Archive for the ‘movie & book reviews’ Category

The Sleeping Buddha

This book was written by Hamida Ghafour, a Canadian journalist who was born in Afghanistan. it is sub-titled ‘The Story of Afghanistan through the eyes of one family’. I had started to read it a few weeks ago. Then President Joe Biden announced last week that he was bringing the US. troops home from Afghanistan. It’s the end of a twenty-year commitment, and has been called by some to be war, by others rebuilding, by others an occupation. I knew my knowledge was incomplete, and largely informed by American news media. So i have finished reading it today, and I have learned a LOT! Hamida Ghafour was sent by a U.K. newspaper to report on the situation in Afghanistan in 2003.

For the next fourteen months, Hamida travelled in her native country, interviewing a wide diversity of people, meeting relatives barely known but often described by her parents, and describing the country after 25+ years and viewing the devastation. This complex land and its inhabitants are proud and gracious, determined to preserve their county despite foreign powers and wars. The first three chapters describe the history prior to invasions by Britain, Russia, and America. The Coalition of nations that commit to rebuilding the country face challenges that can only be understood after learning about the culture and history. An excellent read! Much to think about!


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I love to read, as well as write.  I’ve taken a few good fiction books to the little library box down the block.  I can’t recall who wrote “Tiger Hills”, but it was a great read.  It also taught me about narcissism, because the protagonist, Devi, infuriated me.  I looked up the definition of narcissist online the next day.  Narcissism: a distorted self-image – the pursuit of gratification from vanity or egotistic admiration of one’s own attributes – only listens to herself – lacks empathy – who changes the topic, gets defensive, or gets mad at you when you try to talk about difficulties you’ve been experiencing.  The desire to sustain a relationship can quickly fade.  1. unilateral listening  2. it’s all about me   3. the rules don’t apply to me  4. your concerns are really criticisms of me  and I hate being criticized  5. I’m right.  You’re wrong.  So when things are wrong between us it’s always your fault.

How well a person listens is a primary indicator of mental health or narcissism.  Disparaging or ignoring others’ input suggests narcissistic patterns.  Excessive altruism invites co-dependency and enabling behaviours.  The ability to hear both oneself and the other is bi-lateral listening.  That’s healthy.

I copies this from my journal, written on May 3rd.  I find that writing about the books I read is a great way to remember them.

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The Flame Bearer

This book by Bernard Cornwell describes an uneasy peace between Northumbria’s Vikings and Mercia’s Saxons.  Uhtred of Bebbanburg plans how to recapture his birthright home from his uncle and cousin who usurped his land in a previous battle.  Uhtred has leaned the skills of war fighting throughout Britain, and his reputation inspires and scares others.  This is a fast-moving historical fiction read, full of lusty passionate people, and offers a glimpse into life as it was. Bernard Cornwell has written several novels that describe ancient times, and this doesn’t disappoint his readers who expect fast action, brave heroes, and compelling challenges.

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This book, written by Diana Jones, tells the story of a stretcher-bearer in World War I.  It contains detailed information about the region of Picardie, France, and helps us experience the days and nights before the battle of the Somme.  Inspired by tales from her grandfather, who was a stretcher-bearer in WWI, Diana has researched and expanded the story into a tale of fiction.  Since I have known Diana for several years I have heard about the many revisions to her manuscript.  I had no idea she was a skilled writer as well as a thoughtful wise woman!  I am thrilled to have a personalized copy of her book, which I have recommended to many others.  The Bearer’s Burden may be fiction, but it could be true.  Historical fiction that grips the reader, and makes me want to read more about the European men and women of the last century.

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This book, by W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear, is another of their historical books about the First Nations people of North America.  This book tells the stories of people who lived 7000 years ago.  Major climatic change was ushering in a 3500 year drought, A young dreamer and a courageous woman from another tribe united to lead their people to a new destiny.  As usual, the authors, who are archaeologists and anthropologists, teach as well as inspire, as they show how people lived during a tumultuous dangerous time.  They have the same emotions and thought processes that we have today, so despite their way of life, the decisions made resonate with us still.

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This book by Madeleine Thien won the Giller prize this year, so I was anxious to read it.  I watched Madeleine Thien receive the award, when the Giller prize was announced, and she impressed me as a speaker.  Reading her book later impressed me by her writing and her wisdom.  She tells the story of an extended family in China during years that I knew about slightly through Canadian media.  However, this book shows the rich humanity and passion of the individuals, over years and generations.  Sad.  Sobering.  I cried, and I learned.  I wanted these people to live, and live well, and reconnect.  I wished I played piano and had experienced Goldberg and Brahms and Glenn Gould.  I have only a smattering of knowledge to bring to these pages, so I received much more in return.

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This book, by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett, describes Amanda’s life and her early years as a reporter/photographer.  I remember when she was captured in Somalia and followed her story through Canadian media.  I have read her articles in the United Church Observer, so I knew she had been released.  However, reading about her imprisonment, and how she managed to survive the years of deprivation and torment, has been fascinating to me.  She didn’t give up.  She persevered.  She has a phenomenal memory, and her descriptions of attempts taken and lost mesmerized me.  She found ways to cope, and eventually envisioned living in a house in the sky that sustained her.  At times I was frustrated by her early naivety and her youthful confidence, but I realize that’s because I am old and hesitant to risk.  She wasn’t.  She paid a huge price.    I

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After I read ‘Away’ by Jane Urquhart I phoned my friend Carolyn Pogue to see if she had read it.  Not yet, but she suggested her latest read, ‘Confessions of a Pagan Nun’; by  Kate Horsley.  She teased that the central character seemed similar to her and I, so I was intrigued.  Fortunately the library had a copy available, so I have read it.  Perfect!  It follows a woman through her life living in Ireland at the time of the transition from Druids to Christians, so it’s dark ages, historical, full of impoverished hungry people and dramatic changes.  A sobering read, and makes me realize anew all the horror stories about the Christian doctrine, including the stupid practice of celibacy for priests and nuns.  What a sad history.  Well-intentioned, but inadequate to meet human needs.   Ever thus, I fear.


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Still More Books

I continue to read, as well as write.  The more recent books have been by Jane Urquhart, who wrote ‘Away’ about 15 years ago.  It was new to me, but after I raved about her writing to a friend, I borrowed two more books by her. “The Stone Carvers’ was lovely, and since I was reading it the same weekend as the 100th Anniversary of Vimy Ridge, very appropriate.

I have just looked at the pile of books beside the sofa, and found ten that I haven’t written about, so I’ll add these to future blogs.

I have written another play, and it’s gone through 5 revisions so far.  Who knows if it ever will be produced?


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I spend time each day reading a book, whenever I can.  I don’t consider a day well-spent unless I have read about an hour.  Of course, on the occasional days when I have two or more activities out of the house, I don’t read at all.  However, this is what I’ve read since Christmas:

Grace Lee Boggs: The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty First Century

Nevada Barr: Flashback ( another mystery thriller with Anna Page, Park Ranger)

Ian McEwan: Enduring Love (fiction, a puzzling style, based on a true story, & made me think a lot about love, obsession, and religiosity)

Plus my favorite magazines, Alberta Views (this issue about Alberta’s finances), the United Church Observer (always good articles), and History (the latest issue about 25 great Canadian women).  So life is good when I can read!

In putting these last books away on the shelf (I haven’t decided where they go next!) I saw a book I forgot to list in 2015.   It’s by Miriam Toews, and is entitled All My Puny Sorrows. It’s one of my favourite books of all time! 


Happy Reading!



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