Friday, 27 April 2012

Books for Friday (BFF)

This is the first Anne Lamott book that I have read, but it will not be my last. Lamott, along with her son Sam, has written a memoir of her first grandchild. She  details her love affair with her grandson and her struggles to let her young son and his girlfriend sort out this parenting gig. Reading it made me grateful yet again for my supportive mother-in-law. If she struggled with any of Lamott's issues she has kept them well hidden- thanks Mom T.

If you are a plot driven reader you will not likely enjoy this memoir. But if you enjoy wonderfully descriptive writing and learning about someone struggling to find her way spiritually, or you want insight into the depth of grandparent love, you will enjoy this book. Just as we do not appreciate the power of parental love until we become parents; I suspect the same is true of the grandparent bond.

One of the many passages I adored in this book is about Lamott's effort to restrain from meddling. "Life is already an obstacle course, and when you're adding your own impediments (thinking they're helping), you really crazy it up. You make it harder to even just cross the room. You should not bring more items and hurdles to the obstacle course." A great lesson for us all.

This is a memoir I read for an on line book club, the Beyond Busy Global Monthly Book Club with Chrsitina Katz. I highly recommend the book club, managed by Christina who is an author and writing teacher. Her questions and discussion around our last book, Wild, were thought-provoking and insightful. Great for people who find themselves too busy to attend a regular book club. 

Or those of us in new places who have not replicated our old book club- yet.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Books for Friday (BFF)- Family Saga

Y by Marjorie Celona was another Wordfest read for me.  Scheduled for release late summer, I read an unpublished proof. I loved this book despite its at times heartbreaking nature.  At its heart this is a story about family and what that means to our sense of self.  It is about a young woman, Shannon, who was abandoned at birth at the door of the local YMCA and her search for her biological parents.

The narrative alternates between Shannon’s life as she is passed between foster families and the story of Shannon’s biological parents and the events that led to her abandonment. Shannon, the narrator, has a unique perspective on life and some physical limitations that add to the interest of her character and resulting perspective. Like Shannon, nothing in this book is neat or pat but realistic and messy.

The author captures that driving need many adopted children have to know their biological parents, to know why they were abandoned and the oftentimes disconnection they feel amidst their adopted family. At the same time, she tries to show how people can make terrible mistakes yet things can still be ok after great failure and loss.
I will read this book again when it is released.
As I was reading Y, the writing reminded me of another great Canadian writer, Anne-Marie MacDonald, especially her Fall on Your Knees book.  Hugely popular, a 2002 Oprah pick, MacDonald's book was also a multi-generational story of a family steeped in secrets.

What gems are you reading?

Friday, 13 April 2012

Books for Friday (BFF)- Immortals, Witches, Vampires

I had high expectations of book one in this hugely popular YA series, obviously spawned from the Twilight saga. The premise is interesting- a teenage girl loses her family in a car accident and gains the ability to see people's auras and feel their lives and feelings by touch. The handsome, exotic Damen enters her life and we are curious about his seemingly strange powers.  For me, the story dragged on and on- I was curious about what an immortal (who is not a vampire) might be, but when more (still not enough) details are finally divulged, I had lost interest.

I am going to pass on the next five in the series. Yet, apparently high school girls are devouring the series.

Another recent read A Discovery of Witches, featured witches and vampires. I had very mixed feelings about this book. I was captivated by the history that is woven through (according to Goodreads) "A richly inventive novel about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and the mysterious manuscript that draws them together." Partway through I felt I was reading an old Harlequin, yet I could NOT put the book down.

Some reviewers have complained that not much actually happens in this book, a point I will grant them. I kept reading enjoying the rich history the author was developing around the various creatures. So in this case, I will read the second book- not yet published. I feel like this book established a fascinating background in which a more interesting story might evolve.

Any recommendations?

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Hunger Games enters Calgary vernacular

If you have been living under a rock, or been unplugged for the last year, you may not have heard of the books by Suzanne Collins or movie The Hunger Games. It has become a phenomenon not only as a marketing juggernaut, but it is creeping into our language.

Great headline today in Calgary Herald about tonight's provincial leadership debate: "Debate a political hunger games." Don Braid's article goes on to speak about how tonight's debate is "fraught with tension and drama, a political hunger game that means life or death for careers and even parties."  I think everyone in the capital and the districts will be watching.

What great fun to see a book become so pervasive in pop culture.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Books for Friday (BFF)- Memoirs

I just finished and really enjoyed Wild, a memoir by Cheryl Strayed. From Goodreads "A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe—and built her back up again.

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother's death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and to do it alone. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker."

An engaging story of survival and healing, Strayed managed to keep me engaged over the entire 1100 mile journey. I laughed, I cried and I cheered Cheryl on her journey. She is not self-conscious about what she reveals yet it never felt like navel gazing. I think anyone who has needed to heal a hole in their heart will relate to this memoir.

As someone who loves yoga I enjoyed this memoir (not as much as Wild). Dederer does a good job of using various yoga poses as metaphor for events in her life. For any mom who has felt the competitive pressure that confronts many modern day families you will laugh out loud at many parts. Not easy being a perfect mom.

I was more interested in her adult life than her memories of childhood and did get a bit bored midway because I'd hoped for more yoga. As I read I underlined many words that were unfamiliar to me. Perhaps it is my communications background where the goal was to find language that was precise and easily understood. Sentences like those below felt pretentious- who speaks like this- and distracted me from the story.

Do you read memoirs? Do you like to read about famous people or regular sorts? Any recommendations?

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Do you want to have smile lines or frown lines?

I loved this sign at the Telus Spark Science Center in Calgary. Have you thought about the face YOU want to have when you are 70?

Make sure it is the face you deserve.