Happy Canada Book Day 2018!!!

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It is a beautiful day to celebrate Canada Book Day!  Pick up your favourite book and enjoy!

Grab a classic like Anne of Green Gables, reread a Canadian Classic like Margaret Atwood‘s The Handmaid’s Tale.  Revisit a book that you read in highschool like Fifth Business!  Improve your team work skills with Collaborating with the Enemy by Adam Kahane.

Pick up one of the 2018 Canada Reads titles or this year’s winner Forgiveness by Mark Sakamoto  Celebrate books written by the late author’s Richard Wagamese by reading Indian Horse and then going to see the heart wrenching movie, learning about history through his amazing storytelling.

If you have little ones, enjoy a story together.  Some of our families’ favourites are the Paper Bag Princess, Murmel Murmel or I Have to Go Pee by Robert Munsch.

It is a special day to promote reading and celebrate books written by Canadian authors that make this country proud so pick up a book and enjoy!!!

What Canadian authors are your favourite?  What books are you reading?  Add your comments below!!

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Karin Slaughter & Alafair Burke @ Burlington Public Library

Screen Shot 2018-04-22 at 9.59.16 AMOn Thursday, the Burlington Public Library brought together Karin Slaughter and Alafair Burke in a terrific event moderated by Melodie Campbell.  This dynamic duo travelled from their homes in Georgia (Karin) and Manhattan (Alafair), all the way to Burlington, Ontario to delight a room full of readers.

Karin has had a prolific history in publishing, writing 18 books which have sold over 35 million copies in 36 different languages!  She focuses on writing characters, honouring stories of assault and told the audience how she had been influenced by growing up in the time of the Atlanta child killer.  Her idyllic community was on high alert because of the serial killer which led to a more supervised childhood, more time spent inside and more television.  Her parents did not share much information about what was going on so Karin began making up her own stories.  She became a paid author when her dad rewarded her with a quarter for each book!

“Crime fiction’s job is to hold up a mirror to society” (Karin Slaughter)

Alafair is a busy woman – not only does she spend time writing books but also teaches criminal law and is a former prosecutor.  She can’t say no to work and grew up in a house of reading and writing.  Her father (James Lee Burke) is also a popular author yet she attributes her writing to her mother who took her to the library each week.  This excursion gave her father time to write and opened up a world of books for her.  She described her childhood in an era of latch key kids, being careful to lock the door, being mindful of creepy vans and calling 911 many times due to her active imagination.  In speaking about the #MeToo movement, Alafair noted that her books speak to the “worst fears of women” and what happens when we can’t trust those that are closest to us.

Although Karin’s sense of humour is not reflected in her books, she had the audience laughing throughout the evening.  The two authors had a great camaraderie on stage and appeared to be close friends.  Both women are avid readers.  Alafair just finished an ARC of Karin’s later novel and feels that the worst thing about being an author is that she has less time to read.  Karin loves to read and spoke about the loss of Sue Grafton since her books were “like a new friend every year”.

“I write the kind of book I want to read” (Karin Slaughter)

The moderator asked some great questions, starting with inquiring about unusual experiences when researching books.  Karin shared that she had swam with sharks in Melbourne.  She cheekily noted that she had also eaten peameal bacon which got laughs from the Canadian crowd!  She had also completed training exercises at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and attended a simulated school shooter drill  which helped lend authenticity to a novel.  Alafair reflected that “research can be a writer’s worst enemy” and notes that she chose a job that enables her to sit at a desk.  She has had a few research trips including a visit to Quantico.  Her approach to writing is to “spend more time with the characters” and admitted that she has a great “electronic rolodex” of experts.

The authors described their writing days starting with Karin noting that Steve Barry gets up and writes at 6 am laughing and saying “what an asshole”!  She admits that she is lazy and tends to “forget about everybody” and  binge write at her cabin in Blueridge, Georgia where she will go for two weeks at a time creating a “creative shell from not bathing”, staying in her PJs all day and surviving when her father leaves both notes and soup at her door.  Alafair says the “magic” happens when she is up “super late at night” and that she is sometimes writing until the wee hours of the morning.

What are they working on now?  Alafair is doing a project with Mary Higgins Clark (wow, it has been a long time since I read a Mary Higgins Clark novel which were my favourites in the early 90s).  Karin is finishing Pieces of Her which should be out in August and has plans for another Will Trent novel next year.

Both women take their writing seriously and are grateful to be successful authors acknowledging that many authors need to work other jobs or they would live below the poverty lines.  Although Alafair has regrets about her first book, she spoke to the “world of friends” she has made through writing.  While the writing process is isolated, she has a great team of writers and publishers.

I loved hearing Karin’s tale of her first published novel.  Her version of a Gone with the Wind type of book had been rejected, she asked for copies of the rejection letters.  What she found in the redacted letters was that the publishers liked her storytelling style but not the story.  The agent encouraged her to write a thriller and amazingly, she sad down for 17 eighteen hour days, finding her voice and completing Blindsighted.  While her agency took 6 months to read it, she completed a sequel.  When it took the agent another 3 months to read it, she wrote a third book!  She ended up with a 3 book deal over a 10 year period, launching her career.

“Not many people get to do for a living what they really want to do for their lives” (Karin Slaughter).

Despite her success, Karin is mindful of the cost of books.  She remembers her days as a student with limited resources and always wants to give 110% to the readers.  She laughed that it she wrote a “bad book”, it would be the only one readers would remember.  Alafair, who has written 12 books, feels that it gets harder as she writes more books as she wants each one to be better but not similar.  She feels the need to “up the game, or keep moving the game”.

Although crime fiction is not my go-to genre, I had intended to read the books prior to the event.  Since my TBR pile is so large, I sadly ran out of time but am now inspired to enjoy these books and reflect on the fun evening with the authors.

Thank you to the Burlington Library, Harper Collins and  Different Drummer for arranging a great evening!  Thanks also to Kim, for taking great pictures at all the events,  and Shalom for sharing a fun evening!

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Happy Earth Day 2018!

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Artwork by Brendan

“Earth Day 2018 is dedicated to providing the information and inspiration needed to fundamentally change human attitude and behavior about plastics.” (Earth Day Network)

It is a beautiful, sunny day to celebrate our planet!  Earth Day has been celebrated since 1970, starting in the US and spreading worldwide, as more and more individuals learn how important it is to take care of the planet.

What are you doing to be kind to the earth and reduce your plastics?   In our home, we are trying to consume less packaged products, eat less meat, use reusable produce/snack bags and share books through our Little Free Library (double impact as it reuses books and inspires reading)!  I am planting some herbs to keep inside until the weather is warmer and planning my small garden so we will have some fresh produce this summer.  Today, we will get outside and enjoy the sunshine and this week, my daughter’s geography class will be planting trees!

Here are a few great book suggestions for today:

How are you celebrating Earth Day 2018?  What environmentally friendly habits do you have or are you adopting?  Please comment below as to how you are celebrating Earth Day 2018!

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36. Collaborating with the Enemy (Adam Kahane)

Screen Shot 2018-04-15 at 5.18.16 PMAfter reading Adam Kahane’s Solving Tough Problems as part of a change management course (part of the MA Leadership curriculum), I was keen to read Collaborating with the Enemy, his latest book of tips.  Although it was narrated well, I would not recommend the audio version.  Don’t get me wrong, the narration was well-done, but the former student in me recommends sitting down with the book… and a highlighter to get the maximum benefit.  Working in health care, I am used to change but this book helps readers to stop and consider their role in situations and how to help everyone co-create a solution through stretch collaboration which includes open listening.

What is stretch collaboration?  As quoted from Adam Kahane’s website, his methods are described below:

stretch collaboration abandons the assumption of control. It gives up unrealistic fantasies of harmony, certainty, and compliance, and embraces messy realities of discord, trial and error, and cocreation. Stretch collaboration enables us to get things done even in complex situations with people we don’t agree with or like or trust.

Stretch collaboration requires us to make three fundamental shifts in how we work.

First, in how we relate with our fellow collaborators, we must stretch away from focusing narrowly on the collective goals and harmony of our team, and move toward embracing both conflict and connection within and beyond the team.

Second, in how we advance our work, we must stretch away from insisting on clear agreements about the problem, the solution, and the plan, and move toward experimenting systematically with different perspectives and possibilities.

And third, in how we participate in our situation—in the role we play—we must stretch away from trying to change what other people are doing, and move toward entering fully into the action, willing to change ourselves.

Stretch collaboration is challenging because all three of these stretches require us to do the opposite of what seems natural. Rather than shrink away from complexity and conflict, we must plunge into it. Often this feels uncomfortable and frightening.

Kahane’s method of stretch collaboration has been fine tuned during his experiences including working with the South African transition from apartheid to democracy and negotiating with guerrillas, unions and governments.  He lives in both Montreal and Capetown but has spent time solving tough problems around the world.

.For more details, I would suggest getting a copy of the book (and a highlighter)!  Readers can also sign up for free weekly emails providing details of learning how to stretch  to augment your reading.  I am hoping to have an opportunity to hear Adam Kahane speak and watching to see if there are any 2018 events in the Toronto area.

Posted in Audiobook, Leadership, Non-Fiction | Tagged , | 1 Comment

35. Food is the Solution (Matthew Prescott)

Screen Shot 2018-04-12 at 10.40.52 PMIn and effort to eat healthier, I am challenging myself to go meatless for the remainder of April.  In doing so, I borrowed Food is the Solution: What to Eat to Save the World from the library to learn more about the impact of a plant-based diet and to get some meal ideas.  I enjoyed this book and especially love being the first to check out a brand new book!

This book was insightful and while it shared some daunting facts about factory farming, green house gases and the energy used to produce meat and animal products it was written in a supportive manner.  The author did not preach what readers should do but encouraged individuals to reduce their meat intake.  He suggested participating in Meatless Mondays and incorporating more plant based foods into meals.

Growing up eating meals based around meat, it has been surprisingly easy to transition to beans for protein.  I enjoyed the vegetarian lentil tortilla soup tonight, bean and rice soft tacos yesterday and pesto chickpea pasta earlier this week.  It has been great to have leftovers to take for lunch and even the kids have been open to these meals (although my youngest was adverse to the meatless tacos).

The book starts off with a discussion on the impact of animal-based foods on the planet, divided into sections on the earth, water, air and fire.  It was shocking to read that chickens are bred to grow so fast that their bones cannot support them, that pigs are corralled in pens so tight that they cannot turn around and that these factory farms can hold thousands of animals destined for our plates.  It is gross to think about the waste of these thousands of animals and the damage to the land as more space is set aside for meat production.

“The power is on our plates – let’s use it”

I enjoyed reading through the recipes and am committed to eating more vegetables and buying local when I can.  I will try a few new recipes and look for some more vegetarian options for the instant pot.  Feel free to add comments below or email your favourite vegetarian options.  In the meantime, consider your purchases and find opportunities to be kind to the environment!

Posted in Non-Fiction | Tagged , | 3 Comments

34. The Year of Less (Cait Flanders)

Screen Shot 2018-04-10 at 9.13.06 PMAs I strive to live a more minimalist lifestyle, I listened to The Year of Less:  How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store.  It is honest, straight forward and I give kudos to Cait Flanders who not only shared her shopping habits but bravely wrote about her struggles with alcoholism, a brief but destructive meeting with her birth father and the painful divorce of her parents.

After successfully paying off $30000 in debt, this Canadian author found herself slipping back into her impulsive shopping habits.  She decided to stop shopping for anything but necessities and began her challenge by decluttering her apartment.  She got rid of a whopping 70% of her stuff – even her books (ahhh…. I clearly will not be doing that)!  Throughout the year she consumed less, discovered who she could depend on for support and learned who might encourage slipping back into bad habits.

The audiobook was a quick listen (especially when I had it set to 1.25 speed) and has inspired me to consider my closet!  I appreciated the authors openness and strategies for staying away from the mall including fixing items and unsubscribing to emails from your favourite stores.  Listening in the car, I did notice a few repetitive areas.  These sections could have been streamlined with more stringent editing (or perhaps “decluttering”) but overall this book makes readers consider their own shopping habits and concentrate on what makes them happy!

Posted in Canadian, Non-Fiction, self-help | Tagged , | 3 Comments

33. The Woefield Poultry Collective (Susan Juby)

Screen Shot 2018-04-08 at 10.40.26 PMBy coincidence the Woefield Poultry Collective is the second book detailing the experience of  city dwellers moving to the country that I read this weekend.  It is the book of the month for the CanadianContent Goodreads group, chosen for the theme of comedy celebrating April Fool’s Day.  The book which will keep readers smiling has a quirky group of characters that end up in all sorts of calamaties.

Prudence is a struggling writer who inherits a farm from an Uncle that she never knew.  She leaves her rent controlled apartment, arriving in Canada to find a scrubby farm with dilapidated buildings.  She meets an old farmhand named Earl who lives on the property and has a family secret.  He has been caring for a half-sheared sheep named Bertie.  Seth, a young neighbour arrives on the doorstep looking for a place to live after he is kicked out of his family home.  He had a traumatic experience and quit highschool, self-medicating with alcohol.  The cast is completed when Sarah, a young girl moves her prize-winning chickens to the farm and ends up staying while her mother is away.

What could go wrong?  Apparently a lot!  There are sheep shearing difficulties, chicken feathers coloured with magic marker, challenges building a chicken coop not to mention port-a-potties with no locks and an interesting episode at the local home depot!

Prudence is creative as she sells her lacklustre radishes at the farmer’s market and strategizes how to make money and save the farm from foreclosure.

This is a palate-cleansing, light read.  The reader gets to know each character and can’t help but to hope for the best as they struggle to run the farm.  It is one light-hearted disaster after another and I am curious as to what happens in the sequel called The Republic of Dirt: A Return to Woefield. The sequel is now on my  hold list at the library.

Posted in Canadian, Fiction | Tagged , | 2 Comments

32. Flat Broke with Two Goats (Jennifer McGaha)

Screen Shot 2018-04-08 at 10.52.23 AMI love to “read” audio books when I am driving and the library has a great selection to borrow from.  At the top of the listing was Flat Broke with Two Goats:  A Memoir of Appalachia telling the story of a couple who had defaulted on their home after neglecting to pay 4 years of taxes.  With $4.57 in the bank, they had to move to a dilapidated cabin in North Carolina.  This book was permanently available as it is the book chosen for the global Big Library Read taking place from April 2 to 16th.

As the couple slowly paid their debts and reconciled their relationships they were joined in the cabin by mice and even poisonous snakes!  They navigated many challenges set amongst the beautiful landscape but it was hard to think of their creditors losing out while the author, Jennifer McGaha and her spouse still had cell phones and enjoyed craft beers.  While the author struggled to accept her role in their situation she pointed the blame right at her husband although she had only been working part-time and certainly would have been part of the decision to live above their means and send their children to private school.  At the risk of sounding judgemental, the couple continued to make bad financial decisions spending more on veterinarians and the purchasing and care of animals than they likely saved by being self-sufficient.

While I struggled with the description of the couple’s experiences,  I did enjoy the stories of the goats.  Having growing up with goats (Ebony and Ivory), I know what troublemakers they can be!  I remember them as escape artists, debarking a tree and wreaking havoc in my dad’s meticulously tended flower beds.  I think I am still traumatized by the goat breeding experience as a tween… who knew how disgusting billy goats can behave???  Despite the education in goat relations, it was fun to watch the birth of triplets and learn that baby goats must have springs in their feet.  I am grateful for living in the country with a menagerie of goats, horses, cats, dogs and chickens… although my brother might still have nightmares about the rogue rooster chasing him to the bus stop!  Through my own country experiences, I can certainly reflect on the author’s learning curve and remember the gross-tasting goats milk, thin yogurt and home made oatmeal soap that my mother made!

Overall, it was an easy “read” or, shall I say listen.  I appreciate the author’s honesty in telling their story and hope that the couple can use some of the proceeds from the sale of these books to make amends to their creditors and teach their children to avoid similar mistakes.  I also hope that readers will gain a new appreciation for the personality of goats and the importance of living simpler in a time focused on more stuff!

Addendum – for all of my blogger friends:  have you ever had an experience with negative feedback from an author after an honest review?  I try very hard to be balanced and truthful in my reviews but got a negative comment from this author and was subsequently blocked from her twitter account due to my review.  That seems like an odd response from someone who is trying to sell books but maybe speaks to some of the decisions described in the book.  I would guess that her publisher would not support this kind of response but after reading a few other reviews on Goodreads am thinking that she might feel particularly sensitive due to  many posts with VERY strong feelings about her experience and decisions.

Feel free to comment on your experiences with authors below.

Posted in Audiobook, Memoir | Tagged , | Leave a comment

31. Heart Berries (Terese Marie Mailhot)

Screen Shot 2018-04-08 at 9.46.36 AMHeart Berries is a tragic, raw story chronicling a young, indigenous woman’s journey through a dysfunctional childhood and her own tragic experiences prior to her diagnosis with post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disease.  She bravely shares the trauma and abuse that impacted her childhood through a series of essays as she struggles to care for herself and be a mother to her boys.

The writing is almost lyrically beautiful yet hard to follow at times, reflective of  the chaos of her traumatic experiences and intergenerational impacts of residential schools.  She began writing this memoir during her self-admission to hospital.  Readers come to understand her challenges and admire her resilience and honesty.  Heart Berries  openly shares the emotional, physical and sexual abuse that she experienced.  Sadly her mother, a social worker helping others, was unable to save her from this trauma and her father was described as an “abusive alcoholic” who was later murdered.

This book is real.  It is heartbreaking. It is raw.  It is hard to read at times but it is also beautifully written and creates a narrative that is important for readers to understand and reflect on as we think about reconciliation and indigenous issues.  It must have taken great courage and strength to work through her own issues, to talk about her diagnoses and to share her experiences and this book will give readers a glimpse of understanding the intergenerational trauma of residential schools.

Posted in Canadian, Memoir | Tagged , | 2 Comments

30. Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics (Dan Harris & Jeff Warren)

Screen Shot 2018-04-07 at 9.39.38 AMIn my quest for calm within my hectic days, I borrowed an audio copy of Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics to consider during my commutes.  In 2015, I had enjoyed our book club reading and discussion of his first book 10% Happier which led us to participating in a meditation class.  Dan’s everyday approach to meditation and his honest account of his personal challenges is tailored to the busy mom, overwhelmed executive, health care provider or for anyone that needs to slow down and care for themselves.

If you had read my review of 10% Happier, you will know that he had experienced a very public panic attack, on Good Morning America which led to his reassessment of life and his approach to meditation.  He studied the science, went on retreats and interviewed meditation experts.  As a strong proponent for the scientifically proven benefits of mediation, he remains incredulous that others don’t adopt the practice.  Even his own wife could not be converted despite her busy role as a mom, wife and physician.

In his effort to encourage individuals to avail themselves of the benefits of meditation, Dan and his friend Jeff Warren (co-author and Canadian meditator) embark on a journey on a tour bus, spreading their knowledge on meditation, myth busting and encouraging others to make meditation a part  of their lives.  This pilgrimage across the country and the lessons shared form the narrative of this book which is infused with Dan’s sarcasm and sense of humour.  The audio version left me chuckling at times and also considering ways to find ways to insert more reflective moments into my own busy days.

Posted in Happiness, Health and Well-being, Non-Fiction | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment