Friday, January 25, 2013

Welcome 2013!

I realize I'm a wee bit late ringing in the new year on the Internet, but the big thing is that I'm back. And, more excitingly, I plan on posting here more regularly.

This year, I'm going to try posting not only book reviews, but also educational materials/worksheets that I have found beneficial when teaching English Language Arts.

Exciting, eh?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


I chose to read Cynthia Holz's Benevolence during a summer month, and that, to me, was a mistake. The atmosphere of this novel lends itself to winter reading. There is nothing light or airy about the content of the novel; rather, Benevolence is all about insecurities, lack of communication, secrets, and life lessons. It is a dark and cold book.

The novel is based around the lives of multiple characters. Ben, the poetic organ-donor psychiatrist, aches for a child, and is seemingly a lonely and lost man. Molly, Ben’s overbearing and aging mother, is a woman must come to the realization that perhaps a major part of her life is based upon a lie. Finally, Renata, Ben’s psychologist wife, is a woman who desires a child as well, and, despite her ability to solve problems, is unable to foster intimacy with her husband. Each character undergoes a paradigm shift when they interact with a new person they come to care about.

I enjoy reading this novel. Holz has a fluid style of writing, and the story of each character was captivating. My only criticism is that perhaps the novel could have been tightened better, as some chapters took a long time to get to their essential point. Yet, reading this novel still made me want to pursue other works by Cynthia Holz.

More information about the author and her works can be found here.


Knopf Canada (2011), Hardcover, 320 pages

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Back in February, the pipes froze and sewage backed up into our basement/family room. Chaos ensued, and as part of the clean-up effort, we had to box lots of things away. Many of my books were boxed too, including all of the Song of Fire and Ice series - save A Storm of Swords. Unfortunately, I now want to read said books again (in anticipation of A Dance with Dragons), but can't find them. Hence, I'm now re-reading A Storm of Swords.

Friday, July 1, 2011


Oh god, it's been a really LONG time since I last updated this blog. Now that I'm on summer holidays, I promise that things will be different.

In other news, I've read 49 books for the "50 Book Challenge", and am highly considering challenging myself to 100 books this year!

Briefly below, I'll tell you about two of the books I've recently read:

  • Men and Dogs (Katie Crouch) - Men and Dogs looks at a slightly screwed-up thirty-five year-old woman, and her return home after her marriage fails. The overarching mystery of the novel is whether or not the woman's father, who vanished more than twenty years prior, is still alive. 
To be honest, while the plot was not overly original, I really enjoyed reading this novel. Crouch was able to capture the mood of the deep South effectively, and this mood resonates throughout (slightly southern gothic). It was an easy read, and one that made me laugh.  3/5 

  • Back on the Rez (Brian Maracle) - This was an autobiographical account of a man's move to the Six Nations' Reservation in Ontario. Maracle examines rez politics, social structure, traditions, et cetera, while reflecting on his own life.
The book is divided into brief topic-driven personal essays, and are told in chronological order. As an English teacher, I'm tempted to incorporate some of Maracle's musings and observations into my Grade 12 Canadian English course; I feel that these essays offer invaluable insight into life on the Iroquois rez, and can help students to understand Aboriginal perspectives.   4/5

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Books to Film

Tonight Game of Thrones is on again. Thus far, I feel kind of disappointed with the television adaptation. I find myself nitpicking about most details (needless to say, my boyfriend does not appreciate the "critical lens" being cast on the show), and I keep bemoaning how things are "not as I pictured them to be." 

Basically, I've fallen into that trap where I loved the books so much (yes, I've read them all) that no television series or movie could ever live up to my expectations.

Despite my complaints, I'm sticking with the series, though.

My 5 Favourite Book-to-Movie Adaptations

1. Lord of the Rings - Seriously. Peter Jackson did a fantastic job with this trilogy.
2. Let the Right One In - The Swedish film did a wonderful job interpreting the novel. I read the novel after seeing the film, and I was impressed by how true to the story the film was.
3. The Princess Bride - Ah, a childhood favourite of mine
4.  The Exorcist - Blatty's book is horrifying and so is the movie
5. Field of Dreams - The dark horse in this race. The book is a wonderful American yarn and so is the movie.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Huck Finn

Here is a really interesting link, from Costco (believe it or not), debating if "classics" should be sanitized or not. This is timely, given the recent re-working of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

As a historian and educator, I feel that we shouldn't tamper with the original works. Looking at fiction provides us with insight into the societal and political problems of a decade. For example, Huck Finn gives a modern audience information about racial issues in America. Some are critical of Twain for the language used; however, it is only a product of the times that Twain lived. As another example (although not as controversial), Jude the Obscure (one of my all-time favourite novels) shows us about the treatment of strong women during the 19th century. When Hardy published the book, he was lambasted for depicting sexual relationships outside of marriage, and, indeed, his novel critiques the treatment of these unmarried couples too (poor Sue and Jude!). When we sanitize these historic novels, we deny our own shortcomings as human beings. We need to be honest with literature and with ourselves.

Teaching Resources

My Easter break is almost over, and sadly I have not read as much as I thought I would. Somehow life and other things took over. Drat.

In other news, I've been thinking about whether or not I want to teach both The Road and Lord of the Flies in ELA B30 next year. I'm tempted to drop Lord of the Flies in favour of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. While my students really love Lord of the Flies (or they did last semester, I'm not so sure about this one), I feel like I'm ready for a change, and I do think that BMHaWK would be culturally relevant for these kids. So often, I get questions from them about the Aboriginal experience in the United States, and I can only devote a small amount of time to discussing this history with them. Dee Brown's non-fiction masterpiece might offer a little more insight.


I'm also torn on dropping Three Day Road, in ELA A30, in favour of something else. My students found the book to be long, and I kept on thinking how the entire class was seemingly bogged down in the trenches of World War One. The story of Elijah and Xavier is interesting, but fails to captivate female students - which is a problem. Maybe In Search of April Raintree instead?