Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Book Review: "Pandora Gets Jealous"

 "Pandora Gets Jealous" by Carolyn Hennesy seemed to jump out at me from the stacks of the library. I am a Classicist and love all things ancient Greek and Roman, so when I saw that this was an upbeat, modern young adult fiction about Pandora opening the box, I thought I would give it a try.

The story takes place in Ancient Greece, with Pandora as a moody, awkward teenager who has recently turned 13. Her father, Prometheus, is a titan who was entrusted with a box full of sorrows, plagues, and hope. As part of his punishment for stealing fire years ago, he has to guard the box and ensures that no one opens it. We all know that it is Pandora who opens the box, but like with any good story, the entrainment is in the details of how the author handles it.

As Pandora's punishment for opening the box, Zeus orders her to collect all of the evils that she has unleashed within six months. In this story, Pandora goes after the first plague, jealousy. The book is nicely set up for a series, one for each of the evils that Pandora needs to collect.

I enjoyed the book more than I thought I would initially. Although Pandora experiences a lot of teenage angst, she takes responsibility for her actions and works to correct them, which I thought was nice. Knowing so much about Greek mythology already made parts of this book quite funny and clever. There was also an interesting juxtaposition of ancient Greek culture with modern values.

Overall, this book is funny, easy to read, and has a cute take on giving Ancient Greek culture a modern twist. I would have no problem recommending it to the "tween" audience.

Monday, 28 March 2011


Here are two poems that I wrote in 2009 while I was taking a Creative Muse Course from the amazing Janet Whitehead of Musings and Mud (based on the book "The Nine Modern Day Muses (and a Bodyguard)" by Jill Badondsky).  I was learning to let loose creatively and thought I would try some poetry, something I had never done much of before.  We were working on the Muse Audacity, so I used that as my subject.  I had fun writing these poems, researching the rhyme schemes of sonnets, balancing my notebook on the arm of my chair as my squirming three year old daughter drew on one side of the page and I wrote on the other - these are wonderful notes, by the way, my daughter was in an alien phase and the pages are covered with them.   I felt so nervous bringing my poems to class and reading them aloud.  I think that it was only because of the support of the class and the subject of trying to be audacious that I had the courage.  I feel like writing these was a turning point.  My first poem was a sonnet.

Audacity I

A young spring flower ponders as it grows:
Blooming is so hard, it’s too hard, I fear,
I could look absurd, insane, who knows?
Will THEY find fault with all that I hold dear?

I have a plan, the shrinking violet said,
Compromise, so I won’t seem over-proud,
I’ll grow into a blade of grass instead,
Anonymous, I’ll blend in with the crowd!

But her spirit sings of audacity,
Her gift, herself, too sacred to let go.
She shines and blooms as big as she can be,
Beautiful, she inspires others to grow.
The birds and bees need flowers to grow bold,
We must listen and let our dreams take hold.

I liked that poem, but also had this other rhythm in my head that would not go away, so I finally paid attention to it (great lesson there!) and wrote the next poem as well.

Audacity II

Utterly outrageous!
Intrepid, unfearing, unashamed.
The world is my oyster,
I’m on a daring quest!

Bold-faced and brazen
Presumptuous, insolent, what a nerve!
Who do you think you are?
Have you no shame?
What is your worth?

What was I thinking?
Who do I think I am?
Down the drain, inane, insane.
Everyday, ordinary, routine, plain.
She’s so vain.  What a pain!

Hey!  No way!
Who am I?
Bold-faced and brazen!
 Brassy, beautiful,
 Adventurous and brave,
 A bodacious babe.

I am me,
I have found my pearl, you see.

So here they are, the poems that helped me to turn a corner on my creative journey.  I have Janet to thank for helping me to share them.  I would love to hear any feedback anyone has, or someone else's creative adventure.

c Coreena McBurnie, 2009.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Book Review: "Women Talking Dirty" by Isla Dewar

I finished reading "Women Talking Dirty" by Isla Dewar recently, and quite enjoyed it. It is the story of the lives and friendship of two women in Scotland, Ellen and Cora. Ellen is shy, a bit of a misfit, neglected as a child, unconfident, and has a on again off again marriage to a low life of a man. She falls into a career as a cartoonist and does not even realize that she is good at it. Cora is outspoken and wild, a single mom who put herself through school and enjoys being outrageous, though she does have secrets that she is hiding. These two opposite women become unlikely best friends.

I love the opening scene where they meet. Ellen and Cora are at a party when Cora looks at Ellen and realizes that they could be great friends. Cora goes up to the obviously very insecure Ellen and says: "You look like you could do with some serious corrupting" (p. 3). She then goes on to get Ellen drunk on vodka. It is a great way to begin this book and their friendship and certainly sets the tone. It also sets up another theme of the book, drinking lots of vodka.

Dewar expertly delves into the lives of these two women and makes connections. We see their growth and development, fears and anxieties. There is great dialogue and the story moves along well. I especially love the "women talking dirty" part, the way women are without men or children around, not editing, being themselves. There is a great quote that describes this:
In summer swallows dipped, swooped and cried. Children, kicking a football in the street, called to each other. And in small gatherings on the balcony women stood, arms folded, gossiping and laughing. That was Cora's favourite sound. That moment on summer evenings when women standing arms folded, discussing men, children, parents, stopped being wives, mothers, daughters and relaxed. That indiscreet cackle of women talking dirty. (p. 159)
This book is like that with the friendship of Ellen and Cora, they let down their guard (for the most part) and lay it out for each other. 

Dewar also gives us a glimpse into Scottish culture, complete with fun and colourful characters. I liked some of the minor characters as much as the main ones. One of my favourite was Emily Boyle, Ellen's elderly upstairs neighbour who claims to have played piano with Rachmaninov. She, also, is out to corrupt Ellen :
Every Saturday afternoon Emily Boyle would link arms with Ellen and they would set off on a mushroom quest. They rarely returned with mushrooms, they rarely returned sober. They weren't drunk, of course, just drunkish, deliciously touching the edges of silliness. (p. 185)
Though generally, the writing was great, I did have trouble following the point of view at times. It changes from Ellen to Cora frequently and I did get confused. The characters also frequently drift into the past, and, at times, this was also confusing. 

My emotions got wound up in this book a bit and I found myself in a bad mood, which I think had to do with some of the bad relationships described in the book. Perhaps this is a tribute to the calibre of Dewars's writing. Overall, I would highly recommend this book, especially to women who like books about friendship and good dialogue.

book:  Isla Dewar, "Women Talking Dirty," Headline Book Publishing, 1996.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Welcome to My Blog


I recently decided to start a blog about my creative adventures, which mostly involves writing.  I have written some poetry and have 2 novels, one in the middle of being edited, the other sitting completely unedited.  I wrote these in the last two National Novel Writing Months.  This is an amazing, fun, free program where you take on the personal challenge of writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days (the month of November).  Having the camaraderie of writing with thousands of other people and the looming deadline really works for me.

Once I figure out this blogging thing better, I hope to add a section for reading and writing events and resources in and around Kamloops.  I would welcome any emails or comments about things that you know of that are going on.  The only one I know of right now is a library book reading of Emma Donohue’s “Room.”  It is free, but you need to contact the TNRD library to book a seat.

I thought, however, I would start here with my one and only published piece of poetry (so far).  This appeared in the December-January 2010/11 issue of Kamloops Momma magazine (this is a great, local parenting magazine).  I first shared this poem at the Kamloops Writer's Fair open mike event.  It was the first time I got up in front of a crowd and read some of my work - I was shaking in terror, but it also felt good.  I would love to receive feedback.

Be Magnificent

I look at you, my beautiful child,
Full of perfect potential and endless possibilities,
And wonder what the future holds.
I’ll do my best not to steer you
In directions I wish I had taken,
I will listen,
And let you find your way.

Here we are, you with me and me with you.
This is my advice
On your first day of life,
of school,
of work,
of living on your own.
It can be summed up in two words:
Be Magnificent.

Simple words that hold so much.
Do you hear the power in these words?
Do you understand what they mean?

Look for the love, grace, and forgiveness in yourself and in others.
Live life with passion.
Follow your dreams.
Go on the adventure.
Garden with your jewellery on,
Try, fail gloriously, try again,
or not…
Follow your heart and
Be Magnificent.

There it is.
Choose your path and

Thanks for reading.

c Coreena McBurnie, 2010.