L.M. MONTGOMERY Let's start out with my favourite author, the incredible L.M. Montgomery. I love every one of her books, but considering they tend to run in series, I'll just give ya the highlights ... Anne of Green Gables Of the hundreds - possibly thousands - of books I've read and loved, this timeless classic may well be my very favourite. Who hasn't read the story of Anne, the red-headed orphan who is accidently sent to live with the Cuthberts, a brother and sister living at Green Gables, in the enchanting town of Avonlea, Prince Edwards Island? If you haven't, read it NOW. I don't care if you're 4 or 40, read it. And read the sequels, from Anne of Avonlea all the way to Rilla of Ingleside, too. Emily of New Moon The Emily trilogy, which continues with Emily Climbs and concludes with Emily's Quest, chronicles the life of Emily Byrd Starr, another Montgomery orphan. Emily longs to be a writer, and to follow the Alpine Path to fame and fortune ... anyone who knows me will see why I sympathize with Emily on that one. But, wouldn't ya know it, romance intervenes in the form of Teddy Kent, a childhood friend, and Emily's mysterious "second sight" also manages to play a role in her adventures. For any who are inclined to appreciate TV series based on great novels, check out the Emily series on CBC TV - can't say I've watched a whole lot of it, but I heard it's well worth the time. The Story Girl Remember Road to Avonlea, that great Canadian TV series? Well, this book, and it's sequel, The Golden Road, are the books the show was based on. In the fictional P.E.I. town of Carlisle, The Story Girl - a.k.a. Sara Stanley - is transplated from Montreal to grow up with her country cousins while her wealthy father is off in Paris. Enchanting the entire town with her knack for storytelling, Sara's adventures with her cousins, travelling the "golden road" of youth, make up these two idyllic novels. The Blue Castle One of Lucy Maud's lesser-known novels, this one was actually one of two novels she actually intended for adult audiences. Valancy Stirling is a heroine with spunk - at 29, she is the disappointment of the family, doomed to remain an "old maid" forever. But when she receives startling news that tells her she is dying, Valancy vows to discard tradition and propriety for life ... which sets off a very interesting chain of events. I could go on and on about L.M. Montgomery, but that would take up several more pages, so I think I'll let you go to the library and check out the rest of her books for yourself. LOUISA MAY ALCOTT From one L.M. to another ... I've always found it odd that Louisa May and Lucy Maud shared the same initials as well as the same genre. If you haven't read Little Women, you're crazy ... and that's all I've got to say about that. :) But what about its sequels? Have you read those? Huh? Have you, have you, huh? Well, what are you waiting for? Little Women Another one of those timeless classics that I'll always have sitting on my bookshelf, this is the story of the March girls - ladylike Meg, tomboy writer Jo, shy Beth, and pretty Amy - growing up under the watchful eye of their "Marmee" while their father is serving as a chaplain in the American civil war. Laughter and tears, adventures and romance come in turns as the sisters grow up ... but through it all, they never forget the bond of their family. Little Men Tomboy-ish Jo is all grown up and has realized one of her dreams - together with her husband, Professor Bhaer, she has turned Plumfield, home of her deceased Aunt March, into a school for boys. The adventures of these ragamuffin young boys, and the way Jo shapes them into "Little Men", is an enchanting story of childhood, and the lessons and trials that come along the way. Jo's Boys The boys of Plumfield are all grown up, and Jo has realized yet another one of her dreams. She is finally a famous writer, and is quickly learning what her newfound fame entails, with hilarious results. What happens to Jo's "Little Men", now grown up and ready for romance? I find that this often overlooked conclusion to the tales of Jo and the March family may well be the most poignant and mature volume of the series, and for any fans of Little Women who find themselves remembering how much they loved that book, go back and read this one, and you may find yourself shedding tears once again. GENE STRATTON PORTER The last of the historical fiction writers, I promise. :) I'm not going to give your synopsis' of the "Little House" books - that would be pushing my luck, no matter how much I love them. But there's one more book I want to talk about, one I discovered a little later than the Anne and Little Women series'. A Girl of the Limberlost Elnora Comstock is a country girl with dreams. Against the odds, she wants to go to high school and receive the education she knows she is worthy of, but her cruel mother stands in her way. Blaming her daughter for the death of her husband, Mrs. Comstock is a cold, sarcastic woman who has never shown Elnora any love or support. This plucky heroine manages on her own, using her love of nature to support herself by searching the Limberlost, the swampy forest where she lives, for butterflies to sell, until one magical day when the nature and wonder of this mythical place bring her and her mother together at last. The second half of this book reads like most historical fiction - Elnora grows up, falls in love, ya dah ya dah ... but it is the wit and magic of the characters that makes this novel memorable and alive. GORDON KORMAN Now let's go onto another Canadian writer, albeit still alive and a hell of a lot younger that L.M. Montgomery - Gordon Korman. This hilarious writer wrote his first book, This Can't Be Happening at MacDonald Hall!, as a school assignment when he was twelve years old. It got published, and he hasn't looked back since. Although best known for his Bruno and Boots series for young readers, I personally favour his young adult novels - they are absolutely hilarious. If you've got a wacky sense of humour, or wish you did, try one of these - I'll guarantee you you'll be laughing out loud, no matter how old you are. A Semester in the Life of a Garbage Bag One of the funniest books of all time. Raymond Jardine was born with no luck. Zilch, none, nada. And so, this unlikely hero sets off to win a trip to the Greek island of Theamelpos, a place where he believes he'll find the magical luck he's always lacked. With the help of Sean Delancey, Raymond re-creates a dead poet known as Gavin Gunhold in order to achieve an English mark that will get him to Theamelpos, and a wacky series of poetry and mayhem ensues. Absolutely hilarious. Losing Joe's Place Definitely another laugh-out-loud book ... but then again, I personally think all of Gordon Korman's books are. This one follows the story of Jason, a high-school junior from Owen Sound who comes to Toronto to spend a summer in the big city at his brother Joe's apartment. When he loses his job and falls under the watchful eyes of Plotnik, Joe's maniacal landlord, what does he do? He opens a restaurant, where the specialty is a dessert based on raw cake batter. Yes, you read that correctly. With a cast of characters with names such as Rootbeer Racinette (watch out - he deals out Bad Luck) and Ferguson Peach (the only thing he's not critical of is Stonehenge - it was built well), this book is a gem. Son of Interflux Simon Irving is the son of Interflux. What is Interflux, you ask? It's the world's largest company, responsible for making not one complete product, but hundreds of things the world cannot live without - like the balls used in ball point pens, and the gadget that holds a toilet seat to a toilet. Everyone at the Academy of the Arts, where aspiring painter Simon ends up, hates Interflux ... but they don't know that Simon's dad is the company's vice-president. So under the name Irving Simon, using the student council's carefully hoarded money, the son of Interflux buys up the one piece of land in the surrounding area that Interflux doesn't own, setting up a war with the company and his father. Insane characters and subplots, including tales of life as a student painter under Querada, the craziest artist you've ever met, make this a must-read. And by the way, Querada reminds me of one of my English teachers, Mr. Skolnik. I can just see him setting the curtains on fire to threaten me if my writing wasn't up to par ... It's a long story. Read it. Don't Care High Sheldon thought that all high schools were alike ... until he got to Don't Care High. No one at his new school has any ambition - none whatsoever. So together with a zany new friend, Sheldon decides to give the school some spark by nominating Mike, a strange guy no one seems to know anything about, for school president. Since no one else bothers to run (the school hasn't had a student council for over ten years) Mike is appointed as President without even knowing why or how. Soon, the entire school is caught up in Mike-Mania, and the object of adoration still doesn't have a clue what is going on. Orchestrating his plan through a series of hilarious twists and turns, Sheldon manages to make Mike a hero, and make Don't Care High a school with life ... until the mysterious school president announces that he is moving away ... What does Sheldon do? Well, in true Korman fashion, you can bet the conclusion is zany and humorous. WINSTON GROOM Moving on ... away from one hilarious author to the next. Through with Korman and looking for something not directed at kids? Try Winston Groom, author of Forrest Gump. Didn't know Forrest Gump was a book before it became an Oscar-winning film? Didn't know it had a sequel? Well, it was, and it does, and they're both well worth reading ... Forrest Gump "Being an idiot ain't no box of chocolates ..." Hey! I got that wrong, didn't I? It's supposed to be, "Life is like a box of chocolates ..." Nope. I was right, you were wrong, so there. :) Actually, Forrest Gump, the novel, is a lot darker than the film, so if you found the movie too sugary for your taste, give the book a try. Written completely in the words of Forrest - complete with absolutely hilarious spelling mistakes and accent - this book travels through American history in a way you've definitely never seen it before. And there are differences from the movie - Forrest does not run for three years across America, for one, but he does become a professional wrestler known as "The Dunce". And the ending of the book is quite different than the tear-jerker ending of the film ... but I won't give it away. Gump and Co. The sequel to Forrest Gump, this is another hilarious romp through history. From the Iran-Contra scandal to the Whitewater fiasco, Forrest finds himself embroiled in every major event in recent U.S. history, all the while striving to make his son, Little Forrest, proud of his Daddy. One of my personal favourite parts of this one involves Forrest's conversations with the "Ayatoljah" - including one line that I may never stop laughing at: "Father of God! Allah has sent me a swine merchant!" You're going to have to read the book to find out why that's so funny. DOUGLAS COUPLAND A fantastic Canadian writer, Coupland has his finger on the pulse of today's pop culture. After coining the phrase "Generation X" with his first novel, he's written three books and two collections of short stories since, all excellently written in a very uniquely Dougie way. Generation X Andy is a Gen X-er - stuck in a job he doesn't like, still a dreamer, surrounded by friends like him, wanting to do something, but not knowing what. From odd philosophies to the little moments in life, Andy's reflections are captured in this novel that any young person with a sense of observation (and a rather artsy, insane view of life) will easily identify with. The dialogue is real, and the characters like none others ... if you want to read Coupland, this novel is definitely the place to start. Shampoo Planet I personally think this is the weakest of the three Dougie novels I've read, but it's worth reading nonetheless. Tyler is part of the "Global Teens" generation - ambitious, driven by money, slick, and always with the right shampoo for the right occasion. After a summer fling in Paris threatens to disturb his placid existance, Tyler finds himself searching for the true meaning of life, and finds it in the oddest of ways - very Coupland-esque. Microsurfs This is a favourite of mine, sure to be loved by any computer nerds (not that I'm one - hee hee) or anyone who is into something just slightly out of the ordinary. Go to the bookstore - the foil-silver cover with the Lego minifig will definitely catch you eye. Daniel is a "Microsurf" - a low-grade worker at Bill Gates' enormous enterprise, programming by day, writing journals on his laptop at night, sharing a home with several other surfs. When one of his friends finally decides to cut loose from the great "Bill" and start his own company, Daniel follows, leading to the discovery of new ideas, new friends, and a new view of life. Have you noticed that Dougie C. is big on views of life? :) Girlfriend in a Coma Dougie's newest book, Girlfriend in a Coma, has just recently been released. I haven't read it yet, but look for a review here soon! AMY TAN Back to girly books. :) Or so most people would say. Something a little more modern than Anne this time, though. Hasn't everyone read The Joy Luck Club by now? Well, even so, it's worth reading again ... and again ... and yet again ... Yes, I do love TJLC. And I love Amy Tan's other books, too, so if you've only read TJLC, check them out. The Joy Luck Club This doesn't need much of an introduction ... I'm sure you've all read the book, seen the movie, and loved them both. The story of eight women, four Chinese mothers and their American daughters, this is a story of culture clash told through interwoven life tales of past and present. Gorgeously written, beautifully told, The Joy Luck Club is an incredible book, one of my favourites in the world, and definitely one that any child of immigrant parents will identify with. The Kitchen God's Wife American-born Pearl has never understood her mother. Fiercely protective and a staunch believer in Chinese superstition, Winnie Louie has hidden a secret all her life ... a secret she finally unveils in this haunting novel. A marriage at age 17 to a man Pearl has never known could possibly have been her father turned into a nightmare for Winnie, and it is this story, and the story of her escape from the horror of her life, that she passes on to her daughter. Lyrical, and emotionally gripping, this is a novel that establishes Amy Tan as more than a one-hit wonder. The Hundred Secret Senses Olivia is only five when her half-sister, Kwan, comes from China to live with her family and turns her world upside down. A strange tale of culture, superstition, and the bond of the family, this novel is a delicate weave of two stories, incorporating the past, the present, and the future in one. It only makes me hope that Amy Tan will have another novel out soon. IRIS RAINER DART Okay, this is Yaz's forray away from good literature and into something one might refer to as generic trash, but I love these two books all the same. :) Beaches Seen the movie? Now read the book. Like Forrest Gump, this story of trashy, egotistical performer with a heart of gold CeeCee Bloom's lifelong friendship with classy, poor-little-rich-girl Roberta White (not Hillary Whitney, as in the film) is not the best written book in the world, but the story manages to grab me nonetheless. Dart captures emotion and relationships extremely well - this isn't high-class literature, but good light reading nonetheless. I'll Be There The sequel to Beaches (no, they didn't make a movie of this one, yet), I'll Be There continues the story of CeeCee Bloom, this time telling the story of her relationship with Nina, the daughter of her deceased best friend, Roberta. From age eight to age fifteen, Nina grows up in the world of showbusiness, and we watch as this precocious little girl forms a bond with CeeCee, the consummate performer, as they both go through their ups and downs. Again, this is a story to be read not for delicate imagery and flawless writing technique, but for emotion, and for a story that is real. ROALD DAHL Let's finish this page off with some whimsical children's stories for the child in all of us. We all know about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ... what about another one of Roald Dahl's books? Matilda Matilda Wormwood is no ordinary girl. Oh, no ... Matilda is, in fact, a genius. After learning how to read at the age of two, and progressing to complicated multiplication by age five, Matilda is stuck living with two unappreciative, uncaring dolts of parents who want nothing more than to spend their lives in front of the television set. It takes a few clever tricks, a compassionate teacher named Ms. Honey, a terror of a headmistress known as The Trunchbull, and a hilarious combination of circumstances to wake them up - but leave it to Matilda, and read about how she does it. Okay, I think that's all the books we can handle for now. :) Check out some of the links to these authors below - I'd especially recommend Dougie C's site - it's very Warhol-ish, very cool.