Thursday, April 19, 2012

A wonderful escape

I think I found the book that I will be telling people about for the next unknown period of time.  There weren't enough hours in the day to read this book, and there weren't enough pages to turn because this book is now done. placed carefully on the read shelf. 

I loved this book.  Easily this will be one of my favorite books from 2012, and will be a book that I tell other people about.  It was utterly enchanting.  This is what reading a book is all about - transporting the reader to a different time and place, with subtle nuances and characters that keep you wanting to read more even though that means getting closer to the final turn of the page.

Skimming through reviews, it seems that this is a polarizing book.  People either love or hate it, and I know what camp I fall in to!  I feel like I am fortunate that I am going through a phase where the books I am reading are really entertaining, peopled with characters that will stay with me.  I hope this cycle continues for a while before some doldrums hit (funny how reading can go in cycles, fantastic books, average books, books that you choose not to finish, and then press repeat).

This is a hard book to summarize, and I am struggling with whether or not I should try.  I think expressing an opinion is one thing, and at times, to pull together why a book like this works another thing altogether.  Underneath it all, this is a fantastical tale about a night circus.  A circus that embraces dreams and fantasy and blurs the lines of reality.  This is the story of two star crossed lovers that are bound together in a challenge that neither is fated to win, or ultimately lose.  This is the story of the people in the circus, and those that love the circus.  I loved the language, how the story unfolds, and the role of stories and storytelling within this story.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Achilles Heel Turn Hell

Mental note:  in future, when learning how to knit something new... stick to a size or pattern that you have an actual pattern for.  Don't start making stuff up as you go along, that isn't quite what learning a new skill is all about.

Currently I am working on my second pair of socks, for my youngest son.  The first was fast!  I finished the first one in a weekend, and then life got in the way the last few weeks.  Enough time passed, that I forgot how I changed the original pattern I was working from (scaling down the original pattern to fit a small child and removing some cables, etc).  Moving on to sock two, I hit a knitting wall.  I got to the point where I have to "turn the heel" and froze.  I completely turtled.  Legs kicking up in the air.  I kept looking at the pattern and it was like Greek to me.  Couldn't figure out what I had done with the first sock.  I kept going through YouTube, looking for the helpful videos I checked out the first time around.. nothing really looked all that familiar or helpful for that matter. 

Today, finally.. the clouds have parted and I am on my way again!  I can't tell you how many times I have knit parts of this sock, to take it out, and to go back again.  Repeat.  Endlessly. I am so thrilled to be moving on from this heel flap and feel extension.  I wish I knew where those thoughts disappeared to for the last few weeks... but I am glad that they are back!  Well, I guess I do know.  The last few weeks have been hellacious at work. Finally I have had a few moments to breath again and figure out what is next up.  Amazing how that can make such a difference!!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A funny book on Canadian politics?

This is the most fun I have had reading a book in a long, long time. 

Hands down, Aprils' reads have been a far cry better than the stumbling month of March.  I picked up this book on a whim.  I liked the cover, I liked that it was a Canada Reads books, and I liked that it won a humour award.  I didn`t bother reading the back.  Since I liked it`s look, I figured Why Not?  This is a bit of a new attitude for me with books.  I used to stress over my choices, and absorb the back cover summary.  Chances are good.  If a book is bad, pay it forward and start a new one.  Ultimately a pretty low risk venture in life.  Now that I have finished this book, reflecting upon some of the more depressing Canadian literary books I have fought my way through, why did I wait so long to turn to humour?

I am torn - do I quickly grab book two from the library, or do I wait until I have my own copy to read?  The Night Circus is up next (it does come highly recommended and is supposed to be an intriguing novel) so I will have to see where my head space is at in a week or two. 

This was a great read: funny, witty, articulate.  I found myself laughing out loud, I liked the characters, and I enjoyed how Canadian politics is framed.  I learned a bit about the shenanigans that go on in politics, and this was just such a fun book to read.  I found Fallis' style easy to read, and I liked that one of the main characters was an engineer that could pull together seemingly disparate topics and people together.  Well worth a read. This was a very, very likable novel and then pages turned way too fast for my liking.  My only regret is that I read this book now, and I did not get to see Fallis last year at the Sechelt Writer`s Conference.  Alas.  I shall go again this year and see other fine Canadian authors.

I think for future book club meetings, I will have two suggestions:

1)  Maybe we should check out some of the Canada Reads selections.  Dryden's book has been on my list for years.  Did I ever mention I took a distance education course back in the day called "Hockey in Canada".  The only book missing from that course was The Game.

2) After reading books like McDonald`s Fall on my Knees and McKay`s Birth House (both were good novels) and feeling totally depressed when I finished them, why not foray in to humourous Canadian novels - they do exist and this one is proof!  To the Leacock nominees I shall go!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Paradise, not what it is cracked up to be...

This is the other novel that dogged me through the month of March. I did finish it on Tuesday, however, it has taken me this long to commit something to blog. This month, my bookclub went out on a limb to try something completely different, and this non-fiction book is what we came up with. Great title, and a very interesting look at what life is like in the South Pacific (not what I imagined, fancy that). although the write up claimed that this book was "rip-roaringly funny" which I would argue with to that degree of hilarity, it was amusing, and I did laugh out loud at times, even while I cringed at some of Maarten and Sylvia's adventures.

While on the topic of the tropics, I have to give a big shout out to my friend Naomi and her partner John, traipsing through the South Pacific,cruising away through these tropical climes. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading their adventures, and this book was a good complement the pictures and stories as they have made their way along through this region. Knowing folks traveling through Tarawa and Kiribati, and seeing their pictures really brought this book to life for me.

Definitely insightful, and although the Macarena and Ice Ice Baby are not personal faves, I will look at songs like this differently out of sheer sympathy for the novelist being subjected to this kind of music, over and over again in paradise. It took me a while to really get in to this book, but by the end, I was thoroughly enjoying their adventures and will more than likely read his follow up novels. Life on an atoll is not what I expected, although truly, I am not sure what I expected. Perhaps not the quite subsistence existence of the people, and how they deal with day to day living. This novel makes you question how aid is provided, and how should funding be delivered to nations that need help - the true distance between bureaucrats and people on the ground, doing the grassroots assistance rather than writing and executing policies that won't work.

This novel makes me appreciate human ingenuity, and makes me think that many North Americans are losing this quality with their dependence on ready made goods and disposable technology. There are a few lessons to be learned (gently) though this book in between the laughs. It makes me grateful C is almost out of diapers, and why oh why would we send diapers to an atoll where they can't be disposed of? I look around a little more appreciatively of the comforts we have, my house with all of its things, and the richness of our land. I am also glad I am resourceful, and can make do, and make things... and I want to learn to stand up paddle board, and try surfing again, and go back to an island in the pacific with the sun in my face again. One day (and fingers crossed this time we all be in better health).

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A well crafted novel

For a while there I was blitzing through novels, and then March hit. I got hung up on two novels, and although they both are good novels (fingers crossed I finish that second one today), they seemed to NEVER END.

After making it to the final 60 pages of this book in nearly a month of stop and start reading, I put on a movie for the kids Sunday morning and curled up on the couch to finish the book. I had reached that stage where all I really wanted to do was get through this book, find out how it ended, and frankly, start reading something else. Hell, even just get on with my day instead of wondering how the novel was going to wrap up... This does not mean that I didn't enjoy this book - I did, however, after over three weeks of reading this book, I am ready to read something else.

Morton is a good writer. She writes a well-crafted novel, and I have enjoyed both of her books so far. In some ways this novel reminded me of a Gabaldon book - dense, not a quick read, well researched, tightly plotted, and one you read when you are ready for this type of reading experience. I had actually picked it up and starting reading this twice before I was able to really get in to this novel. I found that I really struggled with the first 100 pages, but as the pages started to turn, I got more and more in to the story that was being revealed. In many ways this is a modern gothic novel, and again, a different take on both World War II, and modern day experiences.

I am glad March is over - looking back, it is funny it took me so long to get through this book - everything did seem to stall out in March. Some great experiences along the way, but a busy month, and one that was a battle at times, and yet, it seems like the storms are passing and hopefully the clouds will come out soon. We got out on a date this weekend! YAY! I really value having a chance to just be Karen, out with Ken, on a date, enjoying us. It was really nice. We stayed local - tried out a decent bistro, and caught a comedian at the local theatre. Something to be said about not traveling an hour each way to be entertained.