The CN Tower, to a Torontonian

CN TowerThere’s something about the CN Tower that seems to make for such a great photo opportunity. Looking through my Instagram feed I notice I take quite a few pictures of the tower that watches over Toronto, whether it’s the focal point or not.

It seems like at least a few times a week, I see an Instagram shot of the Tower alone or part of the skyline. I admit, I find myself going, “Really? Another skyline shot?” from time to time, but it can still make for a great photo.

Whenever I think of the CN Tower, I think of Toronto. Ask most kids to draw their representation of the city, and the Tower will likely make it in there. The tower also acts as a representation of our city to tourists (even as it’s being enveloped by condos), and it’s something we should take the time to appreciate, though if you work in and around the city, you likely see it every day. Even if you don’t go in, it’s still an amazing feat of architecture and for that reason alone, it’s pretty cool.

What does the CN Tower mean to you? Do you have a favourite photo?

The Absolutist: An absolutely great read

the-absolutist-coverI could not put this one down.

The Absolutist begins in 1919 with the main character, Tristan Sadler, visiting Norwich to deliver letters to the sister of Will Bancroft, whom he fought with during the Great War.

The story leading up to this point began years prior as Tristan and Will first met at their training grounds. Throughout the novel, the bond between the two continues to grow. Given the time, it was quite interesting to read about the perception of their feelings, and the pain it caused the both of them, who are young and just beginning to discover who they are.

Of course the story takes place during the Great War, and that’s certainly not played down. Both men and their company, once finished with training, are sent to France where they must deal with the harsh realities of war. Their experiences in training, and on the battlefield play a large role in their relationship, as Will refuses to fight, drawing the ire if his superiors, and ultimately concluding the story in a very dramatic (though a bit unrealistic) way.

While it starts off slow, you’ll find you won’t want to put it down as Boyne’s characters, specifically Tristan and Will, have incredible depth. The story itself is one that will keep you turning the page. I highly recommend The Absolutist and give it a 5/5.

Wilderness: A tale of tragedy and redemption

WildernessAs I’ve mentioned before, I tend to gravitate toward historical fiction, and Wilderness by Lance Weller takes place in alternating times during and 30 years after the Civil War, so this was right up my alley.

The story features Abel Truman, a man who has gone through unimaginable loss and pain in his lifetime living alone (well, with his dog) in a rustic old shack as a sick, old man in Washington State. Abel is clearly on his last legs, but is felt compelled to leave his shack and begin traveling on a mission of redemption – this journey is also filled with pain, perhaps, to me, the most troublesome of the story.

Older Abel’s tale is interlaced with his younger self experiencing the Battle of the Wilderness in 1864, where he fought with the Confederates (though he was of northern descent). Abel, having gone through many trials and nearly losing his arm in fighting is nursed by an unlikely source – two escaped slaves. He develops a bond with his saviours, however there was suffering here as well, which eventually lead to him leaving for his life of solitude, and ultimately trying to return for his mission of redemption.

My biggest issue with the book was the flowery and descriptive prose that Weller used. At times it was fine, but other times I found it a bigger distraction, and felt like the book was dragging on.

Aside from the writing style, Wilderness is a story that is filled with quite a bit of pain and loss, but also some bright spots like the compassion people can have for one another, even under trying circumstances. If you’re a fan of this style, you’ll enjoy it, but it was too hard to get past for me. I give Wilderness a 2/5.

The Yellow Birds: A glimpse into the Iraq war

The Yellow Birds

For whatever reason, books taking place outside the first or second world war generally haven’t been able to interest me that much. The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers, however, was an exception, and I decided to read it on a whim.

The main character is 21 year old Private Bartle, who is fighting in the Iraq war and his experience looking out for 18 year old Private Murphy, who latches on quite early from their basic-training days, but through their experiences becomes a friend.

Powers draws on his personal experiences as a gunner in Iraq, specifically in Al Tafar, and his background in poetry, which clearly comes through in his writing. At first it was tough for me to get into, as I much prefer a story with more dialogue versus this very descriptive style, but as I became aware of the type of story being told, it made a lot more sense.

If you look at the reviews on Goodreads,  you’ll see mixed opinions on Powers’ writing, as well as his non-linear style of storytelling. From chapter-to-chapter, we jump back-and-forth from Bartle’s experiences in Iraq, to his post-war attempted re-acclimation to society. Like his writing style, I found this to be difficult at first, but as the story progressed, I found each chapter fed into the next, intertwining the two timelines and giving the reader a better understanding of Bartle’s conflicts, post-war.

In the end I was happy I took a chance on this one and though the book was small, and the story wasn’t terribly flashy, it got the point of what a soldier goes through during and after a war, and the tough decisions they must face in a chaotic environment where the wrong decision or a mistake means death, and survival is the goal of each day. I give The Yellow Birds a 4/5.

Winter of the World – the century-long tale that keeps getting better

Winter of the World - Ken FollettFittingly, shortly after winter began, I decided to start reading Winter of the World, the second book in Ken Follett’s The Century Trilogy.

This tome is the follow up to Follett’s Fall of Giants which made my Top Five Books of 2011 and takes place during the events of The Second World War. The characters from the first novel have become secondary, and their children now have the spotlight as they deal with the uprising and reign of Hitler, Stalin, Franco and the Empire of Japan.

Compared to the first book, Follett continues his marvelous intertwining of real life historical events with fictional characters who are often present to give a unique perspective of Pearl Harbor, A-bomb testing, or war in Spain, Germany and Russa to name a few examples. Through his incredible knowledge and research, I ended up feeling like these people really existed in these times and played active roles in many aspects of the war.

It might have been that I knew what to expect, but this book was much easier to read, though with the amount of characters we have to follow it can get a bit confusing at times, especially since I hadn’t read the first in two years. Once I got around that, the characters all have a lot of depth to them, and I cared what happened in each of their stories, which is of course very important if you want to get invested in a book.

If you’re a fan of historical fiction you’ll want to pick up this series, just be prepared to be reading for quite a while if you’re a slow reader like me. I give Winter of the World a 4/5.

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