Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Books, books, and more books (not just mine!)

There is a new meme travelling through Facebook, and I would admit I have been stewing over titles for a few days before I post my own list of 10 books that have had a lasting impact on my life.  Of course I have been over thinking this one… it is also an interesting exercise when I troll my memory through all the books that immediately jump and demand attention.

The 100 Books that Facebook Users love… is a great summary of the list of the top 100 books that people identified in their meme, and it is interesting.  Even checking out how the books are related and mapped out, is also an interesting exercise to check out folk's literary tastes.

In no particular order, I will list my work in progress and call it done for now:

Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling
Lamb, Christopher Moore
Skinny Legs and All, Tom Robbins
The Power of One, Bryce Courtney
Outlander, Diana Gabaldon
Island of the Blue Dolphins, Scott O'Dell
Man's Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl
Works of William Shakespeare
Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
No Great Mischief, Alistair MacLeod

I don't do well in limiting myself to a list of just 10 books.  I have a hard time not weighing and assessing and fretting over a list like this. I have missed some, ones I would not expect, like The Bees, The Gargoyle, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, My Name is Memory, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, and Unbroken to name but a few.  I also think about other books that impacted me as a youth - The Outsiders, Charlotte's Web, A Wrinkle in Time, The Chronicles of Narnia, Bill Peet books, The House with a Clock in it's Walls, and of course, Are you there God, it is me, Margaret?. What I can tell you with feeling is that my life would not as rich as it is without books. It feels like each year I have been making better and better choices in what I have been reading - in my own geeky way, this has been really exciting.  My next reads are the Golem and the Jinni, then Jonathon Norrel and Mr. Strange, and then the latest Harkness and Gabaldon books.  I have at least 4-6 weeks of amazing reads to go! That doesn't even count the books I have ordered through the library that I hope don't come in any time soon...

Monday, September 8, 2014

Entertaining series... again, far better than Twilight...

Since it has been a few weeks since I read the first book it took me a while to pick up the threads again in this second book in the trilogy. Is it a guilty pleasure to admit I am really enjoying these books?

I am.  I am looking forward to reading the third, and even to read Four, which is from Tobias/Four's perspective.. which I wasn't all that sure I would want to read. 

These are enjoyable books, there with the Catching Fire series, way better than Twilight, and for me, better than The Giver.  Given the stack of books I have waiting to read, I would assume I won't be reading the next book until closer to Christmas. 

On a related side note, I finally have read more than 41 books in a year! It was a quiet goal to read more than 50 books in a year, and this year, it feels achievable. It has been great to have such a long stretch of great reads, and from all different genres. I have not been bored reading a book for quite a while.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Pretty much one a week...


There is more to life than just reading, but blogging the books that I have been reading makes it easy to track where my headspace was.  This was an entertaining and humourous book, but not as funny as a few of the others that I have read by Moore.

The South Pacific is an interesting plcae, and I have enjoyed my literary forays in to the region since I had just thought all the islands were little slices of paradise.  Moore has a great sense of humour, and is very intelligent.  I enjoy how his books are a departure from the every day, and how they can challenge your perceptions.  Worth a read, but not the best one to choose if this is your first time reading him.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Yup. That was August.

It would appears that summer for our younger kids is likely not over yet.  So much for kindergarten starting for our little man.  At least they have decent haircuts and are good to start the school year, whenever that may be.  I have a lot of feelings about our school strike, mostly I am disappointed with both the BCTF and with our provincial government for where things are at. I am trying to hard to be fair to both sides - but demands from both are ridiculous. It is really hard to know where the truth is, especially when I think about how some of the contract negations I have been a part of have gone and how they have resolved.

It really feels like the last two years have been a blur, especially this last year.  I am looking forward to when things normalize - between new childcare, new schools, no more Board meetings (AGM is in a few weeks, I will glad to be moving on) and just settling in to the new reality.  I am looking forward to not commuting with my kids every day. I am glad that that they will not have 90 minutes in the car every day, that is a big deal.  Friday morning we almost had a big truck run in to us coming off of the highway.  Great reinforcement it is nice to not have my kids in the car every day.

There have been some amazing moments this summer - going to the beach with the boys, our camping trip to Porpoise Bay, the demolition derby, my quick trip to Kelowna when my brother got married (although this experience is wrapped in a few different emotions), and just getting out and trying to enjoy the amazing weather we had this summer.  Although I must admit, I am struggling to really figure out where did the time go.  Back in June, it seems that everything got thrown off kilter with the start of the school strike and school ending early.  Next year, we will need to get away camping and get out of dodge for a bit.  When you don't really get away, you don't really feel like you have much of a break.  During my two weeks off, we took care of a few appointments, sorted through clothes, read some amazing books, of course, I love spending time at the beach with our boys, and then viola! I was back at work again.  We are short staffed (still, again).. and I have a few hats on, so it seems like I am not getting much of a break to just really get caught up with myself… in the last few days things are somewhat calm.. but working in post secondary… everything will change on Tuesday.. and knowing this, and knowing we are short, makes it hard to relax.  I figure I will just wake up one day and it will be after Thanksgiving.

I think for the boys the summer went well - summer camps, time with me, time with Ken, new daycare, more summer camps and old daycare.  It was busy and it was a bit all over the place. I think it was good for C since it allowed him to be treated like a big kid, not a toddler.  B rolled with the punches and is excited about the upcoming changes. With the summer broken in to weeks, I think this also contributed to the time just flying.

I also have not been jogging, for months.  I do miss it.  I also haven't been able to get out walking at lunch as much as I would like at work. I need to figure the exercise piece out - I think for me having my routine totally off and has thrown me off of my game a little.  If you can say kids love their routines, so do their parents. I think it is good for my knee (since it seemed to be having some weird issues) I am not running, but I think we need to figure out biking or something wild and crazy like that… fingers crossed next weekend I get to try Stand Up Paddle boarding.  It seems I have not quite figured out that yearly goal of losing a bunch of weight, but at least I can try SUP this year, and we have painted the family room and put a fence in our backyard.  I suspect the 5 or 10 km run isn't going to be this year, but perhaps I can even get out for a huge, long hike and call it even.

Yup. I am rambling. I could be writing my report for that AGM, but I am kind of in a blah mood.  I suspect once I finish here, I will retire with my latest book and look forward to a Sunday morning layabout for a bit as well.

Friday, August 29, 2014

A seafarin' yarn of worth

This was a really powerful book.  It appears that I have been on a bit of a nonfiction kick lately, and this is a really great addition to that list if you enjoy a good yarn about the ocean and it's travellers.

This is a book that caught my attention in a magazine a while ago, a blurb, and it appealed so I added it to my "to read" list.  I really had no idea what it was about, except that the cover looked neat, and it was well received.  Ironically enough, our book club made a point of reading novels this year that are being made in to movies - and this book falls in to this category (which surprised me, somewhat). 

I learned a lot from this book, and it does help that I read Unbroken  last year, so this isn't my first book reading about unlikely survival at sea.  Comparisons are also drawn to Alive, the book and movie that chronicalled the story of a Uruguayan rugby team who were involved in the crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, which crashed into the Andes mountains on October 13, 1972. 

I really didn't know a lot about whaling, about Nantucket, or about the whaleship Essex.  I have heard about Moby Dick, and it is on the "to read" list, and I have heard about the mutiny on the Bounty (which I also thought was a fictional event but have now learned it to be based on real events).  This novel describes what happened to the Essex and her inhabitants.  What happened out in the Pacific Ocean, the sperm whale the stoves the ship, and the three whaleboats with the crew that seek salvation.  Previously there was only accounts from the first mate, and recently a second first hand account has been discovered from another crew member.

There are so many layers to appreciate about this story, the history of whaling, racism (crew members were local from Nantucket, the mainland, or of African American heritage), survival and what happens and what people are willing to do to survive, human psyche, the push to the west and our naval explorations. It is also interesting to note how the author compares the differences between the stories, and what the locals choose to remember and talk about when it came to the Essex.  It is also interesting to learn that this event was taught to America school children for years.

Very well told.  There were parts that I almost dreaded reading, and I was relieved when the rescue came for the surviving crew members.

Fascinating.  I will need to read Moby Dick (Melville was also a whaler and developed this story based on the Captain of the Essex) one day, and I definitely want to visit some of the San Juan islands again soon and check out the whaling museum there.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Walk in the Woods

I have wanted to read this one for a few years, and more so after finishing Wild earlier this year.  Talk about two very difference experiences, and two very different individuals relating their own personal experiences on their respective trails.

Wild takes place on the Pacific Crest Trail (west coast) and The Walk takes place on the Appalchian trail (east coast).  As far as folks go, I think I would prefer to kick back and have beers with Bill - and hear about his travel experiences and overall life philosophy than Cheryls'...

Bryson is known for his sense of humor, and I read one of his other books a few years ago (In a Sunburnt Country).  My impressions of Australia are definitely coloured by his words.  In the Walk, Bryson relates his attempt at covering a good portion of the AT with his friend Stephen, and at times solo.  Bryson includes a lot of historical information to supplement his impressions.  Bryson also has one helluva sense of humor, so you can appreciate a few laughs along the way. 

This is a good read.  I did appreciate the history, and the scant personal details that Bryson includes.  It made me appreciate being from the west more - from being from a pretty "wild" place that hasn't been domesticated and tamed for hundreds of years already. 

I have done a distance canoe circuit, and I would one day like to do the West Coast hiking trail along Vancouver Island.  Of course, each of these is just over 100km, where these trails are literally thousands of kilometers long and will take months to complete.  Very different scale.  I would also love to drive across Canada and come back through the United States - just to see.  Reading books like this makes me want to travel, and also appreciate that I am from the West, for so many different reasons. I am glad it is a little more wild, and a little less tame.  I am glad for our wild spaces, and different attitudes.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The end of or schedule summer programming....

Last night, I looked at Ken, and we both realized that we had reached the end of our planned summer activities.

Yes, the boys still have a week of daycare and a week of camp left, and Ken has a handful of days before he has to return to work, but all of things we had planned (with few exceptions) have come to pass.  The demolition derby was a riot (although really, really hot), and camping was good (I really miss having a campfire, it isn't quite the same), we spent time at the beach and some local parks, got a bit of a tan, made pickles, picked blackberries, and read a bunch of books.  The spontaneous stuff, like our day trip to Manning Park, and the scheduled stuff too.

Crazy.  We start the slide towards September and then the month of October.  I love Fall.  I love the slightly cooler weather and surprisingly warm days. The changing leaves, and fresh, local veggies, and the Corn Mae, pumpkins, decorating for Halloween… all that fun stuff.  I really, truly think we are a shoulder season family … Fall and Spring rock… summer and winter are great too… but something about those other seasons.

Grateful.

Every now and then a book comes along that rattles you a little bit.  Especially when you know it is grounded in true experiences.  I have a handful of pages left of the book, but for intents and purposes I am done, and I have a moment to throw down a few thoughts.

Wow.  What a life experience Amanda Lindhout and her friend Nigel Brennan went through.  I applaud their courage to write their stories, and to open themselves up to public opinion by offering up their stories.

I had no idea what this book was about when I picked it out.  I knew the cover was appealing (yes, choices can be that base), and that it was a recommended book that made a few top reads lists.

I am not sure where to begin about a book such as this.  This is the autobiography (of sorts) of Amanda, starting with some experiences previous to her capture by Somali teenage militants whom were looking for ransom money from Amanda's and Nigel's family in Canada and Australia. As I started to read this book, I realized that I could remember hearing about their story in the news a few years ago (2008) but really didn't dwell on it.  I remember images of them when they were free, but really, did not even grasp a glimmer of what they had survived.  In many ways, this is much like how you can't really appreciate the experiences of someone else until you have a few of your own, or have the luck (??) to be able to read or experience a slice of what happened to them through whatever form the story journey takes us on.

This is a beautiful and bleak novel.  Reading parts of it I could feel my insides clench with something, and feel my opinions shifting.  If reading 419 was one thing about Nigeria, this was a whole other thing reading about a personal experience in Somalia.  I am glad that I live in a culture that values life, and women.  I am glad that I am married to a good man, who loves me for who and what I am. After reading this book I am grateful for many things, including my freedom and the culture and land that I call home.  This is not the same around the world and the price of a life here is not the same as other places in this amazing world.  This is an important book to read.  It is very well written, and as I said in the beginning, I appreciate the courage and honesty it takes to make yourself vulnerable by telling this story.  I also appreciate Lindhout's honesty, and humble acknowledge of her naive mistakes and the costs so many people paid.  The grace she found within terrible circumstances, it reminded me of reading the "Man's Search for Meaning" by Victor Frankl.  Compassion and forgiveness, and consciously choosing to be positive in a world that can be a far cry from this is something that can set any of us apart.