Category Archives: postaweek2012

Can too much Chicken Soup make you ill?

Shortly after moving here to the UK I bought Chicken Soup for the Canadian Soul. I was (if I remember correctly) at Pearson Int’l Airport at the time, leaving behind my family to come back to the UK. I had that book for years, until a “friend” borrowed it & never brought it back. I loved that book. It made me laugh, it made me cry & above all else, it made me so damn proud to be a Canadian. The original Chicken Soup for Canucks truly was a book for the Canadian Soul, so I was really excited when I found out that there was a second one coming out.

I eagerly waited, hoping that this new offering would be full of the same kind of stories – stories about Canadians who had done honourable things, or about our great heritage, about our tributes to Canadian soldiers who died on foreign soil. So, while at home in Canada I bought it, using the gift card my sister gave me for Christmas.

I didn’t start reading it until the after we got home, and I really wish I hadn’t wasted my money. The first book was amazing – the stories were great. This one? Well, I am less than impressed, I have to say. The sub-title of this book is 101 heartwarming and Inspiring Stories by and for Canadians – These stories are not uplifting, not heart-warming, not inspiring.

One of the first stories in the book is about a nurse who re-counts an event at work where 3 of her colleagues were gushing about the amount of money they save on their groceries by crossing the border from Cornwall, Ontario into Upstate New York. She goes on to mention the fact that the city of Cornwall is an economically depressed place & that if the locals aren’t supporting the local businesses, then what chance do they have? Well, she’s right, but instead of this being a heart-warming or inspiring story, it came across as her being all holier-than-thou. Did she ever stop to wonder why these women cross the border to shop? She says that they all have good jobs – maybe they do, but do their husbands? Sometimes you just have to do what you have to, to survive & if that means shopping in the US where it’s cheaper, then go for it, I say. Groceries in Ontario are bloody expensive – maybe someone should look into why so many people are having to cross the border to buy their groceries!

Another story is about this stupid girl who goes to a hockey game with her boyfriend & pretends to be interested in the game’s rules, asking him loads of questions, just to bug him. OH MY GOD!!!!! Is this what Canadian stories have been reduced to? I’ve only read 26 of these supposedly “Heartwarming and Inspiring Stories by and for Canadians” & I want to choke just about all of the authors so far! I think I might skip the rest of them, just to save myself from repeatedly shouting & throwing the book against the wall!

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False Friends: Book Two by Ellie Malet Spradbery

I received a copy of False Friends: Book Two through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers & I have to say, I really don’t see the point of this book. It is just a never ending (ok, slight exageration, it does have an end) list of English phrases, with their French counterparts. I will readily admit that I didn’t read these – why would you? Skimming was bad enough! This isn’t a book it’s a English/French phrase dictionary. To make matters worse, though they are presented in some form of order, it certainly isn’t an order that would ease searching for a particular phrase, say while in France on vacation. Also, there is no pronunciation guide, so again, it’s just a random collection of phrases that if you don’t already speak better than basic French you probably won’t be able to read, let alone say.

As suggested by the title, this is the second book in a series (which hopefully stops at two).

 

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Merde Happens by Stephen Clarke

Read courtesy of Thor

I have read all of the previous offerings of Merde (lol) & have giggled happily through them all. I love Clarke’s character Paul & love reading about his crazy adventures in the Merde. I think they are brilliant books!

On Christmas Day I downloaded Merde Happens onto Thor, but put off starting it partly because I was already reading a book, but also as the main point of having Thor is so that I can read my review books, not to buy books to read, so there was some reluctance & guilt thrown into the mix. I waited until the day before we returned from Canada to start reading Merde Happens & have been reading it on the bus to & from work most days, which has resulted in a few weird looks from people as they look around to see what I am sniggering about.

I couldn’t recommend the first two books enough & this third installment did not disappoint. Merde Happens sees our protagonist, Paul West hired to be the front man on a tour of the USA, promoting Britain & British ways, as part of a campaign to win the Tourism country of the year. Paul, and his girlfriend Alexa, head off on a grand journey with stops in NYC, Boston, Miami, New Orleans, Las Vegas, then on to Hollywood for the voting (all in a candy-apple red Mini with the Union Jack painted on the roof).  Along the way Paul has the mis-fortune of running into misfortune every step of the way, often with hilarious outcomes.

One of the best things about this series of books (besides the hilarity) is that you don’t necessarily need to have read the preceding books to enjoy the other offerings. All three books are lighthearted, tongue firmly in cheek, looks at the relationships between Brits & the French & all three will have you laughing out loud (the first two slightly more so) & wondering when the next installment will be along. So, will Paul make it to the final city & the final vote in one piece? Will his relationship with Alexa survive all the things that keep happening? Guess you have to read the book to find out!

 

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The Last Resort: A Memoir of Zimbabwe by Douglas Rogers

  I was given this book  by my boss, a Zim expat who has been in the UK for over 20 years. It was his Mother’s book & he says he hasn’t read it – but I am going to suggest to him that he should. The Last Resort is the story of Lyn & Ros Rogers, owners of Drifters, the backpackers lodge. Douglas is their son & is a travel writer. Through his visits to Zimbabwe to see his parents (& to chronicle the 2000 elections) Douglas decides to make a record of what is happening in Zimbabwe – not just to the white farmers, but also to the blacks.

The book begins with Douglas in the UK, where he is a fledgling travel reporter. He sees a report on the news about a white farmer being murdered by the “veterans” who had come to take over his farm & he begins to fear the worst for his parents. He makes the decision to return to Zimbabwe to visit his parents & to cover the upcoming elections. Over the course of many years & many visits Douglas chronicles what is happening in Zimbabwe, through covering what is happening to his family.

His father, a successful lawyer turned farmer, turned game farm & hostel owner, Lyn & his mother, Ros face constant terror – living with the knowledge that white farmers are being killed, that white-owned farms are being repossessed & given to people who have no knowledge of farming & they live in constant fear that they are next. But, they don’t let their fear stop them – quite the opposite, really. They do everything in their power to make sure that they hang onto their game-farm (even after their fences have been cut down & the wires used to poach their animals). Once the animals (and the tourists) are gone it’s a fight for survival in a country of increasing brutality. A country where inflation is astronomical & the government are printing money like it’s going out of style (resulting in Million dollar notes & the necessity to carry backpacks full of bricks of notes to buy even the basics).

Lyn & Ros do everything in their power to succeed – including renting out their once famous & beloved backpackers to a guy who turns the cottages into a brothel (then experiment with growing pot, and eventually they become a watering hole for the illegal diamond traders). Rogers gives a real in site into the Zimbabwe we don’t get to see on the news & a scary Zimbabwe it is! The country is in turmoil, the majority of the white farmers have left the country, heading for Mozambique where they and their farming skills are being welcomed with open arms, taking with them centuries of skills & bringing the collapse of the countries’ farming sector.

Rogers shows us both sides of the coin – speaking to the displaced white farmers (like Piet De Klerk whose sons were early vocal supporters of the MDC – Movement for Democratic Change) and to the “Veterans” who took over the farm.

An example of the insanity propagated by the Mugabe government is Kondozi, one of the most viable commercial farms in the country (formerly owned by the de Klerks). Kondozi is the biggest employer of black labour in the region, with around 6,000 working directly for the de Klerks, and thousands more drawing salaries from jobs that grew to exist because of the farm (ie: teachers in nearby schools attended by the workers’ children, merchants, tradesmen, etc).

But the de Klerks don’t own Kondozi any more & havn’t since 2004, after war veterans drove everybody out. The governor of Manicaland now owns it — because he unilaterally seized it — when he was the Mugabe regime’s transport minister. Kondozi now lies mostly fallow and is a metaphor for the economic ruin of Zimbabwe.The de Klerks now live in a cottage on the back of Drifters, & there Douglas gets to know them – and others. Drifters has become a refuge for whites who have lost everything they worked so hard for over the decades.

Rogers also gets the opportunity to speak to Morgan Tsvangurai, after a political rally. Tsvangurai represents the change that could be in Zimbabwe, but can not presently be. Tsvangurai has high hopes for the country, but can his party oust Zanu-PF in the (then) upcoming elections? Only time will tell.

 The Last Resort introduces us to a lot of characters – people who have stayed in Zimbabwe for a variety of reasons & who are doing everything in their power to survive in a country that has a government hell-bent on destroying the country it presides over. It is a powerful look into the Zimbabwe of today – the Zimbabwe we don’t get to see & I would highly recommend that anyone with any interest in the world at all should read this book. Trust me – you will have a new-found respect for your own country & how good you have it & you will develop a powerful empathy for the people of Zimbabwe (both black and white) & an intense disgust for Mugabe & those who support him (directly or indirectly). Maybe if enough of us take umbrage with what is happening something will get done to change Zimbabwe for the better. I sure hope for the sake of all those left in Zimbabwe that it happens soon!

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Eating my words…

“I don’t have an e-reader & would never (although they do say never say “never”) buy one.” – oh how I knew that those words would come back to haunt me! Technically the above is still partially true – I do now have an e-reader, but I didn’t buy it. Does that count? My main Christmas present this year was a Kindle.

Thor – My Kindle

So now it is time to eat my words! Don’t get me wrong, I am not thrilled with the idea of having the Kindle (which is why I’ve given it the name Thor) – I suspect I am going to have a very volatile relationship with my Kindle, so a strong name like Thor is fitting(for those of you who may not know, Thor is a hammer-wielding god associated with thunder, lightning & storms – aka: volatile things).

I’ve now had Thor in my life for 6 days & I have only bought one book – but haven’t started reading it yet (partly because I am in the middle of a really good paperback about Zimbabwe & partly because I feel like a bit of a fraud).  Need to get over that though, because the reason I needed the Kindle was so that I could continue to read review books. I love the idea of being able to read books & review them here on my blog – books that authors have sent me, or books through the various other possible sources (librarything early reviewers, Netgalley, Smashwords, Nurture Book Tourz, etc), but they are all e-books these days. Not having an e-reader meant that I had to read the books off of my laptop, which I just could not do. This has meant that I now have a massive backlog of books waiting to be read, with no chance of them being read any time soon.

So, now I have bitten the bullet & am the owner of a Kindle (but I’m going to dig my heals in & refuse to like it for a little while longer! 🙂 )

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