Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Book Review: Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend

I quit my book club and stopped reading. I started to feel stupid. Like I'd lost my words. And as a librarian, whenever I don't read recreationally I feel guilty. Like it's my job or something.

So I started a book club with some super local nearby northsider friends. It was scary at first, mixing different groups of friends but they're all awesome and everyone seems to get along great!

The thing about my old book club I really liked was that it was open genre - we picked a different genre/topic each month and each read different books then talked about them. This really appealed to me because I don't like being told what to read and I don't like wasting time reading what I don't want to read. However, this doesn't appeal to everyone so for this new book club we're going to alternate reading the same book with an open genre/topic. I think. We'll see how month two goes.

Choosing a book was actually not painful. Some people brought recommendations, we discussed, checked goodreads, checked how many copies the library had, noted how many pages. In the end our first choice was a gooder!

The library lost the book while it was on it's way to me so I read most of it on my phone. Last time I tried that it took me months and months and I hated the process, but this time, with the added deadline and time pressure of a book club pushing me on, I actually didn't dread reading off my phone. It was almost...convenient. Still, I wouldn't choose to do so normally: hopefully next month I get to go back to paper.

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend
By Matthew Dicks
2013
336 pages

Budo is Max's imaginary friend. Max is a special kid (we assume autistic spectrum?), and Budo is a special imaginary friend. The whole book is told from Budo's point of view - which makes it very interesting and insightful so good job to Dicks on that. It's first person pov but not in the way that annoys me. And because Max is a kid and thus Budo is a kid, it's a easy read. Well the language is anyway, eventually the plot picks up and it gets quite deep. But not too deep because afterall, they're just kids.

I really liked the first half of the book - Budo describes everyday life and we get to know the school/home setting and the characters. As a former elementary school teacher, I could really tell Dicks is an elementary school teacher as the setting is pretty accurate. Max is an interesting kid, and I appreciated the behind the scenes depiction of how a child who sees the world differently (we assume because he's somewhere on the autistic spectrum) operates and thinks. I suppose it's hard to know how accurate the author's portrayal of Max is, but as expected and assumed, this insight was a highlight of the book in my opinion. Dicks has also created an imaginary world of imaginary characters and I found it very interesting to learn about the rules he creates for their biology, culture etc. I found myself wanting to read more about the imaginary friends, as if they needed a spinoff series. Basically the first half is a childish romp through third grade and I didn't want the mostly happy stuff to end. But if there was no Sauron there would be no ring and thus no adventure so inevitably the bad plot device occurred and the story moved forward.

I wasn't expecting this particular turn of events [SPOILER] and the book became reminiscent of Room or Lovely Bones. Yeah I was somewhat disappointed my childish calm was spoiled but the action ramped up and the just resolution of the problem made up for it. I ended up [SPOILER] crying mostly happy/sad but not horrified tears to the point where I couldn't read the type on the last page. Yeesh.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes children, identifies with a school setting, or who liked Room or Lovely Bones. It was a great easy, enjoyable, and somewhat emotional first pick for our new book club!

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Book Review: Road Tripping: On the Move with the Buffalo Gals

I saw this book at the information centre/gift shop in Elk Island National Park, and it looked interesting so I got it out of the library. Clever title. Cute cover. Very local. Interesting topic. Couldn't be that bad, right?

Road Tripping: On the Move with the Buffalo Gals
By Conni Massing
2010
264 pages

The Buffalo Gals are a group of friends who take a yearly road trip around Alberta - but not to the big tourist attractions - to the quirky, off the beaten path, usually a bit weird attractions. Massing writes about where they go, but also how they got there )and especially what they ate).

The first chapter was interesting as it was about the Torrington Gopher Museum, and since I've been there a couple times it was quite nostalgic. [The Torrington Gopher Museum is quite epic and awesome and you need to go because you've never seen anything like it. Best $2 you'll ever spend. Stop at Peter's Drive In in Red Deer on the way and check out Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park while you're in the neighbourhood too.] Every trip encompasses a number of quirky and/or food stops in a small area of the province - as detailed on an annotated map at the start of the chapter. Also included are a number of stops at some of Alberta's "Big Things", which also drew me to this book because I have a secret dream to one day see them all.

So really this should've been a rocking good road trip read!

Meh. Too many inside jokes. Too much chatter about the people and not enough details about the neat places they visited. And a lot of the restaurants in the small towns they stopped at aren't open anymore so I was disappointed I couldn't recreate the perfect pie pitstop. Honestly, I got through the first half and then skimmed the rest. Should've been mostly interesting, but was a bit boring in the end.

Read this book if you want a tour of quickly Alberta "stuff", most of which you can still visit yourself. But skim through the van conversations if you want. They get to where they're going eventually.
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