Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The middle novel.

A fast speedy read, and oddly enough, I chose to review this one after book 3 (yes, revisionist history with my dates to keep the books I have read in chronological order on my blog).

I am sitting here staring at this white space trying to think of something profound to say about this novel, and failing.  These books are good at the end of the day, but they don't always strike deep.  They are truly more escapist, and about the happy ending more than me learning something new (whether or not it is about myself).

I could blame the music in the background - I am going to watch Episode 6 of the first season of Game of Thrones when I finish this… which is a little more provocative than this series is… What I could say is that it feels like I am shifting in to a different head space again - a little more clear, a little  more able to think and be in the moment than the past few years.  It has been stressful.  Lots of learning, and lots of worrying.  Lots of personal growth.  I think this is the part of my life where I have become a woman, and a mom.  Not just a worker, transitioning in to more of a leadership role and being comfortable in it. At times, I wish for perhaps a little more advise, or words spoken, or more time to reflect.. which given how many more words I am blogging in 2015, may be a sign that I am starting to take that reflection time a little more seriously. So, the series, yah, interesting enough.  Still makes me want to go Ireland, go to the pub with my man, hoist a guinness, go for a horseback ride, maybe falcon, immerse myself in fields of green and misty showers.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Yet another take on the "other" voice

Another completely different book. I do believe that sometimes the right books fall in to our lap at the right time.

This novel has a pretty good twist in it, so I won't give a lot of the plot details just because it is nice to be surprised when it comes.

I really enjoyed this book.  This is book that proclaims to start in the middle, uses a fair bit of psychology and remembered truths, and weaves in and out of past, present, and future.

Since I am presenting to B's class about what it is like to have CP, it is interesting to read these two books back to back.  Especially since both deal a fair bit of personality traits, and a fair bit of same and other.  It also makes me appreciate that in life you can never read enough, or ask enough questions.  Having an open, curious mind is one of the best qualities any of us can have.  Well worth a read, a completely different kind of book.  I had meant to write this entry with the book in hand so I could add in some quotes, but alas, life moves on.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A different voice...

What an unexpected joy!
I turned the last page night, and I had to flip around the book for more! I had no idea what to expect from this book, except that it was popular and I had picked up the second book (The Rosie Effect) and started to thumb my way through it when I quickly realized that I should read the first book, first.
It is a quick, enjoyable, crisply written novel.  Although never expressly revealed, the protagonist likely has Asperger's syndrome and is quite high functioning.  Don has a refreshing voice, and there are some lovely character reveals along the way.  It is funny, and light-hearted, and at times, a little more serious.  Well worth a read.  I am not sure when I will read the next book - I think that Don would get old if you read too much of him all at once, however, don't take that as a detraction of this novel.
Speaking of Autism... I have read a few books now that deal with Autism... and it seems that the face of Autism we are getting through literature are those that could be diagnosed with Asperger syndrome (high functioning, highly intelligent, emotionally detached, etc) in books such as "Look me in the Eye" (another good book) or "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night" (didn't leave a huge impression for me).  Autism is a spectrum, and the kids I have interacted with that have autism are a different breed again from the portrait being portrayed in these novels.  I couldn't imagine the challenges for parents with low functioning autistic kids.  Like anything, you get used to your 'new normal', but the rewards are so different.  Communication would be so tough - especially with non-verbal or violent kids.  You would question so much of yourself as a parent, it is a tough road to walk.  I am learning interesting lessons in my own journey.  Having a son with a gross motor disability isn't always easy and our journey is different than that of other parents.  I am struggling a bit with the part that we participate in "teachable moments" to help people understand his type of cerebral palsy and why he walks different or why his balance is off, and that there are 3-4 other kids in his class with behavioural disabilities and it never gets spoken about.  In the classroom, these kids have EAs, but no one ever explains to the other kids why they hit, or run away out of the classroom, or why these kids get time in a "sensory room" and they don't. For me, there is a bit of a disconnect, especially even for younger kids, who frankly don't have the language or the experience to understand why they can't do all the things that these kids can (such as in a kindergarten classroom).  Yes, the other kids are accepting of these kids (they don't have a choice), however, they aren't also being given a lot of tools to understand rather than just "tolerate" the other kids and how their behaviours may or may not impact their own day.
I am developing some of my own personal theories about all of this - behavioural or psychological disabilities are in your face, and these people are a problem as a result.  They are hard to ignore, and can often be a safety concern.  A kid like my son, he may fall in to you, or get tired, or not move as fast, but otherwise he is easy to blend in. There is a lot of intervention therapy for autism, but for kids like my son that are high functioning gross motor, there isn't. With two working parents, and a kid that is a rock star, there is limited help, financially or otherwise.  There is such irony, it can choke a person at times.  For my son, the more physical interventions we do, they better his whole life path will be and the less interventions that will need to take place when he is older... but the supports just aren't there unless you can't feed, cloth, or bath yourself.  My son is part of a quiet group that isn't fully understood, well researched, or properly funded. I am not sure how best to voice this, and for now, I do take those teachable moments when they work out in his classrooms. I ask questions whenever I can, and I try to pull out whatever information I can to assist us. It has not been easy, and our greatest supports have been grassroots, and limited and more from the communities we have created or touch upon.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Interesting premise.. just not the first go around

Reading a Nora Roberts book for me is like visiting an old friend. I started reading her books when I was a teenager and she was still writing for Harlequin romance.  You could tell back then that she was going to be a writing star.  I like her books, they normally come to a satisfactory end, and they provide escapism and lovely storylines that are a little light on depth.  I like the stories about Ireland, or about Irish descendants (being one myself), and the bits of earth magic she weaves through her stories. I find that I enjoy books like that - that push certain boundaries a little and do believe in hope, and magick, and things that we cannot always see and understand.  I do not read her J.D. Robb books anymore, and I don't always seek out the stand alones either.  That she has been able to write over 200 books is staggering.  There are reasons why she is popular, and she is a go-to author in a sense, but there is a time and a place.
I enjoyed this book more in the beginning rather than the end. I will read the trilogy (helps that my mom got it for Christmas), and it is enjoyable fluff in my books.  However, this trilogy reminds me of another trilogy she wrote - slightly different window dressing, but the same basic framework. So I read these novels for the predictable, warm-hearted, slightly mystical escape that they are and don't go much further than that. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Can you summarize such a novel with a snappy title?

Finished.  This was a far quicker read than Mr. Norrell, which continues to sit next to my bed.

It has been a while since I have felt the urge to underline quotes in a novel. There are some truly profound moments in this novel. How does one go about summarizing a novel such as this? It did leave a mark on me.  It is an often brutal and prosaic novel that has been skillfully crafted.  It is engaging, right from the beginning.  I remember my own friend that had a smile that would light up rooms.  This is a story about love, and hate, and survival.  It is a story about forgiveness, and a story about hope.  In short, a true epic novel.

With works of art, it is interesting to learn a bit about the artist, and GDR truly comes off as quite the articulate character.  I think sitting around at a Leopolds and listening to the stories would be an unforgettable experience.  This was a totally different tale about Mumbai/Bombay and it did sweep me away.  I didn't expect there to be so many foreigners here, or to have the beauty of the slums revealed.  There were several times that I had to pause and reread some passages.  There were some elements of this book that I enjoyed more than others, and I think that this story ended as it should, coming in a full circle in a sense.

This was an interesting quote -

"Sooner of later, fate puts us together with all the people, one by one, who show us what we could, and shouldn't let ourselves become." (p. 471)

What a closing speech!

"For this is what we do.  Put one foot forward and then the other.  Lift our eyes to the snarl and smile of the world once more.  Think.  Act.  Feel.  Add our little consequence to the tides of good and evil that flood and drain the world.  Drag our shadowed crossed into the hope of another night. Push our brave hearts into the promise of a new day.  With love:  the passionate search for a truth other than our own.  With longing:  the pure, ineffable yearning to be saved.  For so long as fate keeps waiting, we live on.  God help us.  God forgive us.  We live on." (p.933)

Lin was an imperfect hero - flawed, but loving.  He fell, was picked back up, and found the ability to carry on.  He carried his past as much as he chose not to speak of it very often.

I can't say this book is for everyone.  I know that my book club loved the beginning and lost there way with the parts about the Afghanistan war... I found that this was a profound novel, and at times I grouched about the length, but I was entertained, I did learn along the way, and perhaps my perspective also shifted a bit.  So, taking all of that in to consideration, for me, a great read.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Epic Novels.

When I finish Shantaram, I think I will stay away from epic novels for a while.

Last Septemberish, I started to read "Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell." It is a 1000+ page epic novel. The following is from the wikipedia entry about this book -
An alternative history set in 19th-century England around the time of the Napoleonic Wars, it is based on the premise that magic once existed in England and has returned with two men: Gilbert Norrell and Jonathan Strange. Centring on the relationship between these two men, the novel investigates the nature of "Englishness" and the boundaries between reason and unreason, Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Dane, and Northern and Southern English cultural tropes/stereotypes. It has been described as a fantasy novel, an alternative history, and a historical novel. It inverts the Industrial Revolution conception of the North/South divide in England: in this book the North is romantic and magical, rather than rational and concrete. It can be usefully compared and contrasted with Elizabeth Gaskell's attempts at synthesising a unitary English identity in her fiction.
I got through about 320 pages. It is still sitting on my side table, waiting to be finished.  I am not sure if I will.  It is a grand novel.  It is well written.  It has footnotes that drive me mental.  It is a slow, carefully written novel that is at once really interesting, and then I meander off.  It is still sitting there, six months later, and every time I pick it up to read it, another book that I really want to read comes in from the library and I get distracted. Frankly, any other book that comes along is proving to be a distraction from this book.

Then there were a few novels I did manage to finish before Christmas, and I more or less hit my hopeful to read 50 books last year. I am sure I would have blown past that amount if it wasn't for this novel.  As I said, it isn't terrible, I just can't seem to find it in me to finish or give it back to the person that I borrowed it from.  *SIGH*.

As I mentioned, currently I am reading Shantaram, another epic novel clocking in at 930 pages, give or take.  It is moving along quicker... I am just about 500 pages in, and it has taken me just over two weeks to get here.  So, definitely a quicker read than Mr. Norrell.... but I am finding "epic novels" a bit of a deterrent right now. I am starting to crave the satisfaction of reading a few shorter novels, just to feel like I am "accomplishing" something when it comes to reading.  It feels kind of silly to put it that way, and yet that is kind of how it feels.  In the last six months, I really haven't read all that much, and yet, in some ways I have.  Between Norrell, Good Omens, and now Shantaram... it does feel like I stalled out.  Even in my book club we are trolling for inspiration.  If you are reading this - any novels that inspired you? We will likely look to some classics, but I am definitely open to so some new reads.  Out of what I did read last year... there weren't that many stand outs that I would shout the praise from about...