Almost every review starts with a discussion of "Oryx and Crake." And so this one, too. I read "Oryx and Crake" quite a while ago and my memory is horAlmost every review starts with a discussion of "Oryx and Crake." And so this one, too. I read "Oryx and Crake" quite a while ago and my memory is horrible so I don't recall many details. I've read some reviews that describe the overlap and how much richer "The Year of the Flood" is when taking the books together. I've read some reviews which think this is a lousy follow-up to the tale of Oryx and Crake. So you can't win for trying. I find myself digressing. This book stands alone and was a wonderful story. Set in the future where a plague has destroyed most of Earth as we know it, the story is narrated by Toby and Ren. An incredibly layered work (hello, it's Margaret Atwood, so obviously), it examines the idea of family and identity as both Toby and Ren have backstories of being shunned by their biological family and find/create a new one. The overarching theme is the destruction of the Earth and at times feels a bit bleak since individuals seem to have little ability to create change as corporations driven by money have all the power. I am confident I missed many analogies and literary points. I'm not all that bright. But I was absorbed in the story and spent much of the book wondering if Toby and Ren would find each other after the Waterless Flood....more
I wanted to read more about the Hatfield-McCoy Feud in advance of doing the Hatfield-McCoy marathon because I am an endurance geek and a history nerd.I wanted to read more about the Hatfield-McCoy Feud in advance of doing the Hatfield-McCoy marathon because I am an endurance geek and a history nerd. Well researched and well-written Dean King does a great job not only of discussing the various fights that started, enhanced and ended the feud, but he gave a great view of life on the West Virginia-Kentucky border in the post-Civil War era. I learned not to still a man's hogs, that election day is really something to behold and that you should never mix apple mash moonshine with corn mash moonshine. At times it was difficult to remember how the players related and I often flipped back to the family tree, but overall it was informative and an enjoyable read....more
A well-researched and beautifully written story. What tugged at me most was the way Derek came of hockey age in major juniors. While I understand theA well-researched and beautifully written story. What tugged at me most was the way Derek came of hockey age in major juniors. While I understand the culture of fighting and the enforcer, there seemed something mildly tragic in the way John Branch framed his hockey upbringing -- as if the only way Derek could stay connected with the sport, let alone attempt to carve out a career, was to fully embrace an enforcer role which he didn't seem to relish. I found Branch's reporting solid and his writing intriguing. What's heartbreaking are the many times in which support systems failed Derek -- from their own blindness and from his inability to recognize his pain and seek help....more
It's no secret that I love Amy Poehler and pretty much can recite the entire series of "Parks and Recreation" from memory. So my expectations were higIt's no secret that I love Amy Poehler and pretty much can recite the entire series of "Parks and Recreation" from memory. So my expectations were high when I picked up her book and it didn't disappoint. The book comes across as genuine. It's heartfelt, funny, sometimes scattered and in a few parts goes off the rails. Much like life. Hence, I loved it. I'm also convinced Amy Poehler and I would be BFFs if given the chance. Not just because she's short and witty but because she drops these life gems, at just the time I need to be reminded of them: "Ambivalence is key. You have to care about your work but not about the result. You have to care about how good you are and how good you feel, but not about how good people think you are or how good people think you look." Amen, Amy. Thanks for the reminder....more
I find first-person books by athletes tricky. I want to hear them in their own voice but so often the work lacks depth. Not the case here. It's hauntiI find first-person books by athletes tricky. I want to hear them in their own voice but so often the work lacks depth. Not the case here. It's haunting the way Clint Malarachuk is self reflexive about the two dominant themes in his life -- hockey and mental illness. Sure there are times where I wish the writing was smoother and the Kindle version left much to be desired in formatting at the beginning of chapters, but his willingness to share his story with such detail and heart stays with you. "Held inside, the truth is destructive." Powerful stuff. He wonders if his whole life his purpose was to battle mental illness so he could share his story. Perhaps. There is healing power in telling your story and the opportunity to create a new chapter. Simple? Yes. Easy? No. All the more reason to be grateful Malarchuk had the courage to share his and shed a light on the parts of life we think no one else understands....more
Love her simplicity and her humor when it comes to talking about writing. (Bird by Bird may be my all time favorite book.) This is the second book ofLove her simplicity and her humor when it comes to talking about writing. (Bird by Bird may be my all time favorite book.) This is the second book of her's I read and found again simplicity in writing, humor and lots to think about when it comes to prayer, connection and being fully engaged in life.
Two of my favorite lines:
Her prayer "Help me not be such an ass." (I am borrowing this for sure!)
"If you say, 'Well that's pretty much what I thought I'd see' you are in trouble."
What would happen if I were more sincere in saying help, thanks, wow? What would happen if I said them more regularly?...more
Full disclosure: I am a big fan of Kathryn Bertine. I loved her book "As Good as Gold" and since then have stalked (er, followed) her on social media.Full disclosure: I am a big fan of Kathryn Bertine. I loved her book "As Good as Gold" and since then have stalked (er, followed) her on social media. I love her passion for cycling and for women's sports. I love the wit in her writing. And I love some of the bigger life lessons she finds on the bike and shares with readers.
As a collection of essays and previous work, sometimes there is repetition. (At a certain point, if you're not familiar with cycling or her story you know what the UCI is and that she has dual citizenship to race for St. Kitts and Nevis.) But her aim is true and her heart is open and how can you not love a girl who loves waffles as much as I love pancakes?
I loved her sentiment that "any journey that unhinges the control panel of our soul and lets us take a hard look at our own wiring is ultimately a worthwhile quest." I loved the essays that included her dad and especially the lesson of DNF vs. DNS. It allowed me to look at my own various life projects and realize even if they didn't finish quite the right way, or at all, that starting them was the most important thing. Engagement. Doing after you've learned to believe.
At times it was extremely witty. At times it was very poignant. As memoirs go I'm not sure what the story wanted to be - about healing from the end ofAt times it was extremely witty. At times it was very poignant. As memoirs go I'm not sure what the story wanted to be - about healing from the end of a relationship, returning home or revisiting the childhood culture you chose to leave. I still enjoyed the read, laughed out loud in some places, was confused in others (owing to the fact I am not Mennonite nor familiar with Mennonite culture), and thought about my own relationship with my childhood in others....more
I love reading about the War or 1812, most likely because (a) I'm a history geek and (b) I grew up, and still live on, the Niagara Frontier. I've beenI love reading about the War or 1812, most likely because (a) I'm a history geek and (b) I grew up, and still live on, the Niagara Frontier. I've been wanting to learn more about the war and enhance my limited memory from high school and college classes (did we even study the War of 1812 then? I don't even really think so) and picked up several books, this being one of them.
Frankly, I found the book just OK. It had some interesting observations. The best line may have been:
"If the War of 1812 had proven one thing, it was that the best laid plans were rarely executed with competence."
The book provided a very good overview of the military campaigns and the outline of the war politically. However, it didn't really address forging a nation until the last chapter and at that very briefly. I felt it fell short of making a real argument for the importance of the War of 1812 in building an American nationality.
Also in the insights and interviews after the work, he dismissed the idea that the War of 1812 was important in forging a Canadian national identity, basically citing that Canada continued to remain part of the British Empire. But I disagree, even based on his own work. If a faction of American politicians had the war cry, "Canada! Canada! Canada!" then clearly there was a need for those in Upper Canada to repel American advances and reserve the right to chose and shape their own destiny.
I found the maps very helpful and would have liked even more. Overall a good book, but a bit of a boring read....more
The book recounts the 1995 expedition of former Peace Corps worker Jeffrey Taylor who decides he needs to seek his life's purpose by traveling the ConThe book recounts the 1995 expedition of former Peace Corps worker Jeffrey Taylor who decides he needs to seek his life's purpose by traveling the Congo in a dugout canoe. I picked up this book upon the recommendation of a friend and as I started it, I was skeptical. Sure the writing was beautiful and his images of then-Zaire, of both the physical and political landscape, were haunting. But did my friend really steer me to a book about another 30-something white male who needed to out on adventure to find himself?
I kept with with the story because at points he hinted at this self-reflexive truth.
I literally cheered out loud when in the final pages of the book, after he had to abandon his journey due to the illness of his guide, he wrote, "I found myself stung by my failure and trying to deny what I would later come to see as obvious: that I had exploited Zaire as a playground on which to solve my own rich-boy existential dilemmas."
And therein lies how this is more than just an adventure travel memoir. It gave me pause to consider the luxury of free time, to consider the suspicion that accompanies a history of violence and exploitation and another lens through which to look at the world. I am lucky in that I do not live hand-to-mouth, that every day is not about the fates of survival, even in a modern American context. I do not have that life experience. But I can cultivate empathy. And perhaps, in fact, being able to cultivate empathy is a luxury of my relative wealth, health and safety. ...more
Overall, a lovely read. The story is centered on Tom Sherbourne, a WWI vet with his own demons from childhood who returns to Australia and becomes a lOverall, a lovely read. The story is centered on Tom Sherbourne, a WWI vet with his own demons from childhood who returns to Australia and becomes a lighthouse keeper. He falls in love with Isabel and their life on the isolated Janus Point becomes beautiful and sorrowful. And then they find a baby. And then the young child is returned to her mother. And along the way there is love and betrayal and confusion and emotional blindness. Some emotional blackmail too, for good measure.
The book moves on narrative. It's not quite character driven and in fact I felt wanting in some of the characters. I felt for Isabel during her miscarriages but didn't feel her pain when Lucy was taken away nor was I able to appreciate her sense of betrayal by Tom.
I didn't feel connected to any of the characters in the book, and yet the final few pages tugged at my soul. At the heart of it all is a beautiful story of how we all must come to terms with the past, move forward and live a life that's full and uniquely ours.
While I didn't find myself fully invested in the characters, I was still pulled by the story, by the impact of well-intention little lies and the ways in which we decide how we feel and move and be in this world....more
I can not remember a time when I loved a book this much. Maybe "The Awakening" but I'm weird that way. I loved this book. There are so many levels toI can not remember a time when I loved a book this much. Maybe "The Awakening" but I'm weird that way. I loved this book. There are so many levels to the relationship between Eleanor and Park. They move between maturity and that overly honed sense of self consciousness that defines our high school experience. They are awkward and fun and tragic. And you were set up from the beginning to know it would be tragic. I couldn't help but think of the movie "Pretty in Pink." There are only a few superficial similarities but I couldn't let that entirely go. The complicated relationships of the parents also felt surprising and meaningful and complicated and evolving. Did I mention I love this book? ...more
**spoiler alert** Couldn't put this book down. I loved the pace. Loved that for the longest time I wasn't quite sure who to root for. Frankly I found**spoiler alert** Couldn't put this book down. I loved the pace. Loved that for the longest time I wasn't quite sure who to root for. Frankly I found it a bit disconcerting that I related too well with "Diary Amy" and the pressure to try and be "Cool Girl" in relationships. But the deeper the story goes the more we see are both so psycho that it becomes pure entertainment. I feel like I missed some deeper significance with the father and his back story, but that's not surprising. I haven't felt so entertained by a read in a while....more
Beautifully written with great turns of phrase and rhythm. There were moments in this book when the characters and the story took a turn and I said, "Beautifully written with great turns of phrase and rhythm. There were moments in this book when the characters and the story took a turn and I said, "wait, what?" What I loved was the unpredictability of the story. I wished there was more "plot" and the ending seemed too abrupt. Your family is often your own creation. A common theme dealt with in an uncommon and enjoyable way....more