Wednesday, April 1, 2015

What I read in March

This month makes up for my short what I read posts in January and February. I read some really great books in March. A good mix of fiction and non-fiction. There's a gap on the library shelf that needs to be filled now.

First up is the 2014 Poet's Market which I debated posting, but I spent several days reading it. I read all the educational/ how-to's at the beginning except for the ones that didn't apply to me (being a book publisher and running my own zine) and I looked at every listing - magazine/ journals, contests and workshops/retreats and only skipped the book publishing listings. It was full of great advice and markets I would never be able to find on my own. I'm still pretty focused on editing my novel and haven't spent much time polishing poems but I think once I am done my current round of editing, I'll take a break and work on poetry. I think it will be a nice change of pace after editing fiction.

A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy by Sarah Lazarovic
My husband saw this on the new bookshelf and thought I might enjoy it. Or maybe wanted to hint at something? It was a quick read (only took an evening) and was about the author changing her buying habits, specifically clothes shopping. I don't really have that kind of shopping habit but I understood what she was trying to say.

I think every page had an illustration which is why it is such a quick read. This was my favourite page. 

Ru by Kim Thuy
The great book competition, Canada Reads happens in March. When the books that were going to be debated were announced, Ru was the only one at my local library so it was the only one I read. And it ended up winning! It is beautifully written. Short "chapters", often one page that read more like poetry than fiction. The book is about a woman who moves to Canada from Vietnam when she's a girl. It jumps back and forth between Canada, Vietnam and her family's time in a refuge camp before going to Canada. Again, this is a quick read, I think it's around 150 pages. Definitely recommend it.

The Opposite of Spoiled by Ron Lieber
I liked a lot of the ideas expressed in this book and want to start doing some of them with our kids. One idea is that every child gets an allowance which isn't based on chores. Allowance should then be divided into money they get to spend, money to save and money to give to charity. I love this idea. They get to decide the charity but we help them research and give to different charities - not just ones where they get a perk for donating. I talked to my daughter about this and she liked the idea, too. Haven't talked to my older son but I think he'd be okay with it. I love the idea that they don't get paid for chores. The argument being, my husband and I don't get paid for the chores we do around the house, so why should they? Everyone helps because it's the right thing to do, which is a great lesson to learn. The allowance is given to educate them how to use money and gives them freedom to buy what they want. Then they find out what happens when that money is gone and they find something else they really want. I'd like to do this for 6 months or so and see what the kids think after that. Will they learn anything about money?

How To Be A Heroine by Samantha Ellis
An interesting read. The author, in her 30's looks back at the books she read growing up. And feale heroines she idolized, were they really who she should be like? It was also part memoir as she talked about growing up and moving out, her parents divorcing and creating a life for herself as a playwright. I had read at least half of the books she talked about and had seen the movie for some (which is obviously different but still helped) so there were only a couple characters I wasn't familiar with. However, that didn't really matter. Each chapter talked about a lot of books and made me want to go back and read some of the books from when I was younger. I think I need to reread L.M. Montgomery's Emily series.

Here are the female characters she discussed. Notice the bibliography is 7 pages long - she discusses a LOT of books.

The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson
I love Jeanette and own several of her books, but she is not for everyone. This book takes place in England after James I took the throne and witch hunts were going on. It is essentially the story of two women; one who sells her soul to the devil for power and the other who refuses but still has powers. She does not call herself a witch. I enjoyed it but I didn't read this book before bed as there is a lot of torture described in the book and I really didn't want to be thinking about that as I was falling asleep. Anyone who doesn't want to read about torture, and some of it is nasty, or is uncomfortable with the main character having sex with both a man and a woman (at different times), might want to skip this book. I'd still recommend it, especially if you've read some of Jeanette's other work and have enjoyed them.

May I Be Happy by Cyndi Lee
Some of you may know Cyndi Lee, as she is a fairly famous yoga teacher. This book deals with her own body issues, growing older, her dying mother and her failing marriage. It also looks back at her life to figure out how she got to where she is. She hates her body and wants to get over that feeling but struggles. There were times when I got a little sick of her complaining. I don't hate my body like she does. There are definitely parts I'm not thrilled with but this body gave me 3 children so I think I owe it now. She does come to a place of not hating by the end and seems to be in a good place. One of the times I was getting frustrated with her complaining, I thought, I might not hate my body, but there are things about myself that I hate and I can think about them and how Cyndi's journey to get over the hate could help me. I wouldn't say this was a life changing read but it gave me stuff to think about it. 

Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper
The best for last. I read this on Monday, staying up until almost 1am to finish it. I loved it. And I love starting a book in the morning and reading the whole thing - just losing myself in it for the day.  When I first started thinking what I was going to say about this book, my thoughts almost turned into an essay about what I liked and how it worked to be something amazing but now that the computer is on my lap... I kind want to say, just go read it yourself. I was a little concerned at the beginning with 4 names in the title that I would be balancing 4 different narratives in my brain but that doesn't happen. They each have unique stories but are connected. Etta is 83 at the beginning and decides to walk to the Atlantic ocean from her home in Saskatchewan. Otto is her husband and Russell is their neighbor and friend. James is... you have to read it to find out. The book goes back and forth between Etta's walking and what Otto and Russell do while she's gone, and their childhood's and how they all ended up being friends/ married. It kind of reminded me of The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence and The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields that deal with elderly women looking back on their lives but this is different. Etta's not looking back. She's going forward. She's leaving because it's her turn to go and it's all very powerful. The ending is perfect and if you read the book and don't like it, don't tell me. I think I'm going to buy myself a copy so I can reread it whenever I want. Maybe I'll read it slowly next time to properly devour it. 

Her description of Ontario, "Rocks, lakes, trees. Rocks, lakes, trees." made me homesick.

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