Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Decluttering: My Adventures with the KonMari Method of Tidying

While our youngest was away in Quebec for the month of July, my wife and I decided to try this new book all the fancy people are reading, Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  The book largely suggests that the way people clean their homes isn't the most effective, and that as your home is (theoretically) incredibly important to your well-being and happiness, it deserves to be cleared of the gunk that's been accumulating in it for years.

So we rolled up our sleeves and spent every weekend for the last month tidying, KonMari style...

The results were kind of interesting...
So here are all of our books (we were pretty worried the floor might give way)

And here is what we decided to let go...

From the gaming books...
To the University Texts...

To the massive collection in the garage.
And eventually we cleared up our shelves
Which is a lot.

...and I mean A LOT
And then, room by room, we went through everything,
From Seasonal to Storage

Including the room where we'd been storing everything.
And even cleared out the garage!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Novella Review: Death Leaves and Echo

It’s funny, one of the first Charles de Lint books I ever purchased (my wife had read most of them years before me, but did it by using our public library), was pretty much an accident.

CafĂ© Purgatorium is a collection of three horror novellas by Dana Anderson, Ray Garton, and Mr. de Lint, which I originally picked up as I’m a fan of horror short-story collections. It then sat on my “To Be Read” shelf for years while I moved through other titles and it was only when looking through Charles de Lint’s website when I saw the cover and thought “Hey, don’t I already own this?” and tracked it down.

The novella begins with a terrifying concept; what if you woke up one morning and found you were no longer together with your spouse? And worse, what if you although you remembered your entire relationship, it appears as if they never existed at all?

The story had a really creepy “Twilight Zone” meets Phillip K. Dick sort of feel to it, and although I won’t give spoilers, it was definitely worth a look. As I’ve found with his other entries into the horror field, Charles de Lint can deliver the creepy just as effectively as he can the awe and wonder that exists in his fantasy fiction.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Book Review: Parable of the Sower, by Octavia E. Butler

All right, I’ll admit that if you show me a book in a post-apocalyptic setting, there’s a good chance it will end up on my “to be read” list. For whatever reason, stories of people dealing with a loss of all infrastructure (meaning a lack of government support and services), and having to move forward with their lives all alone really appeals to me.

To be clear, I’m not in anyway hoping I would have to live through such a scenario, nor my kids or their kids, but as far as fiction goes, it introduces both a world-wide view and often a more intimate portrait of the characters involved.

So let’s look at Octavia E. Butler’s 1993 novel Parable of the Sower. I came upon this title for one of my book clubs, and as the fellow who selected has previously chosen the Cormac McCarthy novel The Road (which I totally loved), and as I had some familiarity with the author (I had read and loved her 1980 novel Wild Seed), I was really looking forward to the read.

The book takes place just as society in the United States is crumbling - not through a bomb or disease, but instead through an ever-increasing wealth gap. The story focuses on a young woman named Lauren Olamina, and views the end of society through her eyes. The story begins with Lauren at a young age, living in a gated community in Southern California, but throughout the book follows her over the course of a number of years. As I get older, this style of narrative has quickly become one of my favourites, as it gives me the opportunity to watch characters change and grow over the course of their lives.

The novel is pretty great, and was followed in 1998 with Parable of the Talents, which, although I haven’t read yet, has definitely been added to my list of books to check out.

A fantastic read.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Movie Review: Ant-Man

All right, before I begin my review of Ant-Man I have to begin by stating my bias.

I'm a fan of Superhero movies.
I'm a fan of Paul Rudd.
I'm a father of daughters.

As this Superhero film starring Paul Rudd focuses quite strongly on the internal relationships between fathers and daughters, I was pretty much sold.

The movie has a great sense of humour about itself, works more as a heist movie, and kicks up the comedy quite nicely as compared to all the Sturm und Drang that comprised Avengers: Age of Ultron, and although it does tie in strongly to the earlier film, (Cameos, name dropping, and many references to both Tony Stark and his Father), I found the film stood quite nicely on its own, and here (mild spoilers) where three of my favourite bits.

1) Michael Douglas as Hank Pym circa 1989 - although only occurring in a scene for about three minutes, I was pretty blown away by how they got this seventy-year-old actor looking like he had recently finished filming Wallstreet (1987) - I know this has been done recently with both Schwarzenegger in the Terminator Franchise and Jeff Bridges in Tron Legacy, but seriously, this looked really good, and added a nice touch of historical context to the story.

2) The lack of massive-level destruction - although there was a lot I liked about Man of Steel (2013), watching an entire city get leveled in wave after wave of mechanized destruction, I'm feeling a little worn out on on the whole massive-level of destruction used in a lot of these films, whereas Ant-Man nicely side-steps this by playing the destruction on a much smaller (pun intended) level.

3) The use of a technique wherein a narrator speaks for everyone in a flashback - although Comedy Central's Drunk History has been using this technique for years, I first came across it in Max Landis' The Death and Return of Superman, which was both a wonderful way to spend fifteen minutes (which you can do here) shows just how effective this technique can be.

The movie is a lot of fun, and if you've been sitting on the fence about it, honestly, go check it out, it's a lot of fun and a different flavour than you may be expecting. I for one, am hoping for a sequel.

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Ophiuchi Hotline, by John Varley

One of the things I enjoy best about reading Speculative fiction is the fact that more often than other most other genres it leads to these great moments for me wherein I have to take another look at my own world and try to view it from another perspective.

John Varley's The Ophiuchi Hotline largely asks the question, "What makes me, me?" The main character, Lilo begins the book waiting for her own execution for genetically modifying human DNA, then she is offered a bizarre choice; a clone of her is brought in and offered to be killed in her place, if she agrees to take on certain work in secrecy for the government. Then the clone, coming to full awareness, states that it will happily do this job if the agent chooses her over the original...

The next chapter (2) begins with one of the Lilos killing herself before execution and the other beginning the new work, but specifically doesn't inform the reader who we are now following - over the course of the novel more than a few additional Lilos begin to pop up (sorry for the mild 38-year-old spoiler), and again and again the reader must decide which, if any, of these protagonists have more validity than the others.

The story travels throughout our solar system, involves aliens and alien invasions, but focuses largely on the morality of cloning and the question of identity.

A truly fascinating read.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Book Review: Drums of Autumn

Continuing my reading journey through Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, I've now made my way to her fourth entry, the 1996 novel Drums of Autumn.  By this point (sorry for the mild 19-year-old spoilers), the time travel aspects of the story involve not only Claire Fraser, but also her daugher Brianna.

The main thrust of the novel focuses on Brianna's discovery that her mother (who decided to return to the 1700s and her husband Jamie in the third novel Voyager) was destined to die a few short years later in a house fire in the American colonies.  So Brianna takes a journey herself into the past, and it may be my favourite one since the first book.

One thing I have to say about the series is that it's length poses something of a challenge, I'm used to reading a book every two to three days, but at nearly a thousand pages a volume, the Outlander series sometimes takes me a week or more to get through.  Drums of Autumn (880 pages), however took me six days - as the setting of the series has moved from Scotland to France, Jamaica and now the Revolutionary period of the United States, I'm finding that I spend the rest of my month looking forwrd to the next in the series (I've been reading one a month since April), and at the halfway point, I definitely have to say the series is well worth the read.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Happy Birthday Lorisia!

So my oldest daughter turns 23 today, which is crazy as I'm pretty sure she's still that adorable little kid I remember from when I was 23, only with a boyfriend, a job, and a University degree...

ANYWAY, although she still may be very tiny in my mind, it's a pretty exciting day, tasty food and my first piece of anything sugary for SIX WEEKS! (Pictured below).

An amazing day for an amazing girl.


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

I’m seeing a great conjunction of Tricorne hats

Have you ever had the experience where the various books, shows, movies or other forms of entertainment you’re enjoying start to shar things in common – maybe the same actor keeps popping up or perhaps the same joke is made in the course of a week of your viewing?

In the last two days I’ve begun watching season two of AMCs TURN: Washington’s Spies, reading Drums of Autumn (Book four of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series), and am getting into the home stretch with the Ubisoft game Assassin’s Creed III. All three of these stories take place during the 1770s, in the American Colonies, and although I didn’t plan it, it seems like everything I’m watching / reading / playing right now seems to be filled with the American Revolution. This is a little strange as I’m Canadian, but what the heck, sometimes you’ve just got to go for it!

And yes I'm aware that I'm talking about a cognitive bias called the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, but as a long-time Dark Crystal fan, a great conjunction is at hand!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Book Review: The Little Country

For a while now I've been making my way through the works of Canadian Fantasy author Charles de Lint; finding his books a delight, delighting in his mix of folklore, mythology and fantasy over the course of more than a dozen novels.

Last month I read his 1991 novel The Little Country and it simply blew me away.

Significantly longer than his other books, The Little Country is filled with three distinct storylines, moving from magic realism to high fantasy and interweaving them into something that shows the magic of music and the music in magic.

The novel begins by following Jenny Little, a folk musician from Cornwall who discovers a book in her grandfather's attic by a local author who passed on many years ago, and through her reading of the book, begins to open herself to a strange, and sometimes frightening world of magic.

Seriously, this book is great - I've completely enjoyed my run through his books published throughout the eighties, but if The Little Country is any sort of indication of what I'm going to find in his nineties work, I think I may have found a new favourite fantasy author - and the fact that he, like me, is Canadian, is simply the frosting on the cake.

Read this - it's pretty amazing.