Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Last Resort

Whew. Are we ever, ever glad to be home from Cuba. As my RRHB said, "Wanting to be home isn't the way to end a holiday."

In short, the good: the beach, which is stunningly beautiful, the island, which is hauntingly the same as its almost frozen in time with its steadily decaying buildings, its old cars, and its strangely ironic absence of American anything.

We visited some amazing things: the caves where we snorkeled underground, the city of Trinidad, Havana, an old ranch run by a man born in the very house where we had lunch, whose history was translated for us by a youngster from Montreal, and saw Che's memorial at Santa Clara. Oh, and the highlight for me? Seeing Hemingway's house in Havana, spectacular. We also spent a wonderful couple of days on the beach at Varadero. One afternoon, we walked for hours in the ocean, sort of half-floating along enjoying the sunshine and each other's inexplicable good moods.

The bad: anything and everything about the "resort," the food, abysmal, the room, smelled like mould and had terribly uncomfortable beds, the fact that Conquest, the "reputable" tour company forgot to mention that we had to pay for our meals in Havana, how everyone in the country is so starved for tips that they dance for the tourists while we gorge ourselves on buffets of food that very few could ever afford or have the means to buy. We felt awful. As my RRHB said, "I'm going to feel guilty about this for years."

The downright ugly: our hotel in Havana was awful. And we spent our last days in Cuba deathly ill, both of us aching more for home than for the glorious sunshine that seemed to cater to us the entire week we were there. The meals that made us sick, which was just about every day at the buffet. We spent our anniversary night sleeping in a room that smelled faintly of urine in two single beds. How romantic.

The strange: the two days that it rained, we were on a bus (doing the Three Cities tour, Santa Clara, Cienfuego and Trinidad), and then in a jeep driven by a maniacal Italian man who spoke no English, which didn't, in the least, stop him from trying to communicate with us, where we did a Nature Tour that involved driving through the backyards of some of the poorest people I had ever seen, with garbage strewn all over, picked through by packs of homeless dogs, as we used up more of the country's natural resources to carry us through a version of the 'true' Cuba. We also went to see the Tropicana show in Havana, which is a spectacle to end all spectacles.

On the whole, we were very disappointed in the "resort," and even more so by our hotel in Havana, which was so far away from the centre of the city, where all the action is, that we had to take a cab that cost 15 CUC, the equal of about $20.00 Cdn just to get back from the day we spent in the old section.

But the most heartbreaking part of it all? How much time is wasted on buses, from the airport the the resorts, from the resort to Havana, a two hour journey, stretched out to over four hours by the time everyone is dropped off and picked up, wasting almost an entire day of a seven day trip. What is that?

But I read 4 books, 3 were advance reading copies, so I can't talk about them until they're published and the last was a really bad chicklit novel by Jane Green called Mr. Maybe, which takes my reading to 69. Fingers crossed I get to 70 by tomorrow.

Happy New Year everyone! It's so good to be home! Hope you all have a good night to night and I look forward to hearing all about your New Year's Revolutions!

Friday, December 22, 2006

We're All Going On A Winter Holiday!

I feel like a girl! After being so busy over the last little while, so much so that I can barely remember what it's like not to be so busy I can't hear myself think, we're leaving in less than 24 hours for our trip to Cuba.

So, yesterday I had my eyebrows waxed, got my toenails painted, bought some travel-sized Dermalogica products (so expensive, so worth it), and am about to start packing. But the best news of all? My lovely and sneaky RRHB bought me a digital camera! Now, in the New Year, My Tragic Right Hip will be fresh and improved with colour photographs...

And he surprised me, which is very, very hard to do.


Now, I'm not even taking my crackberry to Cuba with me, so there will be no blogging from the holiday. Expect great long, tome-like posts upon my return. Safe travels everyone and happy holidays. We'll be back on the 30th.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

#68 - Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures

Vincent Lam's Giller-prize winning book of linked short stories, Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures, weaves in and out of the lives of four medical students. In some stories, they are the focus, in others, they are secondary characters, found objects in the lives of the people they touch.

As I driving my reading home for 2006, I am glad that I managed to read this year's Giller winner. I'd put this book in my top 10 both for Lam's crisp, clean, and refreshing prose style, but also because it manages to do what all good fiction should, and that is bring you into a world that is not your own. Having lived on the periphery of the medical world for many, many years as a patient with a complex disease and an even more complicated medical history, I liked this book if only because it showed me around the lives of doctors and made them utterly, realistically and totally human.

Of all the stories, I'd have to say that "Contact Tracing," Lam's ingenious tale of the SARS epidemic, was my favourite of the 12, with "Winston" coming in a close second. All in all, cribbing from Wayson Choy's quote on the front of the hardcover, I'd have to say that the book is the work of a very powerful young writer.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Top TV of 2006

Finally, someone who completely and totally gets me. Or at least gets the fact that The Wire is hands down the best show on television, like, ever.

Oh, and I agree with Deadwood, but he's missing a few shows, like Rescue Me, Weeds, The Office, and Dexter.

And it's HISTORY TELEVISION, dude, please, if you're going to write about TV in Canada at least get the channel right.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Blogging Killed The Movie Critic

Am I responsible for this? I don't think that blogs, fanzines, fan sites, etc., have killed movie criticism but maybe brought it out of its ivory tower, if such a thing even existed for pop culture.

Personally, I write movie reviews here because I love films so much that I want to remember what I liked and what I didn't like. It's also a way for me to hone my "talent" (and I use that word lightly) for when I do have reviews to write for "outside" publications, which, to be perfectly honest, I wish I had more to write on a regular basis.

#67 - By The Time You Read This

Reading the odd mystery novel is always kind of a treat; it's sort of like watching a solid episode of Law & Order, there's a level of predictability, but you're hooked until the end to see what happens. And here's where my awful reading habits from childhood come up and bite me, as more often than not, I'll skip to the last pages just so I know what's happening. Seriously? It's one habit I'm trying desperately to break. And I managed in this case, to read Giles Blunt's latest mystery without skipping ahead to see 'who dunnit' before I actually got to the final pages of the book.

(Okay, I'll admit I did flip through the pages quickly for clues but I didn't actually read ahead)

Annnywaay. I finished up By the Time You Read This by Canadian Giles Blunt this weekend. It's the fourth novel in his Detective John Cardinal series that takes place in the fictional Algonquin Bay, a small city in Northern Ontario. The title refers back to a suicide note left by Cardinal's wife, Catherine, found on the roof where she fell to her death, apparently killing herself as a result of severe depression. But was it actually a suicide or was she murdered? In addition to this gripping, and it truly is gripping, storyline, Lise Delorme, a coworker of Cardinal's, is caught up in a child pornography case, which rounds out the two central plots in the novel.

As the two cases weave back and forth, Blunt's skill as a magician of sorts when it comes to pacing and character development, and even though one big clue is revealed half-way through the book (it's tantamount to a conclusion), but the story remains utterly satisfying to the end. To an extent, this book is as much about how Cardinal gets to the answers as it is about the mystery itself. And as the second case unravels under Delorme's cautious investigative skills, both plots merge and divide, which also keeps you into the book until the end.

Anyway, I can see why Margaret Cannon called it the #1 mystery for this year, besides Fred Vargas's The Three Evangelists, which I loved, I didn't read another mystery I enjoyed as much all year.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

'Tis The Season

For a while, back in high school, in the first few years after I lost my mom, I still clung to the wonder and joy of the holidays. We're not a religous family so it was the traditions that sort of made Christmas memorable. Each year we'd make an ornament for the tree, we'd get to open one present on Christmas Eve, we'd have pancakes, open our presents, have a big family meal, see everyone. I miss that.


We've been listening to Christmas songs this evening. My favourite? The Bing Crosby / David Bowie "Peace on Earth / Little Drummer Boy." Then, "Fairytale of New York" by the Pogues. Then, The Pretenders, "2000 Miles."

Now you...

TRH Movie - Everything Is Illuminated And Others

After having Everything is Illuminated stuck on the Faux-Vo for, well, months, I finally managed to watch it yesterday. And I pretty much felt the same way about it as I felt about the book: it's well acted, looks great, sounds great, but nothing much happens. Liev Schreiber, who wrote and directed the film, pares down the source material, omits a lot of the more fantastical elements. And those stories, the ones of the history of Trachimbrod, were my favourite parts of the book, so the film kind of fell flat for me.

Then, we also watched Tristan and Isolde, and honestly, of these two films (and my RRHB can attest), this one was certainly the better. Good, in fact. I can't remember enough of the original story (I read it in high school, all glowy and looking for quotes to give to my my high school fellow, how embarrassing) to know if the movie is truthful or if it's like King Arthur, all historically inaccurate and stuff, but I thought it was good.

You can tell there's no more good TV for a while as we're clearing off all the movies before we go away next week.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Around the World in 52 Books

I've been thinking a lot about my reading for next year, in addition to the books I've got to read for work and ones I'm going to try to tackle in the new year for the 1001 Books odyssey, I wanted to broaden my reading base. In the last 10 years or so since finishing school, I've mainly been reading Canadian fiction, and bestselling books at that.

In the new year, I'm going to try and read more from authors around the world, hoping to cover 52 countries in 52 weeks. Now that might be a lofty goal, call it the one and only challenge I'm going to cover for the calendar year, but I think it's achievable. And since there are some African, Australian and Caribbean writers on the 1001 Books list, I might be able to knock a few off of both challenges as I go along.

So, if anyone has any suggestions for my 52 countries in 52 weeks, please let me know...right now my list is comprised of the following: Henning Mankell (Sweden), Nadine Gordimer (South Africa), Peter Carey (Australia)...and that's it.

And, of course, any excuse to give myself a challenge that I'll never finish, well hey!


1. A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini, Afghanistan
2. The Successor, Ismail Kadare, Albania
3. The Swallows of Kabul, Yasmina Khadra, Algeria
4. Annie John, Jamaica Kincaid, Antigua
5. Theft: A Love Story, Peter Carey, Australia
6. Nowhere Man, Aleksandar Hemon, Bosnia and Herzegovina
7. The Devil and Miss Prym, Paulo Coelho, Brazil
8. Consumption, Kevin Patterson, Canada
9. The House of the Spirits, Isabel Allende, Chile
10. Soul Mountain, Gao Xingjian, China
11. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabrial Garcia Marquez, Columbia
12. Havana Best Friends, Jose Latour, Cuba
13. The Trial, Franz Kafka, Czech Republic
14. Out of Africa, Isak Dineson, Denmark
15. Good Morning, Midnight, Jean Rhys, Dominica
16. The Lambs of London, David Mitchell, England
17. Platform, Michel Houellebecq, France
18. April in Paris, Michael Wallner, Germany
19. Our Sister Killjoy, Ama Ata Aidoo, Ghana
20. Disappearance, David Dabydeen, Guyana
21. The Melancholy of Resistance, Laszlo Krasznahorkai, Hungary
22. The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy, India
23. The Master, Colm Toibin, Ireland
24. Lion's Honey: The Myth of Samson, David Grossman, Israel
25. Don't Move, Margaret Mazzantini, Italy
26. Hallucinating Foucault, Patricia Duncker, Jamaica
27. The Unconsoled, Kazuo Ishiguro, Japan
28. Petals of Blood, Ngugi Wa Thiong'o, Kenya
29. A True Story Based on Lies, Jennifer Clement, Mexico

30. Half A Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Nigeria
31. Out Stealing Horses, Per Petterson, Norway
32. Blindness, Jose Saramago, Portugal
33. The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Master and Man, Leo Tolstoy, Russia
34. The Accidental, Ali Smith, Scotland
35. Slow Man, J.M. Coetzee, South Africa
36. Depths, Henning Mankell, Sweden
37. All Soul's Day, Cees Nooteboom, The Netherlands
38. In a Free State, V.S. Naipul, Trinidad
39. My Name is Red, Orhan Pamuk, Turkey
40. The Emperor's Children, Clair Messud, United States
41. The Good Husband of Zebra Drive, Alexander McCall Smith, Zimbabwe


42. Halldór Laxness, Independent People, Iceland
43. The Moldovian Pimp, Edgardo Cozarinsky, Argentina

A couple of truly fab forums are talking about the challenge and they've given me some more countries, so thanks!

44. Mariama Ba, So Long a Letter, Senegal
45. Javier Cercas, Soldiers of Salamis, Spain
46. Tahmima Anam, A Golden Age, Bangladesh
47. Dalia Sofer, The Septembers of Shiraz, Iran
48. Michael Ondaatje, Divisadero, Sri Lanka
49. Lloyd Jones, Mister Pip, New Zealand
50. Nurudin Farah, Links, Somalia

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Page 123 Meme

Totally stealing this meme from Orange Blossom Goddess over at The Library Ladder, but here goes, the Page 123 Meme:

1. Grab the book closest to you.
2. Open to page 123, scroll down to the 5th sentence.
3. Post the text of next 3 sentences on your blog.
4. Name of the book and the author.
5. Tag 3 People.

Ragdoll's Participation:

#1. Done, pulled it out of my knapsack.
#2. Book is now cracked open on my lap.
#3. A couple of times he said, "The wife would kill me if she knew how much I paid for that."
#4. By the Time You Read This, Giles Blunt

And for the tagging, I'm totally not going to choose three people but any of you readers out there with a book in your back pocket, take it away!

The Abandoned Cubicle

I'm sitting, right now, in an abandoned cubicle. Not my normal workspace, obviously, for the only piece of paper adorning the walls is a notice instructing upon how to deal with Telephoned Bomb Threat Procedures.

And I'm always the one claiming there are no book emergencies.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Arctic Ice

Winter is about to set in although you wouldn't feel it in Toronto. With temperatures sitting at about 8 degrees, which I would call decidedly balmy, it is any wonder that this is happening?

And having watched Al Gore this week on Oprah, and still digesting Heat, although I'm only 47 pages in (it's so scary that I can't read it any faster), I'm all for making positive changes to save that damn ice. I bought one of our nephews a piece of the Arctic and our only niece a polar bear from WWF, and if everyone does that, buys just one socially responsible gift this holiday season, maybe we can save one small part of it.

It would be a shame for it all to disappear after so many lost their lives trying to map it, discover it and, well, explore it. But not just that, the total and complete repercussions of us melting all of the ice because we hate the bus and refuse to turn the heat down makes me think that there's never a more appropriate time to care for the earth than the holidays when everyone's feeling generous and imagining the best in other people.

Monday, December 11, 2006

TRH Movie - The Holiday Redux

My review of The Holiday is now up on Chart. I realized that I sort of missed the chance to talk about the very cute subplot in the movie with Eli Wallach and Kate Winslet, that many other reviewers discussed in detail. And it got me thinking. I had thought about it and then decided I didn't want to give it away, preferring instead to let the sweeter elements of the film come as a bit of surprise, but now I'm thinking I probably should have at least talked about it as a positive part of the picture.

Too late now. Also too late to sing Naomi Watts's praises, as the cyber-stalker fellow reminded me in his comments. But she was really very good in The Painted Veil and the more I think about it, the more I like that film.

What can you do? Every sentence is a choice.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Going On A Honeymoon

Yes, almost 11 month and 14 days after the actual event, the RRHB and I finally booked our "honeymoon" yesterday. We're going to Cuba for a week, spending 5 days in Varadero and 2 in Havana. True that I want to see the country before Castro's reign comes to an end, but my goodness did I get a shock when the charge went through to my credit card. Ouch!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Missed The Party

I was going to go to this party for Heather O'Neill's novel but got sidetracked by the whole Ed Norton thing. However, I'm pleased as punch with the link over here from the Torontoist, how cool is that?

TRH Movie - The Painted Veil

I skipped my very last dance class for the term yesterday to go see a preview screening of The Painted Veil, Ed Norton's latest movie, but with very good reason, because the actor/producer was actually in attendance for a Q&A session at the end.

First, the film. Based on a W. Somerset Maugham novella, The Painted Veil takes place, for the most part, in China, where a young doctor (or bacteriologist), Walter Fane (Ed Norton) who is researching infectious diseases and his new wife, Kitty (Naomi Watts). Married after a refreshingly brief courtship that takes place in about two days, the couple finds themselves in an awkward and difficult situation when Kitty begins, and ends, an affair with the Vice-Consul, Charlie Townsend (Liev Shreiber). As a form of punishment, Walter forces Kitty to travel inland to a small village heartbreakingly infected with the worst cholera outbreak in history. Here, in the small village, the two reach an impasse of sorts, where they may not solve all of the problems of their marriage, but they do certainly find an honesty where they communicate openly at long last.

It's a long movie, with beautiful scenery, and much better than the last thing I saw that was filmed in China, some terrible "rock" video by 30 Seconds to Mars. The Painted Veil is directed by John Curran, who also helmed We Don't Live Here Anymore, so he's certainly adept at creating a story that explores the moral ambiguity at the centre of so many human experiences. A sweeping tale that balances out the interior emotional struggles of Walter and Kitty with the more overarching socio-political problems found in China (the rise of the "nationalists," the fury over British imperialism, and the presence of Catholic missionaries), The Painted Veil is an epic film, one that demands a commitment from its audience, but absolutely rewards you for putting in the effort.

And it must be stated that Toby Jones, who plays Waddington, a left-over soldier stationed in the small village affected by the epidemic, is wonderful. And I can understand why Naomi Watts became so involved in the picture (she's a co-producer alongside Norton), because it's quite a juicy part for a woman in a world where the "heroines" are getting younger and younger in films that are more and more vapid.

Now, the actor. So, at the end of the screening, Richard Crouse came back out to introduce Ed Norton and then do a quasi-Inside the Actor's Studio-type question and answer period. Norton came into the theatre wearing jeans and a lovely dark grey pea coat, which he wore through the entire interview. Part way through he wrapped it even further around himself and hugged his arms in tight like he was maybe a bit unsure of himself and a little nervous, which I didn't expect.

He's quite unassuming in person except totally handsome and very clean cut, and he used a lot of big words (etymology, for example) and made cute metaphors ("the characters in the film were exfoliated by China") and came across super smart and well read, another thing I didn't expect. He also sounds American when he talks, says Montreal like Mont-re-all, and things like "you all know Ron Livingston, right" in that particular cadence to people like my American "cousins" who all hail from Pennsylvania and such. He looks, well, like a New Yorker, put a toque on him and he could be Morgan Spurlock in Super Size Me, but I digress.

I was such a geek that I took notes about some of the more charming things he said about the movie and his career, just to relay them here:

On Working on The Score with De Niro and Brando:

"It's a movie I did just to be in the poster."

And the kid that asked the question told Norton he was a Method actor ("What's it like to be a third generation Method Actor"), to which he responded by saying, "That's the first I'm hearing about being a Method Actor." The kid (a theatre/film student in a pack of theatre/film students sitting beside me and rambling on about how great Death to Smoochy was) said that he read it on the internet, which, of course, cued all clap-trap snark about how unreliable information is on the web. Which almost made me want to stand up and ask whether or not the rumours are true that he's dating Evan Rachel Wood. But, alas, I am a meek writer who prefers to spread her own rumours online. Annnywaay. He did joke that he could learn a lot about himself by reading the internet. Can't we all Ed Norton, can't we all.

About the costume and makeup from The Illusionist:

It's actually inspired by a comic Dr. Strange. After I told my RRHB this he said, "Oh yeah, totally, there was even a Canadian TV show about Dr. Strange for a while." Who knew?

On the characterization in The Painted Veil:

"We had to commit to the character's weaknesses in order to make it real." I am paraphrasing a bit here but I really liked this idea. In order for the movie to work, Norton said, he and Watts concentrated more on the character flaws rather than their strong points, and he's absolutely right, it's what makes the movie work. You do believe that Walter is a bad lover (his example) and that Kitty is vain and silly, which makes their evolution so much more real.

Further, on the love story in The Painted Veil:

Norton is attracted to projects that take him outside of his own comfort zone, but I couldn't help reading so much more into this statement than was probably intended, "everyone goes through disappointments in seeing the weaknesses in the object of their affection," but maybe something like this comes more from his own failed relationships in general vs. empathizing with Walter's inability to make his marriage work in many ways.

About working on the 25th Hour:

(Which I will preface by saying I think is one of my favourite Spike Lee joints). The theatre actor in him loves to rehearse, and he feels his performance in that film ended up being so strong because they did a lot of intense rehearsing before the shoot.

Lastly, he said he was "reluctant to talk about what a film is about," because he thinks that the job of the person in the audience and what fun would it be just to tell us all what to think. In the end, I'm glad I went, even if the film is one of those Hollywood vanity projects (Norton mentioned he'd always wanted to make a sweeping epic) that many actors create to give themselves work. Instead of being all snarky about that, as I am inclined to do, I'm going to resist and say what does it matter when the end product is clearly a piece of quality work from a surprisingly well spoken, obviously intelligent, well read, and highly talented individual.

Oh, and hot, did I mention that too? He's totally hunky and hot.

Oh, and the other shocking thing that I did not realize about my own damn self, is that I've seen 19 of the 21 titles listed on his page, which I was kind of surprised by. Does that mean he's my male version of Kirsten Dunst?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

#65 & #66 - The Secret Mitzvah Of Lucio Burke & Before I Wake

The other day I finished not one but two books I had sort of been reading simultaneously. The first, The Secret Mitzvah of Lucio Burke, was for my online book club, and I'll be honest, were it not for that, I probably would never have read this lovely and charming first novel. And speaking of first novels, it's very impressive that Robert J. Wiersema comes right out the gate with his own exceptional book, Before I Wake. Another novel that had I not heard the author read a few weeks ago, I also may have never read.

It's interesting, when you read two books side by side, to see the contrasts and the differences. Both books deal with issues of faith and fate, with family, love and friendship as secondary themes, and both authors have a gift in terms of crafting very readable stories that tug at your heartstrings. But they are also very different, the first being an historical novel of sorts, the second more of a fantastical commercial fiction-type outing. However, they are now books that I would absolutely recommend to people, if only because it's a mitzvah in and of itself to support first novels, to herald from the rafters new and exciting talent on the Canadian literary landscape.

Annnywaaay. The Secret Mitzvah of Lucio Burke, set in Toronto in the 1930s, is kind of a buldingsroman, in the sense that the main character, said Lucio Burke, comes of age in the novel alongside the young city of Toronto, which is also growing up, so to speak. There's a huge cast of characters that surround Lucio, his love interest, Ruthie, his next door neighbour and best friend, Dubie, and both of their families. The book opens with Bloomberg, a minor character who disappears after one fateful day, trying to give away his baseball, making all of the kids hit the ball to see who would end up with it. In the end, no one hits the ball, and this fantastic journey begins where all three characters, Lucio, Dubie and Ruthie, change in many different ways.

As the love story unfolds, a number of almost fantastical things happen, each geared to balance out the idea that many of the events in your life are the products of both fate and faith. And Steven Hayward writes such a convincing yarn that's so Richler-inspired that it's easy to be captivated by his charming, witty and truly engaging prose. If I have one slight criticism of this book, it's that there's a very long and rather important flashback toward the end, about Lucio's grandmother, that I thought would have made more sense had it been introduced earlier, especially considering the book's ending, which takes place during the riots in Christie Pits is just around the corner, it sort of pulled me out. But Hayward, who is himself the narrator "telling" his grandmother's story, both fiction and non, is adept enough that you just go with it, and my overall feeling is that this is a really, really good first novel.

Now, on to Before I Wake. I am going to honestly say that this book totally and utterly surprised me. It's not normally the kind of book I would read, that has no bearing on whether or not the book is of quality, but like The Secret Mitzvah of Lucio Burke, it's not a book I would have picked up on my own, without a little prodding. I know Scarbie read it a while back and really loved it, and the author himself answered some questions on her blog, and she's been telling me to read it for months. But like I said, until I heard him at the reading a few weeks back, it wasn't a book that cried out for me to read. I was so wrong.

It's a sweet story, perfect for holiday reading, about a family that goes through an unspeakable tragedy (their three-year-old daughter is hit by a truck crossing the street and is in a coma) only to find that their daughter is miraculous, not in the way she's able to recover, but in the fact that she can now heal other people. Coupled with the more fantastical elements of the novel, are the more day-to-day problems regular people deal with as they experience a tragedy.

In some ways, and I know this is a far-out there kind of comparison, but the book almost kind of reminded me of Dogma, which, to this day, is still my favourite Kevin Smith movie. As a girl who struggles a lot with ideas of faith and religion herself, especially the choice to believe or not to believe, I think I liked this book so much because the main characters, Simon and Karen, struggle throughout the book to not only be true to themselves, but to do the right thing in general, even if they don't necessarily believe in God and/or the miracle of Sherry's abilities. There's a mysterious aspect to the book as well, with Henry Denton, the driver of the truck that hit the little girl, fighting his own battles in terms of what happened, where he is now, and what he's sent back to do.

I can see why the Globe picked it to as a Best Book this year, because it's a really hard thing to achieve, a totally readable, utterly good piece of commercial fiction that feels to have been written by a thoughtful, compassionate and good first-time novelist.

On the whole, these were two surprises in terms of my reading this year, books that I had made up my mind about before actually giving them a chance, with both proving that, well, you can't judge a book by your own preconceived notions.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Five Things Meme

Well, I am so honoured, as I've never been tagged before! Sniff. My eyes are welling up a little. Okay, so here's my list:

1. I was born at the Toronto Grace Hospital. For years, while working at the Evil Empire, I stared out my office window at the hospital where I was born.
2. I almost flunked out of graduate school. So much so that one of my professors actually suggested that 'it might not be for me.' I was heartbroken.
3. I once tried to re-write Jude the Obscure for a modern audience from Susanna's point of view. Yeah, it was bad. The first novel I never finished.
4. I have a birthmark on my forehead that many people mistake for dirt.
5. The most embarrassing boy I ever kissed was named Trey. He was a skateboarder from Regina and about five years younger than me. It was in Banff, and Banff is not real life.

Okay, I'm very bad at this tagging thing but here goes: Zesty, my friend with the Yellow Fever and Beth.

Oh, My What Do I Say Except Awww

Right now I am blogging just before bed: my RRHB is asleep with the cat lying beside him, both of their heads on the pillow. They are BOTH snoring. The cat's high-pitched whistle with the RRHB's lower tones underneath.

I will put in the earphones but awwwww.

(And I didn't post a picture so it doesn't count...)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Good To See That Education Really Works

Your Vocabulary Score: A-

Congratulations on your multifarious vocabulary!

You must be quite an erudite person.

(prop's to Kate's Book Blog for the link, although I'm not quite as smart as she is...)

Damn You Studio 60

Okay, I'll admit it: I am totally and shockingly hooked on Studio 60. The episode on this week was actually pretty damn good and that kiss (whew!) between Matt and Harriet, well, I'm not even ashamed to say that I rewound it a couple of times before carrying on with the episode. Hot!


So, do you know anyone who'll see this Mel Gibson extravaganza? I probably won't even watch it when it comes to TMN a year from now, for free. Especially after reading this, and I almost dropped my EW right into the recycling bin when I saw Gibson on the cover. I mean really? Shut up Mel Gibson. Shut up already.

Brushes With Greatness

Okay, so I'm going to do a six degrees of separation type post, which is not really exciting for anyone, but, well me:

1. Today Madhur Jaffrey is in our offices. She is lovely, delightful and kindly signed some books for me. I am dying to read her memoir Climbing the Mango Trees, which is now on my giant to-be-read pile toward the top right after I finish Before I Wake (am one subway ride away from being done) and after I read Consumption. Anyway, she was a supporting player in last year's sweet Prime with Uma Thurman and Bryan Greenburg (whom I will always refer to as Jake! from my time recapping One Tree Hill for TWoP), which means I'm one degree from both of them, cool eh?

2. Yesterday, my stepmother was sworn in as the Councillor for Ward 10 in Mississauga. It was a very prestigious ceremony with Hazel McCallion, "Madame Mayor" herself in attendance, natch, which means I'm one degree from her as well. In her opening address she laid out her plans for her term: deconstructing the region of Peel, stopping the tax payouts to Toronto (never mind the whole idea that how many Mississauga residents use Toronto roads, Toronto highways, Toronto services while they're at work, but whatever), and continuing to have the cleanest, crime-free city in Canada. You go Hazel; you're a right-winged spitfire of a woman, and even if I don't believe in your policy 100%, I certainly admire your honesty, dedication and servitude.

3. Also yesterday, my online book club had a chat with author Steven Hayward about his first novel, The Secret Mitzvah of Lucio Burke. It's a great read, and my full review is to follow, but when asked if he had a hard time re-writing the novel in a different way (he changed it from first to third person), he said, "The re-write was easy, the write was hard." And it made me heart the book (and its author) even more. It also gives me hope, because the write of any first draft is so difficult at least it's good that once an editor or someone else sees the potential, the hard work of creating the characters and doing the first draft isn't lost time.

4. I have an ARC of Gemma Townley's latest book on my nightstand at this very moment. I bet you are ALL jealous. I have also completed Shopaholic and Baby and Forever in Blue from our spring lists, with full reviews to come once the books are on sale. After reading all three, plus seeing The Holiday, I might be surprised if I don't grow even bigger boobs because of all the estrogen in my system.

Friday, December 01, 2006

TRH Movie - The Holiday

So I went to a preview screening of the girliest of all girlie movies The Holiday. I won't post my full review because I have to write it still for Chart, but I will say the following: this is an unabashed chick flick, so if you go in thinking "I really need a dose of fantasy" than by all means, get thee to the theatre next weekend.

Full review tk.

My Boy is Ten

My friend Heather took this photo a couple of weekends ago. We went for a walk in the woods. It was a bit cold at first, neither my boy nor ...