Monday, December 26, 2011

And now for something completely fluffy...

WOW! What a good book! I loved Martha Grimes The Old Wine Shades. I expected to read it as a fluffy mystery (which it is) but it also comments on the idea of story as important to life and about stringtheory and Shroedinger's cat. So it goes a bit beyond your average British mystery. 

Here are a few quotes about story:

"We always  dream a story" referring to the fact that our brain makes up a story for the random images are mind flings are way when asleep. As bizarre as they are they are all incorporated into a tale.

"You dream in symbols, yes, but the symbols take place in narrative form"

"Are you saying we live for stories?"


The books prologue ends with "Man walked into a pub..." and from there Richard Jury and the reader are hooked. The story told over a series of days in a series of pubs begins a very crazy and bizarre mystery that the reader wants to solve. You are left guessing right up to the last page and at the end of the book just want to keep right on reading. I can't wait to pick up the next Martha Grimes novel. Good thing I bought a stack of them at the mega used book sale/fundraiser in my town this fall.

I am still obsessed with all things British since my trip to the UK this summer and this book didn't let me down. Filled with just enough street names and tourist locations to keep me happy I gleefully snapped up things about Fulham Road, Hatchards, Fortnum and Mason and Picadilly.
"You've got to understand with Harrod's you're there because you're there. It's a destination place, you know like Las Vegas or the La Brea Tar Pits"

Although this book was obviously not on any of my great classics lists it was well worth the tangent to read it. you have to go fluffy this time of year and I didn't have anything holiday themed to read.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Book 23-The Sound and the Fury

I did not like this book, it was horribly difficult to read, and in the end left me understanding what I read (to a degree) but not what it meant.

Thank God for Daniel S. Burt's brief description of the book in The Novel 100 because after reading it I realized that I understood more of what was happening than I thought I did, but I still didn't end the book feeling like I learned anything. I wanted to like it after having such a huge epiphany after reading Absalom, Absalom, but try as I might I just can't say that I loved it. Interestingly enough this is one of 6 books on the list of 100 that does not appear on the list of 1001.

I didn't like any of the character's in this novel, and normally that is okay (when they are parts of myself that I can identify and want to work on) but in this case I just didn't like any of the characters they were all crazy and not in a good way!!!

Benjy-who is the special needs adult whose brain you are plummeted into at the beginning of the novel frustrated me (but also gave me compassion for those for whom the world is a confusing place)

Quentin- One of the narrators who appeared in Absalom, absalom is apathetic and unable to face real life

Jason jr- Huge jerk that I hope to never be like in my life. Man, he made me mad, but I was glad he came to at the end of the novel

Caddy- although she was kind to Benjy and took care of him she was also selfish and her choices ended up being the downfall of her family

I suppose Dilsey- the black servant was a fine character who ran the family out of love and compassion. I felt so bad for her as she ran around trying to keep everyone in line. The scene in church where Benjy is silent listening to the preachers story of redemption was beautiful, but still not enough to redeem the novel. Daniel S. Burt talks about this as the alternate option that could have happened for the family, but it wasn't paraticularly clear for me as the reader. I finished the book, and thought to myself... now what was the point of all of that?!

I guess one thing that I did get out of the novel is that you will torture yourself i you live in the past. The quotes that stood out most for me had to do with time and its passage.

"I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire" ~speaking of the pocket watch Quentin was left by his grandfather

"I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all your breath trying to conquer it."

"clocks slay time"

There is an interesting occurence that happens when they change the "man child's" name from Maury to Benjy. I loved the quote "Folks don't have no luck changing names" because I actually think that people do! I have always been a believer in the Biblical process of changing names when your character changes. I hope to name my children for character if I am ever blessed to have them.

Finally here are a few random quotes about various characters that amused me or made me think.

"Women are never virgins. Purity is a negative state and therefore contrary to nature" ~Faulkner seems to have a thing with virginity...

"You're not a gentleman,' Spoade said. 'No I'm Canadian,' Shreve said. Lol!!!! As a Canadian that made me laugh!

A quote about Caddy shall end off this review and than I can finally leave this book to rest. Thank god! "It was to isolate her out of the loud world".

Onwards to Book 24 which is Vanity Fair. Kind of excited to read this one!

Book 22-Crime and Punishment

ahh Book 22, one of the very first classics I ever read was Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. I instantly developed a love of Dostoyevsky and picked up everything I could by him. I read Crime and Punishment in 2002 while I was still in university. I enjoyed the darkness of his books, which to me equated realness...because the earth isn't always a pretty place and we humans aren't always the beautiful people we can be. This story is a horrible nightmare about the tortures of our conscience and how internally we do know right from wrong (and yet, still chose to do the bad anyways).The story is also about finding redempetion and realizing we all suffer from the human condition with all its beauty, glory and agony.

I eventually put down that type of reading when I started working in the Social Services field because the harsh realities of Dostoyevsky, the horrid family histories of canadian author David Adams Richards and the softer, but still brutal approach of John Steinbeck, smacked too much of real life. My clients lives were dark enough as it was I didn't need to see it in fiction. I had a few dark years were I stepped away from truth giving fiction and started reading extremely fluffy novels (the wonderous genre called Cosy mysteries which has very little to do with real life). I came back to reading classics shortly before I picked up The Novel 100 list because I realized I had let one of my favorite parts of myself die. I love truth, beauty, literature and beautiful words and when I realized I missed out on the things that the classics spoke to me; I knew I had to pick them up again.

Here are a few quotes that spoke the most to me back in 2002. God bless the things I recorded in my quote book!

"What if man is not really a scoundrel, man in general, I mean, the whole race of mankind-then all the rest is prejudice, simply artifical terrors and there are no barriers and it's all as it should be."

"I have come because I am bad. There are men who wouldn't have come, but I am a coward..."

"I regard you as one of those men who would stand and smile at their torturer while he cuts their entrails out , if only they have found faith or God. Find it and you will live"

"Life had stepped into place of theory and something quite differnet would work itself out in his mind"

Russian novels speak to me about faith and God. Not the north american version of faith with its lulling platitudes and self serving cliches, but real faith founded on both the beauty and horror of humanity. It speaks to me on such a deep level and reminds were I want to be even though I am so far away. I am the person I am because of some of the Russian novels I read during my formative years. I hope I can find my way back to the person I was when I first picked up Crime and Punishment and subsequently devoured everything Dostoyevsky had, because I am so far from there at the moment I don't even know how to begin.....

Friday, November 18, 2011

London Fields-(36th book of 1001)

The book London Fields by Martin Amis is AMAZING. Not something I would traditionally give 5 stars to but I was completely engaged in it and read it quickly dying to know how it would all turn out. The story is a mystery, written by the narrator who is narrating "real life". A murder is going to happen and he is faithfully taking down the details of it as it occurs. The odd thing about this book is the "author" is dying, as is the world, and the "murderee". The book is filled with a looming presence of a ticking clock...the world is a bomb that is about to explode!

This book is cheeky, oh so cheeky. It makes you giggle as you pick up on the completely inane subtleties that this book throws at you. For instance, the "author" of the novel is doing an apartment swap with a highly success author, Mark Asprey. The delighful narrator has never made it big and as he is laying dying in Mark Asprey's apartment he making a last ditch effort at a novel. He reads a novel of Mark Asprey's left lying about for him to pick is under a pseudonym with first and last name staring with M and A. The author of this book? Marin Amis (me thinks the author is implying he is the successful author who published this novel on behalf of his dead friend!) Most of the characters have names that are very thinly veiled puns including Guy Clinch (who is the fall guy and the "clincher" that makes the murder happen), Dink Heckler who is a preppy tennis player that hangs around Guy Clinch's house likely having a affair and making a mockery of Guy, the president's wife is called Faith and her life is tied in somehow with the fate of the earth, Chick Purchase is the loathed enemy of Keith Talent (the dart afficionado)who is the "murderer". Why is he the enemy? Because they both have a penchant for violence towards women and one of them outdid the other.

The book also has several really silly pages full of alliteration including:

"In the pimpboot of his pimpcar are more pimpclothes, swathed in pimppolythene"

"Burglars were being burgled, by fellow burglars" (Did I mention the world burgle makes me giggle uncontrollable?)

On horror day:
"he thought of horrordog and horrorcat as after, a sickening drop he shuddered his way tormentedly upwards, wedged in the pungent horrorlift" (I suppose this one isn't really alliteration so much as a repetition of the horror phrase)

Despite its silliness you finish the book feeling like you learned something and were not just entertained. The book is a book about story, and the things we tell ourselves about what we deserve, what will happen to us and what life is all about. The author was the narrator of this story putting a certain spin on the actions he was seeing before him, he observes,

" The lady has an unreliable narrator. Many people in the streets have unreliable narrators"

There were several questions and comments posed to God as well:

"God exposes us, take away our padding, and our room"

"who stitched us up with all these design flaws?"

The book is set in London, and having been there this summer that alone endears the book to my heart. The novel centers around Portobello Road where I made the trek one crazy, Saturday, market day. I got to use my travel guide map as I followed the characters walking up and down streets.

Here are some cute London references:

"If London's a pub and you want the whole story, then where do you go? YOu go to a London pub"

In the Black Cross pub "time was a tube train with the driver slumped heavy over the lever, flashing through station after station"

Anyways, that's all I'll say about the book. I can't quite figure out what it is that I got from the book, or what the author was trying to say, but there's a lot there and I don't feel stupider for having read it. Although comically silly, and a murder mystery there is definitely a point behind this novel.I would recommend it to anyone as there is bound to be something of interest in it for all.

The Poisonwood Bible (35th book of 1000)

I have been wanting to read The Poisonwood Bible since the first year I graduated from university. I lived all the way in Ontario while working at a women's home and my roomate, a summer student working there was reading the book. She loved every minute of it and said I could read it when she was done. That was the plan, unfortunately the home shut down before she ever finished the book....and I moved back to BC. Everytime I would see it in the store I would think, "oh I should really get around to reading that", but of course I never did. Enter the list, and a whole new motivation to plow through books and tick them. I found this book at the local used bookstore complete with a resident cat who flopped on my foot making it difficult to move.

Of the stack I bought this was the first one that I chose to read. It was good. I loved the format which was a story told from 5 different perspectives. I was hooked and only focused on reading it and my book from the list of 100 novels I am reading instead of the usual 4 or 5 at a time. I just wanted to know how things would turn out.

I think my favorite character was Leah because she is probably the one who is most like me. She was embarrassed by her family and tried to fit in with the african world that she found herself in. Her life was struggle but she was happy because she was with the man she loved. She looked for her fathers attention but eventually realized that her father was very imperfect mentor to be following.

I was always saddest reading the mom's story because had so much pain and loss to share. She had it hardest out of everyone in the book because she wanted to leave Africa so bad, but couldn't get over the fear of her abusive husband until the unthinkable happened. Because of her experiences both in the US and in Africa she cam eto realize that life is lived in teh every day moments and not the highpoints like death or marriage. "Let men write those stories. I can't. I only know the middle ground where we live our lives"

As much as I liked Leah the best as a character the most profound words were spoken by Ada the twin who had a limp and a confused brain. As Ada processed her life in Africa and also her eventual overcoming of the limp she thought about what happens when people try to forget their past and their scars.

"What you have to lose is your own story, your own slant...either way you have no words for the story of where you came from.

"We are our injuries as much as we are our successes".

Here are a few more great quotes that I loved, but can't remember which narrator said them.

"to live is to be marked. To live is to change, to acquire the words of story."

"believe this: the mistakes are part of the story"

I have always loved the idea of life as story ever since a Human services class in universitywhere we read several articles about the idea that people think of their lives and live their lives with the idea of story always present. Everything we do makes sense given the context of the story that we tell ourselves.

Although the story is about missionaries it is hard to tell what the author thought about faith.People on either side of the fence have argued harshly about the pros or cons of the way the story was told, but personally loved every minute of it. Faith, life, love is messy and that is what the book represents so well. Each of the characters were changed for ever by a ver sisgnifcant happening in their lives and they each made sense of it in very different ways. That is life. I think there is still a very real place for faith in and amongst all the pain, and confusion of the Price Family's trauma. Regardless of what the author thought about faith the book reinspired me, not to be a Christian like Nathaniel Price but to be an honest and real Christian who wrestles with my own faith and lives authentically before others (not imposing my beliefs upon them or discounting their perspective).

Friday, November 4, 2011

Book 21-To the Lighthouse

I came close to disliking this book, but in reality just didn't really get much out of it. I was saddened by this though because I watched the Hours which is based on Virgina Woolf's life and she seemed interesting. I thought for sure I would like her writing but I can't say that I did. :(

The book, To the Lighthouse is a book about Virginia Woolf's parents and also a book about memories and the ones that stick with us no matter how small they seem. The book focuses on two days one set 10 years in the past, and a foiled trip to the Lighthouse and another 10 years in the future after the death of Virginia Woolf's mother (Mrs. Ramsey in the novel) when the trip to the Lighthouse happens. The book is filled with insignificant happenings but I think the point is that those small moments make life great. Despite a not bad theme, the book just didn't really keep my attention, they way I had hoped. I slogged through the book, and was glad when I finally got to put it down.

There were a few interesting quotes I liked in the book though. Including:

Mr Ramsey always wanted his children to, "be aware from childhood that life is difficult, facts uncompromising, and the passage to the fabled land where our brightest hopes are extinguished"

"How then, she had asked herself, did one know one thing or another about people sealed as they were"

"Something, she meant, is immune from change" ~This quote gets to the heart of the book about the fact that memories bring permanence to the world.

"Mrs Ramsey saying, 'Life, stand still here'

Anyways, that about all I have to say about the book. I will likely try another Virgina Woolf novel at some point just to see if it is here style I don't like. The next book on the list is Crime and Punishment which I have read so I will move directly on to The Sound and the Fury.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Must read book of the year!

This book wasn't on either of the list's I'm readin but it is hands down best book I've read all year!

I love homeless people, always have. I have felt called to work among them since I was 16 and this book shows why. There are stories in their lives, beautiful heart rending stories and this book is full of them. To those who have never sat with a homeless person the stories of each of the four lives profiled by this book sound hugely over exaggerated but they aren't. The trauma and the pain detailed in these 500+ pages are the gospel truth even though the book is a work of fiction. It reminded me of my many friends I have met in my jobs as Homeless Outreach Worker and Youth Outreach Worker.

This book is filled with the beautiful power of story. 4 homeless people and one broken man discover each other during a cold snap where they all end up at the movies. The book shows the "magic and the mystery" (note the title of my blog) of truth and beauty displayed in the flickering lights of the big screen. The truth in story is why I read and this book has it all. Life lessons, heart rending stories that break down the harden parts of you, beauty so painful it feels like a knife stabbing you in the heart, and magical events that remind you there is a God. I don't often read stories that make me cry (I tend to avoid them like the plague because I am a lot like the character Digger in the story I don't like to get mushy or be vulnerable)

One day I would like to sit down and watch each of the movies that the book talks about, but right now I am not ready, because I think I would sob like a little baby. There are only a few books that I would give 5 stars to but this is one of them. I want to pass this book around to the world because the story is so powerful. Funny that so many of my favorite books were found on the bargin table at Chapters. Happy accidents from titles that spoke to me or covers that drew my attention. I don't really believe in accidents...

I love beautiful quotes and this book is just full of them. The words are sometimes cliche but in the context of the story they are heart rendingly beautiful.Here are just a few:

"Being a rounder's just what it sounds like. You go around the same fucking vicious circle until you've seen and done and survived everything. At first its just life that screws you. Nobody comes here by choice"

"There's a risk that comes from being known, and its most marked form is the loss of subterfuge"

This is why I love the homeless. They are the most genuine people I have ever met. They cease being ashamed of the person they have become and just live as who they are scars and all.

"About seeing what you crave the most thrown up on the screen in front of you and recognize it for the hole within you that it is"

Ahhh....that is so true. That is the power of good story. To recogize things in our lives because it is outside of ourselves and can be objectively viewed for the first time.

"It was a magic way. A mystery way."

I named my blog magic and mystery because those two word describe the essence of the things that make me happy and I love finding those two paired together in literature. Makes me glad to know others recognize their importance.

I highly recommend this book as a must read. Hands down best read of the year!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Book 20-The Great Gatsby

This list has been good for me. I read The Great Gatsby as a teen and didn't like. I remembered nothing else about the book except that I had liked one quote in it which I remembered writing in my quote book. By reading book's on this list and refreshing my memory of ones I read a long time ago I am hopeful that I will have a much firmer grasp on the books 20 or even 30 years from now. If nothing else, like my quote book of my teen years, this blog will remind me a little about the feelings and thoughts I had about the books I have read. My memory is a sieve, but intentionally setting out to look at what I read and put it in some rational form will hopefully help me to retain more than just a vague sense of emotion about books.

For the purpose of this list I chose to listen to this book as an audio book which I downloaded from the BC library system "Library without walls". Although I had read this book in 2001, I wanted to be able to write a review of it....and I just didn't have enough to go on. It was a good thing I did decide to listen to it again because I was better able to appreciate it now that I am older and have more experience in the world.

The book as I see it is basically about the fact that all behaviour makes sense when it is viewed in context. Gatsby is a bright, glittery wealthy jerk, but his facade had a purpose. He was trying to woo the love of teen life to him with money, wealth and power. Although it had been years since he seen her he knew if his notoriety increased enough she would eventually hear of him and make the trek to see him. (This part reminded me quite a bit of Absalom, absalom) What luck, then, that the narrator Nick Carraway a friend of his beloved Daisy moved next door. It was the glitteryness of the book, and the depressing nature of the story that turned me away from the book as a young teen setting out into the world. I read it while i was home from university one summer, during the years when I snapped up literature and read it with voracity because it was teaching me about life and truth and beauty. I didn't want to see that life could be so cruel or that people could be so fake. Basically I didn't want to read a book that was so horribly depressing. All the reviews say that the book is about how the American Ideal at the time the book was set was flawed and cracked. I would agree that it IS about that too, but the book gives a rationale for why people might be pursuing vain goals.

It is telling that the opening line of the book, was the quote that I loved, "Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone remember that all the people in the world haven't had the advantages you've had" . I loved that because I knew it was true. People make some poor choices in life, but they are perfectly rational choices in their mind, given the circumstance they are in and the skill set that they have. Although the narrator was wealthy and did have priviledges that others didn't have, I loved the quote because the same is true of people in poverty or people who grew up facing emotional hardship. If you want to criticize someone for their behaviour because it doesn't make sense to you just remember that you don't make sense to them either!!!

One of the alarming consequences of the books I have been reading, both on this list, and in other areas as well has been that I have become increasingly aware that one small turn of events can dramatically change a life forever. After reading books about the turning points in so many fictional characters lives I have come to realize that I am just one bad turn away from a complete change in my philosophy of life. Although I see myself as an optimist, I am guessing that for the most part that is because my world generally makes sense. Yes, crappy things have happened but I have been able to adjust and move on. After reading books like Madame Bovary, Anna Karenina, and the Great Gatsby it is easy to see how something devasting can scar you for life.

The second time I "read" this book I picked up a few more quotes that I likes as well:

"A sense of the fundamental decencies are parcelled out unequally at birth"

A quote I think affirms that this book is about the fact that people have differeing perspecitves and that we can't always understand why someone does what they do.

"Reserving judgements is a matter of infinite hope. I am still a little afraid of missing something".

Nick Carraway, the narrator of the book, who recieved the opening line wisdom of his father, never liked to judge someone because he was never sure of having all the information he needed to pass judgement. He referred to the fact that he tried to present Gatsby in all of his glory, and flaws.

One of the quotes that made me smile was this:

"the limited of all specialists: the well rounded man".

I like it because I think it is good to be well rounded in the things that you know. Sociology, English, carpentry, etc, etc.....all of it changes the way you look at the world. The book makes the point that you can only view the world through one lens at a time. And that, I think, for the most part is true. The next book on the list is To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Secret Agent-Joseph Conrad (33rd book)

Wow for a book published in 1907 it has some suprisingly modern insights! I read this book because it is on the "1001 Books to Read Before You Die" List and I am slowly working my way through the list. I chose this book as the second one to read off the list because although it had a lot to say it sounded like an easy read. I wasn't wrong there. Although it took a bit to get into at the beginning, by the end it was a fast paced read that left you wondering how it was all going to end. The characters were very realistic and you understood their inner workings through their thoughts, actions and descriptions of their motivations.

Some of the eeirily accurate predictions included one about Doctors. "In two hundred years doctors will rule the world". Although I don't feel this is true in Canada...I can definitely see that this is applied to the US. With their private health care system and for profit health care prices have soared out of control and people live in utter fear of getting sick. Minor illnesses can bankrupt people and even something like having a baby is now a medical procedure that can cost upwards of $10,000. I thank God every day for the public health care system I am proud to pay into. For someone to make this observation in 1907 London is utterly amazing to me.

The books central plot revolves around a bombing attempt gone wrong. The rational behind the bombing, the terrorist elements in the attack and the secret government involvement all are a little too similar to modern day terrorist attacks. In chosing the target of the Greenwich Conservatory the planner behind the attack said that churches, and government buildings would have little effect but an attack on something that was an institute of science would have more sway. ON 9/11 terrorist chose to attack the twin towers which could be a modern day equivalen to the Greenwich Conservatory.

Lastly, I loved reading this book after my trip to London and the UK. I was so excited when Verloc, the main character in the book sat in Chesire Cheese (a city of London pub, rebuilt very shortly after the London fire). I was there when I was doing a Dicken's tour of London and I loved it with its low ceilings, labyrinthine corridors, cozy cubby holes and claustrophic feeling. It would definitely not pass modern day fire codes!

There was also a funny quote that amused me because of my Dr. Who obsession. One of the communists that Verloc hangs out with says, "Exterminate! Exterminate!" Which is something that the Daleks say in Dr. Who.

Although I didn't give this book a very high rating I did like the story and would recommend it to everyone. I read it on my ereader so it was a free read thanks to its early publish date.

The Castle of Otranto

The first official book I've read as parat of the 1001 Books to Read Before you die!

I am still working on the list of the Novel 100 (which are almost entirely on the larger list) but taking it slower. This book I read very fast as it is short and silly! The book is a gothic novel about a Prince who wrongfully steals land from another man. It is a parable in the vein of the Bible verse, "sins of the fathers are visited on their children" or however that verse goes. His son is killed by a giant hugely plumed helmet that falls on him, the castle is haunted by giant bodiless hands in armor and a stranger appears in his castle who turns out to be the rightful heir. Although not life changing this book is amusing and an interesting read. A good diversion from some of the harder novels on the lists I have been reading. Thanks to Project Gutenberg and my kobo ereader I got to read this novel for free

A Second list? Are you crazy??

So when I bought the book The Novel 100 I knew what I really wanted was the book 1001 Books to Read Before You Die, but the price difference (The Novel 100 was 6.99 on sale at Chapters and the 1001 book was 39.99) made the choice for me. I started the The Novel 100 list with zeal and have loved every step of the way, but everytime I set foot in Chapters I would wander over to the larger list and gaze longingly at it. Finally when my irewards card was just about to run out I caved and purchased the book. I LOVE it....I have spent hours flipping and reflipping through the list and looking up random pages to read the comments about the various books.

Not being one to give up what I started though I am still plugging away at the smaller list. I am currently on book 21 To The Lighthouse. It is interesting to note that almost all of the 100 books on my original list are also on the 1001 list so everytime I tick a book of one list I get to also tick the book off the second list. Really, what should have happened here is that I should be in school right now, writing essays and doing assignments in a degree program where I would be getting credits for what I am doing, but instead I am intellectually challenging myself with the gargantuan task of reading and reviewing book after book FOR FUN!!!! And what great fun it is!

So how is this going to work you ask?? Well, i am going to concurrently read books off of both list. I have a Goodreads group for the Novel 100 and I am trying to read 1 book a month of the original list so that if anyone in my novel group wants to read along they can try and keep up. Sadly however, I am a fast reader and can breeze through books much quicker than 1 a month. So while I slowly read books of the original list I will also read books of the second list.

Here is the list of books I have read so far on the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die:

The Tale of Genji
Don Quixote
Tom Jones
Moby Dick
Bleak House
Madame Bovary
Great Expectations
Crime and Punishment
War and Peace
Anna Karenina
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Ambassadors
Of Human Bondage
The Magic Mountain
The Great Gatsby
Rememberance of Things Past
Absalom, Absalom
The Hobbit
The Catcher in the Rye
The Lord of the Rings
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Alias Grace
Life of Pi
The Elegance of the Hedgehog
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Notes from the Underground
Wuthering Height

Thats for a total of 31! Not even 10% of the list yet! Anyways, so when I enter these books in my blog I will try to make it very clear which list they are from but it may get confusing from here on out. Please feel free to comment on either set of reviews that I do and I will do my best to keep up with my blogs for both sets of books. If you are a reader yourself feel free to follow my progress as I read on

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Book 19-One Hundred Years of Solitude here is my book review for One Hundred Years of Solitude. As you can tell by the start of this review this book did not inspire me. I liked it, I read it pretty quickly, but I have absolutely no passion for this book and therefore I have had little motivation to finish this review. I was also holding off on publishing it becuase I was slowing down the pace of the book reviews for my Goodreads book group The Novel 100. I was trying to keep it to a book a month although I am a super fast reader. Feel free to join my group and Goodreads if you love reading, in particular classic novels.....anyways, back to the book. One Hundred Years of Solitude is one of the classic examples of magic realism a genre where fantastic events are described as a part of everyday life I LOVE that genre, but this book took it too far for me. The magical events in this book are not used for a a purpose to convey a meaning or express the authors thoughts on something they are just strange events captures as though they were real. This book is by a South American author Gabriel Garcia Marquez so maybe the book just didn't touch me because it was so far out of the realm of my everyday existence.Not sure what it was, but the talk of family relatives being taken up into the sky and never seen again, a beloved who is preceeded by butterflys whereever he went (actually that was pretty AWESOME actually) and a fantastic journey that a member of the family takes where every one gets shot and taken out of town by train but NOBODY in the entire town remembers it happening are a bit mcuh for me. That being said I read this book quite fast because it was an interesting story and an easy read. The book follows 100 years of the Buendia family with its various Aurelianos Arcadios. If there is a point to this story it is just that we are often alone in solitude, even when we are connected to family and friends. In that way this book is rather sad. As people married, had children and grew, a cycle in the family repeated itself and everyone essentially ended up alone (and some rather tragically). If there weren't a few times in the book where it specifically mentioned the connection to solitude and aloneness I might have missed that it was indeed the point of the book however. Here are a few of the quotes that I liked: "A person does not belong to a place until there is someone dead under the ground" "Death really did not matter to him but life did" "The search for lost things is hindered by routine habits and that is why it is so difficult to find them" "Both actions had been a mortal struggle between a measureless love and an invincible cowardice and that the irrational fear Amaranta had always had of her own tormented heart trimphed in the end" "She became human in her solitude" Although the book primarily focuses on the various Arcadio's and Aurelianos that the Buendia family creates and passes down through the generations the females in the stories are possibly more tragic than the males. Amaranta mentioned in the quote above was a tragic female who had attracted the love of two men in her life time, but due to her fierce pride would not consent to marry them (one because he chose her sister first). So with all that I would simply say that this book is an engaging read, but not a life changing one for me. It is enjoyable, and I am glad that I now know what everyone is talking about, but beyond that I can't say I am a better person for having read it. I am not even sure I would recommend it to anyone. The next book on the list is The Great Gatsby which I have already read, but may check out again either by movie or audio book to remember what I thought of it before doing a review. The next book I am reading book 21 is To The Lighthouse by Virgina Woolf.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

"My love, my love I don't want to go home now" or The God of the Desert Places

So I arrived home, super late from Spokane and it has taken until today (four days later) to actually sit down and write about my crazy adventure home. There are several reasons for this, one being that I was too emotionally raw from some crazy processing that happened on the way home and two being that I spent a few days recovering from being SOOO tired. At any rate here it is, the tail end of my trip to Spokane.
So taking 11+ hours to drive home from Spokane I had to leave super early. I left the hotel by 6am and started my long trip home. I almost ran out of gas in my haste to make as few stops as possible. I calculate gas mileage to a town but failed to remember that miles were 2.4 kms each. Thankfully I discovered this in time and was able to make a quick stop in a town I didn't expect! I also decided no matter how long it set me back I needed to stop in the desert just outside of George, WA a place that has become a spiritual home for me.There is an awfully long story about this but since it is important to why I stopped I will try to be as brief as possible. 8 year ago when I went to visit Deanna I had a mini breakdown that resulted in me surroundering my all to God in frustration only to hear the beautiful comforting words which left me shaking with awe that God was good, and safe...when I had been so sure that he was not. What happened was this I had been to TWU for 4 years learned so much, was filled so much and grew so much that when I returned to my home town of Courtenay I didn't know how to fit the new me into an old environment. I started to get apathetic and tuned out my inner world and got really busy to drown out a part of me that was dying from lack of spiritual food. I was in a dream job as a residential youth outreach worker had money and time to go on a holiday, but right as it came down to crunch time my car broke. I fell into a fairly significant depression, but because I wasn't ready to face it I surrounded myself with people so I wouldn't have to face it. The first part of my epiphany happened when my roomate came home and said, "why is it that you are never alone when I come home?" or something to that affect. I burst into tears and cried for so long. Needless to say my roomate and the friend I had over at the time were a little confused. I tired to explain it as best I could, but in the end I am sure I did a poor job. The next day I stopped, stopped running from God, stopped running from the yucky emotions inside of me and just surrendered. I prayed and gave the trip I was supposed to take to God and finally told Him I would follow him even if it meant being alone and spending sometime at home. I also spent sometime reading the Bible. I turned to passage set out for my by a reading guide I was using at that time and the verse I read just snapped me. The verse is Hosea 2 and the part that leapt off the page for me was a verse about "Therefore I am not going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her" v.14. I had assumed that my shutting out God meant that I had to give up my trip to get back on track. When I read that verse I knew that God was giving it back to me as a gift. The remainder of the verse is about how Hosea's prostitute wife (which is an allegory for Israel) wold chase after her lovers thinking that they had given her food, clothing, shelter and love....God takes away all these things (not to punish her, but to show the depth of love for her and that He would do anything for her to get her back. This verse broke my heart: "I will punish her for the days she burned incense to the Baals; she decked herself with rings and jewelry, and went after her lovers, but forgot me". I couldn't believe that God cared how I felt and wanted me so badly that he woudl literally chase me down. This sounds like a really negative story, but the good news come with the verse I quoted above. God allured me to the desert. He did speak tender words to me. I learned that he coudl be trusted and that even the un-fun stuff was done out of love. The further good news comes from verse 15 and on but for brevity sake I won't go into it. I will just quote the last bit which is "I will show my love to the one called 'not my loved one'. I will say to those called 'not my people' 'you are my people' and they will say, 'You are my God' "
I hit my favorite part of the desert about 7 or 8am. It was so beautiful. The sun was rising over the hills and the air was cool and fresh. i stopped at my favorite rest stop viewing area and walked out towards the river. I saw a little lizard but other than that it was perfectly still. I sat on a rock jutting out near the river and read my bible, and prayed. I was just so thankful that I was there and so thankful that I had that story to remind myself of the faithfulness of God. I was also thankful that God is a God of the present and that He continually speaks. As I left the view area I began to compose a "fairytale version my story in my head. I wanted a way to tell what had happened in a concise way. I seem to have lost the motivation to sit down and write it out like that though so this narrative version is what you get instead. Somehow I think telling it as a fairytale might make it clearer but I've lost the high I had on teh road. I was listening to a CD by Bebo Norman on the way home and was so crushed by the beauty of the words he sang. He has always been a singer who for me speaks so personally and deeply. A song called, "The Middle" came on and I was blown away. I had an epiphany (seems to be my word of the year...). I have been listening to this song, and feeling it resonate in my heart. I had felt I had felt the feeling the song talked about before but I couldn't think when, and I couldn't quite tell what Bebo was going through onlly that I loved it and that it was deep and important. After sitting in the desert I realized that it was EXACTLY the feeling I had felt pre-desert melt down the first time....I WAS running away and yet I wanted so badly to be set free. Here is a link to the song.... I played the CD on repeat belting it out all the way down the I-90...I was just so giddy, that the trip seemed to fly by. I made such good time (impossibly good time I turns out). I got to the border at noon and had a ton of time. I stopped for gas at TWU after crossing in Aldergrove to stop at the Coquitlam IKEA for a friend who needed a dresser. As I hit Trinity I was further overwhelmed by how far I had come since the day I had landed on campus at 18 a broken and significantly damaged girl looking for love, but unable to get it. So much garbage fell away during those years in the furnace of TWU. I was almost weeping as I ran around campus on an adrenaline high. I must have looked like an idiot as I grinned at all the students going to class, secretly yearning to be right back where they were. I posed at every meaningful place I coudl get and used my alumni discount to by stuff at the bookstore. I was just SOOOO high on life. I was mistaken for a student at one point which made me even happier!!!! I continued to listen to Bebo Norman all the way to IKEA singing it at the top of my lungs until I felt like my heart was going to burst from teh sheer joy of it all. I literally ran around IKEA looking for the dresser Esther needed and then got back in my car to go to the ferry. Sadly I had to wait for an additional ferry and completely lost my momentum as the tiredness hit and the adrenaline high crashed. I was still thankful for the day, but it was more of a contemplative high and less of a speedy high. I made it home quite late and then has taken four days, but i was finally ready to talk about my experience in the desert. As personal as it was, it is so dear to me I wanted to share it. I hope you can all find some joy and some hope in it.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Spokane Day 3-The "Miranda" Tour of Spokane

Have I mentioned how much I love this city? I give a huge shout out to my good friend Deanna for playing such an excellent tour guide that I fell in love with this city. Today marks the day that every person I know in this city left town! Deanna and David are on the honeymoon and Scout and Meliss are heading home. I decided to stay an extra day to make it a true adventure. Sunday was the perfect day to spend in the beauitful parks that Spokane boasts. After breakfast I headed down to Waterfront park and wandered around for a bit. I saw the carousel, the garbage eating goat, the gondolas that take you out over the falls (though I never went on it), the clock tower and the crazy structure that looms out over the park (no idea what it is but its pretty). After checking out the clock tower I found a parapet that I could sit on over the river. It was in the shade of a beautiful willow tree and I felt like I had died and gone to heaven. One of my relaxing mind images I use when trying to fall asleep is sitting under a willow tree with my feet dangling in a river. What I have relaxing mind images I use to fall asleep....uh yeah....I do!!!!!! I climbed on the parapet and started reading Labyrinth by Kate Mosse a book I had been wanting to buy for awhile but always felt it was too expensive. But apparently on this trip I don't care how much things cost!!! It is a historical mystery set in Carcassone France around the time of a crusade. I JUST love labyrinths and the fact that they were used as a spiritual tool in the early church. One day I will make it to the famous one in the Chartres catherdral.
After my legs started to fall asleep I wandered over to the giant radio flyer slide and headed out of the park. I was starting to get a bit queasy from the heat, even though I was in the shade so I downed a bottle of water on my way back to the hotel. I picked up my car and drove to Manito park which is on the south side of town. I found it fairly easy although I did make one small wrong turn. I found Rockwood Bakery on a small side street by the park. I had lunch and a latte there in the beautiful and cosy bakery. It was thankfully air conditioned so I started to feel better and made my way to the park. Manito pakr is kind of like Beacon hill park for those of you from the Island (although I am sorry to say it 10 times cooler). The park has a duck pond, a Lilac garden, a massive rose garden and a beautiful japanese garden with a koi pond. I drove through the park and just so happened to park by the Koi pond which I had forgotten was there. I was absolutely blown away but how beautiful it was. I stopped there for a bit, took some pictures and read on bench in a beautiful shady corner.
Fairly quickly after I made my way to the rose garden. Despite the extreme heat and lack of shade I looked at every frigging rose in that damn garden trying to find the Miranda rose. My grandma used to have a Miranda rose plant in her garden, and I always thought it was awesome that there was a rose named after me. I paid particular attention to the yellow roses because I seem to remember the flowers being yellow, but I just googled it and it turns out they are pink (so if there was a Miranda rose I may have missed it). I can't even fathom how many roses there are in that garden, but there is a ton. The smell was amazing and the flowers just so beautiful. I can't believe the incredible variety. God is an amazing artist!!!
I started to get queasy again so I laid down in shade next to some french rose bushes that hadn't bloomed yet. Eventually I decided it was time to carry on. I stopped by Ross Dress for less, becuase I can't be in the states without out that store. Unfortunately by this time I had a serious case of the "crankies" mostly due to the insane heat which I don't handle well (give me cold any day and I will be happy bundled under my blanket with tea and a book). I also stopped at Barnes and Noble where I picked up a book of 101 things to do before you die. It is completely ridiculous but I coudln't resist. I have developed a somewhat irrational penchant for lists...this being the third life list book that I bought (and will likely never complete). Finally I made my way back to the hotel to check in yet again to my third room of my stay. The boy from the front desk on my first day was back and we joked around a bit, laughing that I had done this three times. I relaxed for a bit before heading to the Catacombs pub which is my favorite food establishment in Spokane. Their speciality is woodstone fired roasted pizzas with an open fire in the middle of the pub. I sat at the bar so I could watch them cook my pizza (also because I was alone). Thought about ordering an ale to go with my food but realized I would be stuffed after I ate the pizza and s'mores I intended to order. I chose a cashew chicken pizza which was fricking delicious. It had pesto, chicken, feta and cashews on it. Soooo yummy. When I felt moderately full I ordered myself some s'mores which come on a little tray with a tiny little blue flame fire pit of yoru own to roast them. I ate two and roasted the rest of the marshmellows to take the s'mores home. I slowly walked home in the setting sun.
I am now in my hotel room after reading my ridiculous teddy bear mafia mystery novel in the bath. I have a VERY long drive home tomorrow which I am not looking forward to but this trip has definitely been worth it! If you are ever in Spokane feel free to take the Miranda tour of Spokane and tell me what you think. I garauntee you will not be disappointed!!!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Deanna's Wedding

I love the hotel I am staying in!! I slept much better last night, despite the fact it was loud until about midnight. I am in the arts and entertainment district after all so there was some loud music but I was still up so it didn't matter. I slept in a bit and had breakfast in the Sapphire lounge which is a club by night but a breakfast room by day. This hotel is very classy! Because of a huge wedding party that booked most of the hotel I had to move each night because there wasn't the same type of room available each day. I am in KING suite right now with a couch and love suite and a king size bed. For a girl who still sleeps on a twin I am not sure what I am going to do with all that extra space...but I will love I am sure!
I had a few hours to spare before the wedding so I walked down to my favorite book/ games store Aunties/Uncles. (The book store is Aunties and the games store is Uncles). I dropped a pretty penny in the bookstore and found a ridiculous book called Amberville which is about a teddy bear mafia....I couldn't resist the cheesiness of it all! I was going to head to the Riverfront Park and chill out down there but I saw Boo Radley's and their twin store Atticus and had to shop there too. OH MY WORD!!! I swear I've bought up half of Spokane! Boo Radleys is the great kitschy store that has the craziest things in it. Basically like an adult toy store with gag gifts and funny things. Atticus on the other hand is a pretty home decor store/ coffee and tea shop! I got a ton of stuff there and also coffee and a sandwich. By that time it was time to go to the wedding.
I arrive just on time and waited for the ceremony to start. It was so beautiful. David's pastor officiated the ceremony and it was one of the nicest messages that I have heard in a long time. He ended wiht charges for both of them and one of David's was "Don't geek out Deanna" or something like that and one of Deanna's was "Don't let David geek you out"! They are the cutest couple in the world. The reception was at a really nice school property that was formerly a fort. I decided to take some of the same pictures as the wedding photographer. David and all of his grooms men had on super hero shirts under there suits and they took a fantastic super hero pose that was EPIC!!! The reception was really good too. I got to sit with Deanna and Scout at the head table which was nice. David is a Doctor Who fan so his grooms cake was a Tardis. I LOVED it!!
The reception was an afternoon reception so there was appetizers and it was done in the early evening. Scout and I helped clean up and hung out for part of the night. I am now in my awesome suite, living it up!

Friday, September 9, 2011

My mini Spokane adventure.

AHHHH!!! So this trip has been so jam packed already that this post will probably be really long. For those of you newly joining my blog not only is it a book blog, but I also do a play by play of my various travels all over the world. My friend Deanna from TWU is getting married tomorrow and I managed to swing 4 days off from work to watch her walk down the aisle. Spokane is one of my favorite places in the world for several reasons (one being that Deanna is a very good hostess and showed me her favorite things here which have subsequently become mine). Another reason is that the first time I came to visit Deanna a had a fairly signifcant spiritual experience that has left me with a deep love of the desert (all of them, but particularly) the just outside of Spokane. I'll start with talking about the trip and fill you in a bit when I get to the part about the desert later. The journey to Spokane according to Mapquest takes 11 hours and 45 minutes. I was invited to attend Deanna's Bridal shower at 5PM on friday and was torn about leaving Thursday or trying to get up early and do the whole day on Friday. I waffled back and forth ultimately deciding to just get up uber early Friday. I chatted with my coworker about it on Thursday and they all told me I should leave on Thursday after work. I hadn't packed, hadn't found anyone to look after my fish, hadn't bought a gift for Deanna or something I needed for the shower. I went home deciding I would try to whip it all together and leave if it didn't take too long. I got everything packed and realized after chekcing the ferry schedule that if I left by 6:45 I could catch the 8:15 ferry out of Tswassen and probably get to Bellingham by midnight. This seemed like a good idea to me because it would mean no ferry waits, and most likely no border waits (whereas an early Friday morning departure woudl put me smack dab in the middle of rush hour). Thankfully I had been to Bellingham recently (when Esther and I went to the Tulip Festival) so I knew just where I wanted to stay and booked the room, deposited my fish with my mom and raced for the ferry. I made it with only 5 minutes to spare and got right on the ferry. It was a gorgeous night and I caught the sun setting over the water which was stunning. The border was a less than five minute wait and I made it to Spokane by midnight just like I thought I would. Sadly I was highly caffinated so sleep did not come easy. Also, I seem to have developed a paranoia about bedbugs and kept leaping of bed everytime I itched!!! I am bed bug free and laughing at myself at the moment. Unfortunately despite this hotel being very nice the walls are paper thin and my upstairs neighbours arrived home at 1am and decided to "enjoy each other company" know what I mean. I fell asleep at 3:45. I was determined to make a stop in Leavenworth though so I got up ate, showered and hit the road by 9. This journey was also uneventful. I made good time and didn't hit a single traffic jam. I even managed to stop at Wayside church which is the wee-est little church I have ever seen just outside of a small town on highway 2. It is so fricking cute, but hard to spot and kind of scary pulling over on the small shoulder of the highway.
I made it to Leavenworth and figured I had enough time to stop for an hour. I immediately headed to my favorite coffee shop in Leavenworth The Ginger Bread Factory. I had lunch, and coffee. I wandered around downtown Leavenworth stopping at the Hat store....which is not nearly as fun on a solo trip. I felt like an idiot taking photos of myself so I tried on a few things but don't have any photo evidence of it. Sorry folks! I also stopped at the toy store and a really cool hippy clothing/home decor store. I didn't by anything though.
I composed a status about Leavenworth in German while trying to steal a wifi signal but sadly it didn't work. It went somehting like "Auf Weidersehen Leavenworth. Ich liebe dich!!!" I completed the rest of the journey slightly speeding and wound along the Columbia river gorge near my favorite part of the desert. ugh...decided it would take to long to explain my spiritual moment so you will have to ask me over coffee sometime. This part of Washington has little signs next to their crops and I smelled delicious patch of Spearmint, and have discovered that Alfalfa also smells delicious. I drove by some tumbleweeds but was going to fast, to stop and take a series of ridiculous pictures. One day old friend, one day!!!!!! I made it to Spokane around 4 but got lost in the maze of one way streets. I eventually found my hotel (I could tell I was near it but couldn't see it from the I parked and walked until I saw the sign. It is in Downtown Spokane's art district and the majority of the hotel is painted read with nice modern looking lamps and a nice comforter. (I rate hotels on how ugly the comforter is and this one passes the test!!!). My room has art of a Sax player on the wall, and everything so far meets my standards! I am equal distance to all my favorite things in Spokane and within walking distance all my favorite stores. Sunday I will spend sometime doing all those things, but first the wedding.
I went to Deanna's bridal shower which had a fun game where we had to bring underwear and Deanna had to guess who brought what.It was actually really difficult! I stayed for the rehearsal dinner and then went out for coffee with Deanna, Scout and Deanna's sister Melissa who I have conneced with via the internet but never seen in real life until today!!! Tomorrow is the wedding, but I might take a quick walk around the city before heading there!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Book 18-The Ambassadors

I thought I liked this book, but by the end I decided I didn't. Book 18 was The Amabassadors by Henry James. It follows Lambert Strether as he journeys to Paris to rescue his wealthy fiance's son from a supposed liason with an unsavory women. When Strether arrives in Paris he is overwhelmed by the beauty and the character of its citizens. Hailing from Woollet, Massachuesetts where things are decidedly more repressed, he loses himself to experiencing life for the first time.

I liked the theme which was about living life to the fullest and getting everything you possibly can out of it, but by the end I decided that the book came off as a bit pretentious. Here's a quote about the theme of life:

"It doesn't so much matter what you do in particular, so long as you have had your life. If you haven't had that, what HAVE you had?"

This book was apparently inspired in Henry James by overhearing someone say somthing very similar at a garden party. I like that idea, but what I didn't like was the vague references by Strether's guide to Paris of something deep that only they got. I understood that they saw beauty, life, happiness, that they communicated beyond the formal ways of being in Woollet but after hearing so many vague references to it by the end I wanted to shake the characters and say, "oh shut up!!!" Take this for example:

"That means simply that you've recognized me--which is rather beautiful and rare. You see what I am"

"To be as good as you and me, but different"

This is one quote that I do like and if the book, hadn't driven the point home so many times I may enjoyed the book.

"What I've seen so often spoiled' she pursued, 'is the happy attitude of faith and what shall I call it? The sense of beauty".

Lambert Strether doesn't go crazy with freedom away from his fiance, who controls his entire life having all the money, but in the end it is hinted that he may have lost even her by experiencing real life.

"I don't get drunk, I don't pursue the ladies, I don't spend money I don't even write sonnets. But nevertheless I am making up late for what I didnt' have early."

In Strether's mind (and I will give him this point) it was worth it to throw everything away to just experience life in its rawest form. I agree with him there, because I do think that life is meant to be lived. People who are fully alive inspire a great sense of joy and awe in me and make me happy and calm, just as they did to Strether. I am hopeful however that I don't come across as too selfish or silly, because, in the end, I think I found everything that Strether did to be a tad bit too selfish. His enjoyment of life wasn't something that could be maintained, and was only a bit of an escape from reality. People who can find joy with or with out money, with or without comfort, with or without the inspiring sights of Paris are the ones who really experience life.

The next book I am working on his Book 19-One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. So far I am enjoying it as a story, but not much more than that.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Non-list book 2: Nikolski

I have realized I don't need to be in a rush to finish my list books, so I have started to read other books simultaneously. I am about a quarter through the Ambassadors and will do a review soon. For now please enjoy my review of Nikolski by Nikolas Dickner translated from the French by Lazer Lederhendler. Its a Canadian book!

ahhh, what to say about this book?! It will always be a book for me that is tied very much with a particular space and time. I read half of it while camping alone in the Summer of 2010 and the other half of it camping alone in 2011. This book read very while holed up in tent out in nature. It added to the Magic Realism aspects of the book. This is a genre that I have only recently discovered but apparently encompasses the majority of my favorite novels. Here is the wikipedia definition: Magic realism or magical realism is an aesthetic style or genre of fiction [1] in which magical elements blend with the real world. The story explains these magical elements as real occurrences, presented in a straightforward manner that places the "real" and the "fantastic" in the same stream of thought.

Now, although magical things don't take place in this book, some fantastical things do. The book follows three youngsters on a quest for their own identities and focuses on their personal journies as they try to overcome some rather odd upbringings. Each of them have a strange set of personal belongings they carry with them including a Nikolski compass which only points to Nikolski, Alaska, a "three headed book" of three seperate pirate related stories sewn together and a torn out map of the caribbean. Although each of these young adults have never met, they are all connected in some way and eventually their worlds collide if only for a moment. It is also significant that it was a book about coming of age and overcoming difficult things in the past and becoming your own person. I gave up camping for years as a child because my father drank to much (especially while camping) and I stopped wanting to go. Camping for me now has become about reclaiming something I love and making it my own, which has been very freeing.

The young people, Noah, an unnamed Narrator, and Joyce each love life, they have crazy odd passions and try to enjoy life in unique ways. Some of these include a love of fish and all things fish related, a penchant for books, a interest in garbage as an anthropological fascination, an urban pirate trolling the garbage for modern secrets and a love of books old and new. I just loved that part of the book. There is nothing I love more than finding out interesting things that people are passionate about because I think that is the stuff that LIFE is made of. We are all different and people that embrace that are truly alive.

The book ends midstream just the 3 lives take an interesting turn. I was sad for the story to end because I really wanted to find out where they went. If you hate books that leave you hanging I would not recommend this title! I was left wanting more, but felt given that it was a book thats smacked of real life it was appropriate that it didn't leave you with a sense that you had all the answers...because really thats how life is.

There were a few quotes I loved including:

"As a rule, archaeologist don't take much interest in nomads. Teh more a population travels the fewer traces it leaves behind...Garbage reveals what everything else trieds to hide"

"And that is exactly the trouble with inexplicable events. You inevitably end up interpreting them in terms of predestination, or magic realism, or government plots."

If you are curious about the magical realism genre or you read this book and really like it I would highly recommend Grace By Anthony Doerr and A Trip to the Stars By Nicholas Christopher. They are in the same vein is this, where fantastical stuff occurs and they leave you with a sense that the world is a magical place without actual "magic" events occuring.

Friday, August 5, 2011

A non-list book! The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Since coming back from the UK I have been a little more lenient with myself and though I continue to read books from the list I am also reading books that aren't on the list. This is a result of wanting to slow down for the Goodreads group I have and also to make sure I am being well rounded and reading the ever growing list of non-list (lol) books I want to read.

My coworker asked if i would like to read The Curious Incident of a Dog in the Nighttime and I always have since I discovered that it was written from the point of view of someone with Aspergers. I have a friend who has Aspergers and she had told me that the book is a fairly accurate representation of what happens for her in her brain. I have always loved the way her brain works and thus, I love the main character Chistopher Boone as well.

There were so many great quotes that I just loved including these ones:

"Prime numbers are what is left over if you take all the patterns away. I think prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules, even if you spent all your time thinking about them"

"If you don't take decisions you would never do anything because you would spend all your time choosing between things you could do"

"And because people always think there is something special about what they can't see"

The book is full of pictures, diagrams and drawings so it made it such a fun read! I was particularly amused by a picture of what the fabric on the Tube looked like. Having just recently been to London I remembered it well! Although the picture was black and white I knew exactly what colours the fabric was!

Actually the whole book filled me with giddy glee because it started in Swindon a train station that I quickly had to get off of to transfer and go somewhere my friend and I were travelling. It was either Cardiff of Glasgow I don't remember which. I could easily follow Christopher's journey on the train to london having just done it myself. I was also happy to see his description of the Paddington station signs (which screamed at him because his brain sees absolutely everything down to the smallest detail). As annoying as it is I am the queen of the phrase, "I've been there" while watching movies and reading books. That is one of my favorite parts of travel, that it expands your points of reference and allows you to make connections withan increased number of people, and stories because you have experienced them for yourself.

The mystery part of the story was actually really engaging as well. As a child I always wanted to be a detective and solve mysteries. I used to sit on my roof and record various things that passed by my on the street below. (This was after reading Harriet the Spy and wanting to record things in a book just like she did). Christopher had the same inclination as he tried to solve the mystery of who killed his neighbours dog.

The story has all the great elements of a good story, humour, sadness, mystery and suspense. I quickly read it in a weekend. I would recommend this book to anybody.

Book 17-Absalom, Absalom

I had a really hard time with this book at the beginning because the writing was really flowery and it took me a long time to plow through each individual passage. In the end I had a hard time with the book because it brought out really raw feelings in me. In fact, it was such a difficult book that combined with a couple of other things that happened at a the same time I was reading it I ended up having a mini break down, followed by an epiphany. the end I LOVED the book, rather than hated it.

Absalom, Absalom marks the first book that I read 100% on my e-reader which back when I started this project was the original point of it. I started the project hoping to use Project Gutenberg to get the majority of the books for free digitally. However, to date I have mostly purchased the books at used book stores, bought a few new ones, and borrowed some from the library.

I loved the idea of this book from the second I read what Daniel S. Burt had to say about it. Basically it is a mystery that you have to piece together from eye witness accounts, and stories that have passed down through the generations of the Sutpen family. The story is quite dark, as it is a history of how one man bent on a quest for vengence ends up bringing his family to ruin. The novel is peopled by a virgin spinster sister, a maniacal father who destroys his family, a daughter who is a widow before she is a bride, the brother who kills his sister's husband to be and a wife who lives vicariously through her children.

My mini break down happened because of one of the character's Rose who was the spinister who never married. I identified heavily with her character who was hard and strong, and hated men (but you saw wanted love all the same). If I am to become twisted because of bitterness like the main character it will be in this way. My epiphany came because of the theme of the story which is basically about what happens when one person tries to create their own destiny no matter what the cost is. It reminded me of a the book East of Eden by John Steinbeck and seemed to resonate with me because of that. East of Eden is one of my favorite books. The epiphany I had was about the point of East of Eden being about free will, and the fact that we were given choices and that is what makes us human and great. (This epiphany was aided by the song Timshel by Mumford and sons and googling what the word meant). The dark side of the ability to make choices is that we can choose to make good ones or bad ones. In Thomas Sutpen's case, his bitterness and anger at an injustice that happened when he was a child twisted him to make really horrible ones. The book also is an interesting picture of the south at the time of the civil war. It follows a nations choices and shows some of their eventual results.

There is a lot of flowery passages in this book that border on poetry. Here are a few examples:

"beneath the branch shredded vist of flat black fiercely and heavily starred sky"

"masculine hipless tapering peg which fits light and glib to move where catridge-chambered hips of women hold them fast" ~A rather poetic sexual reference!

" He was a barracks filled with stubborn back-looking ghosts"

"Ellen died, the butterfly of a forgotten garden"

And one needlessly complicated statement that I can only catch glimpses of the full meaning:

"where through no fault nor willing of your own you must and will be, not through any fault or willing of our own who would not what we cannot, just as we will and wait for what must be"

Here are a few quotes that point to the meaning of the story:

"something would have to be done about it, he would have to do something about it order to live with himself for the rest of his life" ~This quote talks about the original insult which leads Thomas Sutpen on the vengeful quest that destroys his family

"perhaps a man builds for his future in more ways than one, build not only towards the body which will be his tomorrow or next year, but towards actions and the subsequent irrevocable courses of resultant action"

~This quote talks about how some actions have irrevocable consequences that shape our futures

"It would be like God had got Jesus born and saw that He had the carpenter tools and never gave Him anything to build with them"

~This talks about the God given desire to create things around us with our hands, and also to bear children that will live after us. This quote particularly reminds me of East of Eden.

"Abraham would say 'Praise the Lord, I have raised about me sons to bear the burden of mine ininquities"

~This quote talks about Thomas Sutpens resolution to his dilemma from childhood. His belief was if he became like the person who snubbed him, but never turned someone away from him he would have won. Having his children and and a nice house to him, was a symbol that he had made it in the world.

All in all I loved this book, not so much for the actual layout of the story itself, but for what it ended up doing in me. I will cherish the epiphany I had through the telling of the story, even though I actually hated the process (and found the book difficult to read)!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Book 16-Great Expectations.

I just finished book 16-Great Expectations by Dickens. I made sure to start this book, just prior to my trip to London. It was the perfect book to be reading in London, because it is set in the old City of London and throws around street names quite a bit. I was very excited to visit the district that Pip walked and also to see sites from Bleak House while I was at it. I even had the privilege of enjoying an ale in Ye Olde Cock Tavern a favorite of Dickens among other famous literary figures.

I enjoyed this book, though not as much as I enjoyed Bleak House. Daniel S. Burt among other critics points to Dickens life when they say that this book is a rehashing of Dickens own poor upbringing just as David Copperfield was.The main differnce between the two books, is that in David Copperfield the middle class life is idolized where in Great Expectations it is seen as bad thing.Pip's "great expectations" ended up being his ruin and he went through a journey of discovering what was important in life, both for what is important to a man's character as well as what are important ambitions and dreams.

As with Bleak House, almost every single character in the book is connected with another in some important way. I love him for that, because the plot thickens the more you find out the interconnections. I made the mistake of reading what Daniel S. Burt had to say about the book before finishing the novel, so I knew the major plot twist. Despite that I was still suprised by a few other things in the novel.

I read the majority of this novel on trains, and in the air flying to and from London. I still made sure to keep notes on some of my favorite quotes.

The predominant theme is guilt and also what revenge can do to those who are consumed by it and also those affected by it. Both Pip and Estella are ruined by the revenge schemes of their benefactors. Here are a few quotes showing that:

"Break their hearts my pride and hope, break their hearts and have no mercy"

"Throughout life, our worst weaknesses and meanesses are usually commited for the sake of the people whom we most despise"

"if you had done this, and then, for a purpose had wanted her to take naturally to the daylight and she could not do it, you would have been disappointed."

"She had secluded herself from a thousand natural and healing influences; that her mind, brooding,solitary, had grown diseased, as all minds do and must and will that reverse teh appointed order of their Maker"

There are also several quotes about love, although I don't know if I agree with all of them. The story of Estella and Pip is a love story of a kind. It is different from most, because it is predominantly one sided but still it is a love story.

"It is blind devotion, unquestioning self humiliation, utter submission, trust and belief against yourself and against the whole world"

"In a word it was impossible for me to seperate her, in the past, or in teh present, from the innermost life of my life"

"I knew to my sorrow often and often if not always, that I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace against happiness"

"Told me! Why, yoiu have always told me all day long, when you told me your own story, you told me plainly that you began adoring her the first time you saw her."

I think this is all I will say about this book. It will always be very dear to me as I read it almost entirely while traveling. I am a fan of Dickens although I seem to have read his two books where he reverses his previous theory about the middle class. Pickwick Papers is further down on the list and it will be interesting for me to read it and see if I still like him under his former theory.

Returning Home

So I was just about to type up a blog on Great Expectations which I finished yesterday (the day after I returned home) but I decided I should do my traditional last blog which typically consists of a grouping of lists summarizing the trip. First I wanted to describe our flight home briefly. We arrived at the airport quite early, because I am never calm until I have checked in and made my way through security. There was a huge area after security which went so fast and Lynette and I ate breakfast and sat amongst the throng of people.I found a bagel that came with REAL bacon instead of back bacon (aka Canadian bacon)...I dislike Canadian bacon and I am assuming we most have gotten this food from our British ancestors. Boo. The flight was mostly on time and ran smoothly. We got bribed with really good food. Our two snacks were vanilla bean icecream and a thai vegetable wrap. Yum. I am not sure if this is normal for international flights or not, since I have only been on domestic flights but I was impressed. I read almost the entire 8 hours trying to finish Great Expectations before I got home. We passed over Iceland and Greenland which was so cool. I was very impressed by all of the ice in the water and the beautiful scenery on land. Customs was a breeze as they now have automated machines that take your card and give you a score. If you are given a low risk a single man checks your card and waves you through. We were low risk. Our luggage took forever to come through which left us in a bit of a panic, thankfully it made it safe and sound, though my bag has a ton of rips and tears on it making it completely unusable for another trip. We had an hour wait for the ferry, but made it on just fine. I went to bed at 8 beign extremely jet lagged and slept for 11 hours. It was glorious.

Now for the summary lists:

Types of food sampled:

British pub food
Welsh food

Drinks sampled:

London Pride
London Glory
Brains Beer

Major sights seen:

Big Ben
Westminster Abbey
Dickens London
Portobello Market
Fortnum and Mason's high tea
Tower of London
Various bridges
Watership Down
Covent Garden/Seven Dials
Sherlock Holmes Museum
Scottish afternoon tea at the Willows Tearoom.
Millenium Centre Cardiff
Mermaid quay Cardiff
Cardiff Castle
Thames River cruise
Cardiff bay cruise

Hotels stayed at:

Premier Inn, Glasgow
Regency Hotel, London
The Big Sleep, Cardiff
Stylotel, London
The George and Dragon, Chichester
EasyHotel, London

Souvenirs bought for me (not others don't want to spoil the surprise)

4 magnets
1 Welsh lovespoon
1 lovespoon necklace
10 new kinds of tea
100 vintage book cover postcards
3 new reusable bags
2 locket watch necklaces
1 ruffled umbrella
1 new wallet

Thats all I can think of to itemize at the moment. Hope you enjoyed the adventure. Now on to the book review!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Day 12-Chichester/ London shopping.

Today was a super fast day. Lynette and I got up and had breakfast at the Geroge and Dragon conservatory across from our room in the barn behind the pub. This hotel is so fantastic. The food was good too although I only ate breakfast and wolfed down a bowl of soup prior to the wedding. We headed to the train and had no problems whatsoever. I enjoyed reading Great Expectations the whole way (particularly after visiting some of the sights that Pip visited). We arrived at our hotel near Paddington and rejoiced that we never had to haul our luggage through the underground again. Tomorrow we get to hop on the Heathrow express from Paddington Train station. I will be sad to leave the underground but not when dragging a close to 50 pound bag behind me. I am getting huge muscles though! Guess I'll have to try to keep up with it when I get home!!!

Lynette and I gave up on trying to site see today and ended up doing some last minute shopping for souvenirs four both ourselves and others. My one purchase of note was a box of 100 postcards of vintage penguin book covers. I bought it Hatchards because I had seen it and walked away, but still wanted it. The bookstore has been in existence since 1791.Soo cool.

Lynette and I had coffee at this cool place called Picadilly Institute. Coffee house by day and high end pub/coffee place by night. There are 6 themed rooms but most are only open at night. We sat in the foyer which was equally as cool. We were sooo tired.

Lastly we met Sarah at Oxford Circus (can I just say that I HATE circus' my brain can just not compute directions off them. I have yet to get the right road the first time off of a circus (meeting of 6-8 streets) Lynette and I wanted to have a traditional Sunday dinner of roast beef and yorkshires. We found a pub by the circus and ordered the dinner. It was pretty good. I also found breaded pickles and HAD to order them and try them...deep fried pickles folks! Suprisingly good. I also ordered my final ale....most likely ever London Glory. It was not as good as the others as it was pretty watery tasting.

Tomorrow we leave London. I am sad, but know I am starting to get a bit punchy. Today I started following Londoners out into the street prior to the light changing (a very odd quirk we see daily here) and my directional ability has left me a sure sign I need to go home and catch up on sleep and eat regular food. We leave at 10 and arrive at 11 (about an horu later our time...but really 9 hours later for us). I hope I am not too jet lagged as I have to return to work after only 1 day off.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Day 11- Chichester, Kim’s wedding

Today was the whole reason I came to the UK, so as such it was the most stressful day. Lynette and I got up early to try and catch the tube which we knew was going to be a problem thanks to several planned tube closures. It was a pain in the butt as we figured because we thought we just had to change at two stations, however the entire Victoria line was closed. Because I was so stressed we took a taxi to Victoria station. We arrived with plenty of time, and stood around waiting to catch the 10:32 train to Chichester. The train to Chichester divides so you have to make sure you get in the right car or you end up going the wrong direction. Of course our section was the farthest away from our starting point so we had to run to the end of the platform and Lynette almost didn’t get on the train because the door closed. Thankfully it closed on my bag so we both got on the train just fine! When we arrived to Chichester we had to walk for a long time down the main street of Chichester.

The town is soooo cute. I am so sad I didn’t have more time to enjoy it. The main street is full of super cute wares. We got to check our luggage but no one in Chichester seemed to know where the town of Clymping was so I left an hour early via taxi to make sure that I got there in time. I wanted to eat lunch quickly before I left though and I managed to wolf down a bowl of soup (cauliflower and nutmeg) which was delicious. I got there with half an hour to spare and that is when I was finally able to relax! The church Kim got married in was next to a HUGE prison which I found highly amusing. It was a very old church with a church of some sort standing on that location as early as the 1100’s. It was gorgeous! Sarah arrived and we sat together and chatted. Just before the ceremony started I met Kim’s roommate from Toronto Hannah. She was very nice and we chatted with her after the ceremony was over until Kim and Craig arrived. I hadn’t seen Kim’s dress so when she arrived I was absolutely awed. It was a cocktail length dress with a huge puffy skirt. Hannah thought it looked like an Alice in wonderland dress. She even had a wee little white hat that completed the outfit. I was so excited.

The ceremony had tons of beautiful readings including one from Madeline L’engle. There was also one from George Eliot and Captain Correlli’s Mandolin. I loved all of them. When the ceremony was finally done Craig put on a hat and had a cane. It was so great!
The reception was outdoors but the weather actually got nice for once! While waiting for Kim and Craig to come we had pimm’s which is some sort of alcohol drink (not ale, but a sangria-ish) type drink with fruit. The cupcakes for their cake had glitter on them…which made me so excited! I went with Hannah in her taxi to Little Hampton where I caught the train back to Chichester. There was an unsavoury crowd at some of the stations at night because I had to transfer at two. There was a middle aged man who was falling down drunk with a two litre bottle of some sort of alcohol who thankfully boarded a different train from me. Predominantly though there were a lot of youth and young adults with open liquor spilling into the train and talking loudly of their various exploits. Despite all this I survived and walked the several blocks to the George and Dragon where I found Lynette. I was still a bit hungry from the wedding so I got Chinese Takeaway from across the street. It was delicious. Lynette and I found a Miss Marple mystery so we watched that and then several Red Dwarf episodes (I used to watch that show a ton as kid….so cheesy). Tomorrow we had back to London for our last hurrah before our trip to the airport and our crazy ride home. Will be happy to rest a bit at home on the couch with some tea and a book before I head back to work.