Friday, 25 November 2016

2017 Reading Challenges - Can Con/ Classics/ Non-Fiction

I've been going through possible books for my various Reading Challenges for 2017 the past few Blogs. Today I'm combing some of my shorter challenges; Canadian Content, Classics and Non-fiction. Let's start with Canadian content (Can Con)

1. Can Con

Over the past couple of years I've begun to get back into Canadian authors. Last year I did two Reading Group challenges focused strictly on Canadian authors; a 12 + 4 and a 12 + 0. It's been most enjoyable discovering new authors and also getting back to authors I was already familiar with. This year, I hope to read at least 5 books by Canadian authors. The books below will probably be my first 3. A number of the new authors for me were suggested in a book I received for Xmas a couple of years ago; T.F. Rigelhof, Hooked on Canadian Books; The Good, the Better and the Best Canadian Novels Since 1984.

1. Rousseau's Garden by Ann Charney (Fiction / 2001) - I found this book recently at a local book seller. It was one of the books listed in the Rigelhof book.

"A crisp March morning in the Buttes-Chaumont park in Paris. Claire, waiting to meet her husband, Adrian, has more than a tourist's passing interest in the place. She has come to France to be with Adrian while he researches a book on French gardens, but Claire's real mission is to find out what happened to her mother, Dolly, during her last stay in Paris. A promising sculptor and ardent admirer of the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Dolly suffered a mysterious decline following her return home. Now severe panic attacks are forcing Claire to abandon her own work as a photographer. Is she repeating her mother's pattern? The answer, Claire believes, lies in the past.
Claire retraces Dolly's footsteps in Paris and in the nearby countryside, where Rousseau's spirit is still discernible. Claire's quest in France is filled with more than one startling discovery as she, Adrian, and their friends, navigate the tricky terrain of marriage, parenthood, friendship, and love."

2. Seaweed on Ice by Stanley Evans (Seaweed #2 / 2006) - I found this mystery series by chance in my local used book store and read the first one in 2016. I loved everything about it, the location (Victoria, BC), the characters (lead by Victoria cop Silas Seaweed), the native heritage and just the mystery itself. I'm looking forward to getting into the 2nd book and, who knows, may try another before end 2017.

"Coast Salish street cop Silas Seaweed has his hands full. An elderly Jewish immigrant has disappeared. A mysterious old woman has been murdered. Valuable art stolen from German Jews during the Second World War has begun to show up in local auction houses, and the word on the street is that someone is planning to loot a priceless Coast Salish archaeological site.
As he investigates, Seaweed comes to believe that these seemingly disparate causes are interconnected. But how? In the second of the Silas Seaweed series, much is not what it appears to be, and unravelling the mysteries becomes a life-and-death quest."

3.The Last Crossing by Guy Vanderhaeghe (Historical Fiction / 2002) - I think I may have heard of this first in the Rigelhof book, but, at the very least, when I saw it, the story looked very interesting.

"Set in the second half of the nineteenth century, this is a sweeping tale of interwoven lives, at the centre of which is a search for a missing brother and an unusual and moving love story. Two Englishmen find themselves on a journey across the treacherous and unknown landscape of the American and Canadian West in an attempt to trace their brother's path. With them is their half-Blackfoot, half-Scottish guide. Later their party grows to include a Civil War veteran searching for salvation, a young woman determined to avenge her sister's brutal murder, a sycophantic journalist, and a God-fearing saloon-keeper. This unlikely posse becomes entangled in an unfolding drama that forces each person to come to terms with his own demons. Rich with haunting scenes - a bear hunt at dawn, the meeting of a Metis caravan, the discovery of an Indian village decimated by smallpox, a man's visit to the pleasure houses of Victorian London, a young boy's last memory of his mother - and filled with unforgettable characters, The Last Crossing is an epic novel of power, event, and redemption."

2. Classics (Books written before 1900)

Over the past two or three years, I've begun to delve into the Classics more, a 'genre' I've avoided for the longest time, and it's been a pleasure to discover the excellent authors who were writing before 1900. Some of my favourite books of the past two years have come out this category; George Eliot's Daniel Deronda, Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd, just to name a couple. This year I plan to do as my previous years and read at least 4 of the Classics. My first two will probably be the books below.

1. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (1854) - I read a collection of Gaskell's short stories earlier this year and it was one of my favourites of the year so far. I'm very much looking forward to trying one of her best novels (so the write-up says, at least).

"As the title suggests, it is primarily a study of the contrast between the values of rural southern England and the industrialised north; but through the medium of its central characters, John Thornton and Margaret Hale, it also become a profound comment on the need for reconciliation among the English classes, on the importance of suffering, and above all on the value of placing the dictates of personal conscience above social respectability. And in Margaret Hale, whose intensity, spiritual isolation and passion electrify the book, Mrs. Gaskell created one of the finest heroines of Victorian literature."

2. The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper (1841) - I've moved to North America for my other selection, the first book in the Leatherstocking tales. I remember reading the Classic comic book of the 2nd book, The Last of the Mohicans.

"At Lake Otsego, during the French and Indian Wars, great frontiersman Natty Bumpo forsakes love to come to the aid of Thomas Hutter, a trapper under the attack of Iroquois Indians.
Published in 1841, The Deerslayer is the first of the 'Leatherstocking' tales, which reveal the courageous and perseverant nature of the pioneer. Recognised for his descriptive power, Cooper created in Natty Bumpo a mythical character - one of the most significant in the history of American literature."

3. Non-Fiction

I usually try to read a few histories, biographies and other types of non-fiction over the course of the year. This year I'll try to read at least 5. The three books below will probably be my starters.

1. Shakespeare, The World as Stage - by Bill Bryson (2007) - I've read 3 or 4 of Bryson's books and enjoyed them all. He manages to make travel and history and science enjoyable to read. I've had this book for a few years now and am looking forward to giving it a try.

"William Shakespeare, the most celebrated poet in the English language, left behind nearly a million words of text, but his biography has long been a thicket of wild supposition arranged around scant facts. With a steady hand and his trademark wit, Bill Bryson sorts through this colourful muddle to reveal the man himself. His Shakespeare is like no one else's - the beneficiary of Bryson's genial nature, his engaging scepticism, and a gift for storytelling unrivalled in our time."

2. Dear Fatty by Dawn French (2008) - I think this is one of those books I bought the missus as we both think French is one of the funniest ladies around.

"With a sharp eye for comic detail and a wicked ear for the absurdities of life, Dawn French shows just how an RAF girl from the West Country with dreams of becoming a ballerina/ air hostess/ bridesmaid/ thief rose to become one of the best-loved comedy actresses of our time.
Here Dawn French invites us into her most personal relationships with, among others, her mum and dad, her husband, her daughter and her friend Jennifer.
Dawn reveals the people, experiences and obsessions that have influenced her and that helped shape her comedy creations - including kissing, dogs, grandmas, David Cassidy, teenage angst, school, stealing and Madonna. She is as open about her fears and sorrows as she about her delights and joys, and for the first time shares the experience of losing her dad and later finding a top-topmost chap in Lenny Henry."

3. The Elephant to Hollywood, The Autobiography by Michael Caine (2010) - We have acquired various biographies over the past years and it'll be nice to read a couple at least in 2017.

"It's been a long journey for Maurice Micklewhite, -  born with rickets in London's poverty-stricken Elephant & Castle - to the bright lights of Hollywood.
With a glittering career spanning more than five decades and starring roles that have earned him two Oscars, a knighthood, and an iconic place in the Hollywood pantheon, the man now known to us as Michael Caine looks back over it all.
Funny, warm and honest, Caine gives us his insider's view of Hollywood (where there's neither holly nor woods). He recalls the films, the legendary stars, and the off-screen moments with a gift for story-telling only equalled by David Niven.
Hollywood has been his home and his playground. But England is where his heart lies. And where he blames the French for the abundance of snails in his garden.
A plaque now celebrates him at the Elephant in London and his hand print is one of only 200 since 1927 to decorate the hallowed pavement outside that mecca of Hollywood stars, Grauman's Chinese Theatre."

So there you go. Next I'll focus on my Science Fiction /  Fantasy / Horror options.. Take care.

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