Room: Everything You Don’t Want Read But Can’t Stop – 5 Stars

Room is everything I didn’t want to read. That said – I couldn’t put it down.

Emma Donoghue has created a horrifying masterpiece. She writes in the voice of five-year-old Jack. And she nails it – describing things in a manner only a five-year-old could, in words he understands, with a vocabulary that only expresses more about the little boy Jack is. You’ll learn who he is, about his wonderful Ma, where they live and play and grow, but you’ll go at his pace.

Donoghue does a brilliant job of revealing character development and plot twists through Jack’s dialogue. For instance – why “wardrobe” is so often the safest place for him to be.

Jack takes the reader by the hand and walks through the world that he’s struggling to simply survive… while showing why “room” is the centre of everything.

Room is about our limitations, bravery, sacrifice, and primal instincts for survival.

This will be on your best-read list this year.

Sometimes I find it important to reveal more about a story in my critiques in order to review it more completely, but in the case of Emma Donoghue’s Room, I couldn’t do that to you. The writing is just that good.


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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A Critique: Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin – Yawn

I was less than impressed with Gretchen Rubin’s Happier at Home. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have ever picked it up if it hadn’t been lent to me by a neighbour. Alas, I finish what I start.

Rubin describes herself as a non-fiction writer. True, but her writing leads the reader to believe she’s aiming more for the self-help style. Rubin herself denies this genre in the book though. If it weren’t for her precise mention of this, I would have remained convinced that Happier at Home was indeed a rough attempt at the self-help genre.

For me, it was:

  • at best – entertaining for a chapter or two
  • at worst – infuriating and frustrating
  • most commonly – a complete yawn

Still, I’d rate it 2 stars, out of 5. Why? Because when you’re finally following one of Rubin’s thoughts, she yanks you out of your focus to tell you about yet another quote. She herself says near the end of the book that she’s obsessed with quotes. My thought: Captain Obvious, sweetheart. Every reader who has made it this far through your book KNOWS you’re obsessed with quotes. They’re a powerful tool when used appropriately, but overuse is distracting, detracts from your overarching goals, and becomes a complete nuisance.

I wanted to like this book. Truly.

At its heart, Happier at Home exemplifies Rubin’s respectable goal to study and experiment with increasing one’s happiness. She chooses a theme on which to focus for each of nine months. Themes include: possessions, marriage, parenthood, interior design, time, body, family, neighbourhood, and now.

The writing is brave, without a doubt. Rubin puts her heart on her sleeve and shares her trials, tribulations, and goals with the reader. I found her writing that centred on relationships and choosing how to think about happiness more worthwhile than the rest, but that comparison doesn’t mean much in this instance because the writing was so completely wishy-washy and self-centred.

I would absolutely not recommend this book. I rate it 2 stars, rather than 1, because Rubin does have a voice, personality and way with her words, but it honestly felt like a memoir of too-often whinging.

To learn more about Gretchen Rubin and her work, visit her website.


Rating: 2 of 5 stars

Business hours, burgers, and bush fires

13 November

Today I’m thankful that my job is just a job. I’m incredibly fortunate that I love what I do. Some days are terrible. I know there will always be some terrible days. I’m glad though that I can leave my work at work. The 9-5 day isn’t for everyone and it may not always be for me either, but now, today, I’m glad that I can leave my work life there at 5pm until I’m ready to meet it again the next morning.

14 November

Tonight I went to a lovely wine tasting with two of my very best friends, then met our fellas at an awesome burger joint later that night. The wine was nice, but the burgers. Oh man. Tonight I’m thankful for beautiful beef.

15 November

It’s been raining, no, not constantly, but it feels like it, for days. And days and days. God knows we need it because of the horrible bush fires we keep having, but I really wouldn’t mind more than an hour or two of sunshine! And for that, I’m so thankful for my warm, safe home. Even more so having watching the news of those struggling with the aftermath of Haiyan in the Philippines. There are lots of organisations sending support. It’s not too late to help. Medecins sans Frontieres is just one of the charities helping. Please, give, if you can.

16 November

Today I’m wonderfully thankful for my sister and how close we are. It wasn’t always that way. As soon as we were living 12 hours apart, we realised how much we needed each other. I think it’s that way for a lot of siblings. Once you finish high school, move away from your home town and don’t have them next to you, things are different. No matter how much we talk or skype, which is fairly often, I miss her everyday. 

 30 Days of Thankful? Read on. It’s good for you :)

30 days of still thankful

9 November

Today I’m thankful for coffee, espresso, and iced lattes. And yes, I had all three of those in one day. I don’t have a problem with caffeine. I have a problem without caffeine.

10 November

I’m so thankful for the arrival of one of my very best friends arriving in Sydney tomorrow, Monday. For two glorious weeks, she and another best friend and I will get into all the havoc we did in uni/college all over again. I’m so excited to share these moments with these two incredible women.

I’m also thankful for these incredible muffins (mine are strawberry with dark chocolate chips!) and the recipes I’ve gleaned from this lovely baking wiz. I would love to own her cook book.

11 November

Tonight I’m reminded how thankful I am for my kitchen. I’m not a stress eater, but I am a stress cooker, if that exists. I wasn’t stressed tonight, but I did make some awesome burritos for our dinner. I love cooking and baking. And I love feeding and taking care of my loved ones. Last year was my first Thanksgiving away from my immediate family. In the past, no matter where in the US, I lived, I always made it back to Boston for Thanksgiving. Last year, for the first time, I hosted the holiday myself for friends here. It was beautiful, and sad, and I’m glad I did it. We’ve created a tradition of our own.

12 November

I took today off from work to visit with one of my very favourite people while she’s in town. Despite her jet lag and feeling a tad under the weather, nothing’s changed between us and I’m so thankful to have her here. I’m thrilled to have her here sick or healthy; it doesn’t matter to me. I just appreciate the time.

 

 30 Days of Thankful? Read on. It’s good for you :)

Sing You Home

I finished this week a book that’s going to stay with me. I wouldn’t say I read obsessively, but I read a lot. Usually about a book a week. This particular week began with Jodi Picoult’s Sing You Home, saw a bit of Ian Vasquez’s Mr. Hooligan and is currently finishing with N. H. Kleinbaum’s Dead Poets Society.

The particular one I had to take more time to reflect on is Sing You Home. As someone who tries to read a bit from every genre, I can appreciate a wide variety of styles. It was the story and characters here, above all, that truly touched me though.

Picoult takes her time telling Zoe’s story. It’s a long book, maybe 400 some odd pages, but every page was worth my time. I can’t always say that about an author. I digress… Zoe walks across the pages of the first few chapters as a struggling wife, struggling to have a baby with her husband of ten or so years. After too many miscarriages, still births and heartaches, Zoe’s husband throws in the towel on their marriage. They’re no longer seeing eye to eye and things are falling apart, as often happens when a family loses a child. This is a pivotal moment for Zoe. Divorce is. She’s lost her son and her husband in one fell swoop and somewhere along the while, nearly loses herself.

The next section of the story reveals Zoe’s re-discovery of her values and dreams. She doesn’t need a husband to have a baby. All she needs is a loving home to raise a child within. Along the way, she meets someone new, as happens in so many Picoult novels, but this time it’s different. Zoe finds herself falling for an old acquaintance who has become her confidant when Zoe was at her lowest. They  fall for one another and the story takes another powerful turn because Zoe finds herself in a woman’s arms, Vanessa’s, for the first time in her life. And, for the first time, she really finds herself.

The last section of the novel describes just how hard a woman born to be a mother will fight for her child. During Zoe’s first marriage, she and her husband had a few embryos frozen so that they could continue to try to have children. It hadn’t worked…. for them.  Vanessa could carry her baby though. The overarching conflict arises here when the fertility clinic reminds Zoe that they’ll need her ex-husband, a born-again Catholic, to sign off on the embryo being used. What could be a simple, giving moment turns into a lawsuit broadcast nation-wide with everyone involved biting their nails.

A page turner, for sure, but more than that, Sing You Home, forces the reader to evaluate for him or herself the value of equality, of love, of gender and of sexuality. What truly puts the concepts in perspective is Picoult’s choice to rotate the narrator of each chapter so the reader is able to recognise various individuals’ point of view.

Learn more about the book on Picoult’s website.

And for good merit, as this is my photography blog, here’s a real gem for you to enjoy–an image filled with love and beautiful boys.

Twelve Kangaroos

Mountains, man. They’re pretty sweet.

No, in all honesty, I do love the mountains. There’s a calmness that comes with living near them. These few photos (more to come), were taken in a recent trip up and past the Blue Mountains. You can see them in the distance.

Mudgee

This dirt road leads to the guest house where my extended family and I stayed for a long weekend. Our first trip down this dirt road was nearly at midnight. We’d been warned to keep our pace slow and caution–wildlife, kangaroos, cows, hares and more had been seen traversing throughout the evening. While the concept thrilled me, my other half just laughed at my excitement. The drive was anti-climactic however. NOT A DAMN THING. And I love kangaroos. You can imagine my disappointment.  Upon arrival, I (sort of jokingly) tell the group that I swear there must only be a dozen or so roos in the entire freaking country and I bet some bloke in a van just drives them around, dropping them off here and there, then picking them up again. For some reason, they found this (and me) hysterical. We ended up seeing plenty of critters the next day… Not more than 12 though.

Mudgee

It was a beautiful trip. And wine filled. Not much beats family, friends, vineyards and birthday parties!

Spontaneity has its place

We had a staff development day at work this week. Half insightful, half shocking. No exaggerations.

The insightful bit was focused on interaction, team skills, and personal styles. We were divided into four generic personality types. I suppose you could label it a simpler Myers Briggs. I was labeled appropriately for the most part. As negative as that sounds, the traits I was defined with were far more positive than those of the stark opposite personality type. That group was joking labeled the  “assholes” while mine received far kinder words, like “empathetic” and “relationship and listening focused”. That was alright. And completely factual on my part. I was also labeled “on the fence”. A bit wishy-washy, right? I do tend to be take my time in making decisions, but I assure you I do dumb things quickly just as often as I do them slowly.

Spontaneity has its place. I found some spontaneity, in fact, when I found this fence last weekend during a family holiday in Mudgee. Striking, isn’t it?

Your new favourite pub game

Get ready for your new favourite game while at the pub with friends. We call it “One, Two, Three, you’re married!”

  • First person that walks by, marry him/her or pass?
  • Second person that walks by, marry him/her or pass?
  • Pass on one and two, you simply must marry the third.
  • One, two, three, you’re married.

And when this guy walks by, I’d recommend “passing”.

A Path Toward Gratitude

We visited this lovely temple on New Year’s Day with some of our closest friends. It’s meant to be a path toward gratitude. It was a lovely walk ending with the ringing of one of the largest bells you’ve ever seen.

On another note, we started a new tradition this year. During the last few months, we wrote a few happy notes down each week. Basically, when something wonderful happened, or even something ordinary and kind, we would write down that memory and place it in a jar on our mantel. Then on New Year’s Eve, we unfolded each note and took turns reading them aloud and reflecting on the past year: where we’ve been, how far we’ve come and the happiness we’ve shared.

Those same notes are now in an envelope, marked with the year, on our book shelf as a token to the past and future. This too has been a path to gratitude.