Sunday 28 January 2007

Sunday, January 28th

Finished today

Grayson by Lynne Cox
This short memoir of a specific morning in Lynne's life is a touching one.
She was out for a swimming exercise in the ocean near Santa Catalina island early one morning and experienced a deep unheaval in the ocean, causing other marine life to behave erratically. She discovered that she was being followed by a baby gray whale that had been separated from its mother. While other boaters searched for the mother, she stayed with the baby and experienced a wonder of sea life and connectedness with the young whale.
It was a very moving experience for her that she still looks back on with wonder.

Through the Children's Gate: A Home in New York by Adam Gopnik
Journalist Adam Gopnik reflects over a period of a few years on his return to New York from Paris with his young children. The reflections cover his personal life, cultural trends, and the changes to the city.
His children experience imaginary friends, chess, Yu-Gi-Oh!, baseball, heelies, fantasy games, goldfish, and IM. He tells of his good friend Kirk as he declines with cancer, and yet coaches a flag football team of young boys as well as giving a series of lectures on modern art.
He touches on experiences with specific New York City places and experiences such as psychoanalysis, Central Park, Times Square, The Listening Post, switch hotels, noise, and the reaction to 9/11.
He also brings in more general cultural trends like the decline of department stores and independent specialty stores in favour of chain boutiques like The Gap, Victoria's Secret, and Starbucks. He touches on the way parents get involved in their children's school activities like plays; on the exercise trends: running for men and yoga for women; and on the adult's social interaction through a game called Mafia.
I enjoyed all aspects of this book, and even though I have only visited New York and never lived there, I appreciate both its uniqueness and its similarity to other places.
Highly recommended.

Saturday 27 January 2007

Books finished Jan 26 and 27

Finished January 27th

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway: Dynamic Techniques for Turning Fear, Indecision and Anger into Power, Action, and Love by Susan Jeffers
This is a book that has been on my to-read list for a while and I finally got it out on unabridged CD and listened to it. As one of the classic self-help books, it has some lessons that I have since heard in later books. I found it interesting though as I often have a fear of starting something in case I don't do it well. This looked back at the root causes of fear and of what we can change in our outlook and behaviours to change our actions. It teaches the reader tools to remain positive, trust one's intuition and say yes to the actions we need to do to grow. I can see why it is a classic.

Finished January 26th

Say Please, Say Thank You: The Respect We Owe One Another by Donald McCullough
This book has been beside my bed for a while and I finished it off last night. The author is a president of a seminary as well as a theological professor, but it doesn't come off as overly religious. The book is all about respecting each other and ourselves. I think a lot of this respect has been lost in the rush of life lately and this just reminds us of what we should be doing.
The book covers many interactions including: acknowledging others assistance; not hurting others' feelings unnecessarily; road (and other types of) rage; respecting occasions and others' time and plans; manners at meals; waiting one's turn (one of my pet peeves!); acknowledging boundaries and cultural differences; apologizing; different forms of communication; listening to others; not talking down to others; keeping secrets; cleaning up after yourself; not imposing your interests on others; following the rules; and strengthening community bonds.
All useful lessons to remember in this busy world of ours.

Friday 26 January 2007

Books read so far in 2007

Finished January 24th

Before I Wake by Robert J. Wiersema
This first novel by this B.C. writer is a winner. It starts off as a realistic tale of a couple, Karen and Simon, who have been growing apart, and whose daughter, Sherry, is badly injured in a hit-and-run accident. However, when the couple make the difficult decision to take her off life-support she does not die. They hire a day-nurse, Ruth, and bring her home. The marriage deteriorates further, but a twist is added when it would seem that Sherry has a special gift.
Meanwhile, the driver and hit Sherry, Henry Denton, has been wandering the city trying to deal with his guilt. Why can't he die, and who else is involved as this turns into a struggle between good and evil?

Finished January 23rd

The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century (Release 2.0) by Thomas L. Friendman
I listened to an abridged version of this and while many bits were interesting in their view of the world as more interconnected and "flatter", many of the observations from the American view also had more of an pro-American slant than I thought realistic. The future of India and China rang more true, and some of the interpretations of the post-9/11 world were more objective than some of the earlier sections.
The reading by Oliver Wyman included unnecessary accents for a non-fiction book.
There is nothing really newsworthy here.

Finished January 22nd

Naked to the Hangman by Andrew Taylor
The latest in the series featuring Inspector Richard Thornhill and journalist Jill Francis, this story gives a larger role to Richard's wife Edith and daughter Elizabeth.
Richard's secondment to the police in Palestine after the Second World War has come back to haunt him. What happened there and how will it intrude on his life in Lydmouth?
This story features many interesting character including newcomer's to town, Patrick Raven and his daughter Gwen and son Walter; newcomers Gina Marini and her mother, and the local dance instructor Miss Awre and her partner. As the annual dance approaches, the tension builds.

Finished January 20th

Being Caribou by Karsten Heuer
Karsten Heuer and his new wife, Leanne Allison, a filmmaker, spend months following and relating to caribou. They follow the Porcupine caribou herd in the spring from their wintering areas to the birthing grounds and back out. They encounter natives on both sides of the oil/environmental refuge question, grizzly bears, birds of all types, wolves, mosquitos and other life. They almost starve, have trouble keeping up sometimes and have moving experiences. An amazing and moving book.
They have a website:
and the film has won many awards.
Definitely worthwhile.

Finished January 19th

The Photograph by Penelope Lively
Lively has long been a favourite author and this book does not disappoint.
Years after his wife, Katherine's death, Glyn Peters finds a compromising photograph of her with her sister's husband, Nick. Disturbed and anxious for an explanation, he approaches her sister, Elaine, who is also surprised by the picture. Their search for the truth of the past and their rediscovery of Katherine as a person leads them to a new loss to be reconciled.

Finished January 17th

Dream Wheels by Richard Wagamese
This story deals with the growth and maturing of more than one character. There are many themes present here and it would be a good choice for a book club.
Joe Willie Wolfchild is about to become a World Champion rodeo cowboy when he is severely injured by a bull he is riding. As he comes to terms with the way his life has changed as a result of the injury, he is supported by his close family.
Claire Hartley and her son Aiden have lived a nomadic life as Claire has moved from one unsuitable man to another. After Aiden is arrested as a result of a botched robbery, an Edmonton policeman helps them find a new beginning, but they both must still face their past and choose their futures for themselves.
A wonderful book.

Finished January 11th

The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde
I listened to this unabridged on audio and thoroughly enjoyed it. I've always liked the quirkiness of Fforde and this book lives up to that reputation.
Jack Sprat and Mary Mary, officers with the Nursery Crime Division in Reading, England run into difficulties with support from the force when a Red Riding Hood investigation goes wrong. They and their fellow officer, the alien Ashley, are not assigned the investigation of the escapted Gingerbread Man, and yet keep running into him. They investigate the disappearance of Goldilocks, and the attack on some bears. What has this all got to do with the new theme park SommeWorld? Hmm.
As usual there is more than one level of humour here, and that only adds to the fun.
The reader of this story, Simon Vance, does wonderful things to make the story come alive.

Finished January 7th

Rock Varnish by Barry Kennedy
This novel is set around a widower novelist who is known for his novel following his wife's death and his long-time best friend. When the friend's mother dies, the two go down to a gated community in California to stay at the mother's house. From here the story really deteriorates, and I had to force myself through it. The plot jumps around a lot, doesn't hang together in spots and is generally forced. Yuck.

Sundog Season by John Geddes
This coming-of-age story is on the White Pine list for 2007. It is set in a small mining town in Northern Ontario and is told from the point of view of a young man, looking back on a particular year in his life. He lives there with his older sister, pharmacist father and stay-at-home mother. He is athletic, a fast runner, and a fast hockey player. When a new OPP officer comes to town, the community is affected in many ways.

Finished January 6th

The Water's Lovely by Ruth Rendell
One of her best books. This tale of two sisters, one of whom suspects the other of a dark secret, is engrossing. Told from various points of view, at first the one sister seems the stronger character, but that impression changes as the story progresses.
The sisters live on one floor of a house together, while their mother and aunt live on the other. Their mother is mentally ill, and the aunt holds the family together while mourning the loss of her own relationship. The story revolves around what really happened between the girls and their stepfather, and how the stepfather actually died. It is a story of manipulation and forgiveness.

Finished January 5th

Manager Mechanics: People Skills for the First-Time Manager by Eric P. Bloom
Nice concise book with short chapters on different people skills for managers to learn with summaries at the end of each chapter.

The World of the Polar Bear by Norbert Rosing
This amazing coffee-table style book has wonderful pictures of polar bears, their environment, and the other wildlife that share it. The book follows the bears through a year of their lives and the accompanying text talks about the world they live in, the difficulties they face and the outlook for the future. Highly recommended.

Finished January 4th

Secret Father by James Carroll
This book set around the Cold War just before the building of the Berlin wall, with a followup years later when the Berlin wall comes down, is a gripping story. Paul Montgomery, an American banker working in Germany, and his son Michael are still recovering from the accidental death of Paul's wife and Michael's mother, Evie. Michael has been enrolled in an American school for the children of military personnel and his friendship with Ulrich (whose stepfather is high up in the American military) and Katherine leads the three young people to danger in East Berlin. Paul and Ulrich's mother, Charlotte, are eager to rescue the three, but many roadblocks are in their way. A gripping tale.

I started the year with a picture book Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen
This engaging book is about a lion who wanders into the library and decides to stay. He listens to storytimes and helps library staff with dusting and other tasks. But when he breaks library rules he is told to leave. In the end, even the strict assistant librarian realizes and sometimes there is a good reason to break the rules. The illustrations are lovely and as a librarian who loves cats, I couldn't resist this one.