Sunday, December 29, 2013
More than watching the television coverage and seeing first hand accounts by people on the news and on Oprah, this book has made a profound impact on my understanding of this tragedy. The abruptness of her account, the fear, the numbness, it tells more about what happened, describes it better than any news story ever could have.
This was a really hard book to read. I would attempt a few pages every couple of days just to try and limit my exposure to Sonali’s pain and misery. I know that what I felt was a mere shadow of her very real pain, and that just provoked my feelings of compassion almost to the breaking point (and quite often tearfully beyond). I am so profoundly sorry for her loss and her suffering.
I made myself watch some footage on Youtube previously to reading this book, I wanted a true image in my mind not one from my imagination, I felt I owed the author that. I have only heard of one or two personal accounts from this tragedy, but nothing as graphic as this story which left me feeling raw and very in the moment. I’m glad she shared this experience, and think that it should be one of those books that must be read, because of her honesty. She held nothing back, told it all, left nothing to the imagination, and I think it is one of those life stories that should be shared and remembered.
Thursday, December 26, 2013
I have, for most of this month, been taking a reading holiday. This means that I have, at a whim, been reading what I want and it has not been too challenging, or inappropriate to the holiday just barely finished. I looked for inexpensive kindle books to read (mostly Pride and Prejudice variations which I will probably write about at some point after I have had the chance to re-read them again...which will most likely also be at a whim and when I need to take a break), and some Christmas themed stories (with one or two of them also a P&P variation). Naturally I revisited Dicken's A Christmas Carol.
So now that Christmas is over (pretty much), I pulled something out of one of my many boxes of books to read last night and this book, I thought, would be good for an appetizer. Since I have only read The Great Gatsby, I have no great expectations as to how this story would go not knowing what kind of story was typical for Fitzgerald, so it was a surpise. The movie brought my attention to the story (though I have never and probably shall not ever see the movie...I just can't bear Brad Pitt and it takes a lot for me to overcome that particular prejudice to see a movie he stars in), and I came across this little gem on a sale table for about a dollar or two (who could resist that?).
It is such a charming little book! It is almost what you would call a novella. The illustrations are rich and cheerful, adding that special something to enhance the story, the colours teal and purple unifying the illustrations throughout the book. I don't believe that I am giving anything away (thanks to movie trailers), but all I will say was that I was curious how this story might have come about...how he would have been born old in the first place (and a fully grown old man at that!) and how his life would have ended (no doubt the movie would have elaborated on that, but I can say no more without giving away too much information). This edition is worth a look, and I will be keeping an eye out for other pretty editions of the author's work.
Monday, December 9, 2013
I had to look up the word "beautiful" before I started to write this because it just is not the right word, it is not good enough, to help me describe what I feel and think whenever I have one of Cornelia Funke’s books in my hands.
Starting with The Thief Lord, then the Dragon Rider, the Inkheart trilogy and beyond, it has been a true life altering journey for me to read her books. I usually cannot wait for a Cornelia Funke book to go into paperback (my usual practice when buying new books, especially children's fiction), because not only am I impatient to see what she may have come up with next, but the hard covers are much nicer than the paper backs. Holding one of her books in my hand is a pleasure, the covers are richly coloured and perfectly illustrated for that particular story and the insides are just as enchanting...wonderful illustrations which are fitted to the words so beautifully that they take my breath away, and the words themselves create such deep and poignant feelings within me that I am transformed after reading only a chapter, or even just a page. She is just…magic.
What good fortune for me that she decided to do a Christmas book! With Funke’s typically impeccable style, she has crafted a story that tap’s what I think is the essential message of Christmas, and delivers her ideal in such a way that it is not overly sentimental but is (choose one of the following alternative words for beautiful):- attractive, handsome, lovely, charming, delightful, appealing, engaging, winsome, gorgeous, stunning, arresting, beguiling, graceful, elegant, exquisite, artistic, magnificent, divine, beauteous, comely, fair, of a very high standard, excellent.
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Not knowing Gaiman very well, but familiar to a certain point with his children's literature, I had thought at first that this must be another. It didn't take long to depart from that intial thought! This is no book for children! I feel as though I have started at the wrong end when it comes to Neil Gaiman. I would like to read his work from the start and observe his evolution (oh who am I kidding? I 'd like to do that with all of my new writers, I can't bear the thought that I have missed something!). Seriously though, I really think that reading everything this author has ever written would be a priviledge, and then I think I should go on and read all of the books that he thinks are just wonderful, because he has a voracious appetite for good literature and I cannot help but trust him to point me in a good direction.
Getting back to the Ocean, it was a short, amusing, scary little book, and something to add to your collection, buy this book! You won't regret it.
Sunday, December 1, 2013
I have been indulging myself by buying up e-books by Abigail Reynolds. She has a vast collection of Pride and Prejudice variations, each one slightly different, each one having you worry and hope that THE couple will end up together, somehow, someway. They are all like a box of chocolates…you really can’t just have one!
A Pemberley Medley. A cute collection of short stories featuring my favourite romantic couple. Each one an engrossing variation on the other. This is the first that I have read by this author, and I found it charming.
To Conquer Mr. Darcy. This variation was shocking. There was more than enough sexual tension in it to actually bore me. I don’t wish to be rude or critical, I don’t wish to hurt anyone for any reason, but I disagree with the amount of sexual content, and of the actual alteration of the protagonists’characters to enable such content. I have become very familiar over the years with each character in Pride and Prejudice, and this did not sit well with me.
Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World. I found this variation to be very interesting. While still having some sexual tension, this time it felt like the right amount at the right time, and accentuated a perfect moment in the story. This is the kind of story that engages me because here are the very same two characters encountering and overcoming problems so that they can ultimately be together. Georgianna Darcy, however, was very out of character, and it was incongruent with previous versions (though I guess it could be valid considering her circumstances).
Mr Darcy’s Undoing. Again this is a variation that was interesting, but then became quite uncomfortable for me because yet again we have people behaving out of character, and there is sex in abundance. I admit that this time I caught myself just skimming the sex scenes (and I was NOT tempted to go back again to see what I had missed).
Sex can be a very useful storytelling device, especially when you have two such passionate individuals as Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy. Jane Austen was not afraid to mention this in a favourable light in her book, but never went into details (which has always been the charm in her stories). I also understand other peoples needs to indulge in a little sex for these two, as they might have felt a little ripped off after the two of them taking such a long, hard time to finally get together. While Reynolds does her sex scenes very well, I have to admit that it is too much, and even knowing how passionate our couple is, it just isn’t possible for them both to have such weakness of character to behave in such an inappropriate way.
I will still read them all (I have six more of Reynolds’ books to read on my Kindle app), because I just cannot resist a Pride and Prejudice story.
What Would Mr Darcy Do? Was a relief. All the angst, fear, suspense, and then gratifying satisfaction (sans sex!). After reading so many of these stories I am going to take a lovely long break and look forward to future indulgences in the new year (which I promise not to write about!).
Friday, November 29, 2013
As stories go this one was enthralling. It was full of melancholy, it seemed to wash out everything else, even the painful or shocking parts, kind of softening the blow I suppose. The protagonist Jeanne makes some bad decisions and suffers all of the consequences, continually. I couldn't put it down, being over curious about how it would all end, and it ended just as it started, softly. It puzzles me, and annoys me just a little bit, but then that just means that Maupassant did a great job by making me care about the story. I am looking forward to reading his other books, but have learnt from this year's experience that too much isn't a good thing, so I will pick Maupassant up again in a couple of months (perhaps after I have done some more research).
Monday, November 25, 2013
First up is Ozric Tentatcles’ Paper Monkeys. This instrumental music was absolutely perfect to listen to while reading the Winston Science Fiction Series. Their futuristic sounds magically enhanced my spacey reading experience.
Bernard Haitink with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra’s Tchaikovsky: The Symphonies was vital in my reading of Android Karenina, even with it’s crazy “quirky” sub plots, was really the only way to go, I don’t think I can ever read Tolstoy without Pyotr Ilyich’s music in the background. It was weird, in a fanatic way, you can’t help loving the Quirk.
Read some Scandianvian crime fiction this year? Adrian Lux and The Swedish House Mafia were listened to a great deal while I read Steig Larsson’s Millenium trilogy.
The Icelandic post rock group Sigur Ros was very apt for Quentin Bates’ Icelandic mysteries,
Finland’s Husky Rescue for Lucifer’s Tears by James Thompson. It was a cultural learning experience for me to sample all at once, the differences in each Scandinavian country and their music as well as their literature.
Swedish folk rock group Junip kept me company for many other books read this year, as well as the Scottish electronica group Boards of Canada.
I value electronica in many ways, but having it enhance my reading experience drives me to seek out more from this wonderful genre.
The cool, mellow music of Kurt Vile was also used to great advantage. This music is so relaxed that I think you could read practically anything and it would be an easy going peaceful experience.
Steven Wilson’s album this year covered all of the rest. While it is hard to pick just one particular favourite amongst all the music I listen to, I do like to choose him very often as great music to read by. Not just this particualr album, every album of his is a sublime experience, to read by, eat by, drive by, whatever you want to do!
I will make a habit however of reading something every year. I would like more than anything to just slow down a little and take the time to consider each story, write about them, even research them, just pull it apart in every way possible, giving to the story a concentrated attention that helps me to see everything it is and could be. He has made an indelible mark on my life. He is responsible in part for the kind of person that I am. At isolated, rare moments in my life I have looked at the world through his eyes and believed in the beauty of and the joy in living that was his very own precious belief. Can you blame me for loving him so much?
Apart from not giving us girls a fair shake, I just love these stories. They are a part of another era long gone, that teenage boy dream of going out into space, before it was a reality, and showing us at the same time what a person ’ought’ to be like, forward thinking, smart, strong, brave, and an all around good person, always being selfless and thoughtful, the ideal future human (blah, blah, blah). Misogyny aside, what a great thing for impressionable kids to aspire to? (In a Leave it to Beaver kind of way...) I really am trying not to be too sarcastic about this, they were, after all, meant to be a good thing.
I read over a dozen of these books this year and some stories had issues that I thought were very important to consider and discuss (can you imagine some young lads in the fifties and sixties, sitting around and having literary discussions about this?) I would like to believe that they did. In the interest of fairness, there were only a few books that were outrightly derisive of girls, for the most part, if there were females in the stories they were a mixed bag of sensible, intelligent women who could hold up under extraordinary circumstances... it just wasn't important to mention it very often (or at all...). I value these books because they are something special from a period of time where Science fiction was still in it's infancy, and as a series goes, they were very attractive to look at, the covers were all intriguing and very spacey.
Pretty aren't they!
Friday, November 22, 2013
All the Wrong Questions
Who Could That Be At This Hour? #1 by Lemony Snickett
Who Could That Be At This Hour by Lemony Snickett is the hilarious first instalment of his All The Wrong Questions series. I have always loved a good mystery, and this one will keep you on your toes, as well as improve your vocabulary.
Not only is it full of action, it has lots of unusual, irritating, and interesting people and a unique setting, it has many references to other books (the titles are not mentioned, so it is fun to figure out which ones they are), and the longer words are defined which is great for kids who already don’t know what the words are. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next.
Professor Gargoyle: Tales From Lovecraft Middle School #1
By Charles Gilman; illustrated by Eugene Smith
Quirk has done it again! I loved, loved, loved this book! Here we have the perfect blend of strange, creepy and horrific (which I am sure H.P. would have given his two thumbs up for). Not only will the front cover draw kids in but the story will hold them…this is the kind of stuff that kids should (in my opinion) just lap up. The black and white illustrations throughout were superb, giving the story that extra little oomph. I can’t wait to read what’s next, and I really can’t wait to get this book on to the library shelf!
Phineas L. MacGuire Erupts!
By Frances O’Roark Dowell
An all around feel good book, written with a sense of humour and an enthusiasm for science. I liked the message this book gave about friendship and gender roles. The experiments in the back of the book will also be a lot of fun and be easy to do.
The Key to Rondo by Emily Rodda
This one has been sitting in my school basket for quite some time, and I had been putting it off because it was obviously a fantasy story and I was just off the genre all last year. This year is different, and I actually really enjoyed this story. There were lots of references to fairy tales, nursery rhymes etc., which were pretty funny eg. “Polly ran off to put the kettle on”, I got a good chuckle out of that one.
Naomi’s Road by Joy Kogawa
A troupe performed this opera at my school last fall and it has taken me all this time to pull out the book, and then listen to the opera (the group very kindly left two copies of the opera for class discussion). I personally think that this is a topic that isn’t discussed as much as it should be when November comes around and there is some attention paid to Remembrance Day.
I want to seek out Kogawa’s other novels and her adult story of ‘Obasan’ of which ‘Naomi’s Road’ is based on.
The New Normal by Ashley Little
This book did not turn out to be what I had expected: an issue book! Instead the main protagonist Tamar is engrossing, interesting and funny. I had in the recent past just talked to someone who had become a widow about how she should not be seeking to get her old life back, but how instead she should be building a new life around what her circumstances really are now that she has to live without her husband, and in this book you get to see Tamar do just that, learn to live her “new normal” life. This is a definite ‘must read’ for teens.
I have always been reluctant to read Steinbeck.
Of Mice and Men was simply awful. Well written, but about such an ugly topic. I was impressed by Steinbeck’s imagery of the outdoors at the beginning and end of the book (it is curious that he did it that way instead of establishing scenarios throughout the story and changes of scenes). It is almost as if he can see only beauty in nature and that humans are not worthy of the same effort. The book was clearly written as something to be acted out in a play, and I can honestly say that I will not be attending any performances. I was left feeling nauseated, sick at the ugliness of human nature which even Steinbeck’s descriptions of the scenery in the last act did nothing to cleanse from my heart.
I hope that rest of his work is unlike in character to this one, but I suspect it will be.
Howl’s Moving Castle
I watched the Studio Ghibli movie first, which was a wonderful treat (and so sweet!), so I couldn’t wait to get stuck into the books. Howl’s Moving Castle, being the first in this trilogy was wonderful, full of mystery, romance and magic. As with any movie, there are always parts that cannot be included, so it was a real treat to get all of the things that were missed. While both movie and book are similar there are many wonderful variations and I would recommend both, but perhaps watching the movie first (shocking I know!)
Castle in the Air, was another exciting story, and this time with an Arabian Nights flavour full of enchantments, magic carpets, and djinn. It reminds me of the Narnia Chronicles, in it’s diversity of climates, culture and magic.
The House of Many Ways finishes off this special trio of books. I really enjoyed reading them all, and look forward to reading this author’s other collections. I was so comfortable and at ease I can’t help but want to find out how her other books are written and if this is a style that will dominate all of her fiction. It was such a pleasure to read.
I first encountered this book at Fan.Fiction.Net I went back and re-read it twice before it was mostly removed from the site inviting us to buy it at Amazon.ca. It was my first Kindle purchase, and I was extremely excited to buy it. You can look at the authors othre fan fiction here Elizabeth Adams it is worth a peek, and you can buy her e-book here The Houseguest.
Thursday, November 21, 2013
My first thing to try out was buying e-books from Amazon.ca. I can't tell you just how satisfying it was to buy a book online and receive it three seconds later!
I will now proceed to publish what I have written over the past two months. It isn't as much as I had thought, and only very rough drafts as I have been too preoccupied with my job and very tired as well. With the addition of another classroom at my school I now have twice as many responsibilities, plus the new teacher wants me to provide an activity as well as story time, and I now have a preschool group that comes in twice a week. I thrive on the challenge! I just love it when I read a book to a group of kids and I make successful connections, and I am very happy to be now reading to preschoolers as well, it meets a need in myself to reach as many kids as possible.
It will be a very busy day today, I will be doing a continuation of my theme from last week of English folklore and fairy tales with a factured fairy tale called Jim and the Beanstalk by Raymond Briggs, and then we will finish off our project from last week which is a large picture of a beanstalk though today we will be adding a little Jack and a giant at the top of the beanstalk (giving the kids the option to make the giant with a scared 'aargh I am falling face' or an angry 'fie fi fo' face).
I promise to get working on those blog entires this weekend, it is amazing that even though I have not been posting I have now over 5000 views on this blog, thank you! See you soon!
Friday, September 6, 2013
First book in the trilogy…
Okay, I must admit I was very stricken by how many similarities there were in this story compared to Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, and it biased me for a while, because, quite frankly, I am “super sick” of the whole teenage love/angst paranormal scene. But I persevered, and found that, even though there are some likenesses here, there are also quite a few differences, and that the similarities aren’t a bad thing because Stiefvater chose the things that I particularly liked about the Twilight books. For example, a strong female protagonist who is smart and independent. The use of poetry and mention of other good works that teens might not even think about reading (but might now!), and the show of respect and restraint on the male protagonist’s part when it comes to having sex, and even when it does come up, it is in the right conditions and all about love (as it ideally should be). I Liked how both protagonists, Grace and Sam, had a share of page time, I got to see and understand both characters from their points of view.
All in all Shiver, though heavily steeped in romantic metaphor (all on the male protagonists part!), is just about perfect for the girl who wants these ingredients in her next romantic book after Twilight.
On to part two in the trilogy, it didn’t behave as I expect most trilogies to behave, this wasn’t really a filler piece… there was loads of action, the usual gooey, romantic metaphors, and a cliff hanger at the end. Unlike Shiver, you cannot just leave now if you wished because it wasn’t wrapped up in a neat conclusive parcel.
I would like to say that I am glad that this time there were four people telling the story, apart from Sam and Grace, there is now Isabel and Cole, because it really made the difference I think in the pace and interest of the ‘middle’ part. I have to say that I am pleased with how little steeped it was in werewolf lore. The wolves are just the catalyst for the story and stay in the background behind the character development of the four protagonists.
Forever, the last book in the series, maintains the same tempo as the first two, concluding satisfactorily all four threads of the story. I am relieved to have finished them, though it wasn’t too hard for me (despite so many corny metaphors). This is a wolf story that I did’t mind (because the other were books making the rounds these days seem to be so gritty and aggressive). The story was nice and the wolves were just wolves, doing natural wolfy things, not human ones. That is what made the difference for me when reading this.
Griping aside, this book was food for thought, and made me wonder what we will evolve into eventually. We have lots of options thanks to popular fiction (Isaac Asimov’s future history is my favourite choice here...when there was robots naturally...) and television shows (the Star Trek universe), but in the actual future, how will we really turn out? I can’t possibly predict. Any ideas?
Friday, August 23, 2013
Belleme. I learned something I did not know (bonus!), and also found out that the way I have been habitually eating since becoming a vegan is pretty healthy. Especially the past two years when I started eating more Japanese food: Miso, Tamari, Green Tea, Tofu and Soy milk. Add to that brown rice, Matcha powder and Edamame and my diet looks pretty healthy during the wintertime which is when I favour this kind of food. Give myself a huge pat on the back!
I admit I haven’t been paying too much attention to all the hype about the “superfood”. It is only curiosity that got me to look at this book, and I found out something kind of shocking. I eat a lot of superfood… without even trying to. Phew! I guess. What I did find shocking is how lots of people don’t eat the same way. There was lots of coaxing in this book, suggestions for how someone could incorporate a superfood or two into their diet, and how it would eventually become a habit. Now that is scary!
Another shocking read… shocking because of some of the things that they considered to be healthy.
Local author! So local I have even been to the restaurant Gorilla Food, just located down the street from my favourite used books store in downtown Vancouver. I can testify that the truffles are decadently delicious. Raw foods is a new interest for me. I have been reading whatever I can find for the past two years, looking for something that will promote better health for myself, and the raw food movement seems to be it (when it’s warm enough!). I have been waiting for our garden to grow some of the ingredients I need to test this book out, so I might get back to you later with some food porn…yum.
Any way you shake it, a vegan raw food diet is a really primo one, full of variety, health and joy because of the benefits to and for the planet and our bodies, I will leave you with a little ‘funny‘, which really cracked me up when I first saw it because this particular question has been asked of me many times over during my life as a herbivore…