Set in a fantastical China where a variety of so-called beasts coexist with people, in an indeterminate era that evokes some sense of the past in the sense that the vocabulary chosen and style of writing is reminiscent of what one may find in translations of old texts (a deliberate choice), Strange Beasts of China starts off in a somewhat sterile fashion, detailing one type of beast per short chapter, as though a guidebook to a fantastical world that we have already been immersed into, the way that Fantastical Beasts and Where to Find Them is about the magical creatures in the world of Harry Potter, except we’re discovering this world as though through these reports of the beasts. And as the narrator becomes ever more enmeshed with the beasts she introduces, the narrative begins to take on a frenetic pace – the guidebook structure doesn’t crumble altogether, but becomes infused with its own life: what are the beasts, these Others, and who are the true beasts here? As the author mentions in an interview with the CBC, she was “making pretty straightforward metaphors about marginalized, underrepresented and oppressed groups”, and it’s not difficult to derive this from the text, but the change in pacing, in tone, as Strange Beasts tumbles along, half detective story/half guidebook, makes it difficult to tear yourself from the blurry and messy story of the beasts within the story, as the sterility of the guidebook entirely falls apart to reveal how fragile are what details we take to be the truths that constitute our world.
I’m not usually a great fan of short stories, and so I wasn’t too sure when I picked up Strange Beasts of China that I’d get into it, but the short stories are all interconnected, dropping clues for the reader – never enough for you to figure it out, I don’t think, but enough to make some guesses – such that you won’t be able to tear yourself from the story once it reveals itself.
Now that the snow has melted and the parks and trails are starting to become green and vibrant again, it’s time to go visit the StoryWalks once more! Starting in late May, you’ll find a nice surprise to greet you at each of the same trails as before, with new StoryWalk panels installed at select parks throughout Vaughan (one in each ward)! These are new titles, so if you made your way through all of them last year, be sure to check them out once again! If you haven’t heard about them before, VPL has partnered with the City of Vaughan’s Department of Parks to offer a different reading experience: you get to read a story as you make your way through the park. Who says reading is an indoor activity?
And while you’re making your way out onto the trails, why not bring along one of our many Nature Backpacks with you? We have 7 different types of Nature Backpacks, each packed with themed activities, including magnifying glasses, binoculars, books and more! Do you go crazy for bugs? Check out Things with Wings, or maybe Creepy, Crawly Critters! Animal lover? You can learn how to identify Who’s Been Here? with our Nature Backpacks, so you’ll be able to figure out who’s visiting your local park or backyard. Or if you love seeing Spring bloom and grow, you might be interested in Buds, Blossoms & Leaves. And if you just love everything there is to know about the outdoors, you’ll want to get your hands on the Explore Outdoors backpack! In fact, the fun doesn’t end once Winter comes around again, so don’t forget about the Winter Outdoor Fun backpacks!
I just finished Susan Mallery’s A Million Little Things, and found it to be a very appropriate read over the Mother’s Day weekend. This story surrounds three women’s personal stories of grief, family, romance and difficult choices. The story starts off with Zoe who gets trapped in an attic and begins to think of the choices she made in her life, such as changing her career to satisfy someone she thought she loved. Zoe’s best friend, Jen, is struggling as a first-time mom hovering over her toddler son and constantly worrying that he hasn’t spoken a word yet. Finally, Jen’s mom and Zoe’s friend, Pam, cannot seem to move on from her late husband and rejects any idea of falling in love again. These women’s stories intertwine with each other’s as they all have a kind of relationship with one another. Because of these intertwined stories, I was never left wondering what was happening to any character at a particular time. Continue reading →