Category: Book Review

Up Up Up

Today marks the launch of a debut collection of stories: Up Up Up, by Julie Booker. It also marks the first time I’ve “blurbed” for a book. You can go to bookstores (in Canada), pick up this brightly titled book, and turn it over to the back cover where you will find these words:

“Up Up Up is perfectly titled: a debut collection that positively bubbles with life, humour, and surprise. In these swift and sparkling stories — confections of unexpected density –Booker’s voice never fails to illuminate the bright side of the dark side. Booker’s radiant charm is in her seeming artlesness: dialogue that leaps from page to ear, flawed characters who try and try again, and — listen, you can almost hear it — the joyful hum of boundless curiosity.”

And then you’ll see my name. Woot! (Why is woot a word? I don’t know, but I like it).

I had not heard of Julie Booker–this is her first book–before reading these stories, and it was a delight to put my stamp of approval on them. So go get the book and get reading! Twenty short stories make for excellent just-before-bed fare.

Book Review by Albus

Max Finder Mystery: Collected Casebook, volume 5, by Craig Battle and Ramon Perez, published by Owlkids.

It’s a bunch of different comics, and they’re mysteries. Some of the clues are hidden inside pictures–they’re not always words. I like how the artist draws the characters. I found out about Max Finder in Owl magazine. I like mysteries because they’re fun to try and figure out who did it. I like comics because it tells a story with pictures.

I also liked how you could find clues on the way while you were reading it, as if you were the detective. Then you could find out if you were right or wrong at the very end of the mystery.

I think it’s made for 7-13 year olds. It’s made for multi-gender (boys and girls). This book is cool.

by Albus, age 9

Hair Hat Reviews

Pickle Me This has posted links on her site to several more Hair Hat reviews–all as part of Canada Reads: Independently.
The first is a reprint: Buried in Print originally reviewed Hair Hat when it came out a few years ago. This is easily one of my favourite reviews of the book, ever, and it’s lovely of her to reprint it now.
The second is a passionate review is by a literary blogger (at who absolutely despises the hair hat man–or, more precisely, the conceit of the hair hat man. What I find most fascinating about his review is that he actually seems to like the stories themselves. I remember that when Hair Hat was first published, it received a few reviews in this vein, which I found difficult and personally painful to take, though the positive reviews were more numerous, and besides, I’d known in advance what to expect: there’s no way to please everyone, and pleasing everyone isn’t the goal of book-writing. It was a bit of trend: a handful of reviewers did not understand why the hair hat man was a necessary component of the stories, and saw him as a gimmick of some sort. It’s a fair opinion. But he was never a gimmick to me. The stories revolved around him, arrived out of his existence, and seemed to me entirely inseparable from him. He was a puzzle, a curiosity, and I came to accept his presence in my imagination as a gift, even if sometimes the gift felt like a bit of a curse, too–why did he have to wear his hair in such a ridiculous style? Was I supposed to take him seriously? I couldn’t seem to get at him directly, so I kept angling at him through the eyes of these other characters. The stories felt necessary. I couldn’t help writing them how they were written. I suppose that to be one of the secrets about writing: not everything is in the author’s control. I could have removed him afterward, I suppose, but I can’t imagine doing it.
It’s been a number of years since I wrote these stories, and I’m pleased to report that I can read that review with distance and curiosity. I urge you to read it, too. It’s fascinating.
And I really like what Kerry Clare, of Pickle Me This, had to say about the hair hat man: “I love that he exists in your book as someone who makes people uncomfortable, and he does the same thing to your readers.”
That aspect of his existence had never occurred to me before: that something of his power is his persistence and ridiculousness and the way he makes different people feel differently. So it’s okay to despise him. You can even tell me and I won’t hit you. Or cry.
Great success here, this afternoon: I’ve managed to cook an extremely mediocre feast of Indian food, which is not the fault of the Indian food, but of my distracted cooking … blogging while cooking while supervising hungry children is a recipe for slightly burnt nan bread with slightly undercooked yellow split peas in rice. (There’s also dahl, and spinach with mustard seeds, and turnips with coriander). And the turnips are way too spicy for the kids to eat, though I suspect Kevin and I will love them.

I Don’t Want a Blow-Drier

The itch to write exists. But our week is dull and commonplace. No, that’s not being fair to this fine and worthy week among many. In fact, when I think about it, lots is happening that is good and blog-worthy.

Such as: new haircut! AppleApple’s been taking photos in the evening, which we let her do with the caveat that we may erase all/any–so I’ll have to check out her most recent batch to see whether there’s one of Mama-Carrie-post-haircut-and-pre-last-night’s-sleep, because sadly, I can never replicate my hairdresser’s blow-dried look. It would help to have a blow-drier, I do realize that. But I don’t want one. So I’ll be satisfied with the bed-head version and reminisce till the next cut about what was, oh so briefly, my swingy fresh new “Mom” hair. (Note: Have found and duly posted pic, above, but wonder where she found that chin I’m wearing.)
Which reminds me–Fooey has started addressing her parents on a first-name basis. Such as, “Good morning, Carrie!” Um. And good morning to you, too, daughterly acquaintance.
Also blog-worthy: I have not nursed CJ these past two nights. He’s woken and requested the service, but in my overwhelming weariness and desire to sleep more than two hours at a stretch, I have declined. The first night, Kev was still as hockey, so I went in solo, picked up the lad, explained that we would not be nursing till morning, and that it was sleeptime, and then spent approximately twenty minutes gently laying him back down, and waiting beside his crib (we have a method–he knows the method, and he understood the futility of debating at length). He woke at 7, and I brought him into bed to nurse and snuggle before getting up to start our day. Last night, I sent Kevin in. This was rather more painful because CJ kept yelling for me, and because he woke up poor Albus, who shares his room, and also woke up AppleApple who woke up Fooey. Hello, 1:30 in the morning. But within half an hour, everyone was back to sleep, parents included. And CJ slept till 7, again. With a few extra consecutive hours of sleep caressing my brain-cells, I definitely wake with a greater desire to get out of bed in the morning.
But … must get back to work. Make hay while the sun shines. Metaphorically speaking, of course. Out my window it’s a damp grey. Permanently everlastingly grey. Tonight’s my last class. I’ll miss the outing, but perhaps not the preparation required to make it happen. And … what next? Honestly, I haven’t a clue beyond Christmas.
Just remembered that Nina and I each chose a word of the year last January. I’m pretty sure mine was Imagine. I wonder whether that’s been put into use this year, at all. In some ways, I think, yes, it has. I’ve imagined myself doing different things, and have tried out doing them. But much of what I’ve ended up doing seems to fall from the sky in the form of luck and happenstance. And could just as easily drift away. There’s no anticipating this stuff, and no grabbing it either.
Finally, if you scan down the right-hand side of this page, I’ve added a link to my review of Annabel Lyon’s The Golden Mean. Through a connection from my long-ago job at the National Post, I’ve gotten work reviewing a couple of books every month for a magazine called Lake Simcoe Living. More reviews coming soon.
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