Archive for December, 2011

The end of an era

George Whitman died at the grand old age of 98 this week in Paris. He was the owner of one of the most famous English bookstore in the world. Situated on the left bank of the Seine River, Shakespeare and Company was home to many a wandering bibliophile for more than half a century. Whitman allowed would-be writers and travellers in need of a bed to crash in the store in exchange for some help around the shop. One such person was Jeremy Mercer from Ottawa who ended up writing a really great book based on his “adventures” in Shakespeare and Company. The book is called When Time was Soft There and it’s a great and timely read.

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Erasing Memory

I can’t resist wandering into every bookstore I see. It drives my friends crazy. And I love it when I discover a new Canadian author, which sometimes happens when you just wander up and down the isles. Erasing Memory is Scott Thornley’s first book. He’s well known in the design industry. He designed the Gemini Award for the Academy of Canadian Television, as well as the logos for Mary Poppins and The Little Mermaid. He’s obviously very creative, and his creativity has translated really well into his first mystery novel. Set in the southern Ontario industrial city of Dundurn (hmmm… it sure smells like Hamilton to me) senior police detective MacNeice (Mac to his buddies in the force) and his team are called to the discovery of a murdered young woman. Lydia Petrescu’s body is found in a summer cottage, dressed in an evening dress, with the Schubert Piano Trio playing in the background. Right away he is reminded of his wife’s recent death… they both had the mark that distinguishes dedicated violinists – that telltale bruise under the chin. Lydia was very talented, and had just graduated from the Conservatory. The appalling, gruesome circumstances of her murder lead the team to uncover her family’s connection to longstanding grievances in Eastern Europe, and MacNeice and his team set out to discover who killed Lydia and why. All the characters are well written and interesting, but as hard as I tried I could not remember MacNeice’s first name, and I couldn’t find it when I flipped through the book afterwards. Maybe he doesn’t have one – yet. I’m hoping there will be many books in this series.* This first book is great start to a new career path for someone who is obviously very talented.

* I’ve just discovered that book #2, The Ambitious City, is due out in May 2012.

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A book that’s DEFINITELY for me

I heard about this book on the radio and immediately went to look it up because the title was so captivating, plus it made me chuckle. It’s called A Perfectly Kept House is a Sign of a Misspent Life: How to Live Creatively with Collections, Clutter, Work, Kids, Pets, Art, Etc. It’s by Mary Randolph Carter. It sounds fascinating so I immediately put my name on the list for it at the library – yes it even has a waiting list. So I’m not the only person who is surrounded by clutter, dust bunnies, and, well let’s face it – junk. And I though here’s a woman after my own mind when I read the comment “don’t scrub the soul out of your home”! I am so intrigued by this book that I can’t wait to get my paws on it.

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The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor

Wow, Wow, Wow!! What an amazing woman and what an amazing story. I can pat myself on the back for finding this book all by my lonesome. What made me choose it? A comment from a reader on the web said “In 5 years of our book club… this was only the 2nd book that was unanimously loved by our whole group.” The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor is written by Sally Armstrong. You probably recognized her name from Homemaker’s Magazine. More recently, she’s an author and human right’s activist, reporting from Bosnia, Somalia, Rwanda and Afghanistan. Her great, great, great grandmother,  Charlotte Taylor, was one of the very first women to settle in what is now New Brunswick. As a young girl she fled from England to Jamaica with her family’s black butler, causing such a rift in the family that she never heard from any of them again. When Pad, her lover, dies she’s alone in this far off land with no prospects of a decent life anywhere near what she left behind in England. Through the grace of Commodore George Walker she ends up on a ship bound for the east coast of Canada where she’s told she can soon catch another ship back to her family in Britain. But she never sets foot on that ship. How can she, she’s pregnant with a black servant’s baby. From the moment she sets foot on Canadian soil, her life story becomes mingled with the history of New Brunswick. She lives among the Mi’Kmaq for awhile, marries 4 times (all husbands die tragic deaths) and manages to raise 10 children. It is a totally engrossing story that at times made me think that all generations of women since are slightly wimpier than the last. I just can’t imagine the hardship, loss, vulnerability, and back-breaking work that she was forced to endure. This is a riveting book. It’s found in the fiction section of the bookstore, but based on fact. Armstrong did a huge amount of research into her family tree to pull it all together, and she does it really well. She’s a wonderful writer. I can see why any book club would unanimously agree that it is one of their favourites.

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