Category Archives: 2017 Reads

Why You Should Tell Your Story

The Story You Need to Tell by Sandra Marinella, MA, MEd

“Our words create us. Our stories create us. And our writing can re-create us.”

Wise words from Sandra Marinella, a writer who has taught several people how to use personal writing to come to terms with, overcome, and learn from past traumas. And now through the power of this book, she can teach all of us. Every chapter ends with a few writing prompts and exercises that can help us to use personal writing to heal.

She reveals the five stages of writing . . .

  1. Experience your pain and grief
  2. Break your silence and find your voice.
  3. Accept and piece together a difficult or broken story.
  4. Find meaning and make sense of this event or story.
  5. Rewrite your story and find ways to reconnect with your well-being.

and hopes that the “book will give you the following gifts – the power to find your voice, the ability to transform your story when needed, and the well-being that comes from renewed meaning, resilience, and creative living.”

Marinella explains the deep power of story and how the act of reading can help us live our day to day lives. She mentions Keith Oatley’s brilliant metaphor comparing stories to flight simulators. Just as pilots can use flight simulators to train for all sorts of scenarios , we can use stories to help us get through life experiences. We learn from a character’s response to a situation and can then use that knowledge to help us get through a similar time.

Creating our own self-stories is a powerful experience. The writing process allows us to make sense of what has happened to us and to move forward. Marinella puts it this way, “Our brains allow us not only to create our personal story of self, but to edit, interpret, and find meaning in what we are creating.”

So, pick up a pen or open up your word processor and start writing about your life. You have a story you need to tell.

My List of 2017 Reads – updated regularly with every new title I read this year

Darth Vader Ends It

Darth Vader – The Shu-Torun War

These comic stories take place after the events depicted in Episode IV: A New Hope, but before any of the sequel films. It’s really nice to see Darth Vader trying to figure out who he is and how he fits into the Galactic Empire. He needs to redeem himself in the eyes of the Emperor after the destruction of the Death Star.

In this story, Darth Vader goes to a planet to squash a revolt against the empire. And things get messy.

Darth Vader – End of Games

The cover art for the fourth volume of the on-going Darth Vader series is simply brilliant. I love how the Death Star morphs into his helmet. It shows that he, himself, is a powerful weapon and is still under construction.

I can’t get into the story of this one much without giving away any spoilers. I will say that the title has a ring of finality to it. Perhaps Vader is through playing games. Maybe he is coming into his own and figuring out his destiny as the apprentice of the Dark Side of The Force.

This series is very well done and much better than any of the recent films. I wish comic writers would work on the films. This is a story that would work well. Forget Rogue One, or the new trilogy. This is the story die-hard fans can get behind.

My List of 2017 Reads – my continually updated reading log

Max & Charlie Figuring It All Out

Max & Charlie book

Max & Charlie by Zack Lieberman and Louis Neubert

This was a great read. From the very first page, the artwork captures the imagination of the main characters. It is bright and colourful and stylistically stunning.

The opening daydream shows a young boy pretending to be a space-warrior. His dog, a trusty companion in a mission to save the universe. They make a good team, but you can see that the dog isn’t impressed with all of the imaginary play. He just wants to get outside.

When they do go outside, Max pulls on the leash and basically drags Charlie through the streets and parks on New York City. Charlie, seeing that other dogs are fine off of the leash, decides that Max might be as well. But the second he unclicks the lead, Max takes off. Charlie spends the rest of the book chasing him.

The two main characters discover all sorts of interesting things about the city. Charlie meets a variety of characters who all share their philosophy of life and the universe with him. Themes of cooperation, the beauty that surrounds us, and finding your purpose abound in the work.

It’s one of the stories that when you finally get to the last page and close the book, you have a smile on your face.

For Charlie, the journey might have been long and annoying. It started with a simple mistake that had unforeseen consequences. It wore him down and tired him out. But, in the end, he learned something. It was worth it. The journey showed him something he needed to see and he is now richer for it.

Perhaps that is what life is like for us all. It’s about the journey and what we learn along the way.

My List of 2017 Reads – my detailed annual reading log

 

The Flash – Stop Motion

The Flash – Stop Motion (Justice League)

Wally West is the fastest man alive.  If you are a fan of the television show, this version of The Flash is a little bit different. In this incarnation, West, is the only Flash. His uncle, Barry Allen, passed away a few years back.

I was really surprised at all of the violence in this story. The villain kills several people but the descriptions of the killings and the sound effects in this audio book make it all the more creepy.

It turns out that the villain is a speedster who can travel faster than the speed of light. Even worse, this monstrosity was created in a lab and he simple cannot be controlled or stopped. It’s up to West to save the day, with a little help from the Martian Manhunter, Super-man, Green Lantern, and Plastic Man, and Wonder-Woman.

This Graphic Audio presentation features full cast narration and sound effects. The series describes itself as a “movie in your mind.” I think all books have that power. I am a big fan of audio books and find that they don’t really need to be dressed up so much. It’s almost as if they were trying too hard to make this different and, pardon the pun, flashy.

I like how the story dealt with the speed force. It was a different take on it from what we have seen in the television series. I also like how they tried to tackle the science behind it. It might not always work, but I was able to get lost in the story and enjoy a good super hero tale. This book is also available as a prose novel if you would rather read than listen.

My List of 2017 Reads – my ongoing reading log for the year

Stay Driven (Motivation and Inspiration from a Rapper)

Stay Driven by D-O

Stay Driven by Duane D.O. Gibson

D.O. aka Defy the Odds is a rap artist who set a Guinness World Record for the longest freestyle ever, 8 hours and 45 seconds. He has released countless albums and dropped several music videos.

When I saw this book at the library, I thought it was worth the read. As I worked my way through it, it was obvious that it was written for teenagers who are looking for some motivation and inspiration. That makes sense since I found it in the teen section.

Here are a few of the takeaways I took from reading it.

Visualize 

D.O. tells the story of Biggie’s first album for Bad Boy. Apparently, Puff Daddy thought the album needed something else before he released it. It needed a single. So, he masterminded the idea of “Juicy” and asked Biggie to talk about making it big in rap. At the time. Biggie didn’t have all the riches he mentioned in this song. “It was all a dream” as he says in the lyrics. But it was a dream that came true. Puffy knew they needed a single. Biggie went along with it. And it was almost as if they visualized it into existence.

Play with Words

“Over the year I’ve created a rhyming database in my mind. It started when I created my own rhyming dictionary – this was before I found out there were actual rhyming dictionaries. The process of writing my own dictionary helped build my rhyming database.”

What a cool idea! D.O. also talks about how he would read the dictionary to help improve his vocabulary.

Don’t Coast

“I’ve learned that it’s not the talented people who success. Ironically, a lot of talented people don’t success. I’ve seen it time and time again.

These people think they can coast on their talent and not try as hard as everyone else. The problem is, hard workers pass them by.”

D.O. admits that when he started rapping, he wasn’t very good. But he worked at it. There were rappers out at the time that were better than him, but very few of them achieved the success he did. It all came down to work ethic. And D.O. had that in droves.

Be Respectful of Women

D.O. tells a story in the book about losing a rap battle to a female MC. The match was very close and the judges wanted to hear two extra rounds to determine the winner. He could have torn her apart by saying some sexual rhymes, making fun of her weight, or he clothes. These are all fair when it comes to rap battles. However, he said, “It just didn’t feel right to insult her. It just wasn’t my style. I decided that when I wrote songs about women, I’d tell stories from my perspective.”

D.O. lost that battle, but he got invited to an after-party where he made a very important business contact. When he looked around the party, he noticed that the person who did go on to beat that female rapper, wasn’t in attendance. It turns out that he wasn’t invited, because the female host didn’t like this style. She liked D.O.’s though.

Stay Positive

D.O. stayed positive and it opened all sorts of doors for him. He worked hard and achieved his dreams. That is something we can all learn from.

My List of 2017 Reads – a detailed reading log (continually updated all year)

Moo, a Flute, and a Moo-ve to Maine

Sharon Creech - Moo

Moo by Sharon Creech

I absolutely love the way Sharon Creech writes verse novels. The sound and rhythm of her words, jumps right off the page. This particular novel is filled with all sorts of sounds such as a flute melody travelling through the air from an upstairs window, to the sounds of rain and water dripping, to a grizzly, misunderstood neighbour, and of course, to a stuborn cow named Zora.

The story revolves around a family who uproot for no other reason than to find what’s next. The idea comes out of the blue one day as they are all in the car. The twelve year-old daughter of the family suggests that they go to Maine when the topic comes up. She’s not even sure why she suggests it. It just popped into her head at that moment. Of course, she starts to regret it almost immediately when she finds Maine isn’t exactly how she had pictured it to be.

Both her and her brother are a little scared of their neighbour. But they end up working at her farm and taking care of a stubborn cow. That cow ends up changing everything. Just like their move did.

This is a fun read and it was nice to see at the library last week. I have read close to half of her books now. And my all-time favourite book is Heartbeat by her as well.

My List of 2017 Reads – with links to each title I read over the course of the year

Moving Beyond Traditional Relationship Roles

Beyond Mars and Venus by John Gray

Beyond Mars and Venus by John Gray

John Gray has written some amazing books to help people understand and navigate their relationships better. Many of these books are based around the concept of differences. His brilliant metaphor, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, was meant to show that we have much to learn about the other gender.

I enjoyed his last book, Conscious Men. He, along with Arjuna Ardagh, gave us some words to live by. I think it is important to be conscious of our gender identity and how it does not have to be a static thing. We can grow and develop. We can be in touch with our feminine side, and we can strive to understand our partners better.

In this book, Gray talks about how the traditional roles have changed and how we need to be able to adapt to this change to have healthy and happy relationships. He talks of how marriage used to have us fulfilling roles. The men were traditionally the providers and the women the nurturers. This division hasn’t been as black and white for years, however.

Gray argues that we have moved away from Role Mates to Soul Mates. He writes about how women can support men, how men can support women, how we often have different approaches to situations, and how we can work together to build a great marriage.

His thoughts are as relevant as ever and provide us with the wisdom we need to carry on productive relationships. However, this book seemed to be a little repetitive for me. Maybe, it is because he is preaching to the choir. I have been aware of my gender identity for some time now and am working to combat some of the misogyny I see in everyday life.

I also did not like the way this book is formatted. It is off-putting to see the text broken up with large quotations in the middle of the pages. If you flip through the book, you can quickly pick up some tidbits of wisdom, but it is ultimately distracting when reading it. I did not like seeing the sentence I just read in larger type on the same page. It threw off the flow of the text and made it hard for me to continue reading.

I don’t often abandon a book, but I stopped reading this one. I might get back to it in the future. Gray still has good things to say and his message is important. I’m just not impressed with how it is presented or written this time around.

My List of 2017 Reads – an organic reading log (continually updated)

Bif Naked Bears All

Bif Naked - I Bificus

I, Bificus – A Memoir by Bif Naked

I am a huge Bif Naked fan. I have been for a while. She is an amazing performer and a great songwriter, so when I heard she had written a memoir, I knew that I had to read it.

I was hoping I could find out how she got her name. A few chapters in, I thought it had it figured out.

I felt it was my duty to torture Kenny, and it was never long before I took all my clothes off and ran naked, yelling “Chase me!” and waving my arms madly.

She was a young child at the time of that incident and apparently, it wasn’t the impetus for the name. She earned that because of a flyer promotion. At the time, she had already had the nickname of “Bif.”

Few punk bands had female vocalists then. The concern was that switching to a female vocalist would be looked down upon by the male punk rockers, especially in Winnipeg. The guys in Gorilla Gorilla decided to go out large, making gig posters to advertise the upcoming show that read”Come see Bif Naked.” It was a double entendre that basically  baited the naysayers-peers, friends, and fans still disappointed about the previous singer’s departure – to come to the show, even if only out of curiosity to see if I really would be naked. The band plastered the posters all over the city, putting them on practically every street lamp post and mailbox, even gluing them on store windows. It was a massive street-level postering campaign, and it worked. 

I mentioned Bif Naked in my Grade 3 classroom a few years back and my students laughed. I told Bif about this via Twitter.

Bif Naked tweet

I saved that tweet notice in my email for the past four years because it was a memorable exchange from one of my favourite musicians. We tweeted a few more times since then too. (I just wish the logos still loaded properly in my email for this first message)

Part of me didn’t want to know all of the things I learned about Bif Naked in this book. I had to cringe a few times. I didn’t want to see her go through some of what she had to do. I didn’t like to see that she made some stupid choices when she was young. I wanted her to just be a sweet girl who grew into a great poet, musician, and songwriter. I guess she had to go through all of that stuff to become who she was.

I maintain that everything happens for a reason. This theory drove my dad crazy-he believed it was just a way to frame stuff and justify it. He said I am a “great justifier” and a “shamelss predestinist,” and that holding this theory enable me to find a reason for anything.

Maybe it’s best not to meet your heroes. Maybe just listening to the music and tweeting is enough.

If you are a super-fan, and want to learn more, check it out. Or buy a copy to support her if you have never seen her live or own all her albums. And then keep it on the shelf. Either way, let’s celebrate Bif Naked.

My List of 2017 Reads – continually updated all year long

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands (Book Review)

Close-Your-Eyes-Hold-Hands-novel

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian

Emily Shepard used to be a regular teenage girl. She had to deal with her parents who often drank too much, but her life was fairly average. At least, I gather it was from reading this story written in her own words. The problem is that she isn’t the most reliable of a narrator, and she isn’t even that great of a storyteller. In fact, she is rather troubled.

When we first meet Emily, she is homeless and living in an igloo made of trash bags. We soon find out that she has recently become an orphan due to a disaster at the nuclear power-plant. The tragedy has forced the whole town to evacuate and so, not only has she lost her parents, but she has also lost her home.

Even worse than that, her parents served as the scapegoats for the entire tragedy. The news blamed the meltdown on operator error and made reference to the fact that they were both alcoholics and had been drunk that day.

Emily learns that her name isn’t an asset. People angrily lash out and accuse her parents of ruining their lives. So, she adopts the pseudonym of Abby Bliss, after a friend of her favourite poet, Emily Dickinson, and tries to survive on her own.

She is a likable character so it is a little hard to see her go through all of the hardships she does. She is a troubled teenager, and might very well have been one had this tragedy never occurred. But she would, most definitely, had more ssupport and probably not had such a terrible year.

I haven’t read a book like this one in a while. It is told completely from Emily’s point of view and bounces around a lot. It feels like it was written by a teenage girl and is a first hand account of her troubled life.

Here’s an interesting fact about this book. The audio book is read and performed by the author’s daughter. In the afterword of the CD, we hear an interview with Chris Bohjalian and Grace Blewer. It was a really great way to end the story and learn more about how both the text and audio were created.

My List of 2017 Reads – a detailed reading log (made to share)

Second Adulthood Makeover

Blue Satin Nightgown by Karin Crilly

The Blue Satin Nightgown: My French Makeover at Age 78! by Karin Crilly

I have been doing some reading about how women need to reinvent themselves in second adulthood. It’s a very interesting concept that has adults trying to figure out what to do now that they find themselves with a significant amount of time after retiring. Their children are grown and self-sufficient too. A new world of possibilities open up and it is like starting all over again in a new phase of life.

So, when I was approached to review this book for my blog, I thought it would be a nice companion piece to the other material I had been reading for a school project I had been working on.

Karin Crilly had once wished to live in France. She had her honeymoon there so many years ago. Now at the age of 78, and widowed, she decided to return there to live for a year. She didn’t know the language or anyone there, but still set out alone on this new adventure. This memoir tells her story.

The first chapter won a writing contest in 2014 and motivated her to continue the story and complete this book.

Crilly starts off every chapter with a recipe and then fills us in on her adventures in a foreign land. It is interesting to see the cultural differences as well. We see that she navigates this new world quite effectively, even though she still doesn’t have much figured out. It’s a journey of discovery that will help her define who she is in this new age of adulthood.

It’s Karin Crilly’s French Makeover at Age 78. Perhaps she will even find love and get to use the blue satin nightgown referred to in the title. But I won’t give away any spoilers. You’ll have to read it for yourself.

My List of 2017 Reads – with links to every title I read this year

The Smart One – Is She Though?

Jenniger Close - The Smart One

The Smart One by Jennifer Close

The title character of this novel was labelled by her parents as “the smart one.” However, she is not feeling very smart at the moment. Her three adult children don’t quite have it together the way she had expected them to. Her oldest, has left the profession of nursing and is working in retail. She knows that she doesn’t have things together, but doesn’t know where to turn. She runs out of money and is forced to move back home to figure things out and catch up financially. The middle child has just called off her engagement and dumped her fiance. And the baby of the family is in college and getting into a pretty heavy relationship.

This is family drama much like you would see in prime-time television. It would actually make a good series. It’s interesting to see how the labels we put on children can ultimately put limits on their potential. The title character rebelled against her label and “married well” whereas her sister, the so-called “pretty one,” wasn’t able to do that.

The situations of each of the characters bring them back to their childhood home and the mother is left to cope with a very busy household once again. She reflects on her life as we get to explore each of the characters lives in detail through the prose.

The Smart One is a well-written novel that I enjoyed right up to the end. I say that because the end seemed to come up out of nowhere. The book ended in midstream. Maybe that is another reason this would make a good television series. It surely could have continued on. That being said, the novel could have had a better ending too. I much prefer to have closure at the end of a story, even though this is the kind of ending  a lot of stories have these days.

My List of 2017 Reads – my not-so-personal reading log for the year

Spider-Woman – Revamped and Styling!

Spider Woman - New Duds

Spider-Woman: New Duds

Jessica Drew aka Spider-Woman has quit The Avengers in order to live a normal life, something she has never really known. Her plan to just be an everyday investigator is turned upside down when Ben Ulrich helps her out of a tough spot and motivates the reluctant hero to take on a missing persons case.

I try not to give away much in my written reviews but if you don’t want to know anything more about this book, skip the next paragraph.

Spoiler Alert ahead

I really enjoyed the premise of the first story.  It revolves around a group of women who have come up with a very creative solution to leave behind their husbands, ex-boyfriends, and lovers of the super-villain variety. Even with good intentions though, they might be going about things the wrong way.

Spoiler Free Section below

Spider-Woman gets a new costume and new sidekicks in this collected edition of the on-going series. We all knew that she wouldn’t have been content with a normal life. It’s not in her. She is Spider-Woman after all.

My List of 2017 Reads – a continually updated reading log for the entire year

One More Douglas Adams’ Trip Through Space and Time

Doctor Who - Shada by Douglas Adams

Doctor Who: Shada by Douglas Adams (novelization by Gareth Roberts)

Douglas Adams never completed Doctor Who story has finally seen the light of day in a novel that does justice to the story he likely would have told.

I thoroughly enjoyed the story. There were moments that were laugh out loud funny. The dry with and humour of Adams was able to shine through with the dialogue and some of the prose. Roberts wasn’t able to write in Adams’ voice the way that Eoin Colfer did, but I doubt anyone else really could.

The story was originally meant for the 19th season of the classic series and parts of it were filmed with Tom Baker. Unfortunately, it was never completed. Or maybe, this was the form it was meant to take all along. I’m not sure.

All I know is that, as I read it, I found myself thinking, “I wish they had shot this,” and “This could really work with Peter Capaldi’s Doctor.” There were a few moments where I could picture Christopher Eccleston clearly in my mind as well.

Doctor Who fans, no matter the era, will enjoy this book. You can picture your favourite Doctor as you read it, or a combination thereof like I did.

My List of 2017 Reads – a continually updated reading log

My List of 2017 Reads

2017 ReadsFive years ago, I decided to start blogging about every book that I read over the course of the year.

This is an exercise that I would encourage anyone to do. Not only does it give you a chance to share what you read with an audience, but it gives you some pretty interesting data to look at.

I love having this collection of posts to look at, to compare what I read the last few years with what I am currently reading, to see any trends that appear, and to check to see that I am reading a variety of different material.

Here are some of the stats from the last five years.

2012 – 65 books total.

(16 novels, 33 Graphic Novels, 4 Hip-Hop, 4 Teaching-Related, 3 Memoirs, 2 Non-Fiction, and 1 on Writing)

2013 – 61 books total.

(14 novels, 37 Graphic Novels, 2 Memoirs, 2 Non-Fiction, 6 Teaching Related)

2014 – 78 books total.

(11 novels, 50 Graphic Novels, 3 Teaching-Related, 8 Non-Fiction, and 5 on Writing)

2015 – 60 books total.

(12 novels, 31 Graphic Novels, 2 Teaching-Related, 3 Hip-Hop, 9 Non-Fiction, and 3 on Writing)

2016 – 65 books total.

(6 novels,  51 Graphic Novels, 1 Teaching-Related, 3 Music-Related, 1 Non-Fiction, 1 Memoir, and 3 on Writing)

It looks like I should try to read more novels this year and maybe a few less comics. Maybe.

Either way, this post will be updated throughout the year every time I finish reading a new book. So, bookmark this page and come back often to get some information on some titles you can add to your own reading list.

Happy Reading!

NOVELS

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands
Doctor Who: The Lost Adventure by Douglas Adams – Shada
The Flash – Stop Motion
The Martian
The Smart One

Children’s Books

Moo

GRAPHIC NOVELS

Darth Vader – 2 titles (The Shu-Torun War, End of Games)
Max & Charlie – 1 title (Max & Charlie)
Spider-Woman – 1 title (New Duds)
Star Trek: The Next Generation – 1 title (IDW Omnibus)

TEACHING RELATED BOOKS

coming soon

WRITING BOOKS

coming soon

MUSIC RELATED

I, Bificus
Stay Driven

NON-FICTION

Beyond Mars and Venus

Memoir

The Blue Satin Nightgown: My French Makeover at Age 78

Total Books Read in 2017: 15

Now Reading – Star Trek: The Next Generation

startrek_tng_omnibus

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Omnibus

Later this year, Star Trek: The Next Generation will celebrate it’s 25th Anniversary. It’s hard to believe that it has been that long since this iconic sequel to Star Trek took over television and changed the shape of what was to come. That’s no small feat for a little science fiction series many people thought wouldn’t work.

It’s nice to be able to jump back into the crew’s adventures without missing a beat. This 400 plus page omnibus lets us do just that with some beautiful artwork and amazing storytelling.

I especially liked the mirror universe saga in this collection and how it bridged the original crew from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, told some more of Worf’s personal story, and involved the Next Generation crew including Tasha Yar and Ensign Ro. And wait till you see who makes a surprise appearance.

The first story in this collection starts off a little slow, but fans who like Picard going on archaeological missions in his spare time will appreciate it.

This collection brings some old foes from the television series back and really captures what we all loved about the series. It was a a good read that I am sure all Trek fans can get behind.

My List of 2017 Reads – coming soon!

The Martian – Book vs Movie

the-martian-andy-weir

The Martian by Andy Weir

During an intense storm on Mars, the crew of Ares 3 are forced to cancel their mission and evacuate. As the astronauts battle wind and the elements, Mark Watney, is struck by debris. His suit is punctured and the life-sign readings fall flat. The escape rocket is starting to tip over and if they don’t act fast, the entire crew will perish. Believing Watney to be dead, they launch and leave him behind.

Watney regains consciousness and makes it back to the base. Apparently, whatever impaled him had allowed his blood to coagulate around it and form a seal in his space suit. The only problem is that he cannot communicate with his crew or with N.A.S.A. He is utterly alone on an alien planet with little hope of rescue.

It doesn’t sound like a comedy, but this book is full of hilarious moments. Watney uses humour to help himself get through the tough times. There is plenty of suspense as well. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

The Movie

The film makers did a good job of adopting the story. They managed to keep the tone of book and include much of the humourous moments. Unfortunately, they did lose a lot of the life and death  moments that had me flipping pages and not wanting to put the book down. The few that were in the movie didn’t have me on the edge of my seat as much as I was in my initial reading. The final rescue scene was brilliantly shot and I was on the edge of my seat for every second of it.

The Verdict

Read it and then watch it. Or if you have already watched it, read it and get even more in-depth with the story and all of the suspense and comedy it holds. You won’t be disappointed.

My List of 2017 Reads – coming soon!