Monday, May 31, 2010

Book Review: Day After Night

I've read a few of Anita Diamant's other novels-including the Red Tent which I thought was fantastic!! Her most recent novel Day After Night was also amazing. I have always been intrigued with the Holocaust, and I've always wondered what happened to all the people who were in hiding, or in camps, or wherever when the war ended. Day After Night deals with exactly this issue.

The four main characters are all Jewish women who had very different experiences during the war: Shayndel a Polish Zionist considered a hero by many because of her actions during the war, Leonie a French girl who is disgraced by how/where she spent the war (I cant say more without spoiling anything), Tedi a dutch girl who went into hiding, and finally Zorah the only concentration camp survivor among our four main characters.

These women have all survived the Holocaust and find themselves in Atlit Illegal Immigration Detention Camp run by the British-basically a prison for the Jews who were trying to make their way to Palestine and Israel for a chance to live freely and openly in Israel.

I loved the different voices in this novel and thought that Diamant's decision to illustrate the different types of experiences Jewish women could have had during this time was incredibly powerful. While I realized that many Jewish people had no home and nobody to return to once the war was over, I never knew that many sought refuge in Palestine and on the way ended up being detained as illegal immigrants. Day After Night was a very readable novel and I highly recommend it!!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Book Review: Her Fearful Symmetry

I was a bit apprehensive about reading Audrey Niffenegger's second novel Her Fearful Symmetry. Her first novel was The Time Traveler's Wife which I absolutely LOVED-in both book and movie format! I finally got the book from the library last week and I realized I had nothing to fear. This book was captivating and I relished every opportunity I had to read it.

As per a request from Meghan, I will tell you a bit more about what the book is about-and TRY to avoid spoilers. but be warned, this is not a guarantee!!

Julia and Valentina are twenty year old American twins that are inseparable. Their mother is also a twin- however there was a rift between their mother and aunt Elspeth involving their father and the two have not spoken for as long as the twins (J&V) can remember. Aunt Elspeth passes away and leaves her London flat to the twins on the grounds that they must live there for a year before/ if they sell it, and that their parents are forbidden to set foot in the flat.

The twins decide to pick up and move to England-where they are haunted by their aunt's ghost-but not in a super scary "GET OUT OF HERE" haunting, more like "I'm dead, pay attention to me" kind of way. As they come to meet and befriend their neighbours individually rather than as their usual twosome-Julia and OCD Martin upstairs, and Valentina and Robert-Elspeth's former lover/partner downstairs-the twins begin to grow apart. Valentina's growing resentment of Julia's domineering ways and her discovery of the secret between her mother and aunt Elspeth send her down a dark path.

I'm not sure if that description was adequate, but it will have to do. If i write anymore, I may not give away the ending but I feel like I would spoil major parts of the book. I really liked this book-it reminds me of the Time Traveler's Wife in its use of the supernatural but completely different storylines and characters. I look forward to Niffenegger's next novel, which according to her website is entitled: The Chinchilla Girl in Exile.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Booking Through Thursday: Bedside

Thursday May 27, 2010: What books do you have next to your bed right now? How about other places in the house? What are you reading?

Answer: I just finished Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger today (post with review coming this weekend), so I have to pick my next book soon! I don't usually keep my books to be read pile at bedside, they are usually in the bookshelf in the bedroom or in the tv stand in the living room. For some reason the books have migrated bedside, so here we go:
  • A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry (I've been "reading" this for a few months now)
  • Baltasar and Blimunda by Jose Saramago (I started this last week and had to put it down)
  • The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl
  • The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett
  • Day After Night by Anita Diamant
I also have Jeannette Walls' the Glass Castle on my bookcase to read for my June book club.

How about you dear readers? What is on your bedside/to be read pile?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Please sponsor me for the RIDE FOR HEART!

Please sponsor me for the RIDE FOR HEART!

I am riding in the Becel Heart&Stroke Ride for Heart on Sunday, June 6, 2010 to help save lives. I am hoping my fundraising efforts will also lead to earlier diagnosis, and breakthroughs in the treatment and recovery for family and friends who have been impacted by heart disease and stroke. I will be completing the 25km ride.

Every 7 minutes someone dies from heart disease and stroke in Canada. With our help the Heart and Stroke Foundation can continue making life better for Canadians touched by heart disease and stroke through research achievements and medical advancements. Together, through research, we are saving lives.

As a speech-language pathologist working with stroke patients and their families this is a cause near and dear to my heart!

Follow This Link to visit my personal web page and help me in my efforts to support Heart and Stroke Foundation - Ontario.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Booking Through Thursday: Useful

May 20th question: What’s the most useful book you’ve ever read? And, why?

My answer: Ummmmm I don't know. I mostly read fiction and I can't think of how a novel has been useful to my day to day life.

I guess I would have to say textbooks have been the most useful. Especially Logemann's Evaluation and Treatment of Swallowing Disorders, Brookshire's Introduction to Neurogenic Communication Disorders and Duffy's Motor Speech Disorders. I use the information from these textbooks every single day, and often refer back to them for assessment and treatment information. For those that don't know I am a Speech-Language Pathologist working on a specialized stroke unit-speaking of which-HAPPY SPEECH AND HEARING MONTH!!

How about you-what's the most useful book you've read?

Book Review: Paris Times Eight

Deirdre Kelly's Paris Times Eight: Finding Myself in the City of Dreams was exactly the kind of book I needed!! Paris Times Eight is divided into eight chapters, each devoted to a trip Kelly took to Paris, the city of her dreams, from the time she was a high school graduate "au pair" to fashion reporter, to a mother with her two children. I loved how Paris had something different to offer to her at each stage of her life, and how although Paris was the city of her dreams she was not completely disillusioned to how harsh it can be. I definitely recommend this book if you're in the mood for something light-it's not fluff but it is a fairly quick read!

I just started Jose Saramago's Baltazar and Blimunda on the way to work today. I was finding it hard to get into when I got on the subway and it didn't get any easier when the subway shut down between St. George and Pape. At this point I was standing around waiting for a shuttle bus that never came, so I stopped reading and ended up walking from St. George to Castle Frank Station (approx. 2.5km), got a cab, and then got back on the subway at Donlands. I wasn't really in the mood for trying to get into a tough book-so now I'm not sure if I'll keep going or start something else.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Book Review: While My Sister Sleeps

Barbara Delinsky's While My Sister Sleeps is a family's agonizing ordeal with 30 something Robin's sudden heart attack. Robin, a superstar runner well on her way to the Olympics has a heart attack while training-leaving her sister, brother, parents, friends, and jilted lover trying to accept that Robin is brain dead and reeling with the decisions of maintaining life support and organ donation. Along the way a few secrets come out and the family wonders how well they really knew Robin.

I often talk about whether or not I find people-especially families-believable, and in this case I thought Delinski did a great job. The characters were flawed but realistic-the only problem was that I wasn't attached to any of them. I don't think any of these characters resemble anyone in my family. The story was mainly told from Molly's perspective-Robin's younger sister. Begin so close to my sister I expected to feel very emotional while reading but I didn't, not once. I guess I should be grateful that I wasn't crying on the subway!!

P.S. When I read the title of this book I immediately thought of the Lurlene McDaniels books I used to read as a teenager. To be honest-it kind of followed the same plot lines I remember-but with adults-so kind of like what I think of Jodi Picoult even though I've only read one of her books.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Book Review: Some Great Thing

I finished Lawrence Hill's first novel Some Great Thing this weekend. I read Book of Negroes last year (twice) and LOVED it, as well as Any Known Blood (it was okay). Some Great Thing was good-but it was no Book of Negroes (also known as BOOK OF MY LIFE!).

Some Great Thing was mainly set in Winnipeg and dealt with: language and cultural rights of Franco-Manitobans (and French Canadians for that matter), welfare, living by your morals and values, as well as what being black in Canada means. I thoroughly enjoyed these issues but felt that at times were overshadowed by the competition between the main character Mahatma and another journalist Edward Slade. While the relationship and competition between these characters helps the main character (and us) to examine what is it more important to get a good story, or to stick to your values, it was a bit overdone.

Also interesting were a few familiar characters from Any Known Blood. I recognized Yoyo, Mahatma, and Helene Savoie's names-although they play minor parts in Any Known Blood they are the main characters in Some Great Thing.

All in all a good first novel, but not one I would read again.

Friday Night

Books on Hemingway's shelf (the bar not the writer):

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Booking Through Thursday: Influenced

Question May 13, 2010: Are your book choices influenced by friends and family? Do their recommendations carry weight for you? Or do you choose your books solely by what you want to read?

My response:
I pick books based on what I think would be interesting but my book choices are also definitely influenced by friends and family, in a number of ways actually. In honour of listophelia I shall answer this in list format:

1. If ANYBODY recommends a book I usually write it down and often read it.
2. If you buy me a book I will read it-my aunt has bought me books for Christmas or my
birthday since I was a kid and she always had great picks (thanks Nancy!)
3. If I'm at your house I will look at your library and ask what you have that's good
4. at Marcia's house I have a list of the books she owns that I want to borrow-every once in
a while she will bring me a few random books from said selection.
5. I have a Wish List on and love that it will make suggestions for books that I might
like based on what I've read or looked at. It also suggests book based on what other people
bought that also bought/looked at a certain book.
6. I still love you Oprah.

How about you? Are your book selections influenced by anyone?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Book review: The Invisible Mountain

Told from the perspective of three generations of women, Pajarita, Eva, and Salomé, De Robertis' The Invisible Mountain was an interesting and at times brutal glimpse of Uruguayan history. I don't think I've read anything set in Uruguay before, and little that is set in South America. I enjoyed the perspectives and experiences of each of these women and the greater history lesson of Uruguay (especially during the 1960s).

A friend from book club often comments about NOT wanting to read books that are so depressing-I (and others) often comment about how although depressing things might happen in a book it doesn't necessarily make the book depressing. While reading The Invisible Mountain I often found myself thinking of this-although the overall message was not depressing, there were too many times that I felt like I really didn't want to be reading about the terrible things were happening to people. I think I need to pick something more light hearted for my next book. We'll have to see what the bookshelves hold for me!

What are you reading?

Sunday, May 9, 2010


these pictures were taken during my parent's visit last june
looking forward to their visit again this june!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

(Childhood) library shame

Sometime in elementary school I got in trouble for not returning a book that I had no recollection of ever checking out. For some children that might not be uncommon-but for me it was, on 2 fronts actually.

1. I loved to read so much that I am positive I would have remembered taking out the book and reading it (because I would have read it and remembered it)

2. I WOULD NEVER LOSE A BOOK!! Especially considering I always followed the rules as a kid and to not return the book would equal getting in trouble and I was TERRIFIED of getting in trouble as a kid (I pretty much still am).

The interesting thing is, I remember them showing me the card with my name in MY WRITING!!! (Remember when you used to write your name on the card to check out a book, and then the librarian stamped it AND your book with the return date?) I was mortified-how could I SIGN OUT A BOOK AND LOSE IT!!! I remember I was adamant to the librarian and my parents that I HAD NEVER SEEN THIS BOOK. I remember feeling ashamed but I stuck to my guns because I knew(know) that I did not check out that book. HOW COULD THIS HAVE HAPPENED!?!??

Well, I was telling this story to a friend this week and her almost immediate response was "They probably had the cards mixed up in the book".

Ummm why did this thought never occur to me? Ever? And I'll be honest with you, I think about this story often (not every day often, but maybe once every few months-over like 20 years, so you think this possibility might have entered my head!!)

I still remember the book to this day(it haunts me): Incognito Mosquito.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Book Review: The Cellist of Sarajevo

I just finished Steven Galloway's Cellist of Sarajevo for book club next week. A bunch of people said they couldn't get into it-but I thought it was fantastic!! It has been described as "gripping" and I couldn't agree more. I actually had a pen out the entire time I was reading-in bed, on the subway, in the bath!! I don't often underline or highlight passages, but I couldn't help myself! Here are a few that spoke to me:

"It's a rare gift to understand your life is wondrous, and that it won't last forever" (p.12)

"It's said they took these new names no their families wouldn't be in danger...Arrow believes they took these names so they could separate themselves from what they had to do, so the person who fought and killed could someday be put away." (p. 13)

"He suspects that what the world wants most is not to think of it at all." (p. 61)

" I don't think any of us will be going back to the life we had before, however it ends. Even those who keep their hands clean." (p.71)

"It's just something you do because life is a series of tiny, unavoidable decisions." (p.95)

"Does she think she is good because she kills bad men?" (p. 190)

"...she'd just as soon sleep in her own bed. If she's going to die, that's where she'd like it to happen. It's a small measure of control over an uncontrollable situation." (p192)

This last quote reminds me of some of the patients I've seen. They are elderly, previously fiercely independent and now, because of a stroke, may not be able to live safely on their own. When these people say they'd rather die at home with dignity than go to a nursing home, what I think they might also be saying is that they want to maintain the "small measure of control over an uncontrollable situation." Just a thought.

Booking Through Thursday: Half way

(Booking Through Thursday is a blog that poses a reading related question every Thursday)

Booking Through Thursday's question May 6, 2010:

So … you’re halfway through a book and you’re hating it. It’s boring. It’s trite. It’s badly written. But … you’ve invested all this time to reading the first half.

What do you do? Read the second half? Just to finish out the story? Find out what happens? Or, cut your losses and dump the second half?

My response:

If you know me you know the answer to this question. FINISH IT! If I don't like it after a few pages (say 10) I will put it down, but if I've already made my way through half of it-I will struggle to the bitter end. I do tend to read quickly so this doesn't usually take away from the other books I want to read. I will admit, that on occasion I may switch to "skimming" the rest rather than reading it word-for-word. I always convince myself that I need to give it a chance to redeem itself-because sometimes it's the ending of the book that makes it brilliant. Sometimes.

The only book that I can think of that I read about half way through and COULD NOT finish (even if my life depended on it I wouldn't even try again) was One Hundred Years of Solitude. There were too many characters, and too many of them had similar if not the same names, I couldn't keep things straight. So I quit!

How about you?

(Mom i think you already answered this in a comment you left awhile ago-but please feel free to write it here too!)

Thursday, May 6, 2010


WOW!!! Did you notice my stats counter at the bottom of the page!!!! My blog has had ONE THOUSAND AND FIFTEEN views!!! That's awesome. I will avoid looking on the official stats page to see how many are actually me (probably 600) and how many are my mom (probably 390).
But seriously, thanks to all my readers!! Especially my mom, Doris, and Marcia!! I might have other regulars but these three ladies leave me the most comments (or tell them to me in person)!!

Whether you read regularly, once in a while, or just stopped by-THANKS! I do love comments, but if you are more comfortable just reading THAT'S OK TOO!! I've had people say they feel awkward leaving comments, so I understand but don't forget: #1 If you leave me a comment-even just a "HI", I know you've read my post and it makes me SO HAPPY, and #2 You can always leave it anonymous, or use an alias!!

Here are some THANK YOU flowers from me to you
... well ok from my mom to me last Easter, and now to you!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Raccoons: Totally unrelated to reading or beading

Isn't he cute?

Well not at 3:30am he's not!! I was woken up yesterday morning by what I am fairly sure were raccoons (or Raykens as Ricky from the Trailer Park Boys calls them) in the throes of death…or maybe fighting, or maybe mating. Either way, raccoons make the most awful sounds. If you haven't heard them, then trust me on this one. I had to close the window (and I live on the 10th floor!!) and could hear other people in the building doing the same!

Nothing says good morning like high pitched pterodactyl, I mean raccoon shrieking.

Photo courtesy of the wonderful Arnold

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Book Review: The Music Room

I just finished William Fiennes' book The Music Room. It's in part about Fiennes' childhood growing up in an English castle, exploring it, having film crews and tours coming through, and part description of living with a sibling with epilepsy, how it shapes the person and family. Interspersed with Fiennes' experience are historical facts on epilepsy and neurological research. While I found these parts interesting on their own, I felt the book lacked a certain cohesiveness. He does an amazing job of describing the castle-I felt like I was there, walking through the Great Hall, swimming in the moat, playing (well ok watching) cricket in the field.

Next up is May's book club selection: The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway.

I haven't from many readers lately (are you busy? bored?), what are you reading?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

What does that mean?

I just finished Gregory Maguire's Son of a Witch, the second novel in the wicked series. I actually left the book at Queen subway station a la bookcrossing...but without registering it. I hope someone picks it up an enjoys it!

While reading Son of a Witch, I came across MANY words that I was not familiar with. I don't usually look up the words I don't understand I just move along blissfully ignorant. This time I thought I would educate myself, although I probably should have looked up the words when I came upon them rather than waiting until I had finished (and given away) the book. OH WELL!

Here are the words I had to look up (using

1. concatenated: connected or linked in a series

2. propitiation: the act of placating and overcoming distrust and animosity, or the act of atoning for sin or wrongdoing

3. gelignite: a type of dynamite in which the nitroglycerin is absorbed in a base of wood pulp and sodium or potassium nitrate

4. perguenay: not in the dictionary, or anywhere was used in a sentence something like "the smell of perguenay smoke"

5. troika: a Russian carriage drawn by a team of three horses abreast

Questions: Were you familiar with these words? Do you ever look up the definition of a word you don't know?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

too busy to read??

I've always maintained that I "don't have a lot going on here in Toronto" and that's why I read can read so much. A friend recently reminded me of all the "things" that I do in fact have on my plate including among other things: book club, blogging, pilates, crochet, a knitting class, beading/making jewelry, a husband, and friends. So yes I do have stuff "going on" here, thanks again Meghan. I guess what I should say is that since our families and a large group of our friends don't live here, we have a whole lot less going on than we would if we were in Winnipeg.

Now that I have recognized the things that keep me busy, I have a few more to add to the list this spring. I've finally (after 9 years) joined a baseball team again, a mixed-slo-pitch team. We've practiced a few Sundays now, had a few canceled by rain. I'm also trying to do pilates twice a week (again thanks to Meghan!). I started dragon boat practice again, every Wednesday until the Toronto International Dragon Boat Festival June 19-20. I've also made it out to a few awesome concerts (Said The Whale, We Are The Take), and some sophisticated evenings of wine drinking with friends. (By sophisticated I mean...umm....sophisticated, ya let's stick with that). On top of that we've started our annual spring/summer -what shall we call it...ah- extravaganza of visitors. (I love it...2010 visitor extravaganza! We've got at least 5 possibly 6 sets scheduled already with 2, well technically 3 down!)

Needless to say I honestly do feel like I've had less time to read-and although I miss reading so much, I'm really enjoying all of these other activities too! I will however put more of an effort to get out posts!