Vanessa and Her Sister (Priya Parmar)

23 Feb

Vanessa and Her Sister

 



17 Bookworm Lane
Chapterville

 

23 February 2015

My dearest Squinks,

And so, the cold weather lingers on. I do hope that it has yet overstayed its welcome where you are. Winters do seem dreadfully long if they are especially cold, n’est-ce pas? When the temperature dips below 20° C, I sometimes recall those moments of my childhood during which we trudged 20 miles to school … walking barefoot … in the snow … with nary un chapeau to keep our têtes protected from the wind.

Et alors, I write to you today to tell you about the most delightful novel I have just finished. It is written by one Priya Parmar, a very talented author who hails from Mother England. Vanessa and Her Sister is a unique and lovely literary tableau of the heydays of the Bloomsbury Group, told through the wise eyes of Vanessa Bell (née Stephen). Wonderful things about this novel abound; I hope one of the copies in our library will someday find its way into your hands.

Are you wondering if this story really is worth your time? Maybe you’re not particularly keen on immersing yourself in the lives of these Bloomsbury authors, artists, and critics, whom some have undoubtedly labelled as equally the epitome of intelligence and the pinnacle of pretentiousness? Peut-être reading Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse has given you a perpetual, irrevocable, indomitable refusal to ever read anything related to her ever again? If so, dearest Squinks, I beg you to let me plead my case.

Read this novel for Parmar’s writing. Read it for the pure joy of hearing her witty words spoken aloud because saying them in your head once is simply not enough. It is facile enough to read the curricula vitæ of these beaux amis, but Parmar’s writing brings them, especially the Stephen sisters, to life. Told from Vanessa’s perspective, with the occasional welcome interruptions from friends, Vanessa and Her Sister affords its readers an extended glimpse into the lives of this coterie from the rare point of view of someone living within it. Parmar’s Vanessa is an intelligent and perceptive heroine, keenly aware of her place as a woman, wife, and artist in the England of the early 1900s. I think many of you will truly appreciate recognizing that she was both a product of and participant in her time, and that she handled herself with aplomb even in the most trying of circumstances. Some would undoubtedly admonish her for her seeming passive-aggressiveness, but dear Squinks, as you read this novel, I hope you, too, come to comprehend and applaud the quiet but steady trail that Vanessa blazed. And what of Virginia Woolf? I’ve never loathed her nor understood her as much as I do now that I’ve seen her through the eyes of her sister. Vanessa’s forbearance of Virginia haunts me in the same way that Virginia’s beauty haunted her.

If, by the time you reach her journal entry dated 20 November 1906, you still have not found the lure that draws you into the turbulent English Channel that was the Stephens, I encourage you, then, to simply admire Parmar’s talent with me. Her words are eloquent, and her turns of phrases capture the voices of this time period. Rather than seeming tentative or contrived, Vanessa’s wit and humour flow freely across the page as a testimony to the author’s deft. Parmar makes me want to write and paint and read to feel the same passion that permeated throughout the Bloomsbury Group.

Please, my dear Squinks, please put me out of my misery. Visitez-moi dans la bibliothèque et demandez-moi ce nouveau roman incroyable.

Amicalement,
Ta professeure

PS: My favourite line of the entire novel is the last line.  Let me know when you get there!

 

5 Squinkles 

Priya Parmar’s Online Corners
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Thank you, Random House and Ballantine Books, for sending me a copy of Vanessa and Her Sister.  All opinions and suggestions expressed herein are entirely my own; I received no compensation for them.

The War that Saved My Life (Kimberly Brubaker Bradley)

20 Feb

War that Saved My Life  

Hey Squad,

I’ve got a lovely new book to tell you about. The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley has quickly become one of my favourite MG titles, and from the first page, I think you’ll understand why. It’s the story of Ada and Jamie, two children living in London at the outbreak of the Second World War. They’re not orphans, but they may as well be for the way their mom treats them. Right off the bat, we find out that Ada has a club foot, so she’s not allowed to go outside lest she cause her mother shame. Ada spends her days watching her brother go off to school because, according to their mom, “he ain’t a cripple like you” (1). Her whole life, Ada has stayed indoors, learned to “walk” using her hands, taken care of Jamie, and been more of a servant than a child to her mom. When the London government starts sending children to the countryside to keep them away from potential bombings, it begins a new chapter in Ada’s life, one in which she learns that not all adults hit children when they’re upset, having been born with a physical deformity is not the person’s fault, and people’s real families are not always the ones they’re born into, but the people whom they choose to let in.

Ada is a wonderfully sweet heroine, full of the spunk I expect from young and strong female characters. She’s protective of and fiercely loyal to her brother. She’s open to new adventures and seeing the best in others, but she’s also vigilant and aware of other people’s capacity to hurt. She’s also got razor-sharp with, which I not-so-secretly admire!

I’m so thankful this book came into my radar and I had the chance to read it, and now that I think about it, part of the reason it really resonated with me is that Ada’s spirit bears more than a striking resemblance to that of another favourite heroine of mine – Anne-with-an-E!

Be on the lookout for this title to appear on our library shelves soon, and let me know if you love Ada as much as I do!

 

5 Squinkles 

Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s Online Corners
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Thank you, Penguin Canada, for sending me a copy of The War that Saved My Life.  All opinions and suggestions expressed herein are entirely my own; I received no compensation for them.

The Dungeoneers (John David Anderson) – Cover Reveal

21 Oct

Hey MG Squinks …  Scroll down to see the cover of John David Anderson’s new book, The Dungeoneers!  I’m really excited to read a new story by the scribe of Sidekicked and Minion.  Here’s a little something to whet your appetites:

Give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day.
Teach him to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime.
Teach him to steal, though, and he won’t have to eat fish every day for the rest of his life.

I think I’m gonna love the protagonist (especially if he’s got zippy zingers)!  The Dungeoneers is slated to release sometime in 2015, so until then, let’s enjoy speculating about what is (and isn’t) being revealed on the cover!

Thanks to Walden Pond Press for the awesome cover shot and to Novel Novice for the blurb (read more here).

 

Dungeoneers

 

John David Anderson’s Online Corners
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The Copernicus Legacy #1: The Forbidden Stone (Tony Abbott)

14 Oct

Copernicus Legacy - Forbidden Stone

 

Sometimes, I really wonder how I get so lucky discovering Great Reads. This time, I was doubly lucky, for not only did I discover a seriously unputdownable book, but I was sent a galley of it by the publisher. And, Squinks, let me tell you: for a hard-core bookworm like me, galleys of a fabulous story are more valuable—and more highly treasured—than any first-edition copy out there. After the third chapter of The Forbidden Stone, the first in a series of six novels and six interstitial novellas by Tony Abbott, I knew that I held a rare gem in my hands. How rare? I ran to Chapters to buy an official copy just so I could preserve my galley as best as possible (though, sadly, it had been dented in the mail before it reached me)!

Why did I purchase multiple copies of The Forbidden Stone for our library even before I had finished reading it? Because I knew you would all love it as much as I do! Let me tell you about it …

 

Copernicus Legacy

 

The Forbidden Stone is about four friends who unwittingly find themselves in a heart-pounding treasure hunt. Wade and Darrell are stepbrothers who, along with Wade’s dad (Roald), cousin (Lily), and her friend (Becca), travel to Germany for the funeral of Wade’s honorary uncle (Henry). Not-really-uncle Uncle Henry was Roald’s erstwhile professor and benefactor of Wade’s most cherished possession—a 17th-century star chart. Sound like a run-of-the-mill story? Well, Abbott keeps you on your toes, starting from the very first chapter. Check out these plot peeks:

1. Uncle Henry sends Roald a coded message the day he dies.

2. The only way to decode the message is to check Wade’s star chart, which Uncle Henry sent him for his seventh birthday.

3. A building collapses in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and an oil tanker sinks in the Mediterranean all around the same time as Uncle Henry’s coded message.

4. When they get to the funeral in Germany, strange people are watching their every move.

Not since the multi-author, multi-platform, multi-series 39 Clues saga have I been as excited to start another adventure series like this … and that’s saying a lot, considering you know how highly I regard The 39 Clues books and authors. Pick up The Forbidden Stone and mark on your calendars the release dates of the rest of the books. (The first novella, Wade and the Scorpion’s Claw, released this summer, and the second book, The Serpent’s Curse, came out just a couple of weeks ago!)  Join Wade, Darrell, Lily, and Becca for the adventure of a lifetime and discover more about the Copernicus Legacy.

 

Copernicus Legacy - Join the Hunt

 

 

Tony Abbott’s Online Corners
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By the way, does Tony Abbott’s name sound familiar (besides being the name of that other guy who’s currently the prime minister of Australia)? That’s because he’s also the author of the totally awesome Secrets of Droon series!

 
Thank you, Katherine Tegen Books and Harper Collins for sending me a copy of
The Forbidden Stone.  All opinions and suggestions expressed herein are
entirely my own; I received no compensation for them.

Tomorrow’s Kingdom (Maureen Fergus)

2 Sep

 

There are few series that have gripped me from the get-go enough to compel me to be first in line at the bookstore to buy the sequel(s) on release day. And fewer still are the number of books that have kept a hold on my heart long after they’ve found a resting place on my bookshelf. Squinks, Maureen Fergus’ The Gypsy King trilogy fits squarely into both categories, and I strongly urge you to run very, very quickly to Chapters or Indigo and grab a copy of all 3 books if you don’t already have them!

Let me tell you about Tomorrow’s Kingdom, the finale of the series that gave me all the feels! A Fool’s Errand left off with such a jaw-dropping cliffhanger that I practically got papercuts from the speed with which I flipped through and devoured the pages of TK’s opening chapters. I literally—yes, literally—had to cover the pages on the right so that I would force myself to slow down and appreciate everything on the left. Otherwise, in my haste to find out what happens to Persephone when she goes against Azriel (again), I’d miss out on the fine nuances in Fergus’ writing that bring her story to life. We’ve talked about this in class many times before: What makes a story so good that you just have to share your new-found treasure with someone else? The content and the writing, exactly.

And peeps, let me tell you how Fergus scores not just the game-winning goal with TK, but the game-7-OT-Stanley-Cup-winning game-winning goal!

 

The Content

This book has:

1. Romance
Um, yeah. There were times when I wished I didn’t care about all the other characters so that I could skip the chapters without Azriel and Persephone. Their love story is just so charming and endearing … I want to read more and more and more of it.

2. Adventure
Forests, castles, glens, caves, rivers, waterfalls … all there!

3. Comedy
Azriel is my favourite, but all of Fergus’ characters have some great comedic nature that I laughed out loud so many times throughout this book. I LOLed alone, with friends, and among complete strangers in crowded rooms … and I laughed often!

4. Heartache
Every great love story has some heartache in it. I’ll let you discover this for yourself …

In short, TK has almost everything I’m looking for in a book. The only thing missing? Magic. But you know what? Fergus’ writing weaves everything together so flawlessly that there must’ve been some pixie dust sprinkled on these pages … which brings me to the other reason everyone should read TK

 

The Writing

Fergus’ writing is:

1. Intelligent
Fergus writes for an intelligent audience, and that is something I appreciate very much. She splashes her writing with a mix of complex and inverted sentences; she loves inserting rhetorical questions; and she makes her characters spout witty, well-timed one-liners, all of which add flavour to an already great story line.

2. Funny
I have found a kindred spirit in any author whose wit and dry humour flow easily across the page, and Fergus has tons of well-placed comedic scenes and one-liners that really strike to the heart of the matter. I love reading everything she writes.

3. Powerful
Check these out:

“[I]t was a truly lovely thing to be cherished by a man who had eyes for none but her and who acted as though she were more beautiful than the stars, more fragile than blown glass, and more precious than a bucketful of jewels.”

“Do this and though I cannot promise we will ever be friends, I can promise that I will honour you … now and forever.”

“It was as if, by mutual accord, they were avoiding speaking of the dangers tomorrow might hold that they might better enjoy the sweet, fleeting moments of today.”

 

For real, Squinks, you know how I always say, “If you want to be a better writer, read”? Well, read Fergus. Read this trilogy. Read everything else she’s written. I can try to teach you how to write well jusqu’à perpète, but it’s so much more effective and entertaining if you read this trilogy. You’ll walk away from TK feeling exhilarated about the ride you were on, a little sad at having to say goodbye to some new friends, and a lot in awe at the great fortune of having just read a masterpiece by one of Canada’s greatest authors.

 

Azriel and Persephone forever!

 

 

Maureen Fergus’ Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Chapters

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