Friday, August 30, 2013

May, June, July Book Reviews

I've been plugging away as much as I can in order to try and reach my goal of 75 books this year. I take books with me everywhere and even sneak in a few minutes while cooking dinner. There's so many great books out there and I wish I could find even more time to fit a few more in each month!

Sadly I'm getting worse and worse with remembering to write down my thoughts after I read them. Maybe a quarterly review instead of monthly? Or maybe I just need to be less lazy and get on it each month in a timely fashion! 

1. The Slippery Slope - Lemony Snicket: Book ten in the series and only 3 more to go! What I liked about this book is that Sunny, the youngest orphan, really grows up. I liked that you get to see more of her personality and was given a bigger role in this book. Still an awesome series.

2. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell: This is a complex book, a little difficult to try and sum up in the brief recaps I like to post. Basically you follow six story lines and each storyline has something to do with the next. You journey through hundreds of years from the first story line to the last (thought really you have no idea how far in the future the last storyline is so it could be thousands). I found it to be touching, original and memorable. Previous to readying the book I had caught the movie so I did find that it helped quite a bit to be able to follow the story lines. The only part I found really difficult was the language used in the last storyline based in the far future. It's a bit spliced so I had to guess at some of it or just get the gist of it. A good read!

3. Dead Ever After - Charlaine Harris: FINALLY! I'm so happy to be done with this series as I felt it went on about 5 books too many. Sadly it was a lackluster ending. I know there's a lot of fans out there so I don't want to give anything away other than just saying I felt like this book was rushed and a cop out.

4. How to Tell if your Cat is Plotting to Kill You - The Oatmeal: Super humorous little book.Nothing much more to say about it than that!

5. In The Shadow of the Banyon - Vaddey Ratner: Loved this book, simply loved it. It's a very poetically written story about a young girl and her family struggling during the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia during the late 70's when an estimated 2 million people lost their lives. Her family, once considered an extension of the royal family, is thrown onto the street to fend for their lives like the rest of the country. What makes this such an amazing book is that it reflects that of the author's own journey. Pick it up, the poetic legends her father tells her are quite magical.

6. Between Interruptions: Thirty Women Tell The Truth About Motherhood - this is a collection of short essays written by Canadian women about their introduction to motherhood. I'd have to say that I found very few to represent what I experienced and many to be glossed over. All in all it didn't really feel like the truth! A few authors kept it very, very real but the majority played it safe so they could come across as the most amazing mothers of the most amazing kids.

7. The Golem and the Jinni - Helene Wecker: You've got to really admire authors that come up with original book ideas these days and this is one of those! Yes, it's about two mythical beings but it's not a typical fantasy book. One being is trying very hard to be human while the other is trying very hard to not be human. Together they try to make the best of their situation while not being discovered. The story also carries on to their pasts and how they arrived at that point together in New York. Great book, give it a try!

8. The Grim Grotto - Lemony Snicket: Book eleven...almost there! I can't say anything really stood out in this one. Like usual a fun read but I am starting to get anxious for the end of the series.

9. Power and Terror: Noam Chomsky - I've never ready Chomsky before but I can see why he's considered such a brilliant man, and to many governments, a bit of a troublemaker. Why? Because he says the things they don't want you to hear. This book is a series of interviews with Chomsky about 9/11, about terrorism and US Foreign Policy. He makes some really, REALLY good points about the US treating others as they treat themselves. It's eyeopening and worth the read if you'd like to find out some things about the world that don't always make it into the mainstream media.

10. 11. & 12. The New York Trilogy - Paul Auster: This was on our 501 Must Read list so I thought we'd give it a try for book club. I'm interested to hear what the other members think as it was not one of our normal type of picks. These detective books are not of a typical fashion and were more artistic and complex. Of the three stores I enjoyed Ghosts the most. Not for everyone but I still found them interesting.

13. Inferno - Dan Brown: I liked this one MUCH better than his last Robert Langdon story. What I liked about it is that I actually learned a few things about our world population vs. use of resources over our existence. Brown brings his usual intrigue to the story line but throws out some facts and figures I've never bothered to look up before. It also presents an interesting moral debate. All things you didn't think you'd find in a Dan Brown novel! If you like his other works you'll like this one.

14. Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls - David Sedaris: this is a collection of stories, some true, some not, but they're all pretty funny or at least mildly interesting. I like the stories that are about his life and childhood as his sense of humour is quite dry and I felt it translated well to book. I can see how his style of writing is not for everyone but I found the book to be worth the read as I did laugh out loud a number of tiems.

15. The Penultimate Peril - Lemony Snicket: Book twelve. I actually found this one to be quite sad! Why oh why can't someone just help these kids in a normal way?! Only one more to go....

16. The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman: Once again Neil shows exactly why I think he's a brilliant writer. This book is so lovely!! I can't even pinpoint exactly what makes this book so charming but it is. A man revisits some memories from his childhood when he returns to his hometown for a funeral. He remembers an amazing tale involving magic, other worldly creatures, and his neighbours at the end of the lane. The characters are rich, his writing is sweet and memorable, all-in-all a fantastic book!

17. Under The Dome - Stephen King: I watched the first episode of the tv series and decided this was a book I had to read. If you haven't seen the show it's about a town that is separated from the rest of the world when a dome is mysteriously placed over it. You can't break through it, you can't go under it, you can't go over it, basically they're stuck. This story takes place over the span of about 2 weeks and it's amazing to see what happens to their town in that time. If you love the tv series you'd be amazed at how much better the book is. I really enjoyed the purely evil characters vs the inherently good.

18. The End - Lemony Snicket: It's here! It's finally here! THE END. And yet as this book wraps up I just don't feel like it really IS the end. The author has left me feeling wanting that there was no definitive ending with the characters. It's been a month since I read this and am still feeling a bit of a loss for words other than to say I wish they'd wrapped it up neater.

Monday, August 26, 2013

No Homeless

No Homeless. Those are two words that you can take in two different ways. A few weeks back these words were spray painted on a local church. The church is looking to lease their land to an organization that wants to build an assisted living complex and many of the local residents are against it.

No Homeless. The other way to look at these words is in a positive way; the end of homelessness. There are several residents who support this project and it's encouraging to see as our city is in year 4 of a 10 year plan to end homelessness.

Since this program was announced it has been a heated debate. Many times I've had to walk away from the computer, put down my phone, or close my mouth for fear I'll upset friends I care about. The hardest part is that even though I use this community on a daily basis, I don't actually live in it. It makes me feel that I don't have as much of a say because no, it is not technically in my backyard. But I do want to say that it would be welcome in my backyard. Some may not believe me when I say this but it is true. Even my husband said he'd have no problem with it.


Because I had the privilege of working for an organization that helps the homeless through shelter, employment, education, and assisted living. I was able to see first-hand how amazing these programs are, the life-changing work they do, and the kindred souls who use these programs.

Did I start out feeling this way about the homeless and working poor? No. It took time, education, an open mind and an open heart.

I implore the people of this city to stop bickering, stop fear mongering, stop putting each other down; we are all in this together. Instead, let's take the time to get educated with an open mind and open heart.

There's many ways to educate yourself on those that need assisted living. The easiest way to get started is to read this blog from the Mustard Seed.  Specifically you can get started with an article from June 2012, written by a friend of mine called Why People Are Homeless and work from there.

Check out the link above under 10 Year Plan. It will give you tonnes of stats, and information about our city's 10 year plan to end homelessness. I also really like this page on Causes and Myths

If you want to dig a little deeper then call one of the local shelters and ask for a tour. It's 30 minutes - 1 hour out of your time that can help you to understand homelessness. I'd even suggest calling those with assisted living/transitional housing programs so you get an even clearer picture. Most of these organizations jump at the chance to show you the progress being made.

And if you really want the whole shebang ask one of these organizations if you can speak with someone who was formerly homeless. I dare you not to cry when you meet them and hear their story. Good tears, or sad tears, you will cry.

When working with the homeless one of my former bosses used to always say 'I hope to work myself out of a job'. I never forgot this as shouldn't this be the end goal of every non-profit? But to get to this point we, as a community, need to support one another. Let's try to make this a great city for everyone who lives here.

Take the time, educate yourself, open your mind, open your heart.