Why am I [not] doing this?

Why haven’t I posted lately? It isn’t as if I haven’t been reading – I have, albeit slowly. But that hasn’t prevented me from posting in the past…and I enjoy this. I enjoy the exercise of extracting (admittedly, though, sometimes forcibly) my reflections/thoughts about what I’m reading out of my brain and onto this screen. I also am absolutely addicted to the process of creating a living record of my reading.

Yes, Goodreads does this too, but Goodreads doesn’t give me the same opportunity for expression. I don’t use it in the same way. Yes, there are reviews, which I could use to record my assessments and thoughts about a book: “There, done!” But it’s not the same…

THE POINT IS: I have no idea why whilst I have been reading lately I have not been blogging. This includes List books.

So, enough. Update time. Let’s do this, people. Let’s get you caught up.

where i am now

Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys

After wrapping up Jane Eyre, I devoured Wide Sargasso Sea (finally!). I could. not. wait. to read this book. It was quite possibly (almost definitely) the only reason I was able to get through Jane Eyre at all; it was my carrot. And you know I needed one because my lady Charlotte is hard to get through. Many have heard me say that Charlotte is “the worst of all the Brontës” and I will defend that position to the end. Anne is tragically underrated, for the record.

WSS was infuriating but also validating. A friend told me that it would only make me hate Rochester more (not possible, I thought, already have the lowest opinion of him possible sooooo) but they were right, I did hate him more! Because he’s a terrible human being who deserves nobody’s sympathy. The worst.

Rather than being able to recall the details of WSS with any kind of specificity, my memory is instead overwhelmed by a feeling of anger and bewilderment directed at Rochester. So that is what I will leave you with, lest I manage to later clear the fog of rage and reveal any insights, at which time I shall return forthwith! (who says “forthwith” anymore, Catherine?)

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl

I actually really wanted to write a blog post about this book while and after reading it because I had a lot to say. This book is creepy and twisted AF and seriously grapples with issues of enslavement, abuse, and violence against children.

But before we get to all of that, can we talk about how Charlie had the option to bring TWO people with him, and this asshole only brings Grandpa Joe? YOU COULD HAVE BROUGHT SOMEONE ELSE WITH YOU DON’T YOU THINK MOM OR DAD WOULD HAVE ENJOYED THAT TOO OR MAYBE ANOTHER GRANDPARENT? Jerk.

Okay, now that I got that off my chest, let’s focus on the Oompa Loompas. Wonka tempts them into indentured servitude on the promise of…cocoa? They have to live in his factory, aren’t allowed to leave (do they even have access to clean air? What’s the air filtration and circulation like in there?) and Wonka’s pitching this whole “white saviour” BS that I’m not buying. I think he even teaches them how to speak English…bit of a blunt instrument, there, Dahl. Maybe that was the point, though…so many potential papers…

Then there’s the disappearing children. Where is Helen Lovejoy when you need her?
Children are literally disappearing, being harmed, and potentially dying (being killed) throughout this book. And when you get to the end *SPOILER* you discover THAT THIS WAS WONKA’S PLAN THE WHOLE TIME. IT WAS THE WHOLE POINT OF THE GOLDEN TICKETS: “You see, Charlie, I knew that while my factory would maim and potentially even kill many of the children I brought in here, I knew one would survive! Congrats on not dying!” (Wonka, somewhere near the end, paraphrased).

Willy Wonka is an old man in a van luring children in with candy.

A Wrinkle In Time, Madeleine L’Engle

I read this at some point in elementary or high school and wanted to reread it before seeing the movie. I forgot how strong the religious messaging of this book was. I still want to see the movie, though, and while the whole “I know I’m on the right side because God is with me and God is light” POV dominated much of the narrative, I still found merit in some of the other storylines, characters, and themes. Meg is an obvious standout, and Mrs. Whatsit was one of the most endearing characters I’ve ever come across.

Valdemar: Last Herald Mage Series, Mercedes Lackey

I picked these up on the recommendation of a friend, who gifted me the first book in the series. They credited this book with getting them into the Fantasy genre, so I was immediately intrigued and jumped in. The writing is okay and Lackey’s style of plot development is non-existent, but that kind of works for her. Essentially, what I took from Lackey’s style is that she DGAF about denouement; for serious, as an example, two people go from being strangers to lovers in what seems like all of 2 sentences (and when I say “lovers,” I don’t mean that in a passive way, I mean that in a “we are now ‘lifebonded’ and I will never love another and our souls are intertwined” kind of way).

But that’s okay because that’s not where her story happens. I don’t fully understand how she does it, but she manages to make the story happen elsewhere. It’s not dialogue, that’s pretty blunt too,* and it’s not exposition, because I would have HATED that (looking at you, Tolkien). For me, her ability to normalize certain aspects of her narrative were the most remarkable accomplishments of her stories. The plot itself is fairly trite: an outcast youth discovers they have powers and that they are the only ones who can save the world. Fantasy and adventure ensue. The world is saved. The end.

Lackey uses the comfortable familiarity of her plot and the straightforward, “no frills,” style of her writing to sneak characters, themes, and images that challenge conventions past her reader. Well played. I really enjoyed this approach.

I need to let these ideas develop some more before I can competently write more about them, so I’ll leave it there for now.

What Happened, Hillary Rodham Clinton

I have no freaking idea, Hillary.

Love’s Labor’s Lost, Shakespeare

I didn’t enjoy this one. That being said, I will admit that much of it went over my head. This play was more about the dialogue and clever play-on-words than it was anything else and when you’re trying to follow that solo with Shakespeare, it’s rough. For me it was, anyway.

What I was able to follow seemed mean-spirited and I often found myself puzzled at the characters’ logic. Some decisions and actions made absolutely no sense to me. For example, why pretend to be Russians to go visit the women? Okay, you’re sneaking out so no one sees you breaking your oath, but once you’re there what’s the point of keeping it up? And what’s the point of tricking your love interest into thinking you’re someone else? Maybe I need someone who ‘gets’ Shakespeare to walk me through this one…

Somehow it’s way past my bedtime now so I’m going to end it here. Hopefully, I don’t let as much time go by before my next post.

Although I am working on Middlemarch again (yay) so no promises (that book is huge).

*I’m reread this now and I don’t think “blunt” is an accurate characterization of Lackey’s dialogue. That was a misnomer on my part (my bad). Her dialogue is pretty flowery…and can be extensive, detailed, and full of emotion, so “blunt” is definitely not the right word. Instead, I’d say it is often melodramatic and…not blunt but…obvious.

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The Motivational Power of a Library Notice

This is an automatically generated reminder. Please do not respond via email. Your library material will be due back shortly.

I’ve been dragging my feet pretty hard on reading lately but am trying to jump back in. Amazing how something like a library notice can help motivate me to finally pick up that Judy Blume book I’ve been ignoring for the past few weeks. I’ve hit my renewal max on this one, so I either have to return it unread or burn through it in the next two days. I think I can do it.

Forever is only 209 pages long and recent experience has taught me that I can definitely read that much in two days, given the right motivation.

So far I’m just under 30 pages in and there’s something reminiscent of Alice Munro’s Lives of Girls and Women here. Methinks a young woman is about to discover herself through sexual experimentation and exploration. I’m in!

Lots for me to connect with already. For example, Katherine, the main character, describes an ex-boyfriend, Tommy Aronson, who dumped her because she wouldn’t have sex with him. I was transported back to a similar youthful experience wherein a boy broke up with me because he didn’t feel we were “connecting in the right way”. Mmmhmmm. Gee, I wonder what he meant by that? Although he wasn’t as direct as Katherine’s Tommy Boy, I’m fairly confident in my reading of my cowboy’s farewell words; I think I know exactly which parts of us he didn’t think were “connecting in the right way” if you know what I mean…

In other news, I’m still working on Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies which is getting…weird…to say the least.

Jane Eyre is at a standstill. It might join Watership Down in a side-pile of “I need to read you but you’re so just not doing it for me” list books. I haven’t given up yet though. I know it seems like I have, but I haven’t. I really want to read Wide Sargasso Sea. 

More updates to come, stay tuned!

 

New Pretty Town Sounds Fun

 

"Uglies" by Scott Westerfeld - book coverIn his series, Uglies, Scott Westerfeld introduces readers to Tally Youngblood, a young heroine (I mean, I’m assuming that she’ll turn out to be a heroine, giving her the benefit of the doubt here by upgrading her from ‘protagonist’ to ‘heroine’) who is about to turn sixteen. In her weird and messed up society, turning sixteen marks a rite of passage in a young person’s life. At this point, they undergo extensive plastic surgery to correct all of their natural “ugly” features, surgically replacing them with idealized ones. Whose ideals, you ask? I’m not entirely sure. Apparently, it doesn’t matter because humans are biologically wired to respond to a “certain kind of beauty”:

There was a certain kind of beauty, a prettiness that everyone could see. Big eyes and full lips like a kid’s; smooth, clear skin; symmetrical features; and a thousand other little clues. (Westerfeld 16)

I mean, that does sound like Beyonce and I do have a biological response to her soooo

BUT LET’S BE SERIOUS. This is a load of crap. There is no “certain kind of beauty” that everyone biologically responds to. I would buy that everyone is socially conditioned to respond to “a certain kind of beauty,” but even then my use of “everyone” is flat and problematic so…

OKAY BUT THIS IS A PIECE OF FICTION, CATHERINE. You know, “fiction,” as in not real.

Right. Fine. I was just saying.

So in this FICTIONAL world, after you turn sixteen and undergo this transformation, you become what’s known as a “Pretty”. Before that, in all of your natural glory, you would be an “Ugly.” The Pretties live in New Pretty Town and the Uglies live in Uglyville.

Uglyville sounds like a police-state ghetto, whereas NPT sounds like what would happen if you turned an entire town into a VR night club. There are fireworks, parties, sex and alcohol everywhere. Everything appears to be free. Pretties appear to have zero responsibilities. Party robots patrol the town to encourage people to party harder. Everything is rigged so that people can’t hurt themselves or each other. All the fun with none of the consequences. God I am so worried for everyone in this town.

I gotta say, Westerfeld, I hope that your lack of creativity on the nouns in this book is an indication of greater effort spent on the story’s formal elements because *holy lord dyin’* these are bad:

  • Tally Youngblood is primarily defined in the beginning of the book as too young to be a pretty
  • Society is divided between attractive people called Pretties and unattractive people called Uglies
  • Pretties live in New Pretty Town and Uglies live in Uglyville

It’s as if he put these names in as place-keepers until he finished writing the rest of the book and then, once finished, he thought “Aw, screw it, good enough, let’s get this puppy published already”. That’s purely conjecture, of course (Does anyone know if this happened for real? Because I would 100% believe it)

In terms of plot, I’m only four chapters in, so not much has happened. I’ve met Tally who wants to be a pretty so bad it hurts. Not because she wants to be “pretty” per say (she does, though) but because she wants to be reunited with Peris, her BFF. She wants to be pretty for him. I think I know where this is going.

SO. Peris is three months older than Tally and has already been mutated into this “pretty” thing. Tally sneaks over to New Pretty Town, where Uglies aren’t allowed to go, and finds Peris—she had to talk to him, you guys. REASONS—and he promptly tells her to GTFO of there and to only come back when she’s pretty like he is: “I want to see you pretty” (18), he tells her.

I don’t know about the rest of you but this sounds a lot like high school.

Whilst attempting to escape NPT (she’s being chased at this point because she’s been discovered as an intruder), Tally meets Shay, fellow soon-to-be-pretty trespasser and they manage to get back to Uglyville without being caught. They bond over their ostracism and estrangement from newly-Pretty friends and Shay teaches Tally how to ride a hoverboard.

That’s it, you’re caught up.

Now it’s time for everyone’s favourite: PREDICTIONS!

  1. Tally will not become a Pretty
  2. She will try to ‘save’ Peris from being a Pretty, she will try to get him to see her inner beauty and understand that “beauty is not just skin deep” but he’s too far gone. She has to leave him behind.
  3. I’m betting this whole “Uglies” and “Pretties” thing is the result of a reproduction crisis of some kind, a la Children of Men
  4. Shay and Tally fall in love (this probably won’t happen but the text is PRIMED for it so I’m putting it out there)
  5. Tally gets arrested for something, meets “Uglies” who think that this whole Ugly vs. Pretties system is a bunch of BS
    • Shay is already one of the leaders of this underground resistance. That’s what she was really doing there that night.
  6. Tally starts/joins a rebellion against the Pretties/Uglies system

That’s all for now! Coffee beckons.

The “Dust Land” Series aka Hunger Games aka Abstinence Fiction

Image result for raging star dust lands

As per my Goodreads review – these books are so very problematic. They are essentially an abstinence pamphlet disguised as a YA trilogy. How so? Well, it turns out that the only thing more dangerous than giant eyeless, clawed desert worms is female desire. Who knew?

I’ve read the first two books in the series and of all the deaths which have occurred so far (wich is a lot) all but two of them result from female desire. The two exceptions are the protagonist’s parents who die in childbirth (which, actually, is kind of related to female desire and sexuality) and in an attempt to protect their children from kidnappers.

From the moment Saba leaves home, it seems all deaths and bad decisions are the result of her being tempted/blinded/seduced/distracted by sexuality/romance/love/desire. Sure, give her some fire and the girl can last a full night in a Dune-esque desert with hordes of giant sandworms with claws attacking her, but put an older & shirtless man in front of her and she’s defenceless against him.

I’ve decided to walk away from this series after the first two books. I started Book 3, Raging Star, but I’m not going to continue reading it. The second book ended on a note that suggested that the whole thing is going to come down to a jealous boy whose feelings were hurt by romantic rejection and that the fate of the world rests in this boy’s ability to deal with said rejection (hint: he’s not). Either that, or the fate of the world rests in Saba’s ability to resist giving in to her sexual desires (just don’t sleep with the bad man, Saba, and everything will be okay! or – Just don’t make Tommo jealous, Saba, and everything will be okay!). After that, I found I had simply lost the motivation to keep reading.

The other side-reason why I’m walking away is because, to be honest, thank you but I’ve already read The Hunger Games so I don’t need to read it again. I can draw a straight line between characters and key plot points between these two series. Except I loved The Hunger Games.

Ultimately, Young’s books show flashes of technical writing skill and style. This is a shame because otherwise her ability as a writer is buried by a distracting dialect which distracts from the plot.

I’ll see what Female Rebellion has to say about these books and then move on. I’ve got Judy Bloom on deck and just picked up Uglies from the library. Then there’s the List too, which is being very patient with me…

Anyhoo – off to work!

image source: Goodreads

I missed it

I’ve ditched…no halted?…no…strayed…yes, strayed from Jane Eyre in favour of Jim Butcher’s Captain’s Fury (Book 4 of the Codex Alera series) and Milk and Honey, Rupi Kaur’s book of poetry.

I know, I know.

I said I wouldn’t.

I know, I know.

I already did when I read Interview with the Vampire, and Anatomy of a Girl Gang, and Hag-Seed.

I know, I know.

I’m still working on Female Rebellion in Young Adult Dystopian Fiction and if I’m going to diverge from the List AND my “On Deck” lists AGAIN don’t I want to prioritize the primary texts discussed therein?

I know, I know.

But.

I missed it.

I missed that feeling of being hungry for a book. I missed day-dreaming about “what’s next?” and being entirely distracted by a plot. I missed nodding “yes” and saying “uh huh” feigning attention in a conversation while secretly all I’m actually doing is thinking about the book and waiting for the next break in whatever-it-is that is demanding my attention so that I can escape back into that world.

And I’m not hungry for Jane.

I wanted to be absorbed, and so that’s what I’m chasing right now. That’s why I picked up the next book in Butcher’s “Alera” series. They are long, but they’re easy to read and they’re fun and they pull me in.

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Fun Fact: I read online somewhere that the “Alera” series was born out of a bet for Butcher to write a story based on Roman legions and Pokemon. Crazy, right? There is no way that’s true, right? That’s what I thought, too. But, as it turns out, IT IS TRUE! Isn’t that so much nuts stuff? I found an interview Butcher did with Fantasy Literature.com where he confirms the whole thing! (You can read it here).

To those of you out there thinking “Ummm, yeah, Cat…we already knew that…this news is like…eight years old…keep up, GAWD” Well, you would be right, but this is still new to me and therefore it is exciting to me and this is my blog so THERE.

Image result for i have the microphone adam sandler

I’m still listening to Jane in the car sometimes just so I can say that I’m still making some progress there. And, admittedly, to get me closer to Wide Sargasso Sea a little bit faster.

I’ve also picked up Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur, because it’s been on my shelf since Christmas and it lends itself better to short, fragmented reading sessions, such as over lunch or five minutes in the morning.

So. Yes. I’m straying. Again. And I don’t care because I missed it, and the List will still be there waiting for me after I get my fix.

 

Image credits:
Captain’s Fury cover: Goodreads
The Wedding Singer: TuneCore Canada

Brad Pitt messes with my creativity

I saw the film adaptation of Interview with the Vampire way back when and fell in love with it. Since, it’s always been one of my favourite movies, and Brad Pitt stole my heart.

Image result for interview with the vampireTom Cruise freaked me out a bit – oh, how little I knew then how he would grow to freak me out even more…and Kirsten Dunst performed perhaps her best on-screen role of her entire career. I might be biased. But she was so good!

Image result for interview with the vampire claudia

The result is that, now, some thirteen-ish years later, I finally have read Anne Rice’s book, which inspired it all. Louis’ voice, in my mind, was exactly that slow, smooth, detached drawl that Pitt uses in the film, and that was wonderful. It was like having Brad Pitt in my brain for a few days, reading me a story about vampires and the human condition.

Point being: I wasn’t able to separate my film viewing experience from my book reading experience. Do you remember my post about Troilus and CressidaWhy do you do this to me, Brad? Let my imagination go, and run free! Are you so possessive that once you’ve inhabited a character in my mind, nobody else can? Damn you!

It’s interesting that in the film *spoilers* Lestat does not return until the very end, and he’s the one who seeks out the reporter. In the book, Lestat reappears at the Theatre des vampires. He’s the one that gives them up, rather than Santiago figuring it out on his own. The novel also ends with the reporter heading out to find Lestat, rather than the latter dropping out of the sky into his red convertible as he’s driving at highway speeds.

Also, Armand and Louis run off together in the text, whereas in the film Louis goes on the road solo after Kirsten’s death (I think I’m remembering that right – can someone corroborate this?).

Lastly, the film puts a lot of emphasis on Louis’ refusal/grappling with feeding off humans. At one point, Lestat finds him after he’s spent weeks in the gutter, feeding solely on rats and vermin because Louis can’t stand the guilt from taking human lives. Once he learns that he can live off animal blood he’s like “WELP. It’s an animal-based diet for me from now on!” but this doesn’t happen in the book at all. His foray into animal-based eating is brief, and he quickly returns to feeding off of humans. He doesn’t enjoy it, he complains about it a lot, but he does it.

All told, the book was pretty good. Brad Pitt Louis is a fairly self-indulgent and philosophical narrator who muses and moans more than he tells a story. But the story he does tell is pretty good. Surprisingly, the first book does not make me want to read Prince Lestat, the second installment in Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles series. I know they are canonical to the vampire genre, which I do love, but at this point, I simply have too many other books tempting me, of whose quality I am more certain.

Speaking of which, I finished The Tempest last night, so there’s a blog coming for that. Stay tuned! For now I’m off to mark and write papers.

Image Sources
Claudia (Kirsten): Media Giphy
Lestat (Tom) and Louis (Brad): The Clinton Street Theatre

Jeremy Bentham was on to something, but Gaia takes it too far: considering individuality vs.superorganisms in “Foundation and Earth” (also spoilers)

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DONE! I cannot begin to tell you how amazing it feels to be able to put this series to bed and move on with my life.

I’m happy to have read the series, if for no other reason than I can now say that I did. It feels like an accomplishment, and like it gives me more credibility as an accomplished science-fiction reader. Though, I am admittedly still in my infancy in that genre.

Asimov and I disagree on many fundamental concepts on which his opinions were expressed throughout the series. Most notably, his views on women, sexuality, and gender relations, though there were others as well. This made the series a challenging one for me to read – I had to labour (yes, labour) to put aside my objections and offense so that I could read the books. This was near-impossible for me at the start, but by book 7 I had improved enough to be able to focus on plot. It also helped that books 6 (Foundation’s Edge) and 7 (Foundation and Earth) benefited from some improvements to the treatment of female characters.

WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW!

Furthermore, I liked this book because I love being right, and it is rare that my predictions are correct (remember my Anna Karenina predictions – they were way off!). After reading Forward the Foundation I predicted that Daneel would be back, and I was right! Go me!

giphy

Recap:

So – ready for the spoilers? Okay – here we go. It turns out that Earth was radioactive this whole time, just like everyone kept saying it was. I assumed this would be as a result of nuclear war on the planet, because I think we can all agree that seems to be an inevitability of our times. However, it’s attributed to a fight between Spacers and Settlers, and their hatred of Earth. So, kind of nuclear war? But not really…to be  honest those details from the book – the WWWWWH of Earth becoming radioactive – are fuzzy.

I’m in a satisfying state of post-book-completion-haze right now. Pray, have mercy!

Fun fact: Trevize hilariously contracts a deadly STI whilst visiting a planet of topless women. HA! Suck it, Trevize. That’ll learn ya.

Trevize & Co. find Earth, and since it is uninhabitable, they figure the moon is the next most likely location of its ‘secret.’ They land on the moon, find Daneel, Trev determines his gut decision in favour of Galaxia was right all along, and Daneel mind-melds with a toddler. THE END.

Slightly more insightful thoughts:

An overarching theme of Foundation and Earth is the question of whether it’s better to be an individual, or one part of a larger inter-connected whole (aka Gaia, aka superorganism). The entire plot, in fact, is driven by Trevize’s desperate search for Earth to find support for his decision in favour of Gaia for the future of humanity.

Ultimately, the novel determines achieving Galaxia, in other words becoming a superorganism, is better for the well-being of humanity. But is this right? Free-will is such a fundamental belief in so many world cultures, it is difficult to envision parting from it. In fact, the necessity of giving up so much of my own free-will and self-determination to a higher power is one of the big reasons why I struggled so much with religion when I was younger.

The concept of utilitarianism seems relevant to this discussion as well – is it really the greatest happiness of the greatest number of people that matters? If it is, is it right to sacrifice personal happiness for the common good – even if that means giving up our individuality?

ARYA

Well, I couldn’t do it. Arya Stark and Trevize both have me beat there. I might be able to do it if I was able to maintain my individuality, while still participating in the ‘greater whole’ – but to completely sacrifice people’s ability to have dominion over themselves, to make their own decisions…I just can’t get behind that plan.

SIDE BAR: In Googling utilitarianism, because I couldn’t remember anything about it, the internet informed me of Spock’s “needs of the many” quote. I learned something new about Star Trek today. So, that’s pretty exciting.

 

Final thoughts: I still think I should have read iRobot instead.

Modern Family gif credit: giphy.com: http://giphy.com/gifs/modern-family-julie-bowen-i-told-you-so-3o85xpZcINGzBPDI0U
Game of Thrones photo credit: http://www.vulture.com/2016/05/arya-lessons-faceless-men-game-of-thrones.html

 

 

Foundation’s Edge (aka remind me again why I didn’t read iRobot?)

Well, that’s done. Only one left to go! Huzzah!

The Foundation-fatigue is palpable.

I have also developed a healthy suspicion that anyone around me could be a robot.

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A picture of a robot with Jimmy Fallon. Ask, and the Internet will provide. Thank you, Internet ❤

That’s what happens when you read six books and they all reference how robots are secretly ruling the galaxy, manipulating humans for our own good. They are the mechanical non-human humanitarian overlords of the Galaxy!

Here is how I imagine a conversation between two robots would go:

“Check it out, Daneel, they think they have free-will, so adorable!”

“I know – I just helped this one prevent a galactic war. They think they did it themselves. So quaint, these humans!”

“If only they knew the truth.”

“Shush, don’t ruin this for them. They’re so cute when they think they’re in control.”

“Yeah, you’re right. Look at this one: ‘oohh I made a decision.'”

“HA! Yeah – sure you did, little guy, sure you did. So clueless!”

“Hey – did you hear the one about the Eternals?”

“Yeah! Hilarious, right?!”

lol.

ANYWHOO.

Foundation’s Edge was okay. I’d rank it as tied with Forward the Foundation. My favourite book in the series is still Foundation, which is the first one.

On the bright side I have become so accustomed to the sexism and stereotyping in Asimov’s Foundation novels that they no longer get a rise out of me. I let them just sliiiiiide right by me. Like a ship Jumping through hyperspace. BOOM SPACE REFERENCE!

I now turn my eyes to Foundation and Earth. Then I will be done, and it will be marvellous.

PEACE OUT!

 

 

A House in the Sky

Before you begin to judge me for straying yet again from the List after I just said that I would return to it as soon as I finished Asimov’s Foundation series, hear me out.

I had to.DSC_0011

…I did!

Okay, listen. When a region recommends a book to its entire community, it behoves me to pay attention. This is what the Waterloo Region does with their One Book, One Community program. Their 2016 pick is A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett.

One would think there would be no copies left in the library – the whole region is trynna read this thing! There would be waiting lists for the waiting lists, right? Right! EXCEPT there happened to be ONE copy at the Express Checkout desk the exact moment I looked it up, and an exceptionally nice library angel willing to guard it until I got there. Coincidence? Not likely. This was kismet.

So you see, I really had no choice, I had to read it.

So I did.

I blew through this book in a matter of days, which was undoubtedly assisted by the fact that I’ve been sick and therefore relegated to the couch and bed with nothing else to do in my spare time but read. I consumed this book, and was consumed by it.

A House in the Sky is Amanda Lindhout’s story of her 460-day kidnapping in Somalia. In the book, she provides context for her readers with details of her childhood in Alberta and how she came to develop a deep sense of wanderlust. In her early twenties, an adult who was no longer tethered to parents, she began to travel the world in a way that would make even the well-travelled amongst us jealous. Adopting a lifestyle which enabled her to set off for months at a time, Amanda travelled to over 46 countries, returning to Canada only to refill her bank account. Once financing was in place, she was off again. Her approach to travelling reminded me of the television series Departures, except Scott and Justin had a cameraman and a filming budget, and Amanda had only her waitressing savings.

Amanda’s wanderlust evolved into an aspiration to become a photojournalist, which landed her in war zones for gigs. In 2008, she travelled to Somalia with her friend Nigel to try to get photos they could sell, and it is there they were kidnapped and held for ransom for 15 months.

Amanda’s retelling of her time spent in captivity is hard to envision. Not because it’s poorly written, but because it’s traumatic. While reading the book, I kept thinking to myself how amazing it was not only that she survived, but also that she continues to survive, every day since she was freed. I kept reminding myself “This is real. This really happened. She actually lived through this and people actually did this to her.”

I was also struck by the strength it must have taken to relive those 15 months, in each horrific detail, in order to write this book.

What will I take away from reading this book?

I think I will take with me the strength of the inner self. I am astounded by Amanda’s ability to survive her kidnapping, and even more so by her attitude and perspective on, well, everything. That little voice inside her head is what kept Amanda going so strong for so long – we all have that little voice, but it’s hard to listen to it sometimes.

On days when I was really struggling…the voice posed questions. It said, In this exact moment, are you okay? The answer, in that exact moment, was steadying: Yes, right now I am still okay.

– Lindhout & Corbett, A House in the Sky, p.294

I need to make that voice of mine an ally, instead of always arguing with it, and find my own strength, so I know it’s there when I need it.