Friday, 14 April 2017

The Storm Sister

  How delightful to settle in with another of Lucinda Riley's books on the Seven Sisters.  I really love her writing!
  I wrote about the first book here.  
  Pa Salt, living in luxury in Switzerland, adopted the girls from all over the world and named them after the stars in the constellation "Pleiades".
  The girls have the last name D'Apliese.  Change the letters around and you get "Pleiades".  One of the many mysteries about Pa Salt.  Apparently his name is also an anagram.  Can't figure that one out.
    Pa has died and each book begins with this sentence: 
"I will always remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard that my father had died."
  Each book focusses on one of the sisters, telling about her relationship with Pa, and the information he left about her heritage.

Maia  followed the trail of clues to Brazil.  Her fascinating story was in book one.
Alcyone (Ally) finds her ancestors in Norway.  Book Two
Asterope (Star)  Book Three is being released this week.
Celaeno (CeCe)  Next year.
Taygete (Tiggy)  The Next year.
Electra  The next year.  A long wait, but so worthwhile.
Merope- actually there is no Merope- another mystery!
But this last book will reveal all the secrets of this unusual family.

  The books are long and filled with fascinating stories, that all intermingle.  I am loving this series.  It takes me on a wonderful journey.  I can wait and anticipate the next book.  However, I found this time that I had to look again at the first book to recall the intricacies of the plot.  I may have to buy the books, but they are only in hardcover at present.  If I wait until the end, they may release a lovely paperback version of the whole series. 

Monday, 10 April 2017

A Long Way Home

   "A Long Way Home" is a memoir written by Saroo Brierley.  It is a moving story of a five-year-old boy who is lost in India.
  I have been reading about the unbelievable number of children living on the streets in India- 400,000 was the number quoted.  Some children live there with their parents, some have escaped an abusive family.  Poverty and abuse are common in the big cities.
  Saroo was lost while out with his  older brother. He was five years old and his experiences on the street are hard to read.   
   But eventually he was adopted by a wonderful Australian couple. 
   I loved reading about this couple who chose not to have biological children, but instead to open their home to homeless children.  They prepared his bedroom with Indian artifacts and even fabric across the dresser from India.  Wonderful parents!
  At thirty, Saroo was able to discover his original family.  And so, he wrote his memoir.
  Hollywood came calling and changed a lot of things - the title for starters.  Saroo had discovered that his birth name was Sheru Munshi Khan and "Sheru" means "lion".  And now the book cover looks like this:
   I will admit that Dev Patel was very good in the movie, but this cover takes the focus off the little lost boy and puts it on Saroo's search for his home in India.  The strip across the face on the cover says, "The search begins".   Saroo used Google Earth for many months, searching for his home. Because he was so young when he left, he didn't know the real names for any of the cities and towns.  He claims it was like searching for a needle in a haystack.
  His search for his biological family was important to the story, but I hate this cover!
  Here is a worst cover!  What???
I am not a fan of movies, but this movie did inspire me to buy the book.  I should have read the library copy because I so dislike these new covers on the books, and that's all that you can buy now.
  The movie was nominated for six Academy Awards.  Nicole Kidman played the role of the adoptive mother.  That pleased me because Nicole Kidman had been Saroo's adoptive mother's favourite actress.  How exciting for Saroo's mother!  She deserved this thrill!  She is the hero in this story.

Friday, 7 April 2017

"They Left Us Everything" by Plum Johnson

   When Plum Johnson's mother died, she and her brothers were left with a 23-room house filled with 'STUFF' - rooms of old furniture, cupboards full of food, bins and bins of letters, documents, and diaries.
    What a great discussion this book evoked from our book club at the library.   Some of us were delighted by the idea of being left with so much of the previous generation.  Others were not so pleased.  I was horrified!
   This is a true story.  And Plum read all the letters, and diaries left by her mother.  AND, she related some of the contents of those personal writings in this book.  That was over the line for me.      When did diaries become public property?  It was bad enough that Plum read everything, but I was not pleased that she relayed parts of those writings for public scrutiny.   Horrors!

   This was the first cover of the book.  It certainly looks more old-fashioned.  I like the emphasis on the word 'EVERYTHING'.
  We were interested in discussing family relationships because everybody has family stories.  This book hit a nerve with many people.
  Mother-daughter relationships were mostly emphasized because it is usually the daughter that is caring for the elderly parents.  In this case, the father had died previously.
   The mother in this non-fiction book was most interesting.   When she was a young woman working in New York city, she sent her dirty laundry by train to her parents' home in Virginia for the servants to wash, iron and return (with a meal included).  The mother lived for a time in London, Hong Kong, Virginia and finally settled on the shores of Lake Ontario in this huge house, which was left to her children when she died at 93.
   This book has been very popular and here are two other covers for the book.
   I really love covers and I appreciate when the cover really captures the essence of the story.
  I don't understand the significance of the orange cover, but the bottom cover shows a line of bathing suits.  The mother of the family was very hospitable, inviting people to visit or even move in if they were in need.  The mother had a swimming pool built and kept a stock of bathing suits for visitors.

   This book, a memoir, won the RBS Taylor Prize in 2015.  The ceremony was in Toronto and the author received $25,000.00 along with the responsibility of mentoring a beginning writer.
  I was unfamiliar with this prize because I don't read much non-fiction.  But I was interested in reading the list of winners.  The prize was initiated in 2000 and the first winner was Wayne Johnston for his memoir "Baltimore's Mansion".  I loved that book!
  This prize is awarded for a non-fiction book that combines superb command of the English language, an elegance of style, and subtlety of thought and perception.  We all agreed that this book has all these elements.
  It was a great choice for a book club!

Monday, 3 April 2017

Canada Reads is over for another year

  Our Canada Read discussion group met for one final hurrah.  But it wasn't particularly joyful.  We generally agreed that this was not a good year for Canada Reads.  You can read about our discussion group here.
  The book selection was not great- no real winners for me.  The panel never seemed to gel.

   The 'reality show' aspect was bothersome to Chantal and also to us.  We realize that the program is meant for entertainment, and it would not get such a following if it was a 'literary discussion'.    
  However, when they vote the best book off first in order to give their book a better chance of winning, it loses credibility.
  The selection of books this year included a fable, two science-fiction, one non-fiction and one literary fiction.  The fable won.

Humble the Poet was supporting "Fifteen Dogs" and did a very good job, but I still don't understand the book.  So, for me, it is Canada re-reads because I will need to read it again to finally understand what it is about.  It certainly is not about dogs, but about human consciousness.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Richard Wagamese

Richard Wagamese died on March 10, at age 61, and it has been hard to write this blog.
I met him in 2013 when his book "Ragged Company" was chosen for One Book One Community. Read about it here.
As a library volunteer, I had a chance to chat with him.  So perhaps  I feel his loss more than I have felt the loss of other authors.
His writing is stunning and painfully honest.  He has written fiction and non-fiction, and the painful aspects of his life come through clearly in both.
His parents had experienced the residential schools that he writes about in "Indian Horse" and were damaged to the point that they were unable to provide a home for Richard, so he was placed in foster care.  Eventually he was adopted, but he was unable to keep his First Nations heritage and identity so he left home as a young teen to search for a connection with his indigenous culture.  He was always honest about his struggles with addiction, as he searched for answers in his culture.

In my opinion, his best book is "Indian Horse".  I think it is a perfect novel - characters, plot, setting, language.  It has everything that makes a great novel for me.  It was one of five books chosen for Canada Reads in 2013.  Check my blog from 2013 here, back when I really did put videos on my 'video blog'.
This book is being made into a movie.  Sadly, Richard didn't live to see the final production.

This novel, "Keeper 'N Me" is fictional but has many similarities to Richard's life.
Garnet Raven, at 3 years old, was taken from his home on an Ojibway Indian reserve and put in foster homes.  In his teens, he ran away and lived on the streets of a big city.  Eventually, he was able to reconnect with the reserve and was initiated into the ways of the Ojibway by Keeper, a friend of his grandfather. This novel shows the power of community and traditions.

This book, "Embers" was written this year.  It is a  book of meditations.  Here is a quote:
"Life sometimes is hard.  There are challenges.  There are difficulties.  There is pain.  As a younger man I sought to avoid them and only ever caused myself more of the same.  These days I choose to face life head on- and I have become a comet.  I arc across the sky of my life and the harder times are the friction that lets the worn and tired bits drop away.  It's resistance until all there is left of me is light.  I can live towards that end".

I like this picture of Richard because he writes so much about appreciation of nature.
He has written 12 books and has encouraged and supported many young indigenous writers.

A wonderful storyteller, excellent author, kind and gentle human being!

Thursday, 16 March 2017

'Vanity Fair" by William Makepeace Thackeray

I have not posted anything on my blog for three weeks.  But I have been reading....and reading...and reading!
It has taken me three weeks to read "Vanity Fair"- reading bits every day.   The print is extremely small and the book is 900 pages - very clumsy and heavy to hold.  Uncomfortable and hard on the eyes.  This is exactly when an e-reader would be perfect. Unfortunately, when I took my kobo to Chapters, they couldn't get the book to load.  So...
Vanity Fair was written in 1870 and produced in monthly segments in Punch magazine.  It took 20 installments, so it was being read for nearly two years - a little longer than it took me. I'm sure it was a lot more enjoyable reading it then- not only because of the print and size of the book, but also because of references to the culture of the day.   There were 50 pages of notes, trying to explain words, expressions, references to people, places and events.  A very difficult read for the year 2017.But this particular book club that I have been involved with for twenty years, does not shy away from difficult books.  We read a classic every second month.

William Makepeace Thackeray 1811-1863

The title of this book comes from John Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress", published in 1678.  "Vanity Fair" was a stop along the pilgrim's route, a fair representing man's sinful attachment to worldly things- this fair sold anything that would seduce people away from God.
Possibly the title now just refers to 'the world' and its attractions.

Charlotte Bronte was reading Thackeray's story in installments and was very impressed with his writing.  When it was half-way through, she decided to dedicate the second edition of Jane Eyre to William Makepeace Thackeray.

The novel is basically about two women who graduated from school together- one from a wealthy family and one living in poverty and shame.
The best part of the story was the picture of women's lives in the 1800's.  

Friday, 3 March 2017

"The Right To Be Cold" by Sheila Watt-Cloutier

It may seem that my last blog was my final word on Canada Reads. It was not.  
This is the last book of the five finalists for me to read.  And it was a pleasure to end with this book.

Sheila Watt-Cloutier was nominated in 2007 for the Nobel Peace Prize for her work as an environmental and human rights activist.
Her book begins "The world I was born into has changed forever .... While many of the changes are positive, the journey into the modern world was not an easy one- and it has left its scars."
This book is about those changes.
Sheila has spent her life educating the world about the affect of those changes on the Inuit lifestyle and eventually on all the world: "The Arctic is the barometer of the health of the planet".
The title comes from the fact that climate change has caused great devastation to the Inuits. 
Sheila has worked with the United Nations as well as numerous other organizations around the world, travelling to meetings as well as giving lectures and speeches for eleven years.  She believes that this is a human rights issue.
A long chapter explained the effect of toxins that end up in the coldest climate but originate elsewhere- mostly United States and China.  At one point she believed that if the rest of the world understood how their decisions about the environment affected the Inuit lifestyle, they would change. A little naive?
This biography is very detailed and bogs down at times.  But the information is vital in a changing world.
I enjoyed reading it.  Along with "The Break", the history and issues of the indigenous people were very well-outlined and explained. 
One was a fiction book and one was non-fiction.  Both were thought-provoking.  

Friday, 24 February 2017

"Company Town" by Madeline Ashby

Another Canada Reads choice:
From "Goodreads":
"Meet Hwa. One of the few in her community to forego bio-engineered enhancements, she's the last truly organic person left on the rig. But she's an expert in the arts of self-defence, and she's been charged with training the Family's youngest, who has been receiving death threats- seemingly from another timeline.
Meanwhile, a series of interconnected murders threatens the city's stability- serial killer?  Or something much, much worse...??
   This is a review of the book so the language is pleasant, but when you get into the book, it is filled with language that can't be used on T.V. or in newspapers. It is just plain crude.  I realize that the novel is about the sex trade and the language would be questionable, but why choose it for Canada Reads when you are recommending that everyone read it?  I don't agree with censorship, but I expect Canada Reads to choose the best of the best Canadian literature. 
   Sometimes, one character has a foul mouth and it fits into the story, but this language repulsed me.
   There are many people who loved this book.  Perhaps they are science fiction fans and are used to this type of language.

   So, once again, I've reached the limit of my perseverance.  The language was muddling my head, and, since I can't follow the science fiction aspect of the story, there seems to be no point in frustrating my sensibilities through the whole novel.

   Two years ago, I decided not to read "When Everything Feels Like the Movies".  It was too crude and rude for my brain.
 You may wish to read my 'rant' on that book here.

  Perhaps Canada Reads is aiming for a younger audience.  I have loved and supported Canada Reads for fifteen years, but I think perhaps I am 'aging out'.  I sure hate to give up on such a great idea.  Could we start Canada Reads for the older generation?

Monday, 20 February 2017


  I never recommend a book unless I have read it, so when my book clubs choose a book that I have recommended, I always read it again in preparation for the discussion.  
  This week, I have three book club meetings.  I am leading the discussion in two of the meetings- two books that I love. 
  Both of the books are well worth reading a second - or third time.  This is the third time I have read "The Hero's Walk" by Anita Rau Badami. You can read my review here.

   Later in the week, I am leading a discussion of "Girl in Translation" by Jean Kwok.  It is my third reading of this book as well.  You can read my review here.  These books are both extremely well-written.     Jean Kwok has said :"Sometimes our fate is different from the one we imagined for ourselves".  Both books reflect this theme.      Great books!    Happy to read them again!

Friday, 17 February 2017

"The Break" by Katherena Vermette

author- Katherena Vermette

"The Break" is a Canada Reads finalist this year.
   A 13-year-old girl is viciously attacked in an open field.  A young Metis woman sees, from her house, that someone is in trouble and calls the police.  The piece of land is called "The Break" and I thought that was the reason for the title.  However, there is a much larger theme in this book that is reflected in the title.
  This whole novel centres around the crime, drawing in all the family members- four generations.  Unfortunately, it is mostly the female family members because most of the men have left.     
  Because there are so many characters involved, the story seems disruptive.  But in hindsight, that seems to be the right format for this book.  It is about native women and their lives are very disruptive.  The generational pain is so apparent in the ways all of the women cope with their lives- drinking, crying, switching men. They are constantly looking for 'something'.  And, because the mothers are preoccupied, and the fathers are absent, the children have no stability or direction in their lives. 
   And so, the title: "Broken".  The women are all broken.  It is a cycle that just keeps repeating.  
  This book was ideal for discussion.  
We are very interested to see what Candy Palmater will have to say in her defence of this book on the Canada Reads panel, March 27-30.  Candy is a comedian/broadcaster.

Candy Palmater

Friday, 10 February 2017

Robert Sawyer

   Rob Sawyer is one of my favourite authors.  Why?  Just because I like him. I have listened to him speak several times and find him just fascinating. The way his mind works is of great interest to me.  But I have to admit right here that he goes way beyond what my mind can take in.              The New York Times has called him: "a writer of boundless confidence and bold scientific extrapolation".
Now there's a word that also fascinates me: extrapolation.
I think that is exactly what this author does in his science fiction- imagines what could or might happen, based on known facts.  He takes scientific theory and pushes it to the extreme- maybe, maybe, maybe this could happen. 

"Quantum Night" is on the Canada Reads longlist and I was intrigued by it.  Don't understand some of it- but he certainly does extrapolate to the extreme.
  The theme is the neuroscience of morality.  Oh, yes, he really goes for stretching the mind.
But I could really believe some of the theory.  That is, three stages of consciousness:
Q1  robotic, do what you are told or what others are doing
Q2  psychopathic- lack of reflection and rumination
Q3 developed conscience, thoughtful
Don't we all know people in all of those stages?  And in this book, they discover a way to move a person- maybe the whole world to a different level.
And Rob always has something to say about the U.S.  In this book, he really plays with the election and the relationship between the U.S. and Russia- with Canada in the middle.  Rob is Canadian.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Canada Reads discussion group

Here is our group of Canada Reads "keeners".  I call the group 'apricity" because we sit in a corner window booth and enjoy snacks and coffee, while we discuss books that have been chosen for Canada Reads.
Apricity means 'the warmth of the sun in the winter'.  It comes from the Latin meaning "to bask in the sun".  And the sun did come out for our first gathering.  It was delightful!
We shared thoughts about books on the longlist as well as our expectations for the discussions in March.
My daughter has observed that I have blogged lately about many books that I didn't enjoy.  She is right.  And the reason?  I am willing to 'hang in' there with Canada Reads because even though I don't enjoy all the books, sometimes I find a gem.  That happened last year- "The Hero's Walk".  I am reading it for the third time and love, love, love it!!!!  That makes up for the others that I didn't enjoy.
Maybe there will be a gem this year.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Canada Reads 2017

   Canada Reads has made the final announcement of books and panel.

   Their launch this year was very disappointing to me, because I had been at a Canada Reads launch in the past that was open to the public, where the authors and panelists each gave a short speech and visited with the public. It was very dramatic and exciting- worth the drive to Toronto!

   But this year, Canada Reads posted a photo of the panelists with the list of books early in the morning of 'presentation day'.The next day there was a video with each panelist giving a short blurb.  No mingling with the public.

Here are the books and panelists:

Chantal Kreviazuk
Chantal Kreviazuk
Chantal is defending "The Right to Be Cold" by Sheila Watt-Cloutier.
Chantal is a singer/songwriter/activist.
She was born in Winnipeg and now lives in Toronto with her husband and three sons.

Humble the Poet
Humble the Poet
Humble the Poet is defending "Fifteen Dogs" by Andre Alexis.
Humble's real name is Kanwer Singh, but he chose a new name for the stage.  He is a teacher/ poet/ hip-hop artist with a YouTube channel.

Tamara Taylor
Tamara Taylor
Tamara is defending "Company Town" by Madeline Ashby.  She was born in Toronto  and is an actress, with a role in "Bones".

Candy Palmater
Candy Palmater
Candy is defending "The Break" by Katherena Vermette.  She was born in New Brunswick.  She is a lawyer/ braoadcaster/ comedian.  She has hosted Q radio.

Jody Mitic
Jody Mitic
Jody is defending "Nostalgia" by M.G. Vassanji.  Jody lost both legs with the Canadian army in Afghanistan.  He is now a city counsellor in Ottawa, living there with his wife and 2 daughters.
Canada Reads 2017

Monday, 30 January 2017

Fredrik Backman

Fredrik Backman has become extremely popular with many readers.
On a recent trip to Chapters, one of the staff spoke very highly of this author.
I had read "A Man Called Ove" and wasn't impressed, but thought I should give Fredrik Backman a closer look.
He lives in Stockholm, where his books are all number one bestsellers.  His books have been translated into 35 languages! Wow!  He is a popular writer.  
I have written a review here about "A Man Called Ove".

Well, I decided to try this one.  It seems to have two titles- perhaps because it is translated so often.   The other title is: "My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry".
The story is about Granny who reads "quality literature" and relates everything to fairy tales.  Her granddaughter is Elsa, a very precocious 7-year-old.
Page 42: "Having a grandmother is like having an army.  This is a grandchild's ultimate privilege: knowing that someone is on your side, always, whatever the details.  Even when you are wrong.  Especially then, in fact."
  I didn't read much further than this because there were descriptions of nearly everyone that lived in their apartment complex.
  Granny is 'unusual' for sure.  And I think that is the appeal of this book.  Not for me.

   Well, here is another unusual character- Britt-Marie.  She is 63 years old and is another 'strange' character.  I felt at first that she was autistic.  She is definitely OCD and socially inappropriate.
  I thought of "The Rosie Project", where the protagonist had Asperger's.  Ron Tillman was certainly more interesting.  I wasn't 'over the moon' about that book either, but I did like it better than this one.  Britt-Marie is just plain rude.  

  This is a very short novella about a boy and his grandfather.  It is popular and took awhile to get a copy from the library.  It is the author's attempt to deal with  the loss of loved ones.
Quote: "Noah holds the old man's hand, the man who  taught him to fish and to never be afraid of big thoughts and to look at the night's sky and understand that it's made of numbers.  Mathematics has blessed the boy in that sense, because he's no longer afraid of the thing almost everyone else is terrified of: infinity."
Poignant.  Short and sentimental.  Snatches of thought.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Cutting for Stone

   I read this book in 2009 and really enjoyed it.   Basically it is a novel about a nun who has twin boys.  I enjoyed the story of the boys growing up in Ethiopia, both becoming doctors.
  On second reading, I was frustrated.  It took over 100 pages to get through the story of the birth.  I knew that there was a more interesting story to come, but it was taking too long to get there.

   This author, Abraham Verghese, fascinates me.  He is a 
doctor who has been awarded the National Humanities Medal in the U.S.  His specialty is empathy and healing.
   He has done some TED talks and is most fascinating.  He has coined the term "ipatient", in other words, the virtual patient that is in the computer.  It seems that most doctors spend more time with the information on the computer than with the patient.   Verghese strongly believes that physical examinations are more important than the computer record.  Also, the patient feels more cared for with this personal touch.  Verghese talks about 'healing' rather than 'curing'.

  It took Verghese eight years to write this book- his first fiction.   
  The novel was on the New York Times bestseller's list for 2 years and is now on Amazon's list of 100 books to read in a lifetime.
  It may be a great novel but it will not be on my list of 'best books'.  The plot is buried in so much description- much of it medical. 

Monday, 23 January 2017

"Fifteen Dogs" by Andre Alexis

    Here is another book on the Canada Reads longlist.  It is not science fiction, but it is unusual.  It is called an apologue.
Apologue- definition: a moral fable, especially one with animals as characters.
  Yes, this book is about dogs licking, peeing, mounting and fighting.  Does that sound like an award winner?
   Well, it was published in 2015 and won the Giller Prize and the Writers' Trust Fiction Prize in that year.
  It is the second book in a series of five that the author feels is "examining faith, place, love, power and hatred".
   Fifteen dogs are given the gift of human consciousness and language by the gods Hermes and Apollo.  Apollo thought that they would be more unhappy than humans if they had human intelligence.  The gods make a bet about whether the dogs will be happier at their death.  The dogs die one by one- mostly killed by the other dogs in the pack.  The gods also interfere in the lives of the last two dogs.
  I have no idea about this book.  I have read revue after revue praising it, but I saw absolutely no value in the whole book- just dogs licking, peeing, mounting and fighting.

Friday, 20 January 2017

"Sleeping Giants" by Sylvain Neuvel

   This is Sylvain Neuvel.  He dropped out of school at 15.  But this young man is obviously not what you might expect from a high school dropout.
   Listen to what he says about himself, "My main interests are word-based morphology, computational morphology, as well as formal and lexical semantics and most of my work focuses on a formal characterization of polysynthesis, compounding and agglutination in word-based morphological terms."
   Yes, this man has amassed quite an education in spite of his disinterest in high school- in fact, he is now in his forties. He is the director of translation services and a software engineer for a Montreal company, but his personal interest is in robotics and science fiction.
  Neuvel interests me as well as his novel "Sleeping Giants".  You can tell from the first page that this is not your regular author.  He has an extremely creative mind.  This story is told through interviews, newspaper headlines, and journal entries.
  It begins with a young girl falling into a large hole in the ground and landing on a 20-foot long mechanical hand.  Oh, yes, and there was a  bright light emanating from it.
  The novel has a lot of intrique and I have read that it is being made into a movie.  I think it will equal 'Jurassic Park" in action and excitement.  The author plans to continue the story in two more books.
P.S. This is another book from the Canada Reads longlist.  I'm whipping through the science fiction.

Monday, 16 January 2017

"Nostalgia" by M.G.Vassanji

Here's an author that I recognize.  I have read "The In-Between World of Vikram Lall".  I found Vassanji's writing enjoyable- great description. And so, I tackled this science fiction book that is also on the Canada Reads longlist.

Vassanji lives in Toronto and speaks in the area often.  He has won the Giller Prize twice as well as many more prizes.
He really is a good author, but this book made no sense to me. Perhaps this is his first book in this genre.

   The theme of "Nostalgia" is immortality.  After a lifetime, you are given a new "fiction" and become a GN (new-generation person).
   I have a million questions that were never answered.  It appears that you get a new body as well as a new fiction- or memory.  All memories from that past life are erased.
   The protagonist is a doctor that makes sure that the past doesn't leak into the present.  This is what happened with one of his patients and the doctor becomes very involved in his life until you realize that he had been related to this man in a previous life.
  I didn't enjoy the writing and didn't understand the concept.

Friday, 13 January 2017

The Just City

   I decided to check out some of the books in the Canada Read's longlist.
   There are several science fiction novels on the list, so I decided to start reading a few of them.  I thought I would start with the most bizarre (although science fiction itself is a little bizarre for me).

   "The Just City" is about an experiment to set up Plato's "Republic".  In other words, to set up a city based on "justice".
   Plato died in 437 BC.  Socrates was his teacher. Although Plato is not in this novel, Socrates surely is.  In fact, he is the person that actually ruins the experiment and convinces people that it is not really a 'just city'- that people do not have free will and volition.
The novel is based on Greek mythology - even Apollo is here.  He decided to be born into a mortal life. People were brought to this city (on an island) from all over the world and from all time periods.  
  The mating procedure is strange.  People are matched for a day and expected to procreate.  Then have no sexual contact for another 6 months.  The city is more just because you don't have one lover or one baby of your own.  You care for everyone.  In fact, you never know which child belongs to you.  Excellence is the aim.
  The belief is that justice is more important than happiness or liberty or anything else.
 There are robots that Socrates discovers can think and respond.  There are many long philosophical discussions around Socrates and volition is one important topic.
Well-written but way 'out there'.

This is Jo Walton, the author. She was born in Wales in 1964.  She is a poet and an author.  She has been writing since she was 13, but her first novel was not published until 2000.
She has won many science fiction awards.  She now lives in Montreal.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Canada Reads 2017

"What is the one book Canadians need now?"  That is the question.
The longlist has been announced and the final five books as well as the list of panelists will be announced on January 31.

Here is the longlist:
1. "The Break" by Katherena Vermette
2. "Company Town" by Madeline Ashby
3. "The Elephants in My Backyard" by Rajiv Surendra
4. "Even This page is White" by Vivek Shraya
5. "Fifteen Dogs" by Andre Alexis
6.  "I Am Woman" by Lee Maracle
7.  "The Just City" by Jo Walton
8. "Knucklehead" by Matt Lennox
9. "Nostalgia" by M.G. Vassanji
10. "One Hour in Paris" by Karyn L. Freedman
11. "Quantum Night" by Robert J. Sawyer
12. "The Right To Be Cold" by Sheila Watt-Cloutier
13. "Sleeping Giants" by Sylvain Neuvel
14. "Today I learned It Was You" by Edward Riche
15. "Waiting for First Light" by Romeo Dallaire
Ali Hassan 

  The Canada Reads website tells us that "The five panelists will take stock of where the nation stands today, explore its diverse perspectives and reflect on where we are heading."
 Their books will be chosen from this longlist.

The host this year will be Ali Hassan from CBC's "Laugh Out Loud".

Friday, 6 January 2017

The Seven Sisters

   This book has a very intriguing introduction.  Pa Salt, a multimillionaire, adopted 6 girls from around the world.   
  They were mostly raised by a very loving housekeeper.  Their life was idyllic, as Pa Salt encouraged each girl to follow her dreams and interests in life. So they were all well-established in life when Pa Salt suddenly died, with none of the girls nearby.  His instructions were followed and he was immediately buried at sea from his yacht.  The girls, surprisingly, knew nothing about their father's business or his life in general.  
armillary sphere
  When the girls arrived at Pa Salt's house after his death, they were each given a letter and shown an armillary sphere (used in astronomy)  that was specially made with one band for each girl, showing the coordinates of her birthplace.

   And so, the author has chosen to write a series of books as each daughter searches for her heritage.
   The author has done much research and included fascinating information on each birthplace.  This first book follows Maia's search for her heritage and she ends up in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, where she discovers an interesting love story involving her great grandmother and meets her grandmother on her deathbed.
  Maia falls in love with an author, Floriano, whose books she has translated.
  But....the book ends with the beginning of Alley's story.  She is in the family home, picks up the telephone to make a call and.....
"Holding the receiver to my ear as I made to dial the number, I realized someone else in the house was already on the line.  The shock of hearing the familiar, resonant tones of the voice that had comforted me from childhood forced me to interrupt the conversation.  "Hello?"  I said, hurriedly reaching over and turning the CD player down to make absolutely sure it was him.  But the voice at the other end had become a monotonous bleeping, and I knew he had gone".....
   MYSTERY!  Is Pa Salt still alive??????

Lucinda Riley
   Lucinda Riley was born in Ireland.  She was an actress in film, theatre and television.  Then she began writing.  She had written 7 books when she got the inspiration for this series of books, based on the constellation "Pleiades"- the Seven Sisters.
   Lucinda now divides her time between England and Ireland with her husband and four children.

This series of books will include 7 books and the mystery that was set up at the beginning of the first book will not be divulged until the last book.
Already written:
Book 1: The Seven Sisters
Book 2: The Storm Sister
Book 3: The Shadow Sister
So it will be four years before we get to know the mystery of Pa Salt.  In the meantime, there is a lot of reading to be done.  These books are long- but interesting!