Books bizarre, brilliant and baffling …

book club

One of the challenges of arriving in a new place is getting out and meeting people, finding different things to do, and new things to talk about. I’ve been lucky. I’ve met loads of really great people – one of which invited me to join a local book club just over 12 months ago. Probably 15 members in total, averaging between 7 – 10 attending each month due to the challenge of juggling other commitments. Some sessions you can make, others you can’t. And that’s perfectly fine. I mentioned in a recent blog my pastime for reading (click here for a re-cap), so always up for trying something new, I’ve been fostered as the newest member of the group.

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Back in January last year, collectively we agreed the books we would read each month, and who would host each month’s ‘event’. It’s been a tough challenge, as most of the books were unknown to me – whilst a lot of ladies had read them the previous year and submitted them as books they enjoyed or felt would be worthy of a monthly book club ‘discussion’ – so I’ve been on catch up, trying to read the required books in time for each month’s meeting. Some I’ve managed, others I haven’t – but nobody minds too much if you’ve not completed it. What’s been most interesting, is that I’ve read books I would generally have ignored – some I’ve enjoyed and others I haven’t, but it’s a super way to widen my reading and also, the discussion that each opens up has been positively enlightening. My husband refers to it as a ‘wine club’ under the guise of ‘books’, and that’s partly apt. November saw me as ‘host’ for the monthly ‘gathering’, and whilst we meet around 7.30pm, that particular month saw us only managing to get to the topic of the selected book just after 9. Just to ease things along, I offered a range of delicacies procured from the Italian market – meats, cheeses, dips, plus concocted a simple fruit salad, made ‘sticky date cake’, and also got hold of some homemade cookies from a new shop just at the corner of the road recently opened. Along with wine (the preferred liquid of choice), a great evening was had by all.

read between wines

Some books have been by Canadian authors – and I’m sure if I really hunted them out in the UK, I’d probably find them – but they’ve never had much precedence when I’ve been browsing the book stores back home.  They’ve been great reads, and I’ve been given different perspectives of historical time periods that  I’ve not come across before.  For example, ‘Requiem’ by Frances Itani, deals a lot with the treatment of the Japanese in Canada after Pearl Harbour in 1942 – something I knew very little about.  Most history I’ve come across has been european-based – especially during WW2, so it was refreshing but also shocking what happened elsewhere.

book club laugh

On a lighter note, the last 2 months have seen British authors and with both being set in England, I’ve enjoyed the references to places, past-times and practicalities.  What’s had me chuckling the most is how British references translate across the pond to Canadian readers – or not, as the case may be.  The ladies in the book club have required the occasional translating of particular phrases, explanation of who various celebrities are (‘Katie Price’ – say no more), and verification over whether life is how it’s actually described in the books.  The funny thing is, this must be rubbing off on my oldest kid.  She’s reading a British fiction book in school and the teacher regularly asks the class about what words or phrases mean in the context of the writing.  What had me laughing the most, was when my oldest kid described what the word ‘priorities’ meant to the class and then was challenged to put it into context in a sentence for the class to understand.  She said her example was, ‘my Mum is always saying, I’m not doing that just yet as it’s not at the top of my list of priorities’.  The teacher could readily appreciate the sentiment ….

good reads

For those interested, the list below is an eclectic mix of books read over the past 12 months that I’ve enjoyed – and you never know, you may too …..

P.D. James – ‘The Lighthouse’ 

Rachel Joyce – ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’

Donna Tartt – ‘The Goldfinch’

Andrew Davidson – ‘The Gargoyle’

Cheryl Strayed – ‘ Wild’

Paula Hawkins – ‘The Girl on the Train’

Kimberly McCreight – ‘Where They Found Her’

Linwood Barclay – ‘No Safe House’

Francis Itani – ‘Requiem’

J.B. Morrison – ‘The Extra-Ordinary Life of Frank Derrick, Age 81’

Happy reading  🙂

Credit to google images for the pics used in this week’s blog – they had me smiling so thought they’d make you smile too

Give me a good book and a glass of wine …

Dr Seuss

I’m an old-fashioned gal when it comes to books.  Call me antiquated, but there’s nothing quite like the feel of an ‘actual’ book, the smell of the paper, and being able to flick right on through – all the way to the end.  It’s probably akin to buying ‘proper’ CDs and records – but even on this score, I’m sorry to say the advent of modern technology has finally caught up with me and I’m there downloading the latest albums along with the youth of today.

But books.  Nope.  I’ve toyed with the idea of ‘kindles’ and yes, can see the argument for it being quicker, easier, more efficient to host such books on technology and read them that way.  I have flashes of temptation every now and again, but, no.  It’s not the same.  I love books – the complete experience from selection to read, and then the delight of rediscovering them sat on a bookcase, blowing dust off the covers and thumbing back through them, long after their original completion.

I can also see the arguments (and frankly, much more cost-effective way) for ordering books online and getting them delivered.  But the experience is different.  I love a good hour or more in a bookshop, browsing the shelves, seeking out new reads that catch my eye and bringing them home.  There’s nothing quite like it – and the kids have become advocates of this leisurely pursuit too.  My middle kid in particular, is an avid reader and loves being able to go to a bookstore and select some items of choice.  Not a cheap activity I know, but I’d have to be dead and gone before I stifle anyone’s interest in the written word.

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One of the advantages of having a basement, is that we’ve got plenty of space to construct bookshelves (courtesy of Ikea, a good screwdriver and the patience of a saint) – which now play host to the vast numbers of books we’ve acquired and continue to proliferate.  It’s a great space – and the kids can often be found seeking out different books and squirreling them away back to their rooms, taking delight in finding something they’ve long forgotten about.  And now, just that little bit older too, enjoying it again by reading it themselves – rather than via the bedtime ritual reading courtesy of Mum & Dad!  I’ve even spotted on occasion, the youngest kid cuddled up in bed whilst my middle kid reads her a story from her selection.  Both chuckling away and enjoying the imaginative delights that only books can bring.

There have been some awkward moments though.  Sometimes we’ve stumbled upon a book which has provoked some interesting discussions – usually at the most un-opportune moments.  One memorable event 4 years ago was just after the departure to the heavenly gates in the sky of another of my cats (and whilst we’re on the topic and for those too nervous to ask – yes, my 20-year-old remaining cat is still with us, alive and well).  My middle kid had chosen one of the ‘Mog’ books – a selection of tales about a similarly coloured black and white cat named, you guessed it – Mog.  We’d acquired a box set and were gradually working our way through the various stories and escapades.  This one evening, I opened the next story in the saga entitled, ‘Goodbye Mog’.  I should’ve guessed from the title, but not always spotting the obvious, embarked on the story which saw the rather abrupt death of Mog.  Astounded and rather aggrieved at such a drastic turn of events, and with the emotion of a similar recent feline departure providing flashbacks, the nightly bedtime ritual saw me attempting to navigate my way through the story complete with sobs, tissues and the inevitable series of direct questions on the topic of death that only kids can manage to ask.   Memorable, certainly.

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Back to the present day, and the weather here in Edmonton has plummeted in temperature and we’re now in sub-zero, surrounded by snow.  There’s only 2 forms of response – get on out there and enjoy it, or snuggle up at home watching the latest flicks ‘on demand’ or reading a good book.  On the former (and during daylight hours), I’m embracing the slopes (see earlier blog!) with a spot of skiing and luckily without any visits as yet to the local A&E department.  When it’s dark and with a glass of wine in hand, large comfy sofa and roaring fire going, there’s little that competes with enjoying the delights of my latest novel of choice.  My only challenge is getting past the end of the first page and not falling asleep too soon from the day’s exertions!!

Happy reading everyone 🙂