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Knotty Thoughts

Currently reading

Russka: The Novel of Russia
Edward Rutherfurd
Progress: 140/945 pages
Caliban's War
James S.A. Corey
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Book 5
J.K. Rowling, Jim Dale
Norse Mythology - Neil Gaiman
""Because," said Thor, "when something goes wrong, the first thing I always think is, it is Loki's fault. It saves a lot of time.""
The Queen's Man - Sharon Kay Penman
"He could not understand that I might have forgiven him for denying his paternity, for letting me be raised by strangers, but not for lying about my mother. Never for that."

Reading progress update: I've read 10%.

The Queen's Man - Sharon Kay Penman

I was wondering whether the content of the letter, teased at the end of the first chapter, would remain secret until the end; I'm glad it didn't, because it would have bugged me to no end! Also, I like the reasons Eleanor gave for bringing Justin into the investigation; I shared Justin's initial reaction as to why he should be the one to do it, but I felt it was explained well enough. After all, he had seen the attackers. On to the next bit!

Reading progress update: I've read 3%.

The Queen's Man - Sharon Kay Penman
"If I knew the answer to that question, my lord Bishop, I'd be riding straightaway for London to inform the Queen."
The Queen's Man - Sharon Kay Penman

One chapter in, and I'm already hooked by the political intrigue and the protagonist's arrival.

The Bad Beginning - Lemony Snicket

I liked it as much as I thought I would: a lot! The twists and turns were interesting and kept the plot impossible to pin down. The ending was a perfect setup for the next volume, although I'm trying to space these out because I only have the first three so far.

Okay, fine, into the rabbit hole I go...

The Bad Beginning - Lemony Snicket

I have a love/hate relationship with long series. I'm wary of being disappointed one or more books into the series; but I also know that if I really like it, my reading life (and bank account!) will be absolutely consumed for the foreseeable future.


But this series kept nagging me, and now that it's all over the place again thanks to Netflix, I decided to just surrender to the urge, and ordered a box set with the first three books. I usually move easily between electronic and paper books, but this series really called for the hardbound version, so that's what I got.


And, yes, I'm loving it. I read most of the first book in one sitting, and had to make myself slow down because there are so many more... Oh well, here we go again.

Reading Habit

1. Do you have a certain place in your home for reading?

I read anywhere inspiration strikes, though I do like a comfy sofa.


2. Bookmark or random piece of paper?

Whatever I have on hand at the moment: postcards, old bills, pieces of lace I'm working on...


3. Can you  just stop reading or do you have to stop read after a chapter / certain number of pages?

I try to read to the end of a chapter/section before I put the book away, but it's not always possible (if I have to tend to the kids, or am falling asleep).

4. Do you eat or drink while read?

Books + tea = heaven


5. Multitasking: music or TV while reading?

Sometimes music.


6. One book at a time or several at once?

I've tried bookish monogamy; it doesn't work. I usually have 2-3 books going at once.


7. Reading at home or everywhere?

Anywhere and everywhere.


8. Reading out loud or silently in your head?

Silently for my own reading, out loud for the kids.


9. Do you read ahead or even skip pages?

I might peek ahead if I'm curious. Sometimes, I like to start a book by reading the very last sentence first, and then going back to read how the story reaches that point.


10. Barking the spine or keeping it like new?

Depends on the format. Some books I have to bend a little to make them comfortable to read, although I try to avoid doing so.


11. Do you write in your books?

Yes! It's an old habit, from when I studied and taught literature. I also annotate ebooks, and love to see what sections others have underlined.

Loose ends

Ilium - Dan Simmons The Accursed - Joyce Carol Oates Cover Her Face - P.D. James Hyperion - Dan Simmons The Fall of Hyperion - Dan Simmons Endymion - Dan Simmons The Rise of Endymion - Dan Simmons

In which I fret over half-finished books...


I've decided not to start any new books until I tie up a few loose ends. Sometimes, I drift off from a book I was mostly enjoying but having a hard time keeping engaged with. I'm scatterbrained, I'll admit. And yet, I'm not abandoning these books; just putting them off, needing a break.


For example, Dan Simmons is one of my favorite authors. His Hyperion and Endymion books are superb, and so is Ilium. His books combine science fiction and literary tropes/references in a way I love. In Ilium, there are Shakespeare and Proust-loving alien life forms; and a real-time battle of Troy being played out on Mars, supervised by reanimated 20th-century classics scholars. What's not to love (for me, at least)? So I've set out to finish it first.


I've already talked about The Accursed, and how it both fascinates and muddles me. This will be my next one to finish. Finally, I had started Cover Her Face some months ago, and didn't get too far. I loved the style and characters, and have enjoyed reading and hearing interviews with James enough to pursue reading her work. So add that one to the list.


Three books to finish. Onwards!


And a third...

And the Birds Rained Down - Jocelyne Saucier, Rhonda Mullins

...although this might be my last Canada Reads book for the year (I know, I know, I haven't even read the winner). I just have too many other books on my TBR pile to buy more at the moment. I'll make it a point to start early next year (I do with they would announce the finalists earlier, though) and try for all 5.


As for this book, I'm not really sure what to say at this time. It feels too fresh in my mind, and there's a lot left wide open at the end of the novel. I thought for sure that the photographer would turn out to be Marie-Desneige's lost baby, but that particular thread was never pursued. The last couple of chapters have all the residents of this makeshift Eden scattering (mainly by force) to the four winds, never to come into contact again (presumably; again, there are many unanswered questions).


Which, I suppose, means that this novel is in large part about absences: Ted Boychuck is never seen alive, but his presence permeates the entire novel; Charlie and Marie-Desneiges decide it's for the best to not contact the photographer again; and the fates of Steve and Bruno are uncertain after their disappearance.


The image I have of this book is of stories and characters that are diffused, fuzzy around the edges; which is how I guess many of us appear to one another. It explores some serious issues, but offers no answers. In the end, each character makes a final decision based on very personal circumstances. There are endings, and new beginnings that will inevitably lead to their own endings.

Late to Canada Reads (Again)

When Everything Feels like the Movies (Governor General's Literary Award winner, Children's Literature) - Raziel Reid The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America - Thomas King And the Birds Rained Down - Jocelyne Saucier, Rhonda Mullins

I always have the best intentions when it comes to the Canada reads finalists, but I'm always too late to read the books in time for the debates. Oh, well.


So this year, a week after the debates, I'm two out of five. I've read The Inconvenient Indian and When Everything Feels Like the Movies, and now I'm starting And the Birds Rained Down.


A Heartbreaking Finish

When Everything Feels like the Movies (Governor General's Literary Award winner, Children's Literature) - Raziel Reid

As I mentioned in my last post on this book, this was a tough read because I knew where the story was leading, and I wanted to keep Jude from attending school that day, and then that dance...


I also mentioned what a feeling of hopelessness moves through this book. None of the characters seem destined for a happy future. The small town with no way out, the dead-end jobs, the toxic atmosphere (which is also literal, due to the town's industrial output)... Jude does find his way out, in a sense. We know from the start that this is a post-mortem narration, and Jude is "somewhere" telling us this story. We also suspect that he embellishes much of what he narrates, and we can't completely trust his Hollywood perspective on life. It's his coping mechanism, but also a barrier to us understanding him better as a person. The claustrophobic setting, and the feeling that nobody is blameless (even Keefer is swept into the shame cycle at school) added to the sense of misery I felt throughout the book. I didn't want to keep reading, but couldn't stop.


I'll probably be thinking about this one for a while, wondering whether or not I can say I liked it. It saddened and horrified and angered me. And it made me grieve, as a parent, of my children someday having to encounter similar situations (which are now filmed for eternal worldwide consumption).

If You Thought You Knew All the Bad Things...

The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America - Thomas King

King's account was an eye-opener. Sure, we've all studied the Trail of Tears and Custer, and in recent years have become fully aware of what took place in the residential schools.


But the bird's-eye view of land as the determining factor in American Indian history, and the closer look at the treaties and policies that shifted tribes and parcels around like a perverse game of checkers made this book an outstanding, if depressing, read.

Is It the Narrator or the Author?

When Everything Feels like the Movies (Governor General's Literary Award winner, Children's Literature) - Raziel Reid

This book has kept me up late at night for a few days now, in large part because I can't figure out how I feel about it. In fact, I can't determine what the "it" is that I'm reacting to.


The characters are over the top (or maybe my teenage years are too far in the mists of the past), and Angela especially irritates me. So far, more than halfway into the book, I can't find  a single character that doesn't read like a parody of a stereotype.


But, and here's where my dilemma lies, is this because we're seeing the story through Jude's larger-than-life perception of the world around him; or is this also Reid's perspective? Reading When Everything Feels Like the Movies feels like watching the proverbial car accident in progress. It's uncomfortable (and meant to be so) but also fascinating. We know where all this is headed, but we can always hope...

Books That I've Been Reading Forever...

The Accursed - Joyce Carol Oates

Sometimes, you start reading a book... and then stop... and then start once again... and so on, ad infinitum.


I started reading The Accursed months ago. I bought it because the premise sounded very intriguing, but I've had a hard time remaining engaged enough to finish it once and for all. I'm certainly not one to shy away from difficult books, but I find that The Accursed is more muddled than challenging. There are times when I really get into it, and then suddenly the narrative meanders away, and so does my attention.


So, while I haven't given up on the book, I'm taking it one page at a time (whenever those times may be), and will finish it at my own glacial pace.