Wednesday, October 31, 2012

"Rot & Ruin" by Jonathan Maberry

It's fourteen years after the zombie outbreak that ended the world as it was known and most humans who survived live behind fences in small settlements.  Outside the fences lies the great Rot and Ruin, a place where zombies roam free and there are no rules.

Fifteen-year-old Benny Imura lives in the Mountainside settlement with his brother Tom, a zombie hunter.  Benny holds a grudge against Tom that goes back to the First Night when they lost their parents.  Now he is at the age where he has to find a job or else he risks losing a portion of his rations and after trying various jobs around the settlement, he reluctantly decides to join Tom in the family business.

But life in the Rot and Ruin is not what Benny thought it was at all.  Tom reveals a world where zombies are not monsters but people.  He also reveals a world where the heroes of the settlement, the zombie hunters, are immoral thugs who kidnap children and hunt zombies for sport.  When Benny and Tom set out to save their friend Nix and find The Lost Girl, a young girl who has been living among the zombies her entire life, Benny finds himself on a journey in which he discovers who his brother really is and what it truly means to be human.

Rot & Ruin, by Jonathan Maberry, is a gripping young adult novel full of zombies, adventure and self-discovery.  It's a post-apocalyptic coming of age story that will appeal to readers of all ages and all genres.

This isn't the typical book I would read, but in attempts to branch out a bit I gave it a shot.  I haven't read any other zombie books (though I'm a fan of The Walking Dead) to compare it to but I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  It's a big one (just over 460 pages) but is so gripping and wonderfully written that you find yourself engrossed in it and before you know it you're at the end.  It has the right amount of serious story-line, character development, and of course. zombies.

I thought the characters were well-written, mature but still believable as teens, and easily identifiable.  Their story lines and backgrounds were well-developed and blended nicely with the zombie infested surroundings and danger.  Every character you are introduced to has an interesting story that is well-detailed. 

Even though there are sequels, I originally planned to read just this novel as part of one of my reading challenges.  But now I find myself invested in the characters and the next story that we've already been given a taste of in this book.  It's a zombie novel with heart and soul, one that will appeal to the zombie fanatic and even those who get creeped by the thought of them.  A good read for both young adults and adults.

Giller Winner!!!

Last night the Scotiabank Giller Prize winner was announced in a wonderful fashion.  Aired on CBC, the award show featured the best names in Canadian literature and entertainment and was hosted by the fantastic Jian Ghomeshi.

So obviously, everyone wants to know who the winner was and that honour went to....

Will Ferguson for his novel "419"

Obviously this wasn't my choice for the winner and I must admit I was a little surprised when it was announced.  I really enjoyed the book, but there were just others I enjoyed more.  But that's the beauty of a literary prize - the books are diverse and we each have our personal tastes but what the books all have in common is great writing.  

This win speaks to the strength of Canadian literature.  It shows that CanLit is global, that our authors are diverse and that we have a rich literary landscape.  Ferguson is a humour and travel writer and this is his first novel that is serious and dark.  He is a very skilled writer and what I really appreciated about 419 was the research that went into it.  It can be dangerous writing about cultures and countries you're not from so in depth, but Ferguson easily transports you deep into Nigeria without any trouble.

A special mention goes out to Alix Ohlin, Nancy Richler, Russell Wangersky and Kim Thuy for their amazing shortlisted novels that were all well-deserving of the acknowledgment, to the long listed authors and to every Canadian author out there who has contributed to the rich collection of work we affectionately call CanLit.  Every year our writers continually put out amazing work that captures who we are as a country and people and it's another reason why I'm proud to be Canadian.

For more about 419 you can read my review here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Giller Prediction

Tonight the winner of the Scotiabank Giller Prize will be announced.  It's Canada's biggest literary prize and it kicks off the big three of the literary season here.  This year I have been able to read all five of the books on the shortlist and thus I can make a true prediction of who I think will win!

That being said, I have no clue!  There is no one runaway book for me that I can point to and say "that's the book that will win hands down."  I think a lot of readers are also probably thinking the same thing.  It's too hard for me to say which one will be picked by the jurors.  That being said, if I were picking the winner, I would pick
The Imposter Bride by Nancy Richler

I haven't posted a review for this book as I just finished reading it today (just in time!)  But here is the description from the book jacket:

A young, enigmatic woman - Lily Azerov - arrives in post-war Montreal expecting to meet her betrothed, Sol Kramer.  When Sol sees Lily at the train station, however, he turns her down.  His brother, Nathan, sees Lily and instantly decides to marry her instead.  But Lily is not the person she claims to be, and her attempt to live a quiet existence as Nathan Kramer's wife shatters when she disappears, leaving her baby daughter with only a diary, an uncut diamond, and a need to discover the truth.  Who is Lily, and what happened to the young woman whose identity she stole?  Why has she left and where did she go?  It is up to the daughter Lily abandoned to find the answers to these questions as she searches for the mother she may never find or truly know.

Here are my reviews of the other shortlisted books:
419 by Will Ferguson
Ru by Kim Thuy
Whirl Away by Russel Wangersky
Inside by Alix Ohlin

Do you have a Giller prediction?

Monday, October 29, 2012

It's Monday! What Are you Reading?

It's time for It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - Hurricane Sandy edition.  While we definitely won't be getting the brunt of the storm here in Toronto as the US East Coast will be, we're expecting to be hit by the outer reaches of Sandy.  The call here is for up to 100mm of rain and 100km/hr wind gusts overnight tonight.  So we've got our water, food, flashlights and batteries and most importantly I've got my books.

Here is what I'll be reading during the storm (since I'm assuming I won't be able to pull in many television stations from New York on my over the air antenna tonight.)


The Imposter Bride by Nancy Richler - this is the last book I need to read on the Giller Prize shortlist before the winner is announced tomorrow night.

Charlotte Street by Danny Wallace - found this through another blog (Leeswammes' Blog) and it sounds very funny.

What are you reading this week?  If you're on the East Coast, I hope you're keeping safe during the storm!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Count of Monte Cristo Read-Along

I'll admit it.  I get scared away by long books.  And that severely clashes with my desire to read more of the Classics.   So I was highly intrigued when I saw that The Estella Society is hosting a read along of The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.

It's an informal read along, taking place from November 1 to December 18, lots of time to get through the over 1000 pages (seriously?)  If you want to check it out, head over to The Estella Society and follow along on twitter at #countRAL.

"The Stone Thrower" by Jael Ealey Richardson

Growing up in Canada, Jael Ealey Richardson felt that she never fully knew her own story.  As the child of Black Americans, her identity was different from other Black students at her school who could trace their ancestry to the Caribbean or Africa.  But other than knowing about slavery and the civil rights struggles, she didn't know much about her family's history in America.  

Everything she did know was what she learned from television and newspapers, her father being a successful football player in the Canadian Football League.  What she didn't know were the factors and circumstances that brought her parents to Canada in the 1970's.  The reason for this is her father never spoke about those times.  He never spoke about his family or growing up in America and any time anyone asked him questions about it, he eluded having to answer them.

So when the opportunity to attend her father's high school reunion came up, Jael jumped at the chance to go and what came about was a journey that would answer her questions, help her better understand her history and identity and help her develop a stronger bond with her father.

The Stone Thrower: A Daughter's Lessons, A Father's Life by Jael Ealey Richardson is a riveting story about identity, race, football, family and history.  Richardson's story about discovering herself and her father is one that everyone will enjoy and find themselves drawn to.

I was blown away by this book and I couldn't put it down.  Jael's father was an undefeated quarterback in both high school and college, a feat that still hasn't been reproduced.  And yet he was never drafted into the National Football League.  To understand this, Jael looked at the time and circumstances in which her father grew up and attended school - Portsmouth Ohio in the 1960's, a time of racial tumult and social division.  What she discovers in Portsmouth leads her to a better understanding of who her parents were, the life they built in Canada, and who she as a young Black woman in Canada is.

I met Jael at the Word on the Street festival here in Toronto last month and she took the time to talk to me about the book.  Reading the book was like an extension of that discussion we had, it was as though she was telling me the story herself, not me reading it on the page.  Her warmth, her honesty, and her desire to know her own story shone clearly throughout the book.  You also get a great feeling for who her father is, a strong but quiet and private man, who found in football a lifelong love and the keys to his future.

This is one of those books that truly has something for everyone.  Football fans will enjoy learning the story of one of the greatest players in the game.  But you don't have to know the sport to enjoy the story of a young woman's discovery of her father's story and her own identity.  I could not put this book down until I had finished it.  Simply put, this is one of my favourite books of the year.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

"Teaching: It's Harder Than It Looks" by Gerry Dee

Canadian comic Gerry Dee is having quite the year.  His stand-up specials are huge hits (my husband I saw Life After Teaching live and the man had us in tears through the whole thing), his television show, Mr. D, is a funny success and he travels the country interviewing athletes as Gerry Dee, Sports Reporter for sports station The Score.  But before his comedy success he spent ten years as a teacher in Toronto and, as he argues, not always a good one.  Those ten years are the subject of his new book Teaching: It's Harder Than It Looks, a hilarious collection of anecdotes about teaching, students and parents.

As the child of teachers I occasionally heard some of the "inside stories" from the staff room growing up.  And as the wife of a teacher, I hear them all the time.  You wouldn't think it, but schools are comedy gold, especially when you have teachers like Gerry Dee.  He started out as someone who fell into teaching (after failing to get into medical school and law school) but knew that he was going to be the teacher who changes every students lives.  He quickly learned that wouldn't be the case.

The book covers his days as a substitute teacher (arguably the hardest job of all), being a gym teacher who has to teach subjects he knows nothing about, bullying, losing final exams, cheating, showing up for work hungover and many, many others.  He includes hilarious teacher tips and tricks like "Always let the kids you like the least take the attendance to the office.  It gives you a few minutes away from him."  He addresses parents on why they need to start paying more attention to their kids and why they shouldn't consider their kids to be angels.  He lets students know that their not as smart as they think and that teachers know every trick in the book, often playing tricks of their own on students.  

Part memoir, part hilarious insights into the minds of teachers, this is a fantastic book.  I read it one afternoon and spent most of the time stopping to read parts aloud to my husband (poor guy was planning to read it himself but I ended up reading most of it to him!).  But you don't have to be a teacher or know many teachers to find this book hilarious.  If you are the parent of a child in school, or were once a student, there is something in this book for you and you are going to find it just as funny as the teachers do.  This book is for everyone and will have everyone in stitches.  It will take you back to your school days, remind you of those fantastic (and not-so-fantastic) teachers you had and even offer a glimpse into how hard teachers really do work (turns out they don't get to leave work when the bell rings at 3pm!)

If you're a fan of Gerry's you'll be reading this book already, but if you're not familiar with him, you should definitely check this book out.  What I like most about his comedy is that the subject matter is something everyone will find funny.  We can all relate to his jokes, we've all been in the school setting.  If you're looking for a good laugh, then this book is highly recommended.

I received this book courtesy of Random House of Canada.  The opinions expressed above are purely my own.

Monday, October 22, 2012

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are you Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.  It's a great way to meet book bloggers, find out what they are reading, and get yourself organized for the upcoming reading week.

I'm still struggling in my reading, not getting much done, starting and stopping books.  So this week, I'd let to finish off those books that have been on my stand for a while.  These include:

 The Selector of Souls by Shauna Singh Baldwin

Goodbye For Now by Laurie Frankel

The First Gardener by Denise Hildreth Jones

With Every Letter by Sarah Sundin

What are you reading this week?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

"Inside" by Alix Ohlin

When Grace stumbles across a man, Tug, in the snowy woods who has tried to commit suicide, she immediately jumps into action.  As a therapist, she yearns to find out what has made him get to this point and she struggles to help him, while along the way falling in love with the man.  

Meanwhile, Grace's troubled teenage patient Annie has run away to New York where she reinvents herself.  There, she lives a life of solitude and free from attachment but when she takes in another troubled young girl and the girls boyfriend, she finds her world changing.

And then there is Mitch, Grace's ex-husband, himself a therapist who finds himself leaving the woman he is in love with to work in a struggling native community in the North.  But a tragedy has him quickly returning and finding that his old life no longer exists and he must chart a new one.

Over the span of twelve years and across the globe, these stories entwine together to form the novel Inside by Alix Ohlin.  As the book jumps between characters and through different times, Ohlin crafts a tale about the need to connect to each other, to form attachments and the difficulty of it all.  It asks the question, can we save another person and throughout the entire book the reader will find themselves meditating on this theme.

I found this book to be a very easy read, but not in the bad way.  Ohlin tells a good story, keeps it flowing, it doesn't get bogged down in too many words, and weaves together four different stories.  I didn't quite like the jumps between people and time, they left me wondering where the connection was and I prefer to know right away (obviously, that's just a personal issue for me.)

Inside has been nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize as well as the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize.  Because of this I was expecting some grand literary triumph.  Instead what I got was a deeply moving, heartfelt, simple yet profound story about people, about what is going on inside of them, and an interesting commentary on how complicated life can be.  At first, I wasn't sure this was the quality of book I was looking for in a Giller shortlisted novel, but since I finished reading the book last week, I often find myself thinking "what book was it that such and such happened?" about a variety of things and every time the answer is "Inside."  So obviously, this book and the characters stick with you long after you've finished reading.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Little Readers

In Little Readers, I like to share the books that my kids enjoyed reading over the past week.  

The Great Tulip Trade by Beth Wagner Brust
My daughter picked this one up from the school library because it takes place in the Netherlands, which is where my family is from.  It takes place in the 1600's during the Tulip Mania and is about a young girl who trades her birthday bouquet of tulips for things for her family.

 A Crowded Ride in the Countryside and New at the Zoo by Frank B. Edwards and John Bianchi
These are books that are being used in my son's speech therapy.  They're cute, they rhyme and are great for working on repetition of words.  And they're Canadian!

Imagine un arbre by Barbara Reid
This book pictures trees in every season, all kinds of weather and from the beginning to end.  The illustrations are done in Reid's signature Plasticine style and are beautiful.  It is available in English as Picture a Tree.

La vie rêvée de Lola! by Lindsey Gardiner
This book is about a cute little dog named Lola who thinks she is anything but a dog, and shows all the things she thinks she can do - like be a lion or a wolf!  It's published in English as The Loopy Life of Lola.

Those are our favourite new books of the week.  What are you kids reading?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

"Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley

The year is 2540 AD but in the new order of the world it is 632 AF (Annum Ford, with the new calendar beginning in 1908, the year Henry Ford's first Model T rolled off the assembly line.)  The world is unified into a peaceful, global society in which resources abound and everyone is happy.  This is because of the scientific developments that allow for the complete control of the population.

Children are no longer born through natural reproduction but rather "decanted" in the Hatcheries and Conditioning Centres.  They are divided into five castes which are created to fulfill specific functions within social and economic spheres.  Members of the lower castes are born from one egg that is able to create up to 96 children.  They are then educated through a sleep-teaching process which gives them caste-appropriate teaching and moulds their world views.

All citizens are taught to value consumption so that it is a constant thing that allows for universal, consistent employment to meet the demands of society.  Social communion is highly encouraged and those who look for solitary pleasures are deemed to be outcasts.  The drug soma is universally consumed, a hallucinogen that allows people to manage stress and discomfort without a hangover.  

In this society, recreational sex is a social activity that is encouraged from a very young age.  Since most women can't reproduce (and the few that do are conditioned to use birth control), the idea of a family, mother and father are considered obscene and unmentionable.   Romantic relationships are discouraged and spending too much time with one person is looked down upon.

But not all people live in this "utopia."  In some areas which are considered to be inhospitable to consumption and the way of the world, there exists contained groups of "savages" who live in their own way.  Here they reproduce the natural way and practice religion, customs that are appalling to the others.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley examines this world through the eyes of Bernard Marx, a psychologist and outcast, and Lenina Crowe, a woman who works in the hatchery and enjoys her place in society.  Bernard, who is different from the rest of the people in his caste physically, questions the beliefs they are teaching children, and longs for solitary time.  He dislikes soma and doesn't use it, longing to just be himself.  When Bernard and Lenina go on vacation at one of the savage reservations and bring back one of the savages, it causes trouble for Bernard and threatens the social order.

Written in 1931, this book was Huxley's guess as to how the world might end up in the future.  It's obvious from reading that Huxley felt reproductive technology would shape our world and curb overpopulation, creating a frightening future, which at the time was different from many other utopian novels.

As with 1984, I found this book fascinating, just to read what people's views of the future were long ago.  At the time Huxley wrote this book, mass production was making items cheaply and widely available throughout the world.  It was still relatively new and people were unsure of where it would go but now, we see what has happened.  It's fascinating to see not only if they were right or wrong, but to see how their concerns, thoughts and views still hold up today.

I read Brave New World as part of Freedom to Read week.  It is number 52 on the American Library Association's list of most challenged books.  It is often challenged for its language, references to recreational sex and for being anti-family and anti-religion.  It was been banned in Ireland and India and removed from classrooms in areas of the United States.

Monday, October 15, 2012

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.  It's a great way for book bloggers to get themselves organized for the week and for book lovers to find tons of new books to add to their reading pile!

I missed writing one of these posts last week due to all the illness going around my house.  I did very little reading for about a week and a half but thanks to Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon on Saturday I managed to get a couple of those left off books finished ask well as starting and finishing two great books.

What I Read:

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Inside by Alix Ohlin
The Stone Thrower: A Daughter's Lessons, A Father's Life by Jael Ealey Richardson
Teaching: It's Harder Than It Looks by Gerry Dee

What I'm Reading Now/Next:
Haven't quite decided what I'm going to pick up today but here's what is at the top of my pile.

The First Gardener by Denise Hildreth Jones
The Selector of Souls by Shauna Singh Baldwin
The Sweet Girl by Annabel Lyon

What are you reading this week?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

24 Hour Readathon Progress

I'm very excited to be participating in my 2nd 24 Hour Readathon.  In the beginning I wasn't sure how I felt about them, but I am most definitely hooked now!  Here I will be posting on my progress throughout the day.  Be sure to leave a message and let me know how you're doing.  And make sure to follow on Twitter with the hashtags #dewey and #readathon.

The Finish Line
Which hour was most daunting for you?
There wasn't one hour that was daunting.  This time around I didn't read straight through, I just read as much as I could.

Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
"Teaching: It's Harder Than It Looks" is by former teacher and Canadian comic Gerry Dee and it's hilarious, even if you're not a teacher.  It's a quick read that will have you in stitches and is a good book to read when you're starting to feel a bit burnt out.

Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
I totally forgot about the readathon until the day before.  Were there reminder emails sent out beforehand?

What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
This was my first time also following along on Twitter and I thought the hashtag connections were great.

How many books did you read?
I completed 3, two of which I had already read about 1/4 of and then I started 1 and got 1/4 of the way through that one.

What were the names of the books you read?
"Teaching: It's Harder Than It Looks" by Gerry Dee; "Inside" by Alix Ohlin; "Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley; "The Stone Thrower: A Daughter's Lesson, A Father's Life" by Jael Ealey Richardson.

Which book did you enjoy the most?
"Teaching" was the funniest but "Inside" was the best-written.

Which book did you enjoy the least?
None, I picked great books this time around.

If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
I wasn't, but I also didn't have any stop by!

How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
Will definitely participate again.  This time around I just focused on reading, next time I'll participate in more challenges and cheerlead!

Final Update
It's after midnight.  I began reading at 8am, and had about 4 hours break time.  And now it is time for me to go to bed.  And I doubt I'll be up before 8am to get into any more reading.

This readathon has been a great success for me.  I haven't done any reading in the past week and a half and today has helped me get caught up a bit.  I completed 3 books, 2 which I had already started and needed to finish and read a total of 545 pages.  Considering I haven't read over 500 pages in the last month, that is a big success!  I hope you all had a great time participating in the readathon and I look forward to the next one.

Update #3

It is 10:15pm now and I've just finished my third book, Inside by Alix Ohlin.  I had to read it in parts during the day as I was reading it on my e-reader and it was giving me a headache looking at the screen for long periods of time.  I think I have a few more hours of reading left in me before bed, so I'm starting on my 4th book, the one I've been looking forward to starting, The Stone Thrower: A Daughter's Lesson, A Father's Life by Jael Ealey Richardson.

Update #2

It's 4pm now and I've had a few good hours of reading.  I started reading Inside by Alix Ohlin, but I have it on my e-reader and I find that reading on there for a while starts to give me a headache.  Thankfully the e-version (possibly the hard copy as well) of the book is divided into sections, so I'm putting it down after each section.  I just finished reading Teaching: It's Harder Than It Looks by Gerry Dee.  I spent a lot of time reading it aloud to my teacher husband!
We're about to head out now to do a little shopping but I'll take a book with me!  It feels like a good time for a break though.

Update #1
The readathon started at 8am for me.  After a quick break to get my daughter ready to go and off to Grandma's and then a quick run to the library to get my overdue book in the box before it opened (which was a total fail by the way) I got into the swing of things.  It's now 11:30am and I have stopped for breakfast.  So far I have completed one book - Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

Introductory Questionnaire
1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
I'm in the beautiful city of Toronto, Canada.  It's a little chilly out today which makes for perfect weather for a readathon!

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
"Teaching: It's Harder Than It Looks" by Gerry Dee because he is a hilarious former teacher turned comedian. 

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?
No one snack is better than another.  They're snacks, they're all meant to be good.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!
I'm Shan, I'm a stay at home mum of two kids, ages 5 and 3.  I'm the child of two teachers and married to a teacher so it's only natural I'm a huge fan of education, which we get from every book we pick up!

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

This is my second read-a-thon.  This time around I'm using it to finish a bunch of books I've started then put down for whatever reason.  This time I'll also be going out in the middle of the day but I think that will be a good break for me (plus I'll bring my tablet with me so I can still read while I'm out.)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon

Tomorrow is the October 24 Hour Readathon.  This is my second time participating, and I'm not quite sure how it's going to go.  I did pretty well last time but I haven't been able to fully clear my schedule so life might get in the way just a little bit this time around!  If you've never heard of or participated in the readathon go to the website to check it out.

Last week my daughter became ill, then a few days later both my son and I fell ill, so my reading has been non-existent for the last week.  I've left a lot of books half-finished so I'll be using the readathon to really work on getting those done.  Here's my plan:



Gerry Dee's Teaching: It's Harder Than It Looks will be my go to book when I find things getting a little heavy.  I've seen his stand-up live and he is hilarious.  Though I'm sure once I start that book I'll be unable to put it down.  The Stone Thrower is my motivation to push through finishing the first three books, I've been wanting to read it for a while.

I'll be updating my progress here and in my sidebar throughout the day.
Are you participating in the readathon?  What are you planning on reading this weekend?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

A short hiatus

I don't get so sick often that I need to take to my bed for a few days, but this is one of those times!  First my daughter got pneumonia, then my son developed a cough and now I'm just wiped out by a cold.  So unfortunately I haven't done much reading or blogging this past week and I probably won't for a few days more.  Hopefully it will be only a few days before I'm back and posting!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Feature and Follow Friday

Feature & Follow Friday is hosted by Parajunkee's View and Alison Can Read.  From their sites -

Gain new followers and make new friends with the Book Blogger Feature & Follow! If this is your first time here, welcome! You are about to make some new friends and gain new followers -- but you have to know -- the point of this hop is to follow other bloggers also. I follow you, you follow me.

What sets this Hop apart from others, is our Feature. Each week we will showcase a Featured Blogger, from all different genres and areas. 

Each week there is a question that everyone answers so we can get to know each other better.  This weeks question is:  

What do you hope to accomplish with your blog? Is it to one day become an author yourself, just for fun, maybe get some online attention, or maybe something very different?

My blog is a just for fun thing.  The only thing I really hope to accomplish is to get others reading some really good books and to introduce others to some great Canadian books.  I enjoy writing and have done some freelance stuff, but that's all non-fiction.  Maybe one day I'll write a book,  I won't rule anything out, but for now my blog is a fun way for me to connect with other readers.

How about you?  What do you hope to accomplish with your blog?  Thanks for stopping by this week. If you like what you see, feel free to follow any way you want, I hope that you'll find your next great read here.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Little Readers

Once a week I like to share some of the favourite books that I read with my kids, both in English and French.  Here's what we read last week:

Bonne nuit, je t'aime! by Caroline Jayne Church is a sweet little book about getting ready for bed.  It goes through the steps of a bedtime routine and has the most precious illustrations!  This book is available in English and Church has a variety of books just like this one.

The Littlest Sled Dog by Michael Kusugak is about a little dog who dreams of being a sled dog in the North.  Kusugak is an Inuit storyteller and this book, which takes place in Rankin Inlet, is a great book to introduce kids to Inuit culture.

Up Dog by Hazel Hutchins is all about the things a dog can get into during the day.  Each page has a two or three word phrase that involves the word up.  I bought it for my son whose speech delay involves dropping consonants at the end of his words and up is one that we practice for him to learn how to form words properly.  I also like this book because my five year old, who is a basic reader, can read this one herself.

I'm linking this post up to The Children's Bookshelf at What Do We Do All Day?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

"1984" by George Orwell

The year is 1984 and the world is divided into three superstates - Oceania, Eastasia, and Eurasia.  The states are always at war, with loyalties and enemies changing frequently.  In the city of London, posters of Party leader Big Brother bear the caption "Big Brother is watching you" and telescreens monitor both the public and private lives of the population.  Society is made up of three classes - the Inner Party which is the elite ruling minority; the Outer Party which is the middle class; and the Proles who are the uneducated working class and make up 85% of the population.  

Winston Smith is a member of the Outer Party and works in the Ministry of Truth, which deals with propaganda.  Winston is an editor who changes historical records to reflect the constantly changing Party dictates.  One of his responsibilities is to remove all past mentions of "unpersons," people who have been killed by the state and whose entire existence is fully denied.

While Winston works hard at his job, he begins to secretly question the Party and their propaganda.   One day something arrives on his desk at work that makes him want to rebel. He's heard that there is a Brotherhood, a secret organization that is working to destroy the Party, but since no one is allowed to question the Party, he can't show his interest or else he would be labelled a "thoughtcriminal."  One day, he meets Julia at work and begins a secret love affair with her.  Julia is also rebelling and hates the Party as much as Winston.

But Winston and Julia's dreams of working against the Party are about to come true.  At work, Winston is approached by Inner Party member O'Brien, who is working as an agent of the Brotherhood.  O'Brien welcomes them into the organization, giving Winston The Book, a tome written by the leader of the Brotherhood which explains the history of the world and the Party, everything people aren't supposed to know.  

But O'Brien isn't what he seems and soon Winston and Julia find themselves captured by the Thought Police and under interrogation.  Winston is taken to the Ministry of Love where it is believed that people can be cured of their hatred of the Party.  Here, Winston learns the true nature of the Party and their motives as tries to survive their attempts to reintegrate him back into their control.

1984 by George Orwell is a classic novel about a totalitarian future and a tyrannical regime that is just as scary today as it was when it was written in 1949 when held up against current political climates.  It addresses themes of censorship, sexual repression, nationalism, tyranny and more.  It's a cautionary tale that has, and will continue to, stand the test of time.  The concept of Big Brother is a testament of this as it remains a major part of our vocabulary today.

I first read this book back in high school and was greatly touched and influenced by it.  It was one of the first books I read that made me aware of the political climate and the importance of paying attention to it.  I have now read it for a second time and I'm amazed at how much it has touched me again, how different the reading was and yet how it left me with the same conclusions.  This is one book that can definitely be read again and again and should be read that way.  

I read 1984 for Banned Books Week.  It is one of the American Library Association's most commonly challenged classics and is 9th on the ALA's list of banned classics.  It was banned in the USSR shortly after being translated into Russian.  It is frequently challenged in US schools under the argument of it being "pro-communist" however it also challenged for being "anti-government."  Go figure.