Sunday, December 30, 2018

A Spectacular Bus Ride in Quebec

This was what delighted me for miles between Montreal and Quebec City on October 7.  

If I got pictures as good as these by shooting on a gray day through a moving bus window, you can imagine what it looked like in person.  We oohed and ahhed and said, "That's beautiful" a thousand times (I may be exaggerating slightly) while all the locals around us ignored the glory around them.  Then, finally, the leaves or our excitement broke through and they too started taking pictures. 


Friday, December 28, 2018

Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It by Gail Carson Levine

If you like playing around with fairy tales...and if you like light comic poetry...try "Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It; False Apology Poems" by Gail Carson Levine. Very clever.  And some of the poems were really funny.

It inspired me to write my own.  It may very well do the same to you.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal

This is such a fascinating topic, and I loved the anecdotes and descriptions of experiments that show hints of what animal cognition means.

Though the concepts and processes the author explained were very interesting and enlightening, at times it got a bit too repetitive, philosophical, or historical for my tastes, and I wished he'd show more concrete examples of the concepts he was expounding on. That said, the concrete examples he did describe were fascinating.   

I loved the discussion of how to create an experiment that really tests what you're trying to test, and doesn't get caught in the filter of your own world view.  Proper experiment construction has to be one of the hardest and most important parts of science.  I think too often we construct tests that are designed to give us the results we want or expect—not just in science, but in statistics, politics, business, and life in general. 

I learned a lot and began to think about animal cognition in a slightly different way.

I would read more by Frans De Waal. 

Monday, December 17, 2018

The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani

This was very good and sad, about a historical event I rather shamefully didn't know much at all about.  In 1947 India gained independence from Britain and split into two countries:  India and Pakistan.  Pakistan was for the Muslims.  India was for the Hindus and everyone else.  If you were caught on the wrong side of the border at the partition, you had to leave.  Violence broke out.  Many people died.  Many more lost everything.  How can normal people become so violent and hateful, especially when they have been coexisting for years?    

And why do we never learn?

The writing was good, but as always in the diary format, I had a bit of a hard time suspending my disbelief.  When you're writing in your diary, you don't remember long conversations exactly.  A diary is also a rough draft, so it's hard to read something polished and sometimes poetic and believe it's a diary entry.  Especially when it somewhat artificially builds suspense.  But this is just my own personal, subjective problem with the diary format.  The format does have its poignancy, especially since she's writing to the mother she never knew.

I liked the characters and the sense of setting and history and the cooking details.  The pacing was good. 

It got just a tad heavy-handed in parts.  I think the message could have been stronger if it were a little more subtle.

I love the way historical fiction can bring to life something you may have only read dry dates about in some history class.  And this particular event is something that is very, very relevant today. For that alone, it's worth reading.  Of course, the people who need to read this are probably the people who won't.  Still, every soul touched, every mind changed, is valuable. 
I would recommend this and I would certainly read more by Hiranandani. 

Friday, December 7, 2018

Montreal, Quebec

Some photos from my trip to Montreal in early October.  The leaves were just turning.  So beautiful--and interesting to see the patterns of how they changed.

The metro:

One tree turning:

More leaves!

Cool decorative gourds.  Gourds and pumpkins were all over on my trip, from Montreal to Quebec City, to Sydney, Nova Scotia, to New York City:

Waterside park with various amusements.  The rope course looked super fun.

Les chuchoteuses (The gossipers) tucked in a little corner.  A young boy was getting a kick out of his mom pretending to gossip with them.

Just another European-looking street in Old Montreal:

We only had a short time in Montreal, but I would go back again.   

For budget travelers, there are various hostels with quite good rates.   

Monday, December 3, 2018

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

This is such a beautiful, sad, happy, loving, heart-breaking book. 

I did have to suspend my disbelief quite a bit (How did Ivan know some of the things he knew?  How would he make comparisons to things he had no experience of?  How did he easily and immediately talk to the dog and elephant if he couldn't talk to people and it took him a long time to understand human language?)  Okay, okay, these are quibbles from a person who likes my fantasy realistic and internally consistent.  But it was so charming and lovely and soulful that I didn't really care much. 

I also thought the mini-paragraph style fit the narrator.

I really liked The One and Only Ivan and would highly recommend it.  I also now want to read more by Katherine Applegate.

More accurate rating:  4.5

Find it on Amazon:  The One and Only Ivan