power, you have no chance." But then I remember how great it is just to be in such good company. 
Thank you, Red Cedar Awards, for everything you do to support books and inspire readers in British Columbia.