Wednesday, 28 April 2010


Finished April 28
The Humbling by Philip Roth
This is the story of Simon Axler. Axler is one of the leading stage actors of his time, but now in his mid-sixties, he feels that he has lost whatever internal element he had that made him a great actor. He cannot connect with it however hard he tries.
In reaction he withdraws from that world to his home in the country. His wife deserts him, and he questions his mental state. When a new relationship offers him a renewal, he grabs at it, doing whatever he can to please his partner. But what are his real motivations, and how tied to the new relationship are his positive feelings about himself.
A look at how the character handles himself when he can't control the world around him, and a look at mental illness. Also the stories people tell themselves to make what they want real.

Sunday, 25 April 2010


Finished April 25
Never Look Away by Linwood Barclay
Barclay's books never fail to completely grip me. They are extremely hard to put down. This one is set in Promise Falls, New York, a small town upstate from Albany. The main character, David Harwood, is a local newspaper reporter. Lately he has been following a story on the possibility of a private prison being located in the area. David is married to Jan and they have a four-year-old son, Ethan. Jan has been acting strangely lately, and David is worried about her.
When Jan proposes spending the day at a local amusement park, David is pleased, but when she disappears without warning, he is shocked and confused. As David tries to figure out what is going on with Jan, as well as protect his reputation, the police are coming up with their own conclusions.
Edge of your seat action, and lots of twists and turns make this a great thriller.

Light read

Finished April 22
Death and the Lit Chick by G.M. Malliet
This mystery takes place at a mystery writers' conference in Scotland. Staying at Dalmorton Castle, are a publisher, several authors, agents, and a Cambridge DCI who is scheduled to speak at the conference. When the trendiest, and most successful of the authors is found dead there is no shortage of suspects. DCI St. Just is on hand and joins with the local authorities in solving the case. I was quite enjoying it until the scene where all suspects are brought together and each's reasons for doing things are fleshed out. That felt forced, awkward, and unnatural. The rest was good and an enjoyable escape read.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Great Listen

Finished April 22
The Truth about Stories: a native narrative by Thomas King
This collection of five talks is the Massey Lecture series of 2003. Thomas King is a great storyteller and that is what he does here, tells us stories. There is, of course, a native theme throughout that King uses very well to illustrate a number of issues and themes. His voice is mellow and draws you in. Even the titles of the lectures evoke stories before you hear another word.
Definitely worth a listen. I'm lending this out, but will want it back in my permanent collection.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Graphic Memoir

Finished April 20
A Few Perfect Hours . . . and Other Stories from Southeast Asia & Central Europe by Josh Neufeld
I really enjoyed this memoir. It tells stories from a years-long backpacking trip that Josh and his girlfriend Sari did in the 1990s. The art really adds to the stories bringing scenes, situations, and personalities to life. Also included are Traveller's Tips, that would be useful to think about for those embarking on a similar adventure. I was taken back to my own backpacking days, and the adventures I had by reading this, but it would also be of interest to those considering such an adventure. I really enjoyed this book.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Second in a Series

Finished April 20
The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley, read by Jayne Entwistle
Flavia de Luce is back and more curious than ever. Flavia happens to be on the scene when the van of a famous puppeteer, Rupert Porson, breaks down in Bishop Lacey. She befriends his assistant Nialla and helps unload when the vicar steps in to request a local performance while repairs are done. Escorting them to a local farmer's field to camp, Flavia introduces them to the local madwoman who lives in Gibbet Wood and herself meets the local farmhand, a former POW. As the novel progresses, we learn more about this farmer and his wife and the tragedy that befell them. We also see that Porson may be more familiar with this area of the country than he admits. When Rupert dies dramatically during the puppet performance, Flavia is, of course, eager to be on hand to assist the police in their endeavours. Flavia's love of chemistry shows itself several times in the plot, and proves very useful.
A great followup to the first novel, and an engaging character.

Graphic Novel

Finished April 19
Dark Entries by Ian Rankin, art by Werther Dell'edera
Okay, I didn't really enjoy this one. Maybe because I read and like Ian Rankin I had incorrect expectations going in. This book did not meet them. The art fit the story very well and I had no issues with it. It was the story I didn't really like. Even upon reflection (trying to move away from those expectations) I didn't really think the story was that great. The linking aspect for the characters in the house was interesting, if a bit contrived, but that was the only thing that really grabbed me. If this is a typical "John Constantine novel", I'll pass on the rest.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Interesting Premise

Finished April 18
Blonde Roots by Bernardine Evaristo
This satirical novel begins with an interesting premise. What if the slave trade had been reversed and Africans had enslaved Europeans. Beginning from this point, we join the world of Doris Scagglethorpe, aka Omoreomwara, a middle-aged woman who was taken by slavers at the age of ten. As the book progresses, we see both Doris' struggle towards freedom, and learn of her past, both before and after enslavement. There is a lot of subtle humour here in the cultures on both sides and the customs. Evaristo uses this subtlety to tone down some of the more violent actions here.
I liked the premise and while I found the book lighter than I expected, it was an enjoyable read. The satirical humour is what really made this book for me.

Romantic Thriller

Finished April 17
Indivisible by Kristen Heitzmann
I received a copy of an uncorrected proof of this novel through Library Journal. It will be released May 4. The book is set in a mountain town in Colorado. When a pair of mutilated raccoons is found the chief of police, Jonah Westfall, is worried about what this sort of crime can lead to. He is finding that as the town expands, more serious crimes, like drugs, are coming to it.
Piper is new in town, and working as Sarge's assistant in his bakery. She is renting a room from Tia, who runs a local candle shop. Tia is estranged from her family, and living a solitary and sad life. Piper brings a breath of fresh air, and all sorts of things start to happen. Also new to town is Miles, also a solitary man, but one looking to overcome his demons. When Sarge takes a hit to his health, Piper really comes through and shows that young as she is, she knows about responsibility.
As the various storylines unfold, the reader gets drawn into them, caring about what happens to each of the characters, and seeing the links between them develop.
This was a good read and I would recommend it.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Great article on fantasy

The Telegraph has a great article about the genre of fantasy and its place in our world. It also laments that genre writers are often overlooked when it comes to awards. With the quality of writing we have from some of these writers, it is a shame that many readers dismiss a whole genre.

A Look at One Woman's Case

Finished April 11
The Shaking Woman or a History of My Nerves by Siri Hustvedt
Siri is a novelist and essayist who suffered a violent episode of shaking while speaking at a memorial to her father in 2006. Despite her entire body shaking and flapping, she spoke clearly and continued her speech. To her "the shaking woman" came on unexpectedly and she did not identify with her or know the cause of the episode. At first she thought it was an anomaly, but when it happened to her again, she knew it was something she had to figure out. Through a process of medication and talk, Siri was able to deal with the onset of these episodes, but in investigating them, she delves into her own mental and nervous history, as well as the general history of nervous disorders.
This book documents that research and touches on many things from empathy to epilepsy, synaesthesia to psychoanalysis. I was fascinated by the different experiences she found and the way she dealt with her own episodes. This is a frank and honest look at a still undefined medical area.

Interesting look at an industry

Finished April 10
Curtains: Adventures of an Undertaker-in-Training by Tom Jokinen
Jokinen is a journalist who has worked on a number of CBC shows. When his family relocated to Winnipeg, he decided to do a project on the business of dying. He began working with a family-owned funeral home with its own crematorium. As he learned more about the business, he also delved into literature about it, and travelled to other locations to see what trends were developing in the industry.
His account is personal yet informative, humorous yet respectful. This is an industry few of us know much about, and most of us don't think of until we have to, yet there are so many interesting aspects of it. I was fascinated by the detail and the variety of choices. While Jokinen describes the processes involved, it never seems gory or offputting. I found that I learned a lot and will be better prepared when I do have to deal with death. I recommend this to anyone with a curious mind.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Audiobook Mystery

Finished April 10
The Headhunters by Peter Lovesey, read by Maggie Ollerenshaw
This mystery had lots of twists and turns leading to a satisfying conclusion.
Jo and Gemma became friends after meeting at a yoga class. One night when Jo is out with Rick bowling they meet up with Gemma and Jake. Gemma complains about her boss and talks about how she could kill him. They joke about different odds ways to kill someone, and then move on to the movies.
Gemma and Rick have hit it off and Jo has no problem with that. In fact she is rather interested in Jake. Hoping to meet him, she takes a walk early the next morning on Selsey beach. She is horrified to discover the body of a woman. DCI Hen Mallin gets the case and struggles to identify the woman.
Gemma notes to Jo that Fiona, a staff member who had been flirting with her boss, seems to have disappered along with the boss. The two go to Fiona's house to see if she is there and report her missing, but the pair also find another body.
As the case keeps leading back to Jo and her friends, Jo fights to prove the innocence of those she cares about. This case kept me guessing until near the end and provides lots of interesting plot as well as characters. A good read (or listen).

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Canadian Novel

Finished April 4
The Amazing Absorbing Boy by Rabindranath Maharaj
This fascinating novel follows a young Trinidadian, Samuel, in his early life in Canada. When Samuel's mother dies, it is arranged that he joins his father in Canada.Samuel is sixteen and hasn't seen or heard from his father for years. He hopes for a warm welcome, but does not get it. His father barely talks to him and disappears without warning, sometimes for days. Samuel decides he must discover this country on his own. He is a good watcher and we see the new environment and the people he meets through his eyes. He spends a lot of time alone, but closely observes what he sees.
I found it interesting to see things through his eyes and interpretations, to revisist that sense of newness with things unfamiliar. Samuel is a practical boy and carefully considers his actions beforehand. There is humour and intelligence here and a genuine interest in the world around him. A very enjoyable read.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Interesting Novel

Finished April 2
Life Sentences by Laura Lippman
This is a slow-moving mystery told around interesting characters. The main character here is Cassandra Fallows, an author of two memoirs and one book of fiction. A news story mentioning a woman that she used to go to school with sets in motion research for a new book. Cassandra wants to write a book that looks at the girls she went to school with then and their lives now, with a focus on Calliope Jenkins. Calliope was jailed years back under suspicion of killing her infant son. With the boy missing and no clues to what happened, Calliope refused to speak to police or lawyers and the secret of what happened is still with her. When Cassandra makes attempts, some successful, to contact those involved in the case and those who knew her then, she makes interesting discoveries, not only about Calliope's situation, but also about her own past.
The story is interesting and the characters are well-developed. I enjoyed this book.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Very Enlightening Listen

Finished March 31
The Power of Premonitions: How Knowing the Future Can Shape Our Lives by Larry Dossey, read by Jim Bond
The book explores the scientific proof of premonitions and talks about how they are reacted to, by both those having them and those who hear of them. The book discusses all types of psi phenomena, with a focus on premonitions. The author experienced this phenomena among some of his patients and became intrigued by how it could best be acted on.
Relationships between major disasters and premonitions are looked at, as well as those of a more personal nature. Dossey relies about scientific studies of premonitions, or future knowing, to show that not only do premonitions exist, but they are not limited to a specific region or cultural background. Mention of some observations of this among animals is also made.
I was surprised at how many scientific studies have been made and how common the phenomena is. Because of the social stigma attached to this, many do not publicly acknowledge their own experiences. This exploration of the psi that exists in our world gave me a lot of information on this topic and its scientific history. I found it very interesting.