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Saturday, February 17, 2018

All is Beauty Now


Not your average family drama, All is Beauty Now immediately begins with the disappearance of a 20 year old daughter at a beach near Rio in 1962. Author Sarah Faber tells the unique story from each very different family member's perspective.  

We first hear from the mother Dora of this well-to-do family. She struggles to keep it together for the sake of her two young daughters and husband, who struggles with a mental illness. She busily plans a memorial, goodbye parties and prepares for their departure to Canada, where it's hoped Canadian born Hugo can receive the treatment he needs. All the while, guilt and anxiety take over her. 

Evie and Magda are the daughters "left behind". They can't go to their preoccupied mother with their grief, and can count on their father for fun & adventurous distraction, depending on his unpredictable moods. 

I understood Hugo's comparison from Rio to Toronto, the grey. The Six is described as scolding & puritanical, with grey faces & grey minds. He escaped the grey city for Bacchanal in Brazil
Hugo describes so well how heightened his senses are, how very aware he is when he's amped up in a manic state. You can feel Luiza's pain and care for her father when she's with him at those times.

Faber's writing is descriptive and brings you right to Brazil. This story certainly took me to a world not like my own, with complex characters. I can't say I found any of them endearing though, but I was curious to see the plot unfold, and how family friend Carmichael figured into it. 
Interestingly, Faber is from Toronto, but now lives in Cape Breton, the opposite of me. 

I received All is Beauty Now in a GoodReads giveaway.

Until next time,
Kara

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Four Tendencies



With all the talk of New Year, New Me, what better time to discover your personality profile, and how to make your life better than in January. If you're looking to make some changes, but can't seem to take the first step, it's helpful to identify what special things your personality profile requires. 

I had read Gretchen Rubin's Better Than Before a few years ago, zeroed in on my bad habits, and what I should do to change them. But I never did! 🤦
What I began to discover while reading about my tendency in The Four Tendencies, is that I never changed those habits because I didn't have outer accountability. 

The tendencies describe how a person responds to an expectation. After taking the quiz, while it wasn't a strong result, I settled on Obliger. 
Obligers need to create outer accountability in order to make changes. Rubin says most men & women are this tendency. Obligers get along well with the other three tendencies. 

I'll get right into some things I can't identify with in the obliger analysis:
"I can't take time for myself." This is something I have never had an issue with, I happily spend time by myself. This, along with getting enough sleep, having time for fun, and consistent regular exercise, are areas that I identify more with Upholders.  
I have no problems meeting the expectations of a boss. In fact, I find I need expectations to be clearly defined from a supervisor, then I understand what is required of me, and I strive to fulfill those needs. 
I don't feel exploited. A situation arose at work where I took on additional work with extra pay. After some time, I was informed I wasn't going to be paid any longer for it, but was still asked to do the work. I carefully thought about this, and decided it was best to stand up for myself and I discontinued that additional work. I recognize times when I could be taken advantage of, and won't allow it. 

I can identify with:
Accountability. I struggle with time management, giving myself enough time to get to places on time. I underestimate the amount of time needed, and think there's enough time to get things done & get myself ready. I almost always run out of time. I read that if there is no outer expectations, obligers won't be accountable. 
Another way outer accountability arises for me is cleaning when company comes over. I take that as an opportunity to tidy the entire house, where I normally just focus on a few rooms. That's normal, right?  
I can't give up junk. (That's going to take another book, learning to purge! 😝)
I do break promises to myself. Not to others though. I HATE to lose money.  

Reading about the other tendencies helps me understand people in my life, like my husband, the Questioner. Rubin explains that in order to comply with something, questioners, well, question everything. (Even when they get answers, they are not guaranteed to comply.) It's not good enough to just ask them to do something. There's a strong need for Questioners to understand why something is important. 

I recognized the Rebel tendency in a challenging student. I was baffled with the behaviours he presented the past 2 semesters. He refused to do a lot of the work, didn't participate the way others did, and even called me by my name (other students call me Teacher, or Miss.)

Now that I understand what I need, outer accountability, in order to break my time management habit, I should have a handle on overcoming it. Rubin suggests apps, which basically act as alarms. With a lot of advanced planning, and not leaving anything to the last minute, it's been going well so far.  
Wish me luck sticking to my resolution of giving myself more time, and conquering my time management struggles!  

I received The Four Tendencies in a GoodReads giveaway.

Until next time,

Kara


Saturday, December 30, 2017

Young Jane Young




Imagine changing your identity and starting your life over because of a highly publicized scandal. It's not so unimaginable, in this day and age of smart phones attached to everyone's hands. Getting caught on camera and video is (should be!) a concern for many. In Young Jane Young, a young, naive woman falls for a powerful politician in a Monika Lewinsky-esque type story. (She's even an intern.) 

This modern novel tells the very old story of what has happened to women throughout time. Boy meets girl, but he's married, so they should stay away from each other, but against both their better judgement, they have an affair anyway. It becomes public, the strong focus is on her, she's slut shamed, and can't move on with her life. For all our supposed advancements, women are still vilified the most in affairs, and men's roles are diminished. 

After realizing she can't escape being recognized, Aviva chooses a plain name the opposite of her unique one, moves from a big city in a southern state to a small town in north eastern one. In her new life, Jane becomes a wedding planner and develops insight into a wedding vs marriage. All the details she has to make seem so crucial: the flowers, the dress, and the room are just flowers, a dress, and a room. She ponders about the wedding being a Trojan horse, it's a distraction from the marriage. Couples choose all the things for their big day to set themselves apart, feel extraordinary - but getting married is ordinary. 

I like Jane's take on orchids and marriage: "I really had liked him. Something I have learned, though, is that even a bad marriage isn't to be trifled with. My grandmother was married for fifty-two years, until my grand-father died. She used to say that a bad marriage was one that hadn't had enough time to get good again. And, not to put too fine a point on it, but since Schiele was a florist, I will tell you that there have been times when I thought my "pedestrian" orchid would never bloom again, when it looked as dead as dead can be. I think of a time when Ruby and I went to San Francisco on vacation, and I left it on the radiator, and every last leaf fell off. I watered it for a year, and first a root, and then a leaf,and maybe two years later, voila! Flowers again. And that's what I know about marriages and orchids. They're both harder to kill than you think. And that's why I love my grocery store orchid and don't do married men."  
That's the hope I have for the orchids that are gifted to me, that they will bloom again! 

Another dimension to this story is Jane's straight laced, by-the-book daughter, who discovers who her mom really is. I think her reaction was a bit extreme for her young age, but it's an example of why the novel is often described as feminist. 

I enjoyed Gabrielle Zevin's witty, clever dialogue, and use of Yiddish like mensh and narishkeit. It adds a fun dimension to the characters of Jane's mother and grandmother. 

In the end, the support Jane receives from her mom is a wonderful, touching thing. That way of defending your child is what we all want from our mom's. 

I received Young Jane Young in a GoodReads giveaway.

Until next time,

Kara 

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Thirst



I admit the story of Tinder users meeting their bloody death by a vampirist piqued my interest. Taking place in Oslo, Norway, thrillers like The Thirst are not my usual read, but it got off to a good start. In the prologue, the killer becomes aroused by retrieving something made of iron. Simultaneously, Harry Hole is awoken by a reoccurring nightmare. Then the crime starts to unfold, with a bartender watching a regular customer as he tries to pick up a younger woman. 

There were no surprises with detective Harry Hole: he's the stereotypical brooding, burned out, addict cop who mistrusts most people. He battles many demons, including the serial killer that got away. The only time he can breathe & relax is with his loving wife. 
There's minimal focus on killer Valentin Gjertsen (it's not really about him), but just when we think we know the full story, think again.  

Something else in The Thirst is more disturbing than the twisted, depraved actions of Valentin though. For me, the misogyny was hard to ignore
Several characters shared their unsettling thoughts and made unsavory comments against women. 
Truls critically analysed Megan Fox, calling it frightening how "she let herself go". He thought all women should wear some perfume. Basically women should always look hot and smell unnatural.
Mikael called the investigative reporter Mona a bitch. In a discussion with colleague Isabelle, he didn't like what she was telling him, so he asked her if she got her period. 
Oystein uses the c word. 
These contemptuous remarks throughout the novel didn't exactly endear me to those characters or author Jo Nesbo really, so I can't say I'll be reading anymore in the Harry Hole series. 

I received The Thirst in a GoodReads giveaway.

Until next time,

Kara 

Friday, October 27, 2017

Perennials


I looked forward to reading Perennials a couple months ago, as the description of two camp friends with secrets sounded like the perfect summer read. 

Rachel and Fiona are as different as the tropics and the Arctic. Rachel is confident, positive, and uses her beauty to her advantage. Fiona is insecure, has a reputation of being a drag, and her not model thin figure is always a source of contention. Yet their much anticipated escape, Camp Marigold, brings them together as children, then later as camp counselors. They also have in common dysfunctional family lives. We come to realize a big life lesson: that just because someone puts on a good show, doesn't mean she is free from troubles. 

Managing changing close female friendships; issues with parents and siblings;  carving out your own identity from child to adult; and sexual assault: Perennials is a prime portrayal of North American teen & young adult life.

I also enjoyed how author Mandy Berman told this story also through the eyes of their parents, friends, and boss at camp. Their perspectives were interesting and added depth to the story.   

I received Perennials in a GoodReads giveaway.

Until next time, 

Kara 

Friday, September 22, 2017

The One Memory of Flora Banks



"You always remember your first kiss. Flora remembers nothing else."
It all starts with the curious cover, then the inside pages filled with Flora be brave, to the back cover with numbers in all caps followed by one line like "SIX - People out there looking for me on the ice." The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr is an unusual story of a girl you just can't figure out, and no wonder, considering what she's been through.

A little bit reminiscent to me of the movie Groundhog Day, The One Memory of Flora Banks is about 17 year old Flora who has lost all the memories of the last 7 years of her life. So she writes reminders to herself on her arms and leaves Post it notes everywhere. She keeps a notebook of what has happened to her, and reads it and relives it everyday. 

The few people in her life consist of an over protective mother who wrote her own version of Flora's story for her to read as a reminder. Her dad goes along with whatever her mother says, and her brother, who she adores, is estranged from her parents and lives in Paris. Flora does have a best friend since childhood Paige, but not since she kissed her boyfriend. 

Flora's adventure begins with her kiss from Drake, which she remembers. She's convinced that since she remembers the kiss, that must mean her memories will return. Her obsessive quest to have Drake in her life takes Flora out of her physical and emotional comfort zone.  

Flora is always under estimated, particularly by her mother, but it's through her incredible journey that she discovers her strength from having to be brave.  

I enjoyed reading her story from her unique perspective, and rooted for her all along the way. When she achieved what she set out to do, I cheered for her big accomplishment. Then the confusing twist comes, showing nothing in Flora's world is straightforward. But clear cut would be quite dull. It all makes for an interesting novel. I'd like to read a Part II. 

I received The One Memory of Flora Banks in a GoodReads giveaway.

Until next time, 

Kara 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Love and Trouble


Seattle born writer Claire Dederer gives us a raw, clever memoir growing up in the hip grungy city.  

I'll start with what I can identify with, the first of which is letters. You know, going to the basement, rummaging through boxes looking for that girl you were. Finding those old letters, and pouring through them, looking for clues, something to make sense of how you became who you are now. Letters were the stuff of life. At mid life, it's about yearning to be young. 
I had diaries, later "journals", and know the feeling looking back: "All I write about is boys, boys, BOYS." Yep. That was the 80's. 

Dederer explains why she's so preoccupied with the man she kissed (not her husband). She describes obsession, and how obsessing over a man is more about her than him. I can appreciate her admitting it's not a case of "I love you", but "Love me." 

Finally, someone writing about the physical indignity of aging, not spouting unhelpful platitudes like grow old gracefully, and embrace your aging body. Dederer tells us don't gain weight past 42. (More like 35, truth be told.) 


Ask Facebook, called the oracle, and you shall receive answers. The need for people to open up and try to sound witty provided her with everyday answers to her question What don't you want to think about? in The, You know, Encroaching darkness chapter. 

I liked her approach in the Roman Polanski letters. She tried to see it from his point of view, not an easy task. Because most 13 year olds aren't sexual, she wanted to understand how he thought, what he saw. We learn more about Dederer's teen years, and why she thought so much about him and Samantha Gailey. 

Dederer is best with her descriptions. E
verything is described in such a natural, simple way that takes you right there. She details what her best movie kiss by Helena Bonham Carter and Julian Sands (Lucy & George) in Room with a View meant to her. That kiss is revolutionary, what she's been looking for, and is an agent of change, she explains. For me, that kiss was Matthew Modine and Linda Fiorentino in Vision Quest / Madonna Crazy for You video. Remember? 

Now, with what I can't relate to. 

All. That. Crying. How so many of her friends can cry so easily baffled me. I thought at the beginning of the book I wouldn't be able to get through it if there was going to be this continual sniffling fest. What was there to cry so much about? Is it all the rain? The grayness? The surroundings weren't described as beautiful, and climate can have an impact on our emotions. What got me though, was her adoring husband who is still passionate about her, and the (seemingly) happy marriage, yet not being satisfied. So much sadness. It wasn't until the fourth chapter when she started to detail all her real woman's issues that I began to understand Claire Dederer.

I would have liked to hear about the nude modeling. She dropped it on us to peak our curiosity, but then left it, and I was unsatisfied. 

Also I really hoped she left the Quark Basher's place with the Christmas newspaper cutouts on the wall, and didn't clean up the broken window & syringes.    

Those of us in "mid life" can find a sometimes fun, sometimes not so fun trip down memory lane in Love and Trouble.

I received Love and Trouble in a GoodReads giveaway.

Until next time, 

Kara