You are here: Home > Blogs > Readers' Nook

Latest Posts

Off Line

Select another pool to see the results

    Book Club in a Bag

    TWILIGHT-MANIA

    by Jasna Tosic - 0 Comment(s)

    Prepared by J.Tosic

    TWILIGHT SAGA: Twilight; New Moon; Eclipse; Breaking Dawn

    The following article borrowed from: Children’s Literature Review. Ed. Tom Burns. Vol. 142. Detroit: Gale, Cengage Learning, 2009, p 1-2

    Despite only starting her career as a published novelist in 2005, Stephenie Meyer and her Twilight series of young adult’s novels – which dramatically portray the teenaged love affair between a vampire boy and a human girl – have catapulted to the top of best seller lists. With over 17 million copies sold worldwide in the Twilight series, many critics compare her swift rise and sustained success to that of Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling. With translation rights sold to more than 30 nations and successful movie adaptations of the first two novels, Meyer remains poised to be a publishing phenomenon despite her announcement that 2008’s Breaking Down will be last book in the Twilight series.

    ADOLESCENT METAPHORS

    Meyer describes her books as being heavily influenced by Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights, with its gothic plotting and central romance serving as the core for all the other events in the series. Set in remote and dusky town of Forks, Washington, whose near-permanent twilight makes it a natural heaven for vampires, the four books of the series relate the slow developing and passionate romance between Edward and Bella amidst the uneasy relationship between vampiric Cullens and the Quileute werewolf tribe…In the first three books Bella’s and Edward’s love is mostly chaste, with only occasional physical contact and strong bouts of existential angst serving to indicate the mutual physical interest surrounding their relationship. Edward’s conflicting interests of wanting to protect Bella from the dangers of the world battles with his own strong instinctual and pseudo-sexual desire to bite her and drink from her body – a symbolic suggestion of normal teenage hormones. Popular primarily with young teens, the stories offer a paranormal version of their own desires, needs that are finally consummated and happily resolved with the complete contentment of Bella by series’ end.

    MYTHS AND ADAPTADIONS

    While the stories are in many ways a reflection of recognized vampire and werewolf lore, Stephenie Meyer does inject some fresh aspects into the myths. Perhaps most creatively among these adaptations, Meyer’s vampires have the traditional desire to avoid sunlight, albeit for entirely different reasons: the sun, rather than destroying them, instead shows their true aspects. Meyers also imbues each vampire with a unique power that is related in some way to the most distinct aspect of their human personalities before their respective conversions. Her werewolves, too, are distinctive. All members of the Quileute tribe of Native Americans, their initial transformation into supernatural beasts happens only in response to the presence of nearby vampires – their mortal enemies.

    LOVE, DANGER, STRUGLE

    Although the critical response to the Twilight saga has been mixed, the books have remained enormously popular, and not only among teenagers. Publishers Weekly equated the series’ appeal to its faithful presentations of adolescent angst, remarking of Twilight that the “main draw here is Bella’s infatuation with outsider Edward, the sense of danger inherent in their love, and Edward’s inner struggle – a perfect metaphor for the sexual tension that accompanies adolescence”. Or, as Michele Windship noted, "Meyer's description of the lovers' emotions are palpable, and the readers will be drawn into the couple's spiraling dance, feeling the intense longing that comes from being a hair's bredth away from the thing you want most in the world".

    THE MAGICAL WORLD OF HARRY POTTER

    by Jasna Tosic - 0 Comment(s)

    Prepared by J. Tosic

    Who could have predicted that one magical series could get kids around the world to put down their video games, shut off the TV and devour 800-page books? Books became cool again, with the birth of the midnight release party and kids and adults dressing like fictional characters. Fans of all ages read and re-read J. K Rowling’s Harry Potter books and anxiously awaited the next in the seven book series. "What the numbers leave out is the singular experience that so many young people had of actually growing up WITH a literary character, which had never been done before," said Arthur Levine, Publisher, Arthur A. Levine Books, VP Scholastic. "Kids who began reading Harry Potter when they were in elementary school, finished Harry's story as they finished major life milestones in this decade. And they took with them not only a deep experience of the pleasure a book can bring, but a validation of hopefulness that one's actions matter more than one's circumstances, and a message that truly love does conquer all."

    While this decade has nurtured Harry Potter's first generation of fans -- people of all ages will continue to re-discover the love of reading a truly magical story as they come to experience the adventures of Harry and his friends for decades to come. (From CNN, Dec. 15, 2009)

    You can find Harry Potter series and other J. K Rowlin's books at Calgary Public Library. Check our catalogue for:

    Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

    Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

    Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

    Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

    Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix

    Harry Potter and a Half-blood Prince

    Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

    The Da Brown Controversy

    by Jasna Tosic - 0 Comment(s)

    The ‘Da Brown’ Controversy

    JTosic

    There was an error even in the title: Leonardo’s surname was not Da Vinci. He was from Vinci, or of Vinci. As many critics have pointed out, calling it The Da Vinci Code is like saying Mr. Of Arabia or asking What Would Of Nazareth Do?

    Dan Brown's famous book generated lots of criticism when it was first published, mostly because of its explanations of core aspects of Christianity, the history of the Catholic Church, and descriptions of European art, history, and architecture. Not surprisingly, the book has received mostly negative reviews from Catholic and other Christian communities.

    Two lawsuits have been brought alleging plagiarism in The Da Vinci Code: by the authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, and Jack Dunn, the author of The Vatican Boys.

    The Da Vinci Code has been a subject of infinite negative reviews concerning its literary value. Salman Rushdie called it "a novel so bad that it gives bad novels a bad name." In his 2005 the University of Maine Commencement Address, best-selling author Stephen King called Dan Brown's work the "intellectual equivalent of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese”.

    Yet…the book was a worldwide bestseller that sold 80 million copies as of 2009 and has been translated into 44 languages. The best defense has come from the armies of Dan Brown’s readers, and it can be outlined in the simple statement of an anonymous fan, “Mind your own business, critics. Dan Brown rocks and his books are simply unputdownable. I read his books in one go.”

    For further reading about this controversial book, check our catalogue (Power Search/subject "da vinci code").

    The Tale of Two Margueritas

    by Jasna Tosic

    The Tale of Two Margueritas

    JTosic

    I very rarely consider literature in terms of gender of the writers, but when I do, two names immediately come up to my mind: Marguerite Yourcenar and Marguerite Duras. To mark International Women’s Day, the Reader’s Nook celebrates the work of these two exceptional writers.

    MARGUERITE YOURCENAR (1903-1987)

    Marguerite Yourcenar was a French/Belgian novelist, essayist and short story writer, and the first woman elected to the Acedeme Francaise, in 1980. She became famous with her metaphysical historical novels, creating psychologically penetrating characters from the distant past. At the same time, in her novels she addressed issues such as homosexuality, and dealt with universal taboos such as incest.

    Yourcenar’s first novel, Alexis, was published in 1929. At the outbreak of the WWII, her intimate companion of that time, a translator named Grace Flick, invited her to the United States, where she lectured in comparative literature.

    Oriental Tales was first published in 1938 in France. From China to Greece, from the Balkans to Japan, the Tales take us from a portrait of the painter Wang Fo, “who loves the image of things and not the things themselves”, to legends of a hero betrayed and then rescued by love. “Dream and myth speak here in a language rich in images that imply other, more secret meanings, building a world of reflections upon art…”

    Among Yourcenar’s best known works is certainly Memoirs of Hadrian (1951). The emperor, one of the last great Roman rulers, is portrayed on the eve of his death, absorbed in his reflections. Hadrian recounts his memories in his testament letter to his chosen successor and adoptive son Marcus Aurelius. The emperor meditates on his triumphs and failures, and on his love for Antonius, a Greek youth. Yourcenar worked on this novel for fifteen years, and Memoirs of Hadrian has become a modern classic, “a standard against fictional re-creations of antique world are measured”.

    First published in Paris in 1982, each of the three stories in Two Lives and a Dream is written in a different style and takes place in the world of late Renaissance Europe. Yourcenar’s incredible gift for “bringing a historical epoch to life is here employed with unsurpassed mastery to create fables of timeless universality about the human condition”. An Obscure Man, the first and longest in this collection, contains one of the author’s most moving depictions of human nature. A Lovely Morning is a brief fantasy of a young man who joins a touring company of actors and dreams out the whole of his life to come. The final story, Anna, Sorror, an unforgettable tale of fated love, was composed by the time Yourcenar was 22. Set in the baroque Naples at the close sixteenth century, Anna, Sorror is “an intensely affecting account of illicit and overwhelming passion between a young aristocrat Miguel and his sister Anna, who live and love each other in seclusion from the surrounding world after the death of their mother."

    For Marguerite Yourcenar’s books, please check our catalogue.

    (Image of M. Yourcenar courtesy of flickr.com)

    MARGUERITE DURAS (1914-1996)

    "Very early in my life it was too late." (The Lover)

    "On Marguerite Duras' tombstone at Montparnasse Cemetery in Paris", wrote Pilar Adon, "there are a small plant, a lot of white pills scattered over her sober gray stone, two flowers and two letters engraved: M. D. Two are also the images that could illustrate the unbridled process of her exsistence: the evocation of a beautiful girl full of eroticism, traveling by ferry along the Mekong River with a felt hat on, her lips in dark red color, and just, at the other end, a woman with her face and body devastated by alcohol, dressed in a straight skirt and a vest over a turtleneck jumper, who, after four detoxication cures, went into a five month coma. Marguerite Duras leapt in just a moment from the beginning to the end of her life, but in the brief time of that moment, she did what she wanted to do: écrire. To write..."

    Marguerite Duras was born in French Indochina (what is today today South Vietnam), where she spent most of her childhood. "I cannot think of my childhood without thinking of water. My home town is a town of water”, whe once said. Her father's sudden death, when she was four, left the family impoverished. Many years later she would say that having money didn't change anything because she would always keep "a damned mentality of being poor".

    Reading Marguerite Duras’ books implies looking into her own life. “In a real act of literary vivisection, she extracted her own pain, filtered it through her writing and offered it to the readers… Literature and life – two points hard to separate in the works of Marguerite Duras."

    Probably her best known and most celebrated work is The Lover (L’ Amant), a semi-biographical novel about an illicit affair between a teenage French girl and a wealthy Chinese man in 1929 French Indochina. The book won the prix Goncourt, the most prestigious literary award in France, has been translated into 43 languages and in a short time sold 1.5 million copies.

    “It is said that old loves can haunt us. The Lover creates this feeling through the atmosphere of shadows, veils, floating memories that came from – was it this boat trip or the last one? From the age of eight, twelve or thirty? In the end, it doesn’t matter, for the experience is now embedded, a distinct yet inseparable part of the personality “, wrote Erica Bauermeister in 500 Great Books by Women. Marguerite Duras digs in her own past to tell The Lover, a story of an adolescent girl who was forced to grow up to fast and was exposed to too much pain, too soon.

    The Lover was made into a film in 1992, directed by Jean- Jacques Annaud, who remarked: “Destruction. A key word when it comes to Marguerite Duras, who uses her novels…to study herself in as many mirrors; she identifies herself with her work to the point that she no longer knows what is autobiographical fact and what is fiction…”

    Check our catalogue for more books by Marguerite Duras.

    Scandinavian Noir (5)

    by Jasna Tosic - 0 Comment(s)

    BLOOD DROPS ON SNOW AND ICE

    by J.Tosic

    Why are Scandinavian mysteries so popular? For the North American readers, says one of the fans, "it's delightful to read a crime novel in which the policeare genuinely shocked by crime. So much of our crime and police fiction absolutely takes violence for granted..." Part of the appeal lies in the main protagonists: these policemen, detectives, and inspectors are not glamorous macho-men; they don't - with few exceptions, such as Inspector Erik Winter, although that suits him fine - wear fancy clothes and drive expensive cars. They don't chase super-terrorists and spies, and they don't try - what a relief! - to save the world. They look like people we know and trust; we can easily imagine them working for our local police force. They are so ordinary, yet we can't get enough of them.

    Through their novels, the Scandinavian crime writers do not hesitate to confront some serious social problems: racism, extremism, family abuse, xenophobia, poverty...and the inefficiency of the state institutions to effectively deal with them. These books are not written for leisure reading only: they ask questions and question the answers; they make you get involved while reading, and leave you thinking long after you finish the last page. That's why I like them: they let me participate.

    Here are a few other notable Nordic authors:

    PETER HOEG is best known for his novel Smilla's Sense of Snow (1992). He was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, and before becoming a writer, he was a sailor, ballet dancer and actor. Hard to place in terms of literary style, his literature has been characterized as post-modern, gothic, and hyper-realistic. The main theme of his novels, though - the consequences of the progress of civilization - remains constant.

    Smilla's Sense of Snow was a sort of a publishing hit; one of those books that recieve a warmer reception from the critics then from the audience. Smilla Jaspersen, a 37-year-old expert on snow and ice, obsessively tries to find out the truth behind a small boy's death. A believable, no-nonsense character, Smilla is also a bundle of contradictions. Half Danish, half Greenlander, she drifts between the two cultures, not at home in either of them. To a certain point, she resembles Stieg Larsson's Lisbeth Salander: both are misfits with a traumatic past, but with their own sense of justice and morality. Independent, smart and aggressive, yet sensitive and fragile, Smilla is in constant discord with the world around her.

    Check our catalogue for Smilla's Sense of Snow, and other novels by Peter Hoeg. The movie with the same title, and Julia Ormond in the main role, is currently on order, and you can place a hold on it.

    KARIN FOSSUM is a Norwegian author of mystery fiction. She is the creator of the internationally successful Inspector Konrad Sejer series, translated into more than a dozen languages. Her novel Don't Look Back won the Glass Key Award and Riverton Prize. Calling out for You was shortlisted for the Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger, and, under the title "The Indian Bride", won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Her newest book, Bad Intentions, is currently on order; check our catalogue to place a hold.

    HAKAN NESSER is another Swedish crime writer with an international reputation. He won the Best Swedish Crime Novel Award three times, and the Glass Key Award in 2000. The recurring main character in his novels is Van Veeteran, a detective in the early novels and the owner of an antique book store in later books. The novels are set in the fictional city of Maardam, somewhere in Northern Europe. In his 2006 novel Human Without Dog, Nesser introduced a new main character, Inspector Gunar Barbarotti. This time the series is firmly set in Sweden.

    JO NESBO is a musician, economist and one of the most acclaimed Norwegian crime writers. His Detective Harry Hole novels have been translated into more than forty languages. The Bat Man is the first installment in the Harry Hole series, set in Oslo. In our collection you can find Devil's Star (2005), Nemesis (2007), The Redeemer (2009), The Snowman (2010) and Redbreast (2006), which is currently on order.

    Scandinavian Noir (4)

    by Jasna Tosic - 0 Comment(s)

    THE LAND OF THE MIDNIGHT SUN

    Reykjavik Murder Mysteries by Arnaldur Indridason

    By J.Tosic

    Before I fell in love with Arnaldur’s books, I had thought that Iceland is just a big rock somewhere in the North Atlantic. I knew about Bjork, geysers, and the capital Reykjavik, but that was pretty much it.

    I didn’t know, for example, that Icelandic winters are much milder than ours here on the prairies. The warm North Atlantic Current ensures generally higher temperatures than in most places of similar latitude in the world. Reykjavik, the northernmost capital of a sovereign state, lies at 64° 08’ - Yellowknife at 62° 28’ and Whitehorse at 60° 43, for example, are more southern then the Iceland capital - but the average January temperature is + 0.2° Celsius. In Iceland, in midwinter, during the Polar Nights, there is a period without sunlight. In midsummer, daylight takes over and there is no darkness during June and July, creating the opposite phenomenon called the Midnight Sun. (See the photo of Reykjavik in July, at 11:00 P. M.)

    I’ve learned that the Icelandic phonebooks list the users alphabetically by first names because Icelandic family names are patronymic, (or sometimes, matronymic). Different from the most of Western family name systems, patronymic names reflect the immediate father - or mother - of the child, rather than the family ancestry. Through the series, the main character, Detective Inspector Erlandur, is known by his first name; his last name – Sveinsson – tells us only that his father’s first name was Svein. Icelanders formally address others by their first names.

    These books have also taught me that in December 1998 the Parliament of Iceland passed a bill that allowed the state to create a centralized database of all Icelanders’ genealogical, genetic and personal medical information.

    There are, of course, other reasons why I’ve liked Arnaldur’s novels, the main being Detective Inspector Erlendur himself: not unlike Kurt Wallander or John Rebus, and in spite of many years of exposure to the most hideous crimes, he is able to keep his humanity intact. He seeks solitude, happiest in his own company. There is a broken marriage and very complex relationship with his grown-up children: a drug addict daughter and recovering addict son. He is prone to self-reflection, melancholy and depression. Lost in a blizzard together with his younger brother when they were children, he, unlike his brother, survived. The accident, however, had marked him for the rest of his life with overwhelming guilt and lifelong obsession with missing persons. Not surprisingly, mysteriously vanished people have become a leitmotif, a recurring theme, of the whole Erlendur series.

    Similar to Henning Mankell's and Stieg Larsson's work, Arlandur’s novels have a strong social component: through his main character, he boldly addresses some serious issues such as racism, child abuse, corruption, disintegration and moral collapse of the society.

    Although the series starts with Sons of Dust and Silent Kill, these two novels have not been translated for the North American market. The English translations started with Jar City (2005). Asked about it in the e-mail interview with mcnallyrobinson.com in July 2008, Arnaldur said that Jar City was his breakthrough book, and therefore, a good start. “It gets you into the atmosphere of the books and the character, the weather, the streets of Reykjavik, and possibly you want to know more about this guy Erlendur, the sad policeman, after reading it…”

    The reading sequence, available in English, continues with Silence of the Grave (2005). In his review, Bill Ott from Booklist wrote that in Silence of the Grave, Arnaldur “returns to the theme of buried pain, with the action centering on the discovery of a human bone at a construction site near Reykjavik. The trail, which leads back to World War II, has gone very cold indeed. Erlendur has a very personal reason for his abiding interest in missing persons, and that - combined with the fact that his drug-abusing daughter is in the hospital in a coma - opens the door for plenty of back story regarding the detective's troubled history. With a narrative that jumps between the 1940s and the present, the novel generates a sort of emotional claustrophobia, its characters trapped in a world where the pain of the past, though often submerged, is always with us…”

    Silence of the Grave was followed by Voices (2006), The Draining Lake (2007), Arctic Chill (2008), and Hypothermia (2009).

    About the author: Arnaldur Indriðason was born in 1961 in Reykjavik. He has a degree in history from the University of Iceland. He worked as a journalist and movie critic. His books have been published in 26 countries and translated into more than a dozen languages. Among other awards, he won the prestigious Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger Award in 2005 for Silence of the Grave.

    Illustration: Reykjavik in July, around 11:00 P. M. Courtesy of Flickr.com