Return – Festival Man: A Novel, by Geoff Berner

Ramblings of the past escapades of a drunk musical director who enjoys partaking in drugs to help his decision-making as he chases the ‘next big thing’ by looking at peripheral extremes of music is the Festival Man. It’s 140+ pages of antics set in Canada makes for a quick and entertaining read.  I appreciate that the story is set within the Calgary Folk Fest. Pick it up to support Canadian artists!

“Calgary is big, and it’s getting bigger all the time. The people who run Calgary would give Jane Jacobs an aneurysm, if they ever met her, but they don’t run in the same circles. Calgary believes in ’50-style suburban-development sprawl. If you see it from the air at night, its lights and grid make it look exactly like a massive Pac-Man game laid out flat on the dark screen of the prairie, and the high price of oil is making it ever-expanding, like a flood, but a flood of garbage.”

 

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Recommend – Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

Nick and Amy Dunne tell the story of her disappearance in this thriller/suspense novel. The writing switches back and forth between the husband (Nick) and wife (Amy) allowing for an interesting and engaging unfolding of the truth.

This book gets a ‘recommend’ simply because I couldn’t put it down and ploughed through it in a mere 6 hours.

 

 

Re-Read: The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion

The novel is narrated by the Don Tillman, an “oddly charming and socially challenged genetics professor on an unusual quest: to find out if he is capable of true love.” Professor Tillman is an eccentric fellow whose life is guided by extreme logic and structure.  His world is thrown into upheaval by Rosie – a feisty women on her own quest to find her biological father.

Rosie Project is ranked as a re-read because:

  • it’s a feel good read –  light-hearted and entertaining. It will have you smiling at the oddities of human nature.
  • the story has that everyday vibe to it. You belive that Don and Rosie could be real people meeting and getting to know each other.
  • in an approachable and entertaining way it highlights where logic and emotions conflict. We can all appreciate why people, and love, are complicated.

What is love? The crux of the story, human relations and that funny thing we call love, are at the forefront of my mind these days. Thus, the story hit a chord with me and reminded me that:

  1. We don’t know what we want – As part of Don’s quest (aka the Wife Project) he develops a survey to find a compatible partner. As he spends and enjoys his time with Rosie,  he comes to realize the flaw in this approach: “it dawned on me that I had not designed the questionnaire to find a woman I could accept, but to find someone who might accept me … Claudia had told me I was being too picky but Rosie has demonstrated in New York that my assessment  of what would make me happy was totally incorrect” (pg 202)
  2. If you really love someone, you have to be prepared to accept them as they are – We’ve all heard this before, however it’s far easier to apply.
    ” ‘Don. I’m impressed, but …. changing to meet someone else’s expectations may not be a good idea. You may end up resenting it.’
    I didn’t think this was likely. I was learning some new protocols [social interaction], that was all.
    ‘If you really love someone,’ Claudia continued, ‘you have to be prepared to accept them as they are. Maybe you hope that one day they get the wake-up call and make the changes for their own reasons’ ” (pg 206)
  3. Love is not logical – “3. An inability (or reduced ability) to empathise is not the same as an inability to love. Love is a powerful feeling for another person, often defying logic.
    4. Rosie had failed numerous criteria on the Wife Project, including the critical smoking question. My feelings for her could not be explained by logic. I did not care about Meryl Streep. But I was in love with Rosie” (pg 236)

 

 

 

Return: Kitchen Confidential – Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, by Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain is a chef with 30 plus years experience and notoriety, including books and television shows (ie. No Reservations).

The book is a collection of stories and perspectives he’s gained through his time in the restaurant industry, mostly in New York City. Certainly the man has had quite a lot of adventure during his career.  Often he’s been facilitated by liquor, drugs, the desire for money and questionable decision-making.  Through it all he does have a love for food that has provided him enough drive to make a living as a chef.

This book was suggested as a good traveling book from a buddy. It is an easy and entertaining read should you be interested in food/restaurants/chefs or not. If you picked it up on the run at an airport it would entertain you for a long flight. While interesting I found the order of stories unnecessarily scattered in time and place. The book (some of which was previously published) is simply a platform for him to document his perspective based on his experience.

The most useful part of the book was his opinion on necessary kitchen tools (Chapter: How to Cook Like the Pros), which include:

  1. ONE good chef’s knife, as large as is comfortable in your hand” – it doesn’t need to be expensive or fancy and should reflect the care you’re willing to give your knife at home in the kitchen. Suggested brand: Global (vanadium steel)
  2. offset serrated knife. It’s basically a serrated knife set into an ergonomic handle”
  3. Stockpot, saucepans and thick-bottomed saute pans – they don’t have to be new, consider buying from a restaurant shutting down

To refresh those of my book review scale, each is categorized as either:

  • ReRead  – a really great book. There are too many books out there to read, thus few warrant a second go.
  • Recommend – a good book that I’d suggest to friends
  • Return – a book that I’ll likely forget about

Years in Review …

Just because the blog has been quiet doesn’t mean that life has!  Before heading off on another adventure it seemed appropriate to take stock of what’s happened since the last post in 2012.  Easier said than done!  Here’s the sample platter. Retroactively posting confirms to you the lense you saw places in and what imprinted on your memory. 

  • Prince Edward Island – Amazing summer bike ride from tip-to-tip on the former railway corridor, now recreational trail – Confederation Trail. Beautiful way to see the province while keeping healthy. Experiences the province’s wonderful bed & breakfasts’ and small town restaurants.
  • San Francisco – Lovely place to visit in the spring as the snow melts at home. I got a wicked sunburn to prove it. Yes, it is hilly. Golden Gate Park (not near the bridge) offered a great day with a diverse schedule: 420 celebration, Easter celebrations with Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (complete with a Jesus look alike contest), and outdoor roller skating.
  • Iceland – Odd choice for a Canadian winter getaway. But, totally worth it! Wonderful place for a novice traveller as they make it easy to explore. Reykjavik and area kept me busy and entertained.  Take full advantage of all the wonderful geothermal heated pools!
  • Las Vegas – A place of gluttony and excess, Vegas isn’t my top pick. However, Rollercon only happens in Vegas.The size of this roller derby convention makes the trip worthwhile! Well organized Rollercon offers amazing learning from top notch players and coaches that you simply could not get otherwise! Highlight was getting to play on a banked track.
  • Seattle – How on earth has this place not fallen into the ocean? It’s amazing how humans are so stubborn. Experience Music Project (EMP) Museum is totally underrated and worth a full afternoon’s visit.  The full fields of tulips north of the city were gorgeous.
  • Chicago & Area – Hiking in Starved Rock State Park in jeans in an exceptionally warm spring weekend.  Wonderful place known for its waterfalls, although disappointed at the random garbage people chose to leave lying around. Nobody likes picking up used waterlogged diapers along the path.
  • Vancouver Island – Canada’s west coast earns is reputation for beauty and won’t disappoint! Especially when blessed with sunny days. A paddle boarding adventure off of Gabriola Island was stellar as I was witness to seals and a bald eagle.

Thanks to all those friends who were a part of these adventures!

BOOKS
The past few years have seen a number of books being read too! I’m picking “one” to recommend:
Maddaddam Trilogy (Orxy & Crake, Year of the Flood and Maddaddam) by Margaret Atwood.  Atwood is a well known and very accomplished Canadian author that I’d never had the chance to read. At the recommendation of a friend I took on this trilogy. Not shockingly the post-apocalyptic world is less than ideal and thus the books aren’t a lighthearted read. Rather they’re thought provoking and offer us a reflection on the path we may be leading ourselves down. I’d encourage the trilogy as a worthy investment of time on a well crafted story

Return: To Be Good, by Nick Hornby

Finally I’ve read a Nick Hornby book!  He’s been referenced in reviews of other books I’ve read by authors I enjoy thus it’s great to finally know what all the hype is about. As well a number of his books have been made into films – High Fidelity and About A Boy.

To Be Good “offers a painfully funny account of modern marriage and parenthood, and asks that most difficult of questions: what does it mean to be good? (official website)”.  Through the eye’s of Katie Carr, a wife, mother and doctor we embark on a voyage through the challenges of a normal middle-class nuclear family life.  As her grump of a husband (David) makes dramatic changes in his behaviour thanks to the influence of a ‘spiritual healer’ she is forced to look at herself to see if this is all ‘GoodNews’.

I enjoyed the book because it sees the humour and challenge of everyday life.  It makes one aware that life is always changing and it’s up to you to decide how you are going to ‘ride the wave’.  Are you going to leave your unhappy marriage, or cheat, or stick with it because the option of not being in it is worse?  What changes are you willing to do to make the world better?  Are you all talk, or will you take action?

I would not discourage anyone from reading this book, however I gave the book a RETURN rating because:

  • There are other books from comparable authors (Nicholas Baker, Jonathan Tropper, Douglas Coupland) that I enjoyed more; and
  • I’ve been told this novel is not one of Nick’s best novels.

Recommend: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, by Jamie Ford

This book is a life story (aka love) story told through the eyes of Henry, an American born Chinese boy, growing up in Seattle during the time of the Japanese internment associated with World War II.  The story explores growing up in the turmoil of war, tradition, parents and jazz at the same time reflecting upon how ‘responsible’ adult decisions shaped his life. For a more detailed synopsis of the book go here.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book managing to read it in only a few days.  The story jumps back and forth from wartime (1940’s) to the ‘present’ (1986).  With each chapter you are given one more piece of the puzzle that beautifully comes together in the end.  It appears that the historical (WWII) context of the book is well researched and provides details to an era I’m ignorant of.  While there are a few detail errors in the 1986 portions of the book they didn’t distract from my reading experience – I only realized these errors when pointed out to me directly by online reviewers.  If you’re looking for a page turning historical fiction love story I’d strongly recommend Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.