My Summer in Books

Sunday, 1 October 2017

This summer was one of my best reading seasons in recent memory. I was hitting home runs with every book I was reading, and it seemed that every book I was reading fit my mood perfectly. I have no idea how I managed to keep picking winners for almost the entire summer, I'm not going to continue to question it. 

I also branched out a lot in my reading this summer, reading a little bit of poetry, some plays, and a little nonfiction, which I tend to stay away from in my time off from school. I just found myself interested in a lot of different things this summer, and with the London bookshops making finding new titles and genres so easy, I had no difficulty adding many a poetry collection and play to my TBR.

So onto the summer wrap up! First up: Novels. I read a few of the titles that were shortlisted for the Bailey's Women's Prize for fiction, and I found that of the three I read, I didn't really like two of them. While the Power by Naomi Alderman shook me to my core, I was not into First Love, at all, and Do Not Say We Have Nothing was exhausting to get through, for what was in my mind, not a lot of pay off. 




I also read a lot of really cool dystopian, apocalyptic stuff, which was awesome. I got to finish the Monsters of Verity series by Victoria Schwab, which honestly? Amazing. Every time I pick up one of her books I don't think she can get any better and she does. H O W. I also read Station Eleven as part of the End of the World book club, hosted by Sanne at Books and Quills on YouTube! It was a really fun read, and I really loved the shakespearean themes that ran throughout.






Then I read some lovely romances and a story that is so so so close to my heart. I read both of Carrie Hope Fletcher's fiction books, On the Other Side and All that She Can See, and both were stellar. The exact amount of magic, romance, and suspense that I needed. I also read Alexandra Silber's After Anatevka, which honestly? It broke me. Just wait for my rave review to come out and you'll see how much I loved it. 




On the Other Side by Carrie Hope Fletcher | All That She Can See by Carrie Hope Fletcher | After Anatevka by Alexandra Silber 

Thank you to Pegasus books for providing me with a copy of After Anatevka!

And then there were the books that I can't fit into any category. One book I didn't like at all, I See London, I See France by Sarah Mlynowski, and another book that was fine, but I prefered his other books more, Truman Capote's Summer Crossing. And lastly was a reread for me: The Little Mermaid. I read this one while sat across from the statue in Copenhagen. A magical experience.

 




And now we can move onto the plays that I read! I started out the summer by reading Peter and Alice by John Logan, which was a recommendation from Jen Campbell, and I wasn't expecting this to hit me as intensely as it did. I love Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland, and I think the stories behind the pieces are so fascinating, and i've never seen anyone tell those stories like this. The other play that I read and reread was Angels in America by Tony Kushner. I keep asking myself why did I wait so long to read this immensely powerful and beautiful piece? But then I realized that I read it at the exact right time for me. Again, wait for my review when I try to put all my feelings into coherent thoughts and words.


 



Now, onto everything else! I read one poetry collection, one short story collection, and two pieces of nonfiction. I read Lara Bozabalian's Tourist, which was so delightful. Lara was my spoken word teacher at Arts Camp from 2011-2014, and being able to revisit her work was spectacular and so grounding to me. I love her, and if she's reading this, I hope she knows how much her words have impacted me. I also read Treats by Lara Williams, which was, as the title implies, a treat. I heard about this from Leena Norms, and I read this in one sitting, while sat on the couch fighting off jetlag right at the beginning of the summer. It was witty, passionate, interesting, and so so spectacular.


 


I also read The Little Books of Hygge by Meik Wiking, which answered by question of "how can I be a minimalist without getting rid of everything and how can I make candles and sweaters and cakes a solid part of my lifestyle?" Hygge, guys. It's real. I read this on my kindle whilst travelling Eastern Europe and specifically while I was in Copenhagen! I also read Paul Flynn's Good As You, which was a bit lackluster in my opinion. Some of the things he wrote about were interesting, and some chapters were really informative, but it felt more like a memoir than tracing queer culture in the later part of the 20th century.


 



And that is my summer reading! If you've gotten to the end, congratulations and thank you. Let me know what great reads I missed out on this summer, and I will be sure to put them on my TBR! I hope you all had an amazing summer, and are ready to jump right into fall.

Happy reading!



Ocean & A Brief Reincarnation of a Girl by Sue Goyette | Review

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

I read these two poetry collections by Sue Goyette for two different classes and I don't know what to say. I loved both of these so much. They convey such different tones, and tell such different stories, but they get you. Right in the heart place. Okay, let me tell you about them.

Book: Ocean

Author: Sue Goyette

Publisher: Gaspereau Press

Pages: 80 Pages

Format: Paperback (with french flaps!)

Source: Bought for class




The ocean has never had a biographer quite like Sue Goyette. Living in the port city of Halifax, Goyette’s days are bounded by the substantial fact of the North Atlantic, both by its physical presence and by its metaphoric connotations. And like many of life’s overwhelming facts, our awareness of the ocean’s importance and impact waxes and wanes as the ocean sometimes lurks in the background, sometimes imposes itself upon us, yet always, steadily, is. This collection is not your standard “Oh, Ocean!” versifying. Goyette plunges in and swims well outside the buoys to craft a sort of alternate, apocryphal account of our relationship with the ocean. In these linked poems, Goyette’s offbeat cast of archetypes (fog merchants, lifeguards, poets, carpenters, mothers, daughters) pronounce absurd explanations to both common and uncommon occurrences in a tone that is part cautionary tale, part creation myth and part urban legend: how fog was responsible for marriages, and for in-laws; why running, suburbs and chairs were invented; what happens when you smoke the exhaust from a pride of children pretending to be lions. All the while, the anthropomorphized ocean nibbles hungrily at the shoreline of our understanding,refusing to explain its moods and winning every staring contest. 


I've been living in Halifax for about 3 years now, and the ocean is very prevalent. But I had never seen anyone describe it and characterize it quite like Sue does. In Ocean, the ocean is not a force of good, or a force of evil -- it's both and everything in between. Ocean is a life force, allowing life, death, tradition, change, creation, and destruction to flow from it. While it is a collection of poems, all working to characterize the ocean and tell part of its history, it also works as a long poem, where each poem adds a little more to the history and fills out its character a little more. 

I'm not a huge poetry reader. Or, well, I wasn't. But that didn't matter. Poetry can sometimes create a sense that you need a background in it in order to access it, but Sue's poetry invite you right in. It's so accessible, but it still makes you work for it. Not everything is handed to you on a platter, but once you dedicate yourself to Ocean, it keeps on giving. I read this a month or so ago and I am still picking it up and flipping through it. 

5/5 Stars. Please pick this up, support a truly amazing Canadian poet, and get to know the ocean a bit more.






Book: The Brief Reincarnation of a Girl

Author: Sue Goyette

Publisher: Gaspereau Press

Pages: 64 Pages

Format: Paperback (with french flaps!)

Source: Bought for class




In 2006, a four-year-old Massachusetts girl died from prolonged exposure to a cocktail of drugs that a psychiatrist had prescribed to treat ADHD and bipolar disorder; her parents were convicted of her murder. In The Brief Reincarnation of a Girl, Sue Goyette strives to confront the senselessness of this story, answering logic’s failure to encompass the complexity of mental illness, poverty and child neglect (or that of our torn and tangled social ‘safety net’) with a mythopoetic, sideways use of image and language. Avoiding easy indignation, Goyette portrays the court proceedings’ usual suspects in unusual ways (the judge, the jury, the lawyers, the witnesses and the girl’s troubled parents), evokes the ghost of the girl, personifies poverty as a belligerent bully and offers an unexpected emblem of love and hope in a bear. Like the utterances of a Shakespearean fool, Goyette’s quirky, often counter-logical poems offer a more potent vision of reality than any documentary account, her eulogy for a girl society let down renewing the prospect for empathy and change. 

This one got me right in the heart place. This long poem focused on the court case surrounding a 4 year old girl who was killed by a cocktail of prescription drugs given to her by her parents and her doctor. This was heart-wrenching, and frustrating, and made me want to rip my hair out, but then you get to the ending and it all makes sense. Everything comes full circle and you're left feeling hopeful and redeemed. Sue's got a way with words, so even when you don't know what she's saying on an intellectual basis, she makes it so clear the emotions she conveying and you get it. The characterization of the parents and the courtroom, in direct contrast with the wide eyed curiosity and innocence of the little girl worked so beautifully with one another, and those 60+ pages flew by. I read this in one sitting, and would recommend doing the very same.

This was one of the first long poems i'd ever read beginning to end and it was really interesting to see the difference in reading poems, collections, and long poems. I loved that this one told a full story. I think i'd recommend this to people before Ocean, as this one was easier to get into.

Again, 5/5 Stars. 



Happy Reading!

Moving to London | Life Update

Saturday, 1 April 2017



So, i'm moving to London for the summer.

This has all happened quite quickly, but I'm very excited. I am moving to London in 18 days. Guys. Guys. I have so much to do and no time to do it but I genuinely cannot wait for this.

My original summer plans were to find a job in Toronto and live at home, but after spending a solid 3 months emailing and applying to as many places as I could, I decided -- why not have a little fun with summer? So, I'm moving there to be an 'au pair' for some family friends, and I cannot wait to see them. 

I've travelled a little before, but mostly within Canada and the US. I went to France about 5 years ago, and that was spectacular, and i've had the travel bug ever since. I've always wanted to go to the UK and see the amazing history and culture that it holds, and I am bouncing off the walls excited. 

I am debating whether or not to start up a new blog about my adventures as an 'au pair' and my travels, or to just write about it here, so if you have strong opinions, please let me know! This will hopefully not hinder my new years resolution of being more active on this blog. I also hope to read a lot of books set in London, and maybe do a bookish tour of London. Who knows! Everything is a bit up in the air at this point.

So. 18 Days. I finish my 3rd year of University. I move into a new house. I travel across the ocean, 6000km away from home, and start a new adventure. And I couldn't be more excited.

Thank you for reading, and I can't wait to share this experience with you.

Life Syllabus

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

I love Leena Norms. She is by far one of my favourite YouTubers. Her content is so lovely and I will put on her videos in the background while I'm getting my work done, cleaning my room, or writing my to do lists. She's so thoughtful, and intelligent, and she says what i'm always thinking about saying but am too afraid to. She talks about how she uses her degree, and her relationship with books, and herself, and her body. I truly love her content.


A few weeks ago, she posted a video called "Life Syllabus" where she reimagined life as a class. She assigned a 'reading list' made up of things that she wished she had consumed earlier. She assigned homework of experiences she thinks people should have. She asked exam questions -- Questions with no answers, but more food for thought.


I loved this idea, and I decided that I was going to translate this into a post. I don't know how this will work but let's get to it.



Reading List
Things to Consume

Television

Who Do You Think You Are?

This show follows different celebrities in every episode and traces their lineage as far back as they can. I love watching this because it's a good lesson for putting things into perspective. It creates this sense that this has all happened before and it will all happen again. 


Documentary

     
Man on Wire


Philip Petit's "artistic crime of the century" is documented in one of my favourite documentaries, Man on Wire. I love this because we get to see this man realize his dream before it's even a possibility. His dream couldn't be a reality, and he needed to wait and build up his arsenal before it would ever happen. It's a beautiful story of perseverance and hard work

Ballet 422



Ballet 422 follows Justin Peck, resident choreographer at New York City Ballet, as he creates the company's 422nd ballet, Paz de la Jolla. I love creation documentaries, and this one has one of my favourite endings. Paz de la Jolla, which is a beautiful ballet, ends, and then Justin Peck walks backstage, and gets ready to dance in the next ballet. It's a really understated reminder to not create because of the gratification and validation that can come along with it, but to create because you love it. 


Film

Pride


Pride tells the true story of LGSM, and their work with the miners. I love this story, of two marginalized groups coming together to help one another out. It's got great themes of acceptance and pride (i know, i know) and the way everything is portrayed it spectacular. There are a couple scenes in the dance hall that do a great job of showing that we're not all that different.


Books



Fun Home by Alison Bechdel


If you know me, i've shoved Fun Home into literally everyones hands, and everyone comes away changed. It's a graphic memoir that deals with the realization that our parents are people and are flawed. It's Alison Bechdel's life story, dealing with her relationship with her father, her sexuality, and how the two relate. It's really interesting, since she has intellectualized all of these emotions, and it's this amazing mix of detached analysis and heart wrenchingly raw moments of truth. It's taught me so much about seeing people, even parents and heroes, as people, and recognizing that their word is not law, and they mess up as well.




Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett


Pond is this amazing short story collection that deals with how experience and history can influence how we see the world. It follows a woman who has left her high paying academic job to live in the country. I saw too much of myself in this, in regards to mental health, perfectionism, and relations with others. I think everyone should read this because it's an interesting delve into the idea that sometimes even the most simple things contain multitudes. My favourite story is Stir Fry.



S. by JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst


S. is an absolute love letter to the written word, and a feat of imagination. After reading this, my entire world expanded a bit, and I think it, very simply and in an understated way, says that it's okay to break tradition and do things differently. This book uses an actual novel, as well as marginalia and inserts to tell these three intertwining stories. It's beautiful, and it's also a lesson in patience because you need to take your freaking time with this one.

YouTube



Rosianna Halse Rojas



Rosianna is amazing and I LIVE for Space Camp. She makes very thoughtful and intelligent videos about feminism, mental health, and body image. I love her Backburner series that inadvertently documents mental health through food and her making delicious looking food. I think that seeing a more stripped down version of the vloggers that are in the media, and one that promotes body positivity in a more honest and attainable manner, is a great idea.




Leena Norms, or JustKissMyFrog




Leena is maybe my favourite youtuber. I live for the days she uploads, and I honestly put on her videos in the background when i'm cleaning, or working, or doing anything else. She's so thoughtful and honest and she's not afraid to sound a bit crazy in order to ask the questions she wants to ask. And if there's one thing about Leena to know is that she asks a lot of questions. She's also made me question a lot of things in my day to day life. By watching her, I've become less passive in my own life and I think that's a good thing.


Musicals


Next to Normal



This musical has actually changed my life. At it's core, it tells the story of a family coping with mental illness. It tells the story of a woman who is mentally ill coping with it, and it shows her family and the different ways that an illness can impact a life. I think understanding that mental illness is just as serious and valid as physical illness is a thing so many people need to understand, and when we do, we'll be much healthier people.



Fiddler on the Roof 




This is another one of my favourite musicals, and it's about a Russian Shtetl in Anatevka and Tevye, a milkman, and his daughters. But it's about so much more than that. It's about religious persecution, and the colliding and combining of cultures. It's about tradition and which ones to do away with and which ones will keep a culture together. It's about family, and personal limits. It's one of the most well crafted pieces of theatre i've ever seen, and it's taught me so much.






Course Work
Experiences to Have

See A Counsellor

It's hard, being open and vulnerable in front of someone who you don't know but you're also paying. Whoever your therapist is, they know how hard it can be. But trust them. It's a huge challenge to be able to see a therapist and be able to be so open on the first try, but once you've surpassed that, and are able to be honest to someone else and to yourself about how you feel, you'll get a much better hold on your emotions.

Do Something Just for You



This might just apply to me, but I know that I get so much validation from telling people i'm going to do something and then never following through. Sometimes it's freeing even, to do things for myself, and I think that everyone should have that experience. Whether it's joining a club, or wanting to complete a project, by doing something that no one else knows about, you're doing it for you, and and you have no other expectations





Exam
Brace yourself for a situation


How to Ask for Help


I've left this intentionally vague. Whether it's seeing a banker about financial help, or asking a family member or mentor for help on a big project, I think it's so important to think about how to best ask for help. It's a vulnerable moment for both people, and thinking about the best way logistically to ask for help is important. It's also a challenge as to how you face rejection, and I think that both things are feelings we should be prepared to face.





This was so much fun to write, and I hope that you enjoyed reading this. Please leave me your thoughts in the comments below, and feel free to do this as well! Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day!