Just Think, I Could Have Been Normal: Growing up Extraordinary With Cerebral Palsy by Nova Bannatyne-Eng

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From the very first paragraphs, I was drawn into Nova’s biographical account. It was hard to put down the book. While reading Just Think, I Could Have Been Normal, I went through the entire spectrum of emotions: from tears to smiles, from anger to cheer, from sadness to hope. Nova Bannatyne was born with cerebral palsy, a diagnose that is pretty bad on its own, but the tormenting remarks and actions of many narrow-minded people that Nova encountered in her life – made it even worse. Yet, nothing could alter Nova’s soul or her determination to enjoy life and live it to the fullest. As a result, Nova’s journey, in my opinion, is more epic than any epic story I’ve ever read. If it wasn’t for Nova’s sense of humour and a warrior attitude that put a light twist on everything, the book could have been a torture to read, but it’s not. Instead, it leaves you feeling empowered, in awe, and wanting to be different – brave, accepting, and forgiving – just like Nova. (Submitted by Mariya)

Would you like to meet Nova Bannatyne, talk to her, and get an autograph? Surrey Libraries can help! On Wednesday, September 27th, 6:30pm-8:30pm, there will be an event happening at the Guildford Library called – Authors Among Us. Nova Bannatyne will be joining other local authors in our panel discussion. If you would like to attend this event, please, call 604-598-7360 to register. Event is free!

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H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

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Enjoyed reading this book of nonfiction, which has three story-lines. The first storyline involves the author’s lifelong fascination with the sport of falconry, and how she comes to own and train a goshawk named Mabel. The book is also a memoir of grief: MacDonald makes the decision to purchase and train Mabel as she deals with the sudden death of her father, which leaves her lost and unmoored. Yet another storyline is a sort of mini-biography of TH White, the author best known for writing The Once and Future King and The Sword in the Stone. As well as these Arthurian novels, White wrote a work of non-fiction titled The Goshawk about trying and ultimately failing to train a hawk. MacDonald writes about White’s tortured life, and how his own struggles and shortcomings impacted his efforts to train his hawk. You’ll enjoy this if you like literary fiction or non-fiction, memoirs, or well-written nature writing. (Submitted by David)

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If you and your friends happen to run a book club – borrow a book club kit!

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast

Many of us in our `middle ages` are dealing with aging parents in various stages of decline.  Roz Chast, the writer and New Yorker cartoonist, uses the graphic novel format to document her journey through this challenging time in her memoir, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

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From first noticing that things seem to be `falling apart`, to realizing that she must take control of the uncontrollable, and then on through moving her parents into care, and experiencing their passing, Chast weaves her story with humour, grace, and brutal honesty.

The most important messages I took from this endearing memoir are that:

  • we are not alone,
  • having a sense of humour is a survival skill, and,
  • in the midst of complicated family relationships and challenging situations there is still, always, love.

(Submitted by KS).

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Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

Image result for hillbilly elegyHillbilly Elegy offers a fascinating look into the lives of white rural Americans. Author J.D. Vance uses his own personal experiences to describe and illuminate current social issues among working-class Americans. It is a quick, engrossing read, especially in light of the current political situation in the United States. I would recommend this book for anyone wanting to get an insight into the lives and hopes and dreams of those who feel so let down by their failure to achieve the “American Dream.” (Submitted by Claire).

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“There Are Things I Want You to Know” about Stieg Larsson and Me by Eva Gabrielsson

In this very personal account, Eva Gabrielsson tells us about her relationship with Stieg Larsson, the Swedish author who became an overnight sensation when his Millennium trilogy was published posthumously—The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo being the first in the series. He was only 50 years old when he died of a heart attack, and had spent 32 of his years with Eva Gabrielsson.

Larsson devoted his life as a journalist to fight the abuse of women. With his fictional work he delivered his quest to the hands of millions of readers, and, later on, to moviegoers everywhere. There is a very sad irony to this real-life story: Since Gabrielsson and Larsson never married and he died intestate (without a will), under Swedish law she received nothing. Larsson’s estranged family (his father and brother) received not only his financial inheritance, but also the rights of the late author’s trilogy. A fourth book—one that Gabrielsson doesn’t consider faithful to the purpose and style of Larsson’s work—has already been published.

In Gabrielsson’s book we get to know of the couple’s life together and of her struggle to gain control of Larsson’s legacy. (Submitted by Eva).

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Open Heart, Open Mind by Clara Hughes

Open Heart, Open Mind by Clara Hughes is quite the eye opener. It reveals the unique lifestyle of a professional athlete and the challenges that it entails. Realizing that for a physical-based career, the greatest challenges could well be mental and emotional. Clara lays out her experiences of being an international athlete very truthfully and carefully. I would recommend this book to anyone thinking of a career in sports! (Submitted by Jamie).

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Momma, Momma, the Preacher’s Comin’ by Doreen Brust Johnson

Local Surrey author, Doreen Brust Johnson, felt compelled to write this account of her mother’s life. Born in 1939, Doreen grew up in rural northern Saskatchewan before moving to Vancouver as a teen. The story opens with adult Doreen in a coma as a result of a car accident–her elderly mother sits by her side and weaves a tale of hardship, love, and courage. To help Doreen through her coma, her mother shares the stories of growing up in the early part of the 20th century — the World Wars, the depression, and traveling north to become homesteaders.

I enjoyed this historical account of Canadian life — it reminded me of how important it is to share stories with one another. Listen to your elders, to your parents–ask questions and learn. I look forward to meeting Doreen at Authors Among Us at City Centre Library on Sat, April 16 at 12:45pm. Call 604-598-7426 to save your spot! (Submitted by Meghan).

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