Saturday 29 December 2007

Interesting Novel

Finished December 27
Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name by Vendela Vida
This short novel(226 pages) grabs your attention early and doesn't let go. When Clarissa's father dies, she finds her birth certificate and learns that he wasn't her biological father. Clarissa's mother disappeared when she was 12, so she doesn't have her to turn to. When her fiance, Pankaj, tells her another secret the same day, she feels betrayed by everything she thought was true. She follows the name on her birth certificate to her birthplace in northern Finland to find her birth father. As she gropes towards the truth she meets a Sami priest, an elderly Sami healer, and a young reindeer herder. When she finally learns the truth, she must decide where and how to live her own life. Portions of this story feel very dream-like and I got a sense that fate was leading her towards the truth rather than her own actions. I found Clarissa a very interesting character and one forced to grow up very quickly.

Monday 24 December 2007

Books and Reading

I've always been fascinated by books about books and reading. It is interesting to see what others recommend or prescribe and why. I like the insight into the personality and interests of the author. Also, I love lists. I'm always making them myself, although I don't always stick to them. Here are two books on this topic that I just finished.

Finished December 22
Book Smart: Your Essential Reading List for Becoming a Literary Genius in 365 Days by Jane Mallison
Besides being an avid reader, the author here was the department head of English at New York's Trinity School for more than two decades. Her list is set up by month. Each month has a theme and 10 books that fit that theme. She suggests you read the information she provides about the books and pick one to read that month (not too onerous) or pick a topic that interests you and read all ten (leaving two extra from other topics). The books are thoughtfully chosen and cover both classics and more recent writing. Non-fiction and fiction are included, along with some poetry. She gives historical information where appropriate and sometimes offers additional recommendations on a topic. Some I'd already read, some I've been meaning to read, and some I hadn't even heard of. I would have liked to see more recommendations for further reading and the reasons behind the recommendations. (There are many reasons why one might like a book, and they can lead in many directions.) I have, of course, added to my list!

Finished December 23
Book by Book: Notes on Reading and Life by Michael Dirda
This book by noted, and Pulitzer-Prize winning, critic Dirda is a gem. I think that I shall have to get my own personal copy since I've had to return this one to the library. Dirda talks about how books enrich our lives, at work and at home, through good and bad. He includes works for children, basic library lists for those interested in art and music, and books that should be part on one's "interior library" for use when needed. I especially liked the list of books to include in one's guest room (mine is severely lacking in several areas!) and the many quotes he includes from his own commonplace book.
I put his new Classics for Fun on one of my Christmas lists, and know that I've already received it (I was allowed to open a present ahead of time so the giver could be present.) I look forward to it even more eagerly now.

Literary Listen

Finished December 21
The Maytrees by Annie Dillard, performed by David Rasche
This short novel (5 CDs) looks at the Maytree family and their friends. Toby Maytree, a thirty-year-old writer of poetry, falls for Lou Bigelow, just out of college. Their courtship is brief and they spend as much time as possible in a shack on the beach among other artists and writers. Their son Pete is their only child and is often looked after by the Bohemian Deary, who looks after children for many of the Provincetown folk. As Pete grows up, and Lou and Toby's relationship has its highs and lows, we see how they fit into the nature that surrounds them. Lou particularly fascinated me, with her creativity, freedom and beauty that she doesn't recognize in herself.

Friday 21 December 2007

Interesting Memoir

Finished December 20
Another Day in the Frontal Lobe: a brain surgeon exposes life on the inside by Katrina Firlik
This was a very readable and entertaining memoir that kept me interested throughout. Firlik tells the story of her training to be a neurosurgeon (4 years of college, 4 years of medical school, 7 years of residency) with humour and insight. Her initial years of college were spent studying anthropology and that knowledge has given her a different outlook for some of her training experiences. She is open with her own feelings and experiences throughout, even to some of the things she regrets. Her discussions include the risk, the routine, the tools, and the emotions as well as a great deal of the actual learning. I learned more about the brain and the spine than I knew and found it all interesting. Dr. Firlik gives credit to her mentors, professors and fellow students as well and shows her dedication to the teamwork necessary to good medicine.
I highly recommend it.

Mystery from a new (to me) author

Finished December 18
Clearcut: Murder in a National Forest by Lynda Douglas
For those who like Nevada Barr, the setting here is along a similar line, but the writing isn't quite as good. Claire and Kyle Evers take a break from their jobs with the Forest Service in Washington state to have a late honeymoon in North Carolina. They have more than a relaxing vacation planned. Claire was born in North Carolina, but only recently discovered the truth about her past and has no memory of her time there as a child. They are also planning to visit with fellow Forest Service Officer Hank Sawyer, whom Kyle did some training with years before, but this doesn't go as planned. Just before they arrive, the bones of a Native American girl are found and the girl's identity, as well as some evidence lead to Hank's arrest for her murder. Kyle gets drawn into the investigation, and Claire's search for family becomes part of the story.

Tuesday 18 December 2007

A classic read (or better yet, listen)

Finished December 17
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, performed by Sissy Spacek
Somehow I missed having to read this classic novel during my school years, and thus listened to it for the first time this past week during my commute. It is wonderful and I see why it has become a classic. The issues are still relevant today and this book deals with them wonderfully. The characters come to life and I truly enjoyed Spacek's performance.
I have now borrowed the DVD and am looking forward to watching it.

Thursday 13 December 2007

Canadian Novel

Finished December 11
The Horseman's Graves by Jacqueline Baker
This novel is set in the rural area of the Sand Hills on the border between Saskatchewan and Alberta. Most of the members of the community are Russian-German and the church is a part of their lives, but farming is what their lives are about. Some of the community has brought prejudices and myths from the old country and that determines how they feel about some of their neighbours.
The Krauss family is one that was known as being mean in the old country and retains that designation in their new home. Their nearest neighbours, the Schoffs, were at first patient, but had less and less to do with the Krauss's as time went on. By the time the next generation had taken over the farms, they didn't talk to each unless necessary. When tragedy visits the Schoffs, culminating in the terrible accident marking their son, the Schoffs withdraw further from the community. The Schoff's hired hand, Lathias, becomes unofficial guardian of the boy, telling him the myths of the new land, and watching out for his welfare. When a young woman, Elizabeth, joins the Krauss household both Lathias and the boy are drawn to her and the three spend time together until another tragedy occurs, this time to Elizabeth. This destructs the Schoff's even further and affects the community as a whole.
A fascinating tale, with strong and deep characters marked by their surroundings.

Thursday 6 December 2007

Historical Fiction Audiobook

Finished December 6
The March by E.L. Doctorow, read by Joe Morton
This historical novel of the U.S. Civil War follows the army of General Sherman after he burned Atlanta in 1864. Sherman himself plays a role here, as do some of his generals and other officers. The other main characters include an army doctor, originally from Germany; a young southern lady left alone after her judge father died; a young "white" slave woman; two rebel soldiers freed from their jail sentences; a young slave boy; a free black photographer, and a mildly injured Union soldier. There are many additional characters that are there for short portions of the book or more peripherally. All of the characters are out of their element, whether soldiers or civilians, southerners or northerners, rebels or union. The civilians have been uprooted from their previous lives, some have been dispossessed of their homes, and the experience they share is told in wonderful prose, and read here beautifully.


Finished December 5
City of Words by Alberto Manguel
This is the 2007 collection of CBC Massey Lectures, and I had listened to one of the lectures (the second one) on Ideas one evening and was interested to read the entire series.
Manguel brings life to famous literary works, both classic and modern, by showing how they relate to the current world and our issues. He shows the relationship between identity and the "other" as it relates to both the literature and our increasingly multicultural society. He discusses the difficulties: race riots, politically-motivated murders, suicide bombings, and hate crimes. The series had me thinking about the issues in new ways and towards new solutions. I found it fascinating.

Wednesday 5 December 2007

Swedish Mystery

Finished December 2
The Princess of Burundi by Kjell Eriksson
This started a bit slow, but got better as it went along. It begins with the murder of a man who had been involved in small-time crime when he was younger, but not for years. He had been unemployed lately and the police take some time to be able to track his final movements. This case becomes intertwined with that of a schizophrenic man who has begun attacking those he thinks have teased him in the past or are not helping him now.
The personal lives of some of the police officers are also brought in, including that of a single officer who is off on maternity leave. The stories are intertwined well and the human emotions are dealt with well. I enjoyed my first read by this author.

Monday 3 December 2007


Finished December 1
The Staircase Letters: An Extraordinary Friendship at the End of Life by Arthur Motyer with Elma Gerwin and Carol Shields
This annotated collection of letters began with Elma. She was friends with both Arthur and Carol and started writing to them, often jointly in the last year of her life once she knew she had brain cancer. Carol had breast cancer and Arthur, although older than both of them, was not ill. He brought the letters together, giving us insight to the two women as well as himself. They also allow us into the inner thoughts of those suffering from cancer and how they deal with that.
I found this short book interesting and inspiring and encourage others to read it.

Friday 30 November 2007

Canadian Fiction

Finished November 30
Helpless by Barbara Gowdy
The storyline here is interesting. A young, pretty girl, Rachel, is abducted from her yard one evening by a man, Ron, who has been attracted by her beauty, and subsequently convinces himself that she is being abused by the adults in her life. Ron involves his girlfriend Nancy in looking after the girl in the well-appointed room he has built for her in his basement. Nancy, presented with this situation by the man she loves protects the girl while remaining loyal to Ron, but struggles with her own feelings over what she is doing. As Rachel's mother Celia struggles with her own situation, supported by those close to her she questions her own behaviour and whether it has led to this horrible situation. Despite the strong feelings presented by the story, I found the characters lacked depth.

Thursday 29 November 2007

Great memoir

Finished November 29
When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: a memoir of Africa by Peter Godwin
This memoir by journalist Peter Godwin tells not only of the years from his sister's wedding to his father's death, but also gives a great deal of information about the history of Zimbabwe and the political and economic situation as it deteriorates. He also talks about his father's history as he learns of it in his father's final years. So much of this is fascinating it is hard to know where to start. The people that Godwin encounters in his trips to Zimbabwe are shown as individuals and their issues are shown in factual terms as Godwin's journalistic roots take over. While Godwin shows the collapse of the economy in Zimbabwe, his description of the people there give the reader hope for the future.
I learned so much here, especially about Zimbabwe and its history, but also had an enjoyable read.

Monday 26 November 2007

First in a trilogy

Finished November 26
The Evening of the World: a romance of the Dark Ages by Allan Massie
This novel follows Marcus, a young man looking for his life's meaning in the Europe of the Middle Ages. He travels from Italy to Greece to Byzantium to England, and experiences the world of Christian monks, poor villages and great palaces. He meets that challenges that come to him from serving as interpreter for Visigoths attacking Rome to fighting seductive spirits and confrontational knights. The tale is couched as a story told by the scholar Michael Scott for his pupil, the young Emperor Frederick, grandson of Frederick Barbarossa in the early 13th century. An interesting tale, slow in spots, with lots of rhetoric and religious arguments.

Wonderful Novel

Finished November 25
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell
This novel both fascinates and horrifies. Esme Lennox was born in India and came to Scotland with her family as a schoolgirl, following her brother's death from typhoid. Esme is a non-conformist, good in school but not popular with her fellow students. They make fun of her for her lack of social skills, but don't really try to get to know her. She is close to her older sister Kitty, but it is Kitty that eventually betrays her secrets. Her defiance of social norms and independents spirit eventually cause her parents to put her into a mental hospital at the age of sixteen, and she does not get released until the hospital is closing more than sixty years later. The story goes back and forth between the past, the ramblings of her sister (who has Alzheimers), and the present. I could barely put this book down.
Highly recommended.

Sunday 25 November 2007

Historical Fiction

Finished November 24
Stormy Weather by Paulette Jiles
This work is set in Texas in the late 1930s. The Stoddard family is following the man of the house around the state as he chases down work related to the oil fields. When he dies, leaving them with little they retreat to the family home of the mother, Elizabeth and try to make a go of it. With the mother and the three daughters going back to a farm in drought conditions, where they find they owe a great deal in back taxes and have little money and a racehorse as their only assets, they put their heads together and find a way to survive. Leasing out the land, repairing the damaged house, reclearing the fields and finding what work exists brings them both closer together and pushes them apart. They rely on each other and yet annoy each other as well. The girls have different personalities and skills and learn to take advantage of what they have and make the most of it. This is an interesting story of the time and place and well told.

Mysteries of the Mind

Finished November 22
The Man Who Forgot How to Read by Howard Engel
This memoir by Engel tells the story of how he dealt with the stroke that took away his ability to read, among other things. It was a mild stroke, and did not affect his physical movement but besides the alexia, it also affected his vision and his memory. Because Engel, as a writer, naturally took to writing to communicate, and was still able to write despite not being able to read, he describes what is going on within very well. He talks about his struggle to learn to read again and the tools he uses to assist him in this. He also talks about his coping mechanisms for his memory problems and what has changed in his behaviour. He contacted Oliver Sachs about his condition and includes a couple of meetings with him in this work. I found the book fascinating as he shows the coping mechanisms and the thought behind them in coping with his disabilities.

Historical Fiction audiobook

Finished November 21
The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney, read by Sally Armstrong and Adam Sims
This tale is set in northern Ontario in the winter, and several trails converge to the final scenes. In the small town of Dove River, on the north side of Georgian Bay, a man is found murdered and a 17-year-old boy disappears. Members of the Hudson's Bay Company track after the boy, unsure if he was involved in the death, while another man seen at the cabin of the victim is arrested. The boy's mother feels that he is being blamed for the murder and sets out to find him with the assistance of another man. As the various trails lead to a Norwegian community and to a remote Hudson's Bay post, people's lives and stories converge. The travelling in the winter wilderness takes up a lot of plot in the book, giving nature and its brutality a compelling role. The characters learn about themselves, about the people who are close to them, and that makes the book more interesting as well.

Wednesday 21 November 2007

Short story collection

Finished November 21
Cheating at Canasta by William Trevor
Trevor has long been a favourite of mine, and this collection does not disappoint. His characters all have their own idiosyncrasies and the interaction between characters along with the resulting inner response is what really make his stories interesting. From the stories of couples, siblings and old friends, his stories always have a touch of sadness as well as human candor. His curiousity about human nature comes through, as ever.

Sunday 18 November 2007

Neat book about human behaviour

Finished November 17
Quirkology: How We Discover The Big Truth In Small Things by Richard Wiseman
This interesting book by a British researching psychologist about the odd bits we have learned about human behaviour over the years is fascinating. He has grouped the information into chapters focusing on chronopsychology, lying and deception, belief, decision making, humour, helping others, with the last one a miscellany. Interesting bits I learned including that those born in the summer are luckier than those born in the winter, you should watch people's eyes to detect whether their smile is genuine or not, and women who drive minivans are more likely to break the rules. This last is one of the examples Wiseman includes in his afterword about how to pep up dinner conversations. I dare say I know some minivan driving women who would be put out by this psychological discovery. There are many neat things to be learned and I encourage all with an interest in the way others as well as ourselves behave to take a dip into this book.

Wednesday 14 November 2007

Historical Fantasy

Finished Nov 14
Marion Zimmer Bradley's Ravens of Avalon by Diana L. Paxson
This prequel to The Forest House by Bradley and Paxon tells the story of the rebellion of the Britons against the Romans, led by Boudica, the Briton Queen. The story starts with Boudica as a young teen, getting training from the priestesses and druids at the island of Mona and carries through until her death. The story of the Romans conquering and making peace with the Britons, followed by the rebellion, is a historical one. Many historical characters, including Boudica, appear here. The priestess and druid characters play a large role in the course of history and also in the plans and feelings of the main characters. The main priestess in the story, Lhiannon, became a friend of Boudica on Mona, and remains close to her. The novel blends history and fantasy well, and includes interesting explanations for actions by the main players.

Tuesday 13 November 2007

A Dog Story

Finished November 13
Rex and the City by Lee Harrington
This charming memoir about a woman, her boyfriend and the dog they adopt together from a shelter is a touching one. They had both been talking about getting a dog for quite a while. On impulse they stopped one day at a shelter, and the rest is history. Her boyfriend, Ted, felt a connection to the dog when he saw it at the shelter. The shelter hasn't given them any information on the dog, so they don't know what it has been through previously, but are pretty sure it must of been abused from the way it acts. They take advice from many many books and from other dog owners. They don't always agree, but that is also part of the story. Included are the ups and downs, the moments of despair and of joy. A wonderful for pet owners and pet lovers and that many of us can relate to. Inspiring and a feel-good book.

Monday 12 November 2007

Finished two on the weekend

Finished November 10
The Worst Thing I've Done by Ursula Hegi
This novel is about relationships and related in an interesting way to the second book I read.
Here Annie, Mason and Jake grew up in houses side by side and remained a threesome through their lives until now. When Annie and Mason got married a few years ago, Annie's parents were killed in a car crash on their way home, her mother living only long enough to have Opal, Annie's sister delivered. Annie has been both mother and sister to Opal and Mason and Jake have been involved as fathers. Now that Mason has killed himself, Annie has pushed Jake away as well, and is trying to see the truth of the relationship that the three of them had. This story is told from many points of view: Annie's, Mason's, Jake's, Opal's, Aunt Stormy (her mother's best friend) and Pete (Aunt Stormy's lover).
At first Annie drives for relief from grief, listening to radio psychologists solving people's relationship problems, but later she paddles, and eventually finds solace in her work again.

Finished November 11
The Cruellest Month by Louise Penny
This is another mystery set in the village of Three Pines. Someone in the community has been frightened to death during a seance and Armand Gamache of the Surete of Quebec is called in to investigate the death. Along with this, Gamache and his family are being attacked in the newspapers as a result of his role in disclosing severe police misconduct years earlier. Gamache knows that a traitor is planted among his team, but tries to keep his own fight to himself.
He finds jealousy and other toxic secrets among the villagers.
It is the disclosure of the idea of the "near enemy" among emotions, explained to Gamache by Myrna, that I was able to relate to the previous book. It is an interesting idea, and one taking place more than we may think. A fascinating story.

Saturday 10 November 2007

London Mystery on CD

Finished November 8
All Shall Be Well by Deborah Crombie, read by Michael Deehy
This is part of the series featuring Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and Sergeant Gemma James. Jasmine Dent appears to have died in her sleep. She was suffering from cancer, and had even considered suicide. Duncan is her downstairs neighbour and one of the two people that discover her. He sees some small inconsistencies and is led to the conclusion that Jasmine was murdered, but isn't sure why or by who. In searching her apartment he comes across her journals, dating from her childhood and begins searching her life for clues to her death. As he learns more about his neighbour's history, he finds much that he didn't know about her. A very satisfying mystery. This book also allows for Duncan and Gemma to spend some time together outside of official work, extending their relationship into new territory.

History and a Children's book

Finished November 4
Two Souls Indivisible by James S. Hirsch
I've had this one beside my bed and have been reading it slowly over the last couple of months. This is the story of two men in the U.S. armed forces that were POWs in Vietnam. Fred Cherry was an air force pilot and was injured when his plane came down. He was the first black officer to be captured. Porter Halyburton was a navigator for the navy's planes, and was younger, white and from the south. The Vietnamese put them together hoping that racial tensions would break the men. Instead, Halyburton nursed Cherry intimately and argued with the guards for items that Cherry needed. The intense connection between the two men, coming out of this forced relationship sustained them both throughout the many years they spent in captivity as well as continuing through the rest of their lives. A big part of this was the personality of the two men, Cherry never allowing himself to be baited, and Halyburton's sensitivity and sense of fairness.

We All Fall Down by Eric Walters
Will, a grade-nine student will be spending the day at his father's office. Will isn't looking forward to it, partly because he hasn't felt close to his father lately. His father, John is vice-president in an investment company located in the World Trade Center and has been working long hours and travelling a lot. As Will makes his way through the day, from the train ride in to meeting his father's co-workers, he finds that his father has not stopped feeling close to him. When the planes hit the towers and Will and his father deal with the aftermath, they discover each other in new ways and through new eyes. This story has drama, good character development and moves quickly.

Monday 5 November 2007

Touching Memoir

Finished November 3
A Three Dog Life: a memoir by Abigail Thomas
Abigail Thomas' husband Rich was hit by a car while walking their dog in New York City. The accident shattered his skull and severely damaged his brain. This book is the Abigail's story of her life through the years following the accident, the dogs that saved her sanity and grounded her, and the new life she made. Rich has no short term memory and is sometimes prone to rages and hallucinations. He also has amazing insights, and a perceptiveness she can't explain. Abigail tells her story with honesty, laying open her guilt, her lack of guilt, and, of course, her supporting cast of dogs. I just couldn't put this book down. It is one of the most absorbing memoirs I have read.

Saturday 3 November 2007

The latest Francis

Finished November 2
Dead Heat by Dick Francis and Felix Francis
The latest Dick Francis, and the first since the death of his wife, is no disappointment. In his classic style, the action takes place near the world of horses. This time the protagonist is a young chef, whose brother is, and late father was, horse trainers near Newmarket. Max Moreton became a chef at a young age, and has been running his own restautant for more than ten years. He also works some outside venues and has just done a celebrity chef dinner at the Jockey Club. Unfortunately he, and most others who attended have food poisoning. He has a luncheon, again at the club, and must scramble to get the food and service ready while the inspection agencies launch an investigation and close his restaurant due to the food poisoning. When a bomb blast rips through the private boxes where his luncheon was, killing one of his staff, several guests and injuring more he begins to wonder what is going on.
As his investigation leads him to believe that the poisoning was deliberate, and he delves further into the disruptions to his life, he is led to more disturbing facts.
As usual Francis offers plenty of action and suspense, including near misses and just-in-time saves. He also, as in many of his books, offers a spot of romance, some travel, and new insights into the horse and criminal worlds. A winner.

Thursday 1 November 2007

Modern Day Fantasy

Finished October 31
Solstice Wood by Patricia A. McKillip
This is an interesting look at the relationship between the "real" world and the world of faerie. Sylvia Lynn lives far from the small village that she grew up in, running a bookstore that she owns. When her grandmother, Iris, calls her to let her know her beloved grandfather has died, she returns. She reconnects with family and her best friend, and with the woods that she has always felt drawn to. It is only when she attends the Fiber Guild meeting hosting by her grandmother that she realizes the power that exists in the forest and the control that the Guild tries to place on that power through their knitting, embroidering, and sewing. She is forced to face her own history in a way that she has been running from for years as well as reveal the secret that she has been hiding from everyone else.
There are interesting character and motivations and the plot offers another view of the effects of magic on the world.

Tuesday 30 October 2007

Sci-Fi Novellas

Finished October 28
Now and Forever by Ray Bradbury
This book contains two novellas: Somewhere a Band Is Playing and Leviathan '99. The first is about a reporter who is led by his research to a small town in Arizona. The train doesn't even stop here. When it slows he flings off his luggage and himself and begins to explore the town. He finds that he is expected and, as he explores, he is led to certain knowledge about the town, which the inhabitants don't want him to know. He has been followed by another reporter he has competed for stories with in the past, and finds himself on the town's side against the reporter. He also finds that he has knowledge about the town that the inhabitants are not yet aware of.
This is an interesting idea around what we believe.
The second novella is one that Bradbury has written in radio play form before and keeps rewriting. It was inspired by Moby Dick, and here the ship is a spaceship that travels space looking for a great white comet that may, or may not, destroy the earth. The main character is allowed by a fellow crew member to see into the minds of the captain and other officers to see the direction of their thoughts and how they will affect the outcome of the trip.
An interesting adaptation of the Melville story.

Children's Fantasy

Finished October 28
Un Lun Dun by China Mieville
This fantasy novel is set in London, England and Un Lun Dun, a parallel world populated by a mix of individuals including some who used to live in London. Un Lun Dun is the place lost and broken items go, including many of the things people place out by the curb hoping someone else will take them. There are ways to travel between the two, but they aren't predictable and just because you try, doesn't mean that you can get there, or get back.
Here, Un Lun Dun is being threatened and it is awaiting its hero, who coming was foretold in the pages of a talking book. 12-year-old Zanna and her friend Deeba find an entrance one night after following a broken umbrella and it seems like the prophesy is coming true, but things start going wrong despite help from Brokkenbroll, master of the broken umbrellas; Obaday Fing, a tailor whose head is a large pincushion; Joe Jones, a bus conductor; and a milk carton named Deeba names Curdle.
Will the girls be able to make it back to London, and if they do will their families still remember them? And what about the evil menacing Un Lun Dun?
This is a wonderful tale, with humour and excitement (including carnivorous giraffes) and the heroes learn not to judge by outward appearances. There is also an environmental aspect to this book, which is relevant to our times.
I loved it.

Monday 29 October 2007

Another Canadian Novel

Finished October 27
Remembering the Bones by Frances Itani
With the success of her earlier novel, Deafening, I wondered if her new book would be as good, but it definitely is. This novel focuses on Georgina Witley, an 80-year-old woman. Georgina was born on the same day as Queen Elizabeth II and has been invited to help celebrate the occasion at Buckingham Palace. As her husband is dead, and her mother is very old, she has decided to go on her own, including driving to the airport in Toronto. Unfortunately she drives off the road into a ravine and is thrown from the car. Unable to move much due to her injuries she finds herself looking back on her life, singing old songs, and remembering the names of the bones in her body that she learned from her grandfather's anatomy book when she was a child.
As she follows her life through her family background, childhood, marriage and motherhood, she recalls family secrets, personal emotions and hardships. She also things about the Queen's life and its similarities and differences to her own.
George, as she is known to her friends, had a life dominated by the women in her family from her grandmother down to her daughter and has good memories with all of them. Her relations with the males in the family are both more difficult and less close, yet affected her life immensely. Her memories draw the characters clearly, showing heartache and resilience and ultimately at comfort with the life she has lived.
A wonderful book.

Fun and Silly Book

Finished October 26
What Pets Do While You're At Work by Jason Bergund and Bev West
This silly little book with pictures of pets at home and short captions about how they've been caught in the act is cute. I liked the pictures of animals behaving in amusing manners or acting cute, not so much the ones where they are posed or dressed up.
If you like animals and want a laugh, this offers many.

An intriguing mystery

Finished October 25

Origin by Diana Abu-Jaber

This novel is set in Syracuse, New York. The main character, Lena Dawson, is a fingerprint expert at the crime lab. She has a small circle of friends that she works with, is separated from a philandering policeman, and is estranged from her foster parents. Lena has always felt a bit different, and has always resented her foster parents for not adopting her, even though they promised to at different times. She doesn't know anything about her true parentsHer relationship with her husband is a complex one. It was he who left her despite his infidelities and over the first few months of their separation she begged him to come back many times. She still has dinner with him once a week.
When there are suddenly more than the normal amount of SIDS deaths occurring, Lena is approached by one of the mothers to find the truth behind the deaths. Despite herself, Lena is drawn into the inquiry and finds that she may be targeted by the killer as well.
Lena's character is a interesting one, and the reader is allowed into her mind as she tries to understand what is going on, not only with the babies, but with her own past, and her own feelings in the present.

Wednesday 24 October 2007

Short stories by a master of the human condition

Finished October 24
We Are Not in Pakistan by Shauna Singh Baldwin
I've liked this author for awhile (and not just because we have the same first name, albeit spelled differently). She can really describe such a variety of human feelings and viewpoints that I find myself moved by every story. Her main characters in the story are all a little out of their element. This includes immigrants (to both the US and Canada), people and animals displaced by death, marriage or divorce, and those just looking for their place in the world. I liked each and every one in this collection, and felt their uncertainty and vulnerability. The stories surprised and gripped me, and I couldn't leave one unfinished before taking a break. She is definitely one of our star fiction writers.

Monday 22 October 2007

Great sequel to teen novel

Finished October 21
Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
This followup to the novel Stargirl, picks up where the earlier book let off. Stargirl has moved from Arizona to a small town in Pennsylvania and has gone back to being homeschooled. As she comes to terms with her feelings regarding her ex-boyfriend Leo, back in Arizona, she learns about the people around her in her new neighbourhood. There is the energetic 3-year-old down the street who adopts her as a big sister. The man who sits in the cemetary every day by his wife's grave. The agoraphobic woman who misses the garden she used to tend. And of course the boy with the blue eyes. All these characters and more grow to care for Stargirl and become part of her new life. She also find solace in meditation and the cycles of the seasons, creating a solar calendar in a nearby field where she tracks the sun from the summer solstice to the winter solstice. Stargirl has more than ever to share with the world as she learns to value her own feelings. This is a great follow-up and a good book against conforming to the norm.

Another Nemirovsky Novel

Finished October 20
Fire in the Blood by Irene Nemirovsky
This book was originally written in 1941 and it is believed that it was still being worked on right up to when she was sent to her death in 1942. It is only recently when writers were working on an autobiography of her that the entire novel was discovered and brought together for publication. The main character here is Silvio, an older man who spent his youth travelling the world having a variety of adventures. He has sold off most of his land to pay expenses and now lives alone in a very small and badly kept house. When he attends the wedding of a young female cousin he is reminded of the fire in the blood that he had in his youth and that she has. He is an observer of the family and as he describes his young cousin and her parents and other local relations, we see other youthful loves and regrets of age, some of them long-guarded secrets. This is a short, but strong novel that shows Nemirovsky's awareness of the rural life and the social conventions of the time.

Friday 19 October 2007

Great book about Fathers and Daughters

Finished October 19
The First Man in My Life: Daughters Write About Their Fathers edited by Sandra Martin
This collection of memoirs by Canadian women about their fathers was fascinating. I consider myself to have a very good and close relationship with my own father, so the idea of it intrigued me as soon as I heard of it. The fact that these women are Canadian was even better. Not all the relationships between fathers and daughters are good ones, but they all taught the daughter some life skill (or what to avoid doing). Some daughters looked back on the relationship as an adult and talked about how it changed over time, or looked different from that perspective. Some felt the relationship had only grown stronger. This would be a great choice for Christmas periods for those on either side of the relationship.

Thursday 18 October 2007

An amusing audiobook

Finished October 16

Austenland by Shannon Hale, read by Katherine Kellgren

Jane Hayes is a graphic artist, still unmarried in her early thirties. She has had several (13) boyfriends over the years, but has never had the romance she secretly desires. She has always been enamored of the novel Pride and Prejudice, particularly of Mr. Darcy and the BBC production with Colin Firth playing Darcy only consolidates this romantic notion. When an elderly relative dies and leaves her a vacation at a "special" estate in London where she acts in a Regency era household for 3 weeks she's not sure whether to be bored, frustrated, or amused. This is very comical and light and good fun.

A Mystery Solved Years Later

Finished October 15
The Widow by Carla Neggers
Abigail Brownings husband Christopher was murdered four days into their honeymoon. Seven years later the case is still unsolved and Abigail can't let it go. Her husband was an FBI agent and her father a senior staff member at the FBI. She wonders if her family connection had anything to do with his death. When Christopher died she was a law student, but after his death she quit law school and joined the police force in Boston. She is now a detective and has many friends on the force who value her instincts and skill at her job. When she receives a cryptic phone call on the anniversary of her husband's death, she is drawn back to the cottage she still owns, where he grew up and was killed. Many of those who were there seven years ago are still there and she asks questions of all of them to try to get to the truth behind his death.
Both her drive and her emotionally state show clearly here and while her heart is now free to pursue new relationships, she feels a duty to her late husband to find out what really happened.
A good character, with many good supporting characters that have more than just simple motivations driving them as well. Enjoyable and engrossing.

Fascinating book about growing up

Finished October 12
Flower Children by Maxine Swann
This novel follows the maturing of four children growing up in rural Pennsylvania with parents that can best be defined as hippies. The parents divorce when the children are quite young and the story moves back and forth between living with the mother, and her various boyfriends, in the countryside, and visiting the father, and his various girlfriends elsewhere. It takes into account the grandparents on the father's side, also somewhat of a hippie nature, with many people coming and going, no focus on financial security and lots of free thinking. The one visit to these grandparents that is described is enchanting and sad at the same time. The visits to their maternal grandmother are quite different. They are on their best behaviour, dressed tidily and behaving politely.
The children are mostly free to spend time on what interests them, and yet are aware of the differences between their home life and that of most of their friends at school. The father in particular treats the children as small adults and talks to them of things like his sex life and other adult subjects.
The last chapter is one of reminisence, as the children visit their childhood home as adults and see it all with adult eyes.
The characters come alive and, with much of the book told from a child's perspective, the observations seem very honest and factual, without the overtones of approval or disapproval.
I really enjoyed this novel.

One for work

Finished October 11
The Hands-Off Manager: How to Mentor People and Allow Them to Be Successful by Steve Chandler
I enjoyed this book and learned some techniques that I will hopefully put into practice. The management philosophy espoused here is very similar to what comes naturally to me, and validated some of my own behaviours. I believe that a good manager tries to remove the barriers from her staff in order that they can excel. I also believe that you should encourage your staff to move upward whereever appropriate and not be competitive with them. I am lucky to have skilled staff to begin with, that I can use many of the ideas given here in terms of mentoring and coaching and encouraging them to make their own decisions and try new things. I hope I can use the ideas here to give my team even more success in the future.

Foreign Mystery

Finished October 10
The Glass Devil by Helene Tursten
This Swedish mystery took me a while to warm up to. At first the story seemed unemotional, but it gradually came to sections where the characters seemed to gain depth and warmth. The main detective here is female, Irene Huss, and she is a member of the Goteborg police force. The police procedure is glossed over somewhat, so you don't get a detailed sense of how the force operates, but there is some discussion of regular meetings and shifts. Irene seems to have a comfortable yet formal relationship with her boss, and good relations with several of her colleagues, some of whom she respects more than others. The humour between the characters gradually takes shape, as does Irene's family. Her observations are described very factually, and yet with some intuition showing as well. I will try another one by this author to see if the sense I had by the end of the book remains with me.
As to the content of the mystery, it centers around a particular family with the father a minister, the mother with a history of depression, and the son seemingly interested in mission work, as well as teaching. With the son and parents murdered early in the book, the relationships they had with the sister in England becomes very important, and she stays a bit of an enigma as both the British police and Irene find it difficult to make headway with her.

Wednesday 17 October 2007

About Reading

Finished October 9
The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Ultimate Reading List by Shelley Mosley, John Charles, Joanne Hamilton-Selway, and Sandra Van Winkle
This book attempts to give the reader a list of the top books from all fiction genres and narrative fiction genres to provide a list of books to read. While it certainly gives some good choices in the many genres, it is obviously influenced by the personal tastes of the four authors and I found many of my own choices missing. In terms of historical fiction, the United States is the only "new world" country present, thus leaving out Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and all of Latin America. Asia is given only one page, which considering its many cultures and countries, is severely short-changing this continent.
This is just one example in a continuing pattern of gloss over rather than true overview and certainly far from an "ultimate" reading list.
I suggest you make your own list, as I have, from past reading, observations of friends, book reviews, library recommendations, serendipitous finds, and other personal sources. Let your list be an ever-growing one and you will never lack something to grab your interest.

British Mystery

Finished October 9
Retreat from Murder by Marion Babson
In the quiet village of Brimful Coffers, which has a large number of mystery writers living among the population, Lorinda Lucas returns from a stateside book tour to find many new developments. A young girl has been killed by a hit and run driver who is still being sought by the police. Her cats, Had-I and But-Known, have taken pity on neighbour cat, Roscoe, who has been put on a diet by his owner's new girlfriend. Lorinda's friend Freddie has developed an interest in mysteries with recipes and is busy trying them out on her friends and the cats.
When two visitors to the village, mystery writers using the same character, get added to the mix, another murder brings suspicion to the newcomers. As Lorinda unravels the many stories drawn together by her friends, the understated humour of this book remains ever-present.

Canadian Fantasy

Finished October 9
Widdershins by Charles de Lint
This fantasy centers around the conflict between native Canadian spirits based on animals of North America and the imported European fairies that came with the settlers to Canada. There is also added baggage of the destruction of environment by the settlers themselves and how that affected the native spirits.
When a direct conflict is instigated by a small group of dwarf-like fairies killing the daughter of a native spirit leader, things are brought to a head.
Also involved in this situation are several musicians, particularly those who fiddle, and their ties with both the spirit groups. As the humans and some spirits try desperately to avoid all-out war between the two groups, the humans involved also face their own demons and truths and come to grips with their own roles in the world.

History from World War II

Finished October 7
The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
This history of Jan Zabinski (the zookeeper) and Antonina Zabinski (his wife) is of Polish Christian zookeepers in Warsaw, and their experience of World War II. The animals do not figure as intimately as I expected, mainly because German zoos took most of the animals they wanted after occupying Poland. Some animals were killed in the battles between the Poles and the Germans before this, as well as some that were killed due to their enclosures being damaged. After the Germans had taken what animals they wanted, many more were killed for sport by the soldiers.
Despite this, the affinity for animals by Antonina comes through and her strong feelings of care for those persecuted by the Germans. Jan comes across as more reckless and less feeling than his wife, but that may be due to the author's sympathy for her main subject.
This book would have been better if the author had stuck to a narrative over time instead of going down distracting sidelines. It would also have been more meaningful to animal lovers if she had shown more clearly what happened to specific types of animals in a more complete way.

Saturday 6 October 2007

Wonderful Canadian Novel

Finished October 5
Cloud of Bone by Bernice Morgan
I really enjoyed Morgan's first book, and liked her second one, but this one I loved. Her details of the Beothuks in their last days were founded on fact, and thus read true. The story of Shawandithit is touching, and appealing to me. She came alive, as did the other Beothuks around her. The character of Kyle Holloway, a young Newfoundland man who entered the Navy early by lying about his age, also comes alive. He finds himself in deeper than he expected and struggling to cope. The present day character of Judith Muir also reads very true. Her grief and day-to-day actions as she retreats from society are honest, and the discovery that compels her beyond this to action is as compelling for the reader as it is for her.
This is definitely on my list of top books for the year and I will be recommending it highly.

Friday 5 October 2007

A Good Listen

Finished October 4
The Collaborators by Reginald Hill, read by Michael Tudor Barnes
This one took a while to get through (13 CDs) but was excellent. The book was came out in 1987, but the audiobook is recent. The story is set in Paris from 1940 to 1945, mostly during the German occupation. Janine Simonian, daughter of patisserie owners Claude and Louise Crozier, married Jean Paul Simonian who is missing in action. When she tries to flee Paris ahead of the Germans, her car is destroyed by German planes and she and her children, Paulie and Cece, return to Paris. Janine is fiercely anti-Nazi and yet ends up being helped by a German Abwehr officer, Gunter Mai, when she tries to find out what happened to her husband. She turns to Mai later in the war when her children are rounded up after staying with their Jewish grandmother. With Paris under German occupation, some residants accept the patronage, some work with them, some collaborate openly, and some join the resistance. As the characters show their priorities and personal as well as national loyalties and do what they feel they must to survive, the complications emerge. After Paris is liberated, Janine is accused of supplying information to the Germans that led to the arrest and torture of members of the resistance, and to the murder of her husband. What is the truth of it, and where do the betrayals lie. I found the complex characters, the situation in Paris during this time and the actions of the plot engrossing and moving. I would definitely recommend this book.

Tuesday 2 October 2007

A Crime Thriller

Finished October 2
The Devil's Playground by Stav Sherez
This first novel is a very complex thriller, with events from the present linked back to the Holocaust. The main character is Jon Reed, a music writer turned website writer from London. Jon has turned away from his music writer after a negative review was followed by the musician's suicide. Jon has recently taken in a homeless man, Jake Colby, that he has seen often and finds himself becoming attached to him and his story. Jake has gone back to his Jewish roots in Amsterdam after discovering them late in life, and his death there leads Jon to Amsterdam as well. Dutch police detective Ronald Van Hijn is on the case which he thinks is linked to a set of serial murders in the city. There is also an American woman, Suze, studying the work of a Jewish artist who was killed in Auschwitz. As these three characters cross paths and grow closer to the truth of what is happening, they are in more and more danger. The theme of music persists here as well, with both Reed and Van Hijn deeply interested in music and one of the clues hidden in music. A very interesting first novel.

Monday 1 October 2007

The Newest Inspector Banks

Finished September 30
Friend of the Devil by Peter Robinson
The latest in the series featuring Inspector Alan Banks does not disappoint. DI Annie Cabbot is on loan to Eastern and has a difficult murder case before her. Not only lacking in suspects, she has to dig for information on the quadriplegic victim as well.
Banks has the case of a young woman brutally raped and murdered. Is she, as one of his officers believes, the first in a series? Was it targeted, or just opportunistic? There are many questions, and the case doesn't get easier when there is a second murder victim in the same area a week later.
As always, this case includes windows into the personal lives of Banks and Cabbot, their relationship with each other as well as other relationships. Annie is still unsure of what she really wants, and she doesn't always trust her own reactions.
As good as ever, and keeps you reading.

Friday 28 September 2007

Two books completed

Finished September 28
The Practical Library Manager by Bruce Massis
I've been slowly reading this one for a while and I did find the information on core competencies useful, but a lot of the rest of it wasn't very helpful to me, at least not where I am working presently. The idea of a technology needs survey was interesting, but the one they had as a sample in the appendix was not anywhere like what we would be looking at in terms of needs. We are all technologically literate here, it would be learning more about 2.0 technologies that would be something that we would want to do. Borrow it and get what information is useful to you from it, but I would say that it isn't really worth buying.

Finished September 27
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
This is a very different book, and I found it a bit slow going, mostly due to its format. It is written as that which is spoken by one character, mostly reviewing to someone he has just met his experiences at school in the United States, in his first job there, and how he came to be back in Pakistan. The speaker is a male Pakistani native from a upper-class family fallen on hard times and the person he is talking to is an American who is visiting Pakistan, but not as a tourist. The second person does occasionally make conversation back to the speaker, although we don't hear exactly what is said. We get the gist of it from the context of the speaker's word and know it is fairly limited. It is unclear why the speaker feels the need to give this information, and also why the listener feels compelled to stay for the several hours necessary to hear him out. The story is one of a man trying to fit into a world that he eventually realizes he doesn't fit into. The listener is wary and nervous, yet listens. I find myself asking questions about the book afterwards, revisiting it in my head. This is definitely one that makes you think.

Wednesday 26 September 2007

Two NonFiction

Finished September 26
Flushed: How the Plumber Saved Civilization by W. Hodding Carter
This very engaging book intersperses the author's experiences with plumbing with historical information on the development of plumbing worldwide. He also talks about the future with examples of new technologies, some already in place in certain areas of the world. I found the history very interesting and the most interesting new technology to me was that of biogas systems in India. The systems are used in commercial applications with the organically cleaned wastewater used for gardens and the biogas used to run stoves, waterheaters and other such equipment. Biogas can be used to make electricity as well. Carter's personal experiences are amusing and educating. I have long been a fan of the microhistory and this is a winner.

Finished September 25
Things I Overheard While Talking To Myself by Alan Alda, read by Alan Alda
This book is a collection of sorts. Alda has brought together some of the public addresses that he has given over his life (commencement addresses, memorial talks, etc.) and looked at what drew him to say the things he did, how successful he felt he was at conveying the meaning he wanted to convey, and what he thinks of them in hindsight. He also talks about the philosophical questions he has asked himself over his life, and how many of these talks relate in some way to those questions. Throughout the book he keeps coming back to the question of what makes a life meaningful and comes to answer that works for him. Perhaps it came across more because he is reading this audiobook himself, but I felt the sincerity of what he was saying and his struggle with the questions strongly, and I will definitely be recommending this book. I will also be buying some people I know copies for Christmas!

Sunday 23 September 2007

Four books read recently

Finished September 22
Reading Life: Books for the Ages by Sven Birkerts
This book by professor, critic and essayist Birkerts is a collection of musings about the books that have been significant in his life, often reappearing at different points in this life and how revisiting them reveals information about age, growth, memory and other changes over time. He talks about how and when he read these books and what he took away from them each time. It was interesting to see how not only one sees different aspects of the book when viewing it from different times in ones life, but also how one may not be ready for a book at one time, but find it moving at another. It made me think about some of the books that have had a significance in my own life and also made me think about how I read the books I do.

Rattling the Bones by Ann Granger
This latest in the series featuring Francesca Varady reflects back on her previous homeless existence as she meets up with an older lady that had also been homeless then. Edna has been taking into a charity home, but still spends most of her time roaming the streets and interacting with the cats she meets. When Edna shows fear when noticing a young man watching her, Fran is determined to find out why Edna is scared and what someone would want from her. The search for this information leads Fran to a detective agency, to the current caregivers of Edna, and to Edna's past. She realizes that there is a need to protect Edna from someone who doesn't seem to want her found and brings her police friend Janice Morgan into the loop. Fran's friend Ganesh is still trying to keep her out of trouble, while her detective friend Susie helps with advice. Enjoyable as usual.

Finished September 20
Stardust by Neil Gaiman, read by Neil Gaiman
This book was one I listened to, and I think having the author reading added something to the experience. This is a fantasy novel, that has recently been made into a movie (which I would like to see). I've liked everything I've read to date by Gaiman, and enjoyed the interview tacked onto the end of this recording. The book is very much a fairy tale, taking place either in the world of Fairy or just outside its boundary in the village of Wall. The main character is an earnest young man, son of a farmer and ignorant of his real mother's identity as a being from the world of fairy. He sets out to prove his love for the village beauty by bringing her back a star that they see fall. But the star turns out to be a something other than what he expects, and others seek her for reasons of their own. I very much enjoyed this book.

Black Seconds by Karin Fossum
This novel of psychological suspense is centered around the disappearance of an extremely cute seven-year-old girl. She has set off on her bicycle to go to the nearby shop but never arrives. The police are called in and organize searches, but Ida seems to have vanished without a trace. Many characters have their own secrets and stories, and this adds to the suspense. In Ida's own family her two cousin's react very differently, one not wanting to speak of her at all. A friend of the cousin is involved in the local drug trade and is trying to avoid police suspicion, an elderly woman tries to protect her son, who appears to be autistic. Inspector Sejer is a thoughtful, caring police officer who takes his job seriously and tries to consider all options. I have found this series very enjoyable and this latest book is no exception.

Tuesday 18 September 2007

2 Science Fiction books

Finished September 16
Spin by Robert Charles Wilson
This very engaging book gives an alternate future for a present day Earth. In this alternate future, the earth is "protected" by a membrane or blanket around it. The first the earth's inhabitants are aware of it is when the stars and the moon disappear one night, and the nights are left in the dark. The three characters at the centre of the book are Jason and his twin sister Diana and their friend Tyler. Jason is a boy genius, who makes this membrane his life's work. Diana reacts initially with dismay and then with rebellion, joining a radical religious movement and estranging herself from her family. Tyler is her touchstone when she needs to talk. Tyler finds himself still drawn to Jason and Diana and their family as he becomes an adult and is their confidant and friend. The characters felt very real and not forced in any way. I liked the premise of the book and found it original and yet not unbelievable. A great read and great plot.

Finished September 14
Mindscan by Robert J. Sawyer
This science fiction plot was interesting, the idea of replicating a human mind and putting it into a fabricated body to allow people to live "forever". In this case the service of this replicating has been marketed to those with physical ailments or the genetics that determine that they will eventually have certain ailments. The main character Jake Sullivan is afraid of succumbing to the illness that made his father a vegetable and has lived his life afraid to make commitments and enter relationships. Another character, Karen is a science fiction writer who has arthritis and other age-related physical ailments. After going through the process, they both encounter new issues both from within themselves and from others in their lives. As they deal with these, the ethics of biotech becomes a topic as does the issue of what makes a person human. I found the plot engaging, but the characters themselves seemed a bit less than human. They seemed a level removed and I didn't identify with them on an emotional level.

Thursday 13 September 2007

Chick lit and a thriller

Finished September 13
Lying with Strangers by James Grippando, performed by Alyssa Breshnahan
This thriller is set in and around Boston. Peyton Shields is a new doctor who has always wanted to be a pediatrician, and now works at the Children's Hospital. Her husband Kevin Stokes is a lawyer who doesn't like living in Boston that much. Their relationship has grown strained due to her long hours and dedication to her job. When she is forced off the road by a driver on a snowy night and ends up in a pond, neither the police nor Kevin believe her story. When more unexplained things start to happen to Peyton and the people around her, and she finds herself accused of having an affair with a former boyfriend, the marriage becomes more strained. When finally Peyton ends up accused of murder, she starts to wonder who is setting her up and why and how well she really knows those close to her. There are lots of thriller moments and realistic descriptions of feelings by the characters, even some narrations by the real killer to get the reader drawn into the plot.

Finished September 12
The Sleeping Beauty Proposal by Sarah Strohmeyer
This light novel has college admissions officer Genie Michaels feeling in a rut. Her boyfriend of four years, English professor Hugh Spencer shows no signs of commitment and the rest of her life feels stale. When Hugh appears on national television being interviewed about his new romance novel and is urged to propose to his own love, he does, except it isn't Genie. In fact, when Genie gets hold of him, he claims not to be sexually attracted to her. Genie's best friend Patty urges her to pretend that it was her and go with the flow. This is where the fun starts.
Genie lets her mother take on the wedding planning, gets herself a ring, and looks at buying a house. Her new interest in her life has her making personal changes as well and realizing that she doesn't need a man to make her life interesting, but if a good one shows up that is even better. Great fun, and great characters. A good read.

Tuesday 11 September 2007

Another Novel Read

Finished September 11
Mad Dash by Patricia Gaffney
This tale of a woman's midlife crisis is told both from her and her husband's points of view. There is also a short section from their college-aged daughter's viewpoint. Dash is in her mid-forties, a commercial photographer specializing in portraits of children. Her husband Andrew is a university history professor with a special interest in Thomas Jefferson. Throughout their relationship, they've both been aware of their differences, and mostly appreciated them, but suddenly Dash needs to get away. She runs to their cabin in Virginia and becomes involved in the community there, making friends and working on the cabin. She commutes to her studio a few days a week, and hires an assistant to be there, both when she's on a job and to cover the office when she's not there. Andrew doesn't understand what is going on and Dash can't articulate it. They both look at their relationship more closely, through others eyes including that of a therapist. There is a good deal of humour here, and the supporting characters are given true personalities rather than just outlines. I liked how the plot developed and felt the characters reacted to the situations in honest ways.

Monday 10 September 2007

Sci-Fi with a twist

Finished September 8
The Android's Dream by John Scalzi
This is an entertaining science fiction story. The earth is part of a collective of planets and is in a sticky situation after a trade negotiator kills his counterpart from earth's biggest trading partner. To get back in the Nidu's good books they agree to help find a sheep with a particular DNA. This sheep is needed in the upcoming coronation ceremony for the Nidu and they can't find one anywhere. When Harry Creek from the State Department locates the DNA, he finds himself fighting off another group, so it is a good thing his past training and skills give him an edge. There is lots of good stuff here: several different alien types, lava-strewn battlefields, a new religion, and some innovative artificial intelligence. I found it very entertaining.

Saturday 8 September 2007

A Thriller

Finished September 7
Beyond Reach by Karin Slaughter
This is the latest in the series featuring police chief Jeffrey Tolliver and his wife, doctor Sara Linton. Sara is being charged in a malpractice suit and is feeling very alone, relying on Jeffrey more than usual. One of Jeffrey's detectives, Lena Adams, is apparently in trouble. She appears to be good at getting herself into difficult situations.
Jeffrey receives a call that she has been found at the scene of a suspicious vehicle fire, and is not talking to anyone. Jeffrey and Sara go to the hospital she is being held at, in Lena's hometown three hours away, and Lena is frantic that they not be there. She escapes, and Jeffrey and Sara find themselves trying to put the pieces together to find out what is going on. The new young sheriff in the area, Jake Valentine, doesn't appear friendly or very competent. As the story switches back and forth between what Lena has experienced and what Jeffrey and Sara are learning, the action and suspense intensifies. A good action-packed thriller, with lots going on, and quite a few tight situations.

Thursday 6 September 2007


Finished September 5
Terence Conran Storage: Get Organized by Terence Conran and Elizabeth Wilhide
I'm a storage junkie, so of course I loved this book. I'm also very visual and the pictures here are great, but it isn't all about the pictures. The text is also very informative and gives a lot of tips for getting organized, culling your belongings, and ways to think about why you do what you do now in terms of organizing and using items. There are lots of interesting ideas and a range of resources listed at the back of the book.

Monday 3 September 2007

Four Mysteries

Finished September 3
Shake Hands Forever by Ruth Rendell
This is one of Rendell's that I missed and finally got around to reading. Inspector Wexford and his sidekick Burden, get a case of a murdered wife. The woman is discovered by her mother-in-law upon arrival for a weekend visit. The husband was at work when the murder occured, but Wexford is sure of his involvement. Wexford is however forbidden from more contact with the man after a complaint of harrassment and is forced to take his actions on the case onto his own time. He gets his nephew, in the London police, interested and along with him finds out more about the man's actions. When another investigator does Wexford a favour, things really start to come together, but it is a close thing. Good plot with interesting characters.

Finished September 2
The Seventh Sacrament by David Hewson
This novel takes us back to Rome and the team of Nic Costa, Leo Falcone, Gianni Peroni, and pathologist Teresa Lupo. Leo is targetted by a man he put in jail fourteen years ago for beating a suspect to death, after being left alone with the suspect by Leo's boss Arturo Messina. The man, Giorgio Bramante, is trying to find out what happened to his 7-year-old son Alessio. The victim, Ludo Torchia, and five other students were in the same underground archeological site as Giorgio and Alessio and are suspected of knowing what happened to him. Because of Giorgio's attack on Ludo, none of the other students are questioned, and Arturo Messina loses his job. Now, Arturo's son Bruno is Leo's boss. Will he make mistakes as well, or trust Leo's guidance to find the real story at last. The action is good. The characters good and the plot, told from various points of view, developed nicely. I enjoyed this one while lying in my hammock in the shade, great activity for the long weekend!

Last Breath by George Shuman
This is the second Sherry Moore book. After the last book, when her friend and the man she loved, John Payne, died she is struggling to deal with her grief and the stress she endures when she uses her gift. She is brought in by the Pennsylvania attorney general to try to find out who killed the three kidnapped women, recently found in cold storage in a warehouse. They disappeared two years ago, and police attributed the kidnappings to three young men killed in a police chase with another kidnapping victim. As the state police and the FBI both get involved, Sherry is taken to her lowest and finds the strength to take on this new serial murder case with newfound dedication. Very enjoyable with good suspense and a good plot, moving point of view between the perpetrator, enforcement personnel, and Sherry herself.

Finished August 31
Bad Luck and Trouble by Lee Child
This is the latest in the series featuring Jack Reacher, an interesting character who travels only with his passport and a folding toothbrush. When he buys a new shirt, he throws away the previous one. In this novel, he is contacted by a member of his old team from the services. Another member of the team has been murdered and they are out to discover why. As they try to contact the remaining members of the team, they find that the murdered man is not the only one involved, and more may be dead as a result of whatever killed their buddy. As the remaining members hunt down clues to the case that was being investigated, they are given false trails and remain unsure who to trust. Reacher is elected leader and is sometimes forced the overrule others, but he comes through as usual. An exciting, action-packed plot with lots of tight situations. Fun to read.

Wednesday 29 August 2007

Good Listen

Finished August 29
Good Harbor by Anita Diamant, read by Linda Emond
This is the story of two women who become friends. Kathleen Levine has lived in Gloucester, Massachusetts all her life. She converted from Catholocism to Judaism before her marriage, and raised her family here. She is a librarian at the local school, and has an affinity for pairing children with the right book to get them to read. Joyce Tabachnik is a freelance writer, who uses the money from her first novel, under a nom de plume, to buy a small house in Gloucester as a place to write and a vacation home for herself, her husband and their 12-year-old daughter Nina. The two women meet at temple one Friday and link immediately, sharing their thoughts, problems, and secrets. Kathleen has early breast cancer and is worried about it, as well as other issues from her family. Joyce is feeling distanced from her husband and daughter as Frank seems to be more interested in work than her, and Nina is at the age where mothers are embarrassing. As the two women create a friendship, they also help each other find their way in their lives. A very enjoyable listen.

Tuesday 28 August 2007

A Los Angeles Thriller

Finished August 28
City on Fire by Robert Ellis
This book is fast-moving with lots of action, lots of violence and lots of suspense. The main character, Lena Gamble, is a young detective still hurting from the unsolved murder of her brother not that long ago. In her first case as the lead detective, she and her partner Novak are paired with another team. The victim is brutally murdered, and yet doesn't seem to have fought her killer. When her husband's alibi doesn't pan out, her is the obvious suspect. But things aren't always that simple. Evidence links this crime with a previous killing of a beautiful young woman whose husband has admitted to the killing. Who is the man whose is killing these woman, and has he killed before?
Contributing to the suspense is the number of fires, fueled by the Santa Ana winds, that are moving in on the city.
Lena is a strong character and the motives for her actions ring true.

Monday 27 August 2007

Two Mysteries

Finished Aug 26
The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri
This is the first mystery I've read by Camilleri and I really like his style. His main character, Inspector Salvo Montalbano, is a good policeman who trusts his instincts and knows his area. The mystery is set in Sicily and there is a lot of mention of the crime the area is known for. Here, Silvio Lupanello, a local political leader, is found dead in his car, with his pants around his knees in a part of town known for prostitution and drug dealing. The case seems straightforward, but Montalbano notes small discrepencies and follows up on them, while still keeping the politicians happy. There is good characterization and humour here and I will definitely try some more by this author.

Finished Aug 25
Gone to Ground by John Harvey
Every Harvey book I read makes me like this writer more, and this one is no exception. Set in Cambridge, a body of a gay academic, Stephen Bryan, is found. Is it an encounter gone wrong? Detectives Will Grayson and Helen Walker consider the possibilities. There is an ex-lover, Mark McKusick, who seems to have remained on good terms with Bryan, but could he have been involved. What motive is there behind the removal of Bryan's computer, disks and papers on his book in progress. Why doesn't Stella Leonard's family want him writing about her? The questions are many, but the answers don't come easily. Stephen's sister, Lesley, a BBC radio reporter starts looking into the connection between the biography he was working on and his death. What about the hate crime against gays in the area? and does it have any relation to this case? Will is afraid of missing something by concentrating too hard on one perpetrator, but doesn't want to seem to be grasping at straws. The characters show real emotions and weaknesses and their suspicions are not always unbiased by their own backgrounds. I found it very engaging and hard to put down.

Thursday 23 August 2007

A Memoir and a Tale from World War One

Finished August 23
Botswana Time by Will Randall
I've had this one beside my bed for a while, reading it slowly and savouring it. This memoir is by a British teacher about the time he spent teaching and living in Kasane, Botswana. As he becomes part of the community and engages both with the children and with the other teachers and parents, he also learns about Botwana. He has a great respect for the country and its people and that comes through strongly here. His affection for the children also comes through strongly, and he draws the personalities nicely. He also, of course, encounters the animals, sometimes happily, sometimes not so much, but always described with great humour. He is self-deprecating, but not dishonestly. I really enjoyed this book.

In the Dark by Deborah Moggach
This tale set in Southwark during World War II, is of a teenage boy and his mother, running a rooming house. The father has been killed in the war, and the two are struggling to make ends meet, especially after the rationing begins. The maid, Winnie, is from the country, and acts like an older sister to the boy, Ralph. The local butcher, Neville Turk, is attracted to the mother and woos her by "helping out", sending her nice cuts of meat, and arranging delivery of coal when they run low. This strategy works, and as he marries Eithne and moves into the house, he begins making changes, starting with the addition of electricity. Ralph rebels by becoming a vegetarian and befriends one of the tenants, who is blind. Winnie also befriends Alwyne, reading to him in the evening. As the war continues, Turk continues his plans for the property and shows little regard for others' feelings. Ralph continues his transition to adulthood and Alwyne turns out to be aware of more than others think. An interesting story, told with subtlety and humour.

Tuesday 21 August 2007

A Light Listen

Finished August 16
Last Witness by Jilliane Hoffman, read by Kathe Mazur
I didn't think this was as good as her first book about C.J. Townsend, Retribution. Portions of the plot felt more forced and the C.J.'s fiance Dominick Falconetti, seems easily put off. As with the first book, the plot kept things moving, and events weren't pretty. Lots of violence in the murders is still part of things, and the serial killer C.J. put away in the first book tries for a retrial. His reappearance shakes her and she loses her cool and her intelligence for a while, but manages to hold on. Enjoyable and gripping.

Thursday 16 August 2007

Great book by Australian writer

Finished August 16
The Unknown Terrorist by Richard Flanagan
This is a great book that touches on the fear-mongering and media influence of the world today. The main character, Gina Davies, aka The Doll, aka Krystal, is a pole dancer in one of the popular nightclub's in King's Cross, Sydney. She is a loner, and aims to buy a decent home when she has enough money saved. But fate intervenes and she is caught up in something that she cannot control. The story given by the authorities about Gina she knows is not true, but as it grows and morphs, she finds she cannot find anyone who will speak for her. The authorities encourage the fear created by the story, and the media enjoy their power and contacts. In just two days, Gina has gone from being a struggling young woman, with few friends and a hard life to being the most wanted terrorist in Australia. And yet the book reads true. Flanagan shows how it happens, step by step, and the sadness of it is compelling.
This book is definitely worth the read, and will make you look at the media in perhaps a different way (unless you are already extremely cynical!).

Tuesday 14 August 2007

Poetry and Murder

Finished August 10
A Tale Etched in Blood and Hard Black Pencil by Christopher Brookmyre
This was a new author for me, and I really enjoyed it. The principal characters in the tale are from a town outside Glasgow, Braeside. As the story begins, two men are working at getting rid of two bodies. Unfortunately, they are not very successful. When the bodies are soon discovered, the men are immediately linked to them. This is where the complications start.
Karen Gillespie, the local Detective Superintendent, has only recently returned to Braeside. It turns out one of the dead men was a classmate of her, Colin Temple. The two men suspected of being involved are two more classmates, known as Noodsy and Turbo.
From here on the book moves back and forth between the investigation and the classmates school experiences. This is a very interesting way of having us learn about the people involved and gradually come to realize all the different relationships and loyalties. This is also how we come to know the real names of Noodsy and Turbo as we learn the circumstances of the granting of these nicknames. There is much humour here, right from the first page, and the author provides a glossary at the end for some of the Scottish slang terms used by the characters. I loved it.

Collected Poems by John Betjeman
I have always liked Betjeman's poems and became more interested in him years ago after reading a memoir by his granddaughter of her grandmother. This collection shows the progression of his work, and led me to discover some new favourites in addition to the ones I already liked. Whether talking about people, nature or life, Betjeman's poetry rings true and does not sound analytic.

Thursday 9 August 2007

4 books of different types

Finished August 9
Walking Ollie by Stephen Foster
The short yet entertaining book is the story of a man and his dog. Stephen and his partner got a lurcher puppy from an animal rescue organization. The dog had a lot of issues, but Stephen was determined not to fail in this matter. At one point he was spending more than four hours a day outside with the dog trying to overcome the dog's fear of him. Ollie was a exuberant, playful dog who loved to run outside, but lacked control and feared Stephen for no explicable reason. In the house he cowered and retreated and was extremely tense. They had trouble housetraining Ollie. Stephen talks about the methods and resources that he tried and how the relationship with the dog is today.

Finished August 8
Ghost World by Daniel Clowes
This teen graphic novel is not for me, but it seems very popular with high school students and older teens. Enid and Rebecca are best friends, just out of high school. Enid seems very anti-establishment and tries on different "looks" as she searches for her identity. Rebecca is more the follower in this relationship and talks about following Enid to another city and moving in with her if she goes away to college. She lacks self-confidence and feels second best to Enid in terms of attractiveness. Enid is drawn to those on the fringes of society: the verbally abusive politically incorrect record store owner John Ellis; an old man, Bob Skeetes, who does astrological and psychic readings; an odd-looking couple Enid labels Satanists. The girls still engage in annoying childish behaviour like crank calls and describe others with politically incorrect racist terms and cruel comments. As I said, not my cup of tea, but I can see how it would appeal to young women at the age of discovering themselves.

If I Am Missing or Dead by Janine Latus
A sad memoir of a woman and her younger sister, both repeatedly caught up with men who are physically, verbally, or emotionally abusive. When Janine's younger sister Amy is killed by the man she was having a relationship with, Janine is compelled to look at her own life and analyze the reasons for their choices. She describes the situations well, admitting to her own love of "passion and drama" in a relationship and how that led her to put up with uncertainty and fear of her partner. She doesn't try to explain her sister's motives, but describes the home life they grew up with and the behaviours they experienced when they were young to show possible influences. Janine now speaks on domestic abuse and encourages all of us to approach and help those we see in need. I was moved by this book, and could see how a woman could be slowly inured to this type of life.

Mixing with Murder by Ann Granger, Read by Kim Hicks
This book is from the Fran Varady series. Fran is a young women who has been surviving on her own since she was sixteen. She is now in her early twenties. Her mother had left the family when she was quite young and she was brought up by her father and grandmother, but after they both died, she had to struggle to survive. She has the dream of being an actor, but is still anticipating her big break. Meanwhile she lives by doing odd jobs, and working at such jobs as waitressing and helping in a convenience store. Her friend, Ganesh, also works in the store, which is owned by his uncle. This story has Fran forced by a London club owner to go to Oxford and try to convince a former dancer at the club to return. But there is a lot more to it than that as Fran discovers and she gets mixed up in the middle of murder and deceit. This is a good series and Fran is an interesting, streetwise character.

Tuesday 7 August 2007

Finished one light fiction and one reference

Finished August 6
Balmoral by Isabel Vane
This is a light, amusing story that is a bit tongue in cheek. First, the author is a pseudonym for two British novelists. They chose the name on purpose. Isabel Vane was a heroine in the best-selling Victorian novel East Lynne. In that novel, she left home in disgrace but returned years later to care for her children as a governess.
In Balmoral, the character Sister Julie arrives at Balmoral as a nurse to Prince Harry after he was almost killed in a bunjy-jumping accident. She seems to know her way around Balmoral very well, and is very close to Harry, and to Prince William when he arrives. Some of the staff are suspicious of her, but can't put their finger on just why at first. Why does she seem to have such a close relationship with Harry? Why do the Queen's corgis seem to love her at first sight?What does John, the head footman, know?
I found this book delightful, funny and well-written.

The Rough Guide to Crime Fiction by Barry Forshaw
This small book is a guide for readers of crime fiction, giving historic origins, early examples of different types, and summaries of modern examples. I found it interesting in that it gave examples of titles, rather than authors, recognizing that authors may write more than one type of crime fiction. I got a full-page of books I want to read from it, and saw many I've already enjoyed. Of course, it is not all-inclusive and there were some favourites that I would have liked to see here that were missed, but it will definitely give most readers a place to start, or new authors to consider.

Sunday 5 August 2007

1 Fiction and 1 Non-Fiction

Finished August 5
Face of Death by Cody McFadyen
This is a great thriller set in the Los Angeles area. The main character appeared in an earlier McFadyen book and is a FBI agent dealing with violent criminals. Special Agent Smoky Barrett is still recovering from having her husband and daughter killed as well as being attacked and raped herself by the killer. She has also taken on her best friend's daughter, Bonnie, after her friend Annie was killed.
Now, a sixteen-year-old girl whose adoptive family were violently killed is asking for her. Sarah is distraught and believes that anyone who loves or cares for her will be hurt or killed. She has spent her life since the age of six in group homes and a series of foster homes. Smoky and her team take on the case to find who has targeted Sarah and why. False trails, old cases and dredged up emotions all come into it here. This book is fast moving with the classic good and bad sides, good characterization and a pretty good plot. I enjoyed it, and even cried at one bit of Sarah's story. But then I cry kind of easily.

Ecoholic: Your Guide to the Most Environmentally Friendly Information, Products and Services in Canada by Adria Vasil
This books covers pretty much everything in the way of products a person might buy from toiletries to clothes to food to household items and furniture. Unless you want to take copious notes, you should probably just buy your own copy. I realized that at the end of the first chapter. There is lots of good information here, particularly about labelling. I really like the fact that it is Canadian and highlights Canadian products where they exist. Saying that, however, it is not inclusive (although I doubt any book could be) and obviously you must look to your local market to see what is on offer as well.

Friday 3 August 2007

2 Fiction books

Finished August 3
Ice Trap by Kitty Sewell
Published in Britain a couple of years ago, this was released in Canada this year. The book is set in the far north of Canada, mostly in a town called Moose Creek, and in Cardiff, Wales. Shortly after Dafydd Woodruff qualified as a surgeon, he made a huge mistake in an operation on a child. While he was cleared of any blame, he cannot forgive himself and runs to a job in the Canadian north, covering for a doctor on leave. While there he makes some friends, some enemies and finds some peace. Thirteen year later, when he and his wife are unsuccessfully trying for a child he gets a message that he fathered children back in Canada, and yet he is sure that he didn't, until the DNA test comes through.
While his marriage becomes more fragile, he finds himself trying to make sense of the situation, and returns to Canada to face the situation head on. But he finds more questions than the one he came to solve.
I loved the description of the arctic beauty that Dafydd sees and feels drawn to, as well as his confused thoughts and feelings. The story flowed well and although I could guess some things before they were revealed, it seemed to be natural for the characters to miss things because they were too close to the situation. This is definitely a writer I will look for more from.

Finished August 1
In Distant Fields by Charlotte Bingham
This book is set just before and through World War One. It is set around the upperclass family of the Duke of Eden at his estate Bauders. One of the main characters is Kitty, the friend of the duke's youngest daughter, Partita. Bingham involves all classes of characters however and follows them through the course of the war. From the Duke himself to the son of his stableman, the characters are well-rounded and relate well to each other. While love is always a theme in Bingham's novels, she doesn't just concentrate on the young but shows the intimacy of the Duke and Duchess here as well. The difficult scenes of the war are dealt with at a remove of either letters or after-the-fact accounts, but that does not diminish them.
A lighter read for the summer weekend, but still strong enough to hold the reader's attention and interest.

Tuesday 31 July 2007

Classic "read"

Finished July 31
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, read by Michael York
I never had to read this in school, so somehow never got around to it, but I did realize that I had missed a classic. I really enjoyed the book, which was very well read by Michael York. The solidarity meeting was done so well that I and my passenger who were listening to it were howling. This was unabridged so I didn't miss a word. I found it so relevant to the world today that it is hard to believe that it was written 75 years ago. I guess that it was really makes it a classic, although it doesn't say much about progress in "civilization". I highly recommend it and will now to others.

Monday 30 July 2007

Started three, finished two

Finished July 29
In the Woods by Tara French
This mystery concentrates on events near a small Dublin suburb. In the summer in 1984, three 12-year-old friends are playing in and around the woods near their houses, and don't come home for dinner. Much searching is done, and one child is finally found, terrified, with his nails dug into a tree and his shoes full of blood. Neither other child is ever found.
Go forward twenty years, and the child has become a detective on the Murder Squad. He is on the case of a 12-year-old girl whose body was found on the site where the woods once were. As he works on the case, memories of his own past intrude. He searches for links between the two, and hides his connection to the old case. But secrets cannot always be kept.
I enjoyed this one, but found the ending a bit disappointing. The main character was an unhappy one scarred forever by the one event in his past.

Tried and not finished
The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver
I tried hard to get into this story, where the main female character either kisses a man not her partner or does not kiss him. The story goes off in two different directions, depending on where the kiss took place or not. I found that even though the character is speaking from her own point of view, she seemed to lack depth. She appeared to define herself in terms of others.
I read through the first alternatives, but just found it too much work to continue.

Finished July 27
Momzillas by Jill Kargman
Hannah Allen, her husband Josh and their two-year-old daughter Violet have just moved to New York City, Josh's hometown for his job.
Hannah is from San Francisco, and unsure about how to fit in. Josh's best friend Parker's wife Bee has offered to show her the ropes, and appears very helpful. Hannah still feels like she doesn't belong and Josh encourages her to do her own thing and not to worry too much. But there are rules about applying for schools, and coops and being in the right groups that Hannah does worry about. Also Hannah's mother-in-law seems more interested in the social niceties than her granddaughter, which doesn't help. Hannah tells her worries to her old friend Leigh, now also in New York and connects with a favourite art professor. She also tries to make new friends. The atmosphere described her, and the social world is quite amusing and I loved the glossary given at the front of the book.
I found the main characters realistic, the plot moved at a good pace and the humour was great.
A nice summer read.

Wednesday 25 July 2007

Troll, A Love Story

Finished July 25
Troll: a Love Story by Johanna Sinisalo
This is a wonderful book, but very different. Mikael (also known as Michelangelo or Angel) stops some teens from torturing a small animal. When he looks closer and finds it is a baby troll, he takes it home and tries to look after it. He asks a vet friend for advice, and begs food from the woman downstairs as well as using the internet. Just having the troll influences his relationships. His new relationship with the woman downstairs, a Filipino mail-order bride, raises her hopes and puts her in more fear of her husband than she already is. His sexual relationships with other men must take place away from his home. He also finds himself having strong feelings for the troll, whom he names Pessi. All this drama is interspersed with poetry, tales and newspaper stories about trolls, that give insight into how they have been seen by humans. I found it a lovely and touching book.

Tuesday 24 July 2007

Another mystery

Finished July 23
The Night Ferry by Michael Robotham
This mystery asked me to suspend belief a little too much. Alisha Barba, ex-competitive runner and a policewoman about to return to work after a bad injury gets a message from a friend who dropped her years earlier. Cate is 8 months pregnant and asking for Alisha's help. On the night they arrange to meet, Cate and her husband are run down by a taxi. Is it really an accident? What does Cate's old tormenter Donovan have to do with it. Why does a young man from Afghanistan have Alisha's name on him? Alisha traces the mysteries with the help of Ruiz, a retired detective, and Dave, a current policeman enamored of Alisha. She seems to get away with a lot, and have a lot of luck as well. The story was okay, but not great.

Monday 23 July 2007

3 Fiction

Finished July 21
Broken Skin by Stuart MacBride
This story, set in Aberdeen, is a definite thriller. A rapist is on the prowl, leaving behind women tortured and disfigured. PC Jackie Watson acts as bait and they catch on the star football player for Aberdeen Football Club. However, he claims he was not attacking her, and has alibis for all the other attacks. Neither she, nor her superior believe him, but are forced to pull back as they are seen as harassing him. DS Logan McRae is following up on a case of a blood-drenched man dumped outside the hospital who has died from his injuries. When they discover the dead man was an actor in pornographic films, they are lead into the local bondage community. Logan also gets involved when an 8-year-old kills an elderly man at a mall, and badly injures a police officer. As Logan gets closer to discovering what is going on in these 3 cases, he deals with personal suspicions, an officer with an insider's view of the local scene, and actions, and non-actions that don't make sense. All the stories gripped me and Logan's actions show him to be human.

Daddy's Girl by Lisa Scottoline, performed by Barbara Rosenblat
Natalie Greco, only girl in the Greco construction family, is a law professor who loves her job and feels that she doesn't quite fit in to her football-loving, loud and raucous family. A colleague at the university, Angus Holt involves her in a clinic program he runs at a local minimum security prison. While they are there a riot breaks out and Natalie is attacked by a student in the program Angus and Natalie are teaching. As Natalie tries to find help, she ends up offering consolation and medical help to a dying guard, who gives her a message for his wife. As Natalie and Angus continue to delve into the situation at the jail, Natalie finds herself suspected of murder, and increasingly drawn to Angus. As she runs from the police, buying herself time to find out more about what is going on at the jail, she relies on her own resources and brains. She thinks on her feet and surprises even herself by what she is capable of. I loved every minute of this book and was encouraged as Natalie grew into herself and became aware of her own skills and expertise.

Finished July 19
One Under by Graham Hurley
The story starts with a commuter train running over a body in a tunnel. Police discover the body was naked and chained to the rails. There are no clues to the identity of the man, so they start with the missing persons list. DC Paul Winter is in charge of the Intelligence Cell for Major Crimes and is charged with following up on the list and the items associated with the body. DI Joe Faraday is in charge of the case. Winter gets distracted by another missing person, and starts following it on his own, but eventually comes clean to Faraday and both cases are active. Winter's contacts lead him down some interesting roads, and arouse suspicion at higher levels. Faraday is just out of a relationship and at a bit of a loose end personally. Winter is just back on the job after brain surgery and is still vulnerable. The personal lives of the two men also affect the investigations. I found this book interesting and would definitely look for more with these characters.