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Friday, April 20, 2018

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell | Book Review

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Disclaimer: Thanks to the kind folks at S&S for providing me an advance review copy.

Description: Ellie was the middle child and the apple of her mother’s eye. She was charming, smart, had just started dating, and was excited to finish up exams. But then 15-year-old Ellie disappeared on the way to the library. Normally I avoid these kinds of stories but this was a real page turner. Ellie’s mother Laurel retreats into herself. She goes into robot mode. It destroys her marriage and tests her children. The story is mostly told from Laurel’s point of view 10 years later. Laurel’s husband has remarried. Her adult children are finding their way in the world. And Laurel one day is charmed by a man in a coffee shop. He has a familiar feel but also creates that excitement of new love. The freaky thing is that his 9-year-old daughter Poppy is the spitting image of Ellie. How can that be? Who is this man?

I’m always flummoxed by these types of mysteries where the protagonist takes it upon themselves to investigate vs. going to the police. But I suspect that, if after 10 years the police have failed you, then you might figure things out on your own to a greater extent before involving them and losing the trail.

Perfect Read: If you enjoyed Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train then this story has a similar fast-paced narrative with strong female characters and some emotional twists and turns. I also would compare it to I Saw a Man by Owen Sheers in that there’s a mystery component driving the plot but more so there’s a psychological component about what drives people to do things that are heinous while assuming some moral stance.

Favourite Moment: “The fact that Ellie had been wearing a black T-shirt and jeans had been a problem for the police. The fact that her lovely gold-streaked hair had been pulled back into a scruffy ponytail. The fact that her rucksack was navy blue. That her trainers were bog-standard supermarket trainers in white. It was almost as though she’d deliberately made herself invisible.” I like these passages that created suspense and made your assumptions falter. How audacious—the idea that Ellie has gone missing and that, counter to anything she’d done before, she may have purposely run away. This rattles Laurel for a long time.

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell @Amazon.ca
Published by Atria, see it on SimonandSchuster.ca

Or visit https://www.facebook.com/LisaJewellofficial/, or follow her on Twitter @LisaJewellUK.

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell | Book Review

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Disclaimer: Thanks to the kind folks at S&S for providing me an advance review copy.

Description: Ellie was the middle child and the apple of her mother’s eye. She was charming, smart, had just started dating, and was excited to finish up exams. But then 15-year-old Ellie disappeared on the way to the library. Normally I avoid these kinds of stories but this was a real page turner. Ellie’s mother Laurel retreats into herself. She goes into robot mode. It destroys her marriage and tests her children. The story is mostly told from Laurel’s point of view 10 years later. Laurel’s husband has remarried. Her adult children are finding their way in the world. And Laurel one day is charmed by a man in a coffee shop. He has a familiar feel but also creates that excitement of new love. The freaky thing is that his 9-year-old daughter Poppy is the spitting image of Ellie. How can that be? Who is this man?

I’m always flummoxed by these types of mysteries where the protagonist takes it upon themselves to investigate vs. going to the police. But I suspect that, if after 10 years the police have failed you, then you might figure things out on your own to a greater extent before involving them and losing the trail.

Perfect Read: If you enjoyed Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train then this story has a similar fast-paced narrative with strong female characters and some emotional twists and turns. I also would compare it to I Saw a Man by Owen Sheers in that there’s a mystery component driving the plot but more so there’s a psychological component about what drives people to do things that are heinous while assuming some moral stance.

Favourite Moment: “The fact that Ellie had been wearing a black T-shirt and jeans had been a problem for the police. The fact that her lovely gold-streaked hair had been pulled back into a scruffy ponytail. The fact that her rucksack was navy blue. That her trainers were bog-standard supermarket trainers in white. It was almost as though she’d deliberately made herself invisible.” I like these passages that created suspense and made your assumptions falter. How audacious—the idea that Ellie has gone missing and that, counter to anything she’d done before, she may have purposely run away. This rattles Laurel for a long time.

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell @Amazon.ca
Published by Atria, see it on SimonandSchuster.ca

Or visit https://www.facebook.com/LisaJewellofficial/, or follow her on Twitter @LisaJewellUK.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Unraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent | Book Review

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Description: Oliver Ryan is a deeply unsettling character. The novel opens with him beating is wife and feeling no remorse. Thankfully author Liz Nugent offers several chapters told from the point of view of various characters who “unravel” the mystery of Oliver Ryan, well-loved children’s book author and dotting husband (who has the occasional tryst). Billed as psychological suspense, Unraveling Oliver delivers a fast-paced punchy novel (pun intended). Each chapter unravels another part of Oliver’s history, giving the reader a look at a boy—now a man—who is unloved and rejected by his father (a priest who brought more than the word of God to his parish). Oliver grows up in a boarding school, is looked after by Father Daniels, sent to university where he meets the lovely, vivacious Laura, does some summer travel, falls out of love with Laura, finds a family, loses a family, marries his mousey illustrator and does not live happily ever after.

• Winner of the Crime Fiction Prize in 2014 Irish Book Awards

Perfect Read for those who like BBC crime dramas. This is an Irish psycho suspense novel. The book jacket is spot on with its comp to Patricia Highsmith’s unforgettable noir classic The Talented Mr. Ripley. If you like sinister yet enjoyable tales this is for you. The domestic abuse is limited to the opening and closing chapters. The main guts of the novel are the relationships different characters have with Oliver, and their take on him. Strongly recommended.

Favourite Moment: Oliver, his girlfriend Laura and Laura’s brother Michael are working on a vineyard in France. Michael also has a crush on Oliver yet isn’t out of the closet. To “straighten him out”, Oliver suggests that Michael seduce Madame Veronique, the proprietress of the vineyard. There are several funny attempts that ultimately result in Michael confessing to Veronique that he is gay. It’s the 60s, and Ireland didn’t decriminalize homosexuality until 1993, so there’s a lot of fear and shame in his confession. Veronique changes his life by helping him be comfortable with himself. If there was a character in the book that I wish had more storytelling space, it is Veronique.

(edited to avoid spoilers)
Infamy is a lot more interesting than fame, it seems. It is not just the tabloids who think so. An acre of newsprint was used up in documenting the fall from grace of the successful writer who turned out to be a wife beater. Pundits who might previously have described themselves as close personal friends are now granting interviews in which they claim that they always knew there was something strange about me. They speculate that I was in the habit of beating my wife, despite the lack of evidence at the trial to support the theory, and they relate conversations that never happened that imply I was always violent and that Alice was terrified of me.

 

Unraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent
Published by Simon and Schuster Canada
Liznugent.ie
Twitter @lizzienugent

Monday, March 26, 2018

Uncertain Weights & Measures by Jocelyn Parr | Book Review

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Description: Set in Moscow, 1921, Tatiana and Sasha meet as two young intellectuals in a bookstore. The bookstore is bombed that night and as they run away, hand in hand, it’s the start of their romance. This is a witty and tender book about growing up, losing trust in the system, the bureaucracy of adulthood in an ever-changing Communist regime, and all the small betrayals between mentors, friends, and lovers. These are unforgettable characters who alternate between being wise and foolish. I loved it. In particular the story between Tatiana (a scientist) and Sasha (an artist) and how the idealism and contradictions of Russian politics affects where and how they live, what they believe, and how they grapple with those tensions.

• Shortlisted, 2017 Governor General’s Award for Fiction

Perfect Read for fans of Madeleine Thien’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing. If you like the slow unfolding of characters and situations, are interested in cultural revolutions or the formation of ideologies, especially through the lens of young minds, then this is the perfect read for you. It has a love story, some history of post-Revolutionary Russia, a cool look at the early scientific research done in brain science, and politics and art.

Favourite Moment: The whole book. The scene where Tatiana and Sasha meet is tender and quiet, despite the fact that a bomb just went off. The drinking and debauchery scenes in the artist studios are full of youthful spirit and the tensions of jostling for position. The strained quiet of the institute where Tatiana works, slicing and documenting brain structures, is creepily cool. It feels like every emotion is explored in a tentative and revealing way.

1921
Before Lenin was dead and before my life had properly begun, I used to spend all my time in a bookstore down on Nikitskaya. I was barely a person then, just a girl, and then just a girl staring down the women I’d meet, wondering if their fate had to be mine. The bookstore had no sign. Either you knew where it was or you didn’t. The entrance was several steps below street level. To find it, you looked for the tobacco place next door because it had a glowing green lamp in its window. When the snow shrouded the entrance on winter afternoons, that blur of green was the only indication that you’d arrived. If you knew to look.

Uncertain Weights & Measures by Jocelyn Parr
Published by Goose Lane

Support an indie publisher and buy direct.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

The Muse by Jessie Burton | Book Review

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Description: Bestselling author Jessie Burton delivers! This novel weaves together two stories: one set in 1967 in London and the other in 1936 Spain, just before the Spanish civil war. Odelle Bastien is a new immigrant from the Caribbean and lands a job as a typist at the prestigious Skelton Institute of Art. Her boss Marjorie Quick is a bit like the boss in The Devil Wears Prada. Odelle’s boyfriend inherits a painting that is rumoured to be the work of a Spanish artist who thrilled the art market in the 1930s but then disappeared. The story running in parallel to Odelle’s is that of the painting’s creator. This is a great novel about women in art, and modern working women. Peggy Guggenheim makes a brief appearance as well.

Favourite Moment: The dialogue scenes between Odelle and her friend Cynth are really fun, but so is Odelle’s commentary and observations about her new country and workplace.

For nearly the whole of the first week the only person I spoke to was a girl called Pamela Rudge. Pamela was the receptionist, and she would always be there, reading the Express at her counter, elbows on teh wood, gum poppin gin her mouth before the big fellers showed and she threw it in the bin. With a hint of suffering, as if she’d been interrupted in a difficult activity, she would fold the newspaper like a piece of delicate lace and loop up at me. ‘Good morning, Adele,’ she’d say. Twenty-one years old, Pam Rudge was the latest in a long line of East-Enders, an immobile beehive lacquered to her head and enough black eyeliner to feed five pharaohs.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz | Book Review

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Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz available from HarperCollins Canada

Description: This murder mystery is a story within a story. Susan Ryeland is Alan Conway’s editor. He’s submitted his recent manuscript but there’s a chapter missing and he’s turned up dead. As a reader you get Conway’s manuscript, plus the story of Susan trying to solve Alan’s murder.

The perfect read for BBC Mysteries fans. This mystery is Midsomer Murders and Foyle’s War meets House of Silk, all 3 of which are written by Horowitz.

Favourite Moment: Conway’s detective series is built around Atticus Pund is a Poiret-inspired figure. Atticus is as likeable as any of the great detectives in literature.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Book Review: The Widow by Fiona Barton

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The Widow by Fiona Barton (Penguin Canada) is a dark psychological thriller. Glen Taylor is a smarmy, arrogant bastard. He marries Jean when she’s quite young and she’s blown away. Initially she seems to like him ordering her food and telling her what to wear or do. Glen is older, charming, and she sees it as him introducing her to the adult world. But when Glen gets fired from his job and starts driving a truck, the cracks begin to show. One day the police show up. A little girl has gone missing and Glen’s delivery truck was in the area. Next the media circus shows up, and they are relentless. The family is hounded. Glen is hiding something but Jean doesn’t know what. They both love children, didn’t have any of their own, couldn’t. But Glen wouldn’t hurt a child, or so Jean believes. The police feel differently and it goes to court. It’s there that Jean is truly blown away. Glen was fired for viewing child pornography at the office. He was buying and watching porn at night unbeknownst to her, and there are deeper, darker secrets that are revealed.

What I like about this book is that it opens with one of the reporters smooth talking her way into Jean’s house. The chapters are told from Jean’s perspective, the reporter’s, or the detective’s. Little by little the case is pieced together and the reader realizes the connections at the same time as the case unfolds. There’s lots of little deceptions, unfollowed leads and circumstantial evidence. The scenario is unthinkable, but the plot twists and psychological insights into the wife, the reporter and the detective make this a fascinating, rather than gruesome, read.

You can’t get a better quote than this:

“If you liked Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, you might want to pick up The Widow by Fiona Barton. Engrossing. Suspenseful.”—Stephen King

Monday, August 22, 2016

Book Review: Slade House

Slade House by David Mitchell is a fast-paced, gripping ghost story about two immortals who prey on visitors to Slade House. Norah and Jonah Grayer are twins who learn the secret of eternal life. Yet the magic that sustains them requires the soul of a particular type of person, who they elaborately lure into their web every nine years. The novel spans from 1979 to 2015 with each episode taking place on the last Saturday in October (close to, or on, Halloween) when a secret entrance to Slade House is revealed to its intended victim.

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Each episode is narrated by the newest victim, which lets Mitchell experiment with the tone of each era and the social and political dynamics of the scenes.

Slade House is a clever, creepy tale that started as a series of tweets. In some ways it is a companion to Mitchell’s previous novel The Bone Clocks, but really it is a continuation of the great uber-novel he has been writing for the last 15 years. Each of his novels has references to characters, settings or background details from the previous works. And although each novel stands alone, together they construct a sprawling universe.

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This side gate at Powerscourt reminded me of Slade House.

Slade House by David Mitchell
Published by Penguin Random House

Friday, January 15, 2016

Book Review: A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson


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A God in Ruins is marvellous.

Kate Atkinson, author of Life After Life, is one of those novelists whose writing is very clever yet it comes off naturally. Where Life After Life explored infinite chances, as lived by Ursula Todd, A God in Ruins is the life lived by her younger brother Teddy.

Teddy is a pilot with Bomber Command during World War II and his story is wonderfully told in the most non-chronological way. This is the cleverness I speak of. Atkinson tells the story in this patchwork fashion where the reader comes to understand the whole story but the characters often seem well ahead of the game, it being their life and all. Atkinson moves the reader back and forth between a present time and a past. It reminded me of The Time Traveller’s Wife in that way, which I enjoyed very much.

I was fascinated by the details of the air raids because of the first-hand accounts I have from James’ grandfather. Of the 120,000 who served, 55,573 were killed including over 10,000 Canadians. Teddy is British, which doesn’t get him extra luck one way or the other. We know early on that Teddy survives the war because we know that he has a wife and child. But his wife dies. We don’t know why, but we do know that his daughter is a bit of a terror, and probably was from birth anyway.

There are lovely repeated references throughout the book, like the exaltation of skylarks (the lifting of birds/planes), quips about whether a certain character believes in reincarnation (which is funny if you’ve read the previous title), lucky charms, and references to poetry and novels that offer opportunities to think deeper if you so desire.

Although the setting is during the war, or the present day is seen through that lens, it’s not a war novel. It’s more about the mystery and revelation we have throughout our life. The knowledge we gain after the fact, and how we choose to respond or not respond.

This novel is a strong contender for favourite read of 2016.

#AGodInRuins
http://www.kateatkinson.co.uk

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Book Review: Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt

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Patrick deWitt, the bestselling author of The Sisters Brothers, delivers another knockout novel. Undermajordomo Minor is about Lucien (Lucy) Minor and his absurd employment at Castle Von Aux. The deranged castle master, Baron Von Aux, rambles around in the dark eating rats. The Baroness has disappeared. Nearby soldiers are at war over an unidentified idea. And the villagers Lucy meets are thick as thieves, figuratively and literally. Oh, and he falls in love.

Whereas The Sisters Brothers was a darkly comic, Western-inspired novel, Undermajordomo Minor is a darkly comic, orphan story/Gothic romance. Lucy leaves home shortly after his father’s death, and although he had two parents growing up, it seems they were lacking in parental affections. Lucy sets out on his own to make his fortune, or at least to turn his fortunes. He’s cheated death and been given the chance to do something interesting. It’s Oliver Twist meets Harry Potter (without the magic). Castle Von Aux and Lucy’s love interest Klara provide the Gothic romance elements. There’s a spooky castle with a general curse about the place, inclement weather and downtrodden villagers, a few marginally threatening mysteries (like what happened to Lucy’s predecessor Mr Broom), and Lucy himself as the fainting heroine.

One of my favourite scenes is between Lucy and his boss Mr Olderglough. They need to locate the Baron, tidy him up and make him suitably presentable to the Baroness and her guests. Mr Olderglough believes that trapping the Baron and knocking him on the head is the best solution. Lucy counters.

“And what next, I wonder?”
“After he’s been knocked unconscious, then shall we bring him to his chambers and manacle him to his bed. Next we will force-feed him, and bathe him, and shave him, and cut his hair and strive to resurrect his interest in sophisticated society.” Mr Olderglough rubbed his hands together. “Now, what do you think of it?”
Lucy said, “I think it is somewhat far-fetched, sir.”
“Are you not up for it?”
“I’m not, actually, no. And to be frank, sir, I don’t believe you are, either.”
“What sort of attitude is that? Let us rally, boy.”
“Let us come up with another plan.”
“Let us look within ourselves and search out the dormant warrior.”
“Mine is dormant to the point of non-existence, sir. There is no part of me that wishes to lay nakedly abed and await that man’s arrival.”
“I tell you you will not be alone.”
“And yet I shall surely feel alone, sir.”
Mr Olderglough looked down the length of his nose. “May I admit to being disappointed in you, boy.”
“You may write a lengthy treatise on the subject, sir, and I will read it with interest. But I highly doubt there will be anything written within those pages which will alter my dissatisfaction with the scheme.”

I remember The Sisters Brothers being funny and engaging right from page 1 but it took me a bit longer to get into Undermajordomo MInor. That said, this novel is just as crazy as the last. It’s very hard to stop turning the pages once you’re into it. I hope it secures as many well-deserved awards and honours as his last novel. Watch for this title!

You’ll like Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt if you liked his previous titles Ablutions and The Sisters Brothers, or if you enjoy the humour of tv shows and movies like Father Ted and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. There’s something wonderful and absurd about it all.

Both the hardcover and digital edition are available from the publisher House of Anansi, Amazon.ca and independent booksellers like McNally Robinson.

 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

New Novel from Patrick deWitt

Prep your bookshelf for this tale of polite theft, bitter heartbreak, domestic mystery, and cold-blooded murder. Patrick deWitt, award-winning author of The Sisters Brothers, has a new novel out this fall.

The Sisters Brothers was a fantastic read, one of my favourites that year, and it won the 2011 Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and was also nominated for that year’s Man Booker and Scotiabank Giller Prize. I’m really looking forward to this one and have an advance copy to enjoy! (Thanks House of Anansi)

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Full review to come, but the basics are this: Lucien Minor (Lucy) is young, foolish and rather daring. He accepts employment as “undermajordomo” at the disquieting Castle Von Aux (think Transylvania) and becomes embroiled in a love triangle. The book is full of the dark secrets and peculiar characters, so peculiar that you will be forced to turn the pages to see what’s next.

Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick DeWitt will appear Sept. 5 simultaneously in Canada (House of Anansi Press), the U.K. (Granta Books), and the U.S. (Ecco/HarperCollins).

Available in hardcover and ebook.
Pre-order Undermajordomo Minor

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Book Review: The Mystics of Mile End by Sigal Samuel

Four distinct voices tell the tale of one family’s attempt to transcend the Kabbalah Tree of Life. Each seeks enlightenment. Each failure has a lesson. This is a debut novel about faith, family and finding meaning from an accomplished writer, editor and playwright.

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The Mystics of Mile End is set in Montreal’s Mile End, a mashup of Hasidic Jew and hipster cultures. Brother and sister, Lev and Samara Meyer, are at a loss after the death of their mother. They seek refuge in their faith and retaliate against their father David’s denial of that faith. David, for his part, is uncertain about his own faith and seeks the meaning of life in self-destructive ways. He’s a professor of Jewish mysticism, yet not any more enlightened, and his research into the Kabbalah Tree of Life, discovered posthumously by Samara, might be the one thing that finally connects the family.

The Torah is the five books of Moses, so I thought that there would be five books in The Mystics of Mile End but there are only four: Lev, David, Samara and Mile End.

I guess Mile End really is a character in the book. But beyond a geographical place, it’s where Holocaust survivor Chaim Glassman lives (in silence) with his wife. It’s where Mr Katz is assembling lemons and wired-up tin cans in his giant oak tree, and where Lev’s star-gazing friend Alex falls in love with Samara and then learns his own lessons and break throughs.

The novel is about what happens when we search for signs instead of living, and when we are silent instead of talking. It’s a strong debut novel.

The Mystics of Mile End by Sigal Samuel
published by Freehand Books

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Book Review: Boo by Neil Smith

As part of the Vancouver Sun’s book club, I’ve been discussing Boo, a new novel by Neil Smith. It’s about Oliver “Boo” Dalrymple, a 13-year-old boy who narrates the book from the afterlife. The jacket blurb’s proclamation that this is “Lord of the Flies without pig slaughter and privation.” 
Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/book+club+year+protagonist+quest+meaning/11151629/story.html#ixzz3fr3fwphy

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One of my favourite discussions was about the 1970s cultural references in the novel. Here’s what I said:

Until our conversation last week, I did not pick up on the fact that the book is set in the 1970s because there are so many hipster trends today that allude to that period. It’s obvious now, and so overt, that it’s embarrassing to admit that I glazed over this aspect of the novel. As I started compiling a list of the cultural references, I couldn’t stop so this is not an exhaustive list, just want sprang to mind.

First off, I loved the Napolean-Dynamite visual I got when reading about Boo or Johnny wearing the white and blue striped gym socks and sweat bands. That alone brought levity to the underlying story of two boys dead in a school shooting. The peace symbol and style of clothes really do set the story in the 70s for me but Town/Heaven is presented as Salvation Army so, again, I didn’t initially understand the setting to be the 1970s. My assumption then, since there are no computers or video games, is that Town’s culture is that of America in current day.

The clothes especially made me laugh and Boo’s criticism of the cashmere sweater and egotism of 13-year-old girls reminded me of that all-about-me phase. It’s funny, especially, if the 70s was the Me decade, to end up in town with generations of 13 year old Americans. You would not feel so unique, which is maybe why some townies identify as gommers, or portal seekers, or find other ways of segmenting themselves off.

The other prominent 70s references for me were the Hardy Boys references, especially the building named Frank and Joe, the music references, and I immediately thought of the do-good council as the Brady Bunch.

I wonder if there are no cars in Town because 13 year olds can’t drive, or if that’s a reference to the oil crisis? Likely the former. And I don’t know enough about the history of the periodic table but there’s obviously an interesting study of those elements and their function within the storytelling.

What I don’t recall are references to Star Wars. But Boo is certainly aware of the starscape and Zig only changes it on occasion. I wonder for people who saw the moon landing first hand, if it was underwhelming. It’s cool, but there’s nothing there. Was that a letdown and made people wonder about heaven? If you imagined the moon as this great place then saw its pocked surface, did you question what you’d imagined about heaven?

The mental health building, Johnny’s behaviour, and the sense of being in purgatory or sentenced to 50 years in town reminded me of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. There were several places in the novel when I wondered who the crazy actually was.

You can read the full discussion among all the book club members here: http://www.vancouversun.com/entertainment/books/book+club+References+1970s+abound+afterlife+novel/11132081/story.html

Boo was a fascinating novel and an interesting philosophical experiment on what the afterlife holds for us.

Boo by Neil Smith
published by Knopf Canada

 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Book Review: The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg

79-year-old Martha Andersson dreams of escaping her care home and robbing a bank.

Well I was worried about taking this book cover through customs but Martha Andersson’s luck was on my side. This old bird is a spring chicken when it comes to planning the perfect crime. Martha and her cronies are fed up with budget cuts in their retirement home that have led to reductions in the amount of coffee they can have per day and the elimination of biscuits with their tea. It’s simply outrageous and, what is even more insulting, the prisons in Sweden look like luxury accommodation in comparison. Something must be done.

When the old foggies can’t get improvements at home, they form the League of Pensioners and rob an art gallery. It’s the perfect crime. Even the police and newspapers make that claim. But what these seniors want is time in prison so they turn themselves in and figure out a way to keep the ransom money, return the paintings and be the Robin Hoods of their day.

If you liked The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson or The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce then you’ll enjoy this funny heist.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Book Review: Barker by Wayne Tefs

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Harlan runs away with the circus, becomes a barker (the guy who calls in the crowds) and eventually ends up in bed with the knife-throwers’ wife. You can imagine where it goes from there. Harlan is one of those guys who is always on the run. He runs away to the circus. He runs away from the circus. He runs away to the army. He runs and runs but he can’t run away from the voices in his head.

This depression-era saga follows our man Harlan from prairie homestead with an SOB dad to the traveling circus and into the army. He’s almost fodder in the Pacific theatre but the war dries up and he finds himself in real estate. “I coulda been a contender,” comes to mind. Funny enough Harlan finds his way in the most unusual way.

This is the last book by Wayne Tefs, award-winning author of nine novels, a collection of short stories and two memoirs. I have always enjoyed his writing and he is one of the prairies noteworthy authors. I felt very sad reading this book and also very pleased to have a personal connection to him.

Barker by Wayne Tefs (published by Turnstone)