Bella's Bookshelves

O day of days, when we can read! - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Books in the Mail

My idea of heaven is having all the free time—wait, having only free time!—to read all the books I want. I’m so honestly afraid of dying before I get to read each book on my shelves, let alone those tempting me outside our home. Good books just keep getting released—and guess what? I’m experiencing a bit of book heaven on earth because of it!

Over the last few weeks, I’ve received twelve novels in the mail (and I didn’t pay for them!) and I have to say, things can’t get much better than this. Here what’s been keeping me busy:

The Ghost Brush by Katherine Govier. Sent to me by HarperCollins Canada.

I haven’t started The Ghost Brush yet, but I look forward to it as well as to writing the review because it’s come highly recommended. In a nutshell, this is a “colourful journey into 19th-century Japan and the hidden life of one of the world’s great ‘lost’ artists.” Click on this link to HarperCollins Canada for a peek at the book through their Browse Inside feature.

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver. This year's Orange Prize winner. Sent to me by HarperCollins Canada.

Another I haven’t started yet, but another I really look forward to. I’m always excited about award winners because I like to think awards are given to exceptional writing as well as great stories. In this book, “Kingsolver takes us on an epic journey from the Mexico City of artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo to the America of Pearl Harbour, FDR, and J. Edgar Hoover…a poignant story of a man pulled between two nations as they invent their modern identities.” Sounds good, eh? Click here for a more detailed description of the novel on HarperCollins Canada’s site.

The Truth About Delilah Blue by Tish Cohen. Sent to me by HarperCollins Canada.

As you probably know, I’ve already read this engrossing novel, a story about a young woman who struggles to determine the truth of her past as well as find her place in the world. Click here for my review of the book and here for my interview with author Tish Cohen. This link will take you to HarperCollins’s site for a browse inside the novel.

Bruno, Chief of Police by Martin Walker. Sent to me by HarperCollins Canada.

Sorry about the image; I couldn’t seem to find a larger one. This lovely little gem of a novel is the perfect size for your handbag to take with you wherever you go, which is exactly what I’m doing now. I’m nearly halfway through Bruno (follow the link for a browse), and quite enjoying the delightful, humorous read, even though it’s sort of formulaic, but it works for the setting. Part of HarperCollins’s attractive HarperWeekend imprint, the 273-page trimsize novel is the story of a shocking murder that takes place in a sleepy town called St. Denis, in the rural Dordogne region of France. The book reminds me so far of one of my favourite mystery series, the Inspector Montalbano books by Andrea Camilleri (though I think Camilleri’s books better).

Good food, rich atmosphere, and a cast of colourful characters make Bruno a trip down memory lane for me (I lived in France for a year a long time ago.) While there is a Saint-Denis in Paris (which incidentally has an incredibly high crime rate), this Saint Denis is fictional. Read about the little town here, and check out the rest of the site while you’re at it! I’ll buying the sequel, I’m sure, called The Dark Vineyard.

Every Lost Country by Steven Heighton. Sent by Random House because I won it!

The cover of this book is gorgeous, isn’t it? Every Lost Country is Canadian author Steven Heighton‘s eleventh book. Heighton, who lives about 45 minutes from here, in Kingston, ON, is probably best known for his novel The Shadow Boxer, released in 2000 by Knopf. I started Every Lost Country when it arrived and was immediately taken in by both the writing and the setting, but I have such a difficult time reading more than one book at a time, and thought it best to finish the short one, Bruno, first. At the same time, the writing is quite beautiful (to match the cover!) and the story very intriguing: “Inspired by an actual event, Every Lost Country is a gripping novel about heroism, human failings, and what love requires.” Yum. EVC will likely be next on my list to read and review after Bruno.

Dark Life by Kat Falls. Sent to me by Scholastic for review.

I really enjoy YA and children’s books. Dark Life by Kat Falls is a futuristic novel for ages 9–12 or so. “Set in an apocalyptic future where rising oceans have swallowed up entire regions and people live packed like sardines on the dry land left, Dark Life is the harrowing tale of underwater pioneers who have carved out a life for themselves in the harsh deep-sea environment, farming the seafloor in exchange for the land deed.”

I really look forward to this book; it sounds original and like something that could end up a movie. Another reason I’m interested is this: “As a lifelong animal lover, [Kat Falls] feels a deep sense of reverence for all of the earth’s creatures, even the slimy and scaly ones.” My kind of person! Click here for further summary of Dark Life on Scholastic’s website.

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. Sent to me by Scholastic because I asked nicely.

The last time I was in Chapters with a friend, a bookseller recommended Shiver to me. I opened its pages to see cool blue ink starting back, and saw that the YA book was a love story between a werewolf and a girl, and was hooked. My friend was not impressed, but I can’t help but love the supernatural. I passed up buying the book, however, not because it was pricey (it certainly isn’t at $11.99) but because I had other books I wanted to choose from first. I did want to read Shiver, though, and after much deliberation I wrote to Scholastic and asked if they’d kindly send it and the now newly released Linger to review. And they did! Another occasion for jumping around the kitchen with books clasped to my chest! All this certainly relieves the pressure of trying to come up with blog post ideas. Anyway, you can see what I thought of Shiver here. And may I say here, too, that I am in love with the author, Maggie Stiefvater, who has accomplished so much before she’s even thirty. She’s a cool girl! For her site, click here. From there you can also check out her blogs.

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater. Galley copy sent to me by Scholastic.

Ah, Linger, the sequel to Shiver and the second in the Wolves of Mercy Falls YA trilogy. The third book, rather cheesily titled Forever, is scheduled for release in July 2011 (we’ll see). Linger is even better than the first, and you can see why I felt that way if you go to my review, which Stiefvater herself read and (if I can toot my own horn) liked. She said, “I am terribly in love with your review of Linger, in particular. Thank you—I love people who really analyze the books.” Woohoo! That’s quite warmed the cockles.

I have to add here that my copy is a galley and the release date for this book was set for July 20th. However, it appears that some large chain stores think release dates are for the birds and don’t apply to them. Thus, they have sent out the novel to eager readers all over, and consequently pissed off me as well as, I assume, a bunch of indie bookstores who have kept to the date. GRRR. I understand the hype and I comprehend the excitement. But this sort of jumpstart on sales is  just plain wrong.

Now, I haven’t yet seen any explanation for this, not on Maggie’s blogs or her Facebook page, but the word out today was that the official official release date has been moved from the 20th to the 13th, at least in the US, and that includes indies. Last time I checked, today was only the 8th of July, so this still does not explain why some large chains (cough Barnes & Noble cough) have released and continue to release the books to readers before the 13th. If anyone knows what the scoop is, do tell so I can update this post!

Annabel by Kathleen Winter. Sent to me by Anansi Press because I signed up to be part of their review crew.

This book has been getting quite a lot of hype of late, and it was a lovely surprise to receive it in the mail only yesterday, along with two advance copies from Anansi. Although I did sign up to be a part of the publisher’s review crew, I never picked out any books; they choose and send them to you, so I was happy to get this one.

Anansi’s produced some gorgeous, notable books (see Lisa Moore’s February, for example), and this one is no exception. The hardcover beneath the cool wintery jacket is Tiffany blue, and the pages are soft and perfectly bound. Annabel tells the story of a “mysterious child,” “a baby who appears to be neither female nor male, but both at once. Only three people are privy to the secret—the baby’s parents, Jacinta and Treadway, and a trusted neighbour, Thomasina. Together the adults make a difficult decision: to raise the child as a boy named Wayne. But as Wayne grows to adulthood within the hyper-masculine hunting culture of his father, his shadow-self—a girl he thinks of as ‘Annabel’—is never entirely extinguished, and indeed is secretly nurtured by the women in his life.”

Wow, eh? I really can’t wait to read this book, even though for some reason Jeffrey Eugenides’s Pulitzer Prize winning Middlesex (2002), to which Annabel is compared, doesn’t interest me. The endorsements on Anansi’s page for Annabel are powerful and compelling, as is Galore author Michael Crummey’s, which appears on the back of the novel and calls Annabel a “beautiful book, brimming with heat and uncommon wisdom.” Will this one beat out Heighton’s for what I read next? Ah, decisions!

Far to Go by Alison Pick. Set to me by Anansi. Due out August 2010.

I received this galley along with Annabel yesterday and had never heard of it or Alison Pick before that. But it does look very interesting, and peeking through it I can tell the writing is quite good. It’s going to be a page-turner, I think! Anansi describes Far to Go on their page: “Inspired by the harrowing five-year journey Alison Pick’s own grandparents embarked upon from their native Czechoslovakia to Canada during the Second World War, Far to Go is an epic historical novel that traces one family’s journey through these tumultuous and traumatic events. A layered, beautifully written, moving, and suspenseful story by one of our rising literary stars.”

I admit that while I find these stories utterly fascinating, I shy away from them, afraid of the intense emotions I know I’ll feel. Aside from topics like the one Far to Go explores, John Grogan’s Marley & Me is a book I’ve actively avoided, and so is John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, even though I bought it in England in a charity shop, and so is the recent Boy in the Moon, the Trillium Book winner, by Ian Brown. But what’s wrong with a good cry while reading a book? Absolutely nothing. In fact, it’s a huge achievement on the part of the author, wouldn’t you agree?

Queen of Hearts by Martha Brooks. Sent to me by Anansi for review. Due out November 2010.

I haven’t yet read Martha Brooks, who also wrote True Confessions of a Heartless Girl, which won the Governor General’s Award in 2002, and Mistik Lake, a CLA Young Adult Book of the Year, along with four other novels. And as I said, I do enjoy YA fiction for the most part. Queen of Hearts takes place in Canada in 1941. When Marie-Claire, fifteen, headstrong and full of life, contracts tuberculosis, she is exiled to a sanitorium, where she “discovers that the sanitorium is a world unto itself—a world in which loss can be survived, and friendship, and love, can be found in unexpected places.”

I’ve neatly condensed the synopsis on the back here, but with characters such as the seemingly indomitable Marie-Claire, fun-loving and hard-living Uncle Gérard, irritatingly cheerful roommate Signy, and Jack Hawkings, the nineteen-year-old musician with the heart-stopping smile…well. I think this will be a fun read! At only 208 pages, it’s a good choice for a day out at the beach or for cuddling up with tea on a rainy day (which we expect tomorrow to break the 40-degree temperatures here!).

Fauna by Alissa York. Galley sent me by Random House because I won it! Due out August 2010.

This came as a huge and pleasurable surprise in the mail today. This time I was outside filling the bird bath when I heard I’d received yet another novel in the mail and, yes, I jumped up and down and clapped my hands with delight. And again when I saw which book it was! Only recently I was checking out Fauna online and thought it looked intriguing so I added it to my wish list. I haven’t yet read Effigy, which was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2007, the year it was released, though it’s been on my list of books to read.

Fauna is compelling for several reasons, not least because animals are the main subjects along with a few interesting human characters. I’m going to include the whole synopsis here from York’s site, because it’s so good:

After years spent busting smugglers of exotic pets and banned animal parts, federal wildlife officer Edal Jones is on stress leave when she happens upon the unusual community that will change her life. Situated between a half-wild ravine and Toronto’s Chinatown East, Howell Auto Wreckers is a modern-day sanctuary for injured souls. Handsome proprietor Guy Howell offers refuge to animals and humans alike: a half-starved hawk and a brood of orphaned raccoons; a soldier whose heart failed him during his first tour of duty; a teenage runaway and her massive black dog. Guy’s a rare kind of man—well-versed in the delicate workings of damaged beings, he might just stand a chance at capturing Edal’s heart. Before love can bloom, however, the little community must come to terms with a different breed of lost soul. Known to the blogosphere as Coyote Cop, nineteen-year-old Darius Grimes may have taken on a new name, but he can’t seem to shed his brutal past. His backwoods childhood is catching up with him, and he’s taking it out on the creatures that call the neighbouring valley home.

I’m a very emotional animal lover. I love animals more than people, I have to say, and I can love people fiercely. It cuts me to the quick to hear a dog cry, to see a cat paw repeatedly to be let inside from the cold, to see an animal suffer tied outside in the heat or to hear it locked inside, stressed. I can’t stand a dog’s yelp of pain, to see an injured seagull, to find yet another smacked squirrel or toad. I cannot abide animal cruelty, whether its forcefeeding, neglect, torture, or disinterest. It breaks my heart and makes me cry, all of it, and more. (At the same time, I have a fascination with dead animals I find, like the seagull on the beach last Sunday that appeared to be sleeping and must have died only hours earlier, or a large, washed-up fish, say.)

So I have to say I’m afraid of Fauna, too, but because there are characters who love the animals and shelter them, and because I imagine Grimes will get his come-uppance, I think I will bear it. It sounds like an important novel. As Jim Lynch, author of Border Songs (yet another on my wish list!) says, “Fauna is the sort of rare novel that can change the way you see your world.” We don’t need proof of any more cruelty, so I can only hope and feel rather confident that this book will show the flip side—kindness and redemption.

And there you have it. My immediate lineup of reading for the summer. In addition to the gargantuan galley copy of Justin Cronin’s The Passage (already released), Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, and so many more on my “immediately following” list….

Oh, had I but world enough, and time! (Which, allow me to add, comes from one of my favourite poems: “To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell [1621–1678], who certainly was short on time.)

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11 Comments

  1. What fantastic loot! I’m looking forward to Fauna in particular, though I was a bit ambivalent about her last one, Effigy. Can’t deny that she’s a good writer, though.

    • Hi Bronwyn,

      Yeah, me too about Fauna! I think I’ll read it first and then decide whether or not to read Effigy. I’ve seen other undecided comments on it besides yours, and I think these days that life is too short to read meh books!

  2. Wow! What fun! I just picked up Committed last night. I didn’t mean to, was actually going to pick up Galore, which is now in paperpack, and from first glance, the writing looks good. But something in my head went click when I saw that bright orange cover and I knew that’s what I was in the mood for.

  3. I think you’ll enjoy it, particularly where you are in your life right now…

    I want to hear about it!

  4. PS. Galore is mine.

  5. Hey Steph! Glad the Anansi books arrived safely . . . I picked them out after I spotted that you filled out our blogger review questionnaire. Enjoy!

  6. You’re mailman must be sooo jealous!!! :)

  7. Mailwoman, and I don’t think she even notices!!

  8. Wow, Steph, you’ve got some great looking books to look forward to there! I have my eye on one or two of them and I loved Shiver so I am looking forward to reading Linger too.

  9. Yes, and I keep adding more to my list of ones I want to read. I can’t keep up!

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