Reading Roundup: July 2021

His money went largely towards books, which to him were like sacred objects, providing ballast for his mind.

Michelle Obama, Becoming

It only took me months to do so (or years really if you look at when it was published) but I finally finished Michelle Obama’s Becoming this month and I must say it was well worth the time commitment. Now, let me be clear, I do not mean that this is not an especially long book but rather that finding 18 hours to listen to the audiobook proved challenging with an 18-month-old to run around after. But, I did it! It has finally been moved to my “Read” list. And it feels damn good.

This book is infinitely quotable. Michelle’s writing style is lyrical and moving filled with keen observations and oh so much heart. I’m not sure if I’ll be doing reviews of audiobooks on here – I suppose that depends if I remain in this slump of physical book readings – but consider this my highest recommendation. Do give it a go if you have the chance!

While I won’t be doing a deep dive into my reflections on her book here (perhaps in a later post…) I will say that the quote I featured above actually elicited an unexpectedly joyful reaction in me as I recognized part of myself in the former President of the United States (and one of the few I have legitimately admired while in office – don’t sue me).

Ask my husband, our house is chockfull of books. I’m talking more bookshelves than any other piece of furniture we own, and each of them completely filled to the brim. And the piles, oh the piles of books without a home. And the worst part? Most of them I haven’t even yet read! I just can’t help picking up every single intriguing book I come across. They truly are irresistible to me.

Well, OK, I guess I’m not treating them like sacred objects if I’m piling them all over the place but…they are most certainly a ballast to my ever-turbulent mind.

And with that, let’s take a look at all the not-books I read this month instead of rescuing some of the ever-multiplying tomes from their dusty prisons!

Continue reading “Reading Roundup: July 2021”

The Beaches: Part Four

Stephen felt, as he had done before at moments of extreme tension, a dislocation in his sense of time. It seemed to stutter, then freeze.

Sebastian Faulks, Birdsong

The mind truly is a fascinating bit of machinery – I’m sure I’ve mentioned that before.

When the mind is at peace, bathing in a sense of calm, moments somehow fly by and before we know it, the peace is gone and we have encountered a new problem to solve or responsibility to take care of.

I know this from the little meditation I have done in my life. When I am truly able to calm my mind and focus on my breath, 5-10-15 minutes go by in a snap and suddenly the meditation is over and it’s time to get going on my To-Do list again.

And yet, in moments of stress or tension, time seems to slow down or even freeze completely. It’s almost as if our mind wants us to savour every single second of intense anguish so as to ensure that we keep ourselves as far away as possible from similar situations in the future.

Wouldn’t it make more sense for the opposite to be true? For happiness and peace to drag on forever while sadness and strife are over in the blink of an eye?

If you know a trick to make the mind’s mechanics flip like this, please let me know. Because in today’s blog, I’m going to talk about a painful experience which seemed to last for ages. An experience which cemented my firm belief that all life is immensely precious – a belief I hold sacred especially in today’s day and age with the Covid-19 pandemic still ravaging the world and mass graves of Indigenous children being found throughout the country.

But, I digress….

Continue reading “The Beaches: Part Four”

Book Review: Things Fall Apart

This one has been on my to read list for an embarrassingly long time. I’m talking a decade or so…I’m very pleased to have finally checked it off as read!

This is another book I read quickly (for me) – it brought me right back to my African Lit classes in University.

I am a huge advocate for expanding one’s shelf and reading works by authors from different cultures, countries, mother-tongues, etc… even if it means some of these reads will be more difficult to fully grasp. I definitely caught myself frowning at some of the villager’s practices as a white-middle-class-Canadian and I tried to take these moments to delve deeper into why these practices were in place instead of judging these people as backwards or “un-civilized” as the colonizers described them.

Regardless of bias, however, there are certainly some very disturbing scenes in the book – for those who have been relatively safe from witnessing violence first-hand – so be warned.

My one criticism is that the ending seemed to be rushed, with the coming of the colonizing forces only happening in the last quarter of the book or so but perhaps this was intentional in that it left the majority of the book free to devote itself to the people central to the novel. Perhaps I am just not used to reading books that don’t drive relentlessly towards some kind of climax. Looks like I need to read yet more widely!

Overall, would recommend approaching this book with an open mind and an understanding that some of the cultural practices may shock or upset you. Don’t give up on it, I think the message is worth it.

final rating

have you read this book? What did you think? Do you have any similar books to recommend? Let me know in the comments below!

Solidarity Sunday: Technology

Now there are times when a whole generation is caught in this way between two ages, two modes of life, with the consequence that it loses all power to understand itself and has no standard, no security, no simple acquiescence.”

Hermann Hesse, Steppenwolf

I’m posting this one day late for a very good reason, which is that I got my second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Saturday! As a result, yesterday was a bit of a write-off with my immune system trying to figure out how to handle this new intruder but I’m feeling much better today. And so, Solidarity Monday it is!

Thus, without further ado, lets talk about technology in the pandemic, shall we?

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Reading Roundup: June 2021

He laid his hand on the cover of the book, gently, as though reluctant to disturb the rest of the sleeping lives interred there.

Diana Gabaldon, Voyager

I have a complicated relationship with reading these days. It used to be that I would spend hours curled up on the couch with a good read, often finishing several books a week without even sparing a thought for how much I could have accomplished in that time I devoted to losing myself in the written word.

Lately, however, this seems to be a harder practice to justify. Whether this is because I’m now a mother with a very busy and curious little one to raise or simply because adulthood comes with a million tiny yet important responsibilities that seem to need attention with alarming consistency, I’m not entirely sure.

The result, regardless of the reason, is that I spend so much of my time gazing longingly at my to be read pile without picking a single one up, or feverishly adding tantalizing new books to my Goodreads “Want To Read” designation at a pace that defies the possibility of ever getting through them all.

Continue reading “Reading Roundup: June 2021”

The Beaches: Part Three

He wrapped himself in the cloak of his remembered world, hoping he would be safe in it where no shells or bullets could reach him.

Sebastian Faulks, Birdsong

Memory is a funny thing, isn’t it?

Sometimes it can be a safe place, somewhere to escape to when happiness and comfort seem unavailable in the present and the past instead offers a chance to relive a familiar feeling of peace.

At other times, what is meant to be a stroll down memory lane can turn into a desperate effort to get out of the swirling, churning undertow of past pain and back into the serene hindsight of the present.

Reading through my memories of our trip to Juno Beach in November of 2015 was an example of the latter.

Fair warning, this is a long one.

Continue reading “The Beaches: Part Three”

Book Review: The Peaceable Kingdom?

Disclaimer

The author of this book is my father. However, my review reflects my honest opinion of the book!


I read this book very very quickly. As someone who had fallen out of the reading habit for years before recommitting to it at the beginning of this year, I was surprised at how fast I devoured this book.

As Gurski writes, it is a practitioner’s look at the history of terrorism in Canada (including Canadians who committed acts of terror abroad) and it therefore reads almost more as a memoir of a life in counter-terrorism than a straight non-fiction history – which is a good thing.

Though not all of the experiences detailed were his own, Gurski adds interesting commentary to each of the anecdotes he includes. Upon finishing this book, I can honestly say I have a much better understanding of the impact terrorism has had on Canada over the last 160 years. More importantly, Gurski successfully emphasizes that when we talk about terrorism in Canada, we are not only referring to the Islamist variety (though this, of course, has been a main focus of counter-terrorism efforts since 9/11).

The writing is uncomplicated and fast-paced thus avoiding the trap of becoming a dry retelling of historical events. Though there were a few small editing errors and some possibly unnecessarily long quotes from his earlier books (which are also excellent), overall this was an interesting and engaging look at how Canada has not escaped the global terrorism scourge.

Highly recommend if you’re at all interested in the topic.

Final Rating

Have you read this book? Or do you have any other terrorism-related books to recommend? If so, let me know in the comments below!

Solidarity Sunday: Motivation

People don’t do this kind of thing because they have all kinds of extra time and energy for it; they do this kind of thing because their creativity matters to them enough that they are willing to make all kinds of extra sacrifices for it. Unless you come from landed gentry, that’s what everyone does.

Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

What kind of pandemic experience have you been having? Assuming all your loved ones are healthy (hopefully) and you don’t have 4 kids to homeschool while you and your partner try to work remotely, I bet your response to that question is somewhere in between the following two extremes:

Some people will cheerfully announce that they have read 120 books and even written one, while also taking up yoga, starting a homesteading project and teaching their neighbour’s dog sign language through the cracks in the fence.

Others glumly report that they have gained 30 pounds, watched every show on Netflix, Disney+, Prime and Crave, forgotten what the outside world looks like, and have lost all ability to socialize with other humans.

I, thankfully, fit into neither of these categories (though the first one would be nice… I have yet to figure out how to properly communicate with the neighbours’ dogs) and I hope you at the very least do not fit into the second one.

However, if you were to ask me the question at the top of this blog my answer would be: It’s really not been all that bad, at all. I’ve read a few books, watched some shows, neither gained nor lost much weight, started a small garden, and learned to understand my toddler (mostly). I’ve even spent a decent amount of time outside.

And yet, I am still lacking one thing I would really like to get back, apart from in-person socialization that is.

And this one thing is Motivation.

Photo by Prateek Katyal on Pexels.com
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Reading Roundup: May 2021

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.

Joseph Addison

I truly believe that reading is something that should be done daily. Even if you only read a page, or perhaps naught but a few sentences, it is such a good workout for your brain.

Don’t feel you have time to open a physical book? Try an audiobook, I tend to listen to mine while I’m cooking dinner or doing the dishes! It makes the work go faster and helps me get through my massive “To Read” pile faster.

Since becoming a Mom, I find I need to schedule reading into my day, much as I pencil in time to exercise. This way, I am sure to exercise both my mind and my body consistently. Otherwise it is much too easy to get stuck in the mindless scrolling or binge-watching loops that don’t bring me nearly as much joy as reading does.

And, on that note, here are the best things I read this month!

Continue reading “Reading Roundup: May 2021”

Late to the Stay-At-Home-Mom Game

And so Clara sat and watched and waited. And knew the agony of doing nothing.”

Louise Penny, Still Life

*Trigger Warning* Miscarriage

I had originally scheduled my next book review for today – and may post it as a bonus post later this week instead – but as I have been focusing on my mental health this week in response to the latest (albeit unsurprising) extension of the lockdown here in Ontario, I felt a change of plans was in order.

This is a post I have been ruminating on for a while now. A difficult one for me to write because I’m not sure how much of the insanity of last year I want to share with the world just yet.

Despite my hesitation, my feelings on this topic have been begging to be written down, to be shared, to be allowed a resolution and a sense of closure. So, here goes.

I have technically been a stay-at-home mom (though one working several freelance contracts simultaneously) since July of last year. While I went back to work initially three months after giving birth to Aria, I found that the stress of keeping on top of all my work tasks while keeping a little human alive was too much for my mental health to handle. Not to mention the fact that we were all also trying to find our rhythm in the midst of a global pandemic.

I don’t know how mothers in countries without parental leave do it…

But I digress.

It took until Aria was already almost a year old to finish this room for her. But isn’t it beautiful? (Photo: Erin of the Hills)
Continue reading “Late to the Stay-At-Home-Mom Game”