Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Great Typo Hunt

Published:  2010 by Crown Publishers
Source:  Purchased

  I work for a company that sells its products by catalog, and one of my (many) responsibilities is to proofread said catalog before it heads to the printer each quarter.  Officially, I am only supposed to ensure item numbers and prices are correct, but I take it upon myself to also read through all of the copy to find any mistakes in spelling and/or punctuation (and since we sell equipment and supplies to auto body shops, the copy is not the most interesting reading, let me tell you).  Yeah, people might not notice if it's should really be its in a sentence, but I notice, and it bugs me when it goes uncorrected.

  So it goes without saying that I loved The Great Typo Hunt

  Jeff Deck is a twenty-something with an ordinary desk job.  He attends his college reunion and, since the college is Dartmouth, listens to the many noble accomplishments of his classmates while lamenting the lack of his own.  After some thought he decides to take a road trip across the United States to raise awareness of typographical errors and to correct them whenever possible.   He is joined by several friends throughout the journey, but Benjamin Herson is his primary sidekick.

  So they go about the country, searching for typos.  When they find one, they ask permission to correct it, and are met with a wide range of responses - from apologetic to downright hostile.  Through it all they also offer some thoughtful insight into the power of written communication and how much correct spelling does matter.

  The road trip took place in early 2008, at the beginning of the United States Presidential election campaign.  The guys were in Atlanta and noticed a typo on a t-shirt supporting Barack Obama.  They politely mentioned it to the shopkeeper, who was embarassed and promised to fix it before the next production run.  The discussion then turned to the impact of race in the campaigns, and afterward Deck thought:
Slavery had been abolished from the United States a bare hundred and fifty years ago; segregation, not even fifty years ago! ... The scars were fresh, some of them still oozing.  Factors like typos could only infect the wounds.  In 2002, for instance, an African-American spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality appeared on MSNBC.  His name was Niger Innis.  Picture the worst way you could misspell his first name onscreen.  Yeah, that actually happened. ... these errors were, I'm sure, completely unintentional, but they - and the outrage that followed each incident - speak to the dangers of carelessness ... 
Now I'm a good speller, but reading this was further motivation for me to check my writing every single time.

  Another civics lesson - a significant one - comes to pass for the primary members of TEAL (that is, the Typo Eradication Advancement League), one that I can't really understand, but I guess I'm not surprised by it either. 

  Yes, the problem of typos isn't the biggest one our world is facing at the moment, but it was entertaining to read about the efforts of these guys to make typos relate to those more important things. 

Highly recommended.

(And I have checked this post three times for errors and made corrections, but if you've found one that I've missed, please let me know!)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The High Road by Terry Fallis

The High Road by Terry Fallis
Published:  2010 by Emblem
Source:  Purchased

**** WARNING:  If you haven't yet read The Best Laid Plans (and you should!) this review may contain some spoilers) ****

  After the fall of the minority Tory government thanks in no small part to reluctant MP Angus McClintock, a Canadian election is called and Daniel Addison thinks he is free of the political life and can return to his new career in academia.  After all, Angus didn't want to be an MP in the first place, right?  Well, Angus has decided that being a Member of Parliament for Cumberland-Prescott isn't all bad and perhaps he should at least try to win the election this time, but he won't do it without Daniel's help.

  So begins the campaign and early days of the new Canadian government in Terry Fallis' follow-up to The Best Laid Plans, The High Road.  Describing the adventures of this novel is difficult without giving things away, but suffice to say Angus is still as practical and curmudgeonly as ever (and, at the end of each chapter when he writes a journal entry addressed to his deceased wife, romantic and tender) and Daniel is his supportive, clumsy sidekick.  Add to that some great supporting characters -- Angus' opponents in the election, the GOUT (Geriatrics Out to Undermine Tories) squad  -- and an appearance by The President of the United States and the First Lady, and Mr. Fallis has created a funny, entertaining novel of politics as it is done and how it should be. 

  Based on the ending of the novel, I fully expect another book featuring Angus McClintock, MP and (???); hopefully sooner rather than later. 

Highly recommended (but read The Best Laid Plans first)

Monday, March 28, 2011

It's Monday -- What are you Reading?


  It's Monday - What are you Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at bookjourney to allow us to share with others in the book-loving cyberworld what is on our reading plates.

  This week I finished the following books:
  Books in Progress:
  Book Abandoned (for now):
  What are you reading this week?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

5 Books I Did Not Want to End

The 5 Best Books meme is hosted by Cassandra at Indie Reader Houston.

 This week's topic:  5 books that you did not want to end

  For some reason I had trouble thinking of books that I didn't want to end.   I think part of it has to do with my reading habits; I always have another book (or two, or three....) waiting in the wings and so I find myself eagerly waiting for a book to end -- even though I might love it -- so that I can move on to the next one.  Yeah, I know, I have issues.

  But I did come up with a few books that I would have liked to read a few more pages:

  1. The Help by Kathryn Stockett -- I absolutely loved this book and the ending left things wide open for at the very least an epilogue. 
  2. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows -- each time I read this book I felt like I was one of the group. 
  3. Room by Emma Donoghue -- don't we all want to see how Jack grows up?
  4. Something Missing by Matthew Dicks -- another book where I would have loved to see a few more chapters.  I'm hoping for a sequel, because this story definitely lends itself into becoming a series.
  5. Small Island by Andrea Levy  -- What happens to Hortense and Gilbert?  And Queenie?  I would have read on about them for pages and pages.
 After thinking about it, these books really were ones that I did not want to see end because there were so much to the characters and what happened to them that I wanted more of them.

  What books did you not want to end?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo

Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo
Published:  2007 by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Source:  Purchased

  This is a great book to read when you want or need a little laugh and a some philosophizing at the same time.

  After the tragic death of his parents, Otto Ringling must head to his hometown in North Dakota to settle their affairs.  Planning to take the trip with his off-beat sister Cecelia who is afraid of flying, he drives from his home in suburban New York pick her up at her place in New Jersey; only when he arrives she lets him know that she is not going but her spiritual guru, Volya Rinpoche, will accompany him and would Otto mind showing him some of the United States along the way?

  It's a bizarre pair of travelling companions, and the metaphorical journey they take is predictable (I thought it was, anyways) but that didn't make the story any less entertaining.  I loved this story and how Otto learned from Rinpoche, and Rinpoche learned from Otto; and the adventures that they had on the road. 

  This is one of my books selected for the 2011 TBR Pile Challenge.  I picked it up two or three years ago at The Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont, essentially just to purchase something.  I wish I would have taken it off my shelf before now, because it is a wonderfully enjoyable book to read.



Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Lost Generation -- The Sun Also Rises and A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

   Welcome to one of today's stops on The Classics Circuit's Lost Generation Tour!

  I have to admit that I have not been interested in the authors most closely associated with this period -- especially Ernest Hemingway -- but I recently read and enjoyed The Paris Wife, a novel told from the perspective of Hemingway's first wife, Hadley, and it inspired me to give Hemingway another try.

  The Sun Also Rises was Hemingway's first novel, first published in 1926.  A Moveable Feast was his last "novel"  (defined by him as such but I see it as a type of memoir), published after his death in 1964 but based on writings made during his time in Paris.  I didn't enjoy the first, I absolutely loved the last.

  The Sun Also Rises is about group of expat Americans and Brits living the good life in Paris and in Pamplona, Spain.  Told from the first-person perspective of Jake Barnes, a journalist, to me this novel read like a soap opera of spoiled rich kids; drinking and partying well into the night without fear of consequences, lots of money though nobody seems to work, and nothing about any of the characters made me like or dislike them.  I suppose it is a novel of its time, but I didn't see the point that Hemingway was trying to make with this novel.

  As mentioned above, Hemingway described A Moveable Feast as a novel, because to him, ".. all remembrance of things past is fiction".  The way the book is set up -- as a collection of vignettes about his life in Paris and those famous and not-so famous people he encounters -- does not seem like a novel at all, but since he didn't start writing it until just before his death, after receiving a collection of his papers he had left stored at The Ritz in Paris, I suppose referring to it as a novel permitted him to rely more on his memory rather than facts to recount the stories.   

  Personally, I enjoyed the style of his writing in A Moveable Feast more; it is more descriptive and the stories are told with more emotion than what I felt in The Sun Also Rises.  Referring loosely to the term The Lost Generation - which seems to have been coined by Hemingway's mentor, Gertrude Stein, referring to the young people who served in World War I and which seemed to have upset him - Hemingway argues that "all generations are lost by something and always had been and always would be". 

  And, of course, being the Francophile that I am, I loved his descriptions of cafe life in Paris; just to be able to find a quiet table in a neighborhood "boite" with only a cafe creme and the entire day to read and write is my idea of bliss.

  I'm not sure if I will read more Hemingway anytime soon, but I think I'll check out some other works of The Lost Generation.  I'm looking forward to getting ideas of where to start from other posts on this Circuit and I hope you will too.

Monday, March 21, 2011

It's Monday - What are you Reading?

  It's Monday - What are you Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at bookjourney to allow us to share with others in the book-loving cyberworld what is on our reading plates.

  This week I finished the following books:
  Look for my post on the Hemingway books on Tuesday as part of the Classics Circuit Lost Generation Tour.

  What are you reading this week?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

I'm a Borders Scavenger

.... and I'm not entirely proud of it, but look at what I picked up at a nearby closing Borders location at 50% off (plus an additional 10% with my Borders Rewards card):

Fiction seems to be the only section with any significant inventory left, which is probably why it has been marked down further.  There were a number of titles with many copies that obviously couldn't sell even at half price (Lisa Rinna wrote a novel?), but there many gems that bibliophiles and moderate book snobs like me can appreciate (I was especially excited about the new Doctor Zhivago translation)

My name is Suzanne and I'm a bookaholic, but I just couldn't pass up on such a good deal.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Literary Blog Hop March 17-20

  The Literary Blog Hop is hosted at The Blue Bookcase.  This week's question:

What one literary work must you read before you die?

  If you could see my bookshelves, I have a lot of books that I want to read before I die (there are so many that my husband jokes that I'll die first).  Whether any of them are "must" reads might be open to interpretation, though; normally if there is I book I am eager to read I do so right away.
  What I would like to do, though, is take a novel I've enjoyed - Les Miserables or The Elegance of the Hedgehog, for example - and be able to read, understand, and enjoy it in French.  As I'm refreshing my skills in the language I've started reading small pieces -- magazine articles mostly, as well as some stuff on the Internet -- but I have some work to do before I can be comfortable reading a complete novel.  However, once I do have more confidence in my ability I think that the familiarity I have with these stories will be a great help WHEN I tackle them in their original language.

  And then when that's done I can start accumulating books in a second language!  My husband will be so thrilled........

  What work is on your literary bucket list?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Gathering by Anne Enright

The Gathering by Anne Enright
Published:  2008 by Vintage Books
Source:  Purchased

  I purchased this book in 2009 while visiting Dublin (and thus is one of my selections for the 2011 TBR Pile Challenge).  Despite it being awarded the Booker Prize in 2007, I had not heard of it, but since it's an Irish novel and I was in Ireland, I picked it up.

  The back cover synopsis interested me as well:

  The nine surviving children of the Hegarty clan gather in Dublin for the wake of their wayward brother Liam.  It wasn't the drink that killed him - although that certainly helped - it was what happened to him as a boy in his grandmother's house, in the winter of 1968
The Gathering is a novel about love and disappointment, about thwarted lust and limitless desire, and how our fate is written in the body, not in the stars

  After reading the novel, I find that this blurb is very misleading (but, hey, it did its job and got me to buy the book).

  The primary voice of the novel is Veronica, Liam's younger sister and his closest sibling (chronologically and emotionally).  While there is a wake for Liam and there is a revelation of what happened to him at his grandmother's house, these points of the story to me seemed secondary.  Veronica is the main character.

  Veronica is the one to break the news of Liam's death to her mother.  Veronica travels to England to claim his body and return it to Ireland.  As she goes about these solemn duties, she is remembering her brother and the good and bad times; remembering the incident at her grandmother's house (which, by the way, though tragic, did not seem to be enough to affect Liam so dramatically) and visualizing the life of her grandmother as a young woman, all the while realizing that her marriage is in trouble.

  I have to say that I did not like this book; partly because it wasn't what I expected, but also because I couldn't like any of the characters.  I couldn't feel sorry for Liam, there wasn't much to Veronica even though she dominates the novel, and there weren't any aspects to anyone else to draw attention.

  Another disappointing impulse purchase.  I wish I could say that I've learned my lesson, but we all know otherwise......

  Have you read this novel?  What were your thoughts on it?

Monday, March 14, 2011

It's Monday -- What are You Reading?

  It's Monday - What are you Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at bookjourney to allow us to share with others in the book-loving cyberworld what is on our reading plates.

  This week I finished the following books:
  Books in Progress:
  I spent most of the week avoiding the television and its wall-to-wall Charlie Sheen coverage, but since Friday I haven't been able to stop watching the terrible scenes from Japan.  I can't imagine what the Japanese people are going through and wish I could do more than just keep them in my thoughts.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Man in Uniform

A Man in Uniform by Kate Taylor
Published:  2010 by Crown Publishers
Source:  Borrowed from the library

  Francois Dubon is a relatively successful lawyer in Paris, has a wife with the "right" social connections, and a mistress on the side.  One day, a woman in widow's mourning comes into his office and, acting on behalf of a "friend", asks him to prove the innocence of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a French military officer (who is Jewish) convicted and imprisoned for espionage.

  The Dreyfus Affair, as it is known, is one of the most scandalous events in France's history.  Mixing real-life personalities with her characters, Kate Taylor has created a suspenseful novel about events in the latter stage of this period; so that even though we know how events really turn out, the reader isn't always quite sure if Dreyfus will be exonerated.

  Once again I loved the descriptions of Paris -- this time of the late 1800s -- and enjoyed learning more about this period of France's history and how it affected life and society during that time.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Of Hockey and Hijab

Published:  2009 by Coach House Printing
Source:  Purchased

  This book is a collection of essays that initially appeared in The Globe and Mail as a series of monthly columns that Ms Khan wrote for the newspaper as a means to bridge the gap of understanding between Canadians as a whole and the Islamic community.  Written between 2002 and 2009, one would think that some of the material would be dated now, in 2011, but I found them quite timely.

  In an essay about reform in the Muslim world, she writes:

The wretched conditions faced by Muslims will not cease until there is a fundamental change from within

Muslims will not solve homegrown problems of corruption, illiteracy, and sectarianism by constantly blaming the West.

  Declarations that now, given recent events in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya seem almost prescient. 

  Included are also some personal essays that I found wonderfully poignant.  One tells about taking her son to a Montreal Canadiens' game and the memories it evoked of her childhood love of the team and of the game; this wasespecially enjoyable for me -- I was a long-suffering Winnipeg Jets' fan before they moved to Phoenix and though I hated the Canadiens I think I would have enjoyed attending a game with Ms Khan.  There is also a lovely tribute to a family neighbor, a Jewish woman, and the sadness that came at her death a few days before Khan's wedding:

And I wanted her to be part of the celebration the following day.  She was just like family.

  Overall I found this essay collection enlightening and look forward to reading more from Ms. Khan.  I know so little about Muslims and of their faith and books like this provide a personal side that is sadly lacking in news coverage.

  Highly recommended


Sunday, March 6, 2011

It's Monday -- What are You Reading?

  It's Monday - What are you Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at bookjourney to allow us to share with others in the book-loving cyberworld what is on our reading plates.

  This week I finished the following books:
  Books in Progress:
  As I write this I am watching a 25th anniversary concert of Les Miserables (which is FABULOUS) and am thinking about re-reading Victor Hugo's novel.  It's a chunkster, and I might not do it until the fall, but would anyone be interested in read-along?

The Paris Wife

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
Published:  2011 by Ballantine Books
Source:  Advance Copy received from the publisher

  First of all, a confession:  I have never thought I would like Ernest Hemingway.  I think I read one or two of his books long ago but I didn't get anything out of them; and he has always struck me as a macho guy without anything to say that would be relevant to me.

  That might still be true, but after reading The Paris Wife, I am willing to try him again.  This novel is not about Hemingway himself so much as it is about his first wife, Hadley.  The two met in Chicago in 1920 and after their marriage, they moved to Paris where Hemingway struggled with his writing and Hadley gave him the time and space he needed.  Their marriage was by no means ideal and who knows if it would have fared any different if they remained in the United States, but this novel portrays Hadley for the most part as a woman standing by her man through thick and thin, despite the effects on her own aspirations and well-being.  That is not to say she was a weak woman; despite her love and loyalty to Hemingway she did very well standing up to him.

  Of course, as a francophile I also loved the descriptions of 1920s Paris, and the atmosphere of that era really came through.  And the description of Hemingway's writing process - especially the genesis of the novel The Sun Also Rises has made me want to read this book and see if my attitude toward his writing has changed.



Friday, March 4, 2011

Five Best Books

5 Best Books

There is a great new meme I discovered thanks to Judith at leeswammes:  Cassandra of Indie Reader Houston has started “5 Best Books” - a different topic is suggested each week and participants list what they think are the 5 best book for that topic.

This week's topic is 5 Books Set in a Foreign Country

This is a great topic for me because I LOVE reading books set in foreign countries and in history.  I read both fiction and non-fiction, but I will limit this list to fiction because that is what usually inspires me to travel:
  1. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry (India).  This is one of my all-time favorite books that I need to re-read.  It provides a glimpse into both the good and not-so-good sides of India in the years after achieving independence.
  2. A Long Long Time Ago and Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka (Poland).  This novel shows the city of Krakow at two different times of rebirth - at the beginning of Communism in Poland and after its fall.
  3. A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cosse (France).  Anything set in Paris and about a bookstore will get my attention every time.
  4. The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa (Japan).  A simple novel that to me embodied what I consider Japanese life to be.
  5. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (England).  I absolutely love this book and its story of postwar life on the island of Guernsey.
What are some of your favorite books set in a foreign country?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Something Missing

Something Missing:A Novel by Matthew Dicks
Published:  2009 by Broadway Books
Source:  Borrowed from the library

  If it wasn't for the fact that we lived in different states, I could almost swear that I was a client of Martin Railsback.  Martin is not your ordinary thief - he is extremely selective in whom he chooses as clients to keep their "business" he avoids smashing and grabbing and going for the high-ticket items like flat-screen TVs that would obviously be noticed if missing; rather he takes things that would not be immediately missed (if at all) - a few pounds of meat from the overstocked freezer, some aspirin from the Costco-sized bottle, a few cups of Liquid Plum'r - and leaves the house in the exact condition it was in when he arrived.
  Martin has a method to his chosen work (ok, he is obsessive/compulsive, and a bit of a loner), and it has served him well for a number of years, until an incident at the home of one of his clients causes him to take a few risks in order to protect them.  His valor continues with other clients, and Martin becomes more involved with people than he ever thought he'd be comfortable with.

  This is a light read but at times also a page-turner as the author creates some great suspense.  And although technically a criminal in the eyes of the law, Martin is someone you just can't help but liking.  The ending I felt left things wide open for a sequel and I hope Matthew Dicks has one in the works because I will definitely read it.

  Highly recommended.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Diving Bell and The Butterfly

The Diving Bell and The Butterfly by Jean-Dominque Bauby (translated by Jeremy Leggatt)
Published:  1998 by Vintage International
Source:  Borrowed from the library

  In my ongoing attempt to learn French, I have started to watch French movies (still with the English subtitles - I'm not that fluent yet!) and one that I enjoyed recently was The Diving Bell and The Butterfly, the story of Jean-Dominique Bauby.  After watching the movie, I felt I needed to seek out the book upon which the movie was based (I'd like to try reading it in French, but for now I read the English translation).

  Jean-Dominique Bauby was the editor of Elle magazine in France when at the young age of 43 he suffered a massive stroke.  While his mind was not affected, his body - except for one eyelid - was left completely paralyzed; this condition is colloquially known as "locked-in" syndrome. 

  One of his therapists devised a method of communication where one would read him the letters of the alphabet in the order of their frequence of use and Bauby would blink his eye when the correct letter was reached.  This is how Bauby "wrote" this memoir - memorizing what he wanted to say, then dictating it to the transcriber.

  I use the term memoir to describe this book but I'm not sure if it is correct.  It seems rather to be a collection of vignettes of his "locked-in" life and the language he uses is incredibly vivid:

My dving bell becomes less oppressive, and my mind takes flight like a butterfly.  There is so much to do.  You can wander off in space or in time, set out for Tierra del Fuego or for King Midas's court.
You can visit the woman you love, slide down beside her and stroke her still-sleeping face.  You can build castles in Spain, steal the Golden Fleece, discover Atlantis, realize your childhood dreams and adult ambitions.

And, in describing a visit to the seaside near his hospital with some of his caretakers who find the smell terrible around the shacks on the beach:

But I never tire of the smell of french fries.

The book is not long - about 130 pages - but it is full of inspiration and should make one appreciate their own life a little bit more.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

March Reading List

  Spring is almost here!  Yay!  I actually don't mind winter so much (I'm Canadian, eh?) but at this time of year I'm quite ready for the warmer weather.

  I was able to get a fair amount of reading done in February, and I hope I will be able to keep up the pace in March:

  For Reading Groups:
  For Reading Challenges:
Just Because:
  • Private Life by Jane Smiley
  • Heart of Lies by M.L. Malcolm (I felt embarassed when she commented on this post so I think I should move this one near the top of the pile!)
  • Any number of other books off my tbr shelves
What do you plan on reading in March?

Top Ten Books I Just Had to Buy


  Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and The Bookish.  This week they want to know about the top 10 books we just had to buy.... but are still sitting on the bookshelf.


  This is one topic where I could probably do a top 100 list (my name is Suzanne and I am a bookaholic), but I will keep it to 10 and I will also refer you to the books I am reading for the 2011 TBR Pile Challenge.

  1. How to Live, or A Life of Montaigne  by Sarah Bakewell
  2. The Dead Beat by Marilyn Johnson
  3. First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria by Eve Brown-Waite
  4. The Great Typo Hunt by Jeff Deck & Benjamin D Herson
  5. Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
  6. Annexed by Sharon Dogar
  7. Postcards from a Dead Girl by Kirk Farber
  8. Heart of Lies by M.L. Malcolm
  9. Heidegger's Glasses by Thaisa Frank
  10. A Kind of Intimacy by Jenn Ashworth
  I plan to read all of these -- really!