Posts Tagged ‘coming-of-age’

28th June
2011
written by Steph

Faithful (and perhaps even casual) readers of this blogs know that I have certain fondness for books that revolve around the scholastic world. Half the charm for me in reading the Harry Potter books wasn’t just in entering a magical world, but in getting to go to school with Harry and the gang. The moment when the first book really spoke to me was Harry’s first trip to Diagon Alley and Hagrid takes him through buying school supplies. Heaven! Probably the only place more dangerous to let me loose unsupervised other than a bookstore would be a stationary/office supplies stores. I can’t say I personally miss all that much about my own highschool experience, but when Fall comes round and I have no reason to buy new pens and binders, well, I may just die a bit inside. One of my goals has also been to try to read more international fiction, so when I saw Miss Timmins’ School for Girls on the TLC Tours roster which boasted a murder mystery taking place in an Indian boarding school, you can imagine how excited I was. As it was pitched, Miss Timmins’ revolves around a young Indian woman named Charu, who takes a position at the British-nun-run Miss Timmins’ boarding school teaching English as a means of stretching her wings and gaining some independence from her family. Although Charu is slow to make friends, she eventually forms a magnetic bond with a fellow teacher, Moira Prince, and the two become thick as thieves. Unfortunately, one dark and stormy evening (the very best kind of nights for murder most foul!), Moira’s body is found broken at the base of a cliff and signs suggest her fall was no accident. As suspicion flits around the community, Charu is determined to discover who killed her friend and why, even if it means bringing unwanted attention and questions upon herself. (more…)
8th April
2011
written by Steph

For Laura: "Would you like a cream bun?"

Avid book bloggers know that a common lament throughout the book blogging world is the lack of time devoted to re-reading, given all the wonderful new books that are cropping up every day. With so many books frequently flooding into my own home, I know that I certainly have spent the bulk of my reading time in years past trying to make my way through the deluge of new books, rather than returning to old favorites. Of course, it’s not just well-loved books that I frequently mark as “to re-read”, but also books that challenged me or that I struggled with. Sometimes I finish a book that I expected to love and find that we just didn’t click. This can certainly be due to the book just not being my cup of tea, but sometimes I think that I simply wasn’t in the right space for that book, or that it might be one of those tricky ones that you can only appreciate after multiple readings. I am here to say that The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is definitely one of those books. (more…)
17th August
2010
written by Steph

So way back in 2009, I read Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, because I had heard it was a really engrossing page-turner that was super fun to read, and its 500+ pages really just whipped by. I did largely enjoy the novel, but wound up thinking it was good, not great; it did, however, pique my interest in Eugenides’ first novel, The Virgin Suicides, which is perhaps better known for its film adaptation. Well, by everyone but me, because I have of course not seen the movie (though I have now rented it from Netflix, so it’s only a matter of time!). On a whim, I recently decided now was the right time to finally try on Eugenides’ debut and see whether it was a better fit than Middlesex. The premise was certainly just as tantalizing as Middlesex (the story of a hermaphrodite): The story revolves around the suicides of the five young daughters of the Lisbon family, although predominantly it looks at the effects of the youngest daughter’s suicide (the first to commit the deed) on the rest of the family. Through the eyes of an anonymous group of boys who have been long fascinated by the beautiful and mysterious Lisbon girls, we watch as the family unravels and slowly spirals into decay and derelict dysfunction. Throughout it all, the boys try to solve the mystery of what caused Cecilia Lisbon to jump to her death. (more…)
28th May
2010
written by Steph
My review of Eleanor Catton's debut novel (which was long-listed for The Orange Prize!) is now up as a web exclusive at BookPage! I was really excited to read this book as I'd heard so many interesting things about it from U.K. book bloggers (it was just released in the U.S. last week). From the first page I was hooked; I loved the writing especially, but above and beyond that, I think Catton has written an extremely bold and provocative novel about girls on the cusp of womanhood. It is not a simple, straightforward narrative, but I relished its ambiguity and its fearlessness. If this is Catton's first novel, then I can't wait to see what she comes up with in the future. My only disappointment is that the book did not appear on the short-list for the Orange Prize, something I consider to be a huge oversight on the judges' part. Read my review at BookPage for a further thoughts, but please do not let this book pass you by! Rating: 4.5 out of 5
27th April
2010
written by Steph
Today is our friend Trisha's birthday, and we know she gets a kick out of these podcasts, so in honor of Trisha turning another year AWESOME, here's the latest installment of What We Watched.  Warning: This one's full of giggling! Featured in this podcast:
  • Tony gets all cranky when discussing the flapper fashion that features in Enchanted April
  • Did you know that Steph loves musicals and had the weirdest childhood ever? Our discussion of Showboat makes this clear... for the 20th time.
  • Like the protagonist in An Education, we fall for an older man... but his identity might surprise you!
  • The Legend of The Shadowless Sword teaches us the valuable lesson that the line between good and bad martial arts movies may be fine, but it does exist!

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

5th August
2009
written by Steph

Isn't that cover gorgeous?

Several years ago, my real-life bookclub selected Cloudstreet from a series of Australian novels as our next read.  I don’t remember a whole lot about the book, to be honest, though I do remember being equal parts amused and flummoxed by the inundation of Australian slang.  Today I would say the book painted a vivid portrait of families in Australia and the Aussie mentality, and Winton isn’t afraid of getting down into the dirty underbelly of working-class families and the hands Fate deals us.  I didn’t blog back then, but I did jot down a few notes about each book I read in my Excel spreadsheet, so here’s what I thought of Cloudstreet at the time:
Took me much longer to finish than it should have; was not a difficult read despite the reviews; characters were compelling at times, but overall I didn't feel that I learned or took anything from this book, and none of the characters were all that vivid to me; do see the somewhat hopeless yet hopeful aspects to the family, I don't necessarily get why we're supposed to care about them... also what was with the serial killer plotline? 3 out of 5.
Hmmm… apparently with time, my appraisal of Cloudstreet has somewhat softened, as that review doesn’t sound all that positive.  Perhaps it’s for the best I didn’t revisit that review before purchasing a few more Winton volumes on my recent trip to the used bookstore!  My line of thinking had essentially been, “Tim Winton!  I’ve read a book by him… Cloudstreet was alright, and I do want to read some more Australian fiction.  Why not give these a go?  They’re cheap!  Done!”  And that is how I came to own copies of Breath and The Riders. How I came to actually read Breath is a different story, but not really all that complicated either.  Sometimes I finish a book and have no idea what I want to read next.  I just want to dive into a great story and let it take me away.  Given how voluminous my TBR pile is, I can sometimes find it daunting to pick a new book since I tend to want to read them all right then!  In times like that, I find it can be really helpful to not overthink but to just pick up a book and start reading.  The genius with Breath is that it was a relatively slender volume (so not intimidating), and I also didn’t know anything at all about what it was about so there was nothing to overthink.  I just had to jump in feet first and hope for the best! (more…)
21st January
2009
written by Steph
loud-close

Faithful readers of this site might be crying out right now, “What’s this?!? ELIC is not listed as a contender in this year’s Tournament of Books!  It was published in 2005.  You said you were going to try to read through the ToB books next, so… what up?”  I know, I know, I was supposed to start on my ToB reading after giving up on Eve, but here’s the thing:  Last Friday, I bundled up and set off for the central library on campus, which claimed to have 5 of the titles on my list available.  When I got there, I found out that one of the books was now reserved for someone (never mind that I can’t figure out how to reserve books myself), two of the books that were listed as being in the stacks were decidedly not in their designated areas, and one of the books penned by a Spanish-language author was in fact the Spanish-language edition.  Which left me with 1 book… or a 20% success rate.  Not good.  It was so cold out and I had braved it for 1 lousy book?  Well, on my way out, I happened to pass by the “Leisure Reading” shelf and ELIC caught my eye.  I’ve been wanting to read it for several years now, and I figured that since I was there I might as well pick it up.  After all, the check-out period for books from the campus library is a lengthy 3 months… or so I thought.  Turns out, Leisure books only have a TWO WEEK check-out period, which is kind of ironic, since for some, that might require reading at a decidedly unleisurely pace.  Once I realized this, I decided that I had better read ELIC first, given that it was due back so much sooner. (more…)
10th January
2009
written by Steph
Middlesex

It seems like pretty much everyone in the universe who reads this book (and their moms) loves it.  It won the Pulitzer in 2003 (generally a point in a book’s favor, I would say), but it was also named an Oprah’s book club pick (I don’t want to be a snob, but let’s say that I don’t look to Queen O to dictate my reading habits… I certainly don’t think people should read particular books simply at her say so, but I suppose it would be equally wrong for me to NOT read a book for the same reason).  It’s been sitting on the shelf long enough that I vowed to not be daunted by its 500+ pages any longer. In the end, I’m glad I did, because those pages were immensely readable and wove a very rich tale indeed.  At first glance, Middlesex appears to be the story of a hermaphrodite (lady-man lady!), Cal(liope) Stephanides.  Cal is born with 5-alpha-reductase deficiency, a genetic disorder stemming from a chromosomal mutation.  This results in an insensitivity to testosterone while in the womb, such that Cal is born with the outward appearance of a female; at puberty, however, the influx of testerone causes certain male characteristics to appear.  I found the idea of exploring the nature versus nurture debate with respect to sexual and gender identity through fiction to be a pretty interesting ones and hoped Eugenides would treat the subject with a deft hand. (more…)
4th January
2009
written by Steph
824173

My first book of 2009 was one I picked up on a whim at McKay’s, primarily because the title amused me, as did the opening line:
"The cure for death by lightning was handwritten in thick, messy blue ink in my mother’s scrapbook, under the recipe for my father’s favourite oatcakes: Dunk the dead by lightning in a cold water bath for two hours and if still dead, add vinegar and soak for an hour more."
I figured this would be a fairly quirky read, which it certainly was.  But what I wasn’t expecting was just how dark and disturbing a story I would be getting in the bargain; in fact, this is probably one of the most alarming and unsettling books I have ever read.  Don’t get me wrong, it was compelling and I raced through the pages (obviously, as we’re not even a full week into the new year!), but it was creepy. (more…)