All posts by FlorenceT

A human Being and Doing, on living a meaningful and purposeful life.

#books #boOKs & more #BOOKS Recommendations from @FTThum

If you are in doubt as to which books (I am using plural as I presume one won’t be enough! 🙂 ) to read over the holiday season, here are some suggestions from some creative and innovative people who were presenters on the TED stage.

I have only read 5 of the many on that list, I’d better get cracking… If you wish, listen to the TED Talks of these talented people.  They seem interesting and might just inspire… I for one plan to catch up on my viewing… thus speaketh the nerd 🙂

 

OR you can browse these Lists for ‘recommendations’:

If you are into poetry or plain curious, the anthology for the 2013 Montreal International Poetry Prize Longlist is available for free download. So enjoy!

Then again, I find I spend far too much time browsing Lists, sigh!  Of course, there is the road less travelled 😉 .

Follow your heart, your intuition and have a wonderful reading experience!

 

Florence 2

 

 

@FTThum

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#BookReview @FTThum – The Children Act by Ian McEwan

I had to read this book. Why? Because

  • I am a lawyer and am fascinated first by the title then its subject matter
  • I enjoy Ian McEwan’s writing
  • I am intrigued by the female protagonist, Fiona, a judge and a woman of a certain age

And the book delivered more than I had expected.

ian mcewan the children act review banner
Title:               The Children Act
Author:          Ian McEwan
Publisher:       Jonathan Cape, Random House, London ( September 2, 2014)
ISBN-10:        0224101994
ISBN-13:        978-0224101998
Website:         http://www.ianmcewan.com/bib/books/childrenact.html
Pages:             Hardback, 213 pages
Genre:           Fiction

What’s it about?

Fiona Maye is a leading High Court judge, presiding over cases in the family court. She is renowned for her fierce intelligence, exactitude and sensitivity. But her professional success belies private sorrow and domestic strife. There is the lingering regret of her childlessness, and now, her marriage of thirty years is in crisis.

At the same time, she is called on to try an urgent case: for religious reasons, a beautiful seventeen-year-old boy, Adam, is refusing the medical treatment that could save his life, and his devout parents share his wishes. Time is running out. Should the secular court overrule sincerely held faith? In the course of reaching a decision Fiona visits Adam in hospital – an encounter which stirs long-buried feelings in her and powerful new emotions in the boy. Her judgment has momentous consequences for them both.”

First, the title “The Children Act” refers to a piece of legislation in the UK which, in general, seeks to regulate local authorities and governmental entities in dealing with intervention in the interests of children.

Second, the protagonist, Fiona, is a female High Court judge, approaching the end of her sixth decade of life and potentially of her near 30 year old marriage.

Third, the child concerned, Adam, is an almost, but not yet, 18 year old male born and bred within the faith of Jehovah Witness.

In this relatively short book, Ian McEwan has woven a tale filled with conflicts and dilemmas.

“…Didn’t you once tell me that couples in long marriages aspire to the condition of siblings? We’ve arrived, Fiona. I’ve become your brother. It’s cosy and sweet and I love you, but before I drop dead, I want one big passionate affair.”

With this statement, Fiona’s marriage fractures. And soon after, she is confronted with the legal case involving Adam.

As Fiona struggles with the emotional upheaval, she is disturbed by the potential cliché of her marriage breakdown – that she, a highly intelligent woman with immense self-control, is nevertheless just a woman and susceptible to thoughts and actions, reminiscent of the parody of a woman ‘rejected’. The irony is the readers’ attention is also brought to the clichéd of Fiona’s life as a successful female judge – the cold, analytical, always busy, cultured and sophisticated childless woman. While this accomplished woman is reasonable and wise, she is also plagued by loneliness and shame. McEwan handles these conflicts with a deft hand, inviting much contemplation.

With the internal conflict of rediscovering a ‘new’ identity, Fiona is confronted with questions which cause me to lay the book down and ponder and wonder. This, for me, is the hallmark of a good book.

Who has the right to determine the life of an almost adult? The child’s parents, the religious elders, the medical profession, the law, a judge…the almost adult himself?

Is it ultimately about rights?

What is ‘evident’ truth? Is anything ever ‘evident’?

Is there such a thing as ‘destiny’ or ‘fate’? Can an act, such as Fiona’s decision, change the course of a life? Or does her later action reinforce the inevitability of destiny?

What is faith? What does it mean to the faith-ful? Who has the right to ‘remove’ someone’s faith, the meaning to a life? What is the consequence when no substitute is found for this faith?

Without faith, how open and beautiful and terrifying the world must have seemed to him…. she offered nothing in religion’s place, no protection, even though the Act was clear, her paramount consideration was his welfare… Welfare, well-being, was social.”

McEwan’s narrative is riveting, by the ability to convey so much with so few words. In essence, McEwan did not arrive at a triumph of science or the humanist perspective. Rather, the book highlights the fragility of human life, and how careful we must be to interfere with another’s well-ordered life.

A must-read, in my book :-).

 

Recommendation:
LWI Rating:
Realistic Characterization: 4/5
Made Me Think: 4/5
Overall enjoyment: 4.5/5
Readability: 4.5/5
Recommended: 4.5/5
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Buy it at:

Amazon Hardback USD 15.00
  Paperback USD 11.77
  Kindle USD 10.99
Bookdepository Hardback Euro 14.62
  Paperback Euro –
Booktopia Hardback AUD 20.95
  Paperback AUD –

 

– FlorenceT

Florence 2

 

 

 

@FTThum

 

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Six Illustrated books – a slight distraction by @FTThum

Needing a little distraction?

Well, here’s a little secret – I love books 🙂 – all sorts of books and I don’t just mean genres.  I revel in their different sizes, the textures of the cover and the paper, the fonts used… such a sensual experience.

So here are five of my illustrated books selected from my bookcase.  Enjoy!

 

  1. how-to-live-foreverThompson, C (1998) ‘How to live forever

Colin is the illustrator and writer of this thought provoking book about immortality and ethics. Don’t be misled by its attractive cover – it is not just a ‘children’s book’. Colin has the ability to create mystery within these pages of his book.

 

Look at the intricacies of the illustrations!

how to live forever 2

 

  1. the arrivalTan, S (2007) ‘The Arrival

This is a graphic novel with no words about the experience of an immigrant. The reader is invited to immerse herself in the richness of Shaun’s illustration, with ‘vintage’ colours, and to make meaning of a man’s search for a new home for his family in a new land.

 

His illustrations illuminate – so compelling.

Arrival 2

 

 

  1. The Art BookPhaidon Press (1994) ‘The Art Book

Winner of the Illustrated Book of the Year award in 1994, this book is a collection of renowned paintings over centuries with explanatory notes about the works of art and their creators, such as Basquait, Giacometti, Van Gogh, Da Vinci, Mondrian, Monet, Turner and Warhol.

 

To quote the editor at Phaidon Press, “[G]reat art can exciting, inspiring and thought provoking, but it can also be confusing…The key to ‘The Art Book’s’ success is its simplicity. It’s an easy way into that world that is exciting and inspiring, and it’s a door that’s open to everyone.”  For those interested, have a wander on Phaidon’s site.

 

 

  1. where the wild things areSendak, M (1963) “Where the Wild Things Are

This classic children’s book is illustrated by the author Maurice Sendak, and captures of the creativity of being a child.  An oldie but a goodie 🙂

 

Whimsical and adventurous illustration, the book draws our attention to a boy’s mischief and his  dealing with the consequences of his actions in a creative way – through his fantasy.

wild things 2

 

  1. enormous crocDahl, R (1978) “The Enormous Crocodile

This book was first published in 1978.  The illustration is by Quentin Blake, who formed a long collaboration with Roald Dahl. The illustration is quirky, light, whimsical and most suitable for the story.

I had fun reading this with my children when they were little.

 

 

  1. dreamworksZahed, R (2014) “The Art of Dreamworks Animation

A most recent hardcover book celebrating the Dreamworks team and their artistry in animationThis book is not classified as an illustrated book, but hey, I’m a rebel 🙂 It  contains many samples of Dreamworks’ animation from movies such as Shrek, How to Train Your Dragon, Madagascar and Puss in Boots.

A book worth having just to browse the magnificent images.

 

Well, I hope you explored the links I put in for each of the books.

I am interested to know what your favourite illustrated book is, or one which has a special place in your heart for some special reason…   I am always looking to add to my collection 🙂

Till next time
– FlorenceT

Florence 2

 

 

@FTThum

 

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Submissions Requested for Anthology

Submissions request for ‘Dreams and Visions’ Anthology…deadline 30 November 2014. Twelve days remaining to write “up to ten pages double-spaced, and they may be shorter. You may submit multiple pieces that total ten pages if preferred.”
Enjoy!

Book Review by @FTThum – Empress Dowager Cixi by Jung Chang

I am fascinated with strong female characters, real-life or fictitious. So it is no wonder this book caught my attention when it was first published in 2013. Unfortunately with time constraints, it wasn’t until the paperback was released that it found its way into my home. Cixi Title:               Empress Dowager Cixi: the Concubine who Launched Modern China Author:          Jung Chang Publisher:     Vintage Books, London (3 July 2014) ISBN-10:        0099532395 ISBN-13:        9780099532392 Website:         http://www.jungchang.net/ Pages:              Paperback, 528 pages Genre:             Literary Non-Fiction – History    What’s it about? Empress Dowager Cixi was never ‘crowned’ empress. But she was the de facto ruler of China from 1861 to 1908. At the age of 16, Cixi was ‘honoured’ for being selected to be a concubine to the Emperor Xianfeng. At the death of the Emperor, she (then 25 years old) with the official Empress Zhen, “sat behind the throne” of the successor, Cixi’s son, Tongzhi who was then 5 years of age. From that position, literally behind a yellow silk screen, Cixi ruled China. Whilst she has been credited for her efforts bringing China into the modern age, Cixi’s private life remains very much just that – private, partly contributed by the loss of her personal archives during her reign. In contrast, the public life of this formidable woman was subject to a lot conjecture and criticism for she had dared to thwart the traditions of the patriarchal system and perhaps misogynistic culture of the times. And in comparison to the likes of say, Elizabeth I or Josephine Bonarparte or Cleopatra, Cixi’s life has received relatively little attention, and largely demonised. In similar style to her previous bestseller, Wild Swans (1991), Jung Chang has presented the life of Cixi in a matter-of-fact and impassive manner. It would seem there is a concerted effort to be impartial both in language and the events of that era. In this sense, the book allows the readers to come to their own conclusions as to the morality and values of that Chinese era, and in particular, of Cixi, and the different political parties of the time. Factually, there was enough to provide a political context to Cixi’s rule while not inundating the readers with details. In saying this, the simplification of the rich and complex events belie the political and cultural obstacles Cixi must have had to navigate. Note this was a woman who was not ‘educated’ as compared to her male counterparts. Jung’s depiction of Cixi gives a hint of the chameleon – a public persona and a deeply private person, a traditional woman with modern perspectives. It would have been a treat if Jung had canvassed in greater depth the psychological and emotional landscape of this clever woman. I wonder what it was like to live in that era, being within the Imperial Court, and being responsible for China and its progress. A small detail stood out for me – Cixi collaborated/worked closely with Empress Zhen to make the changes required. While astute, decisive, incisive and at times uncompromising, she it would seem did not perceive ‘female competition’. Quite capable of ruthlessness to achieve her ends, Cixi nevertheless sought first to collaborate. Her political astuteness, in maneuvering  for powers besetting China, is rather incredible. She was courageous enough to fight and/or retreat. The book highlights the ingenuity, and political and strategic savviness, of Cixi in wrestling and maintaining power for 47 years. As Charles Denby (an American minister to Beijing during her mid-reign) stated:

At that time, she was universally esteemed by foreigners, and revered by her own people, and was regarded as being one of the greatest characters in history…Under her rule for a quarter of a century China made immense progress.”

This book is worth a read, for it gave great insight to the comings and goings of the intrigue within the Chinese Imperial Court, and the strength and vision of one woman to bring China into the modern age.   Recommendation: LWI Rating:      Realistic Characterization: 4/5      Made Me Think: 3/5      Overall enjoyment: 3.5/5      Readability: 4/5      Recommended: 3/5 Overall Rating: 3.5/5   Buy it at:

Amazon Hardback USD 21.60
  Paperback USD 13.61
  Kindle USD 9.67
Bookdepository Hardback Euro 19.98
  Paperback Euro 10.63
Booktopia Hardback AUD 40.75
  Paperback AUD 23.25

Book Review By: Florence Florence 2      

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Living NaNoWriMo and the writer’s life

Surviving Living NaNoWriMo

 

Writing

 

I am thrilled and excited, vicariously, that is, by NaNoWriMo. Time does not permit my participation and thus prompted my thinking of time and what the participants of NaNoRiMo will be going through, which led to this post.

This is what I figure, this is a month of creating, not just the novel you are writing, but habits which will inform your writing life. So why not start as if you intend to continue.

 1        Fuel up

Let’s begin with an obvious and necessary element. Remember to eat and eat healthy. I know from personal experience, the excitement of jumping into a project first thing in the morning and before I know it, it’s way past lunch time, starving, grumpy (yep, that’s me) and less than productive.

So, take time to eat – it provides fuel to the creative mind of yours.

 

2          Rest

Have enough sleep. Not catnap (though if you need to, go for it) but solid sleep by which I mean sleep when your body requires it in uninterrupted blocks of at least 4 hours.

Optimal sleep patterns improves consolidation and organization of information. When we sleep, our amazing brain works to ‘cement’ the links and correlation of bits of information, which means for us writers, after a good night’s sleep, the way ahead becomes clearer, and it increases our capacity to re-interpret information to reach novel, non-obvious conclusions. And that my friends, is creativity.

Sleep helps us to handle stress better. Seems most appropriate for NaNoWriMo, does it not ?  🙂

 

3          Breathe

When you hit the metaphoric brick wall, or even when ideas and/or sentences are not forming as you please/wish, when you feel that frustration forming…stop. You probably know being agitated is not conducive to writing. Hitting your head against the wall can only give you a sore head… so do something else to get around that brick wall.

Stop and breathe.

I practice mindfulness. It is not so much meditation but rather a habit. It is a simple exercise but to master it requires practice.

Begin with this:- stay where you are, notice you are breathing, and focus your attention to it. Lengthen each breath … and feel the breath as you inhale and exhale.  Yes, the plot is still bugging you, the characters don’t seem right… well, let those thoughts go by and pay no attention to them, but instead on your breath for 5-10 minutes. Once you feel calm and centred, you are ready to resume.

 

4           Move

When you feel you are running out of steam, and you will no doubt during this period, move. Get up and stretch your legs. And while you are at it, don’t be a ‘walking worry’ or ‘stomping stress’. Alright, I stomp around when I am stressed, so I catch myself and re-set my system, often. Anyway, when away from the writing, go admire the flowers in your garden, frolic with the cats, cook a delicious meal savouring the aromas…do them mindfully that is, with attention. Don’t be distracted by the writing you’ve put aside intentionally.

I do mindful espresso making and drinking…there is something meditative about it. Perhaps I should clarify, I use a manual espresso machine and I love the manual process… it engages my 5 senses. Bliss! Not sure about the movement part except I do walk around my home with the cup of espresso, surveying my domain :-).

Any movement, large or small, re-energises.

 

5          Socialise

For this month while it may seem counter-intuitive given you have to write 50,000 words, it is probably more important that you take time to engage with your community.

Connect with your fellow writers, within or away from NaNoWriMo. By all means talk about what you are doing, discuss your frustration or your ideas… Writers have always had communities. When we hang around each other, we get inspired, we feel a sense of solidarity and identity…it is in communities that ideas are generated and shaped.

Creativity takes shape in a social context, focused socialisation sparks creativity.

So, remember to spend time with your writing friends.

 

LIVE this month of NaNoWriMo as a writer would, don’t just survive :-).

Enjoy, revel and flourish!

 

Wishing you well
– Florence

 

© 2014 Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

Get INSPIRED by Authors who Know.

 

Stuck for ideas? Words not flowing? Need a break? Or some good old inspiration?

What better inspiration than a series of talks about the process of writing and what it means to write.

Here is the link to a TED playlist of 10 talks from authors like Isabel Allende and Melissa Gilbert, speaking about

  • creativity, passion, and the process of writing,
  • the power of language and narrative in writing,
  • the importance of contemplation and reflection to a writer’s life,
  • the bane of every writer’s life (at one point or another) – fear and doubt, and how to channel them,
  • the inextricable link between art and living, and the creative life.

Hope you find them inspirational, or at the least, entertaining.

Enjoy!

– Florence

 

 

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Book review by @FTThum – The Examined Life by Stephen Grosz

I had read this book when it was first published in 2013. The second print was released in January 2014.  It is a book to share, a book that will change your perspectives which is why I have chosen to review it for my first post in LitWorldInterviews.

Though trained in therapy, this review is written not from the perspective of a therapist but rather that of a reader who happens to be a therapist.

Title:               The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find OurselvesThe Examined Life
Author:          Stephen Grosz
Publisher:     Chatto & Windus (3 Jan 2013)
ISBN-10:        070118535X
ISBN-13:        978-0701185350
Website:         http://www.stephengrosz.com/usa//
Pages: Hardback, 240 pages
Genre: Literary Non-Fiction – Psychology

What’s it about?

The Examined Life is a collection of essays based on Stephen Grosz’ case histories of his work as a psychoanalyst. In Grosz’ words, it is a book about ‘change and loss’.

Grosz’ art in story-telling is apparent. The human-ness of each client, and the interaction between he and his clients cannot help but make the reader realise all of us share common experiences such as pain and  suffering in our living, and we are creative and versatile of ways to protect ourselves by whichever means possible.

In telling these stories, Grosz manages to enlighten the reader to the hidden meanings of his clients’ lives. There are the ‘facts’ obvious to all, and then his narratives which distil the motivations leading to a depth of understanding of the human psyche.

The reader is also acutely aware the therapy process occurs within the confines of a therapist’s room, and the accounts told by the clients are rarely verified or corroborated.  As a therapist, I am aware therapeutic ‘conversations’ are about honouring the client’s perspectives, not seeking ‘universal truths’. So the reader is left with stories of people as seen through the eyes of a highly experienced psychoanalyst and poignant narratives which prompt the reader to reflect on humanity.  Take for example, the young man diagnosed as HIV positive who had spent some 3 years of his therapy sessions with Grosz mostly sleeping because it is there that he felt safe and thus could rest. That was a place of healing. Now reconsider the judgment we have of the benefits or the necessity or the efficacy of those sessions.

This book is inspirational, thought provoking and highly entertaining.  Most importantly, by the absence of technical jargon, it is accessible to all and not just those interested in or within the field of psychology.

The essays illuminate and clarify the process of psychoanalysis – the conversations in therapy and the skills of listening, talking and being present with clients – without advocating for this specific technique or method.

I recommend this most certainly to readers curious about the complexities of human mind and behaviour.

Perhaps Grosz said it best:

        “The philosopher Simone Weil describes how two prisoners in adjoining cells learn, over a very long period of time, to talk to each other by tapping on the wall. ‘The wall is the thing which separates them, but it is also their mean o communication,’ she writes. ‘Every separation is a link.’

        This book is about that wall. It’s about our desire to talk, to understand and be understood. It’s also about listening to each other, not just the words but the gaps in between. … It’s something that is a part of our everyday lives – we tap, we listen.”

Enjoy!
LWI Rating:

Realistic Characterization: N/A
Made Me Think: 3/5
Overall enjoyment: 4/5
Readability: 5/5
Recommended: 4/5
Overall Rating: 4/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Hardback $19.05 USD
  Paperback $12.30 USD
  Kindle $9.06 USD
Bookdepository Hardback €17.50 Euro
  Paperback €9.82 Euro
Booktopia Hardback $31.50 AUD
  Paperback $16.50 AUD