Friday, September 5, 2014

My Apologies...

It has been a difficult couple of months, starting with my laptop frying and losing all of my notes for the  many books I had read and not posted yet.  It was a severe blow.  Then about the same time I was working on filing a grievance against someone for harrassment at work,  which was excruciating to say the least.  Then I went to Australia for the summer, and found out that my mother had passed away six years previously and that we (my brothers and myself) were not to be notified as "she hated the lot of us".   This is where you can see why I have always been able to sympathise with my characters in books with terrible parents...
I had made a few attempts when I was a teenager to free myself from the influence of my mother, and someone at the time asked me how I would feel  if she died.  Well I can honestly answer that now.  Terrible.  I feel terrible.  But it is not  for the reasons that you might think.   I do not feel regret that I kept her from my life for the past twenty three years... she was toxic and I could not allow her to come anywhere near my family.  My heart is broken.  I mourn for something I never had, never could have had, because no matter how well I have lived my life, or suceeded in things that my own mother failed tragically in... she still would not have loved me.
So it has been a stressful couple of months, but I am through the other side of my troubles now, and ready to start talking again about one of my great loves...books!  That is not to say that there is still a great deal of sadness here in my heart, like I said, I am broken, but I think it might perhaps make me more compassionate in what I read.  My world view has changed.  I have a hankering for something profound to dig in to.  We will see.  I promise a new entry soon.  Have a nice weekend!

Monday, March 31, 2014

What Men Live By and Other Tales

I cannot reveal or discuss too much some feelings I have about people and how they choose to practise their religion.  That being said I will reference for you my own personal feelings and wishes here in this post .  While I am at times heartbroken by other's actions in the name of their gods I  take heart when I find such treasures as this and it elevates my hopes for a better future.  In my life I have met or heard of people who have earnt my greatest admiration for their personal religious beliefs and Leo Tolstoy is one of them.
                               
                  
Here is a collection of four delightful short stories illustrating something more than just faith, but purity of spirit and a wisdom that ought not to be ignored or denied. 
It was a pleasure and priviledge for me to read them and I would encourage anyone to read them as well (preferably while listening to Tchiakovsky's  Symphony No.1 in G Minor Op. 13 "Winter Daydreams").
                    
                            
I have always admired the story "The Three Questions" written and illustrated by Jon J. Muth and have also read this aloud to classes before with good results.  I have relished the opportunity to share with my kids my favourite authors and it feels good when the students show more of an interest in someting that they know is a favourite of mine. 
I sometimes think I should make my own list of books that I think people should read, or as I think it most appropriately labeled, "Books That it Would Be an Awful Shame to Miss Because They Would Truly Enrich Your Life".  A lot of Tolstoy would be on that list!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Burning Girls

                       Tor.com advertised on their Facebook page this week two novellas (Tor Originals) that are Nebula nominees, which are free to download.  Naturally I could not pass those up so (happily! joyfully!) they were downloaded with rapid dispatch to my Kindle app.       
Burning Girls by Veronica Schanoes   
I loved this story!  Cast in the early 1900's it was, from the very beginning, an immediately captivating tale.  As with all books (especially if you do not spoil things by doing a little research first), there were questions, and the more I read into it the more questions I had...it began so strongly as something that I could (but probably shouldn't) say was "Grimmesque", but much better than that. Of course, with a novella everything has to be more compact, but this story magically excels in it's ability to lure you into it's web. Exciting connections were made in it to other literature (The Brothers Grimm) and historical events and some of my questions were answered.  I haven't read a lot of Jewish folklore, I don't know much about the religion and lifestyle but this was fascinating, as well as familiar to what I have read, and rich with the traditions and lore of the past.   A fairy tale for grown-ups.  I will be looking for more by this author.
On top of all that nostaligic, folkloric awesomeness is the relationships involved, the strengths of the characters, the love and friendships between women and the artwork is lovely too.  It is, all together, an lovely attractive bundle and I hope might be available in book form someday.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Bedbugs!

                         
Devoured in one day.  Why? Because it was just so enthralling!   The ultimate in  psychological thrillers.  Bedbugs.  The very idea is uncomfortable, but add to it black illustrations of bedbugs along the spine of the book at certain stages in their life cycle that make the book creepier still.  The story brought strongly to mind one of Alfred Hitchcock's thrillers,  Vertigo.  I couldn't put it down until I knew how it would all work out, so I recommend putting aside a day for reading this.  I also recommend not reading it in bed!

Friday, March 7, 2014

A Tale of Two Cities

                          
Charles Dickens has done it to me again.  For me, A Tale of Two Cities was an emotionally devastating book for me to read and as it lacked the comic relief of his other novels, it was also an intense and suspenseful read as well.  I liken the experience as listening to an orchestral piece by Gustav Mahler, full of the most painfully beautiful, emotionally evocative, unbelievably pure notes that an orchestra can play.  That actually sums it up quite accurately.  Every chapter in a Dickens novel is like its very own section of an intricate symphony, rich in character and feeling.
As usual Dickens' social commentary is provocative, but this book was confusing.  I could not help but feel compassion for both sides... the French Revolution was so barbaric and I am ashamed at rational people who abandoned all sense to the hatred and revenge so meted out in this book.  It is understandable though.  Dickens was brilliant in portraying everything, making you despise the aristocracy (more behaviour to be deeply ashamed of) one moment and feeling horror for them the next. 
I treasure each experience I have whenever I read his books (and yes...I lovingly hugged the book when I was finished!).  I am so grateful that he was so prolific (there are still so many for me yet to read).  As they are such an intense experience I ration myself to reading one book a year (thus ensuring that I will not run out anytime too soon!), and naturally I plan to revisit them, one book each year for the rest of my life, guaranteeing that my life shall always be enriched.
 Music to swoon to:-
Gustave Mahler Symphony #10

Monday, March 3, 2014

Dear Mr. Knightley

                            
Saw this last week on Book Riot and on a whim downloaded it from Amazon within minutes (I still get a huge thrill whenever I do that!).  I then put it off for a few days because Emma has to be one of my least favourite books by Jane Austen.  After a vlog binge on Sunday watching Emma Approved I felt up to the task of reading what I thought might be a modern version of Emma...boy was I pleasantly surpised!
I started reading it yesterday and finished it this morning... I actually stayed up past my bedtime last night and probably would have stayed up until I finished but I am still recuperating from an illness that I had last week, so I had to go to bed.
I had no thought but to finish up this wonderful book this morning, and I was suprised again at the end!
I get the protagonist Sam Moore.  I had an immediate connection with her, that just deepened the further I read in to the book.  I rooted for her, cared for her, was sad for her and in the end extremely proud and pleased. 
I feel that if you love the same books as another person does, it opens doors that might other wise be closed, and with this story I was drawn in because both Sam and I share a love of the same kind of literature.  It is always very exciting to meet someone (even a fictional one) who understands your literary references, and though I don't have a friend like that, after reading this I really wish that I had one.
I have already ordered the paperback version because this story is something that I would love to revisit, and nothing is better than holding it in your hand while you do so.

I finished the book with a particular song in mind which seems quite appropriate.  The song has been a favourite of mine for a long time, and was the very first one I ever heard sung by Luke Steele.  The refrain has always touched me "When you think with your mind, you've got a place to go now..."
I hope you will listen and love it like I do:   Good Dancers  
Plus you should just go and read this book too, and to get the full experience, there is a list of the books referenced in the story in the back of the book. 
I will be keeping an eye out for whatever Katherine Reay writes next!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

                                  
About one day in the life of the protagonist, I spent one day reading it.  I only paused to make a pot of lovely, nourishing vegetable soup (with six vegetables in it!) and a lucious fresh spinach salad (with avocado sliced on top and a home-made dressing) to go with it. I only go into detail because Ivan's soup was not so good, but at the end of his day, he was extremely happy to eat his cabbage soup with very tiny bits of old fish, a piece of mealy potato and his portion of black bread.
I was immersed in this story, drawn in like I have been with an Orwel novel, and just as fascinated with a culture I know very little about, and an era I have always struggled to understand. 
Solzhenitsyn drew from his own life experiences to write this book, and I have learnt a little about him from reading this, it is interesting how I seem to see facets in this man that I have yet to discover in Alice Munro (who still eludes my understanding).
Back to the soup and salad, I haven't enjoyed a meal more than that one in a very long time, after reading about Ivan's day feeling his hunger and his suffering from the cold, and seeing what he had to do to survive day after day.  I savoured every bite, grateful for what I have.