Tag Archives: books

Finished this book: If You Follow Me by Malena Watrous

Cover of "If You Follow Me" by Malena Watrous

Cover of “If You Follow Me” by Malena Watrous

 

Here’s a book I read with enjoyment and very little criticism. It follows a young American couple (Marina and Carolyn) as they move in together for the first time when they move to Japan to teach English. The culture shock and new pressures and expectations are beautifully integrated into the story.

The book incorporates many of the themes I like to see included: race, sexuality, culture, personal growth, relationship challenges, LGBTTQ*, mental illness, weird families, friendship, suicide, and so on—without making a big deal about any of them. Continue reading

Finished this book ages ago: House Broken by Sonya Yourg 

Cover of the book "House Broken" by Sonya Yoerg

Cover of the book “House Broken” by Sonya Yoerg

 

This book had a dog on the cover, alluded to dogs in the title, and has a main character who is a vet. I was sold! Also, the blurb mentioned the vet’s mother’s alcoholism, which was another draw for me. I like stories about dysfunctional families; reading them helps me make sense of my own childhood.

Before I get any further, I should mention that I read this book early last summer ( or late last spring?) and just haven’t gotten around to reviewing it yet. So this will be short and vague.

It was disappointing that there wasn’t more dog- and vet-related stuff in the book, and what there was, was not always particularly convincing. I’m thinking specifically of the minor plot line involving an aggressive dog, which was not very credible. It almost felt like the dog and vet stuff was thrown in there to get the punny title.

The writing, as far as I remember, was good and smooth. But I wasn’t entirely convinced by the actions and words of the characters. Your mileage may vary, of course; what you find realistic in a character might differ from what I would believe.

The plot held my attention and I did enjoy the dysfunctional family stuff. Well, “enjoy,” right? But it’s always interesting to me to read someone else’s take on it.

This book is going into the giveaway pile. It was an okay read, but not a fave.

House Broken by Sonya Yoerg. ISBN 978-0-451-47213-7

Finished this book: The Sky Beneath My Feet by Lisa Samson

Cover of "The Sky Beneath My Feet" by Lisa Samson

Cover of “The Sky Beneath My Feet” by Lisa Samson

Spoilers near the end, but there’ll be another warning first.

Only a short way into this book, I realised it was full of religion. There was a moment where I considered putting it aside and starting something else, but I was already nestled into bed with my PJs and my fuzzy socks and my fleece housecoat, with the cats and the Fluffy Dog in their usual positions, so I decided to read on a bit and give the book a chance. Also, the way the writer introduced the faith aspect was kind of funny, and I wondered if it might turn out to be tongue-in-cheek (the protagonist, Beth, was on a riff about the Jesus Fish on her van). Continue reading

Finished this book: How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti

 

Cover of "How Should a Person Be?" by Sheila Heti

Cover of “How Should a Person Be?” by Sheila Heti

It’s hard for me to decide whether or not I liked this book. I think partly that’s because I don’t know exactly what it is. Is it autobiography or fiction or memoir or fantasy or love letter? I feel as if it is important to know if it is factual or invented, even though “factual” memoirs or autobiographies can easily contain lies or falsifications or dramatic enhancements. But for some reason, it really bothered me to not be able to tell where Heti was telling the true story, and where she made things up or altered them to be true to the story, if that makes sense.

This reads partly like the diary of a shallow young adult, and partly like a love letter from one friend to another Continue reading

Finished this book (ages ago): The Writing Class by Jincy Willett

Cover of "The Writing Class" by Jincy Willett.

Cover of “The Writing Class” by Jincy Willett.

I have already forgotten a lot of this book since I finished it back around the May long weekend and just didn’t get around to writing about it. I did like the main character, Amy, a misanthropist introvert author who hasn’t published anything in ages and who teaches writing classes. Her thoughts and feelings about her students were entertaining, although I admit I do have a preference for this type of sarcastic protagonist. The premise of the book was that weird events and deaths were befalling the class, and Amy was going to try to figure out who the culprit was by analysing the writing of her students. As a premise, it was fascinating, but it’s not how the story actually worked out. (The plot was kind of vague that way.)

Some of the characters were quite interesting while others were flat. I felt the trope of mental illness as an explanation for violent or bizarre behaviour was overused (you don’t have to be crazy to be an asshole or a murderer, and not all crazy people are violent, so chill already with the casual slurs and assumptions). The plot was not particularly believable, There were lots of interesting bits and pieces (Carla’s amazing house, Amy’s hilarious blog, the writing samples), but not enough substance in the story to hold them together in a memorable form. Amy seemed like she’d be a good protagonist for a series, and in fact I think there was another book about her before this one.

I don’t actually feel like I wasted my time reading this book, but it didn’t particularly engage me, and it’s already in my giveaway pile.

The Writing Class by Jincy Willett. 2008.

 

 

Finished this book: The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic (by Emily Croy Barker)

Cover of The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker.

Cover of The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker.

This book had most of the right elements—the main character being transported from our world to another one, magic, a woman standing up for herself and trying to change her circumstances, the importance of literacy and education—but somehow it didn’t capture me as much as I thought it would.

One of my frequent complaints about books set in other worlds is that these other worlds replicate ours so faithfully in so many of the manifestations of power and oppression. Baker’s alternate world is no exception: in it, women are subordinate to men, the poor are hungry and overworked and ill, and the characters are all presumed white (as becomes obvious when much is made of a Black woman from a land far, far away). I guess I’m just tired and bored of finding myself in the same old feudal society, as if there is something romantic and adventurous about a world where there is so much misery and despair and fixed hierarchy. Continue reading

I Missed My Blogaversary (because I was busy having fun)

Yesterday (Saturday) was my one-year blogaversary. On Friday, I had started working on a post for my blogeversary about why I started blogging, and where I was when I wrote my first posts, and what I’ve learned and gained, and how much I appreciate the people I’ve “met” through blogging…. But it was forced and awkward, because I was writing what I felt I should be writing for that day. My intention was to fix it up and make it perfect on Saturday but here’s what I did instead:

First I went to a community rummage sale and book / bake sale fundraiser for two great causes (from their Facebook event page: “All of the proceeds from the book & bake sale go toward supporting two volunteer-run organizations that provide services to people in Manitoba jails and prisons. The Manitoba Library Association’s Prison Library Committee runs libraries in the Winnipeg Remand Centre and Women’s Correctional Centre as well as offering writing workshops, author talks, and other programs. The Bar None Prison Rideshare Project provides free transportation to people looking to visit their friends or family members in out-of-town jails or prisons“). The books were unpriced and you could just pay what you could afford. I got a dozen or so poetry and fiction books and gave them $40:

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Then I came home and my friend Qrys came over with her laptop so we could work on some WordPress issues. Mostly we sat around eating cheese and dates and olives and sweet gherkins and slices of red pepper and peanut butter banana chocolate chip muffins (from the bake sale) and just talking. Then we brilliantly solved our IT problems and just hung out some more. Lovely!

Then I whipped up my famous bean / avocado / cilantro salad, had a nap, and went out to a BBQ where I spent three hours in someone’s garage listening to musicians jamming. The garage floor was a frightful tangle of cords and amps and guitar cases. There was always a minimum of six people playing, and sometimes up to eleven at a time. I lost track of how many musicians wandered in and out and took over for each other, because after I counted sixteen, I couldn’t remember who I had already counted anymore. Sometimes I was the only “audience” but I didn’t care. I clapped wildly after every song, and basically just toe-tapped and nodded and swayed blissfully for the whole time. I was so happy, you guys, you can’t even imagine! Just the ebb and flow, the give and take, the back and forth among all these people, some of whom had worked together for decades, and some of whom were meeting each other for the first time. Wonderful! I stayed much longer than I expected to stay, and only left when I knew the Brindle Dog would need to be let out. The host had asked if I had brought my DJ gear and seemed disappointed when I said no. I hadn’t realised that would be welcome! Next time.

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This morning, the Fluffy Dog and I went on a playdate, and now I’m headed off to J.’s place for my first installment of a Pandemic Legacy game. A very busy weekend; too busy, actually, but everything has been so much fun.

So Happy Belated Blogaversary to me, and thanks for reading and commenting and following and liking and just generally letting me know that I’m being heard out there!