Archive for August, 2016

As I mentioned in a recent blog post, I spent a couple of days in hospital being treated for a skin infection.  I’m back at home now, and although I have not been doing a great deal of reading, what I have been doing is watching a whole lot of movies.  

Chariots of Fire.  I’m not certain if I had seen this before, but I had a real hankering to watch the Oscar winning movie about two very different British Olympian hopefuls in the 1924 Paris Olympics.  This film was sheer perfection, from the casting to the script to the cinematography to the music.  I loved every moment of it, from the opening scene with the runners running along the beach to Vangelis’ stirring musical theme to the heart lifting final race.  I definitely have visions like Mr Bean at the 2012 London Olympics of running down that beach with the athletes.  Go watch this movie.  Now.  

A Walk in the Woods.  The second movie I watched was A Walk in the Woods, an adaptation of Bill Bryson’s travelogue about hiking the Appalachian trail, starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte.  This got pretty mixed reviews in the cinema, so I was happy to wait to watch it at home.  I’ve read quite a bit of Bryson’s travelogues and usually find them very witty and insightful.  I thought Redford did a great job of bringing across Bryson’s humour, and it was fun to see Emma Thompson as his English wife.  The scenery was wonderful to look at even on the small screen.  However, I did have a problem with Nolte’s character.  I’m not certain if it was how it was written, directed or acted, or a combination of all three, but the character turned me off completely far more than the original character in the book, which I have naturally, read.  This is despite a few sweet moments between his and Redford’s characters.  I wouldn’t rush to pay $14 dollars to see this one, but certainly worth checking out free on Netflix if you’ve nothing else to do of an evening.

Wild. This is the adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s travelogue about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and stars Reece Witherspoon, who was nominated for an Academy Award for the role.  You may see somewhat of a theme here.  I guess I was missing my running and walking more than I realised during my vacation and hospital stay!  Anyway, Wild is another excellent movie.  I loved the character development the scenery and the performances, and it deserved all the accolades it earned.  This is another one to check out.

The Third Man.  This is Carol Reed’s murder mystery set in post-war Vienna and stars Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten.  Having spent time in Vienna myself I really enjoyed seeing a movie set there, even if it was a very much dishevelled version of the city I love.  Having said that, the film itself did leave me cold.  The more I learned of Harry Lime’s character, the less I was invested in finding out what happened to him, despite Holly’s obvious affection for his friend.  By half way through the movie I was ready for Holly to take Major Calloway’s advice and to get the heck out of Dodge, so it was a struggle for me to finish the movie.  However, I can’t fault the acting, script or direction.  It wasn’t my cup of tea, but I know many people have loved this movie, so your milage may vary.

Spectre.  Daniel Craig’s fourth outing as James Bond, 007.  This is definitely not the strongest Craig Bond movie, especially coming after the wonderful Skyfall as it does.  Craig turns in a good performance as do the other actors, the stunts and special effects are breathtaking but for me the pacing was a real problem here.  Lengthwise it comes in as an average Bond movie, but it felt much, much longer.  It’s difficult for me to pinpoint exactly where the issue was – perhaps there were too many plotlines going on, or perhaps the peaceful interludes between action sequences dragged on too long, but for me it was definitely not the greatest Bond film.  I do hope Craig comes back to do one more, but sadly that’s looking less and less likely.  Maybe I can just pretend he went out with a bang in Skyfall?

Rain Man.  This is another classic movie starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise about a road trip taken by an LA businessman and his autistic brother.  Again this is a classic for a reason.  The script, performances and character development are all wonderfully portrayed.  Much is made of Hoffman’s performance as the autistic Raymond, and rightly so, but to my mind Cruise delivers an equally strong and nuanced performance.  Now, I’m not the greatest of Tom Cruise fans, but I can very much appreciate how he slowly developed his character from a greedy businessman focussed on money to wanting to do the best for his brother.  The scene towards the end where Charlie finally accepts that he cannot provide the care that Raymond clearly needs and yet still wants to have a relationship with him is beautifully acted.  Another must-see movie.

So those are the movies I watched during my recovery.  Do you agree with my thoughts?  Let me know in the comments!

The Great Illness Recovery Movie Rewatch of 2016 was originally published on Canadian eReader

Travels with lymphedema

Posted: August 29, 2016 in Miscellaneous
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Good morning.  First of all, apologies to my regular book review readers.  This blog post is somewhat off topic, but I felt I wanted to write about it.  Feel free to skip it or pass on to someone who may find it interesting.  I will recommence regular book reviews shortly, I promise!

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it on this blog or not, but I have a condition called lymphedema which means that my lymphatic system isn’t great about moving the lymph fluid around my body.  This means that without management, it collects in my lower extremities leading to swollen, uncomfortable feet and legs.  Normally this is well managed by my compression stockings.  The other issue with lymphedema is the risk of cellulitis infection.  The lymph fluid is extremely protein rich, so it is basically an all you can eat buffet for bacteria.  If one gets in, it invites all its friends and the infection can go very bad very quickly.  That is what happened to me after my vacation.  I got an infection that sent me to the hospital for a couple of days for IV antibiotics.  Fortunately, I reacted quickly this time and was able to get treatment before it got too bad. 

The lessons I took from that is that vacation is not an excuse to neglect basic skincare, which is a cornerstone of lymphedema management.  My infection was probably due to a whole combination of things; rushed skincare, long periods spent travelling without getting up to move around, poor maintenance of my compression garments.  In other words, I need to be more aware of the basic requirements of living with lymphedema and speak out to ensure they are being met.  Lesson learned.

It got me thinking though.  What words of advice would I have for someone newly diagnosed with lymphedema, perhaps someone younger and more active?

First of all, I would explain that I am not an expert, simply a fellow traveller perhaps a few miles further along the road.  The tips and techniques I have picked up have worked for me, but they may not be be appropriate for every situation.  When in doubt consult with your lymphedema support team.

Secondly, lymphedema is a scary diagnosis to hear.  It cannot be denied; managing lymphedema takes hard work, commitment and lifestyle changes, none of which are easy.  However, with the right professional support and attitude it is very possible to keep on top of the condition.  If I can do it, anyone can.

Build your support team.  My doctor was able to refer me to the extremely knowledgable and passionate Dr Anna Towers and the amazing lymphdema therapist Lina Desmenins.  These are both wonderful women whom I am privileged to have in my corner.  I understand that it is not always easy to be put in touch with the appropriate resources.  Here in Quebec the Lymphedema Association of Quebec acts as an invaluable resource point for patients and practitioners dealing with lymphedema.  I imagine there is a similar organisation in each province/state.  That would probably be an excellent place to start.

Put together your tool set.  Lina likes to refer to the various techniques for lymphedema management as tools in a toolset.  I find that a very positive way of looking at it.  As tools, they put you in control; they can be used as appropriate to manage your lymphedema.  Together, you and your lymphdema professional will put together a tool set which is apppropriate for your particular situation.  You will almost certainly be introduced to compression bandaging, compression garments and basic skincare, which are the cornerstones of lymphedema management.  Others include manual lymphatic drainage, weight control and exercise.  I am certain there are others, of which I’m not aware as they were perhaps not the most appropriate tools for my situation.  Now, I won’t pretend that the tools are always easy or fun to use, but they are effective and they do their job.  I don’t think anybody really enjoys compression bandaging.  Your lymphedema specialist will also provide guidance as to which tool is most appropriate for the situation.  I know on several occasions, I’ve followed up with Lina asking exactly that question and always received invaluable support and advice.

There will be setbacks.  See; above.  I can also remember being in tears in Lina’s office at the thought of having to continue bandaging for a few more weeks in a hot Montreal summer.   With Lina’s support I got through it and continued to reduce the fluid in my legs considerably.  Lymphedema management isn’t a slow straight line of improvement.  It’s more like a series of peaks and troughs, hopefully always heading in a positive direction.  It’s best to be prepared for that.

Find something to motivate you.  For me, exercise was an important tool in my toolset, especially walking, something I didn’t generally enjoy.  I invested in a pedometer (a FitBit to be precise) and I found that was a great motivator for me.  At first I really struggled with it.  Even hitting 5000 steps a day was a challenge at the beginning.  The recommended 10,000 steps a day seemed very difficult to achieve.  Nowadays, most days when I’m not working I can easily do 10,000 steps and it’s not a problem at all.  Seeing the number of steps I could manage increase slowly was a real motivator for me.

These days I jog as well as run.  I have been working through the Couch to 5K plan which takes you from being a couch potato (me, to a T) to being able to tackle a 5K run.  It builds you up over 9 weeks with walking/jogging intervals starting at jogging for 30 seconds until you’re jogging for 30 minutes straight.  I found this a fantastic program, although that jump from 8 minutes jogging to 20 minutes jogging in week 5 is a real hurdle!  Do I enjoy jogging?  No.  Is it a struggle?  Yes. Am I fast?  Heck no – a tortoise could overtake me.  But I can take real pleasure with Chariots of Fire playing in my ears pretending that I’m running along that beach with all those Olympian hopefuls from the movie.  I can also take great satisfaction in seeing that this week I ran for 25 minutes whereas last week I struggled with 20 and several weeks ago five minutes was a challenge.

One of the things I regret most about my lymphedema is not being able to wear cute shoes.  So when I was finally able to move from compression bandaging to compression garments I hunted around until I found a cute pair that would work with my feet:

IMG 0031

I was so happy to find them!

Take pride in your achievements. Living with lymphedema is not easy, so when you achieve something, own it.  I am very proud of the circumference reduction I’ve achieved in my legs.  It’s taken a lot of work, but I am very happy with the result.  Earlier this year, I also completed my very first 5K fun run.  OK, it was more of a 5K power walk, but I did it and I have the participant’s medal to prove it.  It is so important to value these moments to get you through the tougher times of lymphedema management.

I think that’s about all I have to share on this subject. I hope you’ve found it useful.  If you have any comments or questions, let me know in the comments.  Thanks for listening!

Travels with lymphedema was originally published on Canadian eReader

Good morning and welcome to another reading roundup.

This week I finished Naomi Novik’s League of Dragons, the last in the Temeraire series.  As I mentioned in my last reading roundup, I skipped the intermediate seven books of the series and relied on Tor.com’s reread.  That wasn’t such a great idea in hindsight.  While there was a lot to love about the book – especially the narration (Simon Vance, people!) – I expect some of the emotional punches passed me by.  I did very much enjoy the whole theme of draconic rights and Temeraire’s commitment to improving his kind’s lot in life.  What did irk me though was the sudden switch in goals.  It seemed that every time our protagonists came near to achieving their goals, the posts were moved and they were sent off on another errand.  It did all come together in the end, but it did bother me at the time.

I gave League of Dragons three and a half stars out of five.

My library hold of Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown came through earlier and I’m enjoying it very much indeed – much more than I had anticipated.  I would place it in the genre of fantasy of manners in that it has a fantastical element but takes place in an Austen-style Regency setting.  This is a subgenre I definitely want to read more of.  Austen it is not, but the style is reminiscent of that era and I’m loving the characters.  The fact that our protagonists are a man of colour and a woman adds a fascinating aspect to the novel. I’m about half way through, so expect a full review at some point.

Onto some housekeeping;  my husband and I are setting off on vacation so I will be taking a short break from blogging.  Expect more reviews and roundups when I return!

Like many bookworms, I’m sure, planning my vacation reading list takes as much work as packing clothes!  At least with a Kindle, I’m not limited by bulk of how many books and audiobooks I can take.

For this summer trip, I’m planning on some light fare, nothing to heavy.  We are travelling by train, so a perfect time to catch up on reading.  I’m planning on following up with the Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne.  As of now, I’ve read five of the currently published eight books.  The reason I’ve not finished the series yet is because they are absolutely wonderful – the audiobook is awesome – and I’ve been saving them for an appropriate time.  The characters and the humour are just perfect.  Now seems like a good time to catch up.  This is a series I’d definitely recommend in audiobook format.  Do yourselves a favour and check it out.

While we’re away Rick Riordan’s Hotel Valhalla – Guide to the Norse Worlds should hit my Kindle download queue.  That should also be a nice, light holiday read.  

If I’m in the mood for something a bit more meaty, I will continue with Kate Elliott’s Cold Fire.  I have been enjoying it, but it kept getting pushed to the back of my list by library books that had to be read before being returned.

So I’ll catch up with you when I get back.  Till then happy reading!

Reading roundup – August 12th 2016 was originally published on Canadian eReader

Hachette was kind enough to send me an Advance Reader Copy of Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin, the sequel to Wolf by Wolf.  Thank you so much, guys!  I was super excited to receive it as it was one of my most anticipated reads of 2016 and it did not disappoint in the least.  Blood for Blood is the second book in an alternate history young adult series set in a world in which the Hitler and the Nazis won World War II.  Our protagonist is a young Jewish death camp survivor with the ability to shape shift.  The series consists of the two main novels, Wolf by Wolf and Blood for Blood as well as the prequel novella Iron to Iron.

The story starts immediately after the cliffhanger ending of Wolf by Wolf and expands the points of view to three.  It continues the quest Yael was assigned in Wolf by Wolf and deals with the fallout of the events and discoveries of the book.  

What I liked

The world.  Once again I was completely drawn into the alternate history that Graudin has created.  The world felt so real and fleshed out I could easily imagine our characters trying to navigate it.  Once again, I found myself hearing the story in the voice of Christa Lewis, the narrator of Wolf by Wolf.  I certainly intend to purchase the audiobook as soon as it is available in November.  What was also nicely done was the way in which the world was impacted by the actions of our protagonists.  The world has changed by what they achieved.  I really hope we get to see more of it through short stories.

Character journeys.  I really loved the journeys that all of our main characters go on.  Each of our main three characters has a different journey and they were all beautifully developed.  Instead of the single flashbacks to Yael’s life as in Wolf by Wolf, we are shown specific moments in the past experienced in unique ways by each of our three point of view characters.  This serves to show where each of them is coming from, as well as to contrast their attitudes.  While I did prefer the Yael flashbacks from Wolf by Wolf, tied thematically as they were with the wolf tattoos, the flashbacks in Blood for Blood did serve their purpose to give some understanding of the characters’ motivations.  I very much disliked a certain character, but his actions were both logical and understandable.

Themes.  I studied German at university and one of the books we studied was Erzählte Zeit, a collection of short stories written by Germans immediately after World War II as they attempted to come to terms with the horror of the Holocaust.  These explored some fascinating themes of guilt and loss and I really enjoyed seeing similar themes explored in Blood for Blood.  

Identity.  Identity was another strong theme explored in the novel.  The characters are constantly asking themselves what it means to be a death camp survivor, or Jewish, or a Third Reich poster boy, or a loyal citizen of the Reich or son or brother.  They are constantly re-evaluating this as they progress through the narrative – beautifully done.  I’m assuming this is where the title comes from.

What I didn’t like

The only minor quibble I had was that I didn’t quite buy the logic of what they were trying to do.  I would have liked a bit more background into why they expected achieving their goal to have the effect it did.  Sorry, I can’t say too much more without being too spoilery.

Blood for Blood is a fantastic end to a great duology.  My only regret is that the series is now finished.  Can we have some more short stories please?!?   I gave Blood for Blood five stars out of five.

Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin was originally published on Canadian eReader

Good morning and welcome to another reading roundup.  To be honest I don’t have a great deal to share with you this week.  It’s been a heavy week at work so I am a little tired.  Though I am absolutely loving having a kitty again to curl up beside me when I’m reading or watching TV.

This week I finished Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin.  It was as wonderful as I’d hoped.  The ending in particular was beautiful.  I’m really hoping we get a few more short stories in this world. Expect a full review soon

My library hold of Naomi Novik’s League of Dragons came through, so that is my current read/listen.  This is the last in the Temeraire series which is based on the Napoleonic Wars but with dragons.  I listened to and loved the first – it’s narrated by Simon Vance! – but I was uncertain about committing to a nine-book series.  So I cheated and read Tor.com’s Temeraire reread for the intervening books.  The series is definitely well worth checking out.

I’m also hoping to make a start on The Poisoned Blade, the second in Kate Elliott’s Court of Fives series, the ARC of which I picked up at BEA.  

In a couple of weeks my husband and I are heading off on a trip to visit his family in Michigan.  We are travelling by train this time – our awesome trans Canada trip gave us a taste for it – so I will have a lot of time to listen and/or read on the train.  I don’t know about you, but sometimes deciding what books to download is as tricky as packing clothes!

That’s all for today.  Have a good week!

Reading roundup – August 5th 2016 was originally published on Canadian eReader

So, the script for J.K. Rowling’s play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, billed as the eighth Potter story, was released on July 31st.  Naturally, I and the world and his dog rushed to pick up a copy.  Here are my thoughts.  I should point out that I have not seen the play, worse luck, and am going from the script alone.  Note that there will be total and complete spoilers, which I will hide after the cut.

First, the non spoilery section. There was a lot I loved about it, and some things that didn’t work nearly so well for me.  I loved that the same themes that pervaded the book series – love, friendship, family, loyalty – still form the core of Cursed Child.  It was wonderful seeing how Harry, Ron and Hermione coped with adult life and parenthood (being an adult myself, it was especially fascinating.). The new characters, Scorpius and Albus and their friendship are completely adorable – Scorpius really does get all the best lines.  And, naturally, it is simply wonderful to revisit the Wizarding World in any shape or form.  Rowling’s world is utterly breathtaking.  I really wish I could see how certain scenes played out on stage.

What I didn’t enjoy so much were certain plot points.  I didn’t feel they gelled too well with what we know about the Wizarding World and the characters in it.  Some character development points I didn’t feel worked too well in a play setting.  They might have worked better for me in novel format with more space to expand and develop them.  Also, while it’s not necessary to have devoured Pottermore, certain interactions do have much more meaning if you are aware of some of the character’s backstories.

All in all I enjoyed Cursed Child and gave it four stars out of five.

Now, onto the spoilery section.

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