#50BookPledge 2011 – Update

I’ve been busy with work and school these past few weeks so I haven’t had much time to read or update my blog. But school’s out for the summer and it’s time to get some reading done!

To get back on track, I decided to update my 2011 reading list with a few comments on my favourite reads so far. Here goes:

1. Impact by Douglas Preston

2. A Midnight Summer’s Dream by William Shakespeare

My first Shakespeare play! I read this for my intro to literature class and enjoyed it. I think this one of Shakespeare’s lighter plays and it’s a great introduction to Shakespearean English.

3. Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Wonderful book. Heart-wrenching story. I cried. A lot.

4. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

I went to see an exposition on the German painter Otto Dix at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Otto Dix fought in WWI and some of his paintings and drawings portray the horrors he saw as a soldier. A quote from All Quiet on the Western Front was used in the exposition and it made me want to read the book. From the point-of-view of a young German soldier, Remarque’s tale depicts the futility of war. The Otto Dix exposition was amazing by the way.

5. The Raven’s Gift by Don Rearden

Amazing debut by Alaskan author Don Rearden. You can check out my review here and you can follow the author on Twitter here.

6. Turn of the Screw by Henry James (+ Literary Criticism Essays)

After reading the Turn of the Screw and many essays by literary critics in which this novella is analyzed to death, I don’t care if the governess is insane, I don’t know if the ghosts are real and I doubt the children are evil. My opinion is that this is Henry James’s idea of a practical joke. The man purposely made the story as ambiguous as possible and then laughed quietly to himself as the critics tried to make sense of it.

7. The Rossetti Letter by Christi Phillips

8.  Altar of Eden by James Rollins

9. The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly

10. The Sentimentalists by Johanna Skibsrud

11. In the Company of Angels by Thomas E. Kennedy

12. Gideon’s Sword by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

13. Little Princes by Conor Grennan

Ladies, I dare you to read Little Princes without falling a bit for Conor Grennan. Dudes, if you want to impress the ladies, you should do some volunteering in a remote country and save a bunch of orphans.

Kidding aside, you have to check out this book. Child trafficking is a reality and Conor’s story is very inspiring. Plus some of the proceeds from the book go to his foundation Next Generation Nepal. Check out my post.

14. The Dead by James Joyce (+ Literary Criticism Essays)

15. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

I loved this book. Wonderful story-telling and great characters and setting. You can check out my post here. I haven’t seen the film adaptation yet, I pray that it’s as good as the book.

16. Fever Dream by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

17. Better Living Through Plastic Explosives by Zsuzsi Gartner

Gartner’s short stories are weird…in a good way. My thoughts on them here.

18. Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill

O’Neill’s book is simple amazing. Baby’s story is pretty unsettling but it’s not without beauty and humour. My post.

19. Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir by Matthew Logelin

Check out Matthew Logelin’s blog and then read his book.

Disclaimer: Keep a box of tissues handy when you do.

20. Bullet Work by Steve O’Brien

21.  Bottle Rocket Hearts by Zoe Whittall

Great coming of age story that is set in Montreal around the time of the 1995 referendum in Quebec. Themes: homosexuality, homophobia, activism, English-French relations in contemporary Montreal.

22. La chaise bercante by A.M. Klein

23. They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children by Romeo Dallaire

Another sad reality affecting children. L. Gen Romeo Dallaire writes about his experience with child soldiers during the conflict in Rwanda and the efforts of the international community to stop the use of child soldiers in armed conflicts around the world. My thoughts

24. Arranged by Catherine McKenzie

I picked up this book after a crappy day and read it one sitting. I LOVED IT. It’s smart, funny, well-written, and romantic without being corny. Follow the author on Twitter @CEMcKenzie1

25. Annabel by Kathleen Winter

I think once you’ve read this book your thoughts on what defines gender will change.

26. Standing Wave by Robert Allen

27. Ape House by Sara Gruen

Another fun read by Sara Gruen. My post here.

28. Vanished by Joseph Finder

Joseph Finder introduces super spy Nick Heller. My post here.

29. Stranger Music: Selected Songs and Poems by Leonard Cohen

30. Buried Secrets by Joseph Finder

Fast-paced sequel to Vanished. Post to come soon.

31. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Another wonderful book from Kazuo Ishiguro with a subtle sci-fi story line that raises many questions on the ethics of human cloning.


Sometimes I’m not in the mood for something new so I return to some of my  favourites.

After reading Fever Dream by Douglas Preston and Lincold Child I was in the mood for some more of Agent Pendergast so I re-read the Cabinet of Curiosities and Brimstone. I’ll make some time to read Dance of Death and The Book of the Dead before their next book comes out in the fall.

I also re-read Barney’s Version by Mordecai Richler for class and I probably enjoyed it more this time around because I know more about Richler and more about Montreal. I took a walk through the Mile End to explore some of the places mentioned in the novel for an assignment for my English class. I told my family about my little trip and after looking at the photos I took, my Dad asked to read the essay I wrote.  As I’m writing this post, I received an e-mail from my Dad. He monitors the Montreal Gazette website just because I live here and he sent me the link to the article announcing that the gazebo/speaker’s corner on Côte Placide on Mount Royal will be named after Mordecai Richler. My Dad rocks.


Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival

So if my social anxiety disorder doesn’t act up, I will be attending the following two sessions of the Blue Met Festival:

FRIDAY, APRIL 29 2011 @ 8:00 PM
What Canadian classics are seminal to our national identity according to this select group of Canadian writers and thinkers? What books do these writers treasure? What books influenced them the most? Four Canadian writers talk about their personal libraries. With Charles Foran, Alexander MacLeod, Kathleen Winter, Kate Pullinger.
SATURDAY, APRIL 30 2011 @ 12:00 PM
Two Montreal writers, Mordecai Richler & John Glassco, and their wildly different backgrounds, careers, and legacies. With Charles Foran, Charles Taylor Prize-winning author of Mordecai and Brian Busby, author of A Gentleman of Pleasure: One Life of John Glassco, Poet, Memoirist, Translator, and Pornographer.

Robert Lantos Adapts ‘Barney’s Version’ for Screen – NYTimes.com

Robert Lantos Adapts ‘Barney’s Version’ for Screen – NYTimes.com

Great article on the movie adaptation of Barney’s Version by Mordecai Richler.

Book Review: Barney’s Version by Mordecai Richler

Vintage Canada. Purchased at Chapters Indigo

Barney sits down to write his memoirs when, in an autobiography, a fellow Montrealer who is now a famous writer accuses him of being an abusive husband, a drunk and maybe a murderer. His story moves back and forth between the past and present. You realize from the beginning that Barney with his faltering memory is not the most reliable of story-tellers especially since his memoirs include footnotes by his eldest son who corrects or clarifies some of his writing. Barney is not a likeable fellow but deep down he’s not a bad guy and in spite of the sarcasm, humour, and the pranks he describes you feel his regret and remorse. Despite the increasingly frequent memory lapses and the constant digressions, Barney’s life story spills out. He finally tells his version of the disappearance of his friend Boogie that led to him being charged with murder.

As a backdrop to the story, Barney is writing his memoirs in a divided city struggling to find its identity. As a new Montreal resident, I loved the author’s descriptions of the climate of the city during the period of time leading up to the 1995 Referendum in Quebec.

Towards the end the story, Barney is mixing up events, getting confused often and you begin to suspect the reason. Barney’s story ends abruptly and is followed by an afterword by his son Michael that finally answers the question of his Dad’s innocence (which you find yourself doubting while reading his story). The saying says that hindsight is 20-20 but I’m not sure that’s correct in this case as Barney struggles to come to terms with the different events in his life. As for Mr. Richler’s writing, it was phenomenal. This story is witty, snarky, funny but poignant. I found myself rooting for Barney but also pitying him at times. If there is a lesson to be learned from this story it should be that we shouldn’t judge others and we shouldn’t spend so much time worrying about fitting in or achieving the correct status is society.