Tag: Books: Nonfiction


Review: On Writing

Posted 20 September, 2018 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
By: Stephen King
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

“Long live the King” hailed Entertainment Weekly upon publication of Stephen King’s On Writing. Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999–and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it–fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.

I haven’t read much of Stephen King’s works although his stories are well known and I’m aware of many that he’s written. I’ve often seen On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft in many lists about the craft of writing so it’s long been on my list of books to check out. I suppose after experiencing a bit of a frustrating drought on writing recently I decided to pick this book up to spur my creativity onward.

What can I say about this book? He does a wonderful job of weaving lessons on writing with his own experiences and journeys as a writer, providing examples, and giving sage advice that he had learned over the years. I didn’t know much about Stephen King’s life and how long he had been writing, so I learned quite a bit there as well. For fans and readers of his book, this book is quite the treat in that he gives a behind-the-scenes insight to his novels, where he got some inspiration from for some of his novels, and so forth (I’m always a bit fan of reading the behind-the-scenes stuff). From a writer’s perspective though this book is quite comforting: he’s straight-up about his advice, but at the same time he reminds the writer that you’re writing to write, you’re writing for yourself, that you make the rules because it’s you putting down those words.

All in all, I really enjoyed reading On Writing. Part memoir, part writing advice, an excellent read all around.

Rating: ★★★★★

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Review: The Unwomanly Face of War

Posted 10 September, 2018 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

The Unwomanly Face of War
By: Svetlana Alexievich, Richard Pevear (Translator), Larissa Volokhonsky (Translator)
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

The unforgettable oral history of Soviet women’s experiences in the Second World War from the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature

Bringing together dozens of voices in her distinctive style, The Unwomanly Face of War is Svetlana Alexievich’s collection of stories from Soviet women who lived through the Second World War: on the front lines, on the home front, and in occupied territories. As Alexievich gives voice to women who are absent from official narratives – captains, sergeants, nurses, snipers, pilots – she shows us a new version of the war we’re so familiar with, creating an extraordinary
alternative history from their private stories.

Published in 1985 in Russia, The Unwomanly Face of War was Alexievich’s first book and a huge bestseller in the Soviet Union, establishing her as a brilliantly revolutionary writer.

Svetlana Alexievich has been on my wish-to-read list ever since I heard she had won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Her specialisation is oral history in major Soviet events, and I was quite intrigued when I heard that this particular book was published in English a few years ago.

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Review: Just Watch Me: the Life of Pierre Elliot Trudeau, 1968 – 2000

Posted 22 August, 2018 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

Just Watch Me: the Life of Pierre Elliot Trudeau, 1968 – 2000
By: Johnny English
Format/Source: Paperback; was a Christmas gift

This magnificent second volume, written with exclusive access to Trudeau’s private papers and letters, completes what the Globe and Mail called “the most illuminating Trudeau portrait yet written” — sweeping us from sixties’ Trudeaumania to his final days when he debated his faith.

His life is one of Canada’s most engrossing stories. John English reveals how for Trudeau style was as important as substance, and how the controversial public figure intertwined with the charismatic private man and committed father. He traces Trudeau’s deep friendships (with women especially, many of them talented artists, like Barbra Streisand) and bitter enmities; his marriage and family tragedy. He illuminates his strengths and weaknesses — from Trudeaumania to political disenchantment, from his electrifying response to the kidnappings during the October Crisis, to his all-important patriation of the Canadian Constitution, and his evolution to influential elder statesman.

I made it a point to read the second volume of Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s biography before school started as there was no way I was going to get through the 800+ page volume once the assignments started rolling in.

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Review: The Pigeon Tunnel

Posted 3 August, 2018 by Lianne in Books / 1 Comment

The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories From My Life
By: John le Carre
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase

“Out of the secret world I once knew, I have tried to make a theatre for the larger worlds we inhabit. First comes the imagining, then the search for reality. Then back to the imagining, and to the desk where I’m sitting now.”

From his years serving in British Intelligence during the Cold War, to a career as a writer that took him from war-torn Cambodia to Beirut on the cusp of the 1982 Israeli invasion to Russia before and after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, le Carré has always written from the heart of modern times. In this, his first memoir, le Carré is as funny as he is incisive, reading into the events he witnesses the same moral ambiguity with which he imbues his novels. Whether he’s writing about the parrot at a Beirut hotel that could perfectly mimic machine gun fire or the opening bars of Beethoven’s Fifth, visiting Rwanda’s museums of the unburied dead in the aftermath of the genocide, celebrating New Year’s Eve 1982 with Yasser Arafat and his high command, interviewing a German woman terrorist in her desert prison in the Negev, listening to the wisdoms of the great physicist, dissident, and Nobel Prize winner Andrei Sakharov, meeting with two former heads of the KGB, watching Alec Guinness prepare for his role as George Smiley in the legendary BBC TV adaptations, or describing the female aid worker who inspired the main character in The Constant Gardener, le Carré endows each happening with vividness and humor, now making us laugh out loud, now inviting us to think anew about events and people we believed we understood.

Best of all, le Carré gives us a glimpse of a writer’s journey over more than six decades, and his own hunt for the human spark that has given so much life and heart to his fictional characters.

From the books I’ve read so far by John le Carre, I’ve really enjoyed them, so I was really curious when he released a book about his own experiences and impressions. The book went on sale a few years ago so I snatched it up but then it stayed on my TBR pile for some time–like many of my other books–until a few months ago when I just had the urge to start this book.

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Two Book Reviews

Posted 16 July, 2018 by Lianne in Books / 1 Comment

The following are two reviews (sort of) that didn’t warrant a post of their own. Unfortunately this post is a bit of a downer, but I also didn’t want to pass them off and not post about them, if that makes any sense lol.

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Love in a Cold Climate
By: Nancy Mitford
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

Polly Hampton has long been groomed for the perfect marriage by her mother, the fearsome and ambitious Lady Montdore. But Polly, with her stunning good looks and impeccable connections, is bored by the monotony of her glittering debut season in London. Having just come from India, where her father served as Viceroy, she claims to have hoped that society in a colder climate would be less obsessed with love affairs. The apparently aloof and indifferent Polly has a long-held secret, however, one that leads to the shattering of her mother’s dreams and her own disinheritance. When an elderly duke begins pursuing the disgraced Polly and a callow potential heir curries favor with her parents, nothing goes as expected, but in the end all find happiness in their own unconventional ways.

This book has long been on my wishlist so it was nice to finally pick up the book and read it. Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would, which might be a culmination of having started it before going on vacation and then picking up and finishing it when I got back. But maybe it was my mood too as before I left I wasn’t terribly invested in the story already. There were some witty dialogue here and there, but otherwise I was just bored by the story, a lot of it was hearsay (heh, isn’t life a lot about stories we hear from other people?) which I guess it also part of the society that Polly and Fanny live in. So yeha, it should’ve been a story that should’ve interested me a lot more, and there’s a lot going on in their story, but yeah, in the end I just didn’t really care for it 🙁

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Learn more about the author on Wikipedia || Order this book from The Book Depository

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Holding on to Normal
By: Alana Somerville
Format/Source: ARC courtesy of Simon & Schuster CA

A compelling memoir about trying to live meaningfully with illness and triumph beyond it, by breast cancer survivor Alana Somerville, a teacher and mother of two young children.

I looked at all the sick people around me. Was I going to be like them? Was that already me? Did I suddenly have a time stamp on my life? Would I make it out of this alive?

Alana Somerville—wife, teacher and mother of two small children—was thirty-three years old when she was diagnosed with stage-two, triple-negative breast cancer. The diagnosis changed her world and the relationships she had with everyone around her. Suddenly she was faced with endless medical appointments, multiple surgeries and procedures, the challenges of chemotherapy, and all the decisions involved in her treatment. She also had to deal with the trauma of realizing that her support network—sometimes even her closest friends—could struggle with how to help or even how to react to her anymore.

Throughout the course of her illness, Alana learned to maneuver through the medical system, to advocate for herself, and to build a truly supportive network. She also discovered how to keep her positive spirit intact while undergoing a double mastectomy and ongoing treatment. She is now living cancer-free—a survivor and an advocate.

Alana’s story is not unique. It’s a story that will resonate with anyone who has suffered illness and found themselves navigating a whole new world upon diagnosis. This is an “everywoman’s” journey through the experience of cancer, tracing the emotional, physical and psychological steps that are common to all. In the end, this memoir will offer hope that one can live a healthy, fulfilling and happy life beyond diagnosis. Holding on to Normal is for anyone who is suffering—or knows someone who is suffering from—a setback in life, and who is looking for inspiration on how to navigate their own journey.

I tried to start this book a few times since receiving it from Simon & Schuster CA (unsolicited, but anyway, I give unsolicited books a chance should they pop up in my mailbox) but I just could not. It’s not to say this book is not worth checking out or whatever, it’s just that given my job in healthcare and working with patients who are living with a cancer diagnosis (though they shouldn’t be at my hospital as my hospital is a rehab/continuing care facility) and moreso patients having had a history of cancer, it’s just not something I’d read about on my spare time. I might go back to it at some point but for not I’m nowhere inclined to read it.

Rating: DNF

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