Insurgent

This Month for EOG Book Club our genre was YA or Teen Lit. This gave me the opportunity to dive back into the rather entertaining Divergent series by Veronica Roth. I read the first book, aptly named Divergent shortly after it came out, and found myself enjoying it. Sadly that meant waiting nearly a year til I could get my hands on and sink my teeth into the next instalment.

As soon as I got it I popped off the dust jacket (I never read with them on, I’m always scared I am going to ruin it!!) and nested down with  my new read. I was very confused! I read the opening chapter and found myself remembering nothing. I recognized one name, the setting of factions and the city, but otherwise found myself drowning in a sea of unfamiliar names. So I popped it on my shelf and picked up the first book for a quick reread before my glorious adventure onwards and  upwards.

Ripping through a book a second time is pretty simple. You remember large chunks and have the option of skipping over parts that are familiar or rereading chunks that baffled you the first time with the benefit of whole book context. It took me til about the middle of the first book to start remembering who everyone was and how they all fit into the first chapter of the second book. The confusion only aided by the fact that several key characters change their names at one point or another. But I got the gist and was back on my way.

For those who have not read the first book let me give you a quick world builder: There is a city and the city is set up in a very particular way. People are catagorized into one of five groups depending on what they believe is the most important value:
-Abignation: selflessness
-Euridite: knowledge
-Dauntless: bravery
-Amnity: peace
– Candor: honesty
If for some reason you are unable to fit or function into any of the factions you are doomed to a life of the factionless, second rate citizens with few rights and no wealth. When children turn 16 they take a simulation exam to determine which faction they are most suited for and help them choose which faction to be a part of for the rest of their life, faction over family. Leaving your old faction means cutting all ties. When our lead character Tris goes for her test she finds that she has an aptitude for 3 factions and the ability to control the simulations. This labels her the danger and unspoken title of Divergent. And when she chooses to leave her life of selflessness for a world of danger, bravery and ruthlessness she finds theres more behind being Dauntless then she ever imagined.

Insurgent picks up quite literally right where Divergent left off. No great span of time has passed its only moments later. Tris and Four, she calls him Tobias which is his given name (and one of the reasons the first chapter threw me off) must escape the fallen Dauntless and Abignation districts of the city along with Four’s father Marcus, Tris’s brother Caleb and the ever hateful Peter. They flee with other Abignation to the Amnity compound and seek refuge from the power hungry Euridite. The book chronicles the movement of Tris and Four as they attempt to save what Abignation is left and muster the forces of Dauntless to retake their city.

I honestly cant say a whole lot more about plot without giving away some key events that really make or break the story, I will however give my thoughts on how it was done.

Veronica Roth does a spectacular and delicate job of handing suicide. We loose someone in the first book to suicide and in Dauntless they are exalted as a hero and truly Dauntless, for having been brave enough to take on the final adventure into the unknown. By so parading something we know to be so blatantly untrue she is able to tackle the idea without trivializing it and alienating people who might have had the same thoughts. She shows suicide as the tragedy it truly is and I applaud her for it. Suicide pops up again in the second book but we see it in another of its forms. Not as the overt taking of ones life, but as acting foolishly and recklessly with no regard for their own life, putting themselves purposely in harms way. It is all too common, but under recognized in a lot of cases. By highlighting it in the way she does, showing the danger and impact it has on others, Roth is again able to call out such behaviour for what it is without becoming preachy or condescending.

The idea that we are more then one dimensional is also tackled in the innovative idea of factions and separation of people for what is considered their key characteristics. This is most prevalent in the writing of the main character Tris, who has an aptitude for 3 different factions and gives her the label of divergent. But it can also be seen in all of the transfers as well. Al, while from Candor shows he can be brave by excepting to join a faction he has no desire for, as well as being selfless in his throwing fights so as not to hurt the other transfers. Christine who is also from Candor never looses her propensity to tell the truth, but her strength and desire for adventure pegs her as Dauntless. Even Peter, who we love to hate, shows signs of his Euridite past along side his violent Dauntless tendencies.

I also have two problems with the books thus far, but they create spoilers. So read beyond the cutline at your own risk.

For those who don’t and do read on, let me say this. The Divergent series has proven to be a very good series thus far. I have enjoyed it immensely. It is a YA title which I know is likely to throw people off but it really shouldn’t. Its not the next great American novel by any means, but it hits on some really important points that more then just teenagers need to hear. Its not quite brain candy with all the serious themes riddled throughout, but it is written in an easy to read style that will have you whipping through it in a couple of days.

This is my pretend cutline because WordPress won’t do it for me!

Warning Spoilers below!

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In the first book we learn through Tris’s fear landscape and just her general personality that she does not do intimacy well. Touching and physical affection is just not something that people in Abignation are taught or are generally exposed to. We get one brief and awkward scene of Tris and Four talking about it and it all seems to just disappear. Suddenly kissing and making out and touching half naked Four is no longer an issue. I get that the fear landscape helped her to face that fear, but it doesn’t make a fear go away. She goes from being shy and uneasy around Four to having zero qualms about getting all up in his grill and being super touchy. The transformation for me was far too fast  and therefore left it feeling unrealistic.

In the first book we see Tris kill Will (told you spoilers) during the simulation attack.  She in reality had some choice about what she did, but in the absolute terror and adrenaline of the moment we have to give her some forgiveness for her actions, it was an extraordinary circumstance. The guilt of this carries on with her through the entirety of the the second book and it drives me a little bit bonkers. I understand that the timeline of the second book doesn’t cover much more then a month at most, and that the drama of killing your best friends boyfriend is going to linger. What makes me the most annoyed is how long she goes with it bottled up and not telling/lying to others about it. She buries it deeper and deeper until it entirely envelops her and stops her from doing what she needs to do, as well as alienating from absolutely everyone she loves when it finally does come out. I get that she is suffering, but she is portrayed and being a thinker and percieving things in situations, you’d think she would look at what she was doing and say to herself “Hey, this is only going to cause a TONNE of problems later, maybe I should just get it out quick and easy!”

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The Story Of Beautiful Girl

For all I know this book is a book club phenomenon that has been love and adored by millions. But that is not how I found it, or grew to fall in love with it. I was simply racked for time to pick a Historical Fiction for The EOG Book Club, and couldn’t muster the energy to blow through a Jane Austen novel in a little over two weeks. This lead to me frantically wandering the newly created book section of my mothers local Wal-Mart. (There is only one very tiny book store in town that keeps bankers hours.)

I was about to give up after seeing nothing that peaked my interest, regency royal scandals are not my cup of tea, when I saw this beautiful little blue cover glowing brightly on the top shelf. I thought to myself, it will be too good to be true if this turns out to be historical fiction, but low and behold it was and I was very happy.

The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon is set in the early 70’s and leads right up to current day, taking place at the School for the Incurable and Feebleminded, an institution where the disabled and mentally handicapped are dumped and taken care of only in the most basic way, and rarely even that.

The story follows 3 main characters:
Lynnie – a woman with developmental delays who is housed at the school who runs away with Homan after becoming pregnant due to the abuse of of the the grounds keepers.
Homan  – An African American deaf-mute man sent to the School simply because no one is able to communicate with him. He falls in love with Lynnie, and after finding out about her pregnancy promises to free her from the school.
Martha – A little old woman with no children of her own living on her farm after the death of her husband. Lynnie and Homan turn up on her door step one night and trust her with hiding and caring for the new born baby after Lynnie is apprehended and Homan is lost to the night.

I was incredibly impressed with the writing style and how well the author was able to put across the thoughts and emotions of all the characters. She masterfully delves into the mind and speech of an African American man who grew up in the 50’s, and surmounts the awesome challenge of him having to describe words and people he has never heard of. She also delves into the mind and feelings of Lynnie with such delicacy and insight I wasn’t at all surprised when the author turned out to have grown up with a sister who had a disability.

Without giving too much away I want to say that this book is really amazing, a lot of really important themes were explored in interesting and engaging ways. All the characters were well fleshed out and believable, well all but one but we can gloss over her. And the setting was almost 3 dimensional. I would recommend this read to absolutely anyone, the themes are universal and there is not so much romance that it would turn a guy off reading it.

My only critique was the ending, I felt that it could have been handled way better then it was. It felt a little rushed, and really the only part of the book that didn’t feel believable to me. There are so many ways that the writer could have resolved the story and brought Lynnie’s daughter to the realization of who her family was, it may have made the book a few chapters longer but would have been well worth the extra time. Luckily the story seems to resolve its self before we get to this disconnected feeling last chapter, so it was easy to disregard it and let it end a chapter earlier.

Dear Fatty

As promised, a review of Dawn French’s memoirs, as titled Dear Fatty.

Let me start this off with letting you know how I stumbled onto this gem. Netflix… Oh the wonder that it is! I was tootling around the titles, and wanted so bad to laugh. I looked at all the comedy movies they had, nothing really peaked my interest. So I looked through the tv titles, mostly dramas. I had however flagged some amazing British drama/action mini series, and the Netflix, oh lovely darling, created a category of British comedies. Ooh, and there planted in the middle… The Vicar of Dibley. ❤ I cannot sing the praises of this rediculous show often enough. The writing is both hilarious and heart felt and the actors true comedians. I adored it. Lead actress? Dawn French. 

Fast forward 6 months, and I’m running around Chapters looking for something to read. Nothing caught my eye, so I wandered over the biographies hoping to get another copy of The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe by  J. Randy Taraborrelli, a 545 page monster I had read, loved, lent out and never got back. The system said 4 copies were in stock, I searched the obvious places, the not so obvious places (I had worked this particular Chapters for 6 months in the past) and couldn’t find them. So I asked a staff to check the carts in the back to see if it was just recently in and hadn’t made it to the shelves. Five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes, so I started browsing the shelves for something new. The Royals, Maya Angelou, Beck, Jimmy Carson, Doris Day, Amelia Earhart, Anne Frank, Dawn French! Ok so I’d only ever watched one of her shows, but it was called Dear Fatty and there was no putting it back!!

Dawn is very upfront about how she plans to write her “biography” and calls it her memoirs for a reason:

“I have decided to think of this book as a memoir rather then an autobiography. As I understand it, the latter means that I have to be precise about chronology and touch on all aspects of my quite-dull-in-parts life. […] Those bits would mainly be about puddings I’ve enjoyed and when I’ve set the washing machine on the wrong cycle and my quest for comfortable shoes, and the time I put a gun in a kitten’s mouth.”

The style of writing in letters I find can become annoying very quickly, but French masters it! Switching between heartfelt letters of love, to letters that make me laugh til my face hurts. She starts off with a letter to the reader, then a heartfelt one to her deceased father, the letter that follows is one of my favorites. Its a letter to her father, reminding him of the time she was 3 and had secretly wriggled under her parents bed while they were still asleep one morning. Her hand becomes stuck and she calls out for help and what follows is a hilarious account of her nude father leaping from the bed to pull her out, and her shock and dismay to see her father naked for the first time, and that he has a “vicious hairy saggy mole-snake creature” attacking the gap in his legs.

I quickly learned that the Fatty from the title had nothing to do with French’s own  “spherical” shape, but everything to do with her long time comedy partner. I was surprised however to hear her talk about herself and her body with the utmost respect. I cant recall ever hearing a bigger woman who revered her own boobs as much as she, or be completely unconcerned with her shape. It was more then a little bit inspiring. Her letter to her niece was inspiring, telling her to embrace her body, and that if one day she was curse with knockers as enormous as herself to use them to her advantage. I caught up on her life and found that she has recently lost 8 stone (112lb), an amazing feat! She is very upfront for why she did it, in an interview speaks to it being due to her desire to want to be around for her daughter as she grows up and that “I had great fondness for that other body. I knew it very well and I don’t know this one as well, not yet.” and ‘… Well I suppose I’ve always thought that that isn’t really what mattered, and yet by losing all this weight I realise that for a lot of people that is all that matters and that’s really sad. And I refuse to dislike the old body and you know, I may have it again you never know!”

Dawn skips merrily along, touching on her childhood with her family moving about because of her fathers position in the  RAF, and meeting the Queen (another laugh out loud moment), and saunters into her teen years and all the exploration and love it entailed. French describes her family, immediate and extended, with such warmth and love as they require to jump off the page (or in the case of a venomous grandmother makes her seem like more then a one dimensional villain). Her letters to her teen dream celebrities are beyond hilarious as she recaptures all those embarrassing things we all have written to our Hollywood crushes!

Throughout the bulk of the book it is made clear that Dawn has a loving relationship with her father, that he means the world to him, and many of the letters are written to him, She is also clear that at this time her father has already passed away. She makes mentions several times how she genuinely wished he had been around for key moments and key people in her life. When she finally makes it to the letter concerning her fathers death she tackles the topic with grace, humility and complete openness. We learn of her fathers deepening depression and despondency, as well as his tirelessly hard work of keeping the family afloat in a rough economic situation. The she very carefully reveals that her father committed suicide. And she isn’t angry, or at least thats how it reads, she is sad, she obviously misses him, but she understands where he was at and why he did it. She isn’t happy about it, she isn’t glad, she simply excepts that it is what she felt he needed to do. I can only imagine the time, and mental/emotional anguish that had to be mulled through to reach that point. In my opinion this letter is the one that makes the book the most profound.

Overall I would recommend this book to anyone 13 and up, and that’s only cause I’m a prude. Her language and content is mild, and I would be surprised to find anyone who would be offended, but she does with great candour the relationships and experiences she’s had as well as the very delicate topic of her fathers suicide. All in all though, if you want a book that balances hilarity and heartfelt perfectly this is the book for you. If you want to laugh til you cry, or just cry cause its needed, this is a book I would highly recommend.

The First of Many, The End of an Era

I’ve been waffling back and forth about what to write about for the first official entry. I’ve mentally skimmed my bookshelf, mulling over this title and that. Its like trying to pick who will be your best friend for the day, it will make the others angry. And if there is one thing we mustn’t do, its make the books angry. I lovingly stroke their spines and come back to reality. I am at work, listening to the Wailin’ Jenny’s, the hustle and bustle of the rest of the workplace moving around me. I look to Doctor Pink the Dinosaur, he is no help, he is an idiot. I turn to my army of Cyber men, nothing there either, that’s the problem with a hive mind. I twirl my very cool sonic screwdriver between my fingers, and obviously stop typing for a time as twirling and typing are incompatible.

It really is a debate in my mind over whether I should start with an old favourite like the one I spoke about briefly in the opening, or if I should turn my hand at a new gem. At the same time I wonder at the excessive amount of time its taken me to conjure the will (patience, guts, vocabulary) to finally put pen to paper, or rather fingers to key board, and get my passion on the page, figuratively. It really is a busy and jumbled place in my head, I do apologize for going on. And since I cannot locate a new read that I think will be stimulating enough to take an entry, I will choose an old friend and get the two of you thoroughly acquainted. (Though keep your eyes peeled, I’ve started the hilarious memoirs of Dawn French. I cant wait to finish so I can share the hilarity!!)

And so I bring to you one of my first loves, Awake and Dreaming. It marked the first time I picked up and enjoyed something other then the sugar and lolipop everything is going to be ok, childhood brain candy I’d been munching on. Ironic actually now that I look back it. A book about breaking away from the fantasies of perfection, with a main character who also read sugar and lolipop books, who steps up and faces reality.

Awake and Dreaming is written by Kit Pearson, and it was through her that I grew to love and adore literature. It was also the first time I took any stock of who was writing my books, I flipped to the back and was astounded to find out that she was not only Canadian, but had spent part of her time growing up in Edmonton. This fuelled by passion for Canadian authors, and lead me eventually to hunt down Monica Hughes, who became another favourite, but I digress. I had found a book, its cover beautiful and mysterious to me, its author local, its pages new. I cracked it open and fell in head first. Here was little Theodora, living in run down Vancouver apartment with her neglectful mother, being ignored and mistreated by her classmates because of it, and escaping into books filled with perfect families. It is not a perfect existence but one that Theo knows, one she is familiar with. This is all thrown into the wind when her mother tells her she is being sent to live with her Aunt in Vancouver.

On the ferry to Victoria, Theo encounters the Kaldor family. They seem as perfect as the families she has spent so much time reading about and imagining. She follows them and befriends them, they spend their time running back and forth across the deck making games and adventures out of the air. Then as they see the new moon rise they each make a wish, Theo closes her eyes and wishes with all her heart,  I want to be part of this family. She opens her eyes to see her mother pounding angrily down the deck towards her. She utters her  wish out loud in desperation, “Please! I wish I belonged to this family right now!”

Next thing we know our darling Theo wakes up surrounded by a dream world, a dream very specific to her. A cozy warm bed set, a floor littered with toys and clothes and bags, shelves filled with books and photos and treasure. Surely this cant be real, it must be a dream, but here she is, living happily with the Kaldor’s. Eating breakfast, going shopping, attending school, learning to ride a bike, going on adventures on their mountain, and lazy afternoons in the grave yard. It is perfect, everything she ever wanted, ever expected from a perfect family. She is, for the first time, happy. And then she starts to fade away… Slowly at first, they cant hear her voice, forget that she’s there, until she’s invisible all together. In a tantrum of pain and confusion, Theo’s head begins to throb, and the world slips into darkness.

Cruel reality wrenches her back, she is on the ferry, the world bustling around her just as though it never changed. No time had passed, her weeks with the Kaldor’s evaporated, and yet there were the memories. They arrive in Victoria with little pomp, and Theo is given over to her Aunts care. School starts, and a new life unfolds. School is awkward, and Theo slowly begins to make friends and take stock of her surroundings. In a fit of whimsy and determination Theo sets out in a search for the Kaldor’s, and finds them living in the same home, with the same pets, and same children, only with none of the gloss of dreams. What follows is a beautiful story, filled with new expectations, friendships, tears and a ghost.

Looking back I can see why this book appealed to me so much. It was the first book that carried real emotions. I remember the anger I felt at Theo’s mom for treating her so bad. The tightening of fear and sorrow in my chest when Theo started to slip away. The joy and the triumph of Theo finally standing up for herself. It was a book that taught me that while dreams are worth chasing, the world is still very real. This book was the first of many books that would follow me into adulthood, and marked the end of an era. The end of using books just to hide, and using them to learn.

I hope that if you pick up this book it will look into you as much as it did into me, and that it would spark a new interest in all the amazing authors Canada has to offer.

❤ Much Love

A Little Thing About Books

I want this blog to be about books. Simply that, books I’ve read and loved, and books I’ve read and hated. Books I’ve read and been entirely indifferent about.


I’m pretty sure this is the fourth or fifth time I’ve tried to write this opening, and every time I write it and reread it I’m never happy with it. For a blog about books it feels like this needs to be eloquently written, with impeccable grammar and the utmost grace, but truth be told, I’m no author and I always hated my literary analysis classes. To pump out a critical and detached report on the books I’ve read is the total opposite of my goal. I want to write these “reviews”, for lack of a better word, with all the emotion the book gave me. A summery without personal opinion is not one I want to read.

Books and I have had a lengthy relationship. First as an escape from childhood bullies, seeking out beautifully illustrated tomes that would draw me in visually then transport me with words as I cowered among the shelves. Then as I grew older, as  an escape from the every day doldrums that inevitably follow each of us as we fall into routine. Slowly at first, and then more rapidly, these magical vessels for the imagination have made their way into my home and into my heart. My small collection has turned into something akin to a library. I smile every time I move, friends and family heaving and huffing, asking me breathlessly, “What are in these rubbermaids?”, I grin and huff right back, “Just some of my books.” They take up the most space, have absorbed more of my money and occupy more of my time then any other pursuit I have. Which is why I want to dedicate a blog to the adventures I encounter between the pages.

The name of the blog may mean nothing to most people, but it means the world to me. It is a line from one favorite books, from one of my favorite authors, and it marks the first time a book ever made me cry. I had read the first and second book in the series when I was in junior high (out of order I might add), and was very excited when I found the two of them being sold in my local grocery store years later. Low and behold there lay a third book, not new by any means, simply ignored by the ignorance of youth, passed by because I simply hadn’t known to check for more books in a series. Needless to say I snatched all three up and went home to immerse myself. I felt no need to read the first two books, the characters were as familiar to me as if I had read them only hours before. I was disappointed as I read. Where were my characters? Where was the familiar landscape? The messa? The valley and its ring of impassable mountains? But knowing my author, and trusting her love for own creation I kept on. Slowly the old palet returned, new names, new faces, but the same world.

And as we wandered out of the valley, an old friend; but an old friend alone. Mechanical, and immortal, we see Guardian stoic among the bamboo, frozen in time. We pass him, move among the stalks, only to hear a voice creaky and disused “Olwen, is that you?”, we reply in fear ” Who spoke? Where are you?” The voice answers back, full of rust and utter sorrow “You are not Olwen. You are not Olwen!” Not alone in the forest of bamboo, we pan to a grave. The grave of the only thing that gave him meaning, the child grown into a woman, aged unto death, Olwen Pendennis. And inscribed in the stone, words to break a heart, “Where you go I may not follow” That simple passage, the mixture of memory and emotion mingled so delicately together moved me to tears. I couldn’t put it to words, couldn’t even properly understand why, but my heart broke and melted right out my eyes.

Thats what a good book should do, it should move you. It doesn’t have to make you cry, its only happend to me twice, it just has to make you feel something. I’ve yelled at books and had to put them down for a time. I’ve laughed and books and startled friends, family and pets. I’ve been scared by books and needed to leave the light on to sleep. And its these movements, these moments that I want to call into existence here.

Please join me for the journey.

Much love ❤