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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 


Thursday, July 27, 2017

One Brother Shy


I had read Terry Fallis' Up and Down, so was pleased to receive his latest humourous book, One Brother Shy, which had an intriguing description. 

Who was Gabriel, this person who caused the huge, life changing, and socially isolating event in Alex? Why did Alex continue to work for his ridiculously impossible boss? Would he ever flirt back with his cute coworker? 

Fallis presented main character Alex as a mystery that I wanted to solve. I was curious to find out what caused his social anxiety. No, I NEEDED to know. Going through One Brother Shy, and seeing how unusual and wounded Alex was, I really hoped things would turn around for him.   

Alex tells his story in a simple, factual, yet amusing way, which is what makes up his personality. His witty tone adds a fun dimension to his character, helping me picture actors acting out the various scenes in the novel. One Brother Shy is a book that, if done right, would make a funny movie. Now I'm thinking about who would play Alex, hmmmm...

I got a chuckle out of his description of the silence after a coworker spoke up and said no to his crazy mean boss: "I thought I knew what true silence was. I'd already experienced it a few times in my life. Remembrance Day, of course. And during the pause I strategically placed in the middle of performing, not reciting, performing, one of Macbeth's famous soliloquies, in grade nine English class. (Incidentally, it was a tour de force.) And several years ago when my mother told me she'd been diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. But I was wrong. The silence that greeted Abby's pronouncement was so much more, um, silent, than anything I'd ever heard. (Or is it hadn't heard?) If a pin had dropped on the carpeted floor, it would have sounded like a car accident." 

So as to not give anything away, I won't say anything about what unfolds for Alex, but I will conclude by saying there are interesting characters that come along, and terrific twists to the story. Oh, and Gabriel was not what I expected! 

I received One Brother Shy in a GoodReads giveaway.

Until next time, 

Kara 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Suction black mask


Seeing those (gross) videos of blackheads being sucked off noses & chins, I knew a black mud mask was something I had to try! I searched & read reviews on Amazon.ca for a reasonably priced one that works, and decided to give LuckyFine Blackhead Cleansing Acne Peel-Off Face Mask a try.


I've been using it for several months now. As suggested, after cleansing, I left a face cloth soaked in warm-hot water on my face for more than 5 minutes first before applying. Not much of the shiny black "polish" is needed, it goes far. I've applied it on my entire face, and also just the T zone, keeping it on for 10 minutes total every time. It's easy to peel off, and yes, it does sting, especially on the cheeks, but I'm not that sensitive to mild pain, so I'm ok with it. Never have I seen the icky evidence we're all so fascinated with afterwards though. Not many blackheads, which are really white, have been sucked out like they are pictured. All I really see are super fine white hairs. So while this mask leaves my skin tight and soft, I don't believe it's removing white/blackheads as it should.     


They do warn that it will tear facial hair when peeling the mask off, so only use it on the nose. But for me, it was just those microscopic hairs it removed. 


$6 wasn't a big cost, but if you really want to see proof white/blackheads are removed, go for a more expensive brand. 


The claims are: 

  • More face care : Oil-control, anti-aging, acne treatment, pore cleaner
  • Cleaning : Cleaning out of dirt and cuticle effectively on face
  • Blood circulation : Improving the blood circulation of your face by this mask. Help to keep your face smoother and tender
  • Daily using : This great blackhead remover helps to remove stain or oil spots on your face with daily use
  • Note: Product is not suitable for sensitive skin and recommended that customers use the item on the hands or ears then to use on the face

Until next time,

~Kara 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Mr. Rochester


I get especially excited over a 400+ page novel. If it's captivating, I get to have much more of it, I don't have to let it go so soon. The synopsis of Mr. Rochester sounded intriguing and different, so I looked forward to starting this book by Sarah Shoemaker. 

Always an avid reader of modern literature, I never had an interest in historical fiction, so I haven't read Jane Eyre, the classic always on the top of required reading lists. My interest in Victorian literature didn't come until recently when I started The Sisters of Versailles series. 

Edward takes readers through it all: some of his young childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. His is certainly a fascinating life, not one you'd expect from a son raised on his wealthy father's estate. But what causes all the dramatic twists & turns in Edwards life is that he's not the fortunate first son but the unlucky second son. Nothing would be handed to him like it was with his brother Rowland, he would have to work for everything, as Edward was constantly reminded of by his harsh, cold father. 

With no mother in his life, as she died giving birth to him, his father constantly away on business, and an eight year difference with his brother, Edward, in his words, lacked love. I could feel his need for affection and sadness in his telling of the 8th birthday spanking/whipping he received from his only family there, his brother. It was on this day that he first learned how he would come to be told about all decisions regarding his life, by letter from his father, that he was being sent away to live with a tutor.  
I expected the worst for him in his four years at private school, but was relieved that he enjoyed the unconventional lessons, and developed lasting friendships with the two other boys.  

But when he was 12, a letter from his father with his next assignment advised him he will be moving again and working at a mill. His years acting as an apprentice at the mill were all in preparations for his eventual move to Jamaica, where he will take over his father's plantation. It was in Jamaica that Edward came to discover his father's biggest, most calculating and heartless arrangement he made for his life.  

What stands out about Edward throughout is how bound by loyalty and duty he is. He remained a dutiful son and son-in-law in spite of the deception. I felt such fury at his father, and couldn't believe how he just accepted his horrible situation. Just when you think he will put an end to being a pitied pawn, he carries on, brings his burden with him and returns to his childhood home in England. 

It's when Edward meets Jane that you start to think he's going to make his own choices, decide what he wants, and find true happiness. But even here the situation is far from easy, and he's presented with a dilemma. Towards the end of Mr. Rochester, the trauma is too much, and you think he's never going to get a break.  

It's constant chaos for Edward Rochester and his story would play out well on the big screen.    

I don't think it's necessary to have read Jane Eyre in order to read and get Mr. Rochester. In fact, having read Mr. Rochester has made me want to read Jane Eyre, especially to experience their conversations from her point of view.  

I received Mr. Rochester in a GoodReads giveaway.

Until next time, 

Kara 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Matter of Geography


What I really like about Jasmine D'Costa's writing is her vivid descriptions that take you right there. In the case of her latest novel A Matter of Geography, it's Bombay, India in the early 1990's.   

Math teacher Peter, who tells us his story, describes math as a world of definition, certainty & comfort. He explains "There must be a mathematical, numerical solution, some certainty to human behaviour." He takes comfort in thinking there must be a mathematical approach to everything, from the conflicts between the Hindus and Muslims, to love.  

The Billimoria compound where Peter and his family lived had the necessary assorted characters that make up fascinating funny anecdotes, such as the woman who wore 3 dresses at once. There was also the humorous tale of when some men bought chicks for an eggs supply, and how that turned out. 
The Marchon sisters, who always had "puppies" (guys) around them, were cause for much talk in the building. In explaining the sisters very provocative behaviour, D'Costa says "their destinies were defined far before they were born."  
I enjoyed the way the Hindu nationalist organization was described: "a bunch of bony men with flared khaki shorts, sticks and some unskilled exercise routines could do a better job than the Indian Army." 

Something memorable for me was the child parent perspective told by Peter, how children see things differently than adults. Kids look at their own shadow & with imagination, call it a plane, but moms look up in the sky with worry their child is seeing things.  

I could sympathize with Anna when she wrote in her diary about her father who couldn't afford a summer vacation every year to visit their grandfather, but would never admit that truth to his kids, instead, he blamed it on them, like they didn't get excellent grades. 
Also, he would give his kids choices, but there never actually were any. Like asking the children if they want a real cooked egg, or candy egg for Easter, but it always ended up being the fried egg, even though the kids chose candy.    

Such a straightforward explanation for intermarriages and the caste system was given by Dr. Apte, Peter's frequent forced visitor: "The tradition of marrying one's own caste is not as unscientific as you may think. The country has so many cultures, religions, languages, customs... Bad enough, marriage is a major adjustment, but if you have to adjust to more - language, religion, customs - the chance at success is really challenged."  

The heartbreak of the marriage proposal scene was felt, how Anna reacts to Peter discovering love, thinking love conquers all, and telling him the brutal truth, yet in a kind a way as possible. He said he'd protect her from being assaulted for being at a pub, and asked if Canada doesn't have such issues, too? 
Anna responded it's not the way it is for her (women, minorities) in Canada. Peter thought he could be free in Canada too, but Anna broke it down to him finally as " ...they (her parents) realize they came as immigrants and settled as exiles.That is survival, Peter. That is not living." Powerful stuff. 

I received my copy of A Matter of Geography from Mosaic Press. 

Until next time,

Kara

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The River at Night


Heroine Wini feels disillusioned with her graphic design job, and wondered how long she "forced the square of my creativity into the round hole of graphic design." She sarcastically, or perhaps realistically, says "I'd been whoring up the imperfect for a paycheck for so long I couldn't face the real anymore." Not being a fan of excessive photoshopping, I appreciate this. Having gone through some traumatic losses and needing to literally & figuratively get away, Wini reluctantly agrees to an adventurous girls weekend with her BFFs. 
The friends are divided between being either cautious or a risk taker, and it's interesting to see how they handle each other in the situation they find themselves in. 

I like the honest way Wini calls bullshit on Pia's claimed desire to get off the grid, thinking she doesn't need anyone or anything. She isn't afraid to be truthful about her friends addictions, saying "addictions to me felt adolescent at our stage in life as harsh and unfeeling as that sounds." Wini goes on to explain that loneliness, career obsolescence and midlife dread haunt her. With dying parents, divorces and problem teens, who had time for addiction, she wondered.    


Author Erica Ferencik painted the road trip scene quite well, starting in the big city of Boston, to their journey through smaller cities and country towns, then eventually to their remote, isolated destination. She did this with nameless stores which give the very bare bones descriptions. The friends knew they were in the boondocks with one name signs on stores: GUNS. FOOD. MOTEL.  


Things get complicated when they reach their destination to meet their guide, and then even further craziness ensues when they begin white water rafting, making for a captivating story. 


Keeping with the water theme, The River at Night flowed easily, and I found myself eager to follow along & find out what would happen next. I was kept on edge and enjoyed the twists that Ferencik gave us. 


I received my copy of The River at Night in a GoodReads giveaway. 


Until next time,


Kara