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Summer reading

By July 3, 2015 Books

Summer leisure translates into reading for me. If it does for you too, here’s a handy list of my favourites for the young adult reading fans in your life.

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My next read: IT’S WHAT I DO

By March 10, 2015 Books

Human beings are endlessly fascinated by war stories in print, on stage, onscreen. American Sniper, Clint Eastwood’s recent Oscar nominated film, is on its way to earning half a billion worldwide. In its wake, a rush from several high profile parties to find other character driven military stories seemed inevitable. The hottest title in that genre right now is It’s What I Do, a memoir written by American photojournalist and Pulitzer prize winner Lynsey Addario.




Excerpts from Addario’s book were featured in the NY Times Magazine, including What Can a Pregnant Photojournalist Cover? Everything. 

We eventually did get out of Libya, after a week of captivity. Six weeks later, I woke up in New Delhi, where Paul and I had moved when he became bureau chief in India, and took a pregnancy test. The little blue line appeared in the window — making a positive out of the negative sign. But instead of joy, I felt horror. I crawled back in bed with Paul, placing the plastic stick with our future on the pillow next to his head. When he finally woke up, I took another test, just to be sure: positive again. “You got your wish,” I said. “I can’t believe it happened so fast. I think my life is over.”

Considered one of the most daring and skilled in her profession, the award winning journalist says she took every assignment she could while pregnant, including trips to Afghanistan, Senegal, Saudi Arabia, and Somalia, coming home to face heaps of criticism. Her response was to remain resolute:.

We need men and women to be war correspondents because women have access to women in the Muslim World.

If ever a book was to take me on a flight, far from my familiar perch, this one is it. I’m in.

So is Jennifer Lawrence. The film rights to Addario’s story now belong to the Oscar winner with Steven Spielberg tapped to direct and American Sniper producer Andrew Lazar on board to produce.

Now a mother, Addario has written that her role models were few but, in this lovely short film from the Sunday Times, Christina Lamb, one of Britain’s leading foreign correspondents, also a mother, shares Addario’s passion to seek out stories in some of the world’s most dangerous corridors. The story begins with a look into her travel bag.


The closest I want to be to that kind of danger is turning the page of Addario’s memoir.  I can’t say I understand all of their instincts, but storytellers are kindred spirits, especially those who go back to seek out what happened after the world spotlight turned away.  I applaud their courage as they continue to blur the definition of what it means to be a woman in contemporary culture.


Will I like the book? Stay tuned.


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National Family Literacy Day

By January 27, 2015 Books

Keeping a room full of books for little people in a house full of big people is a touch mad. Read More

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Nothing puny here

By January 20, 2015 Books

Canada Reads panelists and their book choices were announced this morning on CBC Radio.



These titles may all be wonderful but there was one missing I had hoped would be a contender. All My Puny Sorrows, the 6th novel from Miriam Toews, one of 15 longlisted books for Canada Reads, didn’t make the cut but it wins my Red Chronicles Best Read of 2014.  The story: two sisters, bonded in love even as one wants to end her life with the help of the other. Inspired by her own relationship with her sister Marjorie, who took her life years after her father committed suicide, Toews distills sadness and then infuses it with all the shades that make it bearable. Not once did the book weigh me down with the dark subject. Beloved already for all her earlier work, this Canadian author treads deliberately with humour and the result is nothing short of brilliant.

Elf is a concert pianist. As she tells her sister Yolandi of the essence of performance, her words offer a summary themselves of all great stories:

She told me that the most important thing was to establish the tenderness right off the bat, or at least to the top of the piece, just a hint of it, a whisper, but a deep whisper because the tension will mount, the excitement and the drama will build-I was writing it down as fast as I could-and when the action rises the audience might remember the earlier moment of tenderness, and remembering will make them long to return to infancy, to safety, to pure love, then you might move away from that, put the violence and agony of life into every note, building, building still, until there is an important decision to make; return to tenderness, even briefly, glancingly, or continue on with the truth, the violence, the pain , the tragedy, to the very end.

It may be odd to describe a book about suicide as alive with joy but that is exactly what Toews accomplishes here. I felt pushed to new understanding of this idea of planning one’s own death but far more-I wept with the glorious mess of it all. If you have a sister, as I have three, then you too will laugh then cry then laugh again.

A great read should do just that. It should trek back to childhood and root around for a while in hilarity, even as it soars forward with giant sad leaps. A great read will bring out all your yellow stickie notes to mark page after page that leave you breathless and ignoring the doorbell, the phone ringing, the dinner burning, the kids calling.

All My Puny Sorrows will make you better at living.


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My next read

By October 16, 2014 Books

Ann-Marie MacDonald had it all in her head.

Conjuring ideas for her next book, the author and mom of two took a peek at her pantry. Dinner loomed and she didn’t have a plan. Wait-there’s pasta. It was right there all along, right in front of her. A staple ever ready, a story already swirling.


MacDonald’s Adult Onset is a parallel universe to her own, an “unconscious psychic joke” on herself,  as she told an audience of booklovers at Grano restaurant last night in Toronto. The long awaited third novel was started when MacDonald’s youngest child was five. Her kids were in school full time. Fresh from the “toddler trenches”, she had discovered, despite intentions to be “the world’s best parent”, unprocessed demons threatening to derail domestic peace. So began the story of a successful Toronto writer, trying to balance creative pursuits and parenting, and discovering deep cracks and fissures.

More overtly personal than her first two novels, this story, says MacDonald, was crafted to occur over one week of a woman’s life, a week where outsiders saw no change but internally, an entire struggle unfolded.

Who does this Canadian treasure write for? A  “tender, compassionate ghost over her shoulder”, the reader, always the reader- for writing, says this author, playwright and actor, is a performance for others. Macdonald lists meditation, travel and psychotherapy as things she does for herself but writing? The story doesn’t exist until in the hands of her readers.

It’s so much fun reading to people, so much easier than writing!

Fun? Forget stuffy book launches full of Author performing Readings. Instead, there we gathered, imbibing copious amounts of wine over multiple courses, sharing long tables and stories, in this great mid-Toronto gem that only pretends to be a terrific dining establishment.

Scan 87

Grano is, of course, a cultural hub, owner Roberto Martella the impresario. Why else to explain the sweet addition of an operatic aria, thrown in for good measure by a charming waiter, serenading us all with two gorgeous arias, one to begin the evening, and another to conclude?

Nice bookends indeed.

Now to read the book…happy me.



Fangirl happy to get a signed copy!

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Unclogging the air

By June 10, 2014 Books

Think you know about poetry readings?

Stuff and sombre snorefests?


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Book nerd kindred spirit guide

By May 23, 2014 Books

If you have a book to read, you are never alone.

It may take time to realize but loving books creates oodles of kindred spirits.

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Insult me properly

By April 23, 2014 Books

Shakespeare’s birthday usually results in tributes and toasts, but let’s have some fun and tell someone off. You suck is just not working for me.

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By April 10, 2014 Books

The Griffin Poetry Prize announced their shortlist this week.

Two favourite Annes made the cut. Read More

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Open your hands

By April 3, 2014 Books

I write poems to figure things out.

-Sarah Kay

This is the 15th year of National Poetry Month here in Canada.

Most of the poets I know don’t pay much attention when they are supposed to be fêted, toil as they do in the shadows for most of their hard scrabbled days.

This month-long toast to their craft and wizardry should also include spoken word brilliance.

Today’s salute goes to poet Sarah Kay.

Because I have two of my own, here is “If I should have a daughter…”



For more poetry, see:

We were all children once

Pack a rock

Mad woman in the forest

Besmirched, lacklustre and dauntless

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