Friday, January 27, 2006

Dream Career?

I'm salivating! UCLA Announces Creation of New Rare book school but I think I'd rather attend the Rare book school at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville - now to find the money to join the program. Thanks Bookworm for providing me with a new dream.

Interview with Gail Godwin - Santa Monica Mirror

I had the fabulous fortune to read Gail Godwin's 12th novel Queen of the Underworld this past October to review as part of the January Jury for Today when browsing BookSlut, I found an interview with her carried out by the Santa Monica Mirror. In it she discusses her journals, published this month at the same time as Queen of the Underworld, her life and the writing process.

I love this quote from Godwin, when discuss the act of keeping a journal:
“I didn’t start keeping a journal seriously, almost as a spiritual discipline, until I went abroad,” Godwin recalls. “That marks the start of keeping track consciously and responsibly, with a goal in mind that if I do this, I’m bound to not repeat some of my mistakes. And I’m bound to know myself a little better. It takes eons to get to that point where you have enough desire and enough leisure to take a moment and assess the day — as George Herbert the poet said, ‘to dress and undress the soul every day.’?”

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The 2006 Knitting Olympics

I joined the 2006 Knitting Olympics organized by Stephanie, The Yarn Harlot. Of course, I joined Team Canada!

Cast on takes place during the opening ceremonies - February 10 - and the project has to be finished before the Olympic flame is extinguished - February 16.

Eligibility as defined by Stephanie: Any knitter who, embracing the "Citius, Alitius Fortius" ideal, would like to challenge themselves while embracing the Olympic spirit, and is just whacked enough to play along with me. Sixteen days of knitting.

Concept: You must cast on a project during the Opening Ceremonies of the Winter Olympics (Feb 10)- and finish before the Olympic flame goes out (Feb 26). That's 16 days.

1. The project must be a challenge for you to complete in 16 days.
2. There are no rules about what a challenge would be. Like the real Olympics, there are many areas to compete in. If you are a new knitter, then a garter stitch baby sweater might do...If you are experienced, well. I've already considered Torino. Use your own conscience.
3. While this is intended to be somewhat difficult (like the Olympics) it is not intended to ruin your life. Don't set yourself up for failure. (Olympic athletes may cry, but they do not whine pitifully, sob and threaten members of their family with pointed sticks because they haven't slept in five days. ) This is intended to (like the Olympics) require some measure of sacrifice, and be difficult, but it should be possible to attain.
4. No casting on before the flame is lit.
5. Finish before the flame goes out.
6. You may swatch before the games. (I consider this "training.")

It sounds like a blast! Now I have to figure out what my competition piece will be. Must go rummage in "The Stash." It might be time to undertake a serious lace project with that beautiful cashmere bought at The Naked Sheep.

Now I just need to figure out how to put those cool buttons in my right hand bar like everyone else so I can proudly display my Team Canada colours to everyone!

A new book classification system - with many thanks to Lotus Reads

A number of other BookCrossers have great blogs, some of which are listed in my sidebar. One whose book reviews I truly enjoy is Lotus Reads. Recently she commented on how she often uses descriptions of food to describe books. "Whenever I struggle to describe a reading experience, I find it helpful to compare it with food."

I really like the categories she's come up with, so I'm going to adopt them here to describe the books I read.

"Cool glass of lemonade" - a nice, quick and easy read that takes about a day or so
"Melted Chocolate" - books that go down smoothly, the experience is so pleasurable, you never want it to end
"Sunday Specials" - satisfying emotionally and fill you up, like Mom's Sunday dinner of comfort foods
"Exotic Treats" - You have no clue how you are going to feel after you try it, but you can't help yourself!
"Cereal" - convenient, crunchy, nutritious, but forgettable!
"liver & onions" - for those that you can only finish by holding your nose and choking it down (thanks Candy for this new category)

Thank you Lotus Reads for helping me find a great new way to describe my books.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Take two on the new scarf

I wrote last week that I had started a new scarf using Ticker Tape but I really wasn't pleased with it. I think the problem was that I hadn't picked large enough needles and the fabric was a lot denser than I wanted. So I dug through my stash and found the perfect yarn for a long, new cuddly scarf - Paton's Mosaic in Bottle Green. I'm knitting this on 6 mm needles, making it a bit narrower than usual - only 12 sts wide. I have two balls so it's going to be nice and long.

What I love about this yarn is the strand of nylon spun with the acrylic. The nylon has periodic tufts of polar fleece that make it very cozy feeling. The varigation is consistent but doesn't appear too strippy when knit up.

I'm reading The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery right now. The review is due to HarperCollins for their First Look program on Feb. 3 so I'll post it here soon. So far I am really enjoying this.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Election Results

I'm just so depressed by the results I can't even bear it. I think I'm going to bed and hope for different results when I get up tomorrow.

Our country just took a huge step backward. This Steven Harper is a scary man. If his personal views get implemented, women will lose the rights to control their own bodies. Tolerance will be a thing of the past. I'm worried - the only consolation is that it's a minority government.

Sunday, January 22, 2006


I was reading MarciNYC's blog entry about working on her cross-stitch of a tulip and I had to stop and think. When was the last time I actually picked up a counted cross-stitch project? This fall I was between work and finishing up a lot of knitting projects that were Christmas gifts that I don't think I've done any counted work since August!

I have so many projects in process so I really need to get back to working on some of them. Thanks for the inspiration Marci! I'll post a picture here when I get a chance.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Patience - never my strong point

I am so bad at waiting, for anything really. Delayed gratification is not my forte.

I know it is too soon to hear from the University about the job I interviewed for a week ago. But I'm still going through all the angst and panic, just waiting to hear.

I know this is because I really want the job. It's such a good fit for me, it would ensure that I'm not without a job when my contract ends on Feb. 28 but overall, it would allow me to work at the university and take courses.

It's just the waiting to hear that is so difficult. The interview went well but did it go well enough? And why haven't they contacted any of my references?

I really am bad at patience.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: time was soft there: a Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co. by Jeremy Mercer

The premise is a simple one, the execution is magic. A young man on the run from himself and some nasty criminals in his hometown stumbles upon a legendary temple to the book on the banks of the Seine. Time was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co. details Jeremy Mercer’s time as a resident at Shakespeare & Co. The infamous bookstore and its eccentric denizens offered him sanctuary, just another of the many thousands of displaced writers who found refuge there over the decades.

While Time was Soft There is Mercer’s story of self-discovery, on a broader scale it is also the story of George Whitman, who ran his bookstore with a focus on equality rather than capitalism and made money only because it was necessary to keep Shakespeare & Co. operational. Beds were tucked into every bit of space in the building, piles of francs were hidden behind books on the shelves, and Whitman instituted a rule that all his refugees must help out in the store. Whitman’s other stipulations were simple; refugees had to read a book a day from the 10,000 volume store library, be up each day before the store opened, and write a short autobiography to gain access to one of the beds. The result was that thousands of luminaries of the written word found refuge among the books of Shakespeare & Co., earning the bookstore a place in most tourist guides to Paris.

At its core, this book is a loving tribute to Shakespeare & Co., illustrating the depth of influence that independent bookstores can enact on our culture. In this day of major chains and big box stores, Time was Soft There stands as a powerful homage to a sadly disappearing breed.

For many a bibliophile, a visit to the homes of famous writers generates a feeling of awe. For me, the true moments of bibliophilic “a-ha” comes only when in the hallowed halls of a truly legendary bookstore: a place where writers gathered, drank, smoked, gave readings and shared ideas. A place like Shakespeare & Co. or City Lights Bookstore (Shakespeare & Co.’s San Francisco sister store), nurturer of generations of authors. A place where bibliophiles can go, take a deep breath and say thank you. Mercer has captured the Shakespeare & Co. that 99% of us are unable to experience, that the many tourists (who only step through the door so they can check it off a “must see” list) will never understand.

Mercer’s work took me on a journey of rediscovery to my 20 year-old self, who made a pilgrimage to City Lights Bookstore, to stand where many of my Beat Generation heroes had hung out and to buy copies of their works at the source. I no longer know where my copy of Howl by Allen Ginsberg has gone. However, I have regained that moment of awe and for this, I thank Mercer. No matter what the future brings for Shakespeare & Co., Jeremy Mercy has ensured that the spirit of this amazing institution lives on.

See the review as it appears at Armchair Interviews - Time was Soft There.


I'm prone to insomnia. I'm not sure if it's because my natural bio-rhythm is to be awake all night or due to too many thoughts in my head. This week has been a bad one for sleeplessness. Tuesday night I saw 4 am and last night I was still wide awake at 2:30 am. No wonder my head feels like it is full of cotton batting today.

This doesn't lead to much in the way of productivity. It also means my mind tends to wander a great deal more.

Could creativity be tied to sleep deprivation?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Started a new scarf tonight

I felt like doing some knitting but just couldn't face the Sirdar sweater for my grandmother. I bought a ball of Moda Dea Ticker Tape in Sunset as a sample to try out. I fell in love with the colours and feel of the yarn. It's a tape that feels like ultra suede and has a great random painted look to it.

I decided to just try it out with garter stitch, 10 sts wide. Hmm...not positive about the result. I think I might have to rip and try something different. It's ending up way too springy and thick. I was in the mood for a slinky drapy scarf and that could be the problem. I think it's going to be a case of ripping and trying something else.

So I was searching on the internet to find a picture of the sunset Ticker Tape and came across a neat anarchist-type blog and that led me to one of the most unusual internet yarn stores, Knitty Dirty Girl. You have to check out some of this yarn, I think I'm in love with Wendi Joe's Cookie Stand.

Federal Elections

I went to vote on Monday night in the advance polls. I try to vote in these if I can, this way I make sure that no matter what happens on the 23rd, I will have cast my ballot.

What a tough choice it was. I am so scared of the conservatives winning since Steven Harper's party worries me. His personal views on women's rights scares me and now that he looks poised to win the election, this is even more worrying. I would vote for a party that shares my social values, but I'm afraid that by voting for the NDP or Green Party, I'm just helping Harper get into power.

What a dilemna! Our local Liberal candidate is the incumbent and someone my family has known for a long time. He's a good guy, I just think his party isn't going far enough to protect our social system.

After standing and staring at the ballot for a long-time, I made my decision and voted for the incumbent. I guess today wasn't my day to make a stand.

No Motivation Today

It's snowing, the light fluffy kind that always makes me think of Christmas. You know, the kind that makes driving hazardous and everyone wants to curl up inside their homes with a roaring fire.

This kind of weather makes me think of those snow days when you're in elementary school. Everything is closed and you spend the day building forts and having snowball fights. Then inside for hot chocolate and playings games.

These days make me want to be anywhere I don't have responsibilities - so I can cuddle up with a blanket, a good book, my cat and a cup of hot chocolate with mini-marshmallows.

*sigh* Oh to be a kid again.

Monday, January 16, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: Toss the Bride

Macie Fuller is an assistant to the most exclusive Wedding Planner in Atlanta. While “tossing brides” (getting them married off and out of the firm’s hair) pays the bills, dealing with the various sub-species of Bridezilla is sometimes overwhelming. To find a way of dealing with their quirks and peccadilloes, Macie assigns each a name based on their most outstanding characteristic - the horse bride, the greedy bride, the pink bride. Capable of managing the most explosive wedding situation, Macie is thrown when her long-term boyfriend Avery proposes. What follows is a captivating first novel by Jennifer Manske Fenske.

I was immediately enthralled by an excerpt of the first chapter and had to read to the conclusion even though "wedding lit," a sub-genre of chick lit, isn't my usual preference. Such is the strength of this fun tale. Macie is a lovably flawed heroine, desperate to plan her own wedding while at the same time being disgusted by the excess of the weddings she plans for “the brides.” In a telling comment, Macie reflects that rarely does she know the groom’s name, as most society brides don’t visualize their marriage, rather only the wedding. Manske Fenske counterpoints this dearth of grooms by humanizing Avery, fleshing out his story to a degree not often found in chick lit novels.

The weakness found here is that secondary characters often appear as caricatures or cardboard cutouts. By reducing their stories to amusing anecdotes and clichés to serve as a backdrop for Macie’s reflections on weddings, relationships and life, Manske Fenske missed an opportunity to add depth and resonance to these reflections. The novel would have been strengthened by exploring the human side of the various brides and Macie’s relationship with her future in-laws.

Filled with southern warmth and charm, Toss the Bride is a delightful entry in the ever-increasing chick lit market. The reader is quickly invested into Macie’s story and worries along with her as she contemplates becoming yet another rabid “Bride.” I look forward to reading Jennifer Manske Fenske’s sophomore effort and to watch her development as an author.

See my review as it is published at Armchair Interviews: Toss the Bride

BOOK REVIEW: Secrets of a Satisfying Life: discover the habits of happy people

What makes a person happy? Is there a secret to happiness that can be taught? David Ireland believes there is and that by studying happy people and the healthy things they do, we can discover a prescription for happiness.

In Secrets of a Satisfying Life: discover the habits of happy people, Ireland outlines the three main points of his premise: discover the habits of happiness; learn how to practice the habits of happiness; and learn to laugh at yourself. Habits of happy people are the deliberate responses that have successfully proven to meet one's needs. Secrets of a Satisfying Life goes on to outline how developing these responses and overcoming the distractions of the past keeps us moving toward the discovery of our life's purpose.

Written in the traditional style of the self-help genre, Ireland continually breaks his thesis into bite size chunks and regularly restates his main points, all while including plenty of examples and quotes from experts. Its construction makes it suitable for study in an adult Sunday School class.

While Ireland definitely tries to make this book relevant to non-Christians through his extensive use of modern metaphors, discussing concepts that border on new age philosophies and by giving examples using icons of modern culture (Madonna, Venus & Serena Williams), the work assumes a Biblical belief system in its readership.

There are many concepts here that will benefit the general public, however readers who are not espoused Christians may find the worthwhile core message difficult to find. The result may be that Ireland finds a reduction of sales in the secondary market (non-religious), as the preponderance of New Testament scripture may eliminate the appeal of this work to the broader audience of spiritual seekers. This limitation dilutes the message that Ireland is trying to send, that we can ALL use these methods.

In the end, what shines through most clearly is Ireland's belief that hope, "a sense of reach that inspires and motivates, is what breeds happiness." Life is filled with the mundane and it is by finding satisfaction there that we will be able to enjoy it and find our life's purpose.

See my review as it is published at Armchair Interviews: Secrets of a Satisfying Life

The newest additions to my happy family

Two new babies have arrived in my extended family and so I am now an honourary aunt two more times.

Isobel Mae (Izzy), pictured here, arrived on Thursday, January 12 to proud parents Stephanie and Jamie. This is the first girl born in my circle of friends in quite some time so I suspect she'll be royally spoiled.

Jack Lawrence was born on Wednesday, December 21 to proud parents Sonia and Paul. I'll post a picture of him as soon as I have one.

Welcome to both and congratulations to their families. I so honoured to be a proud Aunt two more times!

What a week!

I didn't blog much last week because there was just too much going on to put into words.

First, Nicholas Basbanes contacted to thank them for my review! It's the first time an author has commented on what I had to say about their book and it completely threw me for a loop. How do you respond when someone you respect so much and whose intelligence you admire writes and compliments you?

Then, I had a long job interview on Friday for a position I really want. I believe it went well so now the waiting begins.

And last but not least, some dear friends sent me a surprise gift certificate for a bookstore as a thank you. Does it get any better than that? So I was able to get a copy of Middlesex to read for the Book Relayer's Virtual Book Club. Now to read it!

I'm putting the final touches on my review of Secrets of a Satisfying Life and will post it here later today or tomorrow. Then I need to finish reading The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery before the next book to review arrives.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: Every Book Its Reader: The power of the printed word to stir the world

The announcement of a new book by Nicholas Basbanes is an occasion of joy for any devoted reader who loves reading about books. My copies of Basbanes' works are the backbone of my collection of books about books, and it is he who introduced me to the dazzling world of the "gently mad."

Since reading A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books, I eagerly await each installment to discover what secret corridors and closed doors he will open next. Basbanes' works act as a secret handshake that allows entry to a world any serious bibliophile longs to enter, a world devoted to the care, handling and love of the printed word.

In Every Books Its Reader, the social history of the book is explored from the perspective of the reader. Basbanes explores the meaning readers give to texts through their personal experiences, and how that experience helps connect with others. He says, "We are not only the product of what we read, we are in association with others who have read the same things."

Early I discovered 84 Charing Cross Road, a book that became a dear friend to be revisited often. Helene Hanff showed what a love of reading can truly bring to a life, the journey one can take through books with a helpful guide. Nicholas Basbanes easily fills this role. His pages resonate with quotes and stories and his love of books fairly bursts off the page. He carries the reader to a new path that leads to books, "a book casually encountered by an imaginative mind, lighting a spark that ignites a flame of creativity...."

At the start of Every Books Its Reader, Basbanes shares a story that ends "...if ever I go to Heaven I know where to find her. I shall go straight over to the corner by the bookcases." When I get there, I shall expect to find Nicholas Basbanes there, holding court.

You can see the review as it is posted here ->Review at

An Interesting Experiment

Some users of BookCrossing are once again compiling a listing of the Top 100 books read by BookCrossers in 2005, as well as BookCrossers' all-time favourites. Coming up with the lists, especially for my reading this past year was an interesting exercise and trying to come up with my top 20 favourites was quite a challenge - of paring it down to 20! I stuck only to fiction for my top 20 of all time.

My top 20 read in 2005 (in no particular order)
1. The Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster
2. Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett
3. Queen of the Underworld by Gail Godwin
4. Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
5. Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynn Truss
6. Sunshine by Robin McKinley
7. Outwitting History: how one man rescued a million books and saved a civilization by Aaron Lansky
8. Chasing the Devil's Tale by David Fulmer
9. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
10. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
11. The Plot Against America by Philip Roth
12. House of Many Gods by Kiana Davenport
13. The Little Lady Agency by Hester Browne
14. The Gospel of Judas by Simon Mawer
15. Enchanted, Inc. by Shanna Swendson
16. Thud! by Terry Pratchett
17. Second Hand by Michael Zadoorian
18. Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn
19. Carpe Demon by Julie Kenner
20. Ghostheart by Roger Jon Ellory

My top 20 of all time (today's opinion on the topic, again in no particular order)
1. Persuasion by Jane Austen
2. Mama Day by Gloria Naylor
3. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
4. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
5. Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling
6. If on a Winter's Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino
7. Lord of the Rings (series) by J.R.R. Tolkien
8. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
9. Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins
10. The Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster
11. The Comedians by Graham Greene
12. Jeeves and Wooster books (series) by P.G. Wodehouse
13. The Cazalet Chronicles (series) by Elizabeth Jane Howard
14. Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
15. Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster
16. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
17. Miss Garnet's Angel by Salley Vickers
18. The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald
19. Empire Falls by Richard Russo
20. Beautiful Losers by Leonard Cohen

Sunday, January 08, 2006

I'm still working my way through Every Book Its Reader by Nicholas Basbanes (just over halfway through). It's fascinating but not a speedy read. I'm also working on the bookring book Wasp Factory by Iain Banks which I'm also about halfway through.

I feel I'm reading too slowly right now. It's January 8 and I haven't finished a single book yet! I guess that's what happens when you read books that require a lot of thought.

Also frantically working on finishing the !%^$ sweater for my Grandmother which eats into the reading time. I think I've knit the equivalent of three of this sweater now. This is what comes of trying to alter a pattern without really knowing what you are doing. I ripped out both sleeves at Christmas and now I'm about 1/4 of the way done on both. I'll try to post a picture once I have a chance.

Friday, January 06, 2006

I'm published on!

So I posted earlier today that one of my goals for 2006 was to do more reviews and reach a wider audience, with the goal (hopefully) of someday having a profitable sideline reviewing books. I registered at with the idea of sharing my reviews with a broader audience. Next logical step right?

Today I get home and find two books to review sitting in my mailbox and an e-mail offering me a third! I'm already reading Every Book Its Reader to review, so January is going to be a four review month and I'm thrilled.

1. The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery

2. Secrets of a Satisfying Life: Discover the habits of happy people by David D. Ireland

But then my day just became magical! I was selected by ELLE magazine to be part of their readers' jury for January. I received three fabulous books to read and review but while I secretly hoped to have my comments published, I never truly expected they would be. Today I finally got up enough nerve to check the website and my comments are there for two of the books! I've been dancing around my apartment for the last 10 minutes and finally managed to calm down enough to finish this post.

So head on over to and check me out!

The Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster - mine are the first comments

Queen of the Underworld by Gail Godwin - mine are the last comments

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Thoughts on a New Year

I heard recently that the way you spend New Year's Eve is supposed to indicate how you will spend your year. So by that reasoning my 2006 should be spend surrounded by lots of good books, good friends, good food and good wine - all in my apartment! Sounds like a truly blessed year to me.

2005 was such a year of change: a new job, a new home and family health challenges. I started following my passion more, increasing my reading time and trying to turn this love into a career by doing book reviews. The first success came by being selected for Harper Collins' First Look review program and thereafter by being selected to join the reader jury for January 2006 at ELLE magazine. Soon this was followed by being published at, and being selected as one of their reviewers. I'm not being paid but hopefully the increased exposure will assist in the development of a portfolio that might someday lead to a fruitful sideline.

So what do I hope for 2006?

* A new job since the one I have was only a one year contract
* Health and happiness (since the last few years have been plagued by illness)
* More book reviewing for a wider audience
* Return to school in the fall of 2006 to begin work toward a Masters in Public Policy
* More time with my friends
* Meet my goal of 200 books read in 2006