21 February 2015

Review: Etta and Otto and Russell and James

Etta and Otto and Russell and James
Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Emma Hooper writes in a poetic but unsentimental fashion creating a huge depth of feeling among her characters. She maintains a sweet emotional tension through the entire book that keeps you turning the page. I know this will be one of my favourite books of the year. [5/5]

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18 February 2015

APLL: Public Libraries and Community Development / Module 1 / Activity 1.4

 Go to the Community Stories section of the Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition website, click on various regions of Ontario and read a number of the stories. Using the stories, find an example of at least five of the community development values and principles identified in section 3. Use your blog to reflect on the activity and what you believe to be the most important characteristics of a healthy community. 

Value: Service integration and/or enhancement of natural capacities and networks
Why: In the case of TROUT, the need was twofold - to maintain the handi-bus service for Community Care, and to use that to provide for an additional need in the community, rural public transit. By providing both services using one provider, the services are integrated. As well, since the handi-bus service was there and had the capacity to also serve as a rural public transit service, this tapped into a natural capacity to provide a new service as well as maintain a pre-existing service. It's also a great example of de-silo-ing in that there are multiple partners making this service successful.

Value: Upstream
Why: By providing dental care to those who could not otherwise afford it, a whole host of other health problems may be avoided. These are health problems which, down the line, can interfere with being able to work, as well as create a burden on the health care system. This kind of intervention can have very positive long term impacts on the lives of those who need it. I'm happy to say that Haliburton County also has a similar program, Volunteer Dental Outreach, which was incubated by SIRCH.

Value: Inclusive
Why: By consulting and listening to members of a diverse community, the police can better understand the needs, concerns, fears, and wishes of those they are serving and protecting. This also helps community members feel more secure and respected. By being inclusive, fewer people feel marginalized which leads to a decrease in crime.

Value: Community ownership
Why: Creating a local food supply through local producers and supported by local consumers, the community has ownership over their food and their health. As well, a social bond of mutual support occurs between producer and consumer, with the producer knowing they are supporting the health and food needs of the buyer, and the buyer knowing they are supporting the business and family of the producer.

Value: Community self determination
Why: The strategy was developed through public consultation by citizens to assess and address the needs within their own neighbourhoods. 


Based on this activity I think the most important part of a healthy community is having engaged community members. Engaged community members play a huge part in creating those things which we associated with healthy communities: life-long learning opportunities, skill development, civic pride, vibrant arts and cultural experiences, welcoming to newcomers, safety, cooperation and collaboration, inclusiveness, etc. Even if there is a leadership vacuum, having an engaged community means that needs will be met, and leaders will emerge by virtue of the fact that they care about what happens to one another. That said, leaders do play an important role in supporting their community by facilitating, supporting initiatives, and encouraging engagement.

11 February 2015

Review: The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel

The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel
The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel by Anthony Horowitz

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Just unfortunate. I get that the author was going for more of the Conan Doyle style and away from the more literary or modern interpretations of the works. For me, if I want Conan Doyle, I'll read Conan Doyle. His style was well suited to the short stories and novellas of the originals, not this novel length attempt. Have to put this one down and move on, sadly.

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Review: The Leftovers

The Leftovers
The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wanted to read this book because I really enjoyed The Leftovers television series. However, when I go from TV to book (or vice versa) I tend to look at the two as completely different beasts, which definitely holds true for Tom Perrotta's The Leftovers.

The Leftovers television series certainly finds its roots in the book, but the series has a number of introduced elements which make it more suspenseful - Kevin is a police officer, more development for Pastor Matt Jamison, there's more of a conspiracy afoot, Jill is more of a rebel.

The book, by contrast, is comparatively bland. It is more a study on what people would do when faced with an extraordinary event, how they continue relating to others, how people return to normal life without it really feeling normal at all. This, in itself, is done really really well. That said, the book isn't without its dramatic moments, and there are some points where I gasped because they would just creep up on you out of the blue.

I listened to the audiobook, which I enjoyed. Dennis Boutsikaris is very easy to listen to. (5/5)

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Review: The Lobster Kings

The Lobster Kings
The Lobster Kings by Alexi Zentner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cordelia Kings navigates an unforgiving sea of love, sibling rivalry, meth dealers from the mainland, and a family curse as she is poised to inherit the crown of her father’s fishing legacy and fights to preserve the way of life in her home of Loosewood Island.

The Lobster Kings is a well-written family saga, rich with the descriptions of the fictional Loosewood Island, located off the eastern shore of the US and Canada, wavering in nationality as the border shifts but certain in its identity as a rough paradise for lobster fishermen and painters.

King Lear is referenced throughout the book, both explicitly and as the apparent basis for the plot. Having not read the play, most of the Lear references were lost on me, and it's probably just as well because the book stands well enough on its own. Though I was continuously wondering if I was missing something.

I really enjoyed this book. All of the characters are likable and relatable however imperfect. The island is almost a character in itself, and if you have ever been to the east coast you can easily visualize the scenery. The intermix of art, storytelling, and rough and tumble island life seems at odds at first, but makes a charming mix. (4.5/5)

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