Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Great Thriller

Finished August 20
Interred with Their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carrell, read by Kathleen McNenny
This book gave me the same feeling as Da Vinci Code. A quest for a long lost object, man and woman previously unknown to each other working together towards goal, with some help from others, lots of murders, lots of travel, lots of action.
In this novel Kate Stanley, currently directing Hamlet at the Globe Theatre in London, is visited by her academic mentor, Roz Howard. Roz has "found something big" and wants Kate's help to find it. But later that day Roz is found dead in the theatre and Kate feels someone stalking her. The prize that Kate is headed towards is Shakespeare's long-lost play Cardenio, and the clues she finds take her back to North America before returning to England. She is barely one step ahead of a killer, and using all her Shakespearean knowledge to figure out where to head next.
The book deals not only with the lost play, but also the identity of Shakespeare himself, bringing up many of the theories around the playwright's identity.
I found Kate an interesting character, and there was lots of action, never a dull moment. The Shakespeare element is strong and interesting (to me at least) and an author's note at the end talks about the elements of truth contained in the book, which was also very interesting.
A good read.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Teen Read

Finished August 19
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
This is a great read, with a strong female protagonist (Frankie). Frankie is going into her sophmore year at Alabaster, an expense boarding school that her older sister and her father also went to. Over the summer, she has grown into her body and is quite goodlooking. She also has a sharp mind. She immediately gets a senior as a boyfriend, the goodlooking Matthew Livingston. When she finds herself sometimes ignored in favor of Matthew's friends, and feels herself being boxed in by others' opinions of her, she takes matters into her own hands.
Frankie has a good sense of herself, is aware of potential weaknesses, and knows she is every bit as smart as the boys in the school's exclusive secret society. As she infiltrates the society, she shows that she is not to be underestimated.
I really liked this character, and she displays a good sense of self.

Monday, 18 August 2008


Finished August 17
Half-Assed: a weight-loss memoir by Jennette Fulda
I saw this memoir in the new books that came in and it looked intriguing. Fulda lost more than half her body weight, and while I don't need to lose that much, I definitely need to lose weight. In this memoir she concentrates more on the mental aspects of her journey, the thoughts that went through her head, the inner arguments that she engaged in, and how she changed as a person on the inside, not just the outside.
She has a great sense of humour and yet remains sensitive to many of the issues that come up around weight loss and how society reacts to those who are overweight.
As she says, there is no secret, no diet is perfect, and we all wander from our course occasionally, but the key is to keep at it. To not let one slide develop into an avalanche.
I found her writing engaging and interesting and her story intrigued me enough to take a look at her website, which I also found interesting.
This is no ra-ra book for Jenny Craig or South Beach or Atkins, but an honest account of the journey to a happier life.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Scandanavian Mystery

Finished August 14
What Never Happens by Anne Holt, translated by Kari Dickson
This is an interesting mystery from a Norwegian author, and part of a series, although this is the first one I've read.
When a famous woman TV show host is killed and her tongue has been cut out and displayed on the desk in front of her, the media is agog. The police, led by Adam Stubo, struggle to find motives and suspects in the crime. When a second woman is killed, this time an up-and-coming politician, the police are unsure whether the crimes are committed by the same person. Stubo calls on his wife, Johanne Vik, who is on maternity leave, to assist in finding the answers to the crimes. Vik trained as a profiler with the FBI, but left the organization with a bitter taste in her mouth and no desire to revisit that past. As celebrities continue to die, Vik is forced to call on her FBI education and her intuition to figure out who is killing and why.
This book has an interesting plot, and the whys of the murders are even more interesting. We see into the characters of the various people involved.
I liked it.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Fascinating Book

Finished August 12
Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior by Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman, read by John Apicella
This short book was so fascinating that after I finished listening to it, I listened to it again, the second time sharing it with a fellow librarian as we commuted together. She also found it fascinating.
The Brafman brothers use examples and research to show the many forces that cause us to engage in irrational behavior. These include loss aversion, the diagnosis bias, and the chameleon effect. Loss aversion is the tendency to go to lengths to avoid a perceived loss. Diagnosis bias is our tendency to ignore information that doesn't fit with our initial take on a person or situation. The chameleon effect is the tendency to take on behaviors that have been arbitrarily assigned to us, sometimes even without our knowledge. The many examples that they use to show how these tendencies show up in real life situations and cause unhappiness, loss and even death are eye-opening. They include an epilogue that gives tips on avoiding the pull of irrational behavior that are useful.
As I said, I found it utterly fascinating.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Murder Mystery

Finished August 12
Voices by Arnaldur Indridason translated by Bernard Scudder
This was my first read of Icelandic mystery and I found it very good.
The main detective, Erlendur, is a fascinating character himself, and the murder victim in this book has his own interesting history.
I found the dynamic between the police characters interesting, and especially that Erlendur seemed to have such free range to act how he wanted in the course of the investigation, more or less setting up house in the hotel where the murder took place.
Characterization is very imporant here and the police have to look at everyone involved closely to find motivations for people's behaviour. Nothing is as it first seems.
The murder victim is the doorman at the hotel, killed in the room he lived in, in the hotel basement. One of his secrets is the past life as a child soprano, the most famous in Iceland. But everyone here has secrets, even Erlendur.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Pre-Civil War Novel

Finished August 11
Soul Catcher by Michael White, read by William Dufris
This saga of slave catcher Augustus Cain takes us from the Mexican-American War through to the civil war as Cain looks back on a life running from his past as he engages in what he intends to be his last job as a slave catcher. He has been drawn into the occupation due to a skill in tracking and finding slaves that he first identified as a young man.
Rosetta is the runaway slave that he has been hired to find. She runs from a master who has taken his ownership in every way he could and runs to save her soul from that subjugation.
As their lives become entwined, in the days before the Civil War, Cain must face the past he is trying to forget and face up to what his life has become. Rosetta fights to gain her freedom, and yet must also face the subtleties of human behaviour.
This is a journey in a very physical sense, but also a mental journey for both of the main characters. There is a lot of history contained in this story, as well as extremely well-written characters. The reading of the book by Dufris is excellent and captures the characters of the various players in the story.
I loved this novel.

Horse World Mystery

Finished August 9
Dark Horse by John Francome
Five years before the events taking place here, a young woman was left dead after a hit-and-run. The driver of the other vehicle was never found, and those involved have stayed silent about what happened. Mark Presley was one of them.
Now Mark's wife is killed in circumstances similiar to those of five years ago and Mark feels compelled to unburden himself. But others involved in that earlier accident have more to lose, and may not be so willing as he is to have the truth come out.
There is lots of intrigue and action here, as well as some romance. Plot-driven, the action keeps the novel interesting and those interested in the world of horse racing, but not as good as Dick Francis in my books.

Canadian Produce

Finished August 9
Apples to Oysters: A Food Lover's Tour of Canadian Farms by Margaret Webb
This informative, entertaining and often humorous look at Canadian food farming is a gem. Webb, inspired by a carrot, travelled across the country looking at farmers who are being inspired to put taste and nutrition into their crops, rather than submitting to the quantity is king mindset. Webb chooses a food from each of the ten provinces and one of the territories as her focus and finds a farmer to represent that food.
Her book includes not only interesting information about the food and how it is grown and harvested, but also information about the farmers and their struggles and their relationship with consumers, other farmers and the food industry. Each chapter includes recipes for the food focussed on. I found myself inspired to find more foods that were sourced from sustainable farms like these that recognize that taste and nutrition are so important to the foods we eat. (More so, since the last batch of carrots I bought, at the farmers' market no less, were tasteless lumps!)

Thursday, 7 August 2008

British Mystery

Finished August 6
The Vows of Silence by Susan Hill
This is the latest in the series featuring Simon Serrailler. The series deals a lot with Simon's personal life as well as his police duties. Simon is the odd man out in a family of doctors.
In this book, his sister has just returned from a year in Australia with her family and Simon is thrilled to have them back. However a tragedy befalls the family and Simon must be supportive during this time, a role he doesn't normally play.
Also, a shooter is targeting young woman in Lafferton, although the police struggle to find any pattern to the shootings.
Simon is a quiet sort of man, a good police officer recently promoted to Detective Chief Superintendent. He is also with the Serious Incident Flying Taskforce. He is an ethical and sensitive man, who is an artist in his spare time. The novels in this series are very character-driven and yet there is also a lot going on.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008


Finished August 4
Fidelity by Thomas Perry
Emily Kramer's world is falling out from under her. First, her husband, owner and principal of a detective agency, is shot dead on a residential street in the middle of the night. Then she finds that their bank accounts have been left practically empty. She feels she doesn't know who her husband was anymore.
Jerry Hobart was hired to kill Phil Kramer and did so. Now he's been hired to kill Emily, but he figures there must be an interesting reason behind the job and grows curious.
Emily is also struggling to find reasons for Phil's death and his actions and as they both struggle toward answers, they become entangled for a time in each others' lives. Emily gets assistance from the detectives working for her husband, and Jerry has the added knowledge of the identity of the man he works for.
This is an action-packed novel with both main characters questioning their lives up until this time and trying to figure out the best course of action and who to trust.

New Novel

Finished August 3
Babylon Rolling by Amanda Boyden
This is a great vignette of five families who live on Orchid Street in the Uptown area of New Orleans. The novel takes place during a year beginning just before Hurrican Ivan, the year before Katrina.
Ed Flank, Ariel May and their two children, Miles and Ella, have recently moved to New Orleans from Minnesota. Ariel is the new general manager of a hotel in the French Quarter and Ed is a Buddhist stay-at-home dad.
Next door, the Guptas, Indira and Ganesh, with their two children, Elizabeth and William have just moved into the biggest house on the block.
Philmenie Beauregard de Bruges, a white uptown lady and her husband Joe have lived on the block since they were married decades ago. Joe is recovering from cancer.
Sharon and Nate Harris, a black family have also lived on the street for a long time. Living with them are their daughters Klameisha, Debutante and Angelique, along with Klameisha's and Debutante's children. The Harris's youngest son, Daniel aka Fearius, has just come home from juvvy. Their oldest son, Michael aka Muzzle they don't allow home because of his activites.
Cerise and Roy Brown have also lived on the street a long time. Roy has retired now and they are getting used to being grandparents after their only child had a baby.
The families interact and get to know each other in ways they didn't imagine they would over the course of the year the book covers. We see into many of their personal lives, and how they handle difficult circumstances. This is an interesting look at a changing neighbourhood in a diverse city. I liked how the author let you inside the heads of some of the characters, giving you a sense of what made them tick. She really captured the various characters, making them come alive and be individuals.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Near Future Novel

Finished August 1
The Declaration by Gemma Malley
This teen novel is set in the mid-twenty-second century, in a world where they've managed to control disease and stop aging. Over-population has meant that people are not allowed to have children unless the Opt Out of the anti-aging drugs, but of course some people are involved in a movement against this and therefore institutions have been created to deal with the illegal children (Surplus) that are found.
In these institutions, children are indoctrinated to believe that the parents who created them are evil, and that there lives must be spent atoning for their parents sin.
Anna lives in a surplus institution and is almost finished her training to be useful. When a new child arrives, almost her age, he tries to change her outlook and save her from her fate.
This tale covers a lot of interesting ethical issues and would be an interesting choice for a book club. The teen characters are interesting, with Anna having some depth to her.