August 28, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday - Bookish Confessions

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. I've never participated in a Top Ten Tuesday post before, but that's because I usually can't think of 10 things to list. This Tuesday's post was different. Everyone bookworm has bookish confessions - for me, it was just a matter of deciding which ones I wanted to share with you guys.

So here ya go, my top ten bookish confessions:

1.  I love hard covers. So much so, that if I own the book in soft cover and come across the hard cover at a thrift store or in the bargain section of the book stores, I will buy the hard cover to replace the soft cover.

2. Before I purchase a hard cover, I always remove the dust jacket to look at the cover/spine just to see how visually pleasing it is or isn’t. But I never actually remove the dust jackets once I get them home.

3. I was 16 years old when I read Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I loved the book and I fell in love with Jamie Fraser. Now, 10+ years later, I am married and my husband’s name is James Fraser.  Crazy. 

4. I always have a book with me, wherever I go. Even if I’m just going over to a friend’s house – you never know - they could get a really important phone call and I’d just be sitting there for 20 minutes wishing I had a book with me. 

5. I look forward to waiting in the waiting room before appointments just so I can read my book. I also look forward to flying, just for the (mostly) uninterrupted reading time.

6. I have only read the first 3 Harry Potter Books.  I was reading them as they were being released, but then I fell behind and the movies started coming out. I told myself I wanted to re-read the first HP book before the movie and that never happened. This is what I said before each movie. And now I tell anyone who will listen that I plan to have a huge Harry Potter reading/movie watching marathon in which I will read each book, followed by its movie.  This hasn’t happened yet, but it’s on my bucket list!

7. I think it’s really weird when people don’t have any books in their home. I get it, you don’t read a lot, or you use the library, but everyone should own a few books, even if it’s just coffee table books! 

 8. It makes me sad that I will die before I can read ALL the books. When I was really young, I believed that I could read every book in the library and for a few months, I took out books starting on the top shelf of the ‘A's.  
9.  When my husband (boyfriend at the time) and I were moving from the East Coast of Canada, back to the West Coast, he made me lift up all my boxes of books and decide which boxes felt the heaviest. The top 10 heaviest boxes came in the truck with us because hubby didn't want to pay the movers to ship the books across the country for a second time. Seriously. I think we saved maybe 10 bucks.

10.  If I’ve been to an author reading and hear them read out-loud parts of their book, I will then read the entire book in said author’s voice.  So if they have a British accent, I will read the book with a British accent in my head.

Tell me: What are your bookish confessions?!

August 26, 2012

Saigon Sundays: Lil' Swimmer

Of all the things I miss about living in BC, I miss Cultus Lake the most. On a hot summer day, we could jump in our car and be at the lake in under 20 minutes. But what we loved most about the lake was the dog beach area. Saigon, I swear, is part fish. He loves to swim, and I mean LOVE. Other dog owners at the beach were always quite surprised at his love for the water and he put most other water-loving breeds to shame. When Saigon would realize that we were on the way to the lake (which didn't take long - I swear they have a sixth sense for these things!), he would cry in the back seat until we got there. Once there, he would make a bee-line for the water, one time even running straight off the dock!

Saigon would swim all afternoon if you let him. Sometimes getting him out of the water was like trying to get a small child out of the pool - he did NOT want to leave. He was pretty much oblivious to his surroundings, he could care less about the other dogs and people on the beach; he just wanted to swim. And swim he did! Some days he would want us to throw sticks out in the water - which he would never bring back, but then most times, he would just head on out and swim "laps" back and forth.

Saigon makes a swimming buddy: "Bully"...get it? Cause they're of the bully breed ;p

Swimming with one of his favourite humans, my sister Vanessa.

I was looking through old photos and videos on the computer today when I came across the ones of Saigon at the lake. It definitely made me a little sad for the days of summer past. The joy Saigon got out of swimming was priceless. I wish there was somewhere safe and close-by that we could take him out here, but I've yet to find such a place. For now, I'll have to settle for a trip down memory lane.

And just to get an idea of how much Saigon likes to actually swim (and not just run in and out of the water - although he does that too!), here's a little video of him swimming in Cultus Lake.

August 15, 2012

The Summer I Turned Pretty (Summer, #1) by Jenny Han

Summer, the beach, tans, parties, first crushes, first kisses, first loves, forever loves. This book had it all. I felt physically and emotionally transported back to when I was 16 years old and experiencing all the emotions and changes that Belly the main character was going through. When her heart pounded in her chest, so did mine. When her eyes filled with tears out of frustration and anger, so did mine. When her heart was broken, swollen with love, or hurt, I felt it all too. I have never been so physically affected by a book as this one. It was like experiencing life at 16 all over again. The heartbreak, the crushes, the yearning - it was all my heart could handle. At 29 and happily married, it’s easy to forget about the whirlwind of emotions that you go through in your younger years, when you’re discovering first loves and all that comes with it. Would I want to go through it again? No, I wouldn’t, but I had an amazing time escaping in it. 

Belly and her brother Steven, and Conrad and his brother Jeremiah, have spent every summer of their lives at Cousin’s beach. Conrad and Jeremiah’s mother Susannah, is best friends with Belly and Steven’s mom, Laurel. It’s technically Susannah’s beach house, but during the summers, it is home to them all. Belly, the youngest of the four, has always been the “baby”, the first one to be left out, and the first one to be teased. But this summer is destined to be different. Belly is almost 16. She’s no longer a little kid and she has a pretty good feeling that this may just be their last summer all together at the beach house. She’s determined to make it the best summer yet, or at least the most unforgettable. 

I loved all the characters in this book. While Belly could be annoying or immature at times, her actions and reactions were understandable given she was the youngest and of the age where your emotions are so strong, it’s impossible not to let them show through your words and actions. And who can blame her – she had no real girlfriends during the summer – no one to over-analyze every little feeling or thought like girls are known to do.  

And then there’s Conrad and Jeremiah. I have no words. It’s no wonder Belly loved them both - I loved them both! My heart melted when Conrad was introduced. Dark and brooding, there was something about him and the way Belly reacted when around him, that had me swooning from the get-go. Even when he was being a jerk, he was easy to forgive.  Jeremiah – Conrad’s polar opposite – was goofy and charming and so loveable. He was Belly’s best friend, closest confident - the guy she could totally be herself around. It was impossible to pick a favourite. 

Even their mom’s had a large, welcome presence in this book. There’s Laurel, your typical mom – kind, protective, and annoying in front of your friends. And then there’s Susannah.  The mom everyone wishes there mom was like.  She was a breath of fresh air every time she appeared on the page -so gentle and full of love and kindness. I wanted to know her in real life. 

I really can’t rave more about this book. It sucked me in from the beginning and had me bawling my eyes out by the end. Even if you aren’t a fan of YA or love-triangles, this one was so different, and so real. While I can’t wait to get started on the next book in this trilogy, The Summer I Turned Pretty didn’t leave me on a cliff-hanger, or make me want to throw the book across the room. Sure, I want to keep reading about Belly, Jeremiah and Conrad (how could you not?!), but I can honestly say that I closed the book after reading the last page with a satisfied sigh, and tears running down my face.

August 09, 2012

The Land of Decoration, by Grace McCleen

 Judith and her father don't have much - their house is full of dusty relics, reminders of the mother she's never known. But Judith sees the world with the clear Eyes of Faith, and where others might see rubbish, Judith sees possibility. Bullied at school, she finds solace in making a model of the Promised Land - little people made from pipe cleaners, a sliver of moon, luminous stars and a mirror sea - a world of wonder that Judith calls The Land of Decoration. Perhaps, she thinks, if she makes it snow indoors (using shaving foam and cotton wool and cellophane) there will be no school on Monday...Sure enough, when Judith opens her curtains the next day, the world beyond her window has turned white. She has performed her first miracle. And that's when her troubles begin. With its intensely taut storytelling and gorgeous prose, "The Land of Decoration" is a heartbreaking story of good and evil, belief and doubt. Its author, Grace McCleen, is a blazing new talent in contemporary literature.

If I had to describe this book in one word, I would use: Weird. This book was so weird, guys. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t absolutely hate it either. I just didn’t get it. 

Ten-year old Judith lives with only her father, as her mother passed away shortly after giving birth to Judith. It’s clear from the beginning that Judith and her father are very religious, and although the author never tells you which religion exactly, my detective skills tell me they were Jehovah’s Witness. Judith spends her days at school where she is horribly bullied by this awful, awful boy named Neil Lewis (gawd I hated him!), and she spends her evenings at home with her father, reading from the bible. When they aren’t eating dinner or praying or reading, Judith spends her time in her bedroom, where she has created a large diorama, “the land of decoration”, named after the Promised Land in the Bible. She adds to The Land of Decoration with whatever she can get her little hands on – scraps of material, lollipop wrappers, cotton balls, yarn, pipe cleaners, garbage on the sidewalk, literally anything that Judith stumbles upon.  At first I was like, “this is amazing – I LOVE dioramas!” Then things just started to get weird.  

One day, Judith makes something happen in The Land of Decoration that is then replicated in the real world. She’s convinced it is not a coincidence, and around this same time she starts having actual conversations with God. This is where I got confused. I wasn’t sure if Judith could actually talk to God, or if she just thought she could talk to God, or if she had the beginnings of a mental illness. I tried not to over think it and just go with it. At first, things start to look up for poor Judith and then I thought “ok, it doesn’t really matter if she can talk to God or not – if she believes and it helps her confront the school bullies and be a stronger Judith, then that’s the whole point”. But then, this God guy starts to get kind of mean and bully-ish himself. I mean, I’ve never talked to God, but I imagine if I could/did, he’d be a lot more supportive than Judith’s God. Judith’s God reminded more of what the devil would sound like. Judith’s God would present Judith with two choices and obviously, depending on which she chose, there would be consequences to follow. Judith would seek out God for advice/guidance and God would be all like “An eye for an eye” or, “I told you so”. Not cool God, not cool. 

I really liked Judith though. She was so innocent and naive that you couldn’t help but feel for her. The pain she felt from the constant teasing and bullying she endured every day at school was palpable. I wanted to reach through the pages and pound Neil Lewis in the face. I don’t think I’ve ever despised a young boy as much as I did Neil. The bullying that went on in this book, both to Judith and even towards her father, made my blood boil and even brought me close to tears at times.  

Then there’s the ending.  Judith believes more than ever that she can perform miracles and that the world is coming to an end. Her father starts to lose his own faith and starts to emotionally crumble under the constant bullying and vandalism from Neil Lewis and his friends.  I think if the ending had been stronger, my overall feelings of this book would have been different. I was hoping the ending would wrap things up in a way that would make everything that had happened make sense. I felt like there was this big build up leading to the end - all this pressure building up, just waiting to explode (or I guess, the world to blow up). And without giving too much away, the world doesn’t blow up, and it felt like things were too easily wrapped up. And THEN guys, the final chapter is on how to build your own parachute! I understand that Judith's mother left behind a paper parachute for Judith which hangs in her room, but I fail to see the significance. I’ve never claimed to be some literary genius, but I just didn’t get it. 

If you’ve read this book, please, please share your thoughts with me. What did I miss when reading this book? And how can people be comparing it to Room? I do not see the resemblance at all.

August 06, 2012

Oogy, by Larry Levin

Oogy: the cover states, “the dog only a family could love”. But I’d bet that everyone who reads this book will fall in love with Oogy right from the beginning.  You’d have to be a pretty cold, hard person not to have the story of Oogy tug at your heart strings. I mean, come on, he entered this world as an innocent puppy and was almost immediately put to work as a bait dog! Only a few months old, Oogy was found missing half his face and an ear, just barely hanging on. If he hadn’t been delivered to the Ardmore Animal Hospital when he was, he most definitely wouldn’t have survived.  

It’s no secret that I love dogs, but more specifically, I love dogs of the pit bull type. I will always have a soft-spot for them in my heart, always. So really, it was no surprise that I loved this book.  I know not every dog can be saved, but I’m thankful for the people that try and I’m glad when they choose to share their story with the world. I had actually stumbled across this book a few years ago and gave it to my mom for a present, and then this past Christmas,  I unexpectedly received my own copy from my nephews (they know me too well!). 

The author and narrator of this story, Larry Levin, had no intentions of adopting a dog, let alone a rescued bait dog. But one fateful day, when Larry and his adopted twin sons had been at Ardmore to have the family cat put down, they ran into Oogy just as they were about to leave.   When Oogy spotted them, he used all his energy to make a break for the boys.  Larry and his boys were not immune to Oogy’s charm and they instantly fell in love with this kindred spirit, this “oogly” dog. (Get it...oogly...Oogy?).  What happens next is what every dog owner out there already knows: the dog becomes part of your family over night. They steal a piece of your heart and without even knowing it, you love and care for your dog unconditionally. Well, unless you are made of stone. In that case, this book isn’t for you. 

This was a sweet, quick read. While the author would sometimes go off on a bit of a descriptive tangent that really had nothing to do with the story of Oogy, (like, I don’t need to read for two whole pages about how to buckle a car seat into my car thank you very much, or how long you microwave your coffee for), the story did flow nicely and I had a hard time putting the book down. The story of Oogy sucks you in! Oogy’s charm, his goofiness, his love of life jumps off the page at you. Heck, I want to meet Oogy now!  It also helped to know that Oogy is still alive so the probability of a sad ending was low. Not that I didn’t shed a few tears, but that’s only because dog stories, happy or sad, make me tear up. 

So if you’re anything like me, and a sucker for a heartfelt doggy story, then Oogy is your guy...or book. And if you're anything like me, don't read this book in the middle of a food court on your lunch break.

August 05, 2012

Saigon Sundays: One Year Anniversary

This weekend marks Saigon’s one year anniversary since suffering from a fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE). Basically, FCE is a stroke-like event occurring in the spinal cord instead of the brain, where a small fragment of intervertebral disc material suddenly blocks an artery or vein of the spinal cord, resulting in paralysis of one or more limbs. In Saigon’s case, his rear left leg was paralyzed. 

The first line of defence, when treating FCE, is a 48-hour corticosteroid drip, in efforts to reduce inflammation and encourage the blocked material to pass. While the Vets first reaction was to suggest euthanasia should the drip not work, a bit of research on Jim's part told us that if anything, Saigon could be happy as a 3-legged dog.

Those 48-hours were the longest 48-hours of our lives so far, and unfortunately, Saigon made no improvement during them. When we went to pick him up, I prayed that the Vet was wrong and Saigon would greet us on all fours. Sadly, he didn't, but when he saw us, he was a big bundle of wiggles, and he wiggled himself out of the cage and covered us with kisses. We took him home and took it one day at a time, but in the backs of our heads, we were pretty sure we would have to amputate his leg. The first few days were the toughest; Saigon was completely dependent upon us. He couldn't move from one position to another, he couldn't walk and he had no control over his bladder or bowels. We would set him up on his bed and drag him from one room to the other so he could be with us at all times. Once he regained some strength and was able to push himself up into a sitting position, he put a lot of strain on his elbows and we had to keep bandages on them to keep them clean and stop the bleeding. Ironically, even though I was working as a home care nurse at the time and well-trained in wound care, it was Jim that changed Saigon's bandages. I was pretty much a wreck once I got home and I shed a lot of tears in those first few weeks. I'm not sure if I would have managed without Jim as my rock.

On his bed that I would slide around the main floor so he could always keep me in sight

We would set Saigon up on the couch so he could cat-watch, one of his favourite past-times.

All bandaged up!

By the two week mark, once the anaesthesia had long worn off and Saigon was getting stronger, there was still no improvement in his leg. We now had a special harness, the "help 'em up dog harness", that we had ordered online, and it allowed us to lift up his hind legs so he could walk with only his front (like a wheelbarrow). He could now stand unassisted and with some motivation (food!), he could hop forward a few steps. Then one afternoon shortly after this two week mark, Jim and I were hanging out with Saigon in the backyard before getting ready to head out to a BBQ. I'm not sure how it started, but I remember Saigon picking up one of his stuffies in his mouth, dropping it, and barking at us as if to say "throw it for me!"  So we did, but just a few feet away. Saigon hopped after it and brought it back to us. We did this a few more times and each time, Saigon would hop after it, bring the toy back to us and bark for us to do it again! Jim and I grinned at each other and cheered Saigon on. We were like parents watching our first born take his or her first steps. 

All decked out in his new harness (and booty for extra grip) for the first time! He grows to love it.

That was Saigon's huge turning point. From then on, he was more more mobile, and much more willing to try and be mobile. Luckily, the kennel we had boarded Saigon at in the past also ran a hydrotherapy pool there. Fun Free Canine Centre is the most awesome place ever and we dearly miss it now that we are back in Alberta. Karl and Jenny who own and run the place are the best. I had spoken to Karl shortly after the accident and he recommended that we wait for some movement to come back to the leg before trying water therapy. When I called Karl to tell him the good news, we started Saigon on hydrotherapy about three times a week. It was a 45-minute drive each way, but it was worth it. Saigon's left rear leg muscles had atrophied so quickly, but it didn't take long to build them back up.

In the hydro-therapy pool! Saigon loves swimming so this type of therapy just made sense.

It was also around this time that Jim had just accepted a new job in Edmonton and we had to put our house on the market. Knowing that a move was in our very near future, I took Saigon as often as possible for sessions in the hydro-pool to get him as strong as we could before the move. About six weeks after Saigon's accident, I packed up the house and made the 12-hour drive to Edmonton with him and my mom (Jim had already moved). At this point we knew we wouldn't have to amputate Saigon's leg and could only hope that he would continue to improve.

On the 12-hour drive from Chilliwack to Edmonton.

It's hard to believe that it's been a whole year since that time. I'm happy to report that Saigon has gained back approximately 80% usage of his leg. If you didn't know anything had happened to him, you wouldn't even notice that anything was wrong. Of course, we're his parents so we notice little things, but for the most part, we're just happy that he got to keep his leg and can once again enjoy walks! It really is amazing how resilient dogs are. At one point we got a second opinion and I'll never forget that Vet telling me to stop feeling sorry for Saigon because Saigon doesn't feel sorry for himself. He wasn't depressed and he was surrounded by his people. He was happy. That Vet saved my sanity. 

Nowadays, Saigon's a little slower and tires much easier, but he's here, he's whole, and his personality is just as loud as ever.  Jim and I love him with all our hearts and couldn't imagine our lives without him.

Today: Saigon once again enjoys walks and playing fetch!