Friday, 25 May 2018

"The Secret River" by Kate Grenville

   William Thornhill grew up in London, England - poor, hungry, always cold, and often angry.  "The rage warmed him and filled him up.  It was a kind of friend".
  He worked on a barge on the Thames River and, one day, he stole a load of timber.  He was condemned to death but in 1806, he was included in a shipload of convicts sent to Australia.
   Will was married to Sal and she was able to also travel to Australia. England had established a claim to Australia and was interested in beginning a settlement there. The descriptions of the early days of Australia were fascinating to me.
   As you can imagine, there were conflicts with the Darug people, who had been living in Australia for thousands of years.  Some of the settlers saw them as 'savages' and treated them brutally. 
  Will and his wife Sal tried to find ways to co-exist, but Will was persuaded to join an attack on the Aborigines to settle the problems once and for all.  The confrontation was brutal and Will was tormented by his actions.
  Although Will prospered in Australia, he was never really happy .  Quote:"This bench here, where he could overlook all his wealth and take his ease, should have been the reward. He could not understand why it did not feel like triumph."
He had gained the world, but lost his soul.
   I loved the main characters- Will and Sal.  Sal was amazing- loving, supportive but also strong willed.  Their relationship was a delight to read as they faced such hardships and danger.
  Today our library book club will be discussing this book and we will be focussing on the relationship of the colonists and the Aborigines over the years.  In 2008, the prime minister of Australia made a public apology for the brutal treatment of the Aboriginal people.  You can see his speech here:

Monday, 21 May 2018

"Searching for the Secret River" by Kate Grenville

  "The Secret River" is one of my favourite all-time novels.  I will be leading a discussion on this book later in the month, so I just read "Searching for the Secret River", which is the story of Kate Grenville's inspiration, research, writing, and re-writing of this story.  It isn't often that you get a chance to learn about the author's writing process.  I found it interesting.
  The inspiration for "The Secret River' came from the Walk for Reconciliation on the Sydney bridge in Australia in 2000.  There were 250,000 people walking across the bridge, and Kate was one of them.  She was recalling the story that she had heard about her great-great-great grandfather, Solomon Wiseman, who came to Australia on a ship of convicts from England, landing close to this spot. 
   In the crowd, she locked eyes with an Aboriginal woman.  She realized that this woman's ancestors likely also lived in this place.  She wondered what happened when Solomon Wiseman encountered Aboriginal people.
Kate Grenville
   Kate immediately began to search for information about the life of Solomon WisemanShe visited countless museums and libraries. Some in Australia and some in England. She interviewed dozens of people. She wrote pages and pages-binders and binders.  
  She had expected that she would end up with a biography of Solomon Wiseman, but realized that it would be very boring for the readers.  So she put the facts into a novel. And what a wonderful novel it is!  I'll talk about it on my next blog.

Friday, 18 May 2018

"Before We Were Yours'

A beautiful cover and an interesting title.
   This novel has two alternating storylines.  
Maryland in 1939 and South Carolina, present day.
In 1939, there was a poor but loving family living on  a riverboat: parents Queenie and Briny, children Rill (12), Camellia (10), Lark (6), Fern (4), Gabion (2).  The mother was taken to the hospital when the delivery of her twins, (with an untrained midwife) went seriously wrong.  While the parents were gone, the children were picked up by an adoption agency, never to be returned to the parents.
  The other storyline is the granddaughter of one of the children (a lawyer), trying to piece together the story of her ancestors.
  This novel is extremely sad and the saddest part is that the story is based on facts.  Between 1920 and 1950, the Tennessee Children's Home Society took children from poor families and sold them to celebrities and politicians. During the process, they allowed or intentionally caused the death of an estimated 500 children.  Perhaps some of the children really were orphans and were able to be adopted by a good family but the horrendous stories, like this one, are common.  Birth records were altered so that they could never be found by their original family.

Georgia Tann was the manager of this organization and she had a lot of influence, which allowed her to steal babies from hospitals, prisons, etc.  When a new mayor was elected, he caught wind of the mistreatment of children and did an investigation.  Georgia Tann died of cancer before the findings were made public.

   Many readers loved this book, but it was too emotionally packed for me.  It is much harder to read this type of story when you know it is based on fact.
  The second storyline seemed contrived and not so interesting, but added another dimension to the novel. 

Monday, 14 May 2018

"The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America" by Bill Bryson

   With the beautiful spring weather finally here, we are spending more time in the car, on road trips.  And I like to read to John while he is driving (mostly on smaller roads- not the 401).
  We had enjoyed reading books by Bill Bryson.  In 1999, while travelling, I read aloud "A Walk in the Woods".  I remember it well.  It was about hiking the Appalachian Trail and it was quite humorous.  We enjoyed his sense of humour even though it is mostly sarcasm.  In 2015, a movie was made starring Robert Redford.
  Then, in 2000, I read "In A Sunburned Country" and I loved it!  Once again, it is a travel book, this time about Australia.  I had been to Australia, so I was especially interested.  He filled the book, not only with his travels, but so much fascinating information about Australia- geology, botany, archaeology, history, and geography.  A wealth of information about the country that I loved!
  His response to the country was not always the same as mine, but I valued learning more about places that I had visited, such as the story behind the building of the Opera House in Sydney.  Great book.  Great writing.  
  Because we had enjoyed Bill Bryson's writing, we began reading another of his books that I had picked up at a used bookstore.  It had been written in 1989.
   "The Lost Continent" is about travelling in the United States.  Bryson had been living in England and returned to his childhood hometown in Des Moines.
  This book begins "I come from Des Moines.  Somebody had to."  He does not speak well of Des Moines, but he also has very negative things to say about every place that he visits.  In fact, the book has been called "a serious indictment of the American way of life and the direction it is taking."
  The humour that I had enjoyed in other books, turned very sarcastic and nasty in this book. I did not enjoy it.  
  However, Goodreads stated: "The Lost Continent is a classic of travel literature - hilariously, stomach-achingly funny, yet tinged with heartache - and the book that first staked Bill Bryson's claim as the most beloved writer of his generation. 
  There were parts where my husband chuckled but other parts made us groan. Mostly I was disappointed, because I was anticipating a great romp through the U.S.A.

  BUT... it reminded me of another travel book that I really enjoyed.  "Breakfast at the Exit Cafe" written by Wayne Grady and Merilyn Simonds.  Husband and wife enjoying their travels through the U.S.A. as my husband and I have done for over 20 years.
Read about it here.

Friday, 11 May 2018

One Book One Community 2018

Congratulations to One Book One Community!
This is the 17th year of operation.
 It is the longest running community reading program in Canada! 
 Isn't that wonderful?


One Book One Community has announced its book choice for 2018. 
I t  i s  a  t h r i l l e r !

  Linwood Barclay has written 17 adult novels that are very popular around the world.  One novel is being made into a television series in France.  Other books have been adapted for T.V. or film.


I loved One Book One Community from the start!  I have read every book choice over the years and promoted the book on every occasion.  One year, I read the whole book aloud at a nursing home.  I always look forward to the author event in September.

I have loved some choices and disliked others.  That is to be expected.  So I read this book immediately when it was announced.  I am not familiar with 'thrillers' and so I read information about mystery novels, crime novels and thrillers, trying to understand this genre. I came to the conclusion that I am unable to appreciate any of these books.  They reflect too much of the horrors of the world and I find them neither interesting nor informative- certainly not thrilling.

The original mandate of the One Book One Community committee was to choose a book that would be relatively inoffensive to our rather conservative population in this area.  Well, I realized that I must be the most conservative reader since I am disappointed in the language and characters.  I guess both should be expected in a thriller.

Monday, 7 May 2018

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

   Eleanor Oliphant is the narrator in this quirky novel.  The author was exploring the idea of 'loneliness' in a young woman.  And Eleanor was definitely lonely. 
  "I do exist, don't I? It often feels as if I'm not here, that I'm a figment of my own imagination.  There are days when I feel so lightly connected to the earth that the threads that tether me to the planet are gossamer thin, spun sugar.  A strong gust of wind could dislodge me completely, and I'd lift off and blow away, like one of those seeds in a dandelion clock."
   This is definitely a character-driven book and I do enjoy interesting characters.  I also love to see character development.  Well, you really get inside Eleanor's skin as her backstory is revealed- bit by bit.  And it is heart-breaking. The end of the book details her therapy, ending in quite a shock.

  Eleanor, at 29, living on her own, is very regimented and alone in the world.  Her insistence on speaking clearly is really entertaining- great vocabulary!
  I learned about this book from another blog: "A Librarian's Thoughts on books".   You can read about it here.

  We both really loved "Eleanor Oliphant".
  The author, Gail Honeyman, lives in Glasgow, Scotland.  This is her first novel.  Excellent writing!

Friday, 4 May 2018

Lisa Genova

   Lisa Genova has a PhD in neuroscience from Harvard University.  Yes, she is brilliant!  And she writes amazing fiction!
   Each novel has a brain disability at its core, making it extremely interesting.
  Her first book was "Still Alice", which she self-published.  In that novel, Alice Howland is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's while she is a professor at Harvard.  The story is fictional, but the Alzheimer's Society has endorsed the book.  Lisa wanted 'to give a face and a voice to this disease that affects 500,000 people under 65 in U.S.A.'
  I read that book shortly after it was published.  It was very popular. 

   Then Lisa wrote "Left Neglected", which I have just read for the second time. 
  Sarah Nickerson, a high-powered executive with three young children, has a car accident and suffers from brain damage resulting in a condition termed 'left neglect'.  Very fascinating!  Her eyes are fine but she can't see anything on her left, nor feel the left part of her body.  There are deeper issues concerning neglect in this book.  It is very thought-provoking and important for our time.  AND, beautifully written!
  When Sarah is finally able to snowboard, she says, "It feels like excitement and terror are tumbling around inside my chest like clothes in a dryer".

  Two more books have been written that I have not read yet:  "Love Anthony" (a child with autism) and "Inside the O'Briens" (about Huntington's disease).
   Her new book has just been released: "Every Note Played", about a concert pianist with ALS.  
   I am very interested in reading this book but it will be awhile, because there is a long waiting list at the library.

   Lisa lives with her family on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  You must try one, two, or more of her books.  A reader's delight!

Monday, 30 April 2018

"The Painted Girls" by Cathy Marie Buchanan

Edgar Degas (1834-1917) was a French artist who specialized in painting ballet dancers.  He is one of the characters in this historic novel "The Painted Girls".
   Paris 1878
   Main characters: 3 sisters- Antoinette (17) Marie (13), and Charlotte (7).  These girls are trying to follow their dreams of dancing in the theatre in Paris, in spite of the fact that their father has died and there is no financial support for them.
  Antoinette, who was not disciplined enough to continue in the ballet, procures a small part in a play and falls in love with a young man who is involved in a murder. 
The Little Dancer
    Marie does well in the opera and earns money by modelling for Edgar Degas.  She was painted in many poses such as the painting above, but also she was the dancer behind the statue "Little Dancer'.
  The combination of fact and fiction, makes an engrossing novel that shows not only the artistic culture of Paris but also the darker side of Paris.

Friday, 27 April 2018

mobile libraries

delivery in my town
   The Visiting Library Service in our local library organizes delivery of books to seniors' residences, nursing homes, and to isolated individuals in private homes.
  One of the retirement homes that I visit has many very eager readers.  It is a delight to bring books to them.  Recently this retirement home was in lock down due to 'health issues'.  I responded to a request for books other than our normal delivery day.  The grateful reader sent me a very interesting link to a video about delivering books in Columbia.
    Since I am a librarian, I love creative ways to deliver books, so this was of great interest to me!  You can watch the video here.

delivery in Colombia
    Twenty years ago, Luis Soriano was a teacher with a concern   about children having no access to books.  He took his own   collection of books and transformed two water-carrying donkeys   into a library service.  He named the donkeys 'Alfa' and 'Beto'  (alphabeto means alphabet).
    Even though Luis now has a prosthetic leg, he is still providing   this service.

 In 2003, I wrote a post called "Librarians with a Mission".
It included a story about book delivery in Kenya. Check it out here.

And here is a quote, sent by my daughter, explaining why we are grateful for access to books.

"For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth.  What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet you, or excite you.  Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave.  They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die." (Anne Lamott)

Monday, 23 April 2018

"The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" by Robert Louis Stevenson

classic book club choice

   This very short story is called 'a gothic novella' and was published in 1886.  The plot takes place through the eyes of the lawyer Mr. Utterson, who has been a friend of Dr. Jekyll for years.
  One day, Mr. Utterson was walking on the street behind Dr. Jekyll's house.  This house was connected to the back of Dr. Jekyll's house.  A man, coming out of the house, knocked over a child on the street, and Mr. Utterson chased him.  When he looked into this man's face, he was sick.  The man's eyes were lifeless and cold.  His mouth was twisted. Looking at him gave Mr. Utterson a sense of horror.
  And so, of course, this man was Mr. Hyde who is the evil part of Dr. Jekyll.  Dr. Jekyll had done chemical experiments that resulted in his ability to change from the kind Dr. Jekyll to the monstrous Mr. Hyde.  He was able to separate good and evil.

   Robert Louis Stevenson was bedridden at the time of writing this story and was inspired by a nightmare.  He wrote the story in three days, then took 6 weeks to refine it.

Robert Louis Stevenson 
  The story has been interpreted in many ways.  Some people see it as a social commentary on society in England at the time- 'outward respectability and inward lust'.
  Stevenson was sick most of his life and I was interested in reading the story of his life in "Under the Wide and Starry Sky" by Nancy Horan.  Check it out here.
  Stevenson only lived to age 44, but he wrote many books, short stories and poetry.
  The books that remain popular are "Treasure Island", "Kidnapped", and "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde".

Friday, 20 April 2018

"Never Let Me Go" by Kazuo Ishiguro

   Dystopian novels seem to be popular these days.  And this is a science fiction dystopian novel.
   It is written by a Nobel Prize-winning author Kazui Ishiguro.  It has won many awards and citations.
  The author, who is also known for "Remains of the Day", has called this novel 'his most uplifting novel', because it is the only one to feature a wholly sympathetic cast: Kathy H., our narrator, is a thoroughly likable, thoroughly sensible, thoroughly ordinary young girl, which makes what happens to her all the more upsetting.

Kazuo Ishiguro
   And what happens to her?  Well, it is dystopian, so be prepared.  The novel is about a boarding school, 'Hailsham', peopled by clones who will be used for organ replacement.  The teacher told them, "Your lives are set out for you.  Before middle age, you'll donate your vital organs.  You were brought into this world for a purpose."  If they are lucky, they may spend a few years being a 'carer' for those who are 'donating'.
   And, also of interest, is the fact that each person was copied from a normal person, so they are interested in finding their 'original'.

   The content was not of interest to me, but the writing was worse.
Most of the novel is Kathy going back and forth in her mind to her years at Hailsham: "I want to tell you this, but I have to go back and tell you this"...back and forth, mostly remembering conversations.  Lots of emotion, very little plot.
   Perhaps this is a better cover:

Monday, 16 April 2018

"Thursdays in the Park" by Hilary Boyd

   I cannot pass by bookshelves- even in the drugstore!  I surely believe that books belong in the book store or the library, BUT, I still have a quick look at the books for sale in the drugstore when I pass by.

  This cover caught my eye. So I bought it.   
  Jeanie is turning 60 and her husband constantly calls her 'old' and wants her to sell her business ( a health food store) and move to the country.  In spite of her objections, her husband buys a house in the country anyway.
  I guess the rest is predictable.  Jeanie takes her granddaughter to the park every Thursday and who does she meet?  A grandfather with his grandson.  This man is friendly and kind and listens to her.  Well, you know the rest.
  Guess that is the kind of book that would be in a drugstore- or an airport.  A quick read with very little depth or originality.
  One quote that was interesting about turning 60:
"Sixty is heaven", she had told Jeanie as they sat having tea.  "The world is done with you, you become to all intents and purposes invisible, particularly if you are a woman.  There's childhood, then adult conformity---work, family, responsibility---then just when everyone assumes it's all over and you're on the scrap heap of old age, freedom! You can finally be who you are, not what society wants you to be, not who you think you ought to be".
  When I finish reading a book, I check the internet to see what other readers think.  One person called it 'gran-lit'.  Probably that is a made-up category, but it is about a grandmother.
  Another reader compared the book to 'literary waterboarding'.  Well,  maybe not that bad- most people gave it 3*'s out of 5*'s.

Friday, 13 April 2018

"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time"

   This is a very fascinating and unusual story of 15-year-old Christopher Boone, who is autistic.  He does not understand human emotion and can't stand crowds or being touched. He thrives on structure, order and predictability.  However, when he finds the neighbour's dog impaled on a garden fork, he is determined to find the killer.  It turns out to be his father.  Christopher discovers not only this terrible secret but a worse one- his father had told him that his mother had died, but she had actually left with the next door neighbour.  Christopher decides that he cannot live with his father anymore and attempts to catch trains and subways to London where his mother lives.
   Christopher is a brilliant mathematician and that part was beyond my understanding.
   I found this book fascinating because it was so unusual.  There were charts and graphs and pictures as Christopher tries to explain how he understands things.  What insight into an autistic person's life. 

Short and powerful story!

Since this is my second time reading this novel, I have questions of the author.

Mark Haddon

1.) How did you understand autism so well?
2.) Are you a mathematician?

My research shows that he is not autistic himself, although he has worked with disabled children.  He says that he only read one book about autism.
His major in college was literature.

This novel was published in two identical editions with different covers, one for adults and one for teenagers.  The author said, "To my continuing amazement, it seems to have spread round the world like some particularly infectious rash".

Monday, 9 April 2018

"The Reason I Jump" by Naoki Higashida

  An upcoming book club choice is: "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time", a novel about a boy with autism.  
  In preparation for that discussion, a book club member recommended that I might be interested in reading a non-fiction account of a boy with autism : "The Reason I Jump: the inner voice of a thirteen-year-old boy with autism".  This teen lives in Japan and was diagnosed at age five. This book is a translation.   
  The format of the book is interesting.  He answers 58 questions about his experience of autism with short, insightful answers.
Naoki Higashida

   Although there is a wide spectrum in the autism disorder, mostly there is a communication problem.  Here is part of Naoki's answer to the question "Why can't you have a proper conversation?"
  "I can never say what I really want to. Instead, verbal junk that hasn't got anything to do with anything comes pouring out of my mouth.... But having started with text communication, now I'm able to express myself via the alphabet grid and a computer, and being able to share what I think allows me to understand that I, too, exist in this world as a human being".

I really had no understanding of autism.  But I discovered that it is a brain abnormality that shows up on a brain scan.  It is more common with boys and it may be genetic.

Another quote:
Question: "Why do you memorize train timetables and calendars?"
Answer: Because it's fun!  We get a real kick out of numbers, us people with autism.  Numbers are fixed, unchanging things.  The number 1, for example, is only ever, the number 1.  That simplicity, that clearness, its' so comforting to us...Invisible things, like human relationships and ambiguous expressions, however, these are difficult for us people with autism to get our heads around."

  The young man who wrote this book, only 13 years old, is very insightful and I learned a lot about autism.  Now I am ready to read a fictional story and I will be able to understand it better.

Friday, 6 April 2018

"Every day" by David Levithan

   After the stress of Canada Reads, I was delighted to get caught up in this out-of-this-world novel.  And here is the cover.  I think I picked this book mostly because of the cover.  I wanted to be floating around in space- out of this world.
  A very bizarre plot- are you ready?
This is the promotion on the cover:
"Every day a different body,
Every day a different life.
Every day in love with the same girl."
It is the strangest love story that I have ever read!
   "A" is the spirit that goes to bed in one body and wakes up in another body- girl, boy, black, white, large, small- always different, but always the same age, 16, and in the same geographic location.  He tries to be very sensitive to the body that he is in, and make it easy for that person to return the next morning.  Of course, there is no explanation of why this is happening, because it is out-of-this-world and an intriguing fantasy.
   But, while inhabiting Jason's body, "A" falls in love with Jason's girlfriend Rhianna. He has access to Jason's thoughts, so he knows that Jason has not been treating Rhianna well. And so, he tries to keep track of Rhianna after leaving Jason's body.  That becomes interesting and eventually he has to explain to her what is happening.
   Surprisingly enough, she tries to adapt to the possibility of a boyfriend who is in a different body every day.  There are lessons to be learned there.
  There is a sub-plot of the after-effects of his takeover of another young man, but it never made sense to me.
author-David Levithan
  This book has been made into a movie and there is also another novel written from Rhianna's point of view.  I have read that it is not as interesting as the story of "A", popping in and out of different bodies. 
  The ending of "Every Day" is not completely satisfying.  But the writing is spectacular!  It provides an escape from the 'real world'.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Canada Reads: final thoughts

   Canada Reads is over for another year.  I don't expect to read the five choices next year.  I have been increasingly disappointed in the choices.  This year, the books were overwhelmingly distressing.  Too much sadness in four of the five books to digest in such a short span of time.
  The distress of reading these books was compounded by family discussion on Easter. Some of the family attended the "March for our Lives" in Washington last weekend.  The pain and agony in the world seems overpowering.
  I am reminded of a poem by William Wordsworth:
"The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. - Great God! I'd rather be
A pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old triton blow his wreathed horn."

   Instead of Proteus, we can think in Christian terms at Easter of the resurrection, and be hopeful.
  We all need balance in our lives- in our reading as well as life itself.  Spring is in the air and the world is full of possibility.

   Oh, yes, the winner of Canada reads was "Forgiveness".  Jeanne Beker really did a good job of promoting the book and had some thoughtful things to say about the need, in the midst of such world crises (yes, that means more than one), to 'build your soul'.  Amen!

Friday, 30 March 2018

Canada Reads: book 5

Book 5: "The Boat People" by Sharon Bala

   This book is fiction although it is based on fact.  The fact is that boats arrived in Vancouver from Sri Lanka during the civil war (2009-2010).  They were carrying  refugees, hoping to be allowed to stay in Canada.
   The characters in this book are fictional, but went through the regular stages of immigration- hearings and detention reviews, that take months or years.
  This fictional boatload of 500 refugees was detained in prison. The women and children were in one location, with the men in another location.    This was a problem right from the start because the main character, Mahindan (whose wife had died in childbirth) had a 6 year-old son, Sellian, who was separated from the only person he knew. Mahindan had difficulty getting immigrant status because he had been a mechanic who had repaired a vehicle that was used by a suicide bomber. 
  After several months in the women's prison, Sellian was placed in a foster home, where he could not speak the language or understand the culture.
  The government had great concern about bringing these refugees into the country: "We will protect the nation's sovereignty.  We will not allow our refugee system to be hijacked by an army of terrorist clones".
  Well, this book broke my heart.  I'm afraid that I have 'opened my eyes' too much to the suffering of the world.  Here is another cover, showing the man and his son.

   This book will be presented by Jozhdah Jamalzada.

Mozhdah is an singer/songwriter, born in Afghanistan.  At age 5, her family arrived in Canada. She was raised in Vancouver, studying journalism, philosophy and political science.  She returned to Afghanistan to create a T.V. show.  

Monday, 26 March 2018

Canada Reads: book 4

Book 4: "American War" by Omar El Akkad

  This is a dystopian novel.  The prologue talks about the 2030's and 2040's - "before the planet turned on the country and the country turned on itself".
  The Second Civil War in the United States begins in 2074- goes on for twenty years. It is triggered by the climate crisis- the north is banning fossil fuels.  A young southern girl, Sarat Chestnut, is the main character and the novel tells how she was affected by the violence as a child, became a killer and was tortured for years.  She found the ultimate revenge in the horrifying climax.
  It has been called "a notable book of the year, by The New York Times book review, and it is a Globe and Mail 'best book'.
  I hated every page.

This book will be defended by Tahmon Penikett, an actor, who grew up in Whitehorse.
He said that the book is about religious bigotry, regional hatred, racism, sexism and fake news.  I didn't see any of those things.  I saw bombing, fighting, killing, and torture.
He said that it has echoes of America today.  And that, alone, is a scary thought. 
What is the appeal of this book for so many readers?  One of the reviews online said "The war lasts for nearly twenty years, with unmanned drones and biological warfare and good old-fashioned terrorism making a ruins of the South."  What is appealing about that?
Let's face it.  I never understood the appeal of dystopian novels.  Most people have enough challenges in their life, that they don't need to add the sense of hopelessness that these novels invoke.
If people enjoy this writing, they have a right to read it.  However, why would Canada Reads recommend that 'all of Canada' read this book?  It baffles me!

Friday, 23 March 2018

Canada Reads: book 3

Book 3:  "Forgiveness: A Gift From My Grandparents" by Mark Sakamoto
  This is a non-fiction book about two of the authors' grandparents- his paternal grandmother and his
maternal grandfather, during the second world war. The book intertwines the story of Ralph MacLean, who was captured and spent some years in a POW camp, with the story of Mitsue Oseki, whose family was uprooted from British Columbia to be interned on a sugar beet farm in Alberta.
  Both families had their lives completely changed
Mark Sakamoto is a lawyer who has worked in politics.
as the war affected them in different ways.  Although each family experienced man's inhumanity and brutality, they learned to forgive. 

  The end of the book is the story of the author's mother who lived a very destructive life of abuse and addiction.  He also had to learn to forgive his mother. 
   I did not like this book.  I thought it would only be of interest to the author's family.  There are many much better books about World War II- the Japanese internment as well as the bombing and fighting.  
  This book was full of minutiae- too many small unimportant details.  It started out as an essay and I think that was sufficient.  The rest was filler.
  However, there are many people who thought this book was great and I am waiting to see what the panel for Canada Reads will have to say
about it.

Jeanne Beker
  Jeanne Beker will be defending this book. 
  She is a Canadian television personality, fashion editor, author, and newspaper columnist.  She was appointed a member of the Order of Canada and received a star on Canada's Walk of Fame.  

Monday, 19 March 2018

Canada Reads: book 2

Book 2: "The Marrow Thieves" by Cherie Dimaline

   What an ominous cover!  It certainly does reflect the tone of the novel.  It is a young adult novel and I compare it to "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy.  They are both post apocalyptic and very dark.
   In this novel, the indigenous people are being hunted AGAIN!  This time for bone marrow to solve the problems of the rest of the world.  A teenage boy, Frenchie, joins a group to escape the "Recruiters" who are rounding them up and taking them to 'marrow-stealing' factories.
  I recognize the value of great story-telling to shed light on important issues.  That is what dystopian novels do for us, but I find them so difficult to read.
  I also recognize that I get too involved in the novel.  At one point in the story, Frenchie listened to the stories of the others in this disparate group of people 'on the run'.  Each individual story was heart-breaking and Frenchie said, "I wanted to throw up.  I felt the bile burn at the base of my throat,  I couldn't take anymore".  At this point in the novel, I understood exactly what he meant.  Every story was so distressing. 
  But I realize that in this novel about 'the hunted trying to hunt', the basic question is: "What does it mean to be human?"
  Lovely to read about the Anishinaabe people.  But so, so sad.

Jully Black

Jully Black is called "Canada's queen of R and B". She will be defending this novel for Canada Reads.  She is known for championing causes and attempts to use her career as a platform to inspire others to celebrate the greatness that is in everyone.
Cherie Dimaline

But I want to also celebrate the author of this book - Cherie Dimaline, a Canadian Metis writer.  This book has won many awards.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Canada Reads 2018: Book 1

2018 theme: "One Book to Open Your Eyes"

Book 1: "Precious Cargo" by Craig Davidson
   What a great cover and title, although the title is also a Bruce Willis movie.
  But I love this cover- the colours, picture, and overall effect.  It does what covers should do- draws you into the book.
  I was really expecting this book to be my favourite, so I read it first.  However, I was disappointed, not really sure why.
  First, let's talk about the content of the book.  The subtitle is: "My year of driving the kids on school bus 3077".  It is a memoir.

Craig Davidson
  Craig Davidson had been trying to write, but was feeling like a failure.  In the midst of despair and poverty, he took this bus-driving job.  He was responsible for five children with special needs- autism and cerebral palsy amongst other emotional and physical disabilities.  He wrote the book to explain how the relationship with these children changed his life.
   I think the overwhelming theme is stated on page 202: "Why are some of us so fortunate while others are not?"  And so, it seems to be about the author grappling with life issues.  Probably for him, it was a year of emotional growth.  The book was written several years after the experience, when he was more settled into his life.  By this time, was experiencing acceptance as a writer and had a wife and baby boy.

  Why didn't I love this book?  Hmm.  Possibly I felt he was trying to be funny but missing the mark.  Perhaps I felt that it was pedestrian, uneventful.  It seemed like a short story that was padded and padded, with descriptions of the bus, the weather, etc.  I also thought he gave too much detail on the bathroom needs of one of the boys.  That is often my problem with memoirs - invasion of the privacy of other people, although I do realize that the author had permission from all of the parents and they saw the book before it was released.
Greg Johnson

   Greg Johnson will be defending this book for Canada Reads.  He is a 'weather guy'.  He is one of Canadian Geographics Magazine's top 100 explorers, and worked on the show "Tornado Hunters".