my thoughts are not really organized on how i feel about this novel yet. i found it interesting and evocative - at times i could feel and...more26 april 14:
my thoughts are not really organized on how i feel about this novel yet. i found it interesting and evocative - at times i could feel and smell the cold, wet sea. early on in the story i was noticing issues that i will attribute to editing - information was repeated within a couple of paragraphs. this settled down in the second half of the book, but during the first bit, it was distracting. (i did read an ARC/uncorrected proof, so maybe this will change upon publication?) while i was quite engaged in the reading, and where the book was heading, i felt like i wanted a bit more from it. it felt a bit surface a lot of the time. so i will be mulling on this one for a bit. maybe my thinking will become more clear.
i do feel like this will be a great summer or vacation read for many people.
03 june 14:
i have had this story pop into my head a lot since reading it - it seems to have stuck with me, so i am bumping it up to 4-stars, from 3. :)(less)
my 16yo niece gave me this book for christmas, signed by the author (WOOT!!), along with Summer Sport: Poems, and...morewhat a great collection of poetry!!!
my 16yo niece gave me this book for christmas, signed by the author (WOOT!!), along with Summer Sport: Poems, and i was THRILLED!! a bit of background: i had the wonderful opportunity to attend the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, BC, while writing for the Globe and Mail. it was the most amazing and fulfilling experience; i still sometimes shake my head that it happened at all, but i am incredibly grateful for the awesome experiences i enjoyed. two major 'bucket list' items earned giant checkmarks: attending the olympics and writing for the G&M! amazing!!!
as the 2014 Olympics in Sochi draw near...i am feeling mixed emotions: concern over the safety for athletes and visitors, worry over russia's anti-gay stance, excitement for the attending athletes, eager for the competitions. and...sadness (just a little bit) that i will not be working at the Games this time around.
uppal's collection of poems was a wonderful antidote to my conflicted feelings. uppal served as the poet-in-residence for the canadian athletes during the 2010 olympic and paralympic games - she has paid wonderful tribute to the amazing people competing, and the winter sports they love.
i really enjoyed this collection. i read the stories out of order, jumping around to titles that grabbed my attention. i don't know if this was a mist...morei really enjoyed this collection. i read the stories out of order, jumping around to titles that grabbed my attention. i don't know if this was a mistake or not?? but i did really appreciate munro's talent and her ability to make the everyday so alive and vivid.(less)
i enjoyed this, penny's second novel in her 'three pines' or 'inspector gamache' mystery series. i liked the furt...more3.5-stars, maybe. not quite 4-stars.
i enjoyed this, penny's second novel in her 'three pines' or 'inspector gamache' mystery series. i liked the further developments of characters - both their roles in the stories as well as their histories - from the first novel, and i continue to hope for more of it as the series continues. while i had figured out who did it very early on in the story, i still had fun with the read and couldn't wait to see how the threads came together. but i found this story to be a bit clunky. there is a lot going on in the novel and it's not all seamless. penny certainly does set things up for the coming books, though, and is good at creating intrigue and making me curious. i will definitely carry on with the series.(less)
I am going to apologize right off the top here: this review might be a bit ramble-y. For that, I am sorry. But reading this novel was quite an emotion...moreI am going to apologize right off the top here: this review might be a bit ramble-y. For that, I am sorry. But reading this novel was quite an emotional experience, as I thought back to the summer of 1977 and the story of Emanuel Jaques. The book is brilliant and my mind took it all in, but I seemed to also have my own experiences, away from the novel - though related and/or triggered by the story. Together, it resulted in me having ALL THE FEELINGS. It happens. But when it happens, it can cause reviews (my reviews, anyway) to go off the rails. I am going to try very hard to make this coherent and helpful for you, so as not to do a disservice to the novel, or Anthony De Sa. (Both deserve your attention!) I fully expect to come back to this review at a later time, to clean it up a bit. For now, though, I did want to capture my thoughts and hope you'll indulge me here. Okay, enough of the pre-ramble...onto the review:
Every now and then, if you are lucky, you encounter a book that is unputdownable. I stayed up way too late on Monday night, well past 2am, so I could finish reading Anthony De Sa's new novel, Kicking the Sky. I was pretty foggy-headed the next day, and a little cranky (I am usually asleep by 9:30pm, oops!), but my book hangover was well worth it; De Sa's book is wonderful and I was hooked from the very first page.
Understand, Kicking the Sky is not an easy book to read but, to me, it is a necessary story. The novel is written around the true and tragic fate of one young boy, 12-year-old Emanuel Jaques. In the summer of 1977, Jaques disappeared in downtown Toronto. Four days after he went missing, his body was found on the rooftop of a body-rub parlour on Yonge Street. Jaques had been violently beaten and raped, his body was discarded in a garbage bag. Jaques and his family were Portuguese immigrants, trying to make a good life in a new city and the boy was just trying to earn money. He was lured with the promise of $35 to help move some photographic equipment. In the press, Jacques was dubbed 'The Shoeshine Boy'. This crime shook the entire city, outraged the Portuguese community, and brought the police and gay communities under heavy scrutiny.
In the summer of 1977, I was 10-years-old. My family lived just a little north of the city of Toronto, and just a bit west of Yonge Street. We could easily walk to Yonge and hop on the bus to head downtown, something we often did from the age of 12 or 13 on. My family always had a newspaper subscription (or two), and watching the nightly news was a regular part of our evenings. In 1977, I learned about, and followed, two news stories that scared me greatly, and that have sat with me as heavy sadness ever since: the disappearance and death of Emanuel Jaques was one of those stories. Jaques' death (how and why it happened) was perhaps still a bit abstract to my young mind, but so much was relatable and frightening. I understood a beloved young boy had been violently killed and parents were afraid for their children. I knew the city was in shock, and I grasped the anger and heartbreak within the Portuguese community. I also remember being surprised and confused over the police actions at that time.
Anthony De Sa gives us a window into this time and place in Kicking the Sky. This is very much a coming of age story. We have a 12-year-old main character, Antonio Rebelo, who has one foot in childhood and one, prematurely, thrown into adulthood. Within the story we behold a loss of innocence, struggles with moral questions and immoral acts, and the beginnings of sexual awareness. Antonio's story plays out in contrast to Emanuel Jaques' and makes for an interesting parallel because, as Antonio's mother worries, it could have just as easily been Antonio instead of Emanuel. Violence abounds in this novel, it's almost all-encompassing as we witness it: through the story of Emanuel Jaques' death, from violence of parents, delivered upon their children, spousal abuses, and then, too, we hear about other violent acts, as we learn more about the lives (past and present) of Antonio's friends and family.
There is a lot going on here, but de Sa is fully in control of his story. For all of the heartbreak and cruelty within, there is also a story brimming with humanity, empathy and sensitivity. Through De Sa's talents and personal experiences, we are invited into a world we may not otherwise be able to know well at all. I was very interested in many stylistic aspects of the novel, but there were two themes (or motifs?) in particular that stood out for me: I was very taken by the use of perspective in De Sa's writing. By this, I don't mean the alternating voices of different characters, I mean actual physical perspectives. De Sa often takes his story up, to an elevation above the action - rooftops, hydro poles, a raised sleeping loft and ladder, and an uncle's shoulders are all employed - changing the view and adding an interesting layer to the narrative. The second point of interest was the (sad) use of animals, and the harms inflicted upon them by humans. Yes, this made for upsetting reading at moments, but it serves a purpose and is not gratuitous in its inclusion.
I know this is a novel that is going to sit with me for a long time. I have taken the characters into my heart and find myself thinking about them, wondering if they are okay, hoping for the best. I want De Sa's book to be discovered by many readers and I highly recommend you seek it out. I hope you will be as amazed by this wonderful book as I have been
Doubleday Canada has created a moving book trailer, please take a look:
what a great book!!! pierre berton is an excellent storyteller and it would seem he is also an impeccable researcher. that's no surprise!! shamefully,...morewhat a great book!!! pierre berton is an excellent storyteller and it would seem he is also an impeccable researcher. that's no surprise!! shamefully, this is the first time i have read a berton book. OOPS!! he definitely came up during my time in elementary and secondary school, but we were never actually given any of his books to read/study. weird, right??
an important video you need to watch so you understand the level of awesome of pierre berton, and one of the many reasons why he was so beloved in canada: what's the best way to roll a joint? "it's a tragedy we all want to avoid!!" YOU GUYS!!! come on!!!
but i digress....heh!!!
having studied the arctic in school, as well as having had the chance to travel to the arctic on an exchange in high school (holman, on victoria island in 1983!! though it's since been renamed to ulukhaktok), it's been a place that has always fascinated me. not to the point where i have ever felt the urge to, you know, make a dash for the north pole on skis, or anything like that, but there is a mysteriousness and intrigue about life in the high arctic. so i was thrilled to discover this book and that it was such an excellent portrayal of the lives and challenges these men faced in trying to achieve their dreams.
i was so amazed by the overwhelming lack of preparedness with which the majority of the expeditions undertook their quests. the british expeditions were stubbornly and fatally wrong-headed in not learning from their inuit contacts and judging the inuit, while useful to them, 'savages' and 'unintelligent'. roald amundsen was one explorer who 'went native' during his time in the arctic. he valued the inuit people he brought onto his team, he adapted their ways for clothing and shelther and sustenance. he was the only explorer who actually thrived and gained weight while wintering in the arctic (locked in by ice, waiting for a thaw that would allow passage). roald amundsen is my favourite explorer (who knew?! haha!!) he was smart and patient and treated everyone the same way - all were equal. previous british expeditions were mostly led by navy men. and most insisted on living by rank and dictatorship conditions, along with british ways of life (clothing, food, expectations...). these expeditions never fared well. at all. it seemed, at one point, ridiculous to me that men were suffering scurvy, dreadfully ill, trying their best to not lose their minds...and yet there is disappointment when the last bottle of champagne was uncorked in the officers' quarters. seriously.
this book is a bit like being locked in on ice in the winter -- it's a slow read and one with which you may need a bit of patience. but this is not a complaint or a criticism. i enjoyed every moment of reading this book and i liked that it slowed me down and gave me time to imagine and consider the lives of the people berton has written about. one point i like the most, i think, was the fact that berton gave so much credit to the inuit in his book, along with some lesser-known expedition members. so many people did not get the attention they deserved.
and one last note: cook and peary were asshats, you guys! like -- possibly full-out liars, definitely exaggerators, manipulative and of dubious character. i had inklings of this before going in to the read...but mostly, i had no idea. (less)
well, this was a treat! i thoroughly enjoyed still life, the town of three pines and the cast of characters. this is a charming book. which seems a bi...morewell, this was a treat! i thoroughly enjoyed still life, the town of three pines and the cast of characters. this is a charming book. which seems a bit odd saying about a murder-mystery novel. but there you go. i am not widely experienced in the genre (my mystery reads tend towards scandinavian noire and agatha christie, heh) but i suppose penny's novel is one of those 'cozy mysteries' sub-genre works.
there was so much to like about the novel:
* armand gamache - he seems so awesome and i enjoyed how penny developed him through the story and gave us a hint or two about his past without explaining further
* the people of three pines - what a bunch of quirk-a-doodles. i love them! i hope we get to hear more from them in future novels...but that might involve gamache having to move to three pines. hmmm???
* the setting - i attended university in the eastern townships of quebec. reading all of the references to the area was great and i could picture things so easily, granby and cowansville, for example. or the drive from montréal to the townships. it was all so clear in my head and really added to the read for me.
* the mystery - was fun! i had figured it out fairly early on, which happens, but i think penny did a wonderful job weaving this story together.
* the fact that if i had a small 'yeah but..' with something in the book, penny then addressed it. the perfect example: nichol started our like just a keen officer wanting to do well and succeed with gamache. but without explanation she all of a sudden became like a petualnt child. it sort of bugged me. but then, late in the story penny used the exact same expression in describing nichol and so i know she knows and now i know there is more about nichol we will learn in future books.
* the supporting characters - i felt they were really well done.
so, YAY! i am glad i have now read the first book in the 'armand gamache' series. my mum has long loved these novels and i can now fully appreciate why. the book was some great escapist reading.
also -- HBO needs to make this into a series. STAT! :)(less)
man. what a book!! it is so compelling and so fascinating. there were just a couple of wobbles i found in the narrative, some metaphors that sat funny...moreman. what a book!! it is so compelling and so fascinating. there were just a couple of wobbles i found in the narrative, some metaphors that sat funny with me or slight suppositions beyond what could possibly be known...but they were minor and only slight distractions in the overall picture. i was immediately grabbed and sucked into the story. at times it felt like a fictional thriller/mystery - the storytelling being so fluid and vivid. the history of this area of russia and the portraits of its residents were handled well and woven nicely into information about the tigers of this region, their demise and the conservation efforts underway to protect them. there is definitely a balance and respect between man and animal going on in the taiga and that was a wonderful revelation for me. the fact that hunting is still an integral way of life for the people in this part of russia is important to remember. without it, starvation would be likely. the area is very remote and depressed. economies such as we have in north america are not their reality.
it feels like anything i want to say about the book could be spoiler-y...so how abut a good quote?
"It is a survival skill that is closely linked to Fate, and Fate has always been a potent force in Russia, where, for generations, citizens have had little control over their own destinies. Fate can be a bitch, but, as Zaitsev, Dvornik, and Onofrechuk had discovered, it can also be a tiger."
if you think nonfiction is boring or you have dismissed it for not offering the same sort of escape as fiction, give this book a try. i think you will be well surprised and rewarded for taking a chance.
elizabeth hay is magical with her words and stories. it's amazing to me, her quiet but nuanced prose (if that makes sense?). i find that hay has a gre...moreelizabeth hay is magical with her words and stories. it's amazing to me, her quiet but nuanced prose (if that makes sense?). i find that hay has a great ability to capture intimate details of human nature and convey them in her writing. but her style doesn't punch you in the face. it just sort of envelopes you gently yet she will still get deep into your bones. i sound like such a prig. sorry! :) i had the chance to hear hay read from this book a while ago and so it was nice having her voice in my mind while i was reading; she has a wonderful voice which isn't all that surprising given her years working in radio for the CBC. i never listen to audio books - but i wonder if she narrates her own works?
anyway...this story is great. it's unsettling and surprising. i was most fixated on the one thread woven through the story: the idea that the past is constantly being rediscovered and effects the lives of our families for years to come.
i was a bit surprised by the tiny, tiny bit of magical realism being dabbled with here - the idea of people being born as others from past lives - bringing memories, and birthmarks, into the new life they occupy. this was very interesting.
the only reason i didn't give this 5-stars is because of the structure. it's almost like two connected novellas and the move from one to the next was sudden. which is, for me, a marked contrast to the smooth nature of hay's style.(less)
i finished this book nearly a week ago now and have been struggling so hard with my thoughts on it. i didn't love it an...morejeez!!! holy smokes, you guys!!
i finished this book nearly a week ago now and have been struggling so hard with my thoughts on it. i didn't love it and i didn't dislike it, but there's something i just can't quite put my finger on here, that made the book feel kind of off for me. i had been anticipating this read so, so much, so i definitely feel disappointed. i don't think my expectations were sky-high and impossible though. i have not yet read catton's first novel, The Rehearsal, though i do own it. so my excitement was not based on already being a big fan from her previous work. i think my expectations were mostly based on the book's setting - i really have not read very much new zealand-based fiction, and then the chunk-factor was running high for me -- it's a big, fat novel, 800+ pages. YAY!!
i did really enjoy when the book focused on the location and described the settings. that was probably my favourite bit.
but this book is, i think, more complicated than it needs to be. when i say complicated...i don't mean hard or challenging. there are a lot of characters (20 of them) and a thread of plot is woven through each one. they are all tied together by a single plot point. this is fine -- the characters are distinct enough and interesting enough that they aren't confusing. but to stretch out one single aspect of any novel, for more than 800 pages...well, it's a lot. the narrative is non-linear. i am fine with that. and as much as i love big, fat books...i think this book could have been amazing if 200-300 pages were edited out. there were definitely times when i felt like i was just reading padding and imaging what might have been in a tighter telling?
there is a bit of a gimmick going on too, with over-informative chapter introductions, (for example: chapter titled "Mercury in Aquarius": "In which Moody passes on some vital information, and Sook Yongsheng presents him with a gift." which is a less informative example, to avoid spoilers for you all...but you get the idea.) astrological signs and stellar & planetary phases. for me, this aspect of the story was a bit too much telling from the author. i understand the intros to each chapter may be borrowing from victorian lit., but it didn't add to the novel. in fact, it served to irritate me and i tended to skip over them, then read them once i had finished a chapter. re: astrological signs and moon phases: the characters were well-drawn, we were able to gain a solid picture of what they were each about without the padding from their star signs. i think i get what catton was aiming for in this purposeful choice - some characters are represented in the 'stellar' phase of the novel and others are 'planetary'. one man = dry land/earth. there are 12 related houses (settings) and 7 related influences (reason, desire, force, command...) how much in life is based on internal forces/choices and how much is external/fate? but it just didn't work for me. it was a bit twee.
so...since finishing the read, i have been reading many, many reviews for the book, trying to wrap my head around my own thoughts and feelings. overwhelmingly, this book is loved. the critics are a-gushing. of course, if you follow these things, the luminarieswaslonglistedshortlisted won the 2013 booker prize. so i am glad i read this one. as the book becomes more widely read, i will be interested to hear what others think. (less)
the majority of the book is a memoir of place - the search for home. not just the physical: the location and the structure, but...morethis book is wonderful!
the majority of the book is a memoir of place - the search for home. not just the physical: the location and the structure, but also the feeling. feeling one is home is a big deal. at least it is to me, anyway. it's been something i have been hoping to find my whole life.
huggan gives voice to this search, this sensation and does it so beautifully and naturally. there's a lot of excavation of memory that goes on in the telling and it felt very much like i was just listening to huggan in conversation. also contained in the story are small snippets of huggan's writing life, something i really appreciated. at the end of the memoir, 3 short stories are included and for me they were a bit of a revelation. i always feel like i don't 'get' short stories - that i have either been left hanging (THAT'S IT??) or that i have missed something (WHAT HAPPENED?). here, these three short stories are each like a wee vignette - nothing major happens, but a slice of life is examined.
i think this will be a book i buy and give to people. a lot. it was an affecting read.(less)
okay, so what happened to amanda lindhout was horrible. utterly shattering and heartbreaking. she appears to have incredible will and strength. i feel...moreokay, so what happened to amanda lindhout was horrible. utterly shattering and heartbreaking. she appears to have incredible will and strength. i feel like a dick for only giving the book 3-stars. this rating is not a judgement on her or her ordeal. it is a judgment about the writing of the story though. while it was engaging, and read quickly. i was just never fully won over by the style of the writing. i thought it would be stronger.
lindhout's co-captive, nigel brennan, also has written a book about their capture and confinement. i am quite curious to read The Price of Life. (it sounds and feels like a very different approach.)
in an interesting (to me) bit of reading fate, i read The Burgess Boys while in the middle of reading 'a house in the sky'. strout's book has one theme on the plight of somali refugees in america. (something i did not know when picking up the book.) while fictional, i found the perspective very interesting, especially in context with lindhout's story.
i sometimes find it really hard to rate memoirs. they are so personal, and no matter the quality, someone has put a lot of time and work into creating a story to share with the world. as well, memoirs are built upon memories, and memory can be unreliable. (this is not a criticism of lindhout in any way. just a general comment about the memoir genre as a whole.)
when this book launched last year, i heard many people were nasty and critical about lindhout's decisions to travel in war zones. i found this so unfortunate. it made me sad to know that lindhout, while promoting the book, had to face such negativity and hostility. i think it really unfair to judge anyone over things they may not be able to understand. i am not a particularly adventurous person. i would never have the urge or desire to visit dangerous countries - but many people do. and these people are taking risks to tell stories, provide your news. i read to experience and learn things i may not otherwise ever know about. i am glad lindhout wrote this book with sara corbett. i am more glad she survived, and amazed at her capacity for forgiveness. she also created a nonprofit foundation, focused on education programs, and helping somalis (http://globalenrichmentfoundation.ca).(less)
parts of the book i loved and parts i found distracting - mostly the sections where he is talking about his volt car. it was...morei love neil young.
parts of the book i loved and parts i found distracting - mostly the sections where he is talking about his volt car. it was interesting for a while but there was just too much about that in this book. he mentioned that he should write a new book just for his volt car and i think he should!
reading this is, i imagine, like hearing young speak to you. it's disjointed and clunky in its flow but that wasn't such a surprise.
I LOVE NEIL YOUNG!
anyway -- i didn't learn to much new here, but i am glad to have read it.(less)