Tag Archives: Reading

Fill in the Blank Friday [Late on a Saturday]

8 May

We just got home from a wedding and a full day spent downtown, and I found this really fun thing to do while blog surfing. It’s a series on the little things we do, themed weekly, and all you do is fill in the blanks. This week, the theme was books and so I wanted to play along. Sorry that I am a day late with this.

Image from: weheartit.com

1. My favourite book growing up was Anything by Judy Blume. Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret? and Deenie were both mulitple re-reads for me.

2. The funniest book I ever read was Lamb by Christopher Moore. Hilarious laugh out loud funny. I became self-conscious about reading this on the train because of all the looks I would get.

3. The one book that has truly changed my life is The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. A girlfriend had recommended this to me, and I didn’t have high expectations of it because of the subject matter. However, I became totally engrossed in this book about sisterhood, the bonds between women, and the need for female voices to be heard. It became apparent that I was not alone in my feelings for this book, because while reading it, I had many strangers who’d also read the book to stop and tell me how much they had enjoyed reading it. This is the only book I’ve read that has had that much of an outright response like that.

4. If you’re looking for a real “tear jerker” you should probably read The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. I was inconsolable for about the last 80 pages of this one.

5. If I could meet any author living or dead I would want to meet L.M. Montgomery. I loved Anne of Green Gables growing up, and my fascination with this character and the author who created her has continued into my adulthood.

6. The next book on my “to read” list is Atonment by Ian McEwan. I’m actually about 5 chapters in on this one, so it’s not really “next,” rather it’s current.

7. If I was snowed into a remote cabin in the woods and could only bring three books with me, I’d bring: I have such a hard time with these questions because of my indecisiveness! Though I think that I would bring A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë and Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery because these are books that I’ve wanted to re-read for years, but just haven’t had the chance to do so.


Moving on and Looking Forward

29 Apr

Friday marked my third anniversary at my current job. The owners of my company were thoughtful and nice enough to surprise me with this gorgeous flower arrangement delivered to my desk. It’s with a little bit of disbelief that I say I’ve been here for three years. I suppose that it’s a sign of growing old when time passes and you barely even notice that it does because it passes so quickly. I can hardly believe that it’s going to be May 1st this weekend.

Yowza! A third of 2010 is already behind us.

It’s been a gong show at work for the last few weeks, and without going into any detail, it reached its pinnacle at 4:40 PM on Friday. It was reason enough for me to want to get drunk that night on a bottle of cheap wine I had The BF pick up for me while I was finishing up at work. Drinking that wine and having the bottle to myself that night was the first thing I’d looked forward to in weeks. It’s so sad what my job has turned me into. I’ve realized that I need to give myself more responsible better things to look forward to. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

  • On Friday for my third anniversary, I was told that I’d be given an additional week of vacation, which gives me an extra week to play with and therefore, less strain on vacation days when we go to India in October. I’ve booked the days off work, have started looking into flights, and have been earnestly socking away bits of money so that I can pay for this trip.
  • I have a friend who is  getting ready to move to Chicago in a year to join her new husband. She’s been paring down her possessions and had some books to give away. On Saturday, she gave me a small pile of the books I’d requested. I love looking at this pile – it reminds me of when I was a young girl and I would come home from a trip to the library with my mom hanging on to a bag full of books, and spending those few delicious first minutes looking through my books to decide which one would get to be read first. I’m not sure what Lost Girls and Love Hotels is. I guess it’s a surprise bonus book that she just happened to throw in. Who knows? I may discover it to be a great read. I’m excited to read my way through this tiny pile, though I know that Marley & Me will shred me to pieces.
  • We never typically have anything planned for Victoria Day weekend and I always end up kicking myself for not taking advantage and making the most out of that long weekend. This year, we’ll finally be getting out to do some winery tours in Niagara-on-the-Lake. I say finally because it’s always been something that we’ve talked about, mostly in passing, saying that we should do it, but never finding ourselves committed to doing it. The season gets away from us, and there goes another year in which we should’ve made it out to NOTL. So, I’ve booked a Bed and Breakfast for that weekend. It’s going to be a teeny getaway, but I’m really looking forward to it, and it’s not just for the wine, I swear.
  • And finally, I look forward to being the winner (fingers crossed!) of Leesh’s latest giveaway! She’ll be giving away one Cheeky Monkey nail polish to a lucky winner. Get all the details of the giveaway and how to enter here.
Image from: The Blarkness Chronicles

On Disappointing Reads

6 Apr

I love books. I love the smell of book stores. And I love walking out of that store with a shiny, crisp new book in my hand. It’s disappointing when I start a book and then lose interest or motivation to finish it, and my disappointment lies mostly in myself rather than the book that is too uninteresting to keep me engaged. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a book that took me seven years to complete. This was a small accomplishment for me, because I had gotten bored or distracted from this book years ago, and I had just decided to pick it up again this past November with the firm intention of finally finishing it no matter what. Geek Life was not the only book on my shelf that sits there unfinished. In fact, there are a lot more than I care to admit to or acknowledge, but there are a couple that stand out for sure:

Life of Pi by Yann Martel
I’d heard countless times that this was a book that everyone had to read at least once. I had really high hopes that this was going to be a profound book that would change my life. The last thing I remember reading before putting it down for good is “and then the ship sank,” or something to that effect. Perhaps I didn’t try hard enough, but fundamentally, it was a boring and tedious read for me. Perhaps it’s because I’ve always struggled with literature with anthropomorphic characters (ie. animals with human attributes and motivations). Well, unless it’s children’s literature like Winnie-the-Pooh or Charlotte’s Web. And perhaps I quit the book at the exact moment that it gets good and starts changing my life forever. I’m not sure that I will pick this book up again and give it another try. For now, I will admit defeat against Life of Pi. It was good trying to get to know you.

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
No matter how hard I try, I can’t even try to pretend to enjoy Margaret Atwood. When I am in a conversation in which people are talking about the latest Atwood, or about her body of work, it’s almost as if they carry an air of superior intellect. Is it because I lack the intellectual capacity to enjoy her work? Anything that I’d ever read of hers was for school. Never by choice, and definitely not for pleasure. I think I picked the hardcover of The Blind Assassin up off the bargain table at the bookstore, or maybe it was given to me as a gift when it had first been published. I remember looking forward to reading it, so that I too could join the ranks of those intellectual readers of this author who is so fundamentally Canadian. I mostly looked forward to it because it was not required reading. I don’t remember much of the novel at all, so evidently I didn’t get too far into it. I’m very sorry to say that I know definitively that I will never enjoy Atwood’s books, though I’m always interested in hearing about her works.

Then, there are the works that I am surprised that I finished and enjoyed at all.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
One of my required courses in University was British Female Authors of the 19th Century. We’d started the year with four of Jane Austen’s works, and because we were required to read these novels at a rate of one a week, compounded by my other literature course at the time, The Works of Thomas Hardy, and the other classes I had to keep up with, it wasn’t hard to fall a little behind on my readings. Over my Christmas break, I’d resolved to get a little ahead of my required readings for my classes to avoid falling behind even more. I picked up Jane Eyre, and was really surprised to have enjoyed it as much as I had. I rarely ever call books “page-turners,” but this was one to me. I was completely engrossed by this novel about this strong woman who suffered so much in her life, but fought so hard to survive  and meet all her challenges with integrity and strength. It was emotional, intriguing and passionate, and her circumstances infuriated me at times. It was a completely different experience from the works of Jane Austen and the other Brontë sisters. I always name Jane Eyre as my favourite classic novel, and it’s usually at the top of my list of recommendations when someone asks me for one. In fact, my office mate also just read it for the first time, and she had the same sentiments about it that I did. She had taken it with her on vacation, and would not put it down until she finished it. She reminded me how good the books is, and has inspired me to re-read it sometime soon.

And then there are the books that I’m embarrassed to admit are on my shelf.
Angels and Demons, The DaVinci Code, and The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
Let’s face it, the books in the Robert Langdon series by Dan Brown are really easy to digest books that keep you engaged because of the intriguing subject matter and all the fictionalized accounts of mysterious secret societies and conspiracy theories. To me, the writing is bad and trite, and I get annoyed by Brown’s episodic style of writing. You can almost hear the suspenseful “dum-dum-dum” with the final words of each cliff-hanging chapter. Okay fine, I keep coming back for more, on my own accord, and I’ve read all 3 of the Robert Langdon books. Each time, I’ve been pretty embarrassed to pull the book out of my bag on the train, and even more so when the person across from me is reading the same book as I am. The only thing that these books have going for them to me is the suspense that Brown is able to create. Other than that, the writing is pretty trite, the characters clichéd and only exist to advance the contrived plot. With each subsequent book, it’s become fairly predictable so that the shocking twist can be seen and anticipated far in advance. What’s even more laughable is his novel Deception Point, which is a book that lived in our bathroom. I will say that I finished reading the book, only that my time with it was contained to my stints in the washroom. My apologies to all Dan Brown fans out there, and I don’t mean any insult or offense, because I know that there are a lot of you out there.

Are there any books that you had high expectations for, and for any number of reasons, just could not finish? Or, are there any books that completely surprised you in how much you ended up enjoying them?

Seven Years of Geek Love

24 Mar

Let the record show that I don't judge books by their covers. Not this one, at least.

There’s this book that I picked up in the Summer of 2003 that I had started reading then and just finished yesterday. I know that I bought it back in 2003 because I found an old receipt for my driver’s license renewal dated for September of that year, nestled in the pages, probably serving as a bookmark. The book is called Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, and it’s not like it was an unusually long or even that it was a difficult read. It was one of those books that I was hugely interested in reading and probably got distracted by something else about 150 pages in. For years and years, it sat on my bookshelf taunting me, making me feel guilty for not finishing it. I HATE buying books and not finishing them. It makes me feel like I’ve failed.

I bought the book off of a display table at Chapters because the summary on the back really intrigued me. It was unlike anything that I’d ever read before. It’s about the Binewskis, who are a family of genetically bred carnival freaks. The parents, Al and Lil, believe that there is no better gift to give your children “than an inherent ability to earn a living just by being themselves,” and so create their own freak show for their carnival by using experimental drugs and chemicals during Lil’s pregnancies so that each child will be born horribly deformed. There’s Arty who was born with flippers in the place of limbs, Oly the albino humpback dwarf who also serves as the novel’s Narrator, Elly and Iphy the beautiful siamese twins, and Chick who while appearing “normal,” actually possesses powerful telekinetic abilities.

It seems to be a horribly sick premise, and it made me wonder what kind of person might want to read a twisted story like this. I had to take it home.

I picked it out of my bookcase again in about November and resolved to finish it. There were a couple of starts and stops again, and I actually read and finished a few other books in the meanwhile. It was only 348 pages, but the pages were so densely packed in its typesetting, that I think that it would’ve actually have been 900 pages had it been typeset like, oh I don’t know, a Stephenie Meyers book. This made the reading feel a lot more tedious than it actually was, and it was a struggle to finish, but because I had challenged myself to get to the last page, I had to keep turning the pages until I got to the end. Also a bit taxing on the brain was that the story was pretty complex, vividly detailed and not surprisingly, quite grotesque. It challenges you on your views on society, normalcy, family, love, and ultimately, what it is to be human.

The novel is obviously very unlike anything that I’ve read before. Would I recommend it to a friend? Probably not. Though I’m sure that this story will stay with me for a long time, and I’m glad that I finished it, even if it took me 7 years to do so. It’ll no longer taunt me from my bookcase and brand me a failure, that judgmental bastard that it was.

My Weekend in a Few Pictures and More Words

8 Mar

I think I kind of love this time of year, especially after the weekend we just had. The days are getting noticeably longer, the sun was shining all weekend, and the warming temperature made us feel a little bit closer to the Spring. Though there’s still small patches of snow on my front lawn, I’m pretty encouraged knowing that they will soon melt and our world of grey and brown muck will be revived with lively greens and tiny buds of life waiting to bloom.

We had a really productive yet mellow Sunday, and I’m pretty sure that I owe the relaxedness of it all to the prospect of Spring. We started our day pretty early by having breakfast with Ai and Steph, after which we did a little running around to do some of our typical Sunday errands.

It was a beauty day. I love what the sunshine does to our front entrance on days like this.

We got home and I had to start making our food for the week. I turned on  Julie and Julia on my laptop and started to cook up a bit of a storm. Among the stuff that I made was this improvised thrown-together kind of thing. I had bought a head of broccoli and some sweet potatoes, and because I had intended on roasting both in the oven, I thought that I would save myself a little bit of time and combined the two on a baking sheet with a little bit of olive oil, red pepper flakes, Herbamare and garlic cloves.

A little bit of a strange combination, but completely edible and pretty tasty. I love the colours!

A few weeks ago, Leesh suggested that I  join Fab Brunette’s Fabulous Book Swap and because it sounded like a completely cool and neat thing to do, I signed up. I’m so glad that I did because I got my book in the mail today! My book swap partner ended up being Für Elisse, a blogger whom I’ve checked out more than a few times on Leesh’s Blog Roll. I had sent an email to Elisse yesterday introducing myself as her book swap partner, and also to explain myself in advance of her getting the package that I had sent because I was totally embarrassed about the way that I had sent her the book I had chosen for her. I was completely impersonal and anonymous by wrapping the book in a FedEx pak, and inserting that into a plain cardboard envelope. So, I felt that I had to explain to her that I am brand new to the world of blogging and she was my first ever swap buddy. I promise I will be better next time I participate in something like this! Now I’m so glad that I emailed Elisse, because she ended up being totally awesome and sweet and now I have a new friend through this blogging thing.

This was the pretty package I got from Elisse.

I see now that little touches like this make all the difference when you are getting a package in the mail. Elisse even included a lovely little note that explained what the book meant to her and why she chose it for me.

I now get to add Still Alice by Lisa Genova to my library and am looking forward to reading it and to really sinking my teeth into this book. I have eyed it a few times at the bookstore, but never picked it up. With Elisse’s endorsement, I’m sure that I’ll love it and can’t wait for a chance to sit down with it. Thanks Elisse! I hope you like what I’ve sent to you too.

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