Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Polaroids from the Dead

Last summer, I acquired a bunch of books. Sale books, plus books for charity, plus a friend's book purge. Seriously, I can't stop myself sometimes. Either from the friend's purge or from the charity sale, I received a copy of Douglas Coupland's Polaroids from the Dead. I wasn't really looking for this book, I just saw "Douglas Coupland" and picked it up. I've read several books by him, including his iconic Generation X (though I prefer The Gum Thief). I didn't know what I was getting until I was looking through all my newly acquired books. Polaroids from the Dead is full of pictures. The Dead? The Grateful Dead. The pictures are from a Grateful Dead concert that took place in 1991. The first section of this book containg (fictional?) stories all taking place at this concert, inspired by the pictures. It was an interesting snapshot of time.

This books if full of 90's snapshots. Places, peoples, things. Coupland addresses parts of his life in the first half of the 90's too. What he did, where he went, a German reporter he dragged around Vancouver. I think that man got more than he bargained for. There were a lot of moments that hit me, that took me back into the past.

One thing that hit me strongly, was the letter to Kurt Cobain. Coupland had started writing it while Cobain was in Europe and finished it after his death. That really took me back in time and out of everything that the second section of the book contained, it really stood out to me. I wasn't a big fan of Grunge back then. Instead I was listening to some Bad Boy and R&B, with reggae and boy band pop thrown in. But I knew the big songs from Nirvana (and Pearl Jam), I liked their songs. I understood the music, saw it everywhere. When Kurt Cobain died, it was a big deal. Coupland certainly seemed to feel it like so many people did back then.

Before starting Polaroids from the Dead, I had been hearing about the anniversary of the OJ Simpson trail. I was young when that happened. It was all the adults could talk about. It dominated television. I remember watching Simpson try on the glove. I remember hearing about Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman, watching their grieving families on television. It didn't really hit me though, I think because of my age. But it hit the adults. The anger, the disbelief. I remember being brought together into one of the larger classrooms with other students so we could all watch the verdict together. It was actually one of the first times I realised how different the American and Canadian justice systems could be, and that's when the tragedy of it finally sank in for me. Polaroids from the Dead was written shortly after. Coupland talks about Brentwood and OJ Simpson, how it all can be forgotten, but I don't think it has been. Partly because of the impact that trial had on other "celebrity" trials and crimes since. But also because Simpson still got into trouble and didn't stay out of the spotlight. Everything that Coupland wrote about Brentwood was deep and interesting. I wonder if it still applies to the area now. One of the oddest things about it was how close Nicole Brown Simpson and Marilyn Munroe lived to each other. But is it odd considering the people who have lived in that area? The entire third section, The Brentwood Notebook was an interesting study of the area.

In the book, Coupland mentions Princess Diana. As I'm reading his brief comparison of the Princess of Wales to Marilyn Monroe, it made me sad. I checked the year the book was published and the year of her death and I confirmed it, she was still alive when the book was written. His comparison of her to these Brentwood women seems like it was timely and unfairly accurate.

Things have changed since Polaroids of the Dead was written. It's almost a history book. It's a time capsule. If you're interested in the 1990's, though this book doesn't have everything (it was published in 1996), the first half of the 90's is very present. It's the perspective you can't get from someone looking back, it's from somone in it, living it in the moment.

Friday, May 27, 2016

The Book Of Life

I can barely breathe for how much I loved The Book of Life. I'm suffering from a major book hangover and it is all Diana Bishop and Matthew Clairmont's fault. I just love them. I love Gallowglass, Jack, Sarah, Ysabeau, Father Hubbard, just everyone. Emily and Phillipe! I often talk about endings, something I really think is important, but the beginning. The first chapter is amazing and heartbreaking. You just want them to be able to hug, to touch the ones they love. I won't say anymore, because it might ruin the awesomeness.

I can't get over Diana's confrontation with Peter Knox. It's just amazing. It's perfect to the story. I just want to see it, bloody and crazy! That entire sequence, really leans this installment of All Souls towards the horror side. It was scary and tense, and when Diana was standing there with the arrow, I just wasn't sure what was going to happen next, which made it perfect. I loved the unpredictability.

Diana's confrontation with Satu too, was perfect. Satu just went one step too far. I'm with Diana, she did what she needed to do to protect her family. I wish she could have done more, though I think there's the possiblity for leaving it open in a future novel. (Yes, more novels, please.)

There are a lot of characters in the All Soulstrilogy. Did we need more? Yes, when the character was Janet. She was perfect, exactly what the story needed. I like what she represented. She gives Diana hope for the future. I loved her attitude too. Her all-knowingness, her sarcasm, her confidence. She was a perfect addition to the cast of characters.

Like the first two books, I really liked the history talked about (lived?) in The Book of Life. It wasn't nearly as much as in Shadow of Night and possibly less than in A Discovery of Witches, but Diana (and Deborah Harkness) is a historian, so history just has to come up. I appreaciated that we came out of the Elizabethan age though and were talking about Phillipe's past and World War II. The historical aspects of these novels are a big part of the appeal for me.

The Book of Life is simply amazing. Just wonderful. I don't know what could be made better. Honestly, this might be one of my favourite books now, definitely a favourite series. It has a little bit of everything. It's literary, historical, romantic, with vampires, witches and a splash of demons. I could gush about every little thing in this novel, but I don't want to give anything away. What I think is that more people need to read this novel. I can't wait to read what's next (another book about Diana and Matthew) from Deborah Harkness.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

My To-Read List

Like a lot of readers, I have a "to-read/to-be-read" list. Actually, I have two. One, I started probably over a decade ago. It's a spreadsheet of all the books I own and highlighted are the books I haven't read yet. Some time ago, it stopped being my go-to list when I'm considering what to read next. What my spreadsheet lacks, are all the books I don't own, all the books I have yet to purchase, books I have yet to discover. A few years ago, I discovered Goodreads. At first it was just fun, the app scans the barcodes of the books and puts them on the shelves. Then I started getting more active on the site, exploring, discovering books without having to leave the comfort of my home. Often, if I'm not reading about books, I'm thinking about books and researching books. This caused a veritable explosion of titles being added to my to-read list.

One day, I looked over at the number, well, let's just say that it was over 1200. I thought to myself, no way, there is no way I can read all those books. How did I let it get so big? Well, the Recommendations tab is full of temptation. I love book browsing, so I browsed and added. Not long after I noticed my climbing to-read number, I read a blog post (I can't remember what blog though - sorry), where they blogger culled their Goodreads to-read list. Yes! That's exactly what I need to do. I didn't sit down and do it all at once. I picked away at it, when I had time; when I needed a break from work, I scrolled through some books and started deleting. I tried to have a system. If I owned the book, I kept it on the list. Though, I'm a little more willing than I used to be when it comes to giving away books I haven't read yet, but if it's here, it's on the list. If a book is by an author I've read (and liked), it stayed on the list too. Those are the easy choices. What about all the other (hundreds) of titles? I tried to apply a little logic to the situation. If I couldn't remember what the book was about/why I added it, it was gone (though sometimes if I liked the cover, I'd read the synopsis just to make sure, but most likely, it was deleted). I was also eyeing the "added" date. If it was a couple months ago, then I read the synopsis again and made a decision. If I added it in 2012 and hadn't at least purchased it yet, it was most likely removed. By just keeping these few points in mind, I was able to cut over 300 books from my list. It makes me feel lighter.

I've always said that there are more wonderful stories out there in the world for me to read than I have time for, and I know there are readers out there that feel the same. Even with 300 less books on that list, I know I'll never run out of stories to read. My problem is choosing what comes next.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Glass Sword

Why did I do this to myself? Why did a read Glass Sword when the next Red Queen book isn't coming out until sometime next year? I wanted a book with excitement, adventure, complex characters and the unexpected. Because what happened at Corros was unexpected. Not all of it, but the big things. Like Elara. Like Shade. Like Mare and Cameron.

Glass Sword is definitely a book about Mare's transformation. She's not the girl, the thief, from the Stilts anymore. She's not "Lady Mareena", the princess they were trying to create. Those girls are gone. Mare is the lightning girl, the rebel, the reluctant leader, a sister, a friend, someone who is hurt and hurts others. She becomes more complex as her role becomes more complex.

As exciting and interesting as the plot is, the characters are what make this story for me. Cal has been through so much, I wonder where he will end up, especially as there are 2 more books coming. I wonder about Mare's family. There's something about her father and maybe Bree. I love Ada, she has so much potential, Cameron too. I wonder about the children, the rescued girl with her teenage guard, though maybe that was just a moment, it's one that stayed with me. Kilorn too, he grows and I'm not sure what he will become, but I think at heart, he will always be there for Mare. I have a prediction about Farley. It's kind of obvious, but I'm sure it's meant to be a surprise in book three. It will definitely change her and probably the Colonel too. There's love, hate, revenge, sacrifice, betrayal everywhere. Anyone can do anything because they're all being pushed to the edge.

I wish Victoria Aveyard would write faster, but that's silly. As much as I'm going to be itching to read the next book in the series, I want it to answer questions, to be every bit as exciting and fun (and sad) as Glass Sword.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Steel Cut Oats - Part 2

I talked a while ago about Steel Cut Oats versus Rolled Oats. Both healthy, but the former apparently more so. I've been eating rolled oats for ages, they are warm and the perfect breakfast for a chilly morning. I didn't even know steel cut oats existed for a long time. The more I read about them, the more interested I became. Less processing, more protein, a different texture, preferred by every blogger, writer, foodie that I read.

Have I fully converted to steel cut oats versus rolled oats? Mostly, but not totally.  There is a convenience factor that steel cut oats will never have over rolled oats. They both taste good, but different. I think steel cut oats taste heartier.  There's something more substantial about a bowl of steel cut oats. The first time I wrote about steel cut oats was ages ago. I meant to write a response about it sooner, but time got away from me... and I went off oatmeal for a while. After a winter of trying different recipes, I'm back to eating oatmeal and I have only made rolled oats twice, maybe three times since September. Steel cut oats is just what I want now, what I think of when I say to myself, I want oatmeal.

I have made it two different ways. The first I tried was stove top, which is messy, especially if I walk away for a minute and it boils over (I try not to, but children). It was the easiest to try first. At least, that's what I thought. There's a lot of stirring that needs to happen. I also had to make sure I paid attention to the thickness, so that the oats wouldn't get too dry. Paying attention is not something I can totally do when I'm getting the children ready for school. It tastes good, but it takes more time than I'm willing to give on an average morning.

The way I like making it the most is in the slow cooker. I didn't think I would, but it is. I do about 1 cup of oats to 3 cups of almond milk. Even if I make it on the stove top, I'm using almond milk. I'm not trying to be super healthy or anything, and I love regular milk. My Hubby is lactose intolerant, so we typically have both soy milk and almond milk in the house. I experimented with making it with all three milks, with both methods. Soy milk didn't thicken right and I found regular milk gooier than I'd like. So, crock pot or stove top, I prefer almond milk. Also, the almond flavour goes well with the ingredients. I also use an amended version of this Chai Oats recipe I found on Pinterest (don't leave it overnight! Like 3 - 4 hours or it dries out). I make a big batch, then refrigerate it. I take a bit out everyday, add some raisins and a little more milk, then microwave it for a minute. That's what I like on a busy morning, microwavable goodness.

So, have I completely converted to steel cut oats? No. Sometimes I don't have any in the fridge and don't have any time to cook it on the stove, so I'm microwaving rolled oats like I've always done.  I'll always have rolled oats too, because of baking. Do I prefer steel cut oats? Yes, but I don't always have the time to make them. I suppose I'll always have 2 kinds of oats on hand now.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Steel Scars

I love Farley. I really enjoyed Steel Scars and everything we learned about the Scarlet Guard, the Lakelanders, Farley, her team, and Shade. There was just so much going on. At every moment, we learned something new about the world Victoria Aveyard created in Red Queen. There's so much going on, not just in Norta, but everywhere. Steel Scars opens up the world, the possibilities for where this series can go; it's not just a Nortan problem, I think we're going to deal with Silvers and Reds on a global scale.

I enjoyed the different perspective too. What was happening with Farley when things were happening with Mare? What really sparked Farley's interest? There's so much depth to the character, more than just the leader of the Scarlet Guard in Norta. She's a friend, a soldier, a daughter. Farley is someone we can root for, someone we can connect with. She has lost and sacrificed. Steel Scars gave so much, it was exactly the story I needed to read.

Monday, May 02, 2016

I Didn't Finish My Spin Book

I thought I had more time, but nope. Today is May 2nd and my Classics Club Spin book is only halfway done. I finished the first "book" to Little Dorrit, entitled Poverty. I will be starting the next half soon.

So far I like it. I like Arthur Clennam, and of course Amy Dorrit. I'm interested to see how their relationship continues to evolve. I think his mother and her father are horrible, as are her siblings. I'm wondering what's going to happen with Pet, Gowan, and the Barnacles. Little Dorrit has a complex plot and I'm enjoying all the twists and turns. I look forward to continuing the journay with Arthur and Little Dorrit.

1000 Posts!!!!

Excuse the exclamation marks. I looked over to my sidebar, as I got ready to write a post about the book I'm currently reading, Little Dorrit and noticed that my published post count was at 999. That's a lot. At least I think it is. That makes this bit of babble, my 1000th post. Since that's pretty momentous, I thought I would take the time to look back at my posting history.
First with some stats:
Most used Label: Fantasy
Most read author: Stephen King

Okay, so why was the breastfeeding post the most viewed one? Were people finding my post while looking for information on the "controversy". I don't even have a lot of info in the post, just a quick blurb and the link to the blog where I first saw it. Was it the most viewed because it has the word "breast" in the title? If so, then I suppose a lot of people were disappointed when they clicked the link. I hope that's not true. I hope people wanted to learn about breastfeeding.

At least the second most view post is something bookish, though it does have the word "knickers" in the title. I only vaguely remember the story. I remember being really interested in Leonora Carrington's art. I am pretty sure the story is worth the read and the art is worth the time to appreciate.

Apparently I read a lot of Fantasy books and watch a fair number of Fantasy movies and television shows. Not really surprised. I'm a nerd at heart. My last fantasy story read was Queen Song, by Victoria Aveyard, my last fantasy movie was Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. I typically used the label "fantasy" losely to include most genre fiction.

Am I surprised that my most read author, since starting this blog, is Stephen King? No. I've been reading his books since I was 13. Though, after looking at my blog, I have now just discovered that it's been a year and a half since I read one of his books. Yikes! How have I missed out on one of my favourite authors for so long? I think I'll be reading Full Dark, No Stars soon. Or maybe something older, like Night Shift or 'Salem's Lot. I don't know. Maybe that's the problem, I have too many options.

About a year and half ago, I looked at a year in reading. It was an interesting study in the choices I made for that 12 month period. I thought about doing that again for this post, but maybe I'll save for my next big milestone, which is coming up soon. I started this little ol' blog in July 2006. Guess what year it is now! I can't believe it's been almost 10 years. So much as happened in that time, but I think I'll leave the reflecting until then.

I've loved the evolution of my posts, from the simple smattering of thoughts, to the in depth analyses of character and plot. I loved the ones filled with pictures and ones that were just words. I like that I try not to constrain myself and will post about whatever I want (which is mostly books) and choose to keep other things to myself. I'm excited to see what the next 1000 posts will bring!