There is no way for me to do this justice, so all I'll say is:
Everything on racial aggressions, from big to small, made my heart hurt.
I wish that eveThere is no way for me to do this justice, so all I'll say is:
Everything on racial aggressions, from big to small, made my heart hurt.
I wish that everyone could read this and understand the harm that goes by unnoticed every day. What you think is a compliment or a throwaway comment can chip away at an individual. I think about the times in the past that I've heard things and either took them as not being a big deal because I've heard it before again and again or else know that it's awful but won't speak up for fear of being singled out. I'm sure that I've been the instigator as well, through my words and actions. We're taught so many things but it's worth fighting those instincts.
A beautiful story about atonement. I'm rating just volume 1 but really, this is for the entire series. I started and finished this series (in a superA beautiful story about atonement. I'm rating just volume 1 but really, this is for the entire series. I started and finished this series (in a super short amount of time that I would advise against) all thanks to the live-action film. Everyone was buzzing about this and that for the sequels (!!!) and I had to read the original work to know all about it, from the very beginning. I have no patience to wait for sequels if I can just read the original work and know everything.
Himura Kenshin is burdened with his past as a ruthless assassin and so, vows to never take another life again. As expected, the change in his ideals do not sit well with his former enemies, and his ability to kill is how he's defined by everyone. Kenshin is a wonderfully nuanced character and when I first saw the film, I was really curious to see how the two sides of him, past and present, would work to create this one person. There's a warmth to him that was very refreshing to see and I think the character development was done quite well because the progression made sense. It isn't an abrupt change - he still struggles to keep his past self, that killer instinct, in check. It's an ongoing progress. How do you restrain that part of yourself when it may be the difference to saving your life, or the lives of the ones you care about?
Of course, the story isn't just about Kenshin. He wanders and by chance, gets to know Kamiya Kaoru, the assistant instructor of a school that teaches a style of swordmanship that emphasizes not killing, but living. The dynamic between these two is possibly my favourite thing about this series. I enjoyed the friendships that blossomed with the other characters as well, but Kenshin and Kaoru was the strength of the story for me. I wasn't expecting to care about these characters so much but it all snuck up on me. I can't comment much on the art or the action scenes - there were plenty of the latter - since this is the first anime I've read so there isn't anything to compare to, but I had such a blast reading this from beginning to end. WOW.
I may be getting too greedy but now I want at least two more movies in the series so we can get everything adapted. PLEEEEEEEEEASE....more
This book needs to be as well known as Animal Farm. I realize the history of it and how it's been very difficult for the work to spread but I just canThis book needs to be as well known as Animal Farm. I realize the history of it and how it's been very difficult for the work to spread but I just can't stop thinking about it and wish more people could read this. Georgi Vladimov manages to do so much - I'm in awe of how much depth there is in this little novel. I'm not sure if there's an introduction with some of the background history in every version, but this is such a clear glimpse into the human psychology of the time that it is still effective without it.
Ruslan is the most faithful dog you could have. Obedient, forgiving, and loyal to his master and his training. As a guard dog of a prison camp, he's taught to efficiently maintain control over prisoners and attack them in a hunt if they're to run away. Prisoners must obey, as does he, to his "Master" and the other guards. He is completely suited to the environment and takes his job very seriously. No question about it. Why do the prisoners bother running away when they'll be caught, like they always do? Isn't it nicer and better in the camp than the outside world anyway?
What happens to this dog and his life purpose once the camp is closed down?
It's both a chilling and devastating read. You're able to get inside the head of Ruslan, who is an absolutely riveting character that rivals any human I've read about in any other story, and understand his devotion yet recoil in horror over his instincts to only view the world as the gulag. You can't blame Ruslan or any of the other dogs at the camp because this is all they've ever known. The training of the "Masters," however, are the cruel ones. How do men recover from such horror - whether they are the ones to afflict punishment or the ones to receive it? It is frightening to think about absolute obedience but that's what these characters are taught from the start.
I'm so taken aback by how much character each dog had in this novel. For such a short piece, I felt like I knew them all so well. Despite the identical training they received, their distinct personalities allowed for their lives to diverge in the most natural of ways. Ingus and the Instructor in particular has really stayed with me, for better or worse. But there were so many other anecdotes in there that were fantastic.
Brilliant. Leaves you speechless when you're finished. ...more
This was such an interesting read! I'm still trying to grasp Russian history and generally the books I stumble on or add to my 'to-read' list don't coThis was such an interesting read! I'm still trying to grasp Russian history and generally the books I stumble on or add to my 'to-read' list don't cover the past two decades or so of more recent events, much less get the viewpoint of the people, so this book caught my eye right away. Gregory Feifer has personal ties to the country which I also enjoyed very much - I find that family history that the author shares in these books really help me connect to the bigger picture. He did mention that he was planning on writing this with his father but they could not weave their different past experiences into one coherent narrative, which is unfortunate but maybe the better decision. That said, I'd love to learn about his father's perspective as well.
Fiefer jumps back and forth in time to cover an abundance of topics from the extravagance to the poverty of the people, from domestic relationships to the rules of society, etc. No stone feels unturned. It isn't all doom and gloom or looking back on the past either. He speaks to the people who lives there and ones who have left, provides more insight into the mindset of the nation, and you're left with a better sense of understanding not just the country but the people there. The interviews were very enlightening when Feifer could find willing volunteers to agree to them.
I'll have to get a copy of this for future reference. There's so much I found out about and I'd love to re-read this. An eye-opener of a book....more
As Anya Von Bremzen and her mother attempt to cook dishes to represent each decade of the past century of Soviet history, thWhat a fascinating memoir.
As Anya Von Bremzen and her mother attempt to cook dishes to represent each decade of the past century of Soviet history, they rekindle more than mere feasts but mountains of memories. Both touching and painful, the reader is taken on a journey through the generations of stories in this family, from the last Czar to present-day Putin, connected through food. It's a thread powerful enough to raise or topple leaders, change the course of history with how hunger is managed in the nation.
It's really more than just a memoir or a cookbook. Every recipe, every food, every drink, described in here is intertwined with a part of history, a part of culture, and a part of Anya's family history. There's a great sense of familiarity somehow: Naum's boisterous personality and his luck, Sergei's struggle to stay committed, Larisa's toska, to name a few - and I found myself caring very much about her family. These individuals are voices that ring loud and clear, full of personality and life through the generations. Just as incredible was to see historical almost larger-than-life characters through the food lens: what they ate, what they banned or allowed citizens to eat, what was available, how tastes changed over the years and through the different regimes, how interior and exterior influences molded the diet, etc.
It's such a delicate balance to have all these ingredients without making a mess of it all - either stray too far into family history without providing historical context for those unfamiliar or cover only the history like a dry textbook - and this book has achieved it. It isn't all heartbreak and terror, all fear and propaganda, as told in these stories - as difficult as life could be, there was joy, love and humour to be found. And oh, what humour indeed.
To try a newly learned comparison (and despite not having tried these dishes yet but they sound marvelous), this book was as sensational as Larisa's awe-inspiring kulebiaka combined with Sergei's uber-borshch.
Since I was still half expecting a dagger to be plunged between my shoulder blades, I'm afraid I did not return her hug, which I received in stiff silSince I was still half expecting a dagger to be plunged between my shoulder blades, I'm afraid I did not return her hug, which I received in stiff silence, rather like one of the sentries at Buckingham Palace pretending he doesn't notice the liberties being taken by an excessively affectionate tourist.
To say I'm a fan of this series would be an understatement.
Flavia de Luce is one of my favourite protagonists around. An 11-year old girl with a flair for chemistry and sleuthing, she possesses the perfect combination of skill and curiosity to solve whatever quirky cases happen to pop up in dear ol' Bishop's Lacey. With her trusty bike, Gladys, Flavia makes the most of her wits, sometimes for plotting against her two sisters, Feely (Ophelia) and Daffy (Daphne). Returning characters include: the stoic Colonel, gossipy Mrs. Mullet, silent Dogger, one-step-behind-Flavia-at-all-times Inspector Hewitt, and the most agreeable Sergeant Graves, amongst others.
I expected to love this book and I did; Alan Bradley did not disappoint. It says a lot that I don't even need to read the backflap but instantly recognize new books from this series at the bookstore, and see myself enjoying them all. Flavia is as charming as ever, and has still got an opinion about everything. I've tried marking down moments where she made me chuckle out loud and I had to give up because I was losing count! The unraveling of the mystery is almost secondary to me because I'm getting such a kick from the process. Flavia's methods are unconventional and every hint is a new adventure.
This book might be my favourite out of the series (so far!) because of the emotional depth it had. I was wondering if Flavia was going to mature, seeing as how she is still 11 years old with this mystery, but didn't expect much from the past to be a part of this book. The author did a lot of juggling with the various points but I still connected very much to the moments where Flavia would wonder and miss her mother. It could've bogged down the cases and the humour, but instead, added more depth to this wonderful detective.
I'm also in love with the language of these books. They're breezy to read because the descriptions never bore me (see: a Gypsy caravan: butter yellow with crimson shutters, and its lathwork sides, which sloped gently outwards beneath a rounded roof, gave it the look of a loaf of bread that has puffed out beyond the rim of the baking pan). I find myself flipping to use the helpful map at the beginning of every book, and specks of British slang make it all a delight to read.
I guess I'll just have to wait until the next one. Don't even tell me there won't be a fourth. I expect to be browsing the bookstore and being surprised as usual by another bright, quirky cover. Maybe blue for the colour?...more
And I felt more like me than I ever had, as if the years I'd lived so far had formed layers of skin and muscle over myself that others saw as me whenAnd I felt more like me than I ever had, as if the years I'd lived so far had formed layers of skin and muscle over myself that others saw as me when the real one had been underneath all along, and writing - even writing badly - had peeled away those layers, and I knew then that if I wanted to stay this awake and alive, if I wanted to stay me, I would have to keep writing.
One of the best memoirs I've ever read.
I can't remember how I found this book, maybe a random review of some sort, but the cover kept my attention. It's a stroke of luck since I have never read any of the author's works, and most likely wouldn't have been interested in reading about his life. Something about this story of a boy, living a life I've never known, learning to defend himself and his friends, spoke out to me.
Andre Dubus grew up facing violence in the neighbourhoods he lived in, struggling to find a way to stop hiding from the hits he would be taking from the rougher kids. With his parents divorced, his mother was mainly preoccupied with putting food on the table. Andre being the oldest son meant looking out for his siblings, which he couldn't do until he got the motivation to work out, looking up to muscle men in magazines who had bodies that were enough to intimidate without actually using their fists. Along with this new regiment came confidence, and Andre found himself becoming someone who hungered for opportunities to physically punish wrongdoings, or any reason at all to use his punches to send messages. Strong messages. Eventually it wasn't hard to figure out that this lifestyle wouldn't last long.
Lingering beneath all this is the unconscious abandonment Andre feels from his father, who has gone on to live a new life without the rest of them, starting another family while he teaches at a college. The guilt that his father feels sometimes appears, but only simmers at the surface then wafts away. There's an urge to vent, to speak of all the problems he's had to handle on his own but that, like the guilt, passes. He finds that all the anger, the impulsiveness that he feels, can be slowly whittled away by writing. Words can help him, and it's oddly poetic because his father, the elder Andre Dubus, is also a writer.
I can't say enough about all the emotions this memoir made me feel. The sense of clarity...it's honest. I found myself hoping young Andre's courage to stand up to his bullies would finally come, to stop feeling resigned and expecting crushing blows to his body every day after school, something to just keep quiet about even after he made it home. I felt the satisfaction he described when he got into his first fight and his friends looked at him with a newfound sense of respect, even though I knew it would lead to more repercussions. I wanted him to burst at the seams and yell at his father, then feel guilty because I knew words were never that easily spoken. I felt.
Now that I've finished this memoir, it's probably time to read what else the author's written. Is it possible to top this?...more
This is the last book I've read on the Giller shortlist, and I'd have to say I would pick this for the prize if I could. It's a sensitive topic to wriThis is the last book I've read on the Giller shortlist, and I'd have to say I would pick this for the prize if I could. It's a sensitive topic to write about, but the author manages to make it work and then some. Beyond the main character, Wayne, who is born a hermaphrodite, but the father, Treadway, chooses to raise the baby as a boy, and with that, the child grows up trying to repress the urges to be different, as it is known that Treadway would disapprove.
Kathleen Winter has such a knack for engulfing you with the setting that it's as if you're one of the neighbours being in on the secret about Wayne. There's an almost ethereal quality about the way she describes the town - you yearn to visit but there's a fear that you may find yourself trapped there, just like Jacinta. She never feels a sense of belonging but never has the courage to leave, because Treadway is a safe choice. He is a man of honesty, but with that, rigid rules on upbringing, carrying on traditions of what he thinks a boy should grow up to be, especially in a small town such as this one. Neither of the parents can be labelled as villains, as the author manages to convey how their own views have molded passively into raising Wayne.
"It never once occurred to Treadway...to let the baby live the way it had been born...He did not want to imagine the harm it would cause. He was not an imagining man. He saw deeply into things but he had no desire to entertain possibility that had not yet manifested. He wanted to know what was, not what might be."
This passage, among many, marks the brilliance of Winter to flesh out each of her characters. We're able to understand exactly why they act the way they do. I can't bring myself to feel angry at either Treadway's stubbornness or Jacinta's way of resigning to her husband's demands. There's a lingering sadness to most of this novel, juxtaposed with the strong-willed nature of the setting, easily a character amongst itself. The air of this small coastal town in Labrador lives and breathes, dictating the cycles of the inhabitants as the mere visitors are weeded out. Everything serves a purpose.
This review does the book no justice. I cannot recommend it enough....more
I was stunned by this novel. As a Vietnamese Canadian, unfortunately I've never delved into Vietnam's past on my father's side ofAbsolutely beautiful.
I was stunned by this novel. As a Vietnamese Canadian, unfortunately I've never delved into Vietnam's past on my father's side of the family. After reading this, I have a newfound spark to discover more through books and first-person accounts of their experiences. And being in this situation, I sympathized with Maggie, who is on a journey to find out who her father was after their separation, but is labelled as an outside I've come to care about all the characters in this novel: Old Man Hung, whose enthusiasm for truly good phở I can appreciate (a trait I find in my own father), Bình and his quiet dedication to his family, Tu, carrying the hopes as the 'new generation,' Lan and her past with Hung, and even Phương, with his dreams to become a rapper.
The humour found in this novel are delights because they speak simple truths, like Tu's inner advice to tourists that want to mend the past with Vietnam (spend lots of money here!), that he keeps hidden as he smiles and nods as he takes them on special tours. Bình and Tu's loyalty to Old Man Hung is also evident whenever they criticize other phở places down to the very last drop, much to the dismay of the owner who can hear everything they're saying, as they're sitting there as customers!
I've begun to venture into Canadian fiction and I find that often times, authors seem to be limited by the label. It is a fact that we are a young country, and perhaps it is rather difficult to spin expansive historical tales, which I've found to be disappointing because I consider works of a Canadian author to be Canadian fiction. Maybe it's a very simplistic view of the literary world, but I don't believe the label should restrict the geographical means of a good story, especially living in a country where we unconsciously interact with so many different cultures on a daily basis.
This is one incredible read, and whether or not you have had the experience of visiting Vietnam (as I must one day), I should hope you appreciate the tips for knowing a good bowl of phở found here. If I've learned anything from my father, it's that truly amazing broth should engulf you in its aroma as the bowl of phở arrives in front of you. May you all find that bowl that you wouldn't mind having to start your day, 365 days of the year.;)...more
A hockey fan all the way here, but this book was simply addictive! If only Michael Lewis would take to writing something, anything, about my favouriteA hockey fan all the way here, but this book was simply addictive! If only Michael Lewis would take to writing something, anything, about my favourite sport. I have a very limited knowledge of baseball but this book would be compelling for anyone to read, even if it is about winning games through studying statistics. Makes you think if your team could incorporate this method, although the playoffs do seem like a crapshoot.
Can't wait to get my hands on the other books Lewis has written....more