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A Thousand Words For Stranger – Julie Czerneda

June 22, 2008

I met Julie Czerneda at the convention formerly known as Toronto Trek three years ago, when I was working at a table in the dealer’s room (which as it happens, was the only part of the convention I actually saw). She was sitting at the table next to mine and I got to chat with her sporadically throughout the afternoon – not terribly long mind you, as she was signing autographspretty much nonstop for most of that time – during which I chatted some with her husband and son. I came away from the day with the impression that she was a nice lady.

Fast-forward to 2007, when a friend who knew I was curious to check out Czerneda’s books lent me a copy of her book ‘Beholder’s Eye’ – Webshifters Book 1. I started reading it one afternoon and 413 pages flew by in a blur. I literally could not put the book down. I thought ‘wow, she’s pretty good’.

At Ad-Astra 2007, I attended one of her panels and listened to her read from her latest book. When I correctly answered a trivia question based on the material she’d just read aloud, I won a copy of the first book from that series. Since then, I’ve picked up a few more here and there – all on the strength of  ‘Beholder’s Eye’. Yes, it was something of a risk, but I’m happy to say that (thus far) it is a risk that seems to have paid off!

I just finished another one.

Title: A Thousand Words For Stranger
Author: Julie Czerneda
Date published: —
Origin: Rescued from a BMV

A Thousand Words for Stranger was Julie Czerneda’s first published book. As I understand it has quite the fan following and can occasionally be somewhat difficult to track down. I picked up a used copy at BMV, along with both its sequels (Ties of Power and To Trade the Stars).

The story centers around a young woman, who wakes up with no memory of who she is/how she got where she is. She’s led by compulsions she can’t understand, to find a ship on which she can flee – though of course she doesn’t know what (or who) she’s running from. She’s found by a captain named Jason Morgan, who grudgingly agrees to help her and gives her the name, Sira. Morgan, for all he seems to be a good guy, may of course actually know more than he’s letting on about his mysterious, amnesiac companion. Or, maybe he doesn’t. Half the fun is finding out.

Seeing as it’s a first novel, A Thousand Words for Stranger is not as finely polished as some of Czerneda’s more recent offerings. My complaints (if you’d call them that), are actually rather minor. Plot wise, the book does jump around a bit for a while, though that actually settles reasonably quickly. I found the constantly changing character POV a bit jarring and there’s at least one more twist at the end than I felt there needed to be – but overall, I still really enjoyed the book. I found the plot kept my interest well, fueling a desire to find out exactly what had happened to Sira.

I’m really looking forward to reading the next one.

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Born Confused – Tanuja Desai Hidier

February 22, 2008

Title: Born Confused
Author: Tanuja Desai Hidier
Date published: 2002
Genre: Young Adult
Origin: Rescued from a BMV

I found this book on a bargain table in BMV and picked it up at D’s urging – she’s seldom wrong when it comes to recommending things I’ll love – and at a whopping 50 cents, how could I refuse? (Incidentally a slightly battered copy of Jane Austen’s Emma was also rescued this trip, at $1.00)

I brought it home and settled down to read it. And with every page, became more and more hooked.

Sixteen year old Dimple Lala is an ABCD, an American Born Confused Desi. Born to Indian parents and living in New Jersey, USA – in her own words she’s not quite Indian, not quite American – and desperate to find her own place in the world. She has a passion for taking photos, a hobby she took up as a means to communicate with her Dadaji (Grandfather), to overcome a spoken language barrier and something that brought them together despite the fact that they lived on two different continents. She sees the world around her, through the unique view of a camera lens. Dimple’s favourite photography subject is her best friend Gwyn, who’s thin, blond, beautiful and popular – everything Dimple wishes she could be.

A double date-drinking misadventure leads to parental disapproval and Dimple’s parents deciding that they must step in and find a ‘suitable’ boy for Dimple. The suitable boy in question is Karsh Kapoor, son of an old friend of Dimple’s mother – and utterly unsuitable in Dimple’s eyes. Not long after, Dimple’s cousin Kavita invites her and Gwyn to a club in New York and Dimple is hooked on the music the DJ is spinning. And the DJ (Karsh) is very familiar – and just maybe not that unsuitable after all.

And then things get complicated.

I really, really enjoyed this book.

Going in I wasn’t totally sure exactly what to expect from the book (as young adult books can vary widely in terms of content/themes), I was pleasantly surprised.

The book tackles cultural identity – what it means to be both Desi and American – growing up with immigrant parents, whose values don’t quite mesh with yours and yet, finding out you have more in common than you thought you did. It also deals with questions of sexuality (a surprising revelation comes regarding the sexual orientation of one of the characters and one of my favourite secondary characters in the story is actually a drag queen) and a familiar staple of teen literature, having your heart broken.

The characters in particular are what made this book for me – each one is fleshed out and distinct and many of them feel like real people.

Final verdict?

Definitely worth a read!

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Lacking a clever title…

January 30, 2008

If you know me, you know that I have a problem.

Ok. I have all kinds of problems, but I’m focusing on one in particular for the moment.

I love books.

I don’t know how many I have, I’ve never counted – it would a daunting task to try and count them. I have four tall bookshelves full of them, several boxes in my attic and at least 8 boxes in storage with my parents. And I will continue to collect them. I find them all over the place, chain bookstores, used bookstores, I rescue them from garage sales or from boxes on the side of the road. And I bring them home and I read them. Many of them I’ve read more than once.

I have another problem. (And no, it’s not the fact I’m running out of bookshelves.)

People always ask me what I’ve read lately and like Michigan J Frog (ala Looney Tunes, you know the frog that will never dance if anyone else is around?) I simply can’t perform on command. Unless the book has struck a deep, deep chord in me (which I admit, happens frequently) – I can usually only remember the most recent book I’ve read. Otherwise, I’ll draw a blank. Until the person is gone of course, and title after title will pour into my brain.

So this is my attempt to keep track of the books I read.

Mostly for myself, but also for those people who want to know what I’m reading.