Tuesday, August 22, 2017

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Back to School Freebie (Classics I Want to Read)


Listing the classics I've loved, and hated, last week got me thinking about what classics I still want to read. The definition of classic is always tricky. To me, it's a book from a long time ago, more than fifty, that is still considered a book that should be read. Fifty seems old, but now it's as old as me!
I started this list before I realized that Top Ten Tuesday was back. So, let's call this Classics I Wish I'd Read in School.

The Diviners by Margaret Laurence (1974)
The first book I list deviates from my own criteria! But I've enjoyed Laurence's Manawaka's cycle books and this is the most famous one. I've been saving it for the end. I wish we'd read more Canadian books while I was in school.


By the Pricking of My Thumb by Agatha Christie (1968)
All Agatha Christie books count as classics in my mind, and I picked this fourth Tommy and Tuppence book up at a yard sale a while ago. I love how the short (4) T&T series has the couple age from young to old.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (1862)
I started this book years ago at a site that was posting a chapter a day and got along okay, but then I hit my Waterloo, which was the battle of Waterloo. Is that where that phrase comes from - reading Les Miserables and hitting the background of the battle scenes? Once I finish Les Miserables, then I can watch the movie!

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (1844)
This is supposed to be a great read, lots of adventure! It's a large one which makes it hard to pick up.

Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (1915)
This is one of those books whose lore is entrenched in popular culture. It was a YA Sync free audiobooks this summer and is quite short. I'm looking forward to listening to it.

Rebecca by Daphne duMaurier (1938)
I really can't wait to read a duMaurier! I'm not even sure why I haven't got around to it yet, but I am determined to get to this soon. Sounds like a good fall book.

Emma (1816) or Sense and Sensibility (1811) by Jane Austen
I'd still like to try another couple Austen's having only read Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey. Plus there are movie versions to watch as well.

The Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner (1974)
Not quite fifty years old, but this is one that gets glowing reviews amongst book bloggers so it is always on my to be eventually read.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (1861)
I expect I'd rather listen to Great Expectations, but it is so long. I may just end up watching the PBS movie that I've got saved on my DVR. I haven't read any of Dickens' long epic novels.






Sunday, August 20, 2017

BOOK: The Dorito Effect by Mark Schatzker

The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavour by Mark Schatzker, (8 h 17 min)

This was a great discovery from YA Sync! A non-fiction book about food by a Canadian. Last year there was a Michael Pollen food book but I argued to it all the way through. This book on the other hand had me nodding and agreeing all the way through.

Maybe that isn't the best way to read non-fictions, the echo-chamber and all, but this was more teaching me ideas about things I had an inkling about but didn't know exactly why.

The main theme here was about flavours and how we, society, have found a way to create flavours that taste like what they are supposed to but in the process, have lost the nutrition that should be present in foods. And when the nutrition isn't there, we don't get fulfilled and eat too much.

See, I've never been a huge fan of Doritos. I find the flavour way too intense and they are one of the few chips I can resist. I'm not claiming to be a good eater, but I prefer plain chips which would have no flavourings added. Interesting. I also prefer homemade salad dressings to bought Kraft dressings, especially Caesar salad dressing. It makes sense to me now.

The discovery of how to make an imitation vanilla started because real vanilla became extremely expensive and hard to make. There is talk of gas chromatography, mass spectrometers, and other flashbacks to my Chemistry degree from University in determining the particular notes or chemicals present in the original flavour that need to be replicated. Very cool.

Some of the other examples of how we have modified foods for economic gain are chickens and tomatoes. We see now the local food movement and the rise of heritage chickens and heritage tomatoes. Chickens and tomatoes have been adjusted to reach maturity quicker and to produce larger products. So big, watery, flavourless tomatoes that are easy to transport is what we get at the grocery store. Chickens that need to have tons of spices and extras added so they are edible. Also, they are less nutritious.

The availability of strawberries year round has changed how we eat them. We can get strawberries in PEI in December now when years ago, they were only available in July. But oh! the strawberries we get in July are so many magnitudes better. They are varieties that don't travel well, are small and knobby, but just explode in your mouth.

There were many other chapters and ideas presented in here and I can't go in to all of it. (Studying animals and relating to how they eat nutritiously) This was just one of those books that made connections to things I've noticed and was able to relate with and I really enjoyed it. The best of the YA Sync this summer!

Friday, August 18, 2017

BOOK: Airborne by Kenneth Oppel

Airborn by Kenneth Oppel (10 h 46 min)   Full Cast Audio

Book One of the Airborn Series

This was a fun, rollicking adventure set in some alternate Steampunk time. Matt Cruse is a cabin boy aboard a flying airship and hears of a legend about some mysterious flying creature. There are pirates, a lost island, strange animals, and everything takes place in the air.

I haven't read a lot of Steampunk (maybe one book?) but this was good. It is certainly young adult or even childrens, but still, a fun fast-moving fantasy adventure book.

YA Sync keeps releasing the first in a series, which can be annoying. Most are generally stand alone but can be continued. There haven't been many where I would listen to another one. A few years ago, The Colours of Madeline by Jaclyn Moriarty was one that I was very impressed with, and read the second. I just ordered the third in the trilogy from Indigo.

I would read the next one in the Airborn series. As a bonus, Oppel is Canadian and is the same age as me.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

BOOK: Susanna Moodie: Roughing it in the Bush by Carol Shields and Patrick Crowe

Susanna Moodie: Roughing it in the Bush by Carol Shields and Patrick Crowe, 140 p

History done in graphic novel form is a great way to get a taste of a person or situation. Susanna Moodie is a famous Canadian settler who wrote about life as a settler in the back woods of Ontario in the early 1800s. Her sister, Catharine Parr Traill also wrote a book about pioneering. Roughing it in the Bush was actually Moodie's response to what she felt was a romanticized book by her sister.

Before she died in 2003, Carol Shields had begun collaborating with Patrick Crowe on a screenplay about Susanna Moodie. Crowe recently resurrected the writing and put it into graphic novel form, with illustrations by Selena Goulding. The book I thought I was looking for was the criticism Susanna Moodie: Vision and Voice by Shields, but I'm so glad I found this graphic novel instead.

To add to the complete female badassness of this book, Margaret Atwood writes the introduction. It was Atwood who, in 1970,  wrote a poem series to Moodie after finding and reading Roughing it in the Bush in her parents' bookshelf. There are still books being published about Moodie and Parr as the two literate women wrote a lot in their time and kept a record of what life was really like in the woods of Canada, before Canada was a country.

What a horrific time it was for Susanna Moodie as a settler! As British aristocrats, her husband and her were completely ill-equipped to clear the land and survive. Children kept coming, ridiculous winters, deaths, fires, illnesses - all took their toll.

In fact, I enjoyed the book so much, I headed to the library to find...

Sisters in Two Worlds: A Visual Biography of Susanna Moodie and Catharine Parr Trail by  by Michael Peterman, 174 pages

I thought I liked the graphic novel (and I did) but this visual biography was even better. It covers the same material as the graphic novel, but so much more. It is done as a scrapbook, with plenty of pictures of old houses, the Strickland family (Catharine Parr and Susanna's family), and includes paintings of the areas by Canadians of the day.

 A very cool extra I discovered was a relative of mine! Emilia Shairp was a neighbour of Susanna's in the bush who also appears in Roughing It in the Bush. She is a great-great- something on my mother's side. Life was not easy for the early settlers and I've seen a picture of an old Shairp family (not necessarily Emilia's) in front of a log cabin with a bunch of kids that could easily be added to this book.

The sisters became somewhat famous for their writing in their later years and got to meet more important people. Their sister Agnes who stayed in England was also quite a famous biographer - she wrote about Queen Victoria and got to attend her inauguration.

So, not only was this a great biography of Susanna and Catharine Parr, but it was also an interesting look at life in Canada before it officially became Canada. So much history and paraphernalia was included. Really, this book could be used as a history text book, full of primary and secondary sources. The topic of the sisters is superimposed on the history of Canada from the immigrants landing at Grosse Ile, the quarantine station, to the beginnings of responsible government. Beginning with why people left England, to the adjustments of the society people living in the back woods.

Informative and beautiful!


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

TOP TEN TUESDAY: All About the Classics


Top Ten Tuesday for me this week is all about Classics. I picked five I loved, and five I did not. This is making me think about the classics I have not read yet. That may be next weeks list.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Maybe if I'd been made to read this one in school I wouldn't have loved it so much, but as an adult reading it for the first time, it was wonderful. Attacus Finch is a version of Gilbert Blythe.

Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
I have loved this in every version I've looked at - print, audio, musical, television. Each time I adore a different character and I don't know if I will ever tire of Anne. And Gilbert, Matthew, and Marilla.


Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winnifred Watson
Not sure if this counts as a classic, but it was such a delightful little tale that it should be more read. 
I read this one the same time as Major Pettigrew Lives for a Day, and both have the same British feel.

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
I'm not usually a fan of the classic American novel, but this one is such a crazy ride. I always feel like it could be a Dateline Crime Special from the 90s. The Leo diCaprio movie version was also very well done.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
I wish I had read this when I was much younger. Part of my appreciation of Jane Eyre is reading why other women have loved Jane. This is a book where the feminist analysis I've read greatly enhanced the experience. The most recent movie was also very good.


Least Favourite Classics

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
I like Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Ernest, but his other books have disappointed me. I've even tried Dorian Gray twice - once on paper, once audiobook, and while the idea of the book is fabulous, the execution leaves me sleepy. Part of it is the style of writing at that time and part is all his double talk.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac
First book in my life that I did not finish. All it felt like to me was a bunch of guys doing drugs and avoiding life. Pretty sure we call it an opiod crisis today, but back then it was the beat generation.

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
Nothing here was offensive, just bored me and I couldn't even stick to the end to see what happened to silly Bilbo Baggins.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
I couldn't get past the dialect in this one.

Lord of the Flies by William Goldberg
I hated this in grade ten, and when I listened to it last year I hated it all anew. I get why it is a classic, but the basic premise of resorting to evil and atavistic nature is the one I have a problem with.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

BOOK: Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta

Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta, 308 pages

review copy from Simon&Schuster Canada

Perrotta, author of Little Children and The Leftovers, is becoming one of my reliable authors and moving into MRE (must read everything) territory. One of the things I like is that each of his books are so very different although all so far have been very readable.

Mrs Fletcher has many characters with decent backstories, very contemporary with autistic and trans characters, millennials and divorced parents discovering porn on the internet but the plot overall is minimal. Eve, divorced mom, takes her jock son, Brendan, to college, and needs to find ways to deal with having an empty nest. She takes an evening college course on Gender Studies and hopes to make some new friends, while Brendan has the adjustment of going from a big fish in a little pond to a little fish in a big pond. The narration changes between the two - third person from Eve's point of view but first person from Brendan's. I liked this choice, as it lets the reader be able to have some tiny bit of sympathy for Brendan which would not be possible without his inner thoughts. His actions are terribly immature in nearly all cases.

There are a number of things that shouldn't make this a good read, but I really enjoyed it! The characters don't grow or change very much, especially the son. Not much really happens over the course of the year that the book takes place. Many characters make bad decisions, especially with their sexual partners, but I kept hoping they might improve. There was a happy ending that was pretty obvious. And yet, I flew through this fast and fun book and liked how all the characters tied together.

I think the title is wrong; it's okay, as Eve is the main character, but there are so many other things going on. The title may be a play on Mrs Robinson from the movie which almost works. It needs more of a chick lit title like The MILF and the Empty Nest