June 23, 2015
So here’s an enchanting prospect …
The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim, has been considered a beloved classic since its publication in 1922. Successful theatre productions and an award-winning film followed, based on the story of four London-based women, initially unknown to one another and all in varying stages of disgruntlement, who travel to Italy and share the cost of lodgings in a seaside castle for the month of April. Each is changed by the experience for the better, and for the reader’s enjoyment.
Skip ahead nearly a century and writer Brenda Bowen has taken inspiration from the original to create an “enchanted” experience for us herself, this time set in summery New England. In Enchanted August, four modern-day women escape their less than satisfactory New York lives for a reminiscent experience of house-sharing with strangers in an idyllic locale; personal adventures, enlightenment, and transformation ensue. A pretty new edition of The Enchanted April has been released in honour of the publication of its new relative and Brenda Bowen has even written the Introduction. I have an old edition but will have to find a way to read this new Intro.
I think these would be great companion reads – perhaps a Summer book club challenge to read both. The Enchanted April created a surge in tourist travel to the Italian Riviera, Enchanted August may do the same for New England shores. Vicarious travel from your beach blanket works too! Apparently if you enjoyed Beautiful Ruins, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, or Downton Abbey, these are for you. Alrighty then, I’m ready to be enchanted!
June 8, 2015
Well, fancy meeting you here! Longtime readers of this blog will know that a few times during the last five and a half years, this writer has gone AWOL. Poof! Thanks to the encouragement of a number of devoted supporters, I’m back. And back with the annual summer reading list!
In the past, some of you have taken this list to heart and committed to working your way through all the titles over summer vacation. Others have used it as a general guide and randomly tried a title here and there. A few have bookmarked the entry until being called upon to offer a Book Club selection. This list is for ALL of you. Here’s hoping there are some gems in here – I’ll be reading right along with you. We can compare notes. Click on the covers to be taken to websites which will offer you more details. The recipe for this booklist involved a few doses of exotic locales, a dash of good humour, a pinch of creative thinking, and a wee bit of visiting with interesting characters. Here’s hoping we can cook up a summer of great reading …
June 21, 2014
Sarah Jio is a writer from the Seattle area who is enjoying considerable success with her novels: The Violets of March, Blackberry Winter, The Bungalow, The Last Camellia, and Morning Glory to date and more on the way. Book clubs seem to be particularly fond of her creative, multi-generational story lines, often set in the Pacific Northwest. I have read Morning Glory which takes place in a floating home community and look forward to making my way through her other tales.
In her recently released Goodnight June, Sarah has explored generational connections through a beloved classic children’s book and it’s sure to be a favourite of book and bookshop lovers. The back cover blurb states: “June Andersen is professionally successful, but her personal life is marred by unhappiness. Unexpectedly, she is called to settle her great-aunt Ruby’s estate and determine the fate of Bluebird Books, the children’s bookstore Ruby founded in the 1940s. Amidst the store’s papers, June stumbles upon letters between her great-aunt and the late Margaret Wise Brown — and steps into the pages of American literature.”
I’ve only read the Author’s Note and I’ve already learned all sorts of intriguing trivia. So if you feel like a nostalgic trip to the Green Room and an imaginary visit into the world of books, writers, letters, and bookshops, this may be your next cozy read. I know I’m looking forward to it!
May 19, 2014
I have yet to meet a Rosie Project reader who hasn’t become smitten with the quirky charm of its protagonist and the premise of his “project”; such a universally appealing cast and adventure. If you haven’t had a chance to read this yet, do yourself a favour and cuddle up this long weekend with a copy.
Author Graeme Simsion was recently visiting Vancouver from his native Australia and appeared at a Meet the Writer event hosted by the cozy 32 Books bookstore of Edgemont Village in North Vancouver. Graeme Simsion’s personal back-story is an intriguing one with several successful career incarnations before the extraordinary success of Rosie allowed him to leave his day job. At one point, he delights in pointing out, he was even “an alien with extraordinary abilities” according to Immigration officials. Graeme’s address exuded enthusiasm and good-natured self-deprecating humour – he assesses his success with an Innocent’s air of awe at his own good fortune and a cheerful commitment to enjoying the ride. The Rosie Project, which had its start in a short story and then morphed into a screenplay and finally evolved into a novel, is now in the process of becoming a movie. (Starring role actors were not revealed but were happily described as “unexpected” like Russell Crowe was in A Beautiful Mind. That gets the imagination churning!) Graeme did share the good news that a sequel to The Rosie Project, The Rosie Effect, will appear on shop shelves in September. Can’t wait!
Blog readers AW, DH and I had a fun, quick chat with the personable Graeme. He is a fierce advocate of the Independent Bookstore and was quick to give credit to an indie book shop for his “Fictional Character” tee-shirt seen in the picture below. (available here) Inevitably, comparisons between the character Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory and Rosie character Dan Tillman are made but Graeme explained he’s never seen an episode and will strategically avoid Big Bang viewings in order to remain true to his version of Dan. Dan is in fact inspired by a long-time friend of his.
Graeme expressed concern that any reader ever feel he is ridiculing Dan’s Asperger’s condition; he indicated it was his goal to simply reveal the social anxieties we all feel and I am sure readers would feel he has indeed done that sensitively and very well.
I enjoy attending these events as it gives one some insight to the humanity behind the stories – a real person, sitting at a real desk or kitchen table, creating our entertainment from a spark of an idea. Hearing Graeme speak only enriched the Rosie experience. I hope you have chances to attend meet-the-writer events soon too!
June 2, 2013
As the month of June and a whiff of a promise of summer arrives, book columns inevitably turn to “The Beach List”. Summer reading seems to have a sensibility all its own – an excuse to read something lighter in most cases; I think perhaps fresh and light does feel more right. Last summer I read Beautiful Ruins and it was a perfect sunny days experience – I may not have been on the Italian coast but I felt its warmth just the same. Add that one to your list if you haven’t enjoyed it yet. (You can visit previous years’ lists here and here.) This summer, my list seems to embrace fresh characters … and primary coloured Primary art work if the covers are any indication! I didn’t notice the trend in quirky cover art until I started positioning the images for you. Is this a greater trend or am I just drawn to drawing? Let us know what your own reading recommendations are and if you have anything fresh and light on your list.
This story was recommended by the well-read manager of my favourite local bookstore. She seemed to have been enchanted so I was won over. “A novel as creative, brave, and pitch-perfect as its narrator, an imaginary friend named Budo, who reminds us that bravery comes in the most unlikely forms. It has been a long time since I read a book that has captured me so completely, and has wowed me with its unique vision. You’ve never read a book like this before. As Budo himself might say: Believe me.” —Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling author of Sing You Home
There are a few hits on my shelf with a Canadian/Irish connection – Janet E. Cameron is a Canadian (a Maritimer) living in Ireland. Her author Bio and Website entries confirm she’s witty and warm and evidently a nice blend of both her cultures. When asked to describe “Cinnamon Toast” she wrote: “It’s funny, it’s sad, and we’ve all been there. Plus there are drunken house parties, midnight confrontations, the Cold War, hippies in cabins, pick-up trucks, cherry-vanilla ice-cream, bar fights, prom night, Star Trek, a roll in the hay (literally), gratuitous 80s song references, and a happy ending, even after the end of the world. What more could you want?”
Author Mark Watson is an English stand-up comedian though from reviews I’ve read this isn’t an entirely comic piece and, in fact, features a “dark secret”. Perhaps I’ve been hoodwinked by the pastel cover?! The story of a Wedding Photographer who captures moments in families’ lives explores his own family experiences. ‘A pitch-perfect tragicomedy of ordinary – and not so ordinary – family life‘ –Jonathan Coe
This story almost had a blog entry of its very own. I’ve been waiting for its Canadian release ever since reading Australian and English rave reviews. It’s been called ” The feel-good novel of 2013.” The Harper Collins description: A first-date dud, socially awkward and overly fond of quick-dry clothes, genetics professor Don Tillman has given up on love, until a chance encounter gives him an idea. He will design a questionnaire—a sixteen-page, scientifically researched questionnaire—to uncover the perfect partner. She will most definitely not be a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker or a late-arriver. Rosie is all these things. She is also fiery and intelligent, strangely beguiling, and looking for her biological father a search that a DNA expert might just be able to help her with.
The Rosie Project is a romantic comedy like no other. It is arrestingly endearing and entirely unconventional, and it will make you want to drink cocktails.” Summer cocktails I presume …
Capital is a modern day tale, featuring a cast of many – a creative peek behind the curtains in London in 2008. “John Lanchester’s new book Capital tells the story of the residents of Pepys Road, and how their lives are changed by the global financial crisis; a post-crash, state-of-the-nation novel told with compassion, humour and truth.” This one brings the recent headlines to life and may not be as light as the others but offers fresh (fictional) insight.
I have been increasingly curious about The Fault in Our Stars as I’ve watched it become cult-like in status. The writing has been described as “exquisite” and “devastatingly beautiful”. The premise seems less than cheery, two cancer-stricken teens form a romantic relationship, but it is apparently a study in how we live life, love, and leave legacies. While categorized as a YA (Young Adult) novel, it has gained a huge following among adults as well. Reviews indicate the tears flow but the story sticks with you in a most inspiring way. Pop on your biggest sunglasses and enjoy.
So that’s a little list I’ll be working through. The sun is shining this morning and I’m off to travel back to Nigeria in Will Ferguson’s 419 for a while … Happy Reading!
The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin is a novel categorized as Fictionalized Memoir or Historical Fiction. This has become one of my favourite genres as so many superb novels have recently appeared on this shelf. I believe it may have all started with Loving Frank by Nancy Horan. Or maybe it goes further back to The Red Tent, Memoirs of a Geisha, or Girl with a Pearl Earring. See what I mean? All excellent reads. I have just finished another in the genre by Tanis Rideout called Above All Things about George Mallory, and his wife Ruth, during his famed ascent of Mt. Everest in 1924. It does indeed deserve the exuberant praise of its cover blurbs! Here is a link to an essay by Tanis about the challenges with writing “Fact and Fiction” When I finished reading Above All Things, I immediately wanted to learn more about the inspiration behind the tale. So … (back to the Aviator’s Wife!) in anticipation of reading about Anne Morrow Lindbergh in novel form, I have rallied a few non-fiction pieces to have at the ready when the cover closes.
First, here is a summary of The Aviator’s Wife courtesy of the author, Melanie Benjamin’s website:
“For much of her life, Anne Morrow, the shy daughter of the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, has stood in the shadows of those around her, including her millionaire father and vibrant older sister, who often steals the spotlight. Then Anne, a college senior with hidden literary aspirations, travels to Mexico City to spend Christmas with her family. There she meets Colonel Charles Lindbergh, fresh off his celebrated 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic. Enthralled by Charles’s assurance and fame, Anne is certain the celebrated aviator has scarcely noticed her. But she is wrong.
Charles sees in Anne a kindred spirit, a fellow adventurer, and her world will be changed forever. The two marry in a headline-making wedding. Hounded by adoring crowds and hunted by an insatiable press, Charles shields himself and his new bride from prying eyes, leaving Anne to feel her life falling back into the shadows. In the years that follow, despite her own major achievements—she becomes the first licensed female glider pilot in the United States—Anne is viewed merely as the aviator’s wife. The fairy-tale life she once longed for will bring heartbreak and hardships, ultimately pushing her to reconcile her need for love and her desire for independence, and to embrace, at last, life’s infinite possibilities for change and happiness.
Drawing on the rich history of the twentieth century—from the late twenties to the mid-sixties—and featuring cameos from such notable characters as Joseph Kennedy and Amelia Earhart, The Aviator’s Wife is a vividly imagined novel of a complicated marriage—revealing both its dizzying highs and its devastating lows. With stunning power and grace, Melanie Benjamin provides new insight into what made this remarkable relationship endure.”
Enticing stuff already! Some of the younger among us will not recall the actual headlines but may be more familiar instead with the beautiful book Gift From the Sea written by Anne Morrow Lindbergh herself. It is a classic and to be savoured, over and over.
Susan Hertog had significant access to Anne and the Lindbergh clan but has been accused of misrepresenting her writing goals – the family apparently believed she was researching for a study of feminism. When it was clarified that the interviews would be sources for a biography, the family balked. Apparently neither Anne, nor her husband Charles, wanted biographies researched or published during their lifetimes. Controversial as it is, this has been a well-reviewed Biography.
And finally, Reeve Lindbergh, daughter of Charles and Anne, has written her own version of events in Under A Wing. Goodreads describes it as: “At once an eloquent reminiscence and a slice of American history, Under a Wing is, at its core, a heartfelt tribute to an extraordinary family.”
Are you a fan of this genre? Any recommendations, recent or classic, you’d like to share?
June 3, 2012
A few of you kind souls have shared with me that you visit Bedside Table Books on your phones when you’re standing in front of the bookshelf in a store or library … that you drop in to the site to find a few recommended titles. If this sounds like you, then bookmark this entry. I dedicate the following list to the shelf-stalkers!
It’s that time of year again – the Summer Reading Lists are emerging everywhere in the media, on-line and off. I’ve been collecting titles that have piqued my interest in some way for months now and thought I’d just post the whole darn catalogue here for you to ponder along with me. Now a few of these are sooo fresh off the press that they haven’t quite made it to the shelves yet so be patient – a list this long is going to take us a while to get through, maybe until next summer! Some seem plain old fun (beach worthy) and some seem thought-provoking (for rainy days) – the whole gamut. So dust off ye olde beach bag and start packing!
Please feel welcome to add your own recommendations and discoveries in the Comments! (As always, click on the cover to learn more about the book)
Remember Beachy Book recommendations from last year? Refresh your memory here.
May 10, 2012
Book Clubs can be wonderful and book clubs can be tricky … Recently, Stuart McLean of The Vinyl Cafe (CBC Radio) told a story about “Morley” and her experience joining a book club.
Stuart recites: ” … the books she will read will take her to worlds beyond her own, and it’s always more fun to travel with friends.”
In the end, Morley sets some book club reading guidelines of her own:
1. A book about a man I could marry.
2. A book I read in Grade school.
3. A book that mentions chocolate favourably.
4. A book I haven’t read but have seen the movie.
5. A book my husband would quit after the first chapter.
Sounds like a fun book club to me!
So, set up the computer (or ipad or whatever you tune in on!) within earshot as you’re making dinner and enjoy the hilarity and the poignancy in this clip from the podcast. Just click on the link and Stuart will be chatting with you in no time.
February 19, 2012
Geographical trends seem to occur in books, don’t you find? For a while, there was a rash of “India” writing (A Suitable Boy, A Fine Balance …) and then stories set in China or Hong Kong (Snowflower and the Secret Fan, The Piano Teacher …) My former book club read a number of stories set in Africa until consensus had us move on – to the UK. Well, I’ve noted a recent trend to reading Russian. I read the classic Anna Karenina and Doctor Zhivago years ago but recently finished The True Memoirs of Little K and A Mountain of Crumbs – I enjoyed them all. Such an intriguing history and fascinating characters making their way through it. In only the past few months/weeks The Winter Palace, Catherine the Great, Enchantments, and The Little Russian have all been released. Each one looks appealing to me so it appears another literary trip to Russia could be in the works! (As usual, click on the image to be taken to a website with more information about the book.) Where have your books been taking you?
November 30, 2011
Yes – I am fully aware that I have a stack of books right here waiting for me to get back to reading at a normal rate of consumption (Ve-e-ee-ery slow lately!) but … these relatively new titles are among those on my “Want-to-Read” list. You have one of those too, right? I was chatting with a Bedside Table Books community member (Hello Jessica!) the other evening about good book club titles to suggest. These are ones I’d have on my suggestion list. Have you read any of them? Let us know what you thought. What titles are on your current “Want-to-Read” list?