Category Archives: reading

Reading list for November

book loveI’ve got three must-read books this month.

I’d also kind of like to join in the Bookish read of Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs if I can get it from the library in time.

I’m just finishing up Bad Behavior, a group of short stories by Mary Gaitskill that are kind of annoying me, but possibly because they were written in the 80s and are mainly about depressed young women in New York or Chicago having unhappy sex. Sort of a downer Sex and the City.

And then all hell broke loose.

Image courtesy Pain in the Drain.

We had a problem with our sewer drain pipe a few years ago. It was clogged with tree roots and during a major rainfall, we had sewage back up into our basement through a drain in the laundry room.

We rented an electric sewer snake and cut out what we could, and everything seemed to run free.

Until last night.

We survived the incredibly heavy rain storms earlier this summer, but my guess is that that city-owed tree on our corner just LOVES our new sprinkler system and has been shooting out roots like crazy. Including into our drain pipes. Last night, around 9 pm, a toilet was flushed in the basement and …. well …. the flooding began.

We called the general Toronto help line (311) and they sent out a guy within about an hour and a half. He snaked the line, ran a camera down, told us that there were roots clogs on both our side of the property line as well as the city side. He submitted a work order for the city to come out as well as the gas company so that they could mark where the gas lines are. Gas man came this morning, said that the city has been asked to clean our lines.

Zou and I took a trip to Home Depot to get a replacement filter and drain cover for our long unused wet/dry shop vac so that we could do a decent clean up. He and Alex had started the process last night and they’d run a fan overnight, so everything was dry by this morning. But dirty.

We’ve now cleaned up, sprayed all the floors with Lysol, and now we just need the slight smell to dissipate. Luckily, it’s windows open weather so we’re getting a full house refresh.

Artist: Diane Romanello

In other excitement, it’s a race to the finish for my book club meeting next Sunday. We’re reading Wolf Hall and I’m 356 pages in to the 517 page total. I like to finish a few days in advance so that I can have a good think and prepare for the meeting, so I figure 40 pages per day over the next four days should do it. I’m not usually like this, but I’m reading another book at the same time which is a little faster paced (ahem), coincidentally called Lone Wolf (by Jodi Picoult) and so I need to have some concrete goals to get the club book done. It’s just how I work best, ya know?

On the platform, reading
On the platform, reading. (cc) Mo Riza

Reading update


What a beautiful long weekend we’re having in Toronto! My younger son and husband were off to Montreal to move the former into his new-to-him apartment. So it’s been relaxing with plenty of time to read.

In Audio

I listened to Fay Weldon’s Habits of the House. My Goodreads review:

This novel set in an upper-class British household in 1899 has it all: love, lust, financial problems, socialist daughter, philandering men, loud Americans, upstairs-downstairs issues. Full of humour and commentary on the mores and habits of the time, Weldon has produced an fast-paced tale that will appeal to anyone who enjoys period literature. Bonus: it’s the first of a trilogy entitled “Love and Inheritance”. I will definitely pick up subsequent books in the series.

I’m currently finishing up an audio version of the wonderful Miriam Toews‘ novel The Flying Troutmans. In this tale, teen and pre-teen siblings Jordan and Thebes are cared for by their aunt, who has been estranged from the family, while their mother is ill. A cross-continent road-trip ensues. Toews is such a star at dialog, and to my ear, gets the banter just right.


I very much enjoyed Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night, which I picked up to read for a Goodreads challenge. This is exactly what I like about these sorts of things: participants were charged with reading two books set in the Dirty 30s and so I downloaded this one onto my Kobo. Next up in this part of the challenge will be The Grapes of Wrath.

Another challenge was to read a book set in a country that is predominantly Muslim, so in preparation for our upcoming trip to Turkey, I downloaded The Oracle of Stamboul by Michael  Lukas. Set in 1877 in Constanta (now in Romania) and Istanbul, it’s the story of a young girl with a special gift. Saying much more would require spoilers, but suffice it to say that this is a very enjoyable, quick read.

Currently, I’m simply mad about Nell Freudenberger’s The Newlyweds. An American man meets a Bengali woman online, they marry, and she moves to Rochester NY. Written in the voice of the bride, Amina, it’s quick paced, funny, and poignant.  Hard to put down. I’m about a third of the way in and will likely finish it up today.

So that’s my reading life.

*Bathing Beauty image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy.

Juggling books.

Le livre défendu. – The forbidden book.

How did I get to this place of having four (or five) books on the go?

I used to be a single-book-at-a-time gal. Then I started listening to audiobooks, but that was mainly when driving or doing housework, so I typically had two books underway. I also need to balance library book due dates and book club assignments.

I’ve ended up with four books in my currently reading pile (five as of yesterday) and I’m finding it a little distracting.

Hardcover: The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper – For book club this Sunday.
Audiobook: Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry – checked out from library. Will expire.
Kobo: Why Men Lie by Linden MacIntyre – checked out from library. Will expire.
PaperbackS.E.C.R.E.T by L. Marie Adeline – passed on by a friend. Started it when Kobo lost power and it was in my bag. Completed and ready to give away.
Hardcover: Wife Dressing: The Fine Art of Being a Well-Dressed Wife by Ann Fogarty. Easy to dip in to for a chapter every now and then.

I use Goodreads to manage my books in progress, but most importantly, to keep track of the books I want to read.  It’s a terrifically helpful tool as well as an easy way for book lovers to dip a toe into social networking.

What are you reading these days?

(Book links are to my affiliate account at

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"Is that Benedict Cumberbatch?"

Sitting in a screening of Atonement last night, Dorothy leans over to me and whispers those words. It had been a while since I’d seen the film and, sure enough, there he is in the role of soon-to-be-known as bad-boy  Peter Marshall, chocolate tycoon. I’m terrible at recognizing faces and, with the little reddish moustache, it probably would have taken me a while to figure out why he looked familiar.

But the entire screening was like seeing the film for the first time. We were at the TIFF Bell Lightbox for the Books on Film series and I had dutifully read Ian McEwen’s novel in the days before the screening. I guess that’s the point of the series: to understand how books are made into films.

To assist the audience, the screenwriter for the film Christopher Hampton had been invited to join interviewer Eleanor Wachtel on stage after the screening. As you may be aware, it is not obvious who the narrator is until the end of the novel, where there is a surprise regarding the veracity of certain scenes near the end. Hampton’s first draft of the screenplay began with this end. When the director was switched out and Joe Wright took over, he asked Hampton why he had chosen to do this, and on subsequent rewrites, the screenplay switched back to follow the narrative line of the novel more closely.

One other large change between the novel and the film was that final scene. Originally set in the the Tallis home, which has been turned into a hotel, the narrator returns there for a birthday party and upon retiring for the evening, she writes the final section of the book and the truth is revealed. It’s a very interior scene and likely would have been difficult to film without the use of voice-over, which Hampton was dead set against. Instead, the scene is shot with the narrator being interviewed on a television talk show, permitting the final revelation to happen more naturally.

I am trying not to give away too much about the novel which, if you haven’t read it, would make an excellent summer read. The first half is set in an English country home in a hot, sultry season. Kiera Knightly should get an award for best scene in a bathing cap.

The final novels in this series are The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitzby Moredecai Richler, with guest director Ted Kotcheff (June 3. I’m hoping it will present a print of the restored master) and Midnight’s Childrenby Salman Rushdie, with guest director Deepa Mehta (June 24).

(Mini-)Book Review: Two novellas by Francoise Sagan




Bonjour TristesseBonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After half-watching a documentary about the life of Francoise Sagan (it was in French, so I only caught about half the info), I decided to have a got at some of her work.

Bonjour Tristesse was her first book, published when she was 19. It was a media sensation for its sexual themes, but it made her name (and a lot of money). A short work, I found it rather juvenile in its language, but a well-crafted story, a novella really. That being said, I was reading it in translation so I leave it to readers of the original French to set me straight.

I liked it enough to move on to her second (also short) work, A Certain Smile.


A Certain Smile: A NovelA Certain Smile: A Novel by Françoise Sagan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this immediately after Sagan’s first work (Bonjour Tristesse) and much preferred it. The writing seems much more mature, although it was written only two years later.

Bored with her studies and boyfriend, Dominique sets out on a flirtation-turned-affair with his uncle. Sagan, who was the same age as her protagonist, writes convincingly and with authority, and the emotional tide feels very true-to-life.


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(Mini-)Book Review: Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close

Girls in White DressesGirls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book didn’t really hang together for me. The story of a group of 20-something young women, it felt like a music video, kind of choppy, and brusquely spliced together. That being said, it kept me reading. The individual story arcs were interesting, but there were five of them and none felt really resolved. It’s going into the give-away pile.

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Here Comes the Sun….

Little darlin’…it’s been a long cold lonely winter.

Little darlin’… it seems like years since it’s been here.

Today felt like the right day to get back to my blog. My last post was in December and I’ve been carried through the last few months on the backs of those who love me. 

Some of the things that I look forward to, cultural events, travel, singing, have been whizzing by me and I’ve only been able to partially engage. These past two weeks I have struggled with a very bad cold that started in my chest, and is ending there. My allergies have compounded the problem, but I feel like I’m coming out on top.

I am feeling the need to write more, to find creative ways to express myself, both publicly and privately. I have signed up for a webinar that introduces LifeJournal software to see if that might be a platform that I could use for my personal writing. I need to pick up knitting needles, or an embroidery needle, or set up a sewing space to get back to a quilt I’ve started. My plan is to claim a basement bedroom that is normally used for guests as a place where I can leave my work out for short periods of time.

We have some interesting things on the cultural calendar this month, and I hope to use this space to blog about them.

We’re seeing the play High starring Kathleen Turner at the Royal Alex next week. We’ve also got tickets for the TSO’s performance of Holst’s The Planets for which Michael will be joining us. His school music program does their May Lyrics concert that week as well. The following week we have another Books on Film event at TIFF featuring Graham Greene’s novel The Third Man and 1949 film starring Orson Welles.

My reading life has suffered somewhat recently, but I recently finished Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty. My review over at Goodreads read:

I love Hollinghurst’s prose, and would have given this five stars. But I can only take so many pages of coke-fuelled gay sex and this novel went over my limit. 

That aside, it captures the times so aptly: the British class structure; and the world of rich young men (and their hangers on) who want to DO something, like publish a glossy art magazine; the intersection of race and wealth; and what sexual sins are forgivable.

I also had a quick re-read of the Keep Toronto Reading pick Girls Fall Down prior to Sunday’s book club gathering. I’m currently at work on The Vault by Ruth Rendell. Next up will be Peter Robinson’s latest(?) called Before the Poison, a stand-alone mystery, not part of the Inspector Banks series.

Enough for today but I’ll be back soon. May is looking up!

Book review – Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood.

Cat's EyeCat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An absolutely brilliant novel that I wish I’d read years ago, although perhaps would not have been able to take it all in back then. Atwood’s protagonist Elaine expresses so much about what it means to be a woman, and speaks words that resonate deeply with me.

The story follows Elaine from her childhood in Toronto during WW2 through her life as an artist, and her eventual move to in Vancouver. Her return to Toronto for an opening of a retrospective of her work frames the narrative as she reflects on the difficult experiences of being bullied as a pre-teen.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

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It’s been a good week…

Don’t know whether it’s the cooler weather or all the arts events I attended, but I feel more like writing.

First though, I’ve been reading Mary Gordon’s Pearl, a novel concerning a young American woman studying in Dublin who goes on a hunger strike in support of a casualty (at least in her view) of the troubles. What is particularly interesting to me is the voicing of the work. If I am not mistaken, it is written in the first person, the author’s voice, which was at first difficult to read. For example, at the beginning of the second section, she writes:

This is who and what Pearl Meyers believes she is, what and what she is to herself. But what is she to us? A twenty-year-old woman. A woman who is starving, a woman chained to a flagpole in front of the American embassy in Dublin, Ireland.  A woman who is lying on the ground.

But who am I? you may be asking.

Think of me this way: midwife, present at the birth.  Or perhaps this: godfather, present at the christening. Although of the three people with whom we are concerned, perhaps the most important, Pearl herself, was never christened. If not the christening, them, perhaps the naming. Present at the naming. A the speaking of the most important word.

I am about two thirds of the way through this work and it’s a little slow going, but (I think) an important read.