Sunday, March 29, 2015

And now for something a little darker...

Unapologetically, I really enjoyed this book.  After skimming some reviews in goodreads, this appears to be quite the polarizing book and folks either love it, or don't connect with it at all. There are few middle of the road responses to this.

I think what turns a few folks off is that it is compared as a coming of age novel, yet a bit darker, than Harry Potter or Narnia. This is a little bit true (as someone that is currently re-reading HP with their eldest) but doesn't quite knock the nail on the head.  This is something completely different - a little darker in the sense that not everything seems to work out as well, and that the characters are far from perfect and are not always all that likeable.

This was a surprisingly quick read - I had 250 pages to go on Friday and this is due at the library tomorrow.. I didn't quite see me finishing it time, but I did.  This is the kind of book that warns you to be careful about what you wish for, and what happens when we keep running from ourselves.  The magic that is learned in this book, isn't always done easily, and people pay a price for performing it.  Mistakes happen.  It can also been viewed as an academic pursuit, and it does delve in to what happens to magical families, or folks from non-magical families.  This also delves in to another world that was at first just a fantasy, but which the characters find themselves a part of in the second half of the novel.  This is a different coming of age novel, and I really enjoyed it for its differences.  It isn't quite as enchanting as HP, but then again, it doesn't have to be.  It is the first book of a trilogy, and I will continue to read them.  It feels like the last year has been all about literature and fantasy books.  This is one of the better ones.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Safe sox.

I think I am starting to get the hang of socks.  Years ago, I made a pair for B, and then a pair for C.. and then I abandoned making socks.  Then last fall, during Outlander, I made my BFF a pair of socks watching episodes.  Last fall, I made her socks, a scarf for my aunt, a hat and scarf for my mom, a hat for my dad, and I believe a few dishcloths.  Truly, you can never have enough handmade knitted dishcloths lying around.. I have discovered they make great teacher's gifts...

Now it is a new season, and it was time to pick up the needles again.  I made myself a pair of socks, and now it is C's turn.  These are his pair.  I used this sock recipe Ribbed Socks for Kids (Pattern by Susan B Anderson).  It is a great recipe.  Everything the kids pairs I made to begin with were not.  I made a sock a week! I have left them on the stair so when he comes down the stairs in the morning, he should be able to find them.  Now, I am on to making a pair for Brandon... There is truly something satisfying about sitting on the couch, watching a show, and creating a really cool pair of socks.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Profound.

Impressive.

Gaiman has an amazing world view.  Although I cannot say that I get through his novels at a speedy pace, they are really, really good and completely original.

How to describe this book? Part mythology, part character, part story, part redemption? To have been a fly on the wall when Gaiman and Pratchett were in to their cups telling stories would have been a truly magical thing.  I am sitting here wondering what to write about this book.  It is truly a different kind of fantasy book, one that raises some really interesting points along the way. Gaiman is truly brilliant, and I am reminded of writers like Christopher Moore in a way, where their intelligence catches you a bit off guard, and the stories are just so unique that you have to digest them before you can truly understand how they have impacted you.

Here a few random quotes to give you an impression of this book:

From chapter 10 (this one struck home a little having a few folks close to me enjoy gambling)

  • There is a secret that the casinos possess, a secret they hold and guard and prize, the holiest of their mysteries. For most people do not gamble to win money, after all, although that is what is advertised, sold, claimed, and dreamed. But that is merely the easy lie that gets them through the enormous, ever-open, welcoming doors.
    The secret is this: people gamble to lose money. They come to the casinos for the moment in which they feel alive, to ride the spinning wheel and turn with the cards and lose themselves, with the coins, in the slots. They may brag about the nights they won, the money they took from the casino, but they treasure, secretly treasure, the times they lost. It's a sacrifice, of sorts.

From chapter 11 - this passage has stayed with me, and not just because the John Donne quote -

  • No man, proclaimed Donneis an Island, and he was wrong. If we were not islands, we would be lost, drowned in each other’s tragedies. We are insulated (a word that means, literally, remember, made into an island) from the tragedy of others, by our island nature, and by the repetitive shape and form of the stories. The shape does not change: there was a human being who was born, lived, and then, by some means or another, died. There. You may fill in the details from your own experience. As unoriginal as any other tale, as unique as any other life. Lives are snowflakes — forming patterns we have seen before, as like one another as peas in a pod (and have you ever looked at peas in a pod? I mean, really looked at them? There’s not a chance you’d mistake one for another, after a minute’s close inspection), but still unique.
  • Without individuals we see only numbers: a thousand dead, a hundred thousand dead, "casualties may rise to a million." With individual stories, the statistics become people — but even that is a lie, for the people continue to suffer in numbers that themselves are numbing and meaningless. Look, see the child’s swollen, swollen belly, and the flies that crawl at the corners of his eyes, his skeletal limbs: will it make it easier for you to know his name, his age, his dreams, his fears? To see him from the inside? And if it does, are we not doing a disservice to his sister, who lies in the searing dust beside him, a distorted, distended caricature of a human child? And there, if we feel for them, are they now more important to us than a thousand other children touched by the same famine, a thousand other young lives who will soon be food for the flies’ own myriad squirming children?
    We draw our lines around these moments of pain, and remain upon our islands, and they cannot hurt us. They are covered with a smooth, safe, nacreous layer to let them slip, pearllike, from our souls without real pain.
    Fiction allows us to slide into these other heads, these other places, and look out through other eyes. And then in the tale we stop before we die, or we die vicariously and unharmed, and in the world beyond the tale we turn the page or close the book, and we resume our lives.
    life that is, like any other, unlike any other.

From chapter 18

  • None of this can actually be happening. If it makes you more comfortable, you could simply think of it as metaphor. Religions are, by definition, metaphors, after all: God is a dream, a hope, a woman, an ironist, a father, a city, a house of many rooms, a watchmaker who left his prize chronometer in the desert, someone who loves you — even, perhaps, against all evidence, a celestial being whose only interest is to make sure your football team, armybusiness, or marriage thrives, prospers, and triumphs over all opposition.
    Religions are places to stand and look and act, vantage points from which to view the world.
  • People believe, thought Shadow. It's what people do. They believe. And then they will not take responsibility for their beliefs; they conjure things, and do not trust the conjurations. People populate the darkness; with ghosts, with gods, with electrons, with tales. People imagine, and people believe: and it is that belief, that rock-solid belief, that makes things happen.
  • "This is a bad land for gods," said Shadow. As an opening statement it wasn't Friends, Romans, countrymen, but it would do. "You've probably all learned that. The old gods are ignored. The new gods are as quickly taken up as they are abandoned, cast aside for the next big thing. Either you've been forgotten, or you're scared you're going to be rendered obsolete, or maybe you're just getting tired of existing on the whim of people."
  • Shadow shook his head. "You know," he said, "I think I would rather be a man than a god. We don’t need anyone to believe in us. We just keep going anyhow. It’s what we do."

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Move differently.

Happy St. Patrick's day!  I suspect that there may just be a Guinness in my future later on. 

Well, that was my portion of Spring Break and now I am back to warming my desk chair again.  I made the mistake of checking my email from home last week and found out I made a few mistakes.  I truly learned (again, most likely) that I have hard time making mistakes. I really don't want to make mistakes.  Sometimes we are our own worst enemy and it was we overlook that causes the mistakes, or the things we make assumptions about. There is a process of accepting a mistake, and being able to discuss it objectively, and then being able to learn and move on from it.  I guess I am lucky that it happened when I was off so I have time to process and reflect upon what happened before I get to discuss them in depth.  They weren't huge mistakes, just stuff I need to be called on.  I think a year ago I would have been more hostile about it, and now I am more open to the moulding that is happening - it does make me a better career person, if I chose to listen to these lessons.

The other piece I am trying to train my brain to spend some time on, is what do I need from my manager?  Honestly.  Not just throwing something out there and running away from it or being afraid of hurting someone's feeling, but actually talking about what my needs are, what I need to move forward.  It is a process, and one I think we need to get there together.  Work relationships do require effort if you want to go anywhere.

I also realized that sometimes I hold on to negative feelings.  I can also be judgemental at times.  I say this because I think at times I am nervous of being judged and not being found worthy.  I think that is why I am usually trying to be busy, or productive, or being able to demonstrate the things I can do or have done.  So crazy. 

I spoke to a friend about some of the stuff floating through my, and she made the comment that sometimes we need to "move differently".  This thought really resonated with me.  It isn't always about what is or isn't working, it is perhaps about what you can do differently, or even think a different thought about, even take a look at an issue from a new angle.  So that is what I am going to try to do, move a little differently.  Where I am at, is okay.  There are things I would like to change.  I am reading more, I am knitting again, I hope our money is getting back under control, and the kids seem to be doing alright.  I want more exercise for all of us, and I do really want to lose some weight. I am feeling a bit self conscious, even if my weight hasn't really changed in years. This is something I want to change.  I want to have 30 minutes a day where I spend on physical activity outside of walking on my lunch.  If I can involve my family, even better.  So this is part of how I want to move differently. I have thought about crafting a 30 day challenge for myself, so I have something measureable, so I can prove to myself it helped.  I seem to need those measurable goals to help achieve. I do like cataloging, and being able to see results (hence this blog, even if all I have done in the past few years is track my books... it has helped me).

It also helps to use this space as a space to let my thoughts spin out, and curl in to their own patterns. Even if I don't spend a lot of time re-reading posts (although I have been known to go back and look to see where my head space was at), for me, the process of thinking these thoughts and then articulating them is huge.  It is like that for me with writing process manuals.  Once they are done, aside from revisions, I don't really go back to them much unless there has been a big break of time in between times that I have done it.

I am also putting it out there to the universe that camping for the May Long weekend would be a glorious thing, and I have some ideas of where to go.  You can't reserve where I want to go, and it is within 3 hours away.  We shall see.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Good entry in to the series...

Hello, old friend.  It feels like it has been years since I have read a Heironymous Bosch novel.  I have missed you.  These are great novels.  Maybe because it has been so long since I have read one from this series, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I like that Bosch has aged and moved throughout his career, I am just sad that because of this, it means that one day, Connelly may have to dedicate his time to other characters... (which frankly isn't so terrible).  It is funny how we become attached to certain characters, and we want to know what happens to them next, even if it is just a fiction.  This was a solid novel, and introduced a new partner for Bosch - a fiesty woman with a bit of a storied past.  I enjoyed the banter, and I found as turned the last pages, I had to laugh that Bosch was in trouble again with his superiors, and that the cliffhanger had me checking Connelly's website to make sure that there would be more Bosch in the future.  If you like crime series, this is great.  I lilke that Bosch is a noble, yet flawed bad boy of a character.  He is far from perfect, but his intentions are good.
Spring Break is almost gone! This week off has not really felt like a week off.  Sure, it has been productive, and I feel like we accomplished stuff, but I can't say we did anything spectacular or memorable.  We did get a lot of errands done, spent some time with family, C played his first hockey games and we wound up his season, I read some books, finished off Season One of GOT (who knew, I like it), and I have started knitting a pair of socks for C.  Surprisingly enough - I think that I can finish off a pair of socks for him in about two weeks... then I can make B a pair.  Both have been hankering for new pairs.  Now that I have made 4 pairs, I have a lot more confidence about what I am doing.  I look back a few years when I was making my first pairs, and it was intimidating.  I made a few dishclothes, and I found the cotton felt strange because it was so  much heavier than sock yarn! Even if we both cover a week of SB next year, I think we will need to figure out a weekend trip between the 4 of us.. not going away during a break doesn't really make it feel like much of a break.  I could also whine about that SB does not really need to be 2 weeks long... it feels like the kids are out of school for TOO LONG.  Speaking of great intentions, I had intended to do more work on writing, and math, and letters, and look.. our time is almost done.  Ah well.. put it on the list....
 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Before, and after.

Ok. I admit it.  There are some authors that I find, and I can't wait until they release their next book. There are so many different reasons to enjoy authors - some are pure escape and almost a guilty pleasure (like Nora Roberts), some are well crafted novels of a different genre (crime novelists like Peter Robinson and Michael Connelly), some chick lit (like SAA), some fantasy, some YA, some big "L" literary novels that help keep me sharp.  A good book transports us somewhere, teaches us something, makes us laugh, cry, release emotion, rethink or have a new thought. 

Ever since I read Garden Spells, I have really enjoyed SAA books.  A little bit of magical realism, some great characters, some quirkiness.  They are quick reads, and after I turn the last page, I always seem to have a whimsical smile on my face.  This latest book was no different.  Of course, now that I have read it, I have no idea how long I will need to wait until she releases her next novel. Oddly enough, my favourite authors also have their own lives to lead, and not just to entertain their fans.

This was a good book - this continued the story of the Waverly sisters (from Garden Spells) and we catch up with them several years after the first book… in the weeks leading up to the 'first frost'.  For the sisters and their kin, this is a time of transition - from summer to fall, harvest, waiting for things to happen, waiting for Halloween and then next phases.  It is a time of anticipation, and heightened senses and tensions, and a time for confrontations that hopefully lead to communication.  Very quick read, perfect for Spring Break.  The biggest problem of taking popular books out from the library is the quick turnaround time… American Gods has been bumped for a week.

One quote really struck me from this novel - that moment in your life where there is a "before" and where there is "after". In this novel, part of that happens when the first frost happens.  I would need to leaf through the book to find the exact quote (which I may add later on, no promises though since I loaned the book to my mom on a quick turnaround promise before it is due).

For me, I can think of several turning points in my life.  This idea has stayed with me since I finished this book because it did capture an idea that I have returned to a few times in the last several years.  Having kids definitely changes you, in mostly positive ways. I am definitely a less selfish person than I was, hopefully more rounded, although definitely not less busy.  When I think about before, and after, now I think about Ken and I standing on the line heading in the OR at Children's Hospital, the night that B had his operation to manage hydrocephalus.  We handed him over to our neurosurgeon, it was about 11:00pm, he had a large "x" sharpied on his left side (that was where they would place the shunt), and we were both terrified for our son.   This was truly the moment "before" and "after" for me.  So many things in my life led up to that moment, and so much has happened since.  I am still the same person, but in so many ways, I am not quite the same person I was.  I still value so many of the same things, but moments like that change you and leave their mark.  I am so grateful for the outcomes we have had, for the strength of the bond that I have with my husband, and for my two, happy and healthy children.  This was a moment, where there was the life we knew, and the life we would know.  There have been a few moments like that for me, and for us as a couple, and that is the power of literature to help you remember, and to help articulate some of these moments, even if the language and circumstances are different, to capture part of the feeling and the impact.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

End of the latest Roberts trilogy...

It is a returning theme in my life to jest that it is either Friday or Monday… and it never seems to be any of the days in between because time seems to move so quickly.

I am glad that I borrowed all three books at the same time, and could get through them pretty much in one go.  It would irk me waiting for each one to come out since it is easy to drop the thread as you get distracted from other business.

With the first two books, I was really feeling like I had read this trilogy under a different title - having read so many NR books (and she is able to crank out so many a year) there is a bit of a feeling to her books.  I do like the themes, I like the characters, and as I have mentioned, they are feel good novels that resolve with happy endings.  Some times we all need to read a happy ending and enjoy the escape these kinds of novels bring.

Likely I should have tried to summarize this novel before I was distracted by life and a few more books that I have read since finishing this one and working a little magic of my own with the published dates of these blog entries.  I like the magical element, it does bring the book to a climax, I thought it may have involve the abby in the finale (and it didn't) and all sorts out as it should.  Was it an amazing book? Nope, but it was enjoyable, especially when you have an idea of what you are signing up for. There are always some great moments, and this book reminded that I would like to travel to Ireland again one day - I want to knit myself an Irish sweater (and maybe order a new one and get it shipped - one of the 2 I bought in 1995 finally gave up the ghost and I had to throw it out - it got full of holes, quickly, it was heart breaking.. the two sweaters I bought in Ireland were the most money I think I had ever spend on myself for clothes… I still don't spend a lot… although am more willing to spend more for an article of clothing that is meant to last… considering I got almost 20 years out of my $100 sweater, pretty sweet.  The other one is still going strong… although as mentioned, I would like another one since I have had this one for a few years, go figure). There was also lots of mentions of good food, good beer, and good times in the kitchen.