This Accident of Being Lost- Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

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This is not a book to make you feel good. This is a book that makes you feel uncomfortable. As a white woman reading this book I felt guilt, I laughed at myself and my efforts and I sure did learn a lot. I think that reading this book is important and I think that people should do it, but they might be a little uncomfortable along the way. And that’s a good thing white people. We should get uncomfortable.

This is a collection which might be a bit difficult to explain. It is made up of short stories, poetry and lyrics. It is powerful and mighty. It touches you in new ways and cracks open a whole new way of understanding, a new viewpoint. It makes you giggle at what you thought you understood.

My favourite parts of the collection were the almost dystopian stories that looked a little bit into the future where we encounter a messed up and shitty old Mother Earth. People have ruined Canada and there is almost no natural world left. These stories are fascinating and gut wrenching.  In my favourite story we encounter a pair of lovers about to pay all the money they have in the world to visit the last remaining corner of the boreal forest.

There are also some aspects of Nishnaabeg storytelling, with a twist. All in all an imaginative and excellent collection.

 

Check out one of her songs above.

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Next Year for Sure

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Next Year for Sure by Zoey Leigh Peterson was a very quick read for me. The prose was simple, yet interesting and often punched me in the gut with realization that I too have felt the same way. It is not a challenging read, but it does bring up many questions about monogamy, relationships and intimacy. There is not easy answers and there is no simple solutions or fall guy.

 

Chris and Kathryn are a great couple, a couple that has been together for 9 years. They have the sort of relationship that others envy, the kind that is so happy spending a Saturday night in pajamas playing Scrabble. They are open and honest with each other and best friends. Chris tells Kathryn that he can’t stop thinking about Emily, a young woman he can’t help but notice around the neighbourhood. Kathryn tells him to go for it, to ask her on a date. From here we navigate the messy and heart-aching word of open relationships, what others think of it, the pressures from outside and what intimacy really means.

The novel moves along at a good pace. Perhaps you have to be open to the idea of open relationships and that love is complicated because I have read other people hated the idea of this novel. I think it is a topic that was refreshing to see and that will come up more and more as we continue.

My Top Ten Books of 2017

I will probably finish one or two more books this year, as I am working on two now, but let me tell you they will not be my favourite books of the year 🙂 So I am ready to go with my top 10 books now!

In no real particular order, as I can’t rank my darlings!

1- The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld- a fast and wonderful magical read. Dark but hopeful. 

2- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas- an important read for these topical times. 

3-How Does A Single Blade of Grass Thank the Sun? by Doretta Lau- an excellent collection of stories.

4- The Break by Katherena Vermette- a challenging yet moving read

5- The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neil- beautiful storytelling a spellbinding tale of two orphans

6-Embers: One Ojibway’s Meditations by Richard Wagamese- this book taught me many lessons and is beautiful and meaningful

7- Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur- poetry that slams you in the gut 

8- Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson – let’s all try to understand each other by reading voices different than us, this book will give you a new viewpoint

9- Minds of Winter by Ed O’Loughlin- a long and challenging read, but worth it in my opinion. I love when I learn this much from reading

10- The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson- the best “self-help” book I read this year 

 

 

Can’t we talk about something more Pleasant?

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I picked this up on a whim at the local library. I liked the cover and I tend to like thick graphic novel memoirs so I thought it would be a good choice.

It wasn’t until I got home than I realized it was a memoir about a woman dealing with her two older parents getting older, becoming dependent and eventually dying. All of a sudden I was not sure if I could relate or if I even wanted to read it.  By that time I already had it home, and it was heavy, so I thought what the heck I might as well read it. I am very glad that I did. This is a touching and occasionally laugh out loud funny memoir.  It is a no holds back kind of book, with bed sores and bed pans and nothing left out. But it is an honest look at how difficult it is to face our parents getting older and dying and not only that but also looking at our relationships with our parents and how they have shaped our lives. It involves a lot of exploring our intense and complicated relationships we have with those who gave us life.

The story line and the honestly is excellent and the drawings are wonderful too. It is a mixed media sort of book with long writing, real photos and drawings all mixed in.

I would recommend this read to anyone who will have to deal with death and who are we kidding, that is EVERYONE.  I was bawling into my toast and egg this morning, but I wanted to finish before I left for work. I knew that both of Chast’s parents were going to die, but I wanted to see how she dealt with it, after all.

“No one can say that death found in me a willing comrade, or that I went easily.”
― Cassandra ClareClockwork Princess

 

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fu*k

I enjoyed reading The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson.

 

As I have said before, I get a real hoot out of some “self-help” books sometimes. And this is sort of the counter, anti-self help book. There were quite a few times where I stopped reading and took a photo on my phone, because his writing kind of slapped me in the face, so I respect that about it.

I agree with Manson that our world is whiny, that while social media has many benefits it also has the added bonus of driving people insane and making everything a little bit more difficult. A lot of his points made me stop and think which I always really enjoy. It challenged by own thinking about myself.

Do you believe that “we, individually, are responsible for everything in our lives, no matter the external circumstances.”? Manson says this is our book which I found quite powerful. I have been known to make excuses for things in my life. Well I grew up poor, or my mom didn’t hug me enough so there is a good reason why I don’t get paid more. I am too kind to people so they take advantage of me. This sort of made me think that those excuses are bullshit and perhaps I should start taking control of my life and myself and realize the only excuse is me.

Anyways, I of course did not agree with everything in this book but overall it was a good read, like a high kick to the face.

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Giller Prize 2017

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I am, and always have been crazy for Canadian literature. Ever since I was a young child and could say the words Anne of Green Gables I have gravitated towards Canadian Literature. Some people complained about having to read Canlit in junior high and high school and I tried to take as many classes as I possibly could. Give me the David Adams Richards, the Margaret Laurence and Robertson Davis and don’t let it stop.

I have never understood when people say that Canlit is boring. Canlit has so many diverse authors and ranges. From YA to indigenous, fiction to non-fiction there is so, so much out there.

I make it a point to read mostly Canadian literature. It is just the way I am. I like relating to things I am reading and there is so much to learn about this country that I don’t know. Everyone reads for different reasons, but one of the reasons I read is to learn about people and to better understand those different than me. It has made me a very open, kind and empathetic person who goes out of her way to interact with as many unique people and cultures as she can.

Last night, for the first time I attended the Gillerlight bash here in Halifax to see who the winner of the Giller Prize for 2017 was going to be. I thought I was going to be surrounded by fellow book nerds and find my people. I was very surprised when we were asked to raise our hands if we had read all of the books and only about 10 people did. I was more surprised when nobody on the panel, defending their books, had read all five?! I felt it was an honour to attend and made it my duty to get involved in the books (although I do every year). I was also more surprised, and quite frankly disgusted, when one of the panelist basically put down Canadian literature saying he tended to shy away from it. WHAT? It is so far from old and stuffy I could barely stop myself from screaming.

Have you tried Fruit by Brian Francis, about an overweight 13 year old gay boy coming to terms with who he is? How about All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai, an incredibly fascinating sci-fi dystopian? Have you read Fatty Legs: A True Story by Christy Jordan-Fenton, an incredible graphic novel based on the author’s experience in residential schools? 

I know not everyone reads as much or as passionately as I do, but I was very disappointed about the lack of enthusiasm from the panel and especially about my great love, Canadian books.

And while I enjoyed myself, despite going home without a prize, proving that book love doesn’t guarantee winning, I was a little underwhelmed. My love for Canlit seemed undermined and stale and it is anything but.

The future of Canadian literature is so bright and there are so many stories to tell.

 

Classics Book Club

So for a little over a year now, I have been a part of a “Classics” book club. It is one of two book clubs I belong to, and when you love reading as much as I do, it a great way to socialize (and it certainly doesn’t hurt that most of my book club meetings involve wine and delicious food that other people who can actually cook make).

Classics book club is a challenge for me, because as a reader I would not normally grab classic literature. So this really pushes me to read out of my comfort zone and to feel like I am stretching my brain. It also helps that all of the people in the club are super smart and I always feel like I am learning something.

Which takes us to this months pick: Kristin Lavransdatter The Wreath  by Sigrid Unset. This book was translated from the Norwegian by Tiina Nunnally and was originally published in 1920. It follows the life of Kristin in three parts from birth to death and is set in fourteenth century Norway. It revolves a lot around the concepts of sin and love and sometimes I had to remind myself that it was set in the 14th century so I didn’t hurl it across the room yelling at the damn thing.  I mean ” “The ale is good, Lavrans Bjorgulfson,” said Haakon. “But a slut must have made the porridge for us today. Overly bedded cooks, makes overly boiled porridge, as the saying goes, and this porridge is scorched.” (referring to Lavrans daughter Kristin)

It also helps that the book is so pretty. It is one of Penguin’s Drop Cap series (A-Z); just look at her in all her purple glory. 23498720_1157494941061609_7929427557416435712_n(1)

I love the idea of the book, I love the saga, I love the beautiful descriptions of Norway, but I don’t love the idea that falling in love and sinning are such desperate things that Kristin needs to ruin her life about or that throughout the book she has to be “owned” by someone. I know, I know it was the times, however I have read strongly written characters from this time period before and I just don’t think Kristin qualifies as one. The whole tale seems to sit under the compass of a large religious arm, watching over and controlling everything. She wants to go against her father’s wishes to marry a man he does not approve of, but she stands strongly next to this man, when many times I think that she shouldn’t.

I kept waiting for her to perk up a bit. Her “betrothed” Erlend always seems like a cold man to me and I never was sure about him. “But he had taken her, partly by force, but with laughter and with caresses too, so she has been unable to show him that she was serious in her refusal.” Hmmmmmm. I am sure that we will see how their relationship develops in the next two parts of the giant sage.  This book is one part of a three part trilogy and I do think that someday I will try to read the rest, even if it is a bit of a slog. I want to see if Kristin keeps crying forever over her past “sinful” mistakes. The last 30 or so pages of this book really had a lot of action so it makes me want to keep going. One thing I will say about Undset’s writing though, it feels real. Sometimes I hated the characters and sometimes I loved them but they all have faults as raw and flawed as the rest of us fools.

Bellevue Square- Michael Redhill

 

Bellevue Square is not a story that is easy to forget. It is dark and compelling but also left me guessing to the very end, while hanging out to every beautiful sentence.

I also feel like it is a hard book to categorize. What is it? A thriller, a mystery, comedic, a Giller Prize (perhaps) winner? Michael Redhill wrote a book unlike many others and for that I give him big props. I think anyone who is so creative and creates such new ideas needs to be recognized for original though (hard to come by these days). It is an interesting book to read because I wanted desperately to know what was going to happen, but I also wanted to read slowly and savour every word of the beautiful and often difficult, writing. I don’t find most typical “page-turner thrillers” cause the same pause in their words.  The writing is both very clever and thought provoking giving me understanding to how it ended up on the short list for the Giller Prize.

The story is about a woman, a normal woman, married with two boys, who owns a bookstore. Jean is told one day that she has a double, a doppelganger by one of her regular customers. This intrigues Jean and she starts hanging out at a local park, where apparently the twin hangs out, to try to spot her for herself. But the story doesn’t stay that simple. Will the real woman please stand up? We get taken along for a wild ride of mystery, brain tumors, alternative worlds, mental wards and the difference between truth and fiction. I am still not even sure if I understood everything myself and although I tend to not read things twice I feel like this one might be worth the effort.

I love the careful and thoughtful interactions between Jean and the regulars in the park. I am one of those people who feel it’s important to listen to everyone’s story, including those who live in parks, so this was refreshing.

In an interview with the Globe and Mail, Redhill mentions that Bellevue Square explores loss and “is about the surprising (and disturbing) plasticity of the self and what happens when the sense you’ve made of things stops making sense.” I think we can all relate to that. The self always keep going, even long after things have stopped making sense.

I don’t want to post any spoilers, but would recommend the read. And then call me up and we can discuss it, okay?

 

 

 

 

 

Self Help Books, Some Bits of Light

I am one of those people that like to read “self-help books” or “change your mood” books or “be better” books. I am not taking every single word to heart every time, but I do gain some insight from them. They are one of my guilty pleasures.

I gain some light from them, some cracks of hope and while I am not sure that I never will really “change my life” with these books, I will say I take something from each and every one of them.

I might drive my partner crazy because for days at a time I chase him around the house telling him to “be the light” or “throw out anything that doesn’t bring him joy” but I think he is used to it by now. Just one of my quirky habits that makes him love me.

So without further ado here are some “self-help” books I think are worth the read.

  1.            ram dassThis is my first look into the world of Ram Dass, but it will not be my last. He is the famous professor who led people into “trips” on drugs and got let go from Harvard. Then he went to India, met his guru, did some yoga and became Ram Dass. I will say he is full of love and calming and it makes me feel like hey, life isn’t that complicated, just love other people man. It gave me some calming feelings and has some great reminders in it that would be good to carry with you in life.

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  2. Deepak Chopra’s daughter wrote this one. I am sure she has had a bit of a charmed life. However, she is human and like everyone else she is feeling tired, unhappy and overwhelmed sometimes. This book has good reminders about living with gratitude, mindfulness and trying to take meditation breaks. Not groundbreaking but good reminders.

3. shit

Get your Sh*t together!  This is a fun read, with practical reminders told in a no nonsense kind of way. I mean she is not for everybody. She swears and she talks a lot about herself, we get it- you are successful! Yay! But again, some good reminders to kick your own ass a little bit.

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Again I guess I like people yelling at me through words what I should do with my life. But it’s the same stuff sometimes I just like to read it. This one tells you, hey you want to change your life? Only you can do it. It is good to reinforce the points that mental energy is important. If you believe that kinda stuff.

5.

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This one is a little hard core. Like Marie Kondo wants you to hold your socks and see if they bring you joy. If they don’t bring you joy you are supposed to toss them. I mean I get it, but I am not holding every pair of granny panties I own to see how joyful they make me feel. They do the job and I am not made of money.

However I do think there was certainly some points to be taken from the book and I will admit I did downsize and go through my junk drawer. Success!