Monday, March 18, 2013

Blue Clay People

Blue Clay People: Seasons on Africa's Fragile Edge
Author: William Powers
Source: Recommended by mom
Days to read: 10

Traveling to Liberia to work as an aid worker to fight poverty and help save the environment, William Powers provides an incredible account of his experiences. Upon arrival in Liberia, Powers is eager and ambitious. He quickly discovers that the intricacies of the issues are far more complex than he could ever have imagined.

Liberia is one of the poorest countries in the world and many cities lack running water and electricity. Upon his arrival into the capital city of Monrovia, Powers describes a mountain of garbage that is piled in the middle of the street. Children can be seen scaling it in search of useful items. While there are many parts of the book that are down right depressing, Powers also describes the wonders of Liberia such as the beaches, the rainforest and the resilient people who inhabit it. Throughout the book Powers refers to the notion of “enough”. Coming from America where consumerism is out of control, Powers is intrigued and fascinated by this mantra of the Liberian people who have so little. It is a concept that every reader should take from this story.

I really enjoyed reading this one and I learned a lot about Liberia, it’s people and the many complex issues that they face as a nation. We often think other countries problems are isolated to them and do not really affect us/we do not affect them. This book opens your eyes and dispels that argument. Who is purchasing rich and expensive mahogany furniture for their super sized homes? Not the Liberian people. However they are the ones with little choice but to clear-cut their forests and destroy the environment at an alarming rate in order to cash in on North American’s expensive tastes. This is just one example in which outside influence and life style play a major role in the many issues that Powers’ addresses and seeks to find a solution to. 

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Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

The Elegance of the Hedgehog
Author: Muriel Barbery
Source: Ali's book club choice
Days to read: 8

Now this was a challenging book but well worth a read. It is evident that the author, Muriel Barbery is familiar with Philosophy!

The book has two different voices. The first is a middle-aged concierge named Renée who suppresses her intellect and interests in order to fit into the stereotype of a simple, lazy and uneducated concierge. The second voice is Paloma, a 12-year-old genius who is irritated by everything and everyone in the world until she meets Renée. When the new Japanese tenant Ozu moves into the prestigious building, both Renee and Paloma are intrigued to find another individual they consider an equal.  Through joint interests and enjoying each other’s company, Paloma is finally able to see some good in the world and Renee’s spirit is awakened by her new friend Ozu who sees and knows her for the person she is.

We had a really good discussion about this book at our last meeting and the majority of us really enjoyed the book. Both characters hide their true thoughts and feelings and essence of who they are to the outside world. Fortunately, Paloma is young and is able to learn from Renee and appreciate things in life.

There was some disagreement regarding the end of the book. Some people were left sad and disappointed while others felt it came full circle and were satisfied. I hover somewhere in between these opinions. Without giving too much away, a traumatic event occurs that does evoke sad feelings however I felt that this event was only the closing to a bigger story and that lessons were learned and new and wonderful experiences were had and recognized.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Carly's Voice

Carly's Voice
Author: Arthur Fleischmann and Carly Fleischmann
Source: Several professors
Days to read: 6

One of my professors mentioned the book Carly’s voice during one of his lectures and I knew I would have to read it. It is written by Carly’s father and includes some parts that are written by Carly herself.

Carly has Autism and is nonverbal. Through Applied Behaviour Analysis, she was able to learn to communicate by typing. The last few months I have learned a lot about Autism and how to teach those with Autism. The more I read, the more I want to know what it is like to be in their shoes. They feel, perceive and sense things differently than those without Autism. I found this book to be incredibly interesting because it gives the reader a glimpse into the world of Autism for one individual, Carly. It provides the reader with an understanding of the life of not only Carly, but also her family.  There is an incredible financial, emotional and physical stress put on the family and I think this book really gives an honest depiction of how daily life is for them. Carly's journey and what she has accomplished is incredible and inspiring.

Along with Catherine Maurice’s Let Me Hear Your Voice, I would encourage everyone to read this book to gain a little bit of understanding of a diagnosis that is on the rise.
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Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Art of Racing in the Rain

The Art of Racing in the Rain
Author: Garth Stein
Source: Everyone!
Days to Read: 3

I actually had several friends ask me if I had read this book, which got me thinking that I probably should get my hands on a copy. So while killing time in the PATH before class, I stopped at the Coles and picked up a few books.

The Art of Racing in the Rain is a wonderful story told from the perspective of Enzo the dog. Right off the bat we learn that Enzo is unlike most dogs and is very in touch with his “human side”. The book begins with an elderly Enzo reminiscing about the first time he met Denny and being taken to his new home. He continues to share his stories and adventures that occurred over his lifetime.

Denny is a racecar driver trying to go pro and many evenings are spent with Enzo watching videos of famous races. Throughout the novel, Enzo uses racing strategies and techniques as analogies of situations that Denny is going through in his life.  When Denny brings home Eve, when Eve moves in, when they are married and have a daughter, all of these events are retold by Enzo. He is a rather charming little dog and his insights are quite remarkable.

This book is an easy read and very endearing. The last two pages are my favourite but I can’t tell you why without giving away the happy twist!  
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Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Kindness of Strangers

The Kindness of Strangers
Author: Katrina Kittle
Source: Mom's friend Mary-Rose
Days to Read: 8

I think I need to come up with some sort of scale for rating the books I am writing about. I will think about this and get back to you! Also did anyone notice my little "favicon" in the URL bar? I am so proud of myself!

Moving on... I loved this book. It was a tough read with a lot of emotional content, but it was a great. The book is about Sarah, a widow, and her 2 sons, Danny and Nate who step in to help Sarah’s friend’s son Jordan in his time of need. Jordan’s parents have sexually abused him for many years and as the truth unfolds, Sarah struggles with the emerging truths about her supposed friend. The family is still dealing with the loss of husband and father when Nate proposes that his family foster Jordan. The family comes together in ways they never had expected and together help to heal one another.

As I said, the book is pretty moving and I definitely teared up a few times. But it is also a good heart warming book that leaves you satisfied and happy after the last page is read. 
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Wednesday, January 09, 2013

The Casual Vacancy

The Casual Vacancy
Author: J.K. Rowling
Source: Kim's choice for book club
Days to read: I don't remember!

It took awhile (about 100 pages or so) for me to get into this book. The basic premise is this - set in a small town called Pagford, the book starts off with the death of Barry, a parish councillor.  You are then introduced to a plethora of characters who were friends, family, students or political opposition. The untimely death of Barry was in the midst of a decision to dissociate with a particular area of Pagford known as “the fields”. Barry supported the alliance and with his seat on the council up for grabs, all those with a vested interest are pushing to fill the seat in their favour.

Along with politics, there are issues of drug abuse, domestic abuse, and family issues.

After I was acquainted with the many characters, the book began to improve. However, I still found some parts to be a little boring at times and I favoured certain storylines over others. I hate when that happens because then you just want to skim over the not-so-interesting storylines to get back to the good ones! BUT, I do have to say that the last 150 pages or so things started to heat up and I raced through those last pages.

Without having read anything else by Rowling, I wouldn’t jump to read her next novel. However I think it would be interesting to hear your thoughts on the book if you have read the Harry Potter series. I’m interested as to how it compares to the adult fiction.
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Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Book Club Choice

Our next book club choice is Muriel Barbery's The Elegance of the Hedgehog, which I just read was made into a movie in 2011! I will definitely have to check it out if I love the book. I started this book today on the train into school and I am enjoying it so far. It is written very well and has won a ton of awards so I'm anxious to get into it. 

I still want to see Salmon Fishing in the Yemen although I doubt the movie follows the same story path as the book (I bet it focuses more on the love story). Has anyone seen it? 
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The House at Riverton

The House at Riverton
Author: Kate Morton
Source: Chapters
Days to read: 7

Wow! I didn't realize it had been so long since I last wrote about my books. I should have clued in when I noticed the pile of 4 books on my desk. They were not put away for a reason!

Anyway, YES - I loved this book! If you haven't read Kate Morton's other novel, The Forgotten Garden, read one or both of them! I love historical novels and The House at Riverton is just that. The narrator, Grace, is a maid at the house of Riverton who has kept a secret about the Hartford family for many years. The story unfolds as Grace relives her past through discussion with a movie director who is making a film based on the Hartford family and the events of the summer of 1924 when a young poet took his life. The book keeps you entertained throughout and keeps you guessing as to what the truth is about the mysterious event. I won't give too much detail so you can read for yourself! 

I really like the character development in Morton's novels and I also like how the main character tells the story to someone else, looking back in some form or another. 

This book also gives you an interesting perspective of an Edwardian aristocratic household in the 1920's and how things changed in society as the years went on. The Hartford sister's, Hannah and Emmeline are very different girls. Emmeline embraces the 20's - the new fashions, hairstyles, and partying ways of the young populace, whereas Hannah is more traditional and constantly worrying about her younger sister’s adventurous and sometimes dangerous ways. While watching the young sisters every summer while they are at Riverton, Grace yearns for a bond with the girls. Over time she develops a kinship with Hannah and it is put to the test when she becomes the only other witness (besides the sisters and the poet) to the events of the summer of 1924.
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