Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cowboy & the Cossack

The Cowboy & The Cossack / Clair Huffaker; introduction by Nancy Pearl.
Las Vegas: Amazon Encore, 2012, c1973.
355 p.

This is one of Nancy Pearl's "Book Lust Rediscoveries" series, a collection of titles that I've been greatly enjoying. Through this project, Pearl hopes to reintroduce some of her favourite works of forgotten fiction from the years between 1960 and 2000.

The Cowboy and the Cossack is a book I would have been pretty unlikely to discover on my own. It's a Western, with a twist: it takes place in Russia.

 In 1880, a group of cowboys is delivering a herd of 500 longhorns to Siberia, and when they get there they find out that a similarly sized group of Cossacks will be accompanying them on their cross-country journey. There is instant distrust on both sides, but through the lengthy journey and having to back each other up against wolves, Imperial soldiers, Tartars, and the like, they come to an understanding of each other's culture and develop deep friendships. This may sound a bit Hallmarky, but it really isn't.

The writing is simple and straightforward but also philosophical, like many Westerns. It's a man's world and it's all about the male code, yet there is an appreciation for nature, for beauty and even poetry and music now and again. The narrator, Levi, is a young cowboy who idolizes his boss, Shad, and eventually also the Cossack leader Rostov, who seems to be a Russian counterpart to Shad. Through this cattle drive, Levi grows up, finally and completely, and much of the story deals with his coming of age. His innocence lends a freshness to the story and allows for  a clear presentation of the newness of Russia -- Levi is noticing everything. There is also a good amount of humour and pathos in this book, and it reads very quickly.

I enjoyed this and think that Huffaker has created a variety of characters who are fairly easy to keep straight -- and with 15 cowboys and the same number of Cossacks, it could have been very confusing. He includes characters who are Jewish, Black, and Native American, as well as the more usual cowboys, and the Russian characters reveal the distinctions in their culture as well. It was a really good read, and a reminder of the power of reading outside your usual genre.

In the introduction to this book, Pearl talks a little about genre reading, and how, when she asks her students what genres they tend to read, NOBODY ever answers 'Westerns'. This made me think a bit -- I haven't read many Westerns in the last few years, but as a young teen I devoured all of the multitude of Louis L'Amour titles that my Dad owned. And I read a few Zane Grey and some really dated popular titles by forgettable writers from the early part of the century. So I went into this novel curious as to how I'd like it. Fortunately, I really liked it.

I read this just before going on my summer holidays so I added some Zane Gray to my holiday reading -- a reread and some new titles, which I'll be talking about soon. I still plan on reading a few of Pearl's own suggestions for readalikes, most particularly Lonesome Dove, which I have never read. She also suggests a similar kind of read, Paulette Jiles' The Colour of Lightning. I haven't read that one yet either! I've noticed a resurgence in a modern version of the Western lately, some examples being The Sisters Brothers, In Calamity's Wake, or The Outlander. If anyone else has any suggestions, please pass them on -- I'm kind of on a Western kick right now ;)

And I'd love to ask my own blog readers: what genre do you usually gravitate toward? Do you read Westerns?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Fish Change Direction in Cold Weather

Fish Change Direction in Cold Weather / Pierre Szalowski; translated from the French by Alison Anderson.
Toronto: HarperCollins, c2012 (orig. pub. in French in 2007)
261 p.

This is a fable about community, set in Montreal during the great 1998 Ice Storm. The young narrator discovers that his parents are going to break up, and in despair he calls to the sky to help him.

The next morning, the Ice Storm begins, and our narrator is convinced he is responsible. As the power fails and there is a rush on supplies in the local stores, the neighbourhood begins to make connections that were never there before. The characters are varied: a closeted gay couple, a single father and his son, our narrator's family, a stripper, and a Russian mathematician who is doing experiments in knot theory using fish -- which must always remain at the same temperature to make his results valid, thus the title. It's a light story, with many of the concerns of the narrator and friends revolving around 'boobs' and suchlike (they are 11 after all). Meanwhile, the adults have lively sex lives of their own, commented on by all.

It's true that very often (perhaps especially in large cities) we do not know our neighbours, preferring to keep some distance. In the few blocks that this story takes place, there are a handful of eccentrics who are forced by the unusual conditions to finally interact. If the story was made up of a bunch of perfectly normal people who help each other out for a day or two, it would prove fairly dull, I think -- I loved the fact that all of the characters had something notably odd or intriguing, a bit of a back story, to jazz things up a bit. On one block in Montreal, I would be surprised NOT to find this many unusual characters!

While the characters do tread the line of representative figures rather than full and complex individuals, I felt that this was completely in keeping with the style and tradition that this novel fits within. The book reads like a French novel (French from France, I mean) transplanted to the streets of Montreal, which makes sense as the author is indeed a French man who has relocated to Quebec. It is quirky, reminding me of the style of Elegance of the Hedgehog, a little bit. It also gives me a sense of the style in the works of Michel Tremblay or Roch Carrier. So if you like superserious, dark fiction, try another title! I saw another reviewer suggest that this would be a good Christmas read, due to the weather conditions of the novel as well as the fact that we give sentimentality and neat, happy endings more of a pass during festive seasons... and I think that is the perfect suggestion. 

I really enjoyed this one, finding it a light, quick read, one that ended up being cute and non-depressing despite the possibilities of disaster that the Ice Storm heralded. Perhaps I'm being particularly lenient with my critical faculties as I lived in Montreal during the 1998 Ice Storm, and it was as strange and eerie and disastrous as it is portrayed here. There was indeed a rush on supplies, and many lengthy power outages, even in the centre of Montreal where I was. And there were funny coincidences, like the fact that only a row of 3 shops had power in the streets around me, so they stayed open nearly 24 hours for nearly 3 days -- a noodle shop, a used bookstore, and a sex shop. 

Nevertheless, beyond my own personal experiences of the time period of this novel, I thought it was a charming novel with international flair. It's not going to deliver any deep existential epiphanies, but it does provide another look at a city replete with endless variation.

Monday, August 19, 2013

30-Day Vegan Challenge

The 30-Day Vegan Challenge / Colleen Patrick-Goudreau
New York: Ballantine, c2011.
323 p.

Another review for Meatless Monday! This is a book I've owned for a while now, but I never did mention it here. It's a pretty good choice for the beginner -- the Challenge is easy enough for someone not overly familiar with vegan eating -- the food choices are not "scary" and strange, and they are all fairly easy to prepare.

Even for myself, already vegetarian, with vegan leanings, this was an interesting book. It provides a full resource on vegan pantry essentials, introductions to some basic vegan foods, and of course, many quick recipes with reassuring photos of food that looks tasty! She includes a lot of information on living a vegan life and responding to some of the issues that come up as a person is making that transition, whether social or personal.

However, as I explored online to find out more, I discovered that this book is no longer available -- well, in this format anyhow. It's been updated and turned into an online program on Patrick-Goudreau's blog. The price for the program appears to be about the same as the book so I guess that works, too. (although I did see hard copies for sale in various online bookstores)

Either way, it's a good find for the individual who is interested either from their own inclination or because their doctor has suggested they explore veganism. It's more of a guidebook than a cookbook, really, as there are a few recipes included to illustrate each chapter of extensive information on varied aspects of veganism -- dairy alternatives, baking, the protein issue, and so on. Of course, there are fabulous recipes included, like chocolate mousse or tempeh paté, but this book is not only about recipes.

Highly recommended for a beginner or even as a refresher for those who eat mostly vegan but like a reminder of the issues and possibilities once in a while!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Shine, Shine, Shine

Shine, Shine, Shine / Lydia Netzger
New York: St Martin's, c2012.
312 p.

A modern novel that I read on my holidays, Shine, Shine, Shine has various elements that appeal to me -- most particularly, the fact that the husband in the story is an astronaut, of sorts.

But this is a peculiar book in some ways, a combination of realism and speculative fiction. Maxon (the husband) is a robot engineer who is going on a mission to the moon, to set up a robotic mining colony. His pregnant wife, Sunny, is left behind to wait and worry, along with their autistic toddler son.

Oh, and Sunny is also completely bald (alopecia), something she has tried to hide from their perfect suburban neighbours for years. Plus her father is long dead, a missionary in Burma until he was arrested and she and her mother fled the country. Can't forget, she also feels guilty for her responsibility in the death of a man long ago...

Maxon, on the other hand, isn't stressed or guilty about much: he is so totally focused on his mission, on math and on robots. He is also extremely similar to their autistic son, and thinks that this characteristic is an evolutionary step toward creating robotic humans who will be able to colonize space.

So there is a lot going on in this book, and some of it worked very well. I enjoyed Sunny and Maxon's relationship, all the way from their chance meeting as young children to their current marital struggles. I loved Maxon's job and his fixation on math and dislike of social occasions. How can I not love a book in which the labyrinth appears? At one point it is mentioned that the one pathway of the labyrinth might be a better (or equal) metaphor for life than Mason's belief in the ever-branching mathematical model of chance. Are things always changing on a breath of a moment, or are we always following The Path no matter what happens? This was an interesting aside, I thought!

I generally enjoyed this read, but did find that there were a lot of strands being pulled together, and the one element I didn't like as much was Sunny's current life in suburbia. When she had her first child she seems to have locked herself away into a Stepford model, and I'm not sure that I was completely convinced with her reversal. Also, the finale of the book was way over the top, with Sunny's odd response to going into labour...I won't say more, but it seemed strange and unlikely.

Still, the level of invention and freshness in the storyline was really notable. I loved the combo of real and speculative, just enough of both that you believed the likelihood of Maxon's space mission.  If you enjoy tv shows about quirky suburban wives, astronauts, or family dramas told with theatrical pacing, you might also like this book.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Disapparation of James

The Disapparation of James / Anne Ursu
New York: Hyperion, c2003.
288 p.

Five year old James Woodrow is very shy, so nobody is more surprised than his parents when he volunteers to be the assistant at a circus show they've gone to for his sister Greta's 7th birthday. He is taken up on stage, is a resounding success, and then, as the high point of the act, he disappears. Suddenly. Irrevocably.

To his parents' shock, it wasn't part of the trick. As they wait and James doesn't return, the panic sets in, and the family goes through their worst nightmare -- a missing child.

The story delves into the responses of each family member, mother, father and sister, to James' disappearance. It also explores the bounds of what is known and believed: on viewing a tape of the performance, both Justin and Hannah come to view his disappearance not as an abduction but a literal disapparation. He has dissolved into thin air.

There is some support for this speculative idea early on in the book, as James is presented as a very serious, quiet, obsessive kind of child, who will play with his blocks alone for hours, or talk to his sister in their own language. The busy morning before the circus, Justin, while making breakfast, can not find his spatula -- it's as if it has "disappeared into thin air" and this kind of thing seems to happen a lot, a common enough experience for most of us, but slightly ominous here.

In any case, the disappearance alters their lives, as an investigation is underway, and a police officer takes up residence in their home for the duration. Tom is a sympathetic character whose job is to observe the family, take calls, and ward off cranks. He also and most unexpectedly begins to take care of Greta while her parents aren't really functioning. And he meets Hannah's sister, which gives a reader a tiny hint of a future connection.

But there is no way to solve this illogical disapparation. The police can only deal with abduction and the rules of everyday life, they don't understand the random dissolving of a child, the fact of which only the Woodrows seem to grasp. How will it conclude? Ursu doesn't leave us in agony, she resolves the quandary in as sudden an event as the original moment of loss. But meanwhile, she explores the ideas of loss, belonging, family, love, belief, and more. While there were a few moments that I wasn't convinced by, the majority of the story was sharp and concisely drawn. The characters were all complex, with vivid interior lives. Greta was a wonderful character, with an outsize imagination and an absolute belief in James' return.

I really enjoy Ursu's deliberate style. She includes a lot of description of the thoughts and motives of her characters, while positing a very unusual situation. I've also read and enjoyed her novel Spilling Clarence, and find many similarities in the way she approaches a story in both novels. I've owned this particular book for a long time, and I'm glad I finally read it. It was an intriguing read.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Staircase Letters

The Staircase Letters: an extraordinary friendship at the end of life / Arthur Motyer
Toronto: Random House, c2007.
160 p.

One more epistolary read, but this one is nonfiction. It's a collection of letters between Arthur Motyer, his friend Elma Gerwin and her friend, Carol Shields.

Elma and Carol have both discovered that they have cancer, and begin writing to one another about their experiences. Into this mix comes Arthur, a decade older but not ill, and at first uncomfortable about what he will able to helpfully share. As their illnesses progress, he finds his role, and the letters reveal the conversations that developed between all three.

He has gathered the email exchanges and letters between the three of them, as they talk about the small moments in life that continue on despite illness -- the basic questions of family gatherings, food, children's questions, writing and creativity, and more. Of course, knowing ahead that the letters have a terminus doesn't much help to prepare the reader. Elma, in particular, had a voice that caught me, and just as I felt I was beginning to understand her, news comes of her death. I admit I shed some tears at this point.

This is a small and short book, but it provides some insights into what these two women were thinking and experiencing as they dealt with their own cancer diagnoses. There was nothing unexpected or shocking, but it was still a moving collection. Motyer is clear that both of the surviving husbands of these women were fine with this publication, which I was glad to read, as the letters are a very personal exchange.

I feel faintly guilty about not raving about this collection, rather, I don't think it is a must-read for the topic. But it is still of interest, and opens a window onto the lives of two writing women.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Something Drastic

Something Drastic / Colleen Curran
Fredericton, NB: Goose Lane, c1995.
216 p.

This is a reread, a very funny epistolary novel by a Montreal writer and dramatist, one which I first read many years ago when I lived in Montreal. I thought it was time to reacquaint myself with the fabulous Lenore.

The book is made up of letters written by Lenore to her boyfriend Fergie, a man who unexpectedly up and left her on Boxing Day to move to Florida. At the beginning of the book, Lenore is understandably upset, angry, and confused, and is certain that he is just taking a break and will be back soon. She writes him long letters trying to figure out his motives. She is a good-natured person, and tries to express her anger in a non-threatening way, mostly through humour. She makes lists of why she thinks he left, she includes clippings of strange deaths and tragedies from the local papers, and increasingly includes mention of all the things she does now that she never would have done if he hadn't left.

The primary instigator for this expansion of her life is Lenore's new friendship with her upstairs tenant, Concordia professor Heidi Flynn. Heidi is involved in women's studies, and takes Lenore to all sorts of avant-garde performances and meetings, introducing her to a whole new circle of self-possessed and active, independent women. At the same time Lenore invites Heidi into her world, particularly to the historical theme restaurant in which Lenore is a singing waitress. The Festin makes me laugh, being based on the real-life Festin du Gouverneur, a place I did go to once during my Montreal residency. Lenore's singing talents bring her to the attention of theatre friends of Heidi's and she explores a whole new theatrical experience, another thing she never would have done with Fergie around.

Lenore's year-long, unreciprocated correspondence reveals an immense arc of personal growth. When I first read this I really enjoyed this aspect, but this time around I did find it a little bit condescending, with Lenore now being self-actualized through becoming more artsy, intellectual and feminist, and further away from her quétaine roots. I still enjoyed the story, and I still felt that Lenore was a fabulous, eccentric and fun character, but felt a small hesitancy over her complete overhaul.

But aside from this small reservation, this read was still entertaining, amusing, evocative of Montreal, and made me laugh aloud at times. It's a great example of how the epistolary format can work -- Lenore has a perfect reason to be writing, at first, and later on keeps writing out of habit, though the later letters can become more descriptive and journal-like. There are also a couple of letters included that are addressed to Fergie by Lenore's friend Heidi, letters that threaten him and result in some money arriving in the mail for Lenore. The letters are full of daily life, but one that is full of larger-than-life episodes, with many characters all crossing paths and constant drama occurring, even while Lenore keeps her head and reports it all. It's an amusing tale and one that is still enjoyable, one that I will read once again some day.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Barbara Mertz, 1927-2013

I've just heard the sad news that Barbara Mertz passed away on August 8, at age 85.

She was a prolific author, writing over 60 books, also known by the pen names of Barbara Michaels and Elizabeth Peters. I've read nearly all of her books, by all three names, and love them.

Discovering Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody reignited my love for Egyptian history, leading to the discovery of factual books on Egyptology by Barbara Mertz. And this all followed upon my early discovery and love for Barbara Michaels' Gothic romantic fiction.

I always enjoyed the way she wrote with panache, tackling the thorny issues of sexism, sexual appeal, intrigue, and a woman's place in the world. Since she wrote from the 70's on, there was a definite development in her characters, but always, there were strong, self-determining women involved. Inspirationally funny, opinionated, bossy, clever, knowing women, who manage to do what they wish, and still have time to worry about falling in love.

I will miss the anticipation of a new book by either Michaels or Peters, and I will miss hearing about the style with which she lived her life.

I hope that Ma'at is happy to see her at long last.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Bantock's Griffin & Sabine

Griffin & Sabine: an extraordinary correspondence / Nick Bantock
San Francisco: Chronicle Books, c1991.
48 p.

I think most people are pretty aware of this book, which spent over two years on the bestsellers lists when it was first published, and spawned all sorts of accompanying merchandise -- notecards, stationery, postcards and so on.

But I hadn't read it in years, so I picked it up again, and utterly enjoyed it. I had forgotten most of the story, and so got to explore and uncover clues once more. But the true joy in reading this is the format.

Bantock is an artist and a writer, born in the UK but living in Vancouver. This book brought the concept of collage and mail art to a wider audience. I love the fact that the story is told through postcards, and envelopes from which to pull out separate letters. I love that some of the messages are typed, and some are written in a fine brown fountain pen. Holding Sabine's letter above the actual book, and reading "her" handwriting and seeing her artwork sketched out, made me want to turn immediately to my correspondence pile and write some more letters!

It's also mysterious -- Griffin begins to receive an unexpected correspondence from Sabine, a women heretofore unknown to him. She lives on a distant island, and seems to know far too much about his artwork, more than he has told anyone. She sends him decorated mail, seeing as how she has the fabulous job of designing the stamps for her island republic.

But she also claims that they have a psychic connection. What is this all about? Well, Bantock leaves us with a cliffhanger ending, so of course we must read on, discovering book two and three of this trilogy to get the facts. I'll be reading those shortly, and sharing more on what I find...

I love the size and the glossiness and the colour of each page in this book. It's really artwork in book form, and for anyone fond of letter writing and all the ephemera of mail art (who could that be?) it's a very satisfying read. It's short, but mysterious mail is compelling on its own, and when such intriguing art is a part of it, I can't help myself, I love it.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Heidegger's Glasses

Heidegger's Glasses / Thaisa Frank
Berkeley: Counterpoint, c2010.
337 p.

This is an unusual WWII tale, a story of an underground bunker in the waning days of Nazi Germany, filled with multilingual prisoners snatched from the gaping maw of the concentration camps, ordered to answer letters from prisoners to loved ones in their original language.

Thaisa Frank's enormous imagination makes us believe that this bunker actually existed, that this insane idea was as real as many of the other insane ideas held by the Nazis. The existence of this letter writing effort is due to the Nazi belief in occultism; they are afraid that the dead will tip off psychics as to what is really going on, and if they just get their letters answered, they will relent. So Frank populates an old mine shaft with a murmuring horde of writers, overseen by Elie Schacten and Gerhardt Lodenstein, who are both secretly supporters of the Resistance.

The Compound of Scribes, as it is known, has a main street, a cobblestoned, lit-up passage in which the sun turns with a great grinding of gears. There is a miniature house for one representative Jewish couple to stay in, segregating themselves from the others. Most of the scribes sleep under their desks, but they make use of one shared office, the kitchen, a storage closet, and an air shaft above the bathroom, when they need some privacy. It's uncanny, a space that seems out of its time, and a place of relative safety for these workers.

However, at the point that this story takes off, they have just received a letter from philosopher Martin Heidegger to his optometrist and fellow philosopher Asher Englehardt, who is in Auschwitz. What do they do? How do they answer a letter between two writers who are both alive? The result is a compilation created by committee, but it is unfortunately delivered by one of the SS officers from the Compound who is superstitious about his duty and a congenital bumbler. Of course he causes trouble, attracting the kind of trouble you don't want to attract from Nazi headquarters.

The tension in the story -- will they come? have they forgotten? is it a trap? -- leads toward the inevitable conclusion. It's beautifully written, with short letters interspersed with the narrative, and Frank's descriptions of the war torn landscape as well as the characters of the scribes illuminate the book greatly. We see the story through Elie's eyes, mostly, and she has her own reasons for everything she does. But each character has hidden depths, and the book is really about philosophical questions of truth, history, or personal responsibility in a time of such horror. It's a poetic read, with daily depredations described, as well as the efforts made by Scribes, camp prisoners, and even Resistance members to counteract this folly.

It's a look at the Holocaust from an entirely new direction, and the sense that the Scribes are existing in an Underworld, writing letters to the dead, gives it a strange and folktale-like atmosphere. It's quite stunning, really, and an original take on a much examined historical moment.

Friday, August 09, 2013

The History of Emily Montague

Not the cover of my copy, but I think
 this is quite a nice one.  Not as
 bad as this bizarre choice!
The History of Emily Montague / Frances Brooke
Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1991, orig. published 1769.
318 p.

This is commonly referred to as the "first Canadian novel". It was written in 1769 by Frances Brooke, an Englishwoman married to a minister who served for five years as regimental minister in Quebec. Her impressions of early British Quebec are captured here in a romantic, epistolary novel.

Brooke was friends with the great Samuel Richardson, during the years that he wrote and published his masterpiece of letter-writing fiction, Sir Charles Grandison. Since I've just read Grandison, and was really delighted by the humour, the characters, the cohesion of the story and the general epistolary flair, this novel had a lot to live up to! I read this first years ago and had remembered it as an entertaining read, but unfortunately, rereading it immediately after Grandison, well, it paled by comparison.

First of all, it is much, much shorter. And the letters themselves are more like notes, brief and rapidly dashed off. It's hard to imagine that they'd take the trouble to send a one page (or less) letter all the way back to England, particularly in the colder months when ships weren't flying back and forth. The action seems to lack that necessary time lag required by the physicality of sending and receiving letters between England and the New World. While the majority of the letters in Grandison were simply going back and forth between London and other English cities, in Emily Montague they must go cross oceans. So the realism was a bit sketchy.

Also, the story is quite weak The descriptions of early British Quebec are fascinating -- the Montmorency Falls are beautifully described, the coldness of winters, the jaunting about in summer days, all delightful. But, being 1769, and being British and the ruling class, her commentary on the French inhabitants and on the Native population are scarcely kind. I did enjoy the novelty of the setting and the contemporaneous impressions shared by her characters. Once the story moves to England, about 3/4 of the way through, it completely loses coherence and the plot is tied up in melodramatic fashion.

I could see the influence of Richardson on Brooke's story. There was a particular connection between the lively Arabella Fermor, with her leading statements about marriage and women's situation in social life, and that of Charlotte Grandison, the sparkling provocateur of Grandison. They both comment on the inequalities of women and men in making the "rules" for romantic and marital conduct.

Nonetheless, as a novel, this is fairly forgettable. It was clearly inspired by the great epistolary tradition which was brought to its peak by Richardson, but doesn't really compare. Its power lies in its historical relevance, not its plotting, even though there were a few good quips in the text, thanks to a couple of the characters.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Travels & Tidbits

I've been enjoying some time off from my day job, but it's been a bit of a busman's holiday. Of course. I did take some time to do some farmer's marketing, but then, we headed off to explore a nearby used bookshop, The Old Goat, in Waterloo. Did I find some treasures? You might say so. Here is what I found:

You will also notice a lovely new journal I received in the mail today from Canada Writes. Nice!

The most unexpected find was the Persephone paperback -- I've never seen any Persephone in a used bookstore yet, so I grabbed this one. And this particular title, Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple, was one I've been really wanting to read!

*And just one more photo, this one of another bookstore trip -- this is a great staycation ;) We really scored on this trip, and I discovered a new bookshop, Attic Books, in London, Ontario. Good selection and great prices! Most of these books came from Attic, with a handful found at 3 other shops.


Another interesting tidbit that has come to my attention...

The first title I recommended in my occasional "Revivals" series (my suggestions for republication) was Luella Creighton's High Bright Buggy Wheels. Now I have serendipitiously discovered that Oxford University Press Canada is going to be reissuing it! And despite that fact that there is no causal link between these two happenings, they've set the date of publication for my birthday...weird...;)


I am still reading along in my own Postal Reading Challenge. I've been both writing more letters and noticing postal ephemera much more frequently as a result. Lately I saw this trunk in my local fabric store. Just the right size to store a blanket or two...or lots of stationery... I was particularly tickled by it since my sister was in Cairns, Australia very recently and sent me photos, as well as flyers and materials, from the Cairns Library (doing my busman's holiday duties for me).

I also came across this delightful new picture book at work last week, The Day the Crayons Quit. It looked charming, but imagine my surprise when I opened it and discovered that it is a marvellous, epistolary picture book! I snapped a couple of photos to give you the idea. This is one that I will be adding to my own collection, too. (see more images at Jeffers' website)

First page

RED -- each crayon gets a say & they
are all amusing & quirky


So there you have a rambling take on what I've been up to recently. I promise that we will return to regular programming soon. But lately I have been so busy reading I have not been reviewing! Summer blahs, perhaps. I'm enjoying lazing in the sun with a book too much to remember to log on or blog on...