Sunday, September 13, 2015

CanLit Reviews: Kabloona in the Yellow Kayak by Victoria Jason

Just in case you weren't aware, I just recently finished my Across Canada Reading Challenge, where I read a book set in every Canadian province and territory. After I had finished reading books from every territory, my dad talked about a book he knew that was set in Northern Canada that had been written by a relative by marriage who had kayaked through the Northwest Passage. It turned out my grandma had a copy of the book, called Kabloona in the Yellow Kayak, which she kindly lent to me. 



Kabloona in the Yellow Kayak follows the travels of Victoria Jason as she kayaks from Churchill, through the Hudson Bay, along the Arctic coast and up the Mackenzie River, spread over four summers between 1991 and 1994. She began the journey with Don Starkell, the well-known adventurer who had kayaked down to South America from the Red River in Manitoba (he also wrote a book about it, Paddle to the Amazon). She spent the first two summers kayaking in partnership with Don Starkell until complications caused them to have to stop, and then the last two summers she did the journey solo. "Kabloona" is the Inuit word for stranger.

The book is split into four sections, each section covering one summer. In that way it almost seems like four books in one, because you go through the drama and intensity of the journey and then relax as she returns home, only to start out on another voyage in the next chapter! But each section of her travels is filled with wonderful stories, description of Arctic scenery, and incredible joy in her task. 

I think it's the enthusiasm that Victoria Jason has for all aspects of the North that really make this book memorable. Her enthusiasm and love of the North is contagious, and it comes through crystal clear in her writing. I could picture the towering pillars of ice and wide open Arctic skies and ocean as if I was really there, and it blew me away just like it did Victoria Jason.

You not only get to experience the grand and wondrous geography of the Arctic, that includes animals such as musk-ox, caribou and walrus, but also the people. Each person Jason meets along the way is mentioned by name, and becomes an important character in her story. The way she writes makes it clear that the Inuit people and culture have a special place in her heart.

One person you can definitely tell that Victoria Jason has no love for, however, is Don Starkell. What a jerk! In the first two sections while she travels with him, it just seems to be a continuous battle against his ego and rash stupidity. I'm sure it wasn't pleasant for Jason to have to deal with him, but it made for interesting reading, since there was the added agony of wondering when she would drop this jerk. Even so, Don Starkell's idiocy didn't quell Jason's obvious passion for paddling and the North.

If you are at all interested in reading more about the Arctic, or if you just want to read an incredible geographic adventure story, I would definitely suggest picking up this book.

You can find it online at Turnstone Press here.
You can also find it on Chapters.ca here.
I would also encourage you to look up and read a bit about Victoria Jason, who passed away in 2000, even if you don't plan on reading the book. She really was a fascinating woman.


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

What's Up Wednesday

Hello! Thought I would do a What's Up post so that I can update on you on various happenings, since mostly all I've been posting lately is book reviews (but hey, at least I've been posting, right?)

What's Up Wednesday is hosted by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk.






WHAT I'M READING

I'm almost finished reading Kabloona in the Yellow Kayak by Victoria Jason, which you have probably never heard of. It's by an author from Manitoba who went up north to kayak along the Northwest Passage and the Mackenzie River. The book follows her journey kayaking in the north over four summers. It is soo well written and beautifully describes the Arctic scenery. A review will be forthcoming!


WHAT I'M WRITING

I've been mostly failing at my Write Whatever Every Day challenge, but I'm definitely thinking of writing more. I feel like just relaxing all the pressure is a good step, because now I'm starting to think of ideas again. Instead of thinking of things in terms of books or short story ideas I could publish, I'm just thinking of ideas in terms of writing pieces, which could be anything. So I have a few ideas going of what I can write. I just need to sit down and write them, so I guess that's my goal.

WHAT WORKS FOR ME (a new section introduced a long time ago that I've never used haha, about what works for me in regards to writing)

One of the things they say you can put under this section is inspiring quotes. Here's one from author Anne Lamott, who wrote Bird by Bird: "Publishing isn't all it's cracked up to be. But writing is."

WHAT ELSE IS NEW

I'm back at school! I'm now in my third year of undergraduate studies, and I have actually decided what to major in. I handed in the form and everything. I am majoring in Intercultural Studies and minoring in Communications. And I talked to an academic adviser and I could potentially graduate next year. We'll see, though. Anyway I love school, so it's nice to get into it again. I'm also working part time, but I'm hoping to not do that for too long.

What are you up to? What have you been working on?  

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

CanLit Reviews: Too Much on the Inside by Danila Botha

Full disclosure: the author sent me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Too Much on the Inside is a simple, short book about four characters from all across the world converging in one spot in Toronto. There is Dez from Brazil, Marlize from South Africa, Nicki from Israel, and Lukas from the east coast of Canada. The book is told with alternating POVs from each of these four characters. Throughout the book you get to see their interactions with each other, and learn about their lives before moving to Toronto in short snippets. I honestly think a lot of people would enjoy the simple, straightforward style of this book and the small observations about life from the places these characters are from, as well as in Toronto.

However, I kind of wanted something that went deeper. The writing was very simple, and I felt like I was being told the characters' emotions instead of really feeling the characters' emotions. I think it had the potential to be a really beautiful, emotional story with the lives of these four characters' intertwining, as well as learning from their pasts and moving forward. The premise is great, which is what made me want to pick up the book in the first place. But it just stayed on the surface level, and relied on ancient tropes and cliches rather than doing anything new or interesting. Even the problems that each character had had an obvious solution, which was just postponed until the end when the characters conveniently found themselves and realized something that I could have told them after the first couple of chapters.

I liked the idea of the story, but it just didn't work for me, because it didn't make me feel anything. I didn't care enough about the characters to want to spend more time with them after the last page.

You can find it on Goodreads here.
Danila Botha's website

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Write Whatever Every Day

For most people, January is goal-setting month, the month for resolutions for living better, healthier, and getting stuff done. For me, September always seems to be the time when I think of ways that I can improve my life. It does make sense since for the past 15 years I've been starting school in September, so it's always made me think of fresh new starts. So, anyway, I've given myself a new goal.

It started when I was organizing some old journals of mine that I've kept from when I was younger. A lot of those journals I used for writing, and flipping through them all I could think was, sheesh, I used to write a lot. And I wrote about anything and everything. I had a story here, a snippet there, a random description of my writing space in another book... and the list goes on. Until recently, I hadn't written anything that wasn't a blog post or an essay for school in half a year. Why don't I write as much as I did when I was ten? I mean, some of the reasons are obvious, but why don't I want to write as much as I did when I was ten?

Sometimes I feel like I put too my pressure on myself in my head. I go to work on a book, and think about everything wrong with it and how far it has to go, and then just do nothing. I think of a short story idea and immediately think of all the contests I could enter it into if I make it really good, and then it just blocks me. Or I think I should work on something but don't like any of the projects or books I currently have going.

So, I decided I'm going to write like I did when I was ten. I'm just going to write whatever, every day. I'm not going to commit to a word count, or a certain project or book, I'm just going to do whatever I want. I'm going to write fanfic or paragraph descriptions of nature, or a journal entry or a short story about something that happened in my life. I'm just going to write, for me and only me, and have fun doing it. I'm not going to write anything for essays or scholarships or critique partners. It's just for me, because in the end, I do like writing, and I want to start doing it again.

I think I'll try to keep it up for the month of September, and if it goes well, hopefully I'll continue. And if you want to keep me accountable, that would be more than welcome!

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