Mindless Reading creates Mindless Creatures

Yesterday was a huge milestone for my boy and  me. He passed his Driving Learners Test and now has a permit to drive with a licensed driver in the car. He came out of the test office, stood in front of me an did a little happy dance jig. Wow… 17 years ago, I whined about wanting a baby – not this man-child with the deep voice, goatee, size 13 feet and giant that stands before me. I look at him through mother’s eyes and melt. I look at him through strangers eyes and feel pride. His dad and I did good.

It made me think about all the books I have read and characters who were bad parents and characters who were great parents.

Best parent character award goes to Atticus Finch – from To Kill a Mocking Bird

Worst parent award goes to… hmmmm There are SO MANY!! From Scarlet O’Hara to the Evil Step Mothers in fairy tales, from Old Nick in Room to Mum in Hidden. Robert from 101 books agrees with me. He is on a quest to read great literature and is learning great is subjective. He also is learning that parents in books make bad choices. He has a great commentary about it so click here to read more.

Characters in books usually offer bad parenting advice, so my advice is to learn from them in the “what not to do” category. That is what is great about books. They teach you things, shock you, make you smile and even laugh. Take the time to learn critically from books, don’t just absorb them and think because it was published, it makes it a great read. It doesn’t.

The prime example is Shades of Gray. Read more books if you think this one was great. There are better books out there, I promise you!

This leads me to the Goodreads Giveaways I have received. The latest book I read was Alys, Always by Harriet Lane.

This book is about a newspaper editor who comes upon a car on a country road in England. The car has turned on its side and there is a women trapped. The editor approaches the car to help and her life changes forever from that moment forward.

The first chapter was EXCELLENT! It was a short story in itself, and quite frankly should have been kept that way. The rest of the chapters were dull, boring and I would have stopped reading if two things did happen:

  1. I won it with the implied intent I would review it.
  2. It was billed as having a twist and being suspenseful.

I can assure you there was no plot twist, there was no suspense and I could care less how it ended. It was predictable. The people reviewing it are giving it rave reviews  – mostly because it is a romance – blech – a poor one at that, and they won this book and likely feel obligated to give it a good review. This book took me forever to get through because of dullness. Read the first chapter and call it a day. OR find a great book and read that one.

15852479I have started my second Goodreads Giveaway book called We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo. It is slated for publication 5/21/13. 19 pages in and I cannot put it down. It is about the life of 10-year-old Darling and her friends living in Zimbabwe. The culture will shock you North Americans. I am hoping this riveting read will continue throughout the book. The reviews are consistently stellar. Alys, Always had spotty reviews, so I am hopeful.

I am also reading the Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. This one is more for work and personal growth. It talks about how the brain develops habit and how you can use this knowledge in business and personal life. I am fascinated by it! For all you Dr. Bruce Perry fans, this would be interesting to you. It is for me.

So tell me, what great read is on your shelf right now?

You think THAT is a great book? Oh Honey, we need to talk.

English: Stack of books in Gould's Book Arcade...
English: Stack of books in Gould’s Book Arcade, Newtown, New South Wales (NSW), Australia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was scrolling through endless book lists looking for that next great read. I find myself reading book reviews and browsing Goodreads and think, maybe. My problem is I have read such great books in the past 6 months that the next great read needs to be SPECTACULAR! All I really want to know is WHY for the love of libraries is Shades of Grey the number one downloaded book? That is the worst book EVER. There are WAY better books that will teach you and tantalize you about sexual encounters that may or may not shock you depending what your pleasure is. Seriously, Shades is NOT GREAT LITERATURE, it’s not even good porn. Obviously I cannot rely on the masses to tell me what is a great read. Luckily I have friends who read great books and are willing to spread the word.

So far this year I have read 8 books, I know…I know… I was suppose to slow down. But now that the pressure is off, and my goal is only 25 books instead of 50, it may be darn site easier to read 50. We shall see… At any rate, I have read 8 and started my 9th. My iBook reader (ipad) says this latest book has 1653 pages. Holy hell Stephan King, you write really long books. I know that isn’t actual pages because I read with bigger font because I am old I don’t like the glare.  Still, the average book I read is 400 pages. I hope Under the Dome is at least as good as 11/22/63 because THAT book was fantastic.

Here is my list of books I read this year so far (2013) it doesn’t count the fantasy books I am kind of reading. I am trying to get through Dragonlance Chronicles and have learned fantasy is NOT FOR ME, but I am giving it my best shot. There is too much war and fighting…snore, I prefer – well I no longer don’t know what I prefer. I now like thriller or mystery, that’s new because I wouldn’t read those before. Mostly because I would skip to the end because I am impatient. I can’t stand romance for the sake of romance….snore. But throw in a great romance into a thriller, sci-fi or contemporary novel and I am IN! Anyways………….. here is what I read so far

The Edmonton Tourist’s 2013 Book List so far

  1. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Steadmen. This is one of Heather’s Picks (the CEO of Indigo Books) I typically think she picks great reads, this is another one. This is about a Lighthouse keeper in Australia after WWII and the things a lonely couple get up to when no one is watching. I liked it. 4 GR stars
  2. Where the Heart is by Billie Letts. The movie was better than the book. I liked it in spite of the main character being to naive to be real. I didn’t love it. 3 GR stars
  3. Proof of Heaven by Alexander Eben. I am a sucker for this kind of stuff for reasons I won’t get into. His story is fascinating and not fake like the Heaven is for Real. 4GR Stars
  4. Every Day by David Levithan. Now THIS was a great book! It was odd and quirky about a disembodied soul that pops into people everyday to live their life for a single day. Levithan is becoming one of my favorite authors. 5 GR Stars
  5. Dragonlance Chronicles Book 1 by Margret Weis – I just am plowing through this series, this book was meh for me but those who love this genre will LOVE this book.
  6. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult. Good read filled with sociopaths. It was a little unnerving to read this book about a school shooting so soon after Sandy Book, but it is enlightening. Well thought out and characters are real. 4 GR Stars
  7. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. This author is CRAZY or at the very least understands crazy. This is the second book of hers I read, I will read her other one hoping it will be as good. The reviews I read say Sharp Objects isn’t as hood as her other books. I rated 5 GR stars. I thought is was dark and twisted. The ending  – well, just read it.
  8. Lessons from the End of a Marriage by Lisa Arends. This is a true story about a woman whose husband left her via text so he could marry his second wife. The best part about this story, is how Lisa learned from choices she made and used goals to pull her out of her nightmare. I really admire her courage and spirit. I found her because she subscribed to me here first. Then I decided to take a peek at her blog. I watched her on Jeff Probst and love here memes. I have gleaned great insight from her that can be applied to all relationships and self, not just broken marriages. Go give her site a peek and then buy her book. $7 on Amazon, you can’t go wrong. 4 GR Stars

 

Tell me about a GREAT book you read, chances are I have it on my list or have read it, but I am hoping for that book I will mourn over and miss characters from for weeks.

Happy Reading!

“We read to know that we are not alone.” ― William Nicholson

 

“We read to know that we are not alone.”
William Nicholson

 

I just came off a weekend reading frenzy. I love those kind of weekends. You know the type, lay around in comfy clothes, snacking instead of eating meals and reading 3 books that had me a Page 1.

The first book was J.K. Rowling’s A Causal Vacancy. This was my least favorite of the 3 books this weekend. The story line was just fine, there were a couple of characters I really enjoyed. I loved reading about Krystal’s family and I really liked Andrew. The rest of the town was just overloading me on not caring very much. There was something about this book that made me wade through the crappy bits to get to the climax. Rowling is a master of creating excitement and building to a big finish. That was obvious from reading all her previous works. A Casual Vacancy also had a big build up. I LOVE that in a book. It was unfortunate that this story line was less than interesting. Even with the big build up to the end, I was left with disappointment in her plot line. It was just a regular little town with regular weird residents that resemble people I know. I have to admit of being sucked in by the author’s name. I will likely read her next book but am still holding out hope she will create a Marauders series. Her small town book was dull….except for the end. I rated this book 3 out of 5 on Goodreads.

After I read that book, I immediately picked up A Dog’s Purpose. My friend and bookclub mate The Reader suggested it to me. Our taste in books is very similar, so I figured I would likely enjoy this one too. Did I ever love this book! You don’t need to be a dog lover to enjoy it. The story is from the perspective of the dog, who reincarnates 4 times and has memory of his previous lives. The interesting part for me was how this pup would learn from lessons taught in each life and bring it forward to the next one knowing he has a purpose and must fulfill it. I read this book in a couple of hours and was enchanted right from the time he was Toby until the end of the book as Buddy. I rated this book 5 out of 5 on Goodreads. Love, love, loved it!

The last book I read was the Book of Negroes by Canadian Author Lawrence Hill. It won the Canada Reads award and is a book that everyone should read. I rated it 5 out of 5 on goodreads. For some reason, it is called Someone Knows My Name in the USA.  Which is a shame because of the historical importance of the book entitled The Book Of Negroes (a log kept by the British military to keep track of the slaves, endentured slaves and people freed from slavery who were transplanted to the British colonies in Nova scotia and New Brunswick). It was the story of an 11 year old girl who was captured by the slave traders in Africa. It talked about her 3 month journey to the coast where she was branded and sent on a slave ship to Sullivan Island where she was sold. The story moves throughout her amazing, yet tragic life and the 7 different places she lived. She was more fortunate than most but her life was tragic none the less. I was shocked and shamed to learn about Nova Scotia’s part in the slave trade. The underlying message from this book was timely. It stressed the importance of educating women,especially after Malala Yousafzai was shot for being an activist for girls right to education. Shining Hope for Communities is an organization that combats gender inequality and extreme poverty in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya, by linking tuition free schools for girls to accessible social services for all. Studies show that by educating women, poverty can be reduced and violence is lessened. Women who are educated and well read tend to are less fearful. People shouldn’t have to live in fear.

The Dali Lama said this today on his facebook page:

Comparing the 20th century to now there are many hopeful signs. Look at the way people view war. These days many people challenge the need for it, they question why we have to resort to it. In the early twentieth century there was no talk about protecting the environment, yet now everyone is aware of it. Our perceptions are coming closer to reality; humanity is becoming more mature and I am optimistic about the future.

I think we are making gains. Keep Reading people!

Fifty Fifty Me: The Shadow Wife

So I missed a week of 50/50 me. Reading The Management of Nonprofit and Charitable Organizations in Canada by Vic Murray and Effectively Managing Human Services Organizations by Ralph Brody apparently don’t count. I don’t find it dry reading, I quite enjoy it and find it enlightening. However, it doesn’t fit the criteria for the challenge. First of all, you need to read it cover to cover – who does that with text books? Secondly, these aren’t the books I read for fun. They are work. Fun is different. Although making the effort to expand my genre exploration hasn’t always been fun. Science Fiction isn’t very fun for me, nor is fantasy. I need to put effort into it so I am able to follow the story line. My preference is the ability to be LOST in a book. When I say LOST, I mean the story sweeps me away and I can’t wait to spend time with the characters. I do not mean LOST as in “WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON?”Hello Lord of the Rings…

The book I read this week brought me back to my favorite genre. I love family relationship stories. I love a strong female lead. I love reading about places with such detail that I figure I could go there on vacation and find my way around.

I watched 6 movies over the past 2 weeks… I know 6!!! When I was suppose to be sleeping or writing papers. I no longer watch TV, I just don’t have the attention span for interest right now. But a movie? Now that is something I like to get lost in. But enough with the musings… let’s get on with it shall we?

The Book

The Shadow Wife by Diane Chamberlain was gobbled up by me in a couple of days. I read it over lunch at work and every spare moment at home. I was reading reviews on Goodreads by my friends and discovered this author through them. They love her…I can see why. This book was about two main characters intertwined through separate stories. They meet and their story connects. I became very involved in one story, then it stopped and started with the second character’s story. It would frustrate me because I never wanted to end and pick up the next story line. This is common for the books I prefer to read. Maeve Binchy is a master at it character development. I devour strong character building.

This story began with The lead’s parents in a commune in Big Sur. It reminded at first of a Barbara Delinsky novel called the Coast Road (also a good read). I like the whole hippy concept except the filth part, and the camping life part, and the lack of wealth part…okay in THEORY I like hippies, but I like to read about them and have coffee with them and learn about their life. I do not wish to be a hippy. Been there, done that to the best of my ability. I can peel logs, can food, grow food, identify edible plants in the wild, fish, and build a fire without the use of paper or fire starter. Trust me, I’d rather read about these adventures the relive them myself.

As this baby of the hippies grew up, her life changed into what I can identify with professionally. There was a twist at the end that blew my head off. The entire time I was reading this book I was thinking I like this book a lot, not sure I love it. By the end, with me not seeing the twist coming, I LOVED this book! I knew this writer always places twists into her books but there was no hint of it in this. I loved that – and now have ruined it for everyone because I am awesome like that.

When I read the twist, I was at work in the lunch room and yelled out “NO WAY!” That to me is the sign of a fun read. What more can you ask for? Surprise, independent strong females, family legacy, and beautiful scenery? Great summertime read!

This week  am tackling Oprah’s new book club – that’s right people she is back with an on-line book club! Wild by Cheryl Strayed. This book is uncomfortable for me at times. It is very relevant to me, but I am enjoying it immensely! I will let you know how it goes. This book places me halfway to the challenge of 50 books in a year. YAY! I have loved this challenge! It has brough me out of my comfort zone and into books I love. I never would have read Stephen King, The Room, or a multitude of other genres and storylines that have scared me in the past.

The Movie

I watched these movies over the past two weeks :

  1. Avengers
  2. Factory Girl
  3. Being Elmo
  4. Every Little Step
  5. Schindler’s List
  6. If Lucy Fell

Factory Girl was about Andy Warhol’s iconic Factory girl and the person she was in real life. All this movie did for me was make me see what a wingnut Warhol was and wondered how he paid for things. I love his art, but wow…

If Lucy Fell was an old school Sarah Jessica Parker movie – Boring….

Every little Step was a documentary of  the Chorus Line revival. I loved this. Pain, rejection, excitement all rolled into one. I have always fantasized about being on Broadway but I don’t have the strength it takes (nor the talent) to face rejection on a daily basis. Wow these people are amazing!

Being Elmo… Behind the scenes of being a Muppeteer? Are you freaking kidding me??? THIS WAS AMAZING and I cried. I loved seeing the Jim Henson Empire. I will watch this documentary over and over.

Schindler’s list. I was the only person left in the world who hadn’t seen this. It is now part of the Grade 12 curriculum in Alberta’s High Schools. Wow what a powerful movie. I found it interesting how he made enough money to save these people and then just before the war ended, so did the money. Divine intervention obviously played a hand.  4000 Jews live in Poland now, but 4 generations of Schindler’s Jews make up over 6500. Doing the right thing is never easy, but so important. If you haven’t watched this – you must. AND I can cross it off my 100 AFI list!

Then my favorite movie of the year. It is no surprise people. you all know how much I love superheroes and fancy myself as one. The Avengers was FREAKING AWESOME! Is it out on Blu-ray yet? I want it for Christmas Santa!! Please do yourself a favor, watch all the other movies first. This will help with the maximized enjoyment of the Avenger movie. Stan Lee I heart you.

This week movies? I have no idea. I have watched 42 on the year. I am in the mood for Brave but that isn’t until the 22. I want to see something that will make me laugh. Life has been hard this week, so laughter is in order!

Suggestions?

Fifty Fifty Me: Never Let Me Go

This weeks effort to participate in the 50/50 me project,(you can read more about it here) I finished one book and shocked that it took me 2 weeks to read a single book with 400 pages. Seriously? I had these grandiose ideas that I would read copious amounts on the plane on the way to California. I slept instead. Obviously I needed to sleep. I am reaching full on burnout. Then I figured I would watch a movie or two. Westjet now charges you for movies. WTF? Air Canada doesn’t. So I sulked and read instead. That left me with time for just one and one book in two weeks. Oh well. The movie was disturbing and the book was … not sure how to describe it. Let’s get on with that shall we?

The Book

Cover of "Never Let Me Go"
Cover of Never Let Me Go

I read Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. Many reviews on this book were stellar. This book is even on the Time 100 best books of the 20th century. The book was a good read for me. But I gave it 3 out of 5 stars on my goodreads book list. First of all it is Science Fiction. I love watching Sci-Fi! Those are some of my most favorite movies and tv shows. As a book genre? Not so much. When I read, I want my book to be plausible. There are books out there – Harry Potter for example – that I love in spite of the plausible aspect. However, I find the characters real end genuine. That is important. They can be involved in kooky adventures that we can only dream of but their character must be realistic. I found the characters in Never Let Me Go to be stupid – literally.

There was a time in the book where I gasped out loud because these characters we not the physical beings I thought them to be. Then the story became very predictable after that. I kept waiting for the author to drop a bomb, something that would shock me to my core. It never happened. What was shocking was the way these characters accepted their fate without question. Who does that? This is why I did not find them believable. I want people to fight for justice. Fight for what their heart wants. Fight for their values. I do not expect them to get what they want, but I want them to try. This is what makes characters real for me. Perhaps there are people in this world that just plod along not reaching for the brass ring, not questioning the way things are done. This is not me. I could not relate to these people.

There were parts of this book I quite enjoyed, but I always felt I had to keep reading it just to complete it, not because I loved it.

Meanwhile, I am still reading Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. Mrs. Dashwood infuriates me and I have to put it down because I get so mad. This is what I enjoy about Austen’s books. Her characters make you feel.

As an easy read for the week, I pulled out British Chicklit. I’m feeling Jane Green and her bumbling heroines, I could easily be one of them. They make me laugh and I don’t need to think or be offended at the stupidity of the female leads. They are smart and usually successful. They just make bad choices I can laugh at because “Been there, Done That”.

The Movie

My children both read The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas in grade 7. I never had. It was a long time before I could bring myself to watch or read anything in regards to Nazi Germany. I had lived with stories from grandfathers, grandmothers, aunts, and uncles about their experience with WWII. It was just too close to home for me. I feel deeply and could not imagine the pain and heart-break associated with camps all over Europe. Nor could I understand how a human being could do these things to another. Since my various trips to Europe, I have been able to slowly learn more. I find it painful, shocking and disturbing, yet I cannot stop looking.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is about a German boy whose father is in charge of a camp in Poland. Behind his house is the camp. He goes exploring and finds the walls of the camp. He sees a boy, the same age as himself and they strike up a friendship. You get a sense of the ending while watching this. What struck me was the attitude of the father, the Nazi Commander. He said Jews aren’t people. For all the atrocities that happened, this is what disturbed me the most. Karma plays a hand in the end and the emotion is raw. Give this movie a look. I don’t think I could read the book knowing the emotion involved. I feel to deeply. Empathy is a great gift, but in these circumstances it is painful.

My next movie of choice will be Never Let Me Go, The Avengers and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.