Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Silly Sausage

He approached us with a squint in his eye and a low growl. My eyes darted left and right, looking for escape. I ran right to freedom. My sister veered left, right into his path. He sprang towards her, as she shrieked. There was no way to outrun his grasp.

He wrapped his big arms around her and lifted her into the air. I looked on, unable to react. She was at his mercy.

A blanket lay draped over the nearby couch. He grasped it and threw it on the ground, followed closely by my poor sister. She wriggled in his grasp, but was doomed to her fate. A chortle escaped him.

He laid her at the edge of the fringed blanket and tucked the end underneath her. Then he proceeded to roll her into its soft embrace. It was too much. I cried out and lunged at him, but his laughter drowned out all noise. I was no match for his strength. I watched helpless as she was spun into the blanket’s hold.

When he reached the end of the roll, he stood up. Her head and little stumps of legs stuck out either end. It was hopeless to even attempt escape.

With a snicker he tickled her little bare feet until she screamed with laughter.

A belly laugh erupted from his frame as my uncle chucked her under the chin.

“My silly sausage,” he remarked to our delight.

 “My turn,” I cried!


To challenge myself and work on improving my writing I have enrolled in an online creative writing class. Our first assignment was to write a 250-word piece on a childhood memory. The class has commented and offered their two-cents worth.

Now it is your turn. Bring on the constructive criticism. How would you grade me?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Museum of Extraordinary Things

The Museum of Extraordinary Things, by Alice Hoffman, © 2014, Scribner

Here is a book right up my alley. We have turn of the century freak shows on Coney Island, mermaids, love at first sight, and true historical tragedies interwoven into a quick fictionalized tale.

Meet Coralie, our resident mermaid, or at least that is how her father would like to present her to the world. Professor Sardie, her father, is far from the warm and fuzzy type. He runs 'The Museum of Extraordinary Things', where he exhibits the likes of a 100-year-old turtle, a butterfly girl (a girl with no arms), a wolfman, fire breathers and when she turns 10, Coralie, his star attraction - the human mermaid.

Coralie is a shy girl, but far from a mermaid. Her webbed fingers are an oddity that Professor Sardie is intent on exploiting, along with his other freaks. But he fails to see the human side of his employers and that is where the story lies. We are more than a sum of our parts.

While I enjoyed Hoffman's book and the images she created, I do have issue with the story. There is so much going on in the book, that characters fail to breathe to life in the pages. Coralie meets Eddie in the woods one day after one of her training swims in the Hudson River. They barely spy each other through the trees, but both fall instantly in love and cannot get each other out of their heads. No rhyme or reason. They never even spoke. Yet that spontaneous love carries them through the turmoil ahead, despite neither of them ever having had much trust or faith in a world that hasn't done them any favours in the past.

Am I jaded in that? Perhaps, but I think that Hoffman could have given more details to help the reader fall in love too.

Hoffman goes on to describe the true events of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and the devastation that it wreaked. I love when authors weave true events into a tale, as I feel like I am expanding my knowledge. But again, events are given short shrift and I was left wanting more. The tale felt rushed towards its conclusion, which I won't spoil for you.

Did I enjoy the book? Yes and it is worth the read. But it has been compared to The Night Circus and in my opinion that is a far superior novel.

On to my next book!

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Goldfinch

The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt; © 2013, Little Brown and Company

The Goldfinch has met with great public acclaim and won the coveted Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2014. It is a 771-page novel that is a force to be reckoned with in its sweeping narrative that ranges from New York, to Las Vegas, and even takes a detour to Amsterdam for its action-packed culmination. Tartt has indepth descriptions, incorporates beautiful prose and draws the reader in with her tale of Theo Decker and his misadventures around the globe.

But did I like the book? Well, that is a harder question to answer.

The plot of the book is interesting. At 13, Theo has begun to hang out with an undesirable crowd. He gets in trouble at school and has to face his teacher with his mother in tow. Before they get to school, they take refuge from the rain in an art gallery where the world famous "Goldfinch" painting is on display. As they have time, Theo's mother insists on seeing it. This twist of fate lands Theo on a turbulent path which it seems he will never shake.

A bomb explodes, killing many people, including Theo's mother. Theo's father had abandoned the family a year before, effectively leaving young Theo an orphan. In desperation, he reaches out to wealthy family friends, who take him in. Life could have seen an upswing, but Theo's father materializes and drags him to Las Vegas to a life of drinking, drugs and a decided lack of parenting.

What polarizes Theo in his drama is the "Goldfinch". In the aftermath of the bomb, he steals the painting and carries it with him. He becomes its protector, even as it is a noose around his neck. It is a stolen possession after all and the authorities want it back.

The story moves back to New York, but I was already struggling at this point. For every new twist, Tartt goes into incredible detail. She expounds on Theo and his friend Boris' drug trips. When Theo moves back to New York and struggles with direction, we get pages of his struggles. I get that he is an addict suffering from PTSD, but I stopped caring about poor Theo's welfare when he walked for blocks and blocks navel-gazing. Every scene had so much detail and, dare I say, it became boring.

But it won the Pulitzer Prize, I hear you say. Yes, it did. And Tartt is a great writer. I don't think I could write better than her by half. But I just wish someone had edited her by half! Or at least a quarter. The book was good, but lost me in its excessive descriptions.

And the ending? I won't spoil it, as I'm sure some of you will read it based on the merits it has won on so many fronts alone, but I did not feel it at all. It didn't gel with the previous flow. I didn't believe Theo in his wrap-up. And as much as I liked her work too, it reminded me of an Ayn Rand diatribe that went on too long.

Kind of like this book review? Yes well, I won't make any money for my opinion today, but that is my two cents worth regardless.

Sorry Donna; good writing, but too long.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini, © 2003, Anchor Canada

In 1975, Amir is 12-years-old. He lives in an affluent neighbourhood in Kabul with his father Baba, their servant Ali, and his son Hassan. Both Amir and Hassan's mothers are gone; Amir's during his childbirth and Hassan's fled as soon as he's born. The boys are a year apart, but despite Ali and Hassan being servants, Baba treats both boys like sons. Much to Amir's occasional annoyance.

While Amir and Hassan lead a mostly charmed life, despite their difference in stations, their world is on the brink of catastrophic change. In 1973, the monarchy is overthrown. Russians are set to overthrow the government and turn Afghanistan into a war zone. Everything is thrown into question. But it is the vile act of bullies after a local kite fight that is the ultimate act that challenges Amir and Hassan's friendship. A friendship now earmarked for failure.

As Hosseini weaves his tale, questions of friendship and loyalty are held up for inspection. Can true friendship exist between different castes of people (Amir is Pashtun and Hassan is a lower caste Hazara)? What would you be willing to do for someone? The biggest question raised though is can you go back and make things right when you feel you have failed someone in the past.

Amir carries the weight of his disloyalty to his friend long after him and Baba flee the war in Afghanistan for the more peaceful climes of California. A phone call many years later gives him the opportunity to go back in time and make a change though. Is he strong enough to face the awful memories that plagued him from the fateful day of the kite fight in 1975? Can he repair the damage done?

If you haven't read this book already, it is well worth the read. You won't find easy answers to your questions, but you just might find that "there is a way to be good again." Forgive yourself your demons and dive in to Hosseini's excellent first novel.

Monday, January 5, 2015

After Midnight

~ click 

The light turns on.
Wind howls outside my window
 - pain
The clock strikes,
after midnight?
the words march on
demand their ink on the page


the mind cries,
but when the light 
is extinguished
the words 
keep marching on...

~ click

Image Source: RGB stock, saavem


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