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)
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.
Who doesn’t remember the first time they set flight on a bicycle without the assistance of training wheels, or a parents protective grip? The feeling...moreWho doesn’t remember the first time they set flight on a bicycle without the assistance of training wheels, or a parents protective grip? The feeling of confidence and sheer joy that I felt at this milestone moment in my life has not been easily matched since.
Although children don’t ride bikes in the numbers nor the frequency that they used to prior to this age of technology, Cyclist BikeList could be just the type of book to inspire young riders to get out there and explore what excitement and adventure a bicycle in the outdoors has to offer.
To show just how far we’ve come with the technology of the bicycle, this informative book begins with the course of its evolution. Playful illustrations show us the bikes humble beginnings as a pedal-less, wooden device back in 1817 to its safer and much improved current form almost two hundred years later.
For the technically inclined, there is a detailed diagram used to show the various parts that make up a modern bicycle, while the ins and outs of bicycle engineering are also outlined as it is explained how a bicycle works via the combination of its parts and their specific mechanics.
Riding tips are found in the text, or through an illustrated character’s conversation bubbles as asides throughout. There are elaborate instructions on how to change gears properly, as well as little things, like, that you should “always pedal with the ball of your foot for maximum efficiency.”
Parents will appreciate the advice on how to shop for a bike, how riders can stay safe while riding, and what the important legal requirements are regarding helmets, signaling and the obeying of traffic signs. Since this is a Canadian book, most of the information provided is surrounding Canadian laws, but is still useful to any cyclist looking to keep safe. One would be wise to check out their local laws regarding cycling regardless of where you live, as regulations can change and need to be stayed on top of.
As well as extensive checklists detailing the essentials needed, there are instructional sections on how to dress appropriately for safety, comfort and hygiene, and what accessories are required for different types and lengths of bike rides.
As well as an extensive chapter on how to maintain your bicycle, there is another on how to help the rider maintain their health, and what it takes to properly fuel the body. The author breaks down the importance of complex carbs, protein and other crucial vitamins and nutrients, as well as addressing a cyclist’s need to eat and stay well hydrated while riding, in order to keep energy levels up.
Cyclist BikeList is the perfect blend of history, mechanics, safety and inspiration. Although I have seen some websites recommend it for 7-9 year olds, I find it to be geared (no pun intended) more towards the 9-12 year old. That being said, this is a beautifully illustrated and colourful reference material that will keep any cycling-minded child, teen or adult reading right through to the last page.
One thing I think this book could have used was a glossary of terms at the back, as I am certain that most children don’t know the meaning of ‘pneumatic’ or ‘centrifugal.’ On the other had, this may encourage a child to take a moment to look the words up, which is always helpful to a growing vocabulary. Strangely, there were some instances where the definition of a tough word was provided in parenthesis after it was used, like in the case of ‘metallurgy,’ I’m just not sure how some words missed this special attention.
Cyclist BikeList has a wealth of information and not only is it the perfect reference guide for a child doing a project on ‘the bicycle,’ it could be an important factor in choosing the right bike for a new rider, or helpful to an experienced rider planning an extended cycling trip.
I would definitely recommend this book to others, and I’m excited to be able to add it to my collection.
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)
Fat Cat is a captivating YA novel about an obese teen who turns her health around by following a prehistoric-like diet, for a science fair project. Th...moreFat Cat is a captivating YA novel about an obese teen who turns her health around by following a prehistoric-like diet, for a science fair project. Through her journey of self-discovery she tests the romantic waters with a few boys, one that she can’t stand, one that she lusts over and one that she has secretly been in love with since early childhood.
This story works as a reference point to healthy weight loss, as it promotes an active lifestyle and the eating of whole, unprocessed and natural foods. The protagonist is empowered by her healthy choices, has a strong work ethic, and is a science and math geek; an excellent role model for young females, as compared to the silly, air-headed and fashion obsessed girls that we are often met with in YA novels.
I had originally wanted to read this book to see if it was appropriate to pass along to my tween niece, as she has been struggling with making healthy food choices and maintaining an active lifestyle. I will definitely be getting her to read this book, but not for a couple of years yet, as it deals with kissing and other mildly sexual content that I don't think she needs to get involved with quite yet.
This book drove me to the brink of insanity as I realized that it is not financially possible, without a windfall, to do everything organically when i...moreThis book drove me to the brink of insanity as I realized that it is not financially possible, without a windfall, to do everything organically when it comes to our eventual pregnancy, let alone the two others that we will hopefully endure to follow. From food to beauty products to furniture to toys to household cleaners...AHHH! I've come to the conclusion that I have to prioritize. I'll do the best I can, and that will have to be good enough.
So basically, the book was a little too informative, lol. I really got a kick out of the reference to people thinking that following an organic lifestyle can be likened to the hippie generation of late, as my sister and brother-in-law often tease me about this very thing. What a load of malarkey! The Hippies were these zen-like, incense burning, stressfree people. Clearly racing thoughts of phthalates, parabens, pesticides and growth hormones is anything but stressfree and zen-like, and following suit, I am most definitely the polar opposite of any hippie I've ever had the chance of encountering.