Posts Tagged ‘o canada!’

11th February
2014
written by Steph
A Tale for the Time Being

A Tale for the Time Being

Is there anything worse than a book you expected to love but didn’t? Since setting out to travel the world, the frequent discrepancy between reality and one’s lofty expectations is something I’ve become accustomed to, but I still think I am most disappointed when I’m prepared for a book to sweep me off my feet only for it to leave me rather cold instead. That’s pretty much what happened with this book: I wanted to love it, and by all accounts, I should have loved it, but I didn’t.  It has many of the literary elements and quirks that are like cat nip to me such as discussions of quantum physics and parallel universes (I’ve never met a book that grapples with these ideas that I’ve been able to resist; see: my love affair with Scarlett Thomas, for starters), while also delving into a topic that has become near and dear to my heart over the past few years—meditation and the struggle to live in the present moment. Truthfully, I didn’t even know the book dealt with any of this before I picked it up, so all of these things should have been a delightful surprise. They were, and yet, they still couldn’t tip me over into unabashedly loving this book. (more…)
23rd December
2011
written by Steph
To every one of our readers who happen to be celebrating something festive at this time of year, Tony and I wish all of you a very happy holidays! As has become our tradition, tomorrow we travel into the frigid North, this year to Canada, where we will spend time with my family and I will fastidiously avoid doing any kind of work, because my brain = scrambled eggs right now. Instead, I am going to try to read at least two books and to venture out of the house as little as possible. Here is a picture of Emmy who decided to bury herself in the couch at the cabin we rented one year at Christmas time... I am using it as my inspiration for this year.

Christmas Emmy

I still have a bunch of books that I need to talk about before the year is up, and hopefully I will muster the energy to do so in individual posts, so if all goes well, this site will be far from dead. I figure holiday hibernation time is the perfect time to catch up on my blogging; hopefully there will be some fun content for y'all to discover in the new year! OK, time to pack and then maybe snuggle with the pups before they get sent off to puppy jail for the holidays (though no tears, because they just get to play with other neglected pooches all day every day, so it is essentially their idea of heaven). Happy holidays!
15th September
2010
written by Steph

One of my favourite books that I read last year was Generation A by Douglas Coupland. From the very first pages I was hooked by the fluid, mellifluous prose, and I really loved the way Coupland explored the ways stories can unite people, while also looking at the way the barrage of technology can actually make us feel more isolated than ever before. I thought Generation A was clever but also emotionally sound, never sacrificing the heart of its narrative in order to show off. I was so excited by the book that I couldn’t help gushing about it to a friend who I knew to be a big Coupland fan. She said that my next read should definitely be Microserfs, as that was one of her very favourite books that he’s written. Microserfs takes the form of a diary written by a young debugger named Daniel who works at Microsoft. Initially his writing is meant to help him combat his insomnia and the odd dreams he’s been having, but it mostly winds up chronicling his daily life along with those of his friends/coworkers/housemates as they struggle through the quotidian slog of working at Microsoft much at the expense of any of them having successful/functional personal lives. That is until they are offered the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a new startup company a former coworker has been working on out in California, and suddenly life gets a little more interesting… (more…)
20th January
2010
written by Steph
My first perfect read of 2010!

My first perfect read of the year!

Tony and I have been married for just over six months now, and I love my husband dearly.  But last week while reading The Blue Castle, I fell in love again.  With a book that starts like this, you can pretty much surmise that it was essentially love at first sight:
“If it had not rained on a certain May morning Valancy Stirling’s whole life would have been entirely different.  She would have gone, with the rest of her clan, to Aunt Wellington’s engagement picnic and Dr. Trent would have gone to Montreal.  But it did rain and you shall hear what happened to her because of it.”
The Blue Castle is the story of Valancy Stirling, who at 29, is an old maid.  She lives with her overbearing mother and sniveling cousin and has a dull and oppressed existence.  Valancy is kept under thumb, constantly berated, and is perpetually holding her tongue.  She is only able to find solace in two things: the nature books of the reclusive author, John Foster, and the blue castle of her imagination, a place where her wildest dreams come true and romance is no longer an impossibility.  Valancy’s life changes the day she sneaks out to see a doctor (without first getting her family’s approval) and is diagnosed with a severe and untreatable heart condition that will likely kill her before the year is out.  This revelation spurs Valancy to overhaul her life and break out of her shell; she may not have done much with the first 29 years of her life, but Valancy soon learns that it’s never too late to learn how to live, and when she starts to cozy up to town recluse and possible bad-boy, Barney Snaith, she finds it may not even be too late for love! (more…)
22nd December
2009
written by Steph
Ok, not really, but having spent the last two years here in Nashville, being whisked away to Toronto to spend the holiday season is comparable, right?  It's been unseasonably chilly here the past few weeks (normally it doesn't get really cold here until Feb), but I'm still mentally balking at the idea of having to wear boots lest my feet become little blocks of ice.  Don't get me wrong, I'm excited to be going home after an extremely prolonged period away, and yes, I do love the sight of a lawn blanketed in snow... it's dealing with all that frozen water that gets me!  Still, there are plenty of things to look forward to, especially seeing friends and family after being far too long away.  And I'm also looking forward to blazing through the streets of Toronto, with Tony in tow, reveling in the fantastic shopping AND the great food.  This year we have a few particular treats in mind that Tony's never experienced: street meat (read: hot dog from one of the myriad vendors.  We've eaten a lot of hot dogs together, but in my mind, Toronto hot dogs cannot be beat!), nanaimo bars, REAL Canadian bacon (i.e., "back" bacon/pemeal bacon... preferably purchased in sandwich form at the St Lawrence Market... one of my greatest annoyances in life is how American call limp pieces of ham "Canadian bacon" when they are nothing of the sort!), and poutine!  We'll also be hitting up our old favourites, namely dim sum and the fantastic Chinese bakery in China town, and if I can score some Hakka food as well, I'll be a happy camper who will uncomplainingly brave any weather Jack Frost chooses to throw our way.  It's times like the holidays when I wish we had four stomachs, all the better to eat all the fabulous food there is to eat... Anyway, we fly out bright and early tomorrow morning, and I desperately hope that we don't hit any delays in Chicago, where we'll connect for Toronto.  In the past I am always far too ambitious in terms of the scope of my plans, as I always underestimate how much traveling takes it out of me, and how much Tony and I need this annual break to just recharge our batteries.  Along with socializing and traipsing about town, we'll also be squeezing in a trip to the DMV so I can renew my driver's license and hitting up the dentist.  Aw yeah, what a wild and merry Christmas we'll be having! 😉  I don't foresee that I'll be getting tons of reading done as I never do around this time of year, and probably even less blogging, however I'll be bringing home Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, which I'm smack dab in the middle of and am really loving (I'm hoping it will renew my reading spirits so I can start 2010 firing on all four cylinders).  I'll also have Great Expectations by Charles Dickens in case I should finish the Austen... perhaps being snowbound in Toronto is the setting I need to finally conquer that sucker! 😉  I don't want to pack too much, as we'll inevitably have gifts we'll need to bring back with us and will do some shopping as well, so we need to keep room in our bags for anticipatory loot! So, for now I'll bid you all adieu and wish you all very happy holidays, whatever and wherever it is you may be celebrating.  I'm not sure if I'll have a chance to update prior to the New Year, BUT you can look forward to a 2009 roundup in which I talk a little bit about my reading this year and name a few of my favourite (and not-so-favourite!) titles.  Happy reading to all of you, and I hope that you all have a restful and safe rest of 2009 and a very happy new year!
3rd November
2009
written by Steph
My doubleheader for the November issue

My doubleheader for the November issue

For the November issue of BookPage, I pulled double duty and reviewed TWO books.  I first elected to cover The Pursuit of Other Interests by Jim Kokoris, but when Generation A by Douglas Coupland popped up a week or two later with no one to cover it, I knew I couldn't let it lie by the wayside and volunteered to read and review it too. I went into Pursuit hoping it might be a bit like Joshua Ferris's Then We Came to the End.  It didn't wind up matching the brilliance of that novel for me, but to be fair, I love TWCTTE A LOT.  And Pursuit was actually a really engaging and fun read in its own right - just ask Tony.  I laughed out loud at least 3 or 4 times while reading it, and when the book largely revolves around job loss in these trying economic times, you know that's no small feat.  This book had a lot of heart and managed to walk the ridiculously tricky line between levity and sobriety, and I ultimately enjoyed reading it very much.  If I were rating it on the blog, I'd probably give it a 4 out of 5, so it's well worth spending a few days with.  You can read more on my thoughts here. As for Generation A, well, what can I say except that I LOVED IT and it easily sauntered onto my "best books I've read this year" list.  The writing mesmerized and excited me, and when I was through with it, I was in a frenzy to get my hands on more Coupland. And this is coming from someone who up until this book had had a slightly negative view of Coupland (though I had never read him before).  Now I'm completely in awe and on a mission to read everything he's written.  This book was brilliant and could very well wind up being my favorite read of the year.  This easily snagged 5 stars from me.  Go out and read it now!  You can read my official review of it here. So, all in all, loved the books I covered for November's issue.  Next month?  Nanny Returns... The Pursuit of Other Interests Rating: 4 out of 5 Generation A Rating: 5 out of 5
2nd October
2009
written by Steph
It's Friday and I have nothing bookish to write about.  Well, not entirely true - I'm currently reading Jane Eyre, but I'm not sure when you last looked at your copy (surely we all have a copy, right?), but that book is loooong.  Don't get me wrong, I'm enjoying it quite a lot, but I don't think I'll be finishing it any time soon, especially as things are ramping up work-wise.  As the book is naturally divided into 3 parts, I might try something new and post my mid-read impressions on the conclusion of each part, but we'll see how it goes.  Tony believes he will finish Yukio Mishima's The Temple of the Golden Pavilion this weekend, and if that indeed winds up being the case, then we should have a joint review of that in the near future. But as I have none of the groundbreaking insights into literature for which I know you all come here (*eyeroll*), I thought I'd placate you with something a little bit different... Something in the form of a music video.  One written, directed, and produced by my good friend Simona and her boyfriend, Spencer. (After all, if you can't use your blog to shamelessly promote cool stuff your friends are doing, why have a blog? 😉 ).  They came up with the concept for this video for the Canadian alt-rock (is alt-rock still a genre?) band Grace Over Diamonds and shot it a few months back, but the video has only recently gone live.  Irrespective of the fact that producing music videos is not what either Simona or Spence do to make a living, I think this one is pretty darn good.  Take a look and see for yourself! Happy Friday everyone!  I hope you all have a great weekend!
25th September
2009
written by Steph
My BookPage review for October

My BookPage review for October

For the October issue of BookPage, I reviewed fellow Canadian Margaret Atwood's latest novel, The Year of the Flood.  The review is already up online, so I figured I'd give all of our S&TI! readers a sneak peak; you can read it here. My past with Atwood is somewhat tortuous and fraught - I had a highschool English teacher who thought la Atwood walked on water, but my 16-year old mind stubbornly revolted.  True story: my university admissions essay was about how I thought Jane Austen was more of a feminist than Margaret Atwood. Since The Year of the Flood takes place in the same timeline and world as Oryx & Crake, I know the two will be compared to no end.  While I didn't think The Year of the Flood was a novel without flaws, I do think I liked it more than O&C.  I found Toby & Ren to be more compelling narrators than Snowman, and whether I always agree with her take or not, I think Atwood shines brightest when she focuses on women.  Write what you know, I suppose.  She weaves an interesting story in which it's easy to get invested, one that I feel was richer and more fleshed out, and I think a lot of people will feel moved by what she has written here.  It isn't my favorite Atwood (I think the childhood years of Cat's Eye get that honor), but it is an absorbing tale.  Sometimes I felt the book got too preachy for its own good, but I won't deny that it takes less than six degrees of separation to trace her world back to the one we're currently living in; what she's saying needs to be heard, so I guess mission accomplished on that front. Rating: 3.5 out of 5
1st September
2009
written by Steph
Well, she got the hate part right, at least...

Well, she got the hate part right, at least...

[Note: I realize I should be posting my thoughts on Part 4 of 2666, but I still have some more reading to do before that part is finished.  I had considered pushing myself or rushing through it, but that’s really not the way to read, especially when reading for pleasure, is it?  I need to take a bit of a break from the behemoth before I finish up what I have left of Part 4 lest I post another cranky and disgruntled review yet again!] Out in the real-world I take part in a book club made up of some women from my department at school.  I haven’t always been the best member, having failed to finish several of the books (not from lack of time, but mostly lack of interest, I’m afraid), and when the streak of books being chosen was one in which I had little to no desire in reading the majority of the selected books, I bowed out for a while.  But a good friend of mine was picking the book this past month and it happened to be this collection of short stories that I already owned (but hadn’t read), so I decided that I would rejoin the fold.  We had our meeting last night, over Mexican appetizers (is there any food better for discussing Munro’s stories which all take place in the wilds of Canada? 😉 ), and I’m really glad I went.  I can’t say the discussion was always illuminating, but the company was good and I think we all put our best foot forward when it came to discussing HFCLM. (more…)
20th August
2009
written by Steph
Well, at least the one thing I'm sure of is that I think the cover is pretty...

Well, at least the one thing I'm sure of is that I think the cover is pretty...

One of the perks of interning at BookPage is that about once a month we have to purge old ARCs in order to make room for all the new ones that keep flooding in. The actual purging process is not actually that fun (since it involves a lot of heavy lifting), BUT when I get put in charge of this (as I often am, as it’s a job no one really wants to do), it does mean that I get to rescue anything that looks good. Which means that any books that we have doubles of or that didn’t get covered in the relevant month’s issue, I can take home with me! I don’t always avail myself of this as we all know I have plenty of books to read as it is, but that is how I came across this copy of Fall by Colin McAdam (the book was published in late June). I’d never heard of the author before (or really anything about this title), but I was intrigued by the pretty cover art and the premise didn’t sound half bad either.

The back cover tells us that this will be the story of two boys, Neil & Julius, who are roommates at an elite boarding school. Neil is awkward and a bit of a loner, while Julius is dashing and popular, but despite their differences, they forge an unlikely friendship. Both are in love with a girl named Fall (though only one of them is dating her… I’ll leave it to you to guess which one), who winds up throwing their worlds out of orbit when she winds up missing. Her disappearance causes the cracks to appear in their friendship, while the two boys attempt to deal with their loss in their own ways.

(more…)

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