metro mama

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Metro Reco: Mister Pip

Update: The 3 copies have been claimed!

“A person entranced by a book simply forgets to breathe.” --Mister Pip

I didn't stop breathing, but I was completely mesmerized by Mister Pip a two-sitting read, perfect for a couple of sunny afternoons in my backyard.

On a war-torn tropical island, all of the teachers have fled, and the sole remaining white man, the mildly eccentric Mr. Watts, takes on the job during a time of turmoil and upheaval. With only one classroom, and no lesson plan, Mr. Watts introduces his pupils to “Mr. Dickens” by reading Great Expectations aloud. One of Mr. Watts’ most promising students, thoughtful 13-year-old Matilda, is particularly captivated by Dickens, and identifies with his character, Pip. Soon her imagination is filled with the sights and sounds of Victorian England; her mother on the other hand, is suspicious of Mr. Watts and his influence on the children of the island.

A coming of age story, a sober reflection on the horrors of war, an allegorical metafiction, Mr. Pip affirms the power and magic of literature. The novel emphasizes the redemptive quality of stories: their ability to cross cultures; their gift of comfort and escape; their capacity to heal.

Mister Pip is now in paperback, and I have copies for the first three Canadian folks to email me at metro[underscore]mama[at]hotmail[dot]com.


Monday, May 26, 2008

Imagine All The People

When I signed up with C*ntiki for our trip, it was mostly because they were the cheapest and most convenient way to see everything we wanted to see. I was really nervous about touring in a group, so actually liking my tour mates was a happy surprise!

First of all, I don’t think a tour is for everyone. You definitely need to be outgoing. When we piled into the bus at 7 am the first day, with Italian pop music blaring on the speakers, I was a little nervous. But I quickly adapted, and socializing on the bus was soon part of the fun. We tried to switch seats every day to get to know new people.

There were 40 in our group, which sounds big, but we were still pretty nimble getting around. It was a great mix of people, with probably a third over 30, and several couples as well as singles. There weren’t as many different nationalities as I’d hoped--Canadians were the largest group, followed closely by Australians, a few Americans, and one man from South Africa. The Aussies were the best partiers, by the way.

The group dynamics are pretty interesting. We tried to eat with different people at most of the meals, but we still didn’t get to know a few people as well as we’d hoped. As a whole, our group got on together marvellously (except by the end we were a little, OK a lot, divided about our guide).

I adored our guide. The fact that he drank beer with us on the boat at 9:00 in the morning did not bother me one bit (a few folks had a problem with that). As long as he shared (which he did) most of us were cool with it. IMHO it’s just not right to be sitting on a boat on a beautiful day without a frosty beverage.

Christian (the guide) is a very cool guy. He is s funny, street smart and tough, yet he did something sweet for every anniversary, birthday, and occasion that took place during the tour. At the nightclub in Florence he took over the mike and enlisted a couple of us to get the 10-year anniversary couple up on the platform for a dance. In Tuscany, he remembered a mother’s day toast for Sam (mother of 4 girls!) and I. He sent us with champagne on our gondola ride. He is charming and generous, and I miss him already.

We had the most impressive driver, Cornelius. I get such a kick watching people drive in Europe—I couple of times we sat in the front seat to be entertained by his maneouvers. In Florence, during a particularly dicey turn, we got stuck, unable to advance or back up. Four of the strong men on the bus hopped out and literally picked up a car to move it enough for Cornelius to inch by (all the while, an old man held up behind us was out of his car, shouting and grabbing his crotch, the signal for “you’re busting my balls!) Unflappable, Cornelius always had an infectious grin and a cheerful “buonjourno!” I miss him too.

We had a couple of party animals in the tour, Adam and Steve. I think they both managed to party until 3 am every single night of the tour (I had to alternate nights). Easy going, always smiling, they are my kind of people.

Another very chill person, beautiful and lovely, is the object of my girl-crush, Julia, from LA. I’ve asked her to come visit us in Toronto some time, and I hope I sold her on our city.

Then there was Azzat, who I had to help with all the social drama caused to him by facebook. He cracked me up with all of his stories of exploits with the ladies.

But most of all, I really bonded with Sarah. Another English major, we had so much to talk about, and instantly clicked. She is so smart, and sweet, and fun (she’s another participant in the absinthe incident I told you about earlier). She just lives in Chicago, so I definitely hope to see her again.

There are so many more folks to talk about, but this is getting long, and if you’re still here you’re probably bored. My point is, two thumbs up for the group tour. We had plenty of free time, but some of the experiences were greatly enhanced by being communal (the blue grotto, for example). At our farewell dinner, where we were serenaded by wonderful singers, we all sang together, and made a racket with the instruments they had thoughtfully provided (McHotty and I joked it was just like circle time, but the only one who got it was the childcare worker). I was actually a little veklempt at that moment.

Anyone else done a tour like this? Which operator? Did you like it? Did you form any lasting friendships?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Elizabeth Hay Blog Tour: Conclusion

I few weeks ago, I posted the first stop on the Elizabeth Hay Blog Tour.

Elizabeth has just returned from her tour of the North, where she revisited the Yukon and Yellowknife, the setting of her Giller winning novel, Late Nights on Air.

You can catch the rest of Elizabeth's chronicles at the following booklovers' sites:

May 2: The Book Mine Set

May 7: Pickle Me This

May 15: The Library Ladder

Want more Elizabeth Hay? As part of the Toronto Public Library's Downtown Author series, she'll be doing a reading at the Toronto Reference Library (Beeton Auditorium) on Thursday, May 29th at 7 pm. There will be a question and answer period after the reading.

See you there!


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

More Italia

I wish I’d had the time to blog more in Italy--it’s so much harder to get the impressions down after the fact. But I still want to share a few of my pics, and talk about a few of the places I haven’t talked about yet.

Cinque Terre

Unfortunately our day in Cinque Terre was the one day it rained during the vacation. And it was cold! That didn’t stop me from sitting on the top level of the ferry to get these beautiful pics:

The towns of Cinque Terre have so much charm. They also have gorgeous beaches, (which we didn’t get to use). Another thing I really wanted to do, and didn’t have the time, was to hike between the villages. We walked a brief stretch on one of the trails, and the view was gorgeous. Next time!


I’m usually not a shopper, and I did not think Milan would be one of my favourite stops on the trip, but it was! The energy, money, and pace reminded me of London. As you’d expect, everyone is dressed to the nines (this is true in much of Italy, but especially in the North). Even the children are dressed in expensive shoes. I actually managed to buy some new clothes, in record time. At one point McHotty was in line to pay for a few things, while I was off to the next shop. I purchased a dress, a tunic, and a couple of sexy tops, all for 100 euro. I also learned, I love negotiating a deal for a knock-off bag.


Venice is probably my favourite city. When we stepped out of the train station, and I caught my first sight of the Grand Canal, I had one of those really moving moments, where I feel a lump in my throat (this also happened to me in the Blue Grotto, in Capri). And it happened again in Venice, at dusk, when the lights suddenly came on in the square. Stunning. We will be back to Venice one day, to share it with Cakes. I want to be there to see her face when she sees this beautiful, unique city for the first time.


We finished the trip in Rome. Again, like Florence, we just didn’t have enough time. We expected this, and knew it was the trade-off for getting to see so many different places in so little time. No regrets. But like in Florence, we didn’t have time for any museums. Another place we’ll have to get back to. We did do an excellent guided tour of Imperial Rome, including the Coliseum. The Coliseum made me feel really strange--it’s hard to get your head around the fact you’re standing in a place where so much violence took place.

We only had a day in Rome, but we did make it to Vatican City. We visited St. Peters, and were wowed by the grandeur.

Photos can’t capture it. By this time, we were beat, so we had to skip the Vatican Museum (we needed to get back to our hotel in time for a last-night quickie in Rome, and a nap before the farewell dinner). And speaking of the farewell dinner, I still have to tell you about the people. Next post!


Monday, May 19, 2008

A Lot to Come Home To

Update: Some pics added to Italy posts below!

We arrived home last night, just in time for Cakes’ third birthday today. She seems to be fine with our absence--when she saw us, she just beamed, and exclaimed, “you’re home!” Then she asked for presents, which she'd remembered I'd promised two weeks ago. She is so well adjusted--I’m very thankful.

The trip was fantastic. I’ll finish telling you about it as soon as I have a chance.

My mother-in-law was here looking after Cakes, and she kindly had everything ready for her party today. I just had to ice the cupcakes this morning. But between the jet lag and a party for a three-year old, I’m bloody exhausted. So I’ll leave you with some pics until I can recover enough brain cells to string a few words together.

Happy birthday, my love. You are an amazing little girl, and I’m so proud of you.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Venice, Baby!

I dont know what day it is anymore. This trip has been fantastic, but the pace is catching up--Im whipped. Its late at night and we just came back to our hotel after walking for about nine hours in Venice (I cant find the apostrophe, in case youre wondering why theyre all missing). Venice is truly amazing. Its so easy to lose the crowds in just a few minutes, and get lost. Will talk more about it when I have my pics.

Yesterday we went to Lake Garda, on a boat trip (the Italian version of the Muskokas). We had our best meal of the trip, on a lovely balcony overlooking a castle, a canal, with a view of the sea. A crisp white, and some fish and I was happy, happy, happy.

Tomorrow, a long bus trip back to Rome. The next day, were doing a very full day in Rome, and that night were having a farewell party--there will be a lot of slobbery, slurry hugs Im sure.

Am completely beat now. Miss my babe. Pics and stories coming soon!


Wednesday, May 14, 2008


I feel like I'm so behind in my updates--so much has happened in the last few days, I don't know where to start. I don't have adequate words for Italy--I'm going to wait and talk about the places more when I get home and can post along with the pictures. Each region is so unique and it just keeps getting better.

I'm so happy with Contiki thus far. But the pace is incredible--a fast pace is our thing, and this is really pushing the limits. What I didn't expect to happen is that I'm in love with my tour mates. There are 40 of us, which is a lot, but we really gelled pretty much from the first day.

The day after Sorrento we travelled to Capri. OMG. Again, will talk about more when I have the pics. We jumped into a couple of boats and had a 2.5 hour tour around the island, passing a few pints around and sitting back in the boat with big smiles on our faces. Then we pulled into a cove where there a couple of dozen men in tiny rowboats--the Blue Grotto. We jumped into the floors of the boats, and ducked through an opening in a hole in the rock, into a cavern where the limestone under the water reflects the light creating a luminous turquoise colour. The men sing as we explore the cave. It was just magical.

After dinner that night a half dozen of us decided to go back to our terrace for another bottle of wine (McHotty and I always keep a reserve in our room). We finished our reserve, then Mike's, then Steve's Limoncello, then Julia (who I have a girl-crush on) brought out the absinthe. We did shots of absinthe, and after a few minutes we didn't see any green fairies, so Julia filled out glasses again. Next thing I remember, we're talking to a couple of women on scooters outside the hotel who give us directions to the local bar (we were in a little town outside of Sorrento called Meta). We get there and the place is packed--the local band is playing American rock and roll. We just had a blast (as far as I can recall).

We got home at 3 or 4 I think and had a 5;45 wakeup call for the longest drive of the trip--from Sorrento to Tuscany. I thought I might die. We made it to Tuscany by mid-afternoon where we had a wine tasting and sampled a couple of local specialties (sheeps milk cheese and olive oil). The tasting revived us, and we felt good for the Karaoke bar in Florence that night (but we made it an early one).

Ah, Florence. We went to a leather demonstration at a wonderful leather shop and I thought my head would explode--I wanted to buy everything in the place. That night we had a wonderful group dinner at a villa in Tuscany with a breathtaking view of the landscape. That night we went to a dance club in Florence where celebrated the ten-year anniversary of Sam and Roger (the only other couple with kids--they have four girls!) Sam and I thought it rather ironic we were spending mothers day dancing on a platform in a club, but hey. When in Rome.

Anyway, Im almost out of minutes, and McHotty is pacing outside. We are in Verona today and we only have an hour or so left before we push off for Venice. Yesterday we did Milan (yay, shopping!), and the day before, Cinque Terre. Still have lots more to tell you about the people, and our tour guide who is rocking our world. Will fill you in more soon.

Ciao Bellas!


Thursday, May 08, 2008

Sipping and Cybering

McHotty and I have found the perfect compromise in Sorrento--a cocktail lounge/internet cafe! I can blog without being furtive!

The trip is fab so far. Flight was great. Nice group--an Australian couple our age we really hit it off with already. Tour guide is awesome.

Today we left Rome and went to Pompei. Such a fascinating place. I'll post some pics and explanations when I get home.

After Pompei we drove down the gorgeous Amalfi coast, to Sorrento, where we took off from our group and just had a fabulous dinner. The house wine was so tasty we bought an extra bottle to go. For those of you coming here by googling restaurant in Sorrento, the name of the place is O Parruchiano, at Corso Italia 71. You're welcome.

I'm really missing Cakes, but I just had a comforting but somewhat disturbing email from my mother-in-law that Cakes is doing just fine thanks.

Tomorrow we're off to Capri for the day. Our slightly laviscious (in a charming way) tour guide keeps reminding us to pack our bikinis. Fat chance.

Arrivaderci dudes!


Monday, May 05, 2008


I cannot believe it is May already. Spring has been a whirlwind.

Last week was my first sales conference for work, an exhausting but exhilarating experience. Have I told you how much I love the publishing biz? For sales conference, all the sales reps come to town, and along with publishers, editorial staff, marketing and publicity, we talk about the fall titles for a whole week. Holy shit, are there a lot of titles. I had a stack of spreadsheets, and I circled each book I want to make sure I read--I must have a hundred by now. A couple of highlights for me: David Bergen’s new novel and Broken, by Daniel Clay (this is being comped to Lullabies for Little Criminals). So I’m busily working on the Bronte’s now, for my summer course, to clear the plate for fall.

Sales conference also brings parties. I had a great time, and got to know people better, but I was wiped after two nights out in a row. I had to have a quiet weekend to detox before we leave for Italy.

Have I mentioned Italy lately? We leave tomorrow! I still haven’t listened to my CD that is supposed to teach me Italian in an hour. But I know the most important words: vino rosso, per favore! Grazie!

I’m going to try to give you updates on the trip like I did last year. But you know how McHotty feels about that. But I’m stealthy.

In case you don’t hear from me for a little while, be well everyone. I will take lots of pics to post on my return.


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