Monday 26 September 2022

Quick post on a Monday night...

It’s late-ish on a Monday night, a school/work night, and I’ve just attended a union meeting on Zoom, so I’m pretty tired, but I wanted to write a quick post about a book I finished on Saturday.  I finished reading Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, a book that has come highly recommended by a number of very different people I know.  It is the book that we will be discussing on Saturday at my book club meeting, and I have to say that I was very unimpressed.  I think there must be something wrong… no, not wrong, just different… about my book tastes, because I rarely enjoy the books that “everyone” is raving about, books that are being made into movies, etc.  I don’t know why that is, what I look for and appreciate in books that seem to be missing in these stories, but it happens regularly enough that I’ve begun to wonder why my reading tastes are so much different than those of the majority of other readers.  In case you don’t know what this book is about, in case you missed the movie trailers, this novel focuses on Kya, a girl who basically raised herself in the marshes of New Orleans in the 1950s and 1960s.  A death occurred in 1969, and we read about Kya’s early life and how she grew up, supporting and educating herself while being shunned by the nearby town and labeled the March Girl.  I don’t want to give anything away, but you can probably guess what happens with Kya and how she might be associated with the events in 1969.  I guess I didn’t enjoy being inside Kya’s head so much and living her lonely, isolated life on the marsh.  I found the writing somewhat uneven, and the characters and storylines not at all credible.  But I can believe that it would make an interesting, suspenseful movie!  Anyway, I’m curious to hear what my book club members have to say about it and will update you next week.

Have a good night!

Bye for now…

Sunday 18 September 2022

A "no-book" post on a muggy day...

This may be the last of the muggy days for this year, which would make me so happy.  We had a brief taste of fall weather with one cool, refreshing day last week, and I’m ready for it to make a comeback.  For now, I’m enjoying a steaming cup of chai and a bowl of what must surely be nearly the last of the summer strawberries, blueberries and peaches.

I didn’t read anything last week because I was waiting for my book club book to become available, so while I was waiting, I tried out a few books I already had borrowed from the library, but with no success.  When my hold became available, I rushed to pick it up, but I really struggled to get into it.  Then I had a number of things unexpectedly come up that I had to take care of after work several days last week, and I never did finish the book, which we are meeting to discuss tomorrow.  The reason I’m writing about this is to talk about reading choices.  I’ve decided to stop participating in this Friends Book Club, as I just feel like I’m reading too many books that I didn’t choose, while the library holds that I personally selected pile up and end up being returned unread.  I already have one book club that I facilitate, and I think that’s enough.  Reading is my favourite thing to do, and there will always be more great books out there than there is time to read them, so why would I spend my time reading something I’m not really into?  It wasn’t an easy decision to come to, as I really enjoy getting together with this group of friends and catching up, but I realize that when reading becomes work, something has to go.  So I guess what I’m saying is, don’t bother reading a book that’s not grabbing you.  Rest assured that there will be something else at hand that will pull you in and keep you engaged, delighted or inspired.

That’s all for today.  Get outside and enjoy the sunshine before the rain arrives!

Bye for now...

Monday 12 September 2022

Monday evening post...

It’s Monday night, the first Monday back to school with students in full attendance, and it’s going to be a long week (a full five days - yikes!!), so I think this will be a short-ish post.

I wanted to tell you about the discussion from Saturday morning’s Volunteer Book Club meeting.  The book selection was Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being, and everyone loved it.  I think everyone admitted that they would never have picked it up if it wasn’t on our list, but that they were so glad they did.  I listened to the audiobook last year and here’s what I said about it:

“The… book I want to mention is A Tale for the Time Being by Canadian author Ruth Ozeki, who also narrated.  I have to say that this was a phenomenal novel.  It was so good that I ended up buying a print copy and adding it to my book club list for next year.  Told from the point of view of two narrators, this novel spans the globe and takes us to Tokyo, where troubled teen Nao (pronounced “Now”) is contemplating suicide as the only escape from the bullying and loneliness that she is experiencing.  At her parents’ insistence, she spends the summer with her grandmother in a Buddhist temple high in the mountains and begins to find a connection to her past that may help her deal with her present struggles.  She also finds solace in her diary, where she refers to herself as a “time being”.  Travel across the Pacific and we find ourselves on a remote island off of the coast of British Columbia (I think the island was called Desolate), where Ruth, a middle-aged writer, finds a Hello Kitty lunch box containing these diaries washed up on the shore.  Ruth also struggles with loneliness and a lack of connection, and these diaries give her a project to work on, purpose to her days, and an opportunity to connect with others on the island and across the ocean.  This book is about so much more than what I’ve just written, I know I will never be able to do it justice.  But I would highly recommend this novel to just about anyone, as it has a little bit of everything in it, history, romance, Buddhism, even quantum physics!”

We talked a bit about everything, from Japan in WWII and the cruelty and bullying that went into training Kamikaze pilots to themes of honour and consequences and the unbelievable levels of bullying Nao faced in school.  One member who listened to this as an audiobook said she thought at first that it was a teen novel, as that is what it seems like at the beginning, but by the end she thought (and these are her exact words), “I am not smart enough to talk about this book” (you certainly are!!).  It was unfortunate that, of all our meetings, I had to cut that one short, as I had a funeral to go to, but I’m sure if we had more time we could have discussed much, much more.  In fact, we all agreed that this is the kind of book that should be discussed in small chunks as you read along, as it has so many interesting storylines and is so complex, with so many topics touched upon.  And the level of research that went into this book astounded everyone.  In short, we were awed by this book, so much so that there was a resounding “yes” when I asked if I should put her award-winning The Book of Form and Emptiness on the list for next year. 

And I read a short novel by another Canadian writer, The Most Cunning Heart by Catherine Graham.  A friend of mine told me about this book, which was written by her cousin, and was curious to know what I thought of it.  I recommended it as a purchase for my local library and was able to borrow it from there.  I’ll admit that I was feeling a little apprehensive about reading this book and sharing my thoughts with my friend, as it is a book about poetry and poets (specifically Irish poets), written by a poet, and I worried that it might be too literary and esoteric for me.  Well, it was literary, but also very accessible.  I’m sure if I knew more (or really anything!) about Irish poetry and poetry writing, I would have been able to understand this on a much deeper level, but I think I was able to get much of the story.  Set in the early 1990s, this short, beautifully written, lyrical novel tells the story of Caitlin Maharg, a poetry student and teacher who, when facing the loss of her parents, leaves her home in Canada to study in an exclusive poetry workshop in Northern Ireland.  Living in a cottage by the Irish Sea, she is reminded of her early years as a child, and she grapples with her memories as she tries to understand her parents’ secrets amidst the backdrop of the Troubles.  When she becomes involved with well-known poet Andy Evans, she loses herself in his charms and searches for a place to belong, even as she struggles to understand their relationship in the context of that of her parents.  This is yet another book about loss and grief, and each book that I’ve read has been told so differently, with such different stories and coping mechanisms.  But they all tell of the difficulty of grief, and illustrate in various ways that grieving is a process, one that is unique to each person and takes different forms, sometimes taking a year, sometimes a decade, sometimes a whole lifetime to resolve.  In this novel, Caitlin, or Cat, must come to her own conclusions about her relationship with Andy (despite my wanting to tell her again and again to stop and think about what she’s doing!!).  I don’t want to give too much away, but this was a quiet, captivating novel that explores the inner workings of the grieving heart as it learns to understand and heal itself.  I would like to thank my friend for bringing this lovely book to my attention - I hope I’ve done it some kind of justice here.

That’s all for tonight.  Take care and have a wonderful week!

Bye for now... Julie

Monday 5 September 2022

Labour Day post...

It’s a cool, overcast day and I’m thrilled to have this extra day off to finish up a few things I didn’t get done over the summer.  But I thought it would be good to start the day with a steaming cup of chai and a slice of freshly baked date bread, as well as a short post about the book I finished last week.

I read Canadian author Kelley Armstrong’s latest book, A Rip through Time, and it was… interesting.  It is the first in a new series featuring Vancouver homicide detective Mallory Atkinson.  It’s 2019, and Mallory is in Edinburgh to stay with her dying grandmother when, while out for a nighttime jog, she is attacked and left unconscious.  When she wakes, she finds herself transported to 1869 and is inhabiting the body of young Catriona, a housemaid to Dr Gray.  Catriona has also been recently attacked and left for dead in the exact same spot as Mallory. She determines that she was somehow transported back to Victorian Scotland through a rip in time, and believes that the only way back to her family and her real life in the modern world is by figuring out who attacked Catriona.  When more bodies turn up, the case becomes more complex and mind-bending, and Mallory, in the guise of the housemaid, must work fast to stop the killer before more people die, while also being conscious of not changing history.  I’m not a fan of time-travel: I’ve never watched Dr Who and haven’t read Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” series.  And I don’t enjoy historical mysteries.  This book was both a book about time-travel and a historical mystery, and Armstrong managed to pull it off (I wonder if there's anything she can't do!!).  I was drawn in immediately and found myself searching for more opportunities to read.  It was much like the first “Rockton” book, where it’s setting the stage for future novels, and while this was not quite as good as City of the Lost (“Rockton” series, book 1), I will definitely watch for the next book in the (“Edinburgh”??) series.

That’s all for today.  Enjoy what’s left of the long weekend, and have a wonderful day!

Bye for now... Julie