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.

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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.

4. badass.jpg

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.

tidy

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!

So you want to get into Graphic Novels?

People are always asking me for graphic novel recommendations.

Let me just say, I love graphic novels! I think they are a great break from regular novels, come in so many wide range of options and can really have such beautiful art.

So I am going to give you a starting list if it is new for you: 10 graphic novels to get you started.

  1. The Saga Series- this is just such a wonderful collection, with new volumes still coming out. I like to get them in the collected volumes once a few have come out. Sci-Fi, amazing art, wonderful and imaginative creatures. Someone people describe it a kind of Star Wars-esq.  A star crossed lovers tale as well. saga.png

 

 

 

2. Becoming, Unbecoming- Una

A deep and moving graphic novel, a coming of age story but also a larger and terrifying look at what it is to be a woman, the real and lasting effects of sexual assault and a history of women and women’s rights. una-ii.jpg3. Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

I like Knisley a lot, but this might be my favourite work by her. I love the pictures of recipes inside, and I am not a huge cook but it inspired me to try to recreate some of the recipes she put inside! I love her simple drawings and colours. relish.jpg

4. Ethel & Ernest– Raymond Briggs

A beautiful love story spanning over 50 years and through plenty of hardships, an amazing novel of love and courage in which I also learned a lot about the depression, WWII and the power of a quiet moment and a cup of tea. ethel-and-ernest.jpg

5. Little White Duck: A Childhood in China
By Na Liu Andrés Vera

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In this graphic biography life is changing for two girls in China in the 1970s. Da Qin – Big Piano – and her younger sister, Xiao Qin – Little Piano are going through the changes of life while their country is changing as well. Very interesting and again, so much learning!

6. The Outside Circle 
By Patti Laboucane Benson

This very personal, important and intense novel looks into how to heal after historical trauma focused on two Aboriginal brothers.

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7. Daytripper – Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba

Just absolutely beautiful art work, jaw-dropping. Thought provoking and meaningful look at the many deaths of one man. Be prepared to take a look in the face at your own mortality.

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8. This One Summer is an award-winning graphic novel written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki

Just lay by a lake and read this beautiful and super easy to get into story of friendship and growing up. I love the way you can relate to this graphic novel. Hey we all had to grow up, right? It is quiet, yet powerful and I love the fun and easy artwork.

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9. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic – Alison Bechdel

This is sort of the graphic novel that I always say it is a good one for anybody to ease into. Easy and approachable art, a story that is well told and a narrator you can both relate and cheer for. Super open and honest a memoir told with heart. fun.jpg

10. Calling Dr. Laura: A Graphic Memoir- Nicole J. Georges

I am seeing a pattern here. Apparently I love graphic memoirs. Fun and quirky we watch as Nicole turns to radio talk-show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger for advice after her life is turned upside down.

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The Exo Project- Andrew DeYoung

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I just love a book you can get lost in any time of the year, but there is something about YA (Young Adult) that screams to me; hello summer! YA usually tends to be a little bit lighter, more of a book to breeze through, as soon as my favourite season is upon us; I crave finding a tree to curl up under with a thick juicy YA.

However The Exo Project by Andrew DeYoung can’t really be described as light. It is a complicated novel, causing you to stop and think about our own planet and the way we treat it, and the mistakes we make as a species. It stays with you after you close its’ pages, and if you are anything like me, you will keep blabbing on about the plot, telling everyone you know to read it.

The book gave me a lot more than I excepted. And that’s a good thing.

The novel enters around Matthew, a resident of Earth; who, because his family desperately needs money, and because the Earth is basically a flaming garbage fire, signs up for “The Exo Project” a mission to send groups of three people out into outer space, searching for a planet the inhabitants of Earth can go live on, as they have ruined Earth. It is basically a suicide mission, and because it takes so long to travel everyone you know will be dead anyways when you get there.

When Matthew and his ship mates wake up 100 years later on the planet “Gle’ah” they are surprised to find it isn’t just instant death when they get there, but even more surprised to find another human-like species living there. A species that centers around women leadership and peacefulness.  A society with “forsaken” people, hallucinogens, and telepathy. A society with a lot more than meets the eye.

A novel that constantly surprised and delighted me, The Exo Project is part love story, part a caution-story for Earth dwellers today and 100% pure imagination. I loved it.