February 17, 2012

American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

February Book Club Pick: A Sorta Review

Confession: I am not a book snob (at least I don’t think I am). And I have never intentionally turned my nose up at a particular genre of book, but I do naturally migrate towards general fiction when choosing books to read. This is one of the reasons why I love being in a book club so much; often I am forced to read books out of my comfort zone. There are a bazillion books out there I’d love to read! My reading wish-list is always growing, so sometimes book club or book challenges are awesome for pushing you to read a particular book. 
So when I saw that American Gods was February’s book club pick, I was really excited!  I felt like I was “missing out” by having not read anything by Neil Gaiman before but I was also worried at first that I just wouldn’t get this book. I think one of the reasons I’ve been partial to reading anything of the fantasy genre is because I was worried I wouldn’t be able to understand what was going on.  Which is another reason why I like book club – you can talk about and dissect the story and get other people’s take on the book.  

That being said, I’ve been avoiding writing this blog post. I'll admit I didn’t love American Gods. When I would pick it up to read, I enjoyed the story, but I didn’t find myself anxiously wanting to get back to the book during the times I wasn’t reading. And I’m still not exactly sure what this book was about. And unfortunately, only 3 of us in my book club finished the book, so needless to say, discussion about it was at a minimum. 

But if I take away one thing from this book it is this: we may forget about Gods, but that doesn’t mean they cease to exist. We just stop noticing their symbols, their presence. And new Gods are constantly forming, like the God of Technology. But the old Gods don’t want to be forgotten. And so a storm begins...

I would love to hear your thoughts on what you thought about this book, what you thought it was about, and what you took away from it.  Enlighten me book-worms with your literary wisdom!

“What I say is, a town isn't a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it's got a bookstore it knows it's not fooling a soul.”

February 13, 2012

My Not So Baby Sister Turns 24

And a Bookish Memory

On the top of The Chief, Squamish, BC
Today, my baby sister, Vanessa turns 24 years old! I can remember so well, begging my mom for a baby sister and then, when I was 5, Vanessa was born. And she cried. A lot! And I'm pretty sure at some point, I asked my mom to return her.

But today, she is my best friend and my most favourite sister ;)  It took a long time to get to this point though. Five years is a big gap in age when you are growing up. Ten year old`s don`t really have a lot in common with 5 year old`s. But 5 year old`s want to be everywhere their ten year old, older sister is. Vanessa was no exception. She wanted to be everywhere I was. I have memories of going down the block to play at a friend`s house, only to have Vanessa show up at the door a few minutes later. When we no longer shared a room, she would beg to sleep with me, and I, being the big, mean older sister, would make her sleep on the floor next to my bed. Which she happily did for what felt like years. (I am so sorry for this!) We played a lot of barbies together, but only on my terms. Vanessa, I know, fondly remembers my favourite barbie game which involved dumping ALL our barbie stuff into one big pile and then re-doling it out by singing the eenie-meenie-miney-moe song for EACH item.

Clearly, my sister LOVED me big time.

But one of my favourite, bookish memories I have of my sister and I is reading books together. Naturally, being 5 years older, I read a lot to Vanessa. Little Critter and The Berenstain Bears books were some of our favourites. What Vanessa probably doesn't remember though, is that I liked to sing these stories to her (and eventually our little brother). At some point, I decided that just reading the stories wasn't fun, so I decided to sing them instead. All this entailed was picking a tune and signing the words to it. What a horrible idea. Vanessa hated it, but I would insist. I was the bigger sister after all. And she put up with it. Thankfully, I grew out of that phase, but I do get an urge once in awhile, like when I am reading a story to my nephews, to ÈsingÈ the book.

Gone are these days of playing barbies and singing stories. We are now both adults, Vanessa in the prime of her twenties, and I, soon to leave them. She`s the one person I can tell anything, and often look to for advice, even though I`m supposed to be the ``wise, older sister``. I like to think our relationship is on more even ground now, now that our age gap doesn't feel so wide, although we both know I`m still the bossy one. 
Sharing a Laugh
My best friend, and Maid of Honor


Happy Birthday, little sister!

February 08, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green

When I was 16, I was living a life that revolved around doctor and hospital visits, experimental drug trials, IVs, numerous medications and many missed days of high school. I will not even remotely begin to say that I have any idea what it’s like to have cancer, but, I do know what it’s like to be so sick that the hospital is your second home. I know what it’s like to be poked and prodded, to feel alienated from your peers, to have nothing in common with your best friend anymore, to be a part of depressing support groups, to resist falling in love.  John Green did an amazing job conveying all these ideas and issues in this book. He made my heart cry for these characters. He got it spot-on.

In The Fault in Our Stars, we meet Hazel and Augustus, ages 16 and 17 respectively, who meet at a support group for teenagers with cancer. Hazel has Stage IV thyroid cancer that has metastasized to her lungs. She has always been Terminal, but an experimental drug has added a few more years to her life. Augustus, with a diagnosis of osteosarcoma, appears to be in a state of remission. Their attraction is instant, their banter contagious and their friendship just seems meant to be. But Hazel resists falling in love:
“I’m like. Like. I’m like a grenade, Mom. I’m a grenade and at some point I’m going to blow up and I would like to minimize the casualties, okay?” 
They are both witty and clever beyond their years. You root for them throughout the book, both independently and as a couple, the whole time wishing they had never been diagnosed with cancer in the first place. (But then I guess I never would have met either of them as there would be no book).  
 “What a slut time is. She screws everybody.” (p. 112)
Ohhh, time. There’s never enough of it.  And as I get older, it feels like it’s passing too quickly. We’ve all wished, at one time or another, that we could change time: “If I could only go back in time...”, “If I had more time...”, “...I would change this...” etc, etc. There’s no escaping it though. Time passes us whether we want it to or not. For some, it’s a death sentence. Hazel and Augustus know they are running out of time. Literally. But this doesn’t stop them from being teenagers, from flirting, and loving each other with all their hearts. 

This is not a cancer book even though the pages are dominated with cancer. The main characters just happen to have cancer, “a side effect of dying," as Hazel would say. Hazel and Augustus do not let the cancer define them. Sure, it adds ammo to their never-ending witty banter, but this book is void of self-pity and “woe is me” fluff. Instead, we are reminded of true love, a love so strong that it doesn’t matter if someone is sick, or has to be on oxygen 24/7, or accidentally pees the bed one time. It’s about making the most of the time you do have. It doesn’t matter that you might only get another year to be in love with this person, all that matters is that you got to love another person and be loved in return. Life is short and every minute should count. 

John Green has a video blog (vlog) and so I've included the vlog of him reading the first chapter of The Fault in Our Stars:

Now go give someone a hug and tell them you love them.  Oh, and then go read this book.