Friday, January 11, 2019

Hospital Corridors, a Canadian Romance

Hospital Corridors / Mary Burchell
Richmond UK: Mills & Boon, 1976, c1958.
192 p.

A second Burchell that I've just finished is also up for a review -- but this time, not because of its social criticism and exploration of post-war values. No, this time it's because I was vastly entertained to discover that this book was set mostly in Montreal!

And I started to wonder if Burchell has been hired by the Canadian Tourism Board for this little travelogue ;) There is a lot of rhapsodic description of the setting, as Nurse Madeline arrives from England to Quebec City, then makes her way to Montréal, and encounters rich Anglo weekends in the Laurentians, country drives to small Quebec towns, a view clear across to the the USA on a clear day from the Lookout on the Mountain, and even a dinner at Ruby Foo's.

The descriptions are delightful, and I could pretty much identify the huge "Dominion Hospital" she works at as the Royal Victoria. And the hotel at which she meets her upper crust English suitor -- for dinner only! -- must be the Ritz Carlton.

The story is fairly predictable though the depiction of Madeline and her fellow young nurses is entertaining and lively. The plot: Madeline's half-sister Clarissa meets a Canadian doctor in their English setting in the mid-50s -- she tells Madeline and their mother Enid that she will likely marry him, so they should all start thinking about moving to Canada together. Madeline, a trained nurse, discovers that there is a training program available for English nurses to work a year in Montreal, so she applies. Then Clarissa throws over her doctor, but Madeline determines to go forward with her own adventure anyhow. And meets a mysterious, handsome doctor on the ship over, who of course turns out to be the one and only jilted almost-brother-in-law.

There are a lot more machinations in the plot to get Madeline and Doctor Nat Lanyon together. Madeleine has another admirer, the charismatic Morton Sanders, her sister's previous employer who hired her to accompany his neurotic mother to Canada aboard the ship, and is  now giving her a bit of a rush. Doctor Lanyon seems remarkably sanguine about Madeleine dating another man for most of the book. It's only when her sister and mother come over for a visit and Clarissa bats her eyes at him once more, never mind that she's now legally married to someone else, that jealousy reveals Madeleine's true feelings to herself, and then, of course, all ends well. As Madeline and Nat declare their love to one another, they also declare their love for the country. This is the ending of the book:

"Stop here for a while, Nat,"she said softly. "I want to look at my little bit of Canada."
He stopped immediately, humouring her, and together they looked out over the darkening city.
"It's beautiful," she said half to herself. "It's beautiful, and now it's my home."
"It's only one corner of your home, my darling," he assured her. "All the years and all the miles are there for us both. From ocean to ocean it will all be your home. Together we'll watch the sunrise in the Rockies, the water come swirling down Kicking Horse River, and the mists clearing from the Valley of the Ten Peaks. You haven't seen more than the smallest beginning of it yet."
"I know. It's so vast one can't quite imagine it even now." She smiled slowly. Then musingly she said, "Canada. They call it the land of the future, don't they?"
"They do. And perhaps they're right." He smiled too then. "At any rate, it's the land of our future."
Then he started the car once more, and they drove at their own pace back to the hospital, secure in the knowledge that tonight, not only Canada, but all the world was theirs.

After that Tourism Board Approved™ conclusion, all I could think of was this.I hope you enjoy!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Mary Burchell's Love is My Reason

Love is my Reason / Mary Burchell
Toronto: Harlequin, 1974, c1957.
189 p.

I've read a lot of Mary Burchell's Harlequin romances over the years. From my first introduction to her charming romances, But Not For Me (now a favourite) to the discovery of her quite astonishing life and her memoir We Followed Our Stars -- also republished as Safe Passage in 2008 --I've found her completely fascinating. 

I just found out about this particular book recently, and though I don't review much of my genre reading, I wanted to share this one. 

Published in 1957, it details the feelings arising in a young woman, Anya Beranova,  as a result of being a Displaced Person after the war. As someone on Goodreads noted, there is not a lot of romance in this one; it feels like Burchell rolled one in so that Harlequin would publish it with her other work. The main love interest is a bit dreary, really, but Anya wants him, and that's all that really matters. 

In its tone and its look at post-war politics and social gradations, I was reminded in some elusive way of Helen MacInnes, a mystery writer of the same era. I loved the way that Burchell's long established love of opera and theatre and performance also plays a role in this story, as Anya discovers a latent "small talent" that leads her to her family and her future. 

The story runs thus: young Anya meets Englishman David Manworth by chance when he's holidaying in Bavaria. By a series of chance circumstances they meet a few times and develop a friendship. Then her father dies, after asking David to care for his young daughter...who is really the daughter of an Englishman. 

Feeling in some way responsible for her, David and his party -- his Aunt, her friend and her daughter, plus David's cousin, take Anya back to England with them. Anya must there discover who she really is and what she really wants, all while dealing with the emotions arising from her rootlessness and lack of national identity, and her long history of powerlessness and insecurity in DP camps across Europe. 

There are some reflections that are frighteningly current. With David in Bavaria there is a young woman, Celia, who is likely to marry him as their positions are similar and it would be convenient to them. She takes an instant dislike to Anya, which Anya sees, being so aware of her security in the world and how other people affect that. As Burchell writes,
Anya felt the chill of that stony dislike.
"And yet she has everything on her side," thought Anya wonderingly. "She is secure and happy and rich and beloved. Why should she hate and fear me, a stranger, with no country, no home, and even a father who is in doubt?"
A good question. 

Anya is shuffled around a bit, finds her hidden talent thanks to Cousin Bertram, a stage manager (and one of the most appealing characters in the book for me), discovers her true identity and gets her man in the end. But even as she's doing so she continues to hold her ambition to develop a career and to be self-sufficient and independent, and to hold her future in her own hands. I feel that if Burchell had been able to get away with not marrying her off in the end, she might have done so -- and the book would certainly have been more realistic and powerful that way. 

I was really struck by the currency of the concept of this story, and by Burchell's compassion not for The Displaced as a generality, but the real interior life of one young girl caught up in the winds of war. It makes the setting and the social conditions of the DP camps much more emotionally resonant. Burchell's work during the war and her concern for those caught up in its aftermath both shine out in this book in a way I haven't seen from her before.

While it's a pretty slight romance with convoluted plotting for drama's sake, it's also a fascinating contemporary look at the very present reality of DPs, refugees and those fleeing conflict in whichever way they can. A timely read that still echoes today. 

Monday, January 07, 2019

Cold Comfort Farm

Cold Comfort Farm / Stella Gibbons
London: Penguin Essentials, 2011, c1932.
233 p.

After my last experience with Stella Gibbons I thought it was time to read her classic, the one which everyone thinks of when you hear her name -- it's like the rest of her 30 novels and short story collections don't even exist in the face of this book. 

Since my husband had just found me this charming new copy, it was perfect timing to dig in. Except that I found it rather hard going. 

Perhaps it was just that I wasn't in the right mood when I began it, but the first few chapters didn't feel funny at all. They were slow and tedious, and I wasn't sure if I'd keep on with it. 

But. Then it started to pick up, perhaps when Robert Poste's Child finally made it to Cold Comfort Farm and encountered her cousins the Starkadders. 

The comparison between the satirical depiction of the Starkadders in high Thomas Hardy style and Flora's practical, modern, down-to-earth sensibility was where the humour was found. When she arrives at Cold Comfort Farm, it is dark, foreboding, mysterious -- Cousin Judith moons about wailing after her handsome son Seth (who loves philandering and the talkies); Cousin Amos preaches hellfire and neglects the farm; son Reuben only wants to have the farm and make it go, if he can get a chance; daughter Elfine floats about in art school fashions communing with nature and nearly losing her chance at an advantageous marriage. Over them all looms the figure of Aunt Ada Doom who rules the farm from her bedroom, playing on the  fact that she saw something nasty in the woodshed when she was a child. 

When Flora arrives she quickly straightens things out. One by one she sets her plans into motion, starting with giving the eternally pregnant servant girl some birth control tips, and continuing on to encourage Amos to widen his flock, introduce Seth to a movie mogul, and engineer Elfine's transformation into a country gel in order to catch her intended. 

Flora snaps Aunt Ada Doom's iron control of the farm, and then in a flash of inspiration she sees how to change Aunt Ada herself. It's a very silly and over-the-top tale, with some engaging storylines, and a delightfully satisfying conclusion. I'm not sure how much funnier it would have been originally, when published in the midst of the vogue for Hardyesque, doomed countryside stories. Since I have read most of Hardy and of Mary Webb who she is also satirizing, I caught many of the references. But the problem is that I also quite like both Hardy and Webb, and while I see what Gibbons was doing here to great effect, at times the narrative leaned slightly toward the snobbiness I felt in her story collection that I've just finished as well, though not as directly.

In any case, this was in the end quite an entertaining read with lots to laugh over, if you don't take the dated elements too seriously. I think I'll have to rewatch the film someday as well and see how it's held up. 

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm

Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm / Stella Gibbons; intro by Alexander McCall Smith
London: Vintage, 2011, c1940.
304 p.

I picked up this book of 16 short stories over the Christmas holidays, obviously drawn to it by the title and the season. However, only the first two stories are Christmas themed, one of them being a set piece at Cold Comfort Farm before the advent of Flora Poste to set things right. It was fairly thin, feeling like it was inserted just so the title of this collection could attract readers of said novel, Stella Gibbons' best known work by far. 

The other Christmas story was quite charming and enjoyable, featuring a spinster who decides to celebrate Christmas on her own in the countryside but encounters three children and then their father, a widower of course...

The rest of the stories are more general, stories that Gibbons published in varied magazines and papers of the day. As such they are of a certain type; created to appeal to the audience for these women's serials. They mostly deal with relationships -- with women and their marriages and love affairs, and very, very often with the contrast between the flighty modern 'smart set' of the 20s & 30s and the respectable, conventional lives of the rest of society. Gibbons comes down strongly on the side of the conventional, particularly regarding gender norms, and after fourteen stories about how dull and virtuous women and their strong and manly husbands prevail I must say I was getting a sense of Gibbons as a rather snobby and judgemental woman who I wasn't all that fond of. Perhaps it was reading them all in too rapid succession -- if I'd spaced them out a bit they may not have been so overwhelming in that regard. 

But as Alexander McCall Smith says in the introduction, they are stories from a certain period and they carry that flavour. Yes, they sure do. I enjoyed a few of them greatly, some mostly and one or two I didn't like much at all. 

But as a whole, if you do like Gibbons already, or enjoy popular writing from the 30s, this is a nice collection to explore. I decided after finishing this that I should tackle Cold Comfort Farm itself next, as I've never read it, just seen the delightful 1995 BBC film. More on that shortly...

This is pretty much exactly what I would want to say about this book, except the 'small-c conservatism' mentioned rankled me a little bit more after the third or fourth story about the sanctity of old-fashioned marriage in the face of modern frivolity.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

12th Annual Canadian Book Challenge: the Halfway Point!

Here is the traditional halfway roundup of titles read thus far, for the 12th Canadian Book Challenge!

You've all done very well indeed, and given me a lot of titles to gather up -- lots of variety -- some interesting debut authors, poetry, nonfiction, children's books, graphic novels, just to mention a few. And not many duplicated titles -- I'm actually quite amazed at how many different authors and titles have been read with hardly any doubled up!

The first author to have had more than one title reviewed was Jeff Lemire.
The author with the highest number of different titles reviewed so far is Heather Hudak, with 6.
The first title to be reviewed more than once was Vi by Kim Thuy.
The title with the most reviews so far is Thea Lim's An Ocean of Minutes, with 4.
We've read 256 different authors starting with every letter of the alphabet except for Q & X.

If you find any missing or incorrect links please let me know either in the comments or a quick email. Thanks!

Alexis, André
-Fifteen Dogs (Rob)

Allen, Grant
-Miss Cayley's Adventures (Brian Busby)

Aloian, Molly
-Cultural Traditions in Canada (Irene)
-Remembrance Day (Irene)

Anderson, Laurie Halse & Emily Carroll
-Speak (John Mutford)

Andrasofszky, Kalman & Leonard Kirk
-Captain Canuck Aleph (John Mutford)

Atwood, Margaret
-Blind Assassin (Mary R.)
-The Handmaid's Tale (Reese)

Auger, Wendy Frood
-10 Drowsy Dinosaurs (RIEDEL Fascination)

Bach, Mette
-Cinders (Teena)
-Charming (Teena)
-You're You (Teena)

Bailey, Don & Bob Hilderley 
-Best Canadian Christmas Stories (Irene)

Bailey, Linda & Julia Sarda
-Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein (Jo)

Baker, Keith
-Lunenburg (Teena)

Bala, Sharon
-The Boat People (Red 5)

Barbeau, Melissa
-The Luminous Sea (Naomi)

Barbeau-Lavalette, Anaïs
-Suzanne (Melwyk, Irene)

Barr, Robert
-The Triumphs of Eugene Valmont (Brian Busby)

Bass, Karen
-Two Times a Traitor (Puss Reboots)

Bates, Larry
-Beat the Bank (Irene)

Bates, Ronald
-The Wandering World (Reese)

Bender, Rebecca
-Giraffe and Bird Together Again (Shonna)

Benison, CC
-Death At Buckingham Palace (RIEDEL Fascination)

Bertin, Johanna
-Don Messer (Teena)

Bertin, Leonard
-Target 2067 (Brian Busby)

Betts, Amanda
-In Flanders Fields (Irene)

Bidini, Dave
-Midnight Light (John Mutford, Irene)

Bird, Kate
-Vancouver in the Seventies (Eric)

Birney, Earle
-Turvey (Leaves & Pages)

Bischoff, Theanna
-Left (Teena)
-Swallow (Teena)

Blais, Francois
-Document 1 (Reese)

Bonner, Margerie
-The Shapes that Creep (Brian Busby)

Boone, Ezekiel
-Zero Day (Darlene)

Boothby, Ian & Nina Matsumoto
-Sparks! (John Mutford)

Bouchet, David
-Sun of a Distant Land (Eric)

Bourgeois, Paulette
-Franklin's Neighbourhood (RIEDEL Fascination)

Bowling, Tim
-The Tinsmith (Shonna)

Boyagoda, Randy
-Original Prin (Reese)

Bradley, Alan
-The Grave's A Fine & Private Place (Wendy/Kentworld)

Brenna, Beverley
-Sapphire the Great and the Meaning of Life (Shonna)

Brown, Calef
-Hypnotize a Tiger (Mary R)

Brown, Ron
-Canada's World Wonders (Irene)

Buell, John
-Playground (Leaves & Pages)

Buist, Ron
-Tales From Under the Rim (Teena)

Burden, Arnold
-The Dramatic Life of a Country Doctor (Teena)

Burford-Mason, Aileen
-Eat Well, Age Better (Irene)

Burn, KC
-Tartan Candy (Darlene)

Calvert, Kathy
-Ya Ha Tinda (Irene)

Cameron, Susan
-These Four Walls (Irene)

Campbell, Melodie
-The B-Team (Bill Selnes)

Casey, Quentin
-The Sea Was in Their Blood (Irene)

Chapman, Brenda
-Turning Secrets (Teena)

Choyce, Lesley
-Peggy's Cove (Teena)

Clark, Michael J.
-Clean Sweep (Shonna)

Clewes, Rosemary
-The Woman Who Went to the Moon (John Mutford)

Cody, H.A.
-The Girl At Bullet Lake (Brian Busby)

Collins, Carolyn Strom & Christina Wyss Eriksson
-The Anne of Green Gables Christmas Treasury (Red5)

Compton, Wade
-The Outer Harbour (Eric)

Cooper, Paige
-Zolitude (Nancy)

Coren, Michael
-Epiphany (Irene)

Côté, Véronique & Steve Gagnon
-I Never Talk About It (Melwyk)

Coulter, Myrl
-The Left Handed Dinner Party (Reese)

Coupland, Douglas
-Terry (Gord, Teena)

Creasey, Eleanor
-On Remembrance Day (Irene)

Crewe, Lesley
-Relative Happiness (Teena)

Critch, Mark
-Son of a Critch (Teena)

Curtis, Sky
-Flush (Irene)

Curtis, Wayne
-Sleigh Tracks in New Snow (Lisa)

Cushing, E.L.
-Murder's No Picnic (Brian Busby)
-Maid At Arms (Brian Busby)

Czajkowski, Chris
-Cabin at Singing River (Leaves & Pages)

Davidson, Craig
-The Saturday Night Ghost Club (Luanne, Melwyk, Irene)
-Cataract City (Irene)
-Precious Cargo (Irene)

Dawn, Amber
-Sodom Road Exit (PussReboots)

Delany, Vicky
-White Sand Blues (Jo)
-Elementary, She Read (PussReboots)

Demers, Charles
-Property Values (Rob)

Desjardins, Martine
-The Green Chamber (Melwyk)

Denbok, Leah
-Nowhere to Call Home (Luanne)

Dewitt, Patrick
-Sisters Brothers (Irene)
-French Exit (Nancy, Mary R.)

Dickinson, Terence
-Exploring the Sky by Day (Irene)

Diespecker, Dick
-Rebound (Brian Busby)

Dimaline, Cherie
-The Marrow Thieves (Red 5, Swordsman, Naomi)

Dixon, Joan
-Extreme Canadian Weather (RIEDEL Fascination)

Donahue, Anne T.
-Nobody Cares (Irene)

Donoghue, Emma
-The Lotteries, More or Less (PussReboots)

Dumont, Dawn
-Glass Beads (Melwyk, Irene)

Edugyan, Esi
-Washington Black (Nancy)

Elliott, Zetta & Aaron Boyd
-Melena's Jubilee (Puss Reboots)

Epp, Darrell
-After Hours (Irene)

Faker, Sarah
-All Beauty is Now (Irene)

Farmer, Bonnie & Marie Lafrance
-Oscar Lives Next Door (Puss Reboots)

Flanders, Cait
-Year of Less (Melwyk, Teena, Red5)

Forrest, John
-Home For Christmas (Red5)

Fraser, Nancy Wickware
-Mysterious Brockville (RIEDEL Fascination)

Garcia, Emilio Jose & Samantha Kristoferson
-Recipe for an Extraordinary Life (Irene)

Gardner, Whitney
-Chaotic Good (Melwyk)
-Fake Blood (John Mutford)

Gates, Eva
-Spook in the Stacks (Puss Reboots)

George, Kallie
-The Enchanted Egg (Puss Reboots)

Golliger, Gabriella
-Girl Unwrapped (Reese)

Graham, Genevieve
-Come From Away (Red 5, Naomi)
-Tides of Honour (Red 5)
-Promises to Keep (Red 5)
-Under the Same Sky (Red 5)

Grainger, Gennifer
-From the Vault (Irene)

Gravel, Elise
-The Mushroom Fan Club (John Mutford)

Gray, John
-Billy Bishop Goes to War (Eric)

Greene, Elizabeth
-A Season Among Psychics (Melwyk)

Grover, Ione
-No Matter What Happens (Irene)
-Book of Blessence (Irene)

Hamilton, Ian
-The Water Rat of Wanchai (TraceyK)

Hancock, Pat & Mark Thurman
-Creatures of the Night (RIEDEL Fascination)

Harding, Robyn
-Her Pretty Face (Luanne)

Harmer, Liz
-The Amateurs (Melwyk)

Harrison, A.S.A.
-The Silent Wife (Patricia)

Hay, Elizabeth
-Garbo Laughs (Irene)
-Alone in the Classroom (Irene)
-His Whole Life (Irene, Shonna)

Haynes, Michael
-The Great Trail (Irene)

Hébert, Anne
-Am I Disturbing You? (Melwyk)

Helmer, Marilyn & Laura Watson
-Three Barnyard Tales (RIEDEL Fascination)

Heras, Theo & Alice Carter
-Our New Kittens (Shonna)

Heti, Sheila
-Motherhood (Irene)

Hicks, Faith Erin
-The Divided Earth (PussReboots)

Ho, Van & Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
-Too Young to Escape (Shonna)

Hopkinson, Nalo
-The New Moon's Arms (Mary R.)

Horvath, Polly
-Very Rich (PussReboots)

Howarth, Jerry
-Hello Friends! (Teena)

Hudak, Heather
-Fall Fairs (Irene)
-Family Day (Irene)
-Remembrance Day (Irene)
-Pride Festivals (Irene)
-National Indigenous Peoples Day (Irene)
-Thanksgiving (Irene)

Humphreys, C.C.
-Chasing the Wind (Gord)

Huston, Nancy
-Slow Emergencies (Melwyk)

Hynes, Joel Thomas
-We'll All Be Burnt in Our Beds Some Night (Irene)

Itani, Frances
-Deafening (Red 5)

Jenkins, Steve, Derek Walters & Caprice Crane 
-Happily Ever Esther (John Mutford, Teena)

Jessome, Phonse
-Disposable Souls (Teena)
-Murder at McDonalds (Teena)
-Somebody's Daughter (Teena)

Johns, Chris
-A Taste of Prince Edward Island (Irene)

Johnson, Harold
-Corvus (Melwyk)
-Clifford (Irene)

Jolly, B. Denham
-In The Black (Irene)

Kamal, Sheena
-It All Falls Down (Harvee)
-The Lost Ones (Harvee)

Kearsley, Susannah
-Bellewether (Red 5)

Kimmel, Fran
-No Good Asking (Luanne)

King, Basil
-The Empty Sack (Brian Busby)
-The Thread of Flame (Brian Busby)

King, Thomas
-Coyote Tales (Jo)

Klein, Michael
-Dissident Doctor (Irene)

Kooser, Ted & Jon Klassen
-A House Held Up By Trees (Puss Reboots)

Korman, Gordon
-Whatshisface (Pussreboots)
-Restart (Pussreboots)

Lafferty, Catherine
-Northern Wildflower (John Mutford)

Laforme, Chief R. Stacey
-Living in the Tall Grass (John Mutford)

Laidlaw, Rob
-Cat Champions (Teena)

Lapeña, Shari
-An Unwanted Guest (Luanne)

Leach, Sara
-Slug Days (Puss Reboots)

Lemire, Jeff, Lewis LaRosa & Mico Suayan
-Bloodshot Salvation (John Mutford)

Lemire, Jeff
-Sherlock Frankenstein (Puss Reboots)
-Roughneck (John Mutford)

Leroux, Catherine
-Madame Victoria (Naomi)

Leung, Carrianne 
-That Time I Loved You (Naomi)

Léveillé-Trudel, Juliana
-Nirliit (Melwyk)

Lewis, Robert
-Power, Prime Ministers and the Press (Irene)

Lilley, Joanna
-The Birthday Books (John Mutford)

Lim, Thea
-An Ocean of Minutes (Mary R., Nancy, Melwyk, Irene)

Lin, Hartley
-Young Frances (Puss Reboots)

Lovett-Reid, Patricia
-Get Real (Irene)

Lye, Harriet Alida
-The Honey Farm (Naomi)

Macdonald, Frankie & Sarah Sawler
-Be Prepared! (Teena)

MacIntyre, Linden
-The Bishop's Man (Wendy/Kentworld)

Mackay, Isabel
-Blencarrow (Brian Busby)
-House of Windows (Melwyk)

MacKenzie, Lily Iona
-Divine Comedy (Harvee)

MacLeod, Elizabeth
-Meet Viola Desmond (Irene)

Mah, Melanie
-The Sweetest One (Irene)

Maharaj, Rabindrinath
-Adjacentland (Eric)

Manguel, Alberto
-Packing My Library (Rob)

Mapa, Lorina
-Duran Duran, Imelda Marcos, & Me (John Mutford)

Marquardt, Tina
-Stray (Luanne)

Marston, Alan
-Strange Desires (Brian Busby)

Martel, Yann
-Life of Pi (Darlene)

Matejova, Miriam
-Wherever I Find Myself (Darlene)

Mayr, Suzette
-Monoceros (Puss Reboots)

McDonald, Anne
-Miss Confederation: the Diary of Mercy Anne Coles  (Gord)

McKay, Ami
-Half Spent Was the Night (Luanne)

McKenzie, Bob & Jim Lang
-Everyday Hockey Heroes (Teena)

McWatt, Tessa et. al.
-Luminous Ink (Gord)

Millar, Margaret
-Wives & Lovers (Nancy)

Miller, K.D.
-Late Breaking (Eric)

Milton, Steve
-Tessa and Scott (Irene)

Mlynowski, Sarah
-Weather or Not (Puss Reboots)

Montgomery, L.M.
-Anne of the Island (Red 5)
-Christmas at Red Butte (Faith Hope & Cherrytea)

Moscovitch, Hannah
-Infinity (Nancy)

Moyles, Trina
-Women Who Dig (Irene)

Munro, Alice
-Lives of Girls and Women (Irene)

Myers, Paul
-The Kids in the Hall: One Dumb Guy (Teena)

Newmark, Amy & Janet Matthews
-Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas in Canada (Red5, Irene)

Nielsen, Susin
-No Fixed Address (PussReboots)

Oppel, Kenneth
-Half Brother (Darlene)
-Inkling (PussReboots)

Packard, Frank L.
-Doors of the Night (Brian Busby)

Page, Kathy
-Dear Evelyn (Naomi)

Paisley, Erinne
-Can Your Conversations Change the World? (Irene)

Patterson, Kevin
-Consumption (Eric)

Paul, Julie
-The Pull of the Moon (Nancy)

Pearson, Patricia
-A Brief History of Anxiety: Yours and Mine (Irene)

Pellerin, Renee
-Conspiracy of Hope (Irene)

Pendziwol, Jean E.
-The Lightkeeper's Daughters (Red 5)

Penny, Louise
-Brutal Telling (RIEDEL Fascination)
-A Fatal Grace (John Mutford)
-A Trick of the Light (Lisa)
-The Beautiful Mystery (Lisa)
-How the Light Gets In (Lisa)

Peterson, Jordan
-12 Rules for Life (Darlene)

Porter, Anna
-In Other Words (Irene)

Pyjama Press
-Think Kindness (Shonna)

Redhill, Michael
-Bellevue Square (Irene)

Reichs, Kathy
-Deja Dead (Darlene)

Reid, Iain
-Foe (Luanne, Pussreboots)

Reynolds, Graham & Wanda Robson
-Viola Desmond: Her Life & Times (Teena)

Rice, Waubgeshig
-Moon of the Crusted Snow (Naomi)

Ridge, Yolanda
-Inside Hudson Pickle (Puss Reboots)

Ripley, Nathan
-Find You in the Dark (Darlene)

Robinson, Eden
-Trickster Drift (Melwyk, Irene)

Robinson, Peter
-The Hanging Valley (Reese)
-Sleeping in the Ground (Irene)
-Careless Love (Luanne)

Rocklin, Joanne & Lucy Knisley
-Love Penelope (Puss Reboots)

Roy, Gabrielle 
-Enchanted Summer (Melwyk)
-Children of My Heart (Irene)
-Where Nests The Water Hen (Irene)
-The Road Past Altamont (Irene)
-Garden in the Wind (Melwyk)

Royal Canadian Geographical Society
-Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada (Irene)

Russwurm, Lani
-Vancouver Was Awesome (Eric)

Sadler, Judy
-Embroidery (Irene)

Sarkadi, Laurie
-Voice in the Wild (John Mutford)

Schroeder, Karl
-The Million (Puss Reboots)

Scott, Genevieve
-Catch My Drift (Naomi)

Scrivener, Leslie
-Terry Fox: His Story (Teena)

Selecky, Sarah
-Radiant Shimmering Light (Melwyk)

Shatner, William
-Leonard: My 50 Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man (Teena)

Shatner, William & David Fisher
-Live Long and...  (Teena)

Shields, Carol
-Jane Austen (Reese)

Siré, Cora
-Behold Things Beautiful (Reese)

Skotnicki, Sandy
-Beyond Soap (Irene)

Skrypuch, Marsha Forchuk
-Adrift at Sea (Irene)

Slocum, Joshua
-Sailing Alone Around the World (Rob)

Smith, Barbara
-Great Canadian Romances (RIEDEL Fascination)

Smith, Russell
-How Insensitive (Eric)
-Noise (Eric)

Smyth, Fiona
-Somnambulance (Puss Reboots)

Spires, Ashley
-Gordon Bark to the Future (John Mutford)
-Fluffy Strikes Back (John Mutford)

Spruit, Jennifer
-A Handbook for Beautiful People (Irene)

St James, Simone
-The Other Side of Midnight (RIEDEL Fascination)

Stellings, Caroline
-Gypsy's Fortune (RIEDEL Fascination)

Stevens, Chevy
-Still Missing (Puss Reboots)

Summers, Courtney
-Sadie (Luanne)

Symington, Sabrina
-First Year Out (John Mutford)

Tagaq, Tanya
-Split Tooth (John Mutford)

Talaga, Tanya
-Seven Fallen Feathers (Irene)

Tamaki, Jillian
-Boundless (John Mutford)

Tamaki, Mariko & Joelle Jones
-Supergirl Being Super (John Mutford)

Thuy, Kim
-Man (Irene, Nancy)
-Vi (Irene, Buried in Print)
-Ru (Irene)

Toews, Miriam
-Women Talking (Naomi, Melwyk)
-Irma Voth (Irene)
-A Complicated Kindness (Irene)

Traikos, Michael
-The Next Ones (Irene)

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
-A Knock on the Door (Red 5)

Ungar, Michael
-We Generation: Raising Socially Responsible Kids (Irene)

Vargas, Fred 
-Wash this Blood Clean From my Hand (Cath)

Vaughan-Johnston, Sally & Best of Bridge
-Slow Cooker cookbook (Gord)

Vermond, Kira
-Half-Truths & Brazen Lies (Irene)

Wagamese, Richard
-Starlight (MelwykIrene)

Wees, Frances Shelley
-The Keys of my Prison (Nancy)
-This Necessary Murder (Brian Busby)

Wesley, Gloria Ann
-Chasing Freedom (Red 5)

Wiersema, Robert J.
-The World More Full of Weeping (Darlene)

Wilson, M.A.
-The Mystery of the Missing Mask (PussReboots)

Weymouth, Adam
-Kings of the Yukon (Irene)

Whyte, Ewen
-Desire Lines: essays on poetry, art & culture (Reese)

Wilkshire, Nick
-Remember Tokyo (Teena)

Will, Elaine M.
-Look Straight Ahead (John Mutford)

Williams, Stephen
-Invisible Darkness (Darlene)

Wright, Eric
-Final Cut (RIEDEL Fascination)

Wright, L.R.
-The Suspect (Reese)

Youers, Rio
-Halcyon (Luanne)

Young, Pete
-The High Road (Irene)

Younge-Ullman, Danielle
-Everything Beautiful is not Ruined (Irene)

Zebian, Najwa
-Mind Platter (Irene)

12th Annual Canadian Book Challenge: January Round Up

1. Click on the icon above
2. Add a link to your review. (Please link to your specific review, not an entire webpage.)
3. Add your name and in parentheses the title of the book, such as Melwyk (Anne of Green Gables)
4. In the comment section below, tell me your grand total so far. (ex. "This brings me up to 1/13")
5. In the comment section below, note whether you've read a book which meets the monthly challenge set via email for participants.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Best of the Year 2018

Already time for the yearly roundup of some of the best reads this year. I always wait until the very last possible moment to post my list; you never know what you'll come across around Christmas! I like to give every book I've read this year a chance to appear on my favourites list, no matter if I read it in the first week of January or the last few days of December. 

I also create a statistical summary each year, mostly for my own geekish pleasure. As I've said before, I don't think of reading as a competition -- I keep track of numbers and various stats for my own interest, not to prove anything or compare myself to anyone. 

Here are my reading stats for 2018.

Total Reading: 184


Female: 160

Male: 19
Both/Neither: 5

Genre etc.

Fiction: 133

Non Fiction: 34
Poetry: 2
Graphic Novels: 5
Short Stories: 10

In Translation: 37

Swedish: 11

Quebec French: 6
French: 5
Japanese: 4
German: 4
Korean: 2
Finnish: 1
Arabic: 1
Spanish: 1
Norwegian: 1
Polish: 1

My Own Books: 62
Library Books: 115

Review Copies: 7

Rereads: 5

E-reads: 22
Author who I read the most from: With my last book of the year, it's a tie: Mary Burchell & Louis L'Amour (both with 12)

2018's Weird Random Stat :  Number of books with a one-word title - 28


And now on to my favourite titles of the year!

These titles were chosen because they met my personal likings somehow -- either with their creativity, great writing, immersive characterizations, or just because I really enjoyed reading them. 

Amatka / Karin Tidbeck

A weird and wonderful discovery! This speculative novel was a mysterious surprise, and I haven't stopped thinking about it all year.

Bellewether / Susanna Kearsley

One of my favourite authors hits all my favourite notes in this one: history, museums, ghosts, and true love.

The Time of Mute Swans / Ece Temelkuran; trans. Kenneth Dakan

A beautifully told story of Turkey, a young girl's childhood under the threat of revolution, and a family's journey. With unforgettable images and powerful storytelling, this is one that has stuck with me. 

A complex mix of family, identity and belonging, this novel that ranges from a girl's childhood in Iran to adulthood in France was amazing. The writing was strong and the threads of the story so richly interwoven I couldn't put it down.

The End of Days / Jenny Erpenbeck; trans. Susan Bernofsky

The second novel by Erpenbeck that I read in 2018, this one just slightly edged out the first, Go, Went, Gone, as a fave read. Its structure - starting with an infant's death and continuing in five sections to imagine her possible lives as if she had not died at crucial moments - was fascinating and brought up so many ideas. Wonderful stuff.

Trickster Drift / Eden Robinson

Part Two of an energetic and fresh Indigenous speculative fiction trilogy, I was waiting for this book. It was as bonkers and funny and weird as expected - the only problem now is waiting for the final volume.

Transcription / Kate Atkinson 

British, spies, WWII, a twist I didn't see coming. Women in the forefront. Atkinson's writing. What is not to love? (Don't tell me -- I loved this!)

House of Mirth / Edith Wharton

Another of those unexpected experiences reading a classic: it turns out that it is an amazing story and one that struck me with insights over and over again. Wonderful character study and so readable.

The Women in Black / Madeleine St John

And my most unexpected find of the year: but when Nancy Pearl tells you to read a book, you read the book. I loved, loved, loved this one. I read it twice before I had to return it to the library. This leaps right onto the keeper shelf beside Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle, Elizabeth von Arnim's Enchanted April, and Mary Burchell's But Not For Me

image from the delightful site

Finn Family Moomintroll & Moominland Midwinter / Tove Jansson

Not yet reviewed, but I read the entire Moominland series this fall and absolutely loved it. These two were my favourites. I'll be sharing some Jansson love in the new year.

I also read Ryder Carroll's The Bullet Journal Method just before Christmas, and found it much easier to understand than all the online reading I've been doing about bullet journaling. Most likely not going to review this one, but will try to use some of the instruction and tips to see if I can be better organized in 2019.
Happy New Year to all my readers, and here's wishing us a year of peace and great reading in 2019!