everydaysparks

Stuff I see, which you might not.

EverydaySparks Book Club

A while back, I thought it would be a good idea to write book reviews here as a way to encourage me to get back into the habit of reading. And to make better progress through the unread books piling up on my bookshelves, bedside table and patch of floor next to my bedside table. I tried to commit to not buying new books until I could at least regain some sense of control: maybe even a one-in, one-out sort of policy. Except I think I may have underestimated my addiction.

Whatevs, today’s book review is for a new book – one that I justified buying as I was recently HELD CAPTIVE by a delayed flight out of Brisbane. Trying to return home from a work trip, I was faced with a couple of unexpected hours to pass in the terminal. Oh, and a dying phone battery. No iPad. And no book. (And no chocolate, but that’s a tragic tale that’s just too sad to re-tell.)

[image from Simon & Schuster]

[image from Simon & Schuster]

We Are Called To Rise by Laura McBride caught my eye – partly for the tag line, “When the worst in life brings out the best in us” and partly because it features an ice cream truck on the cover. I can be easily pleased like that.

It is McBride’s debut novel – a unique perspective that is really well written and difficult to put down. I was going to describe it as ‘easy to read’, in that I quickly became invested in the key characters and their lives and finished the book quickly. But I don’t want to be misleading – I did not always find the concepts ‘easy to read’, a few of the chapters were quite dark and sad.

Yet the skill of the writer is in making the reader want to push through to the end. It’s thought-provoking, challenging and a reminder that all of us are struggling with something. In my humble opinion, it is a very good novel. Here’s the summary (from the Simon & Schuster website)…

In the predawn hours, a woman’s marriage crumbles with a single confession. Across town, an immigrant family struggles to get by in the land of opportunity. Three thousand miles away, a soldier wakes up in hospital with the vague feeling he’s done something awful. In a single moment, these disparate lives intersect. Faced with seemingly insurmountable loss, each person must decide whether to give in to despair, or to find the courage and resilience to rise. We Are Called to Rise is a story about a child’s fate. It is a story about families – the ones we have and the ones we make. It challenges us to think about our responsibilities to each other while reminding us that compassion and charity can rescue even our darkest moments.

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EverydaySparks Book Review #1

I have come up with a clever plan to help with my effort to read more books in 2014. It’s not a resolution, mind, it’s just an effort. Cos it was a resolution last year (along with painting my nails and seeing one new release movie per month) and that didn’t turn out quite so well. I’ve always been a reader – I am very grateful to my folks, who must have passed it on in the genes. I can’t hope to compete with my Dad in the reading stakes, though – he’s chain-reads books like a champ (well, books and more recently that Hay Day farming game on the iPad…grandpas these days…).

Anyways, I have a stupid number of half-read books perched menacingly on my bedside table – from funny books about the Camino, to sad books about the Camino, to educational books about packing for the Camino (probs should’ve finished that one before we went), to a book on advertising in the Mad Men era, to one about passengers on the Titanic. And, for good measure, there are a few more bookmarked on my coffee table. I’m sure there’s probably a name for it somewhere in that psychiatric handbook – bibliodistracta or something like that. But that’s so 2013 – this year, I’m all about making time to read (and that includes finishing) more books.

My clever plan? To read them and then tell you about them here, in case you might like them (or need a gift idea for a book-loving pal). Now, given that I’m recovering from bibliodistracta…and it’s only the beginning of the new year…and [insert another excuse here]…my first book review is for a small, 97 page non-fiction number from 2008. Ann Patchett is an American writer, though I must confess that I’d never heard of her until I read some reference to this book that she wrote following her inspirational commencement address to the almost-graduates of Sarah Lawrence College in New York.

An easy read with a cup of tea. Maybe two cups.

An easy read with a mug of tea. Maybe two mugs.

What now? is a nice little piece of motivation for people who are looking for a new direction or a bit of a sanity check about what they’re doing. I like Patchett’s style – it’s not an over the top, rah-rah, YOU ARE AWESOME kinda pep talk. It’s more of a story about the twists and turns that make up your life’s journey and how there’s really no ‘wrong’ decision –  it’s only in hindsight that you can see how the student became the waitress and the cook and the teacher and then the super-successful award-winning author. Hey presto – just like that!

NB, most pages have more words than this.

NB, most pages have more words than this. But I do like this inside cover.

I think this book is a nice gift for someone who’s finishing their studies or a job or whatever – it’s a small hardcover with lots of cool photos, full of sensible, practical inspiration. It’s a thought-provoking book, but overall I think it’s mostly reassuring: don’t get too stressed about the big question of WHAT AM I MEANT TO BE DOING???? Stop over-analysing; always keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities; learn from the people around you; and be ok with the fact that you’ll never be 100% sure that you’re on the ‘right track’. Because (in my words, not Patchett’s), there’s no such freakin’ thing.

Because I couldn't resist including this pic of grannies in a maze.

Because I couldn’t resist including this pic of grannies in a maze.

If the thoughtful, academic analysis of my first EverydaySparks Book Review makes you realise that you need this book too, you can check it out on Amazon here: What now?

Now, I’m off to finish another book to review before 2015 flies around…

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These boots are made for readin’

I love etsy, the online world of arts and crafts people – some of whom have amazing talent and produce truly beautiful work…and then there are others, who hopefully haven’t packed in a lucrative day job in search of megabucks via their etsy shop. I’ll let you decide which camp this latest find falls into, but in the spirit of St Patrick’s Day, I was taken by the product title: Irish boots with green clover. Legs in the book. 

Off to a good start, I looked further and found a picture, surely worth 1000 words…

Wow. What strange world had I uncovered? What are these legs in the book all about? And what happens to all the bodies? Is there another, slightly poorer selling, series of bodies in the book? Turns out they are fancy bookmarks made by a lady in the Ukraine, whose motto seems to be ‘never stop sharing your LOVE’, which is very nice. But I doubt that the Valentine’s Day version of ‘legs in the book’ were used as a substitute for roses or diamonds by many romantics this year.

Anyways, in case you still can’t quite get how this all works, here you go:

Aha. To top it all off, the legs appear to be shipped to you in a beautiful gift box, which is long and narrow – eerily like a brightly coloured coffin, to be honest. To share your LOVE with some legs in the book, check out Olena’s shop on etsy.

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