Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Clay Girl

Heather sent a care package for my book club
She wanted to be here in person, but we figured out the next best thing...
Last night, my book club reconvened for the year. We take the summer off, as most people are busy and all over the place. In June, we plan out some of the books we plan to read over the course of the year, then take the summer to tackle a few of the TBR pile. By September, we are ready to get back into it.

It is hard to believe that my little book club is into year 9 already. Where does the time go? We have grown into a pretty vibrant group of women though, and I wouldn't trade my ladies in for anything. As I hosted this month, I decided to start our year with a little pizzazz. First, let me tell you how I came to pick up The Clay Girl though.

The Clay Girl 

by Heather Tucker

A table set with wine and Clay Girl treats

Back in the spring, a girlfriend of mine recommended The Clay Girl, by Heather Tucker. From the first page, she loved the prose and the story. As I respect her literary opinion, I too picked up the book. I am always looking for a new book to read, plus I needed a recommendation for my book club. As soon as I started to read Ari's story, I was sold too.

With the power of social media, Corrie's praise attracted the attention of Heather. She commented on Corrie's Facebook thread and I chimed in too, telling Heather that I would be recommending the book to my book club. One thing lead to another and Heather agreed to join us virtually when we met up in September. Yippee!

Jasper love - bookmarks, book stickers,
cards & recommendations
So come this week, Heather and I sat down to figure out Skype. A few hiccups later and all I had to do was set out food, wine, and wait for my ladies to show up. By 8pm, we were ready to call Heather. It was time to discuss the book.

The Clay Girl opens with Ari, an 8-year-old girl, alone and on her way to an unknown aunt's house in Cape Breton. While some of the women in my book club were challenged with the early pages of the book, the story is written from Ari's perspective, and she is a confused young lady just come from a very traumatic experience. It makes sense that the tale is slightly harder to follow, as Ari herself doesn't know what to expect and what is going on. As Ari grows though, her voice and story matures. Before you know it, you are hooked.

We were lucky to have Heather share insights into the book
and her writing of it via a Skype chat
I should share that this story resonated with many of the members of my book club. We are made up of women, mothers, teachers, social workers, lawyers, and people concerned about the world—many of the very people who should have been and were there for Ari. While Ari's world is a dismal one—a drug-addicted mother, an abusive stepfather, a father who commits suicide in front of Ari's sisters, to name a few challenges—she also has a wonderful support system behind her helping her to navigate an extremely challenging childhood. In our discussion with Heather, we learned more about her take on those supportive people and how they influenced Ari's world.

Really though, this book is about resiliency. Yes, Ari has people in her world who help to catch her so she doesn't fall too far, but it is truly herself who fords her path. She leans on people around her, but the strength is all hers. I love how she might have come from a compilation of different people in Heather's life, but Ari was her own force to be reckoned with. The beautiful poster that Heather sent along with book marks and book stickers sums up Ari's inspiring outlook on life.

Dream BIG, be grateful, give, share, hope... You will find the way, if you only believe. Thank you Heather and thank you Ari. Pick up this book and be inspired.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Hug Me, Please!

Hug Me, Please! by Przemysław Wechterowicz, Illustrated by Emilia Dziubak, ©2017, words & pictures (a division of Quarto Knows)

Receiving a book in the mail is always a special treat in my world. When a children's book appears, it is even more exciting, especially for my kids. And even though Hug Me, Please! is geared for children aged 3-5 years, my ten-year old immediately grabbed the picture book from my hands and instantly sat down to read this delightful book.

The skillfully illustrated book warms the heart
of anyone who appreciates the power of a hug
Hugging is a favourite pastime of mine, so it is no wonder I was enchanted by this sweet book. Little Bear and Daddy Bear wake up one day and decide that today would make a perfect day to spread some joy in the forest. Their goal—to deliver as many hugs as they can.

"It felt strange but nice." 

Everyone they meet gets a hug. Mr. Beaver is a bit uncertain, but that doesn't stop him from enjoying the experience. An Old Elk is surprised, but delighted by his hug. A visiting anaconda receives a hug with pleasure. From old to young, small to large, strangers to the forest, and even characters you might not always think to hug, everyone is included.

This simple story reminds us that we could all use a hug some days. They make us feel good, regardless of who we are or what others may think of us. Thank you for giving me the chance to flip the pages of this colourful book Quarto Group! From feel-good story to beautiful illustrations, I loved Hug Me, Please! And now I feel like I need to pass on a few hugs of my own...


Monday, January 23, 2017

Dance of the Jakaranda

Dance of the Jakaranda by Peter Kimani, © 2017, Akashic Books

What better time than the holidays for travel. That is exactly what I got when I picked up Dance of the Jakaranda by Peter Kimani over the holidays. I was whisked off to Africa for a look at Kenya during the years of British colonization and its subsequent independence.

Dance of the Jakaranda opens in the Great Rift Valley in 1901. The first train chugs along the newly built railway linking Nakuru and Mombasa with Reverend Turnbull and Master on board. In second and third class, the rest of the people who broke their backs building the rail line are on board—blacks and browns alike. Class might separate them on the train, but their lives are intertwined and a collision course is inevitable.

Kimani looks at the peoples who shaped a nation in his newest novel. The story follows Babu Salim, an Indian technician, Ian McDonald, the colonial administrator sent to oversee the building of the railway, and Richard Turnbull, a preacher intent on leaving his mark on the African people. The novel delves into the tumultuous race relations between the many people who shaped it. Broken dreams leave their mark and change the shape of history for not only themselves, but the many people who come after, including Babu's grandson Rajan.

We all have faults, but some leave a bigger impact than others. Should the British have tried to enforce their will in shaping a nation, regardless of how many lives were lost and cultures corroded? Can we condemn people for self-serving behaviours, despite the good that invariably comes along with it? Is it ever that easy when the backlash can be as heavy-handed as the original infractions? I think not, as Kimani steps into the minds and hearts of all his characters, regardless of the colour of their skin and decisions they have made, be they good or ill.

Thank you to Akashic books for another book that has me thinking long after the last page is turned. May we all learn the lessons that come from the mistakes we make. 

Thursday, November 3, 2016


Death and dying. I sense a theme. Is it the age I am at? Really? Early forties?! A mite young for contemporaries, but we are exposed to death at any age.

At age of 5, my father died. A few years later, his mother died from grief—god speed Gaga.

The years passed and family friends faded away; some old, many young. Cancer, you fiend, you were often the cause.

Lest you be a stranger, cancer came knocking again. After a seeming lull, you knocked on my door to announce your presence in my husband's life; his leg. You took your pound of flesh, then within a scant few years came calling for the rest.

Thirties—that's what Brad was. Too young, but you don't play with numbers. I have seen children touched by your mark. You are ruthless in your indeterminate arc.

I thought I had made peace with you. After fearing the C-word for most of my life, I saw the other side. Some fought the good fight and won. They looked you in the eyes and met you—survived. They were given a reprieve; the gift of rebirth. Oh, I know it means you lurk forever in the wings taunting with what-ifs, but when given the second chance to cherish every day once more, it is worth the gamble.

But today, you snuck in from the wings. Bert hadn't even seen 60. She lived a good life; rarely drank, drove the speed limit, took care of her mother... No matter. It was enough for you. It seems unjust! She lived for her cats, to do a good job at work, and to make sure her mother was well cared for. Now what? She complained, but not early enough. Surgeons opened her up to find you everywhere. Your chaos was more than anyone could battle. Within a month poor Bertie was gone.

And I found out too late.

No funeral, no mass, no fanfare. It was her way, but leaves me hollow. How does one say goodbye when the guilt of days passed stands in the way of goodbye? I should have called. I could have visited. No more.

I'm sorry Betha. I wish you had been given a fairer shake in this thing called life. More moments, Bigger joy, in depth love to make a heart swoon. It was not to be.

Perhaps this is my reminder to reach for those moments myself. Just this week I noted my lack of joy, the infrequent pangs of love, and the crazy busy life I lead, which, while hectic, doesn't fulfil my heart's desire. Is someone trying to tell me something? Live life before the unknown number of allotted days are gone...

Oh Bert. I am so sorry for your quick departure. I hope you find your way to the next life and discover more joy in it. Blessings to you my friend.

RIP BK. Soar...

Monday, October 24, 2016

tissue paper hands

If I squeeze too tight
tissue paper hands will tear
my dying vigil
your forehead's stress lines
passed to survivors

In memory of my grandmother, Margaret McLeod


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