What I Read – April 2018

READ:

Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains – Yasuko Thanh (Hamish Hamilton, 2016)

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I went to school with Suko and so was familiar with her unique style and had an idea of where her interests lie. This historical novel set in Vietnam lined up with my expectations and I love her short stories (Her collection Floating Like the Dead is great) but I struggled with this one a bit. It came together in the end for me but took me a while to get oriented.

Funny Once – Antonya Nelson (Bloomsbury, 2014)

These short stories were great but it took me so long to read them that I think a lot of the impact was lost on me. The fault was my own – I borrowed this as an online resource from the library and so read it on my laptop. And reading books electronically just does not work for me. Turns out I’m kind of old-fashioned when it comes to books.

When I was a Child I Read Books – Marilynne Robinson (Picador, 2012)

Overall, I enjoyed this essay collection. I really like Robinson’s writing and I agree with her on a lot of theological and political questions. However, some of these essays felt really American and so I had trouble staying interested. They also felt overly optimistic about America, which made me realize how much the world has changed since 2012.

The great narrative, to which we as Christians are called to be faithful, begins at the beginning of all things and ends at the end of all things, and within the arc of it civilizations blossom and flourish, wither and perish. This would seems a great extravagance, all the beautiful children of earth lying down in a final darkness. But no, there is that wondrous love to assure us that the world is more precious than we can possibly imagine.

  • Marilynne Robinson, “Wondrous Love”

The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher – Hilary Mantel (HarpeCollins Publisher, 2014)

I found myself much more engaged by this collection of short stories. This was my first read by Mantel and although I enjoyed it I still don’t feel the need to read any of her novels. The title story of this collection did force me to do some reading up on Margaret Thatcher though, since I knew shockingly little.

Brother – David Chariandy (McClelland & Stewart, 2017)

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Loved this book. Read my full review here.

All around us in the Park were mothers who had journeyed far beyond what they knew, who dreamed of raising children who might have just a little more than they did, children who might reward sacrifice and redeem a past. And there were victories, you must know. Fears were banished by the scents from simmering pots, denigration countered by freshly laundered tablecloth. History beaten back by the provision of clothes and yearly school supplies.

  • David Chariandy, Brother

Black Swan Green – David Mitchell (Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 2006)

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I reviewed this one too! Maybe I’m on a roll! Check back on Wednesday for the review.

If you show someone something you’ve written, you give them a sharpened stake, lie down in your coffin, and say, “When you’re ready.”

  • David Mitchell, Black Swan Green

Didn’t Finish:

White Cat – Holly Black

Someone raved about this book to me once and so I’ve long had it on my list and finally got a copy of it. As soon as I picked it up at the library I knew it wasn’t my normal fare. I don’t read a lot fantasy but wanted to give it a fair go. I think I got about halfway through. I can see why a fantasy reader would love it but it’s not for me. (I also, in general, hate book series and that biased me against it further.)

Currently Reading:

The Silmarillion – J.R.R. Tolkien

The Redress of Poetry – Seamus Heaney

[Poetry] becomes another truth to which we can have recourse, before which we can know ourselves in a more fully empowered way.

  • Seamus Heaney, “The Redress of Poetry”

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The Boat People – Sharon Bala

 

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Book Review: Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

HarperCollinsPublishers, 1983

HarperCollinsPublishers, 1983

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Harold is a child of undetermined age. However, he is bald and he is wearing clothes that are all one-piece and that tells me that he is too young to be going for a walk on his own. Conclusion: Harold’s parents need to be reported.

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Does Harold live in a black hole? There is neither light nor substance where he is. He doesn’t even have anything to walk on. This is a much sadder story about a deprived, neglected child than I realized.

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Maybe Harold lives in some sort of horrific, dystopian future. Why else would he feel the need to have something as extreme as a dragon to guard an apple tree. Obviously, food is scarce in Harold’s world and he’s ready to do whatever it takes to protect his apples.

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Harold needs an adult.

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It’s pretty charming how this is exactly the kind of meal a child would want. (Not me though. As a child, I disliked all kinds of pie except for meat pie.)

The abundance of pie though is making me question my dystopian-starvation-future theory.

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I’m glad Harold isn’t wasting food. The ribs on that moose seem to prove that some things are starving in this world. Poor moose.

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Again, Harold lives in a black hole.

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This might be the saddest page in all of literature.

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Even Harold’s own home and his bed are a fantasy. Harold’s reality is so bleak that he shelters in the fantasies of his own mind. Yet even there, he is lost and alone.

Harold and the Purple Crayon is bleak, you guys.

Book Review: Roverandom by J.R.R. Tolkien (Reading with Pearl)

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Roverandom, HarperCollinsPublishers, 2002

Although not as widely known as some of other Tolkien’s books (have you heard of The Lord of the Rings?), Roverandom is one of my favourite reads on a sick day. So when Pearl recently had her first cold and wanted lots of cuddles, we snuggled up together and I read this to her.

It’s a fun, fantastical, nonsensical read. After Rover – who is a dog, if you couldn’t guess – reacts poorly to aggravation and unwittingly bites a wizard in the bottom, he is turned into a small toy. He’s bought as a gift for a little boy (a stand-in for Tolkien’s middle son, Michael) and taken to a house by the seaside. Eager to return home and to no longer be a toy, Rover escapes from the boy and swept into adventures that include meeting more wizards, travelling to the moon, and spending time at the mer-king’s palace under the sea. Along the way he meets some other Rovers and his name becomes Roverandom.

The book has some of Tolkien’s classic references to mythology and folktales but is completely separate from his tales of Middle Earth. It started as a bedtime story for his sons and though he seems to have fleshed it out, that’s still where it works best. There are some holes and large sections of Rover’s story that are simply alluded to and then passed right by (maybe bedtime was running long and J.R.R. was feeling tired). It’s not fine literature but it’s fun and magical and appealing to anyone who enjoys fairy tales and dogs.

What I Read – September 2015

Here’s what I read this month. Reviews are up or coming.

1. Beijing Confidential – Jan Wong (Doubleday Canada, 2007)

My review is here.

2. The Curse of the Viking Grave – Farley Mowat (McClelland & Stewart, 1966)

Read my review here.

3. What’s So Amazing About Grace? – Philip Yancey (Zondervan Publishing House, 1997)

4. The Navigator of New York – Wayne Johnston (Vintage Canada, 2002)

5. Death Benefits – Sarah N. Harvey (Orca Book Publishers, 2010)

6. My Secret Sister – Helen Edwards & Jenny Lee Smith (Pan Books, 2013)

7. Roverandom – J.R.R. Tolkien (HarperCollinsPublishers, 2002)

8. The Lotus Eaters – Tatjana Soli (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2011)

9. The Sorrow of War – Bao Ninh (Riverhead Books, 1993)

10. Going After CacciatoTim O’Brien (Broadway Books, 1999)

11. Crazy Love – Francis Chan (Gale Cengage Learning, 2007)

Currently Reading:

The Tenderness of WolvesStef Penney

Love Wins – Rob Bell

Didn’t Finish:

The Everlasting Man – G.K. Chesterton

I told myself I would keep reading it until the end of September and then let it go. I’m pretty close to the end but I’m leaving it be. As close as I am, I’m still not entirely sure what the books about and I don’t agree with much of it. I’d recommend reading Orthodoxy instead.