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Book Review: Bear by Marian Engel

October 12, 2021 2 comments
Photo of a physical book cover. The word BEAR in neon green font is on top of the coat of a bear with a woman's hand running through the fur.

Summary:
A librarian named Lou is called to a remote Canadian island to inventory the estate of a secretive Colonel whose most surprising secret is a bear who keeps her company–shocking company.

Review:
I don’t recall anymore how I heard about this book, but this is what I heard about it:

There’s this book that’s considered a Canadian classic where a librarian has sex with a bear.

Ok. I was left with questions. First, this sounds like erotica – how is it a classic? Second, as a trained librarian I immediately wondered if the librarian part was essential to the story. Third, does she really have sex with a bear? Then I became even more intrigued when I discovered I couldn’t get this book digitally but only in print AND it’s out of print in the US so it’s far cheaper to purchase it abroad and have it sent here. So, now that I got this book from the UK and read it (in one weekend), let me answer these questions for you.

First, I wouldn’t call this erotica. The point, in spite of the murmurings about it, is absolutely not about sex with a bear, whereas in erotica, the point is the sex. I in all honesty would say this is a book about burnout. Lou is an archivist who is in a rut. When the nameless Institute she works for sends her to this estate that has been left to them to inventory their materials, her time in nature and her experiences with the locals (yes, including Bear), reveals her massive burnout to her.

She wondered by what right she was there, and why she did what she did for a living. And who she was.

(pg 93)

Second, I would definitely say the librarian part is essential to the story. Librarianship is a feminized profession. This book was first published in 1976. It is an exploration of what it means to be a working woman and how the world views working women, even when our work is performed outside of the public’s eye (perhaps especially when our work is performed outside of the public’s eye). I also thought this book does an excellent job of showing how even though librarianship is a feminized profession, those in the positions of greatest power within libraries and archives are men. Lou’s boss is a man, and this is relevant to her negative work experience.

Third, does she actually have sex with a bear? Ok, slight spoiler warning here. There is no penetration. She tricks the bear to go down on her. That’s it. I didn’t find it particularly shocking, but I’m a millennial from the internet generation that grew up with the internet urban legend about the woman with the dog and the peanut butter so. I viewed the transgressive act with Bear as serving two purposes. First, Lou has a tendency toward self-sabotage, self-loathing, and self-punishment. I think transgressing in this way makes her see how she’s transgressing against herself and her own soul in other ways and makes her refind her own sense of self. Second, I think it’s important to note that at the beginning of the book an Indigenous woman named Lucy kind of hands off the caretaking of Bear to Lou. At the end of the book, she hands the caretaking back to Lucy. I view this as an acknowledgement that just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. It doesn’t mean it’s your life calling. There are other interesting takes on this as a commentary on colonialism, which I also think are valid.

So do I see why this is a Canadian classic? Yes, absolutely. The whole story oozes Canada from the juxtaposition of the wilderness with the city to the entwining of European and local history to the acknowledgment of the realness and relevance of local Indigenous peoples. (These peoples are not of the past but are of the present, something I think Canadian literature often does a better job with than US literature).

I thought I was going to read this book and laugh at it, kind of like how folks on book-tok are laughing about the ice planet barbarians right now. Instead, I found a unique story about a woman’s time in the semi-wilderness and how it makes her confront her burnout and how her career is a poor fit for her. How her life setup is causing her to transgress and how that needs to change. A shocking way to get the point across? Perhaps. But an important point nonetheless.

4 out of 5 stars

Length: 167 pages – average but on the shorter side

Source: Purchased

Buy It (Amazon or Bookshop.org)

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Friday Fun! (August: Yoga and Gratitude)

September 3, 2014 2 comments

My view reading next to the Charles River (including my book, of course!)

My view reading next to the Charles River (including my book, of course!)

Hello my lovely readers!

My, it’s been quite a busy summer for me, and August is always the busiest, as anyone who works in post-secondary academia will tell you.  On top of students coming back to campus and teaching orientations, I also started a new project at work and took on more responsibility in another one.  In my personal life, my partner and I threw our first party together, which was a smashing success, and I finished out the month with some vacation time to get to go to the track with him again, something that I always really enjoy.  It makes me so happy to get to see him race and also camp out and be in sunbeams all day on top of it!

Two things I’ve discovered this month that I’d like to tell you about.  The first is something you may have heard of, MyYogaPro.  Basically MyYogaPro features videos done by Erin Motz (one of my favorite online yoga instructors).  The videos both break down poses step-by-step for you and also feature full-length programs, organized for various goals (flexibility, power yoga, backbends), progressing from easy to advanced.  Even better, you earn badges for completing videos, which makes it like achievements in a videogame but for doing something physical.  You can register for lifetime access for only $45 right now.  I know this sounds a bit like an ad, but no one asked me to talk about MyYogaPro.  I chose to sign up for the account, and I’ve found it really has enhanced my yoga practice.  I’m learning and progressing in a way I never have before with yoga.  I’m quite passionate about how the website enhances home practice.  If you’re into yoga, if you’ve dabbled your toes but never got serious, or if you’re brand-new to the concept, there’s something for everyone.

The second thing I’ve discovered that I’m really enjoying is an app called Gratitude 365.  It gives you a notebook page every day to put down however many things from that day you want to that you are grateful for.  It also lets you attach a photo to that day.  You can password protect the app if you want.  You can both view a snapshot of your last few days and a calendar of all your pictures.  It also keeps track of how many days you’ve journaled for and your average number of gratitudes.  A lot of people talk about how taking a moment to be thankful each day enhances mood and reduces stress and anxiety, but even if that’s not your goal, it’s a great little journaling app that is easy to use in the day-to-day.

In spite of being so busy this month, I still managed to read 5 books.  I currently have a back-log of three book reviews, so they should keep coming at a steady pace.  I also created a new cross-stitch pattern. The test stitch is completed, I just need to hoop it for the recipient and create the pdf pattern.  Keep your eye out for it.  It’s geeky!

My partner is always wonderfully supportive during my most stressful month of the year, and I honestly think his support is part of why I handled this August with as much relaxation tossed in as I managed to grab, whether that was sneaking in 10 minutes of yoga, journaling gratitude, going for walks together, laughing at old Twilight Zone episodes, or reading outside flopped on a blanket together.  When I think about my August, I don’t just think about the stress, and that’s quite the gift.

Happy reading, everyone!

 

Friday Fun! (April: Busyness and Hiking)

View of Boston city skyline

The view of Boston on our hike.

Hello my lovely readers!

April was such a busy month, I can actually hardly believe it’s over already!  It’s always a busy month for me at work, as I help organize and run an annual event on-campus.  In addition this month, we also welcomed a new program to our campus, so the library was very busy putting in the groundwork for supporting students studying that new subject area.  I also submitted my first-ever poster abstract.  So busy!  On top of this, the weekend of my work event was the same weekend as the first motorcycle race weekend of the season for my partner.  He was incredibly busy prepping for the races.  Instead of just the normal getting everything running again after the long winter, he also was prepping a new (to him) race bike to be track ready.  Since I couldn’t go with him for the first race weekend, I wanted to send along something nice, so I made him a pie and cookies for carb-loading at the track.  I honestly found the baking to be stress-relieving and really enjoyed it.  I’m happy to report both the work event and the first race weekend went well!

In spite of the busyness, we were able to squeeze in quite a few hangouts with friends and dates for ourselves.  One of our dates was to hike a local trail on Easter Sunday.  It was gorgeous weather in a month of a lot of iffy weather.  I always find it so refreshing to get outside and in the woods, and even more so with my boyfriend.  We saw lots of jack-in-the-pulpits and also got a great view of Boston.

My stitching slowed down a bit this month, although I did release the first design in a new line–rhubarb in foraging New England.  The rest of the patterns for the line are designed but they still need to be trial-stitched! I hope to release at least one of them this month.

I read and reviewed four books this month, sticking to my overall goal of one book a week.  I’ll be happy if I manage to stick to that during my upcoming even busier month of May! In my own writing, I’m still working away whenever I have the time on my new book idea, writing background short stories.  The typewriter my bf got me for Christmas is coming in really handy, freeing me of distractions.

Happy reading!

Boston Marathon Bombings

April 17, 2013 2 comments

Hello all.  I just wanted to take a moment to let those of you who don’t follow me on twitter or facebook know that I and my loved ones are safe, although a student who goes to the university I am an academic librarian at is one of the (currently) three dead.  My medical library serves the medical school that is affiliated with one of the Boston hospitals caring for the victims, and we also serve as the medical library for that hospital.  Today is my first day back at work after my long weekend (which was pre-scheduled for Marathon Monday).  Things are very subdued on-campus.  My morning commute had a side of national guardsmen and extra police presence as I commute directly through part of the area that was put on lock-down after the bombings.

I am full of mixed emotions.  I am incredibly grateful that myself and my loved ones are safe, but I am also full of empathy for everyone who cannot say that.  I am angry that someone would attack a bunch of innocent people on a day that is about so many positive things.  The Boston Marathon is about athleticism, cheering on the accomplishments of others, and fortitude.  But it also takes place on Patriot’s Day.  Patriot’s Day is celebrated in Massachusetts, Maine, and Wisconsin to commemorate the first battle of the American Revolutionary War.  It celebrates our freedom, and in Boston, it’s about celebrating being the birthplace of our nation.  And I hope that the people of Boston won’t let the events of Monday ruin our celebrations in the years to come.  You defeat terrorism by refusing to be terrorized.  My boyfriend and I have already made a pact that next year we are going to the marathon and we are cheering our guts out.  In the meantime, I am just continuing to live my life and trying to do whatever small part I can to support those who have much tougher rows to hoe.

If your heart has been touched by what has occurred in my city, I ask you not to pray, but to do something.  If you can afford it, donate to the official One Fund set up by Governor Patrick and Mayor Menino.  It is a verified safe way to get the funds where they will reach those in need.  If you can’t afford to donate money and are close by, donate blood. Or donate blood where you are in honor of the event.  If you can’t do either of those things, or even if you do those things, then please show support in other ways.  Express support online, offer a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen.  Try not to let anyone fall through the cracks.  Let those around you know that somebody cares.

 

Friday Fun! (Where the Hell Has This Weekly Meme Been Anyway?)

March 30, 2013 2 comments

Hello my lovely readers!

So, I knew I hadn’t written a Friday Fun post in a while, but was floored to see it hadn’t happened since November 16, 2012.

o_O

I know we all hate it when bloggers talk about their crazy busy lives, even though it’s true, because, hello, we all have busy lives!  Suffice to say, what I thought was a busy phase is actually the new stasis of my life.  I’m proud of the fact that I’m still managing to find time to blog, because I do love book blogging.  But I want to continue to touch base with you all periodically.  Weekly is just too overwhelming though.  So I’ve decided to move Friday Fun to just occurring on the last Friday (or Saturday) of every month.  Treating it more like a special event instead of a weekly meme will help me keep up and enjoy it.  I hope you all enjoy the new change!

On a similar note, I am still closed to review requests, and I don’t expect that to be changing anytime soon.  I still periodically request ARCs, if I’m highly interested, but that is a rare occurrence.  I also, you may have noticed, switched my reading from about 50% things I felt I “should” be reading (for ARCs, to better myself, etc….) down to about 10%.  This means 90% of my reading is for funsies, because frankly I need that stress relief in my life.  Reading “should’s” worked great when I was in a life limbo and needing to fill the time with actual things to do that made me feel like I was accomplishing something.  But now when I read, I want it to be for fun.  I need it to be a stress reliever.  Something that helps give me a few moments of internally-focused peace in my day.   So any changes you’ve noticed in the books being reviewed here reflect that choice I made at the beginning of 2013.

As for my non-blog life!  The holidays happened.  I taught my first library orientation by myself for the incoming class of one of the schools affiliated with my library.  I created my first library tutorials.  I finished my first archival finding aid.  Those have been the big-hitters in work life.  In regular, non-librarian Amanda life I went on vacation with my boyfriend to an off-the-grid cabin!  We snowshoed and built fires in wood stoves and generally thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  I went home to visit my dad in Vermont and learned how to make the perfect grilled cheese.  I got an iPhone.  I became addicted to Instagram and taking photos in general.  I survived Blizzard Nemo and got my first real snowday in *years*.  I learned how to play the Call of Cthulhu tabletop game.  Finally, I just last week joined my gym’s 60 day fitness competition, and I am loving how much it has reinvigorated my passion for fitness.  And I’m still trying to figure out how to be a part-time indie author in amongst all of this.

How was everyone’s March?  Ours came in like a lion and out like a lamb, just like the old saying goes. 🙂

Friday Fun! (Camping and Where I Have Been!)

September 15, 2012 4 comments

Hello my lovely readers!

Yes, I realize it’s technically Saturday, but things have been rather quiet around here the last couple of weeks, and I didn’t want to leave you hanging any longer!  So why have things been so quiet?

Well, first, it was Labor Day weekend here in the States, and I actually for once went on vacation for it. Shocking, I know.  I went camping in the Green Mountains.  This was the view from my tent:

Gorgeous, eh?  And it was such a great break!  Zero technology. My cell phone didn’t even have reception.  I got disgustingly filthy, and I loved it.  I went for a swim in the pond and for a hike and cooked over a campfire.

Oh, yes, and the boy I’ve been dating asked me to be his girlfriend, and I said yes. 😀 He’s an awesome boyfriend, and I love him.

Beyond the vacation and personal development, it’s the start of the semester at work, so I’ve been incredibly busy with beginning of the semester library classes, orientations, and just general helping out the new students.  Also, the audiobook I’m currently reading while completely *awesome* (Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi), is also super-long.  The other book I was reading on my kindle that will be reviewed next week was kind of dullsville, so had trouble holding my interest.  All of these things came together to make for a bit of silence, BUT!  Never fear. I will always return! With bells on. 😀

Happy weekends all!

 

Book Review: Claws and Saucers by David Ellroy Goldweber

June 18, 2012 4 comments

Paw reaching for alien spaceship.Summary:
An alphabetical guide to scifi, horror, and fantasy movies made between 1902 and 1982.

Review:
One thing I have learned from the two movie reference guides I’ve received for review since starting this book blog is that movie reference guides are not for me.  Frankly with things like, oh, the internet, they’re just not useful the way they were back when I was in undergrad and professors wouldn’t accept IMDB as a reference in your English paper comparing books to their movie versions. But I digress.

Putting on my librarian cap then why does this reference guide get 2 and not 3 stars? (3 indicating not for me but maybe for others).  It frankly bothers me how not academic it is.  It essentially reads as a list randomly assembled by some random dude down the road, not a professor of the history of film or a film critic or anything like that really.  This would be great for a blog, but not for a serious reference book.  Additionally, maybe the print edition is better, but the ebook version is badly formatted and contains none of the pictures promised in the blurb.

The book basically then is your neighbor yammering in alphabetical order about random movies he selected from the early 1900s with all of the natural individual prejudices and caveats that go along with that.  There’s nothing academic about it, and when push comes to shove, it’s something that would be better off as a blog than a book.  I will give it this though: the title and cover are excellent.

2 out of 5 stars

Source: Netgalley

Buy It

Friday Fun! (Get Your Geek On)

Hello my lovely readers!

I have super-exciting news!  This weekend I’m attending my first ever work conference, specifically the Medical Library Association’s 2012 conference in Seattle.  This is going to be so many firsts for me!  My first business traveling, first stay at a 5 star hotel, first time outside of the airport in Seattle (or on the west coast period), and first time where I will be completely surrounded by other medical librarians. In other words, no one will be saying, “I’ve never heard of a medical librarian” or asking, “So what do you do all day?” I alas doubt I’ll have much time to see very much of Seattle, although I fully intend to hit up at least one, maybe two, of their famous veg-friendly restaurants.  I also will be flying a grand total of approximately twelve hours, so definitely expect to see an upswing in reviews around here when I get back. 😉  Thank goodness I invested in that kindle last year!

And yes I am sitting here getting excited about tons of things people outside of my field have never even heard of being discussed at the poster sessions and plenary sessions and sunrise meetings.  I mean, I did pick a career I *enjoy*, people.

Also, the hotel has a rocking gym I plan on utilizing, not to mention a bathtub which is always a luxury for me, the lady whose apartment only has a shower stall.  Plus the awesome host librarians organized a sunrise yoga session. Yes.

So it’s a big, exciting weekend with lots of air time (yes, it takes 6 hours to fly nonstop from Boston to Seattle), so I will be getting lots of reading done.

I hope you all have lovely weekends and cross your fingers for me that I won’t get lost in my smart-phoneless state!

Friday Fun! (New Job! *Confetti*)

February 24, 2012 8 comments

Hello my lovely readers!

I am so incredibly happy to get to give you all a big update in the life of moi this week.  Tuesday morning after the long weekend, I got a phone call offering me my first professional librarian job!!! Although I’ve been doing the work of a librarian for quite some time now, this position actually requires an MLIS and is in the exact same area of librarianship as my interests.  I don’t like to name exactly where I work on this blog, because this blog represents just me and not my workplace.  Suffice to say, then, that I will be working in educational librarianship in a library that supports one of the medical schools in the Boston area.  The library is the ideal mix of medicine and academia, and I’m so stoked to start work there in mid-March.

This of course means that my life over the next couple of weeks and at least through March is going to be crazy (crazy in a good way).  I’ll have a new schedule, new commute, new health insurance, new paycheck schedule, new….well everything!  It’s all wonderfully exciting and still kind of hard to believe after over a year of job hunting.

Of course this means that other things, like my writing and this blog, are going to have to be pushed to the back burner for a bit until I adjust to all the newness.  One thing I know about me is that I can sometimes push myself too hard, and I don’t want to do that this time around.  So, I’m going to push the release of Waiting For Daybreak back to May or June.  You can also probably expect a few less posts a week here, although I will be doing my best to write up everything for all books finished that week over the weekend and schedule them ahead of time for the next week (Wow, did that sentence make sense?)  There will also be slower responses to comments.  These are all good things, though, because this just means this blog has returned to being my hobby instead of what I’m doing to keep my sanity while job hunting, lol.

I do hope you guys will keep following along, because I’m still the same me, just a far far happier one now. 😀