Tag Archives: books

Seven Quick Takes Friday

Seven Quick Takes Friday

  1. Out of the mouths of my man-babies (shared this week on my Facebook timeline):

    While standing by the toaster, trying to get the other son to finish the older bread, says to the other “It’s really *godfather* to eat the heel of the loaf.”

    My young tubist was off for a gig at the Conservatory <this week>. Dressed in a black suit, white shirt, polished shoes, and hipster specs, his comment: “I’ll fit right in with the rush hour crowd. Except for the tuba on my back.”

  2. My little problem has been fixed,
    My little problem has been fixed…

    Thanks to a Facebook friend, I was encouraged to visit the Apple Store regarding the smashed back of my iPhone. Sure enough, the repair was $29+tax. If it’d been the front (screen) it would have been another story. I learned the lesson that a phone is not a particularly good thing to use as a bookmark, particularly if you leave it on a counter above a ceramic tile floor.

  3. Jawbone Up band in mint-green

    I did a little browsing in the Apple Store while I was waiting (the 10 minutes!) for my phone to be repaired. I came home with a Jawbone Up band, a little bracelet that you wear on your wrist to monitor your physical activity and sleep patterns. The accompanying app also lets you easily track your diet (using barcodes or manual search and a huge database of stored foods.) Even though it was a rainy day yesterday and I spent a lot of it indoors, I managed to log over 7200 steps. (My goal is 10,000 per day). You can set the band to vibrate to remind you to get active every so many minutes, and also to wake you up in the morning. I am very excited about this (as I am about so many things these days). I’m hoping my spouse might consider wearing one as well. Mine is a beautiful turquoise (although they call it mint-green). The band is compatible with iOS and Android.

  4. I gave up on Linden MacIntyre’s Why Men Lie. I really enjoyed his previous novel The Bishop’s Man, but I just couldn’t get in to this one. It’s on my Kobo, so I can come back to it later if I want.
  5. I picked up VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health . . . for Good by Mark Bittman when I was at Winners of all places. As I believe I’ve mentioned before, I’m heading that way, both in terms of improving my diet as well as shepherding the resources of the planet more effectively. Essentially, he proposes that you eat a vegan diet before 6 pm and then at will after that.
  6. Michael and I went to the TSO last night and heard Joshua Bell and Edgar Meyer as featured soloists. Bell is astounding, kind of my Perlman for the new millenium or something. He opened the second half with Ravel’s Tzigane, rapsodie de concert for Violin and Orchestra which begins with an extended solo before the orchestra joins in. I would pay the price of my ticket to hear that piece again. Meyer was featured in his composition, the Canadian premiere of the Concerto for Violin and Double Bass. I was underwhelmed by the composition, but that may just be my lack of comfort with modern repertoire. Or maybe it just needs another listen. The playing by both Bell and Meyer was magnificent. The concert opener (Copland’s Appalachian Spring) and closer (Respighi’s Pini di Roma) were absolute barnbusters, the kind of music that just opens up your heart.
  7. Tonight: The Giacomo Variations at the Elgin Theatre, featuring John Malkovich as Casanova. My date is arriving at 5pm, flying in from a week in Vancouver, so I hope his flight is on time. We’ll probably grab dinner at The Paramount.

And now my Up band is vibrating to tell me that I’ve been idle for too long! Gotta run. Consider subscribing to my blog by email (or follow me in WordPress) – use the box on the right if you’re reading this in a browser.

For more Seven Quick Takes Friday, visit Jennifer at Conversion Diary.

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Book club: The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper

This novel had been getting a lot of buzz when we decided to include it in our reading list. As today’s moderator suggested, it would appear that Andrew Pyper was trying for that sweet spot where genre fiction overlaps literary fiction, but as a group, we were not convinced that he was successful.

Pyper’s protagonist in The Demonologist is David Ullman, a Milton scholar who is offered an all-expenses paid trip to Venice if he will visit a particular address and use his expertise in the area of demons to assess a situation. He brings his daughter Tess with him and she is captured and drawn into the underworld.  The rest of the novel follows Ullman in his attempt to find and rescue her.

What worked:

We agreed that the story was interesting.

We thought he had moments of good writing.

There were some good action sequences.

We liked the relationship between Ullman and fellow professor Elaine O’Brien: a non-sexual, cross-gender friendship.

The cover (both dust cover and hardcover) were well done.

What didn’t work:

The novel reads too much like a screenplay. It seemed made for film, and not the literary fiction audience that we suspect he was going after.

We didn’t understand what was really going on. Does Ullman really believe there are demons that can intervene in our lives? Did important bits in flashbacks in the novel really happen, or were they subject to perceivers’ error?

Many of us were simply not very engaged in the novel. In a comparison between Pyper and Dan Brown (for example), those of us who admitted to being familiar with the latter rated Brown as better at engaging the reader in the story, and better at owning up to the agenda of the protagonist (in Brown’s case, and anti-Vatican stance, for example.)

The novel needed a(nother) good edit.

Overall rating: 6/10 (with a range of 5-7)

I hosted this month and decided to go for a Venetian theme, even though a relatively small part of the novel takes place in Venice. (As someone pointed out, this was probably a better theme than roadside diners/motels in terms of meal options.) Because of my Sunday morning committments, I chose a mainly cold buffet meal.

We lunched on a caprese salad, scampi alla Veneziana, crostini al radicchio Trevisano, proscuitto e melone, cheeses (a Romano sheep’s milk cheese and some asiago), and drinks made of prosecco, campari, and peach juice.  My spouse picked us up a Cappuccino Dacquoise for dessert.

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What’s on my nightstand?

It’s been a bit of a wild reading ride recently, mainly because we’re in the middle of some home renovations and I’m also trying to get some progress on my genealogical work. But there’s always time at the end of the day (or on the subway) for a good book.

I’m finishing up Howards End. 

  1. Howards End by E.M.Forster –  I wanted to have it read before the TIFF screening yesterday, at which James Ivory was interviewd by Eleanor Wachtel as part of their Books in Film series. But I didn’t quite make it through, so that has to be number 1 on my list (and in my bag.)
  2. The Outsourced Self: Intimate LIfe in Market Times by Arlie Russell Hochschild. – I’m about a third of the way through this fascinating look at the impact on family life of the outsourcing of what were traditional family/village tasks. Online dating, wedding planning, childcare, cleaning, personal coaching, etc all fall under the authors eye.  
  3. The Cure for Grief by Nellie Hermann – This is our July book club pick. I don’t know much about it, but it was highly recommended by one of our members.
  4. And the Pursuit of Happiness by Moira Kalman. – This graphic novel is (I believe) an investigation into democracy. I’ve checked it out of the library a couple of times before but have never gotten to it.
  5. Aerogrammes and Other Stories by Tania James – A book of short stories recommended in the NYT Book section
  6. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – Our August book club pick, and a response to my suggestion that we choose books that put us outside our comfort zone. I’m not a big fantasy reader, and a couple of our members thought that this would be a good place to start. I picked up a paperback at Value Village, but the print is too small and the contrast too low, so I’ve downloaded it onto my Kindle.

How do books get there? Mainly recommendations from friends, book reviews in one of the papers I read, online at places like Book Riot, and of course, the book club. I also like to read books from anyplace I’m planning to travel, although we don’t have much coming up, vacation-wise. I don’t browse in bookstores or the library much…I have a huge hold list (sourced from the above) so I’ve always got books being fed to me.

Shelf Awareness hits it out of the park

I subscribe to Shelf Awareness‘ weekly newletter and it was just chock full of good stuff today.

You can check out the rest of the newsletter here.


    I’m currently reading Mindy Kaling‘s memoir Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) and it’s a fast, light, and very funny read. Kaling is a producer and writer for the American version of The Office and also plays Kelly Kapoor. 

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      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.


      View all my reviews

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      It’s Monday….what am I reading?

      I’ve got four books on the go right now which is a lot.  But so far it’s working for me.

      • What to Eat by Marion Nestle. Nestle is a big-wheel nutritionist and from what I’ve read so far, sensible, straightforward, and no-nonsense. The book is rougly organzed by food group, starting with fruits and vegetables, then dairy (and non-dairy substitutes) and now I’m on the chapters on meat. The only quibble I have so far is the dietary-cholesterol-raises-blood-cholesterol story, which I’m not sure is still considered a given, at least based on what I’ve read in Gary Taubes’ Good Calories, Bad Calories and the associated research. I would be in interested in Nestle’s take on that book. While I’m only a third of the way through Nestle’s 600 page book, I’d recommend it. I’m also planning to check out her newest book on feeding pets.
      • Blankets by Craig Thompson.An at times heatbreaking graphic novel about a young man growing up in Wisconsin, his difficulties with his family, faith, and friends. I’ve been on the hold list at the library for ages for this novel and am reading it slowly, savouring it. Am about two-thirds of the way through this 600 page tome.
      • The Good Guy by Dean Koontz. I picked this up specifically for a Seasonal Reading Challenge task and have never read anything by this author before. It’s a crime/thriller novel and I am very much enjoying it. The premise is interesting, if somewhat implausible, but the characters are engaging. I’m listening to this on audio and the production is excellent. 
      • The Distant Hours by Kate Morton. I read Morton’s The Forgotten Garden last year and very much enjoyed it. I’ve had this novel on my Kindle for some time, but just started reading it when I finished the paperback I had in my purse while I was downtown and needed something else to read. Also set in England, Kent to be precise, I’m not very far in but loving it already. I suspect I’ll keep my Kindle in my bag while I’m attending TIFF, for all the lineup-and-waits, so this will be a good novel to have on the go over the next couple of weeks.


      Take a deep breath…..and read!

      The Goodreads Seasonal Reading Challenge Summer 2011 has come to a close.  I hit a personal best for these 3-month challenges, reading (or listening to) 61 books and almost 19,000 pages. My list is here (I managed to read the books in bold type.)

      Most of the tasks have been posted for the Fall Challenge, and I’ve made up my reading list. This varies over the challenge as new books come my way or I move some around, but I’m trying to read from my shelves this quarter so that I can continue with my book purge.

      I’m starting off this challenge with a few items from the library:


      What to Eat by Marion Nestle. I’ve been wanting to read this ever since it was published, but hadn’t gotten around to it until it finally came up on my hold list at the library.  It’s 600+ pages of clear, straightforward, no-nonsense writing and I’m enjoying it.

      The Idle Parent: Subtitled “Why Less Means More When Raising Kids”.  Recommended on the excellent blog Mental Multivitamin, I’m reading this mainly to feel better about our laid-back attitude to parenting, as it’s too late to change much at this point.

      The Young Man From Atlanta by Horton Foote. I borrowed this Pulitzer Prize winning play from the library for the summer challenge, but didn’t get to that task. I’m hoping to find a place for it on my list when all the tasks have been posted.

      Three graphic novels that I picked up after browsing at my local library branch. I like this genre because the story is told in fewer words but the artwork is typically engaging and tells a good part of the tale. The first two are by American writers and the third Japanese.

      Filthy Rich

      Narcoleptic Sunday

      Ristorante Paradiso

      Audiobooks that I’ve downloaded from the public library onto my iPod:

      The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande. I know about the essence of this book having read an article in the New Yorker (I think), but I’m looking forward to a longer description of this approach to reducing errors in different industries.

      The Night Road by Kristin Hannah. I don’t know this author and the book was published in March 2011, so I must have read a review of it somewhere and put it on my hold list.

      Prisoner’s Base (Nero Wolfe mystery) by Rex Stout. I like Nero Wolfe mysteries and they’re good, quick listens.The narrator on all the ones I listened to in the past has been excellent.

      The Good Guy by Dean Koontz. I chose this for a task where you have to read a book by an author who has a retired hurricane name. You “get out” of reading a second book if the book you read was written in the year the hurricane name was retired, in this case, 2007.


      Books on the road


      As many of you know, I’m a huge library fan and make use of the wonderful Toronto Public Library’s excellent hold system for most of my reading needs.  I don’t, however, like to take library books with me when I travel, and an upcoming ten-day jaunt to Stockholm has me starting to think about what I’ll take with me.

      I scanned my Summer Reading Challenge reading list for potential candidates…books that either I own or can buy used, and that would be enjoyable to read while travelling.  I already have a few on my Kindle:

      1. A Connecticul Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain (I’m about a third of the way in to this).
      2. Alice Adams by Booth Tarkington
      3. The Distant Hours by Kate Morton (I don’t currently have this assigned to a Challenge Task)

      Other books that I had on hold at the library that I thought would be suitable are:

      1. Ann of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery.  I decided to reread this during the recent Royal Visit, which included a stop at Green Gables in PEI.
      2. Friend of the Devil by Peter Robinson.  It’s the next up (for me) in the Inspector Banks series.
      3. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry in Values by Robert Pirsig.  I read this long ago as a teen, but it’s the group read for the challenge and I’d love to give it another read.

      I managed to find these at The Handy Book Exchange, my local used bookstore just around the corner on Avenue Road.  (They’re dog friendly which means I can pop in for a look when I’m walking Wilson, and they give him treats while I’m there.)  I’ll take off the library holds on these three and plan to leave them in Sweden with a BookCrossing sticker once I’ve finished them.

      There are also a few books that I own that I’ll consider taking with me:

      1. Trader by Charles de Lint.  I’ve never read any of his work before, and I picked this up some time ago at Value Village. I’m becoming more open to the fantasy genre so we’ll see how this goes.
      2. Open Secrets by Alice Munroe.  Another one that I read some time ago and would like to re-read, and then give away.

      Six paperbacks and a Kindle?  Maybe that’s excessive.  Maybe I’ll have already devoured one or more of these before I go.  Either way, I feel prepared!


      Tide Road by Valerie Compton – A review.

      Tide RoadTide Road by Valerie Compton
      My rating: 5 of 5 stars

      This novel grabbed at my heart. A woman mourns the disappearance of an adult daughter and the book intertwines narrative from the mother’s past and present as she struggles to come to terms with this tragedy.

      Set mainly in the 1960s on Prince Edward Island, Valerie Compton describes island life with fondness and care. Life is speeding up with the coming of colour television and direct-dial telephone service, but the deep emotional threads in this novel take time to untangle. Alternately meditative and jarring, this story is difficult to put down. Highly recommended.

      Thanks to the publisher Goose Lane for my copy.

      View all my reviews