Friday, 27 February 2015

Remembrance

Finished February 26
Remembrance: a story by Alistair MacLeod

This is MacLeod's last published story, and was produced as a commissioned work for the Vancouver Writers Fest.
This story is told in four chapters, the first three in third person and the last one in first person. The first person in the last chapter is the narrator throughout. The story is about three generations of men, and particularly of the older generation. The oldest of these men is a man who went to war to try to support his growing family. Marriage had been a bit of a surprise to him and he recognized that he wasn't able to support his wife and children as he wanted, so he signed up so that she would receive his pay. The results of that action, his war activities, her actions while he was away, what they did when he returned and how everything came from that is their story.
Simply told, poignant yet straightforward, this story is a prime example of the great skill at storytelling that Alistair MacLeod had.

Chase

Finished February 26
Chase by Dean Koontz, performed by Nick Podehl

This short novel is set in 1971, and was originally published by Koontz in 1972 under the pen name K.R. Dwyer.
Benjamin Chase is a veteran of Vietnam, caught up in guilt over his actions in wartime, but recently awards a medal for his actions. Ben feels out of touch with those around him, going through a set routine every day. The gift of a vehicle by the local merchants' association, a result of his medal, throws him out of his routine and takes him up to the top of the hill near town, a local spot for young lovers. When he sees a man creeping up on a vehicle he takes notice and while unable to prevent the murder of one of the car's occupants, he does keep things from going further.
As a result of this action, he gets even more media attention, and also, it would seem, notice by the murderer, who now looks to Ben as a new target.
As Ben reacts to this, first in retreat and denial and then in action, he tracks the man down, and eliminates the threat in a way that feels right to him.
The psychology that runs through both Ben's and the killer's actions here is interesting, although this is a rather odd novel. I found the calmness of the woman that Ben finds solace in different, and likely a product of the time this novella was originally written.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

March Take Control of Your TBR Pile challenge

This is the third year for this challenge, but my first year participating. The rules are simple. For the month of March you ditch the ARC’s and read books in your TBR pile released before March 1, 2015. They can be eBooks, physical books or audiobooks. The aim is to clean off those shelves, finish those series and trilogies and have some fun doing it. Once again the host will provide motivation with a grand prize of a new book release of the winner's choice and full details are available at their site.
Take Control 2015Since I have many TBR piles around the house, I'm planning to finish 11 books from my TBR pile, plus the four in my Reading Assignment list for March, for a total of 15. I will add them below as I complete them.
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Domestic Violets

Finished February 25
Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman

This humorous novel follows copywriter Tom Violet as he goes through a difficult stage in his life. Tom works for a large company writing copy for letters, brochures, press releases and other material. He isn't passionate about his job and has fun sparring with a co-worker he can't stand Greg (who wants to be known as Gregory, which Tom refuses to do). He has an assistant, Katie, who he encourages, but is also attracted to. Tom has been writing a novel for years, and has recently finished it.
Tom and his wife Anna and their daughter Allie live in a nice house in a great neighbourhood in Washington, D.C. thanks to Tom's dad, Curtis Violet. Curtis is a famous novelist and owns the house that Tom and his family live in. He drops in occasionally and the two have an unusual, but good relationship. Tom and Anna have been having problems lately, one of them being Tom's issues with potency. Tom doesn't understand what is behind this failure. The family also has a dog Hank, who is lovable and needy, and a great addition to the book.
As the book begins, Curtis has dropped in on Tom's family once again, announcing his win of the Pulitzer Prize, Tom has had another failure in the bedroom, another round of layoffs seem to be imminent at work, and Tom's mother seems to undergoing marital issues as well.
There are a lot of great characters here, and the plot is relatable to what we see going on around us. The writing is good, and the humour great. I really enjoyed this novel.

Left Neglected

Finished February 23
Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

Sarah Nickerman is vice-president of HR for a global consulting company, juggling three kids, a husband with a busy job as well, a commute into Boston from the suburbs and all the things that come with such a busy life. Then one day on her commute in, she is distracted by her cell phone and crashes her car.
She is lucky to have as little injuries as she does. Her main injury is one to her brain. The result is condition known as left neglect, unilateral neglect, or hemispatial neglect. People with this condition have brains that ignore the left side of the world. So they only see the left side of they are looking at, they don't recognize their own left side, such as left arm, left leg of left side of the face. If they look at themselves they only see the right half and their brain makes up the rest. It might fill in an image of their face with a mirror of what they see on the right. It might just miss it entirely. There is nothing wrong with their vision, it is all in the brain.
Therapy can improve the condition in some patients, but not all, and science still has a lot to learn about this condition.
Sarah has a hard time adjusting, and then a hard time facing what others expect of her. The forced downtime of her recovery lets her look at her life and lifestyle closely and think about what is important to her. She connects with new people and reconnects with others. This is a moving, and well written story about a recovery that leads to a new start.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Heir of the Dog

Finished February 22
Heir of the Dog by Judi McCoy

This is the second book in a series featuring dog walker Ellie Engleman. Ellie is a divorced woman who has a special relationship with dogs, able to "hear" what they are thinking. Her dog Rudy has led her to the body of a homeless man they had befriended, and the detective on the case seems to think of Ellie as a suspect. Lucky for her that Detective Sam Ryder, whom she had a brief relationship with, steps in to give her support.
It has turned out the the man who died, while living the life of a homeless man, was actually quite rich, and he has left everything to Ellie's dog Rudy, with Ellie as the executor. He also left a note all but accusing his brother if something happens to him, and asking Ellie to find the truth. So while Sam tries to protect her, assist her, and convince her to let the police handle things, Ellie finds herself following all clues to get to the heart of the man who cared so much about Rudy and her friendship.
An interesting, light-hearted mystery with a touch of romance.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Going Bovine

Finished February 22
Going Bovine by Libba Bray

This prize-winning teen novel has the read following sixteen-year-old Cameron Smith. Cameron is not in the popular crowd at school, although his twin sister Jenna is. He is a bit of a loner, but has an interest in music, often hanging out at a local vinyl shop, Eubie's. This is where he discovered a little-known Portuguese love song singer known as The Great Tremolo and became hooked on his stuff for reasons he finds hard to put into words. Eubie is trying to turn him onto jazz, specifically Junior Webster, but Cameron isn't convinced.
Cameron's mom teaches English at the local community college and has trouble completing projects. Cameron's dad is a physicist at the local university, a strong believer in old-school physics. Cameron sometimes hangs out with the stoners in the fourth floor men's room, but he isn't as reliant on the substance as most of them, This is where he first meets Gonzo, a fellow student, a dwarf, and a big gamer. When Gonzo moves into his room in the hospital, he finds out Gonzo also has an over-protective mother and a lot of fears.
Cameron starts to have odd visions involving fire, giants, feathers, angels and other things that don't fit into his normal experiences. One outburst causes him to lose his job at Buddha Burger. When his parents take him in for medical evaluation following a try at therapy, medication and an episode, he is diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, otherwise known as mad cow disease. There is no cure to this progressive neurological disease, but Cameron is admitted to the hospital to undergo some experimental treatments in hope that something might work for him.
It is here that Cameron is approached directly by the angel he has been seeing occasionally, Dulcie, and instructed to go on a quest for a missing scientist that may be able to provide a cure for his disease. He is given vague instructions and told to take Gonzo with him, and the two boys go off on an adventure like no other. Leading them from their home in Texas to the clubs and cemeteries of New Orleans to a cult in Georgia to Florida student parties, Cameron follows the signs as he sees them, dragging Gonzo along with him, finding an additional companion in a Balder, the Norse god confined in the guise of a yard gnome, and with occasional assistance from Dulcie. The fire giants continue to pursue Cameron and there is an interesting development in the growing presence of a snow globe company.
Looking at what Cameron experienced prior to his hospitalization, the reader can see the roots of his adventure. This is an interesting look into the mind, the power of suggestion and the angst of being a teenager. An amazing read.