If half stars were an option, my rating would actually be 3.5. This book, though rife with cliche and often predictable, was a quick read that I tore...moreIf half stars were an option, my rating would actually be 3.5. This book, though rife with cliche and often predictable, was a quick read that I tore through in two days. I wouldn't consider it fluff in content, but the messages were clear and didn't require any heavy thinking to draw their conclusions. Being that I've been in a bit of a reading slump lately, this was exactly the type of book I needed to get me back into the swing of things.
Had I not found out about February through the CBC's Canada Reads top 40 Canadian books list, it is doubtful that I ever would have picked it up. I'm...moreHad I not found out about February through the CBC's Canada Reads top 40 Canadian books list, it is doubtful that I ever would have picked it up. I'm not much in to slow-paced books without a strong storyline or intense characters. But, because of its rave reviews, and an understanding that it is important to break custom once in a while, I gave it a go. Although I'm not likely to recommend it to anyone that is not grieving a profound loss, I'd say I still enjoyed certain elements of the story.
At its core this is a story about bereavement, and how the occurrence of bad weather and senseless errors can turn a life upside down. Lisa Moore’s depictions of feeling ‘outside’ of the reality that continues to plug on in the aftermath of tragedy, how loneliness or flashbacks to happy times can pull you away from the surface and hold you hostage deep in your mind, will leave anyone who hasn’t experienced such loss, with a palpable understanding of its destruction.
The prose can be choppy and the narrative disjointed, as it skips back and forth between past and present, but if you're patient you'll find the flow. All in all, there were times when I found the story repetitive and exhausting, but I soldiered through in a few sittings, and by the end I was glad that I had read it.(less)
While sifting through the fiction shelves at the library, I noticed the headline on the back cover of Little Stranger, which state...moreA quick read at best
While sifting through the fiction shelves at the library, I noticed the headline on the back cover of Little Stranger, which stated that it was a must read for anyone considering having children. This compelled me to read the synopsis, since having children has been important to me for a long time. As was the case with my deciding to read We Need To Talk About Kevin, I was intrigued by a mother who loses her motherly instinct.
These two novels are nothing alike, and the latter is without a doubt the better read. Little Stranger is about a mother who feeling unfulfilled, and even trapped, finds herself in a daze at the airport trying to escape her life, baby included. We Need To Talk About Kevin shares a view into the mind of a mother who feels little love or emotion towards her child, and (debatably) how this eventually affects him.
Kate Pullinger has a lot of plot lines going on in Little Stranger, whose interconnectedness often felt under developed and mostly contrived. I didn't find myself carrying about any of the characters, and felt little sympathy for their plights. It's apparent to me that if Pullinger had of directed her focus to a few storylines, and put more emphasis on the character development of her main characters, this could have been a far better book. (less)
I’ve been watching Oprah ever since her show went into syndication over twenty years ago. I spent countless afternoons wi...moreOprah in one word? Gluttonous
I’ve been watching Oprah ever since her show went into syndication over twenty years ago. I spent countless afternoons with my grandmother, watching in amazement as the scandalous scenarios played out on Phil Donahue, Geraldo Rivera, and Oprah Winfrey. Talk TV was my lifeline to grownup happenings, and I felt like I was defying childhood by being able to watch it.
Oprah was always my favourite. There was something about seeing a fearless, heavyset, black woman on TV, when all I had been used to seeing were skinny, coquettish, white women, that empowered me and gave me a sense that not all was lost in the world. Even as a young, white tween I was proud of Oprah and what she stood for as a role model to females everywhere, regardless of their ethnicity. I saw her show as a place where all women could come together as sisters, and bridge the gap between the races. This was a feeling that I carried with me well into the new millennium when I became an occasional viewer but remained a devoted fan.
Over the last five or six years I have found myself pulling away from Oprah. There is something about her unabashed arrogance that has been grating on my nerves. I wonder who she thinks she is when she stops one of her ‘expert’ guests mid sentence to put in her all important two cents. Although it took me a long time to realize it, it would appear Oprah’s fame and power have gotten to her head. As Kelley mentions in the book, “Shakespeare says it best; ‘Absolute power corrupts absolutely.’”
Even though I don’t read tabloids, I know that gossip often leaks out to the mainstream media surrounding highly influential people, but somehow Oprah seemed to stay off the radar for her first ten or so years. I figured this must have been a testament to her purity and philanthropic ways. If I am to believe Kitty Kelley, this had more to do with the omnipresent, controlling grasp of one of the most powerful women in the world, who held the media and entertainment industries in her clutches like a vulture on its prey.
Oprah is a private person who has fought tooth and nail to keep her secrets out of the limelight… at least those that she has not divulged to her audience at various key moments, like sweeps week. Kelley professes that working at Harpo Studios is akin to being part of a cult. Employees are made to sign confidentiality agreements that prohibit them from ever discussing Oprah or any facet of her company. The imperial restrictions she puts on her staff are proof of an extreme paranoia that has daunted her as rogue journalists have tried to break down her seemingly impenetrable walls of silence. I can only imagine the despair that she is feeling with the publishing of this book.
Kelley walks us through Oprah’s life step-by-step, from her humble beginnings, to her hard working and positive attitude that moved her swiftly up the ranks in the television world. We learn of the tragic sexual abuse that she suffered at the hands of family members, and her consequential promiscuity. We feel sympathetic for her bad choices surrounding men, drugs, and an unyielding food addiction, and sit like voyeurs through the details of her awkward relationships with Steadman and Gail.
None of these things had me disappointed by Oprah. What really crushed my opinion of her was more the prima donna-like behaviour that seemed to become more and more prevalent with each passing year, and every additional dollar. The book is full of her snooty antics. In one instance she showed up extremely late to an appointment at an art gallery, where she had her assistant phone ahead of time and make a big stink about them needing to be ready for her arrival, and that she mustn't be kept waiting. Upon her hours late arrival she then proceeded to tell the staff there that “Oprah does not do stairs,” when she was asked to look at things on another floor of the establishment. I’m flabbergasted by her temerity, especially when part of Oprah’s image over the years has shown her as ‘every woman.’
At least as Oprah got richer, her donations to charity got larger. That doesn’t take away from the fact that she is in my opinion the queen of wastefulness. To hear of the millions of dollars spent on lavish parties and gifts for her wealthy friends is enough to make you dizzy. She just doesn’t seem to recognize the value of money and what it can do when used thoughtfully. It is certainly admirable that she has built a school for girls in South Africa, but with the money that she spent on this one facility, she could have built twenty more frugal educational centres. This would have been a lot less insulting to the many disenfranchised observers who stood to benefit nothing from this grand castle, that was erected for a few hundred overly-spoiled girls.
Oprah: A Biography is a large and long book, and I’m glad I didn’t have to lug it around, as I listened to it in audio book format. Kelley is the reader, so we are able to get the properly intended emphasis on her words. If I had been reading it from the book, I’m sure I would have gotten bored at times, as she tends to jump back and forth in her laying out of the story. (The beauty of listening to a book while cooking dinner or washing dishes is you can tune out the slow parts.) Kelley offers her disapproving opinions of Oprah’s actions on more than one occasion, but she more or less sticks to ‘the facts’ as she has compiled them, and appears to be fairly unbiased in her delivery.
This is a very informative book for those that want the scoop on Oprah, but for those who consider themselves devout followers of this blinding star, be forewarned: you may end up angry, hurt and even disappointed. Although I am proud of her self-made success, and the message that regardless of where you come from you can rise to the top, I’m not ashamed to say that Oprah is no longer one of my heroes.
I picked this one up from my library blind, like I sometimes do when I'm waiting for my holds to come in. I choose a...moreTrust ME, do not waste your time!
I picked this one up from my library blind, like I sometimes do when I'm waiting for my holds to come in. I choose a random letter and pick up whatever book is first in that section of Fiction. ('A' being the random letter this time, of course.) Sometimes this works out and I get to read and enjoy a book that I otherwise never would have read. Then there are instances like this one where I pick up a dud and curse myself the whole time I'm reading it.
Honing in on a current and hot topic – terrorism - this is sure to be a hit for some, I suppose. Add to that a cat-and-mouse chase where the mouse is the one with nine lives, as he is able to flee from the bad guys like he is some kind of Jason Bourne character - minus the special training and experience - and I start to lose interest.
If you're into suspense thrillers where completely implausible scenarios keep playing out, to the point where you think the author is sitting back having a laugh while he insults your intelligence, then giver' a go. For me, I'm just bitter about the 4-some-odd hours of my life that I'll never get back, and will seriously be reconsidering my ‘lucky dip’ practices at the library. (less)
The Saskiad is an extraordinary tale of fantasy and reality melded by a young girl’s awakening into adulthood. Saskia - said young girl - is a lonely...more The Saskiad is an extraordinary tale of fantasy and reality melded by a young girl’s awakening into adulthood. Saskia - said young girl - is a lonely outcast at her school, as she lives on a commune and uses any free time that is not spent rearing the wild bunch of children that live there with her, idolising and reading about epic adventurers. In fact, after I’ve read Homer and Melville I will have to reread the novel just so that I can understand the countless references made to such classic writers and their genius works. I won’t deny that I felt very poorly-read as compared to this girl of fourteen who had such illustrious novels under her belt. At any rate, Saskia’s reality gets turned upside down as she befriends the new girl, Jane, and suddenly experiences every young girl’s dream... to have a best friend.
The book is a delicious exploration of their obsessive friendship, and how they relate with others around their unwavering love. They laugh, cry and grow together, and it is with this growth that eventually their relationship takes new forms, and veers off in countless directions. I often had to remind myself that the novel was written by a male, as Brian Hall’s depictions of teenage girls and the intricacies of their relationships was often eerily accurate and familiar. I’m left wondering if he had any help with character development through either his wife or a sister or something.
The Saskiad is also a story about the relationships (or a lack there of) between children and their parents. Thomas, Saskia’s father is deplorable, as are his inappropriate relationships with the ladies in his life, and you may have to restrain yourself from throwing the book at the wall when faced with some of his antics throughout.
I have heard some other readers complain that the last quarter of the novel is not as beautifully written as the first three parts, that there is a shift, in that Saskia’s fantasies are no longer intertwined in her realities. For me this merely showcases that she has matured into adulthood, lost her innocence and sees the world through newly jaded eyes; often a sad but true consequence of growing up.
This glorious story seems to go on forever, until it finally ends and you are left wondering what to do with yourself now that the eccentric and lovable Saskia is no longer there to watch over. Sadly, I was tortured with melancholy over the last lines of this great book. (less)
With Linden MacIntyre being one of my favourite journalists, I was thrilled to hear of his novel being honoured as the winner of the Scotiabank Giller...moreWith Linden MacIntyre being one of my favourite journalists, I was thrilled to hear of his novel being honoured as the winner of the Scotiabank Giller prize for 2009. After reading the synopsis of the story, I knew it would be an uncomfortable read, but trusted in MacIntyre’s reverence and honesty to make it through. I was not disappointed.
The Bishop’s man is a story told in spirals, as we twist and turn through past and present fluidly, giving us a clearer picture of the events that can become cloudy through space and time. It is by way of these happenings that we are presented with brutally honest characters living lives of deceit and despair. These tragically flawed people are human in their beastliness, conflicted, damaged, and eternally struggling to break the vicious cycle of pain and suffering.
At times my anger was palpable as the Bishop insisted on covering up the harsh realities of the evil-doings administered by the hands of his precious and misunderstood brotherhood, where ‘victims’ were only the creations of over-active imaginations and troubled youth.
On more than one occasion I wrestled with my understanding of good and evil, and what faith means in today’s modern world. I am of the mind that Catholicism and its primitive structures are in need of a revamp in respect to how the world has changed, and what we’ve learned about humanity along the way. For the sake of the Catholics out there, I pray that they will make the changes that are needed to gain back so many members that they have lost due to their closed-mindedness and denial. As naïve as some may consider it, I will always believe that faith is an important and necessary part of a happy, moral and fulfilling life.
Amidst the madness and injustice, we pause to take in the haunting and beautiful descriptions of small towns, where you can hear the fiddle and smell the sea salt lifting off the page. Linden MacIntyre has proven to be an adoring poet in his love of the East coast and of the Gaelic and English languages. His words are profound and emotive, and I look forward to picking up his other novels in the hopes of more of the same.
Just a couple of his affecting offerings…
“The future has no substance until it turns the corner into history.”
“The bay is flat, endless pewter beneath the rising moon.”