Sunday, 27 September 2009

Another Thriller

Finished September 27
Undone by Karin Slaughter
This book takes us to one of Atlanta's busiest hospitals and merges two series by Slaughter. Sara Linton is working in the emergency department of the hospital and has been for two years. She has moved away from the house that she shared with her husband and immersed herself in this busy world as a refuge from his tragic death.
When a young woman comes into emergency, naked, hit by a car, and obviously a victim of torture, she becomes involved in a police investigation. Will Trent and Faith Mitchell of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation are also at the hospital when the woman arrives, and Will jumps into the case immediately. The local police are not cooperative, but Will makes inroads, and when a second victim is found, they start looking for connections.
When another woman is kidnapped, leaving a six-year-old child, they realize that they are working against time to save her.
The suspense is ongoing throughout and both Faith and Will have their own secrets to protect and their own weaknesses that sometimes complement each other. This story had many flawed characters with many issues and is as good as Slaughter has ever been.

Suspenseful Audiobook

Finished September 25
Blind Eye by Stuart MacBride, read by Stuart MacBride
Polish men are turning up with their eyes gouged out and the sockets burned. None of them is willing to tell the police anything about the attacks. They are always found abandoned on building sites. Letters telling of the attacks arrive at Police Headquarters, telling of more attacks if the police do not take action.
DCI Finnie is in charge of the investigation, and DC Logan McRae is kept on his toes trying to please both the DCI and his own DI, a lesbian who is trying to make her wife happy by getting them a child.
When DC McRae and his DI come upon an attack before the perpetrators have left, they finally have a witness, but he's on the run and trying to stay safe himself.
Logan isn't sure who to trust and ends up being shot at, threatened, blown up, kidnapped, and threatened some more before he finally comes to the end of the case.
This book is fast moving and the author's reading of it is engaging and kept me gripped.
A great adrenaline-pumping read.

More Short Stories

Finished September 23
The Journey Prize Stories, 19 selected by Caroline Adderson, David Bezmozgis and Dionne Brand
This is the journey prize stories for 2007, a collection that includes ill-fated romance; a child's dream of having a sister; a man who, when faced with a family crisis, faces his own life differently; the competitions and truths around a convenience store arcade game; a journalist's experience when trying to advance her career; and, my favourite, a young woman's ever-present chill is alleviated in an unexpected way.
It is always interesting to read the new up-and-coming writers.

Amazing photographs

Finished September 22
Creature by Andrew Zuckerman
This large-format photography book has wonderful images of many animals, from insects to grizzly bears.
The photographs include some close-ups and all open your eyes to the variety of textures and the detail of each animal. You can stare at some photographs for a long time, just taking in the detail.
From the quills of a porcupine to the toes of an elephant, this will have you taking a new look at each animal included.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Fast-Moving Thriller

Finished September 21
Even Money by Dick Francis and Felix Francis
The latest book by Dick Francis, whom I've liked from the first read, and a winner as usual.
I started it yesterday and finished it today and enjoyed every bit of it.
Here the main character is Ned Talbot, bookmaker. Ned inherited his firm from his grandfather and has a young man, Luca, working for him that knows the computer side of the business. When a man tells Ned that he is his father, whom Ned was told died in a car crash with his mother when he was only a year old, Ned is sceptical, but agrees to talk with him.
When the man is killed in a stabbing in the parking lot barely an hour later, Ned is thrown into turmoil. Trying to find out more about his father, Ned tells the police the truth, nothing but the truth, but not the whole truth, and tries to find out more on his own.
Adding to Ned's problems in life is his wife Sophie's mental state. She has been in and out of mental institutions struggling with bi-polar disorder and Ned tries to shield her from everything that is going on in order to protect her.
With lots going on and a good plot line, this story continues to make me a Dick Francis fan.

Quirky poetry

Finished September 20
Itty Bitty Kitty Ditties by Tim Hodapp, artist Alex Boies, designed by Jo Davison
I picked this small poetry book off the new book shelf on Saturday just for the title. It has simple, charming illustrations paired with 26 poems, each about an individual cat from Agnes to Zack.
The poems are short four-lined rhymes, and the illustrations bring them to life.
A quick amusing read.

Sunday, 20 September 2009


Finished September 19
The Doctor Will Not See You Now: The Autobiography of a Blind Physician by Jane Poulson
This is the memoir of a woman who overcame obstacles in her life and used her experiences to improve the lives of others.
A Toronto native, Jane was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes as an adolescent. She studied hard at her favourite subject science and continued those studies at university. Persisting in her quest for an interesting and useful life, she applied to medical school and was accepted into McGill. She lost her vision in her last year of medical school at the age of 27, and with the support of friends and colleagues, did her internship despite her lack of sight. She found a niche in palliative medicine and soon became sought out for her insights into the field.
She moved back to Toronto to spend more time with her family and in her 40s was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. She also developed heart disease. While not actively practising following these health setbacks, she still did research and wrote, adding her own experience as a patient to the information she shared with her colleagues. Jane died at the age of 49.
This memoir shows her personal struggles, the friends and faith that helped her find her way, and the information she added to the knowledge in her field. An inspiring story.

Short Stories

Finished September 20
One Good Story, That One by Thomas King
This collection of stories mixes Christian symbolism, Native myth, materialism, and bureaucracy together in ways not seen before. King takes from a variety of sources to create humorous and entertaining tales. The native element is strong and Coyote appears in many of the stories here. King's writing also uses satire to bring out the story and these are no exception.
I found the stories mesmerizing and thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Audio Thriller

Finished September 18
Rules of Vengeance by Christopher Reich
This book picks up a few months after Rules of Deception left off. Jonathan Ransom is flying into London from his Doctors Without Borders post in Kenya to speak at a conference.
His wife Emma, presumed dead by most people, is also in town. She meets with him, but then tells him she must say goodbye, perhaps forever. He is determined to find out what is happening and follows her. Once again he gets drawn into the world of spies and terrorists, violence and flight.
The action-packed plot never stops, and kept me entertained through a long drive home from New York State.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Canadian Short Stories

Finished September 17
The Journey Prize Stories 20 selected by Lynn Coady, Heather O'Neill, Neil Smith
The Journey Prize stories are "the best of Canada's new writers" and this is the 2008 edition featuring the finalists for the Journey Prize for that year.
This edition has a special feature: comments from more than twenty well-known writers whose early work appeared in the anthology.
It also lists all the stories from all the years.
This year's anthology features writers living from B.C. to Quebec and covers a wide variety of subjects. From the bleak to the fantastic, these are stories by authors to watch.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Great Business Book

Finished September 16
The No Complaining Rule: Positive Ways to Deal with Negativity at Work by Jon Gordon
This short but good book talks about ways to deal with negative energy and attitudes, not just in the workplace, but also in life in general.
Using a fictional situation, the book follows an HR director of a company dealing with problems that can be traced back to negative attitudes at work. The company must find a way of dealing with the current situation and ensuring that the employees engage in more positive actions and attitudes.
In her personal life the HR director, aptly named Hope, is also dealing with a long period of negative energy that has resulted in poor relationships with her family and an unhappy life.
She not only uses the tools she learns from an encounter in her personal life at work, but also with her family. She does her research as well and comes up with a plan to get rid of the energy-sapping complaining that goes on. By focusing on only those complaints that have real substance and looking at the solutions for those, she can ensure the employees at her company are engaging with each other in a more positive way.
The book provides tools and a website to assist with resources to help implement the ideas in the book in your own situation.
A useful tool for every manager's bookshelf.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Mystery Audiobook

Finished September 14
Death of a Witch by M.C. Beaton, Read by Graeme Malcolm
Hamish Macbeth has just returned from a disappointing vacation in Spain, and finds that there is a newcomer in the village. Catriona Beldame is living in one of the old cottages and appears to be offering potions and powders to cure various ails. The local men are particular users and this has outraged the women in the village. When Hamish learns that the men are not getting the effect they desired, he expresses his outrage to Beldame and tries to get her to leave the village.
When Hamish goes to confront her again, he finds her murdered and then her home is destroyed. Hamish works to find out what brought her to the village and who might be behind the murder while fending off accusations from his boss, Blair. Hamish also deals with advances from the new forensic investigator, and secrets within the village.
As usual, Hamish gets to the bottom of things, as well as dealing with his personal life.
An entertaining book.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Book about Reading

Finished September 12
How Reading Changed My Life by Anna Quindlen
Quindlen is one of my favourite writers, and this book only adds to that feeling. In four short chapters, Quindlen talks about reading and the effect it has had on her life. The first chapter talks about the joy of reading and of being a bookworm. The second chapter talks about the development of reading in her life, the books that she started with and how she came across them. It emphasizes reading as a way to experience the other, to travel without going anywhere, to escape while still being present. The third chapter talks about the various functions of reading from literature to entertainment and the questionable idea that popularity is in inverse proportion to talent. She talks about the importance of books that lessen isolation, that make the reader feel they are not alone in their experiences. She talks about books that have been controversial and what that means. The fourth chapter discusses rereading, indicating that it is not only children that go back to favourite books again and again. She also talks about the inspirations for writing, and how it is not the "geniuses" like Shakespeare that inspire, but the authors who make one feel that "I can do that". She discusses what authors lead her to write and inspired her to keep writing. This chapter also discusses progress and the false predictions about the demise of different writings that are occuring now as well as those from the past.
Following this she includes several book lists that are both interesting and useful.
I could relate to most of what she wrote here, and thoroughly enjoyed it. This will definitely be one of my rereads, as are one or two that she mentions as favourites.

Children's Fiction

Finished September 11
If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period by Gennifer Choldenko
A good book for tweens, this novel features Kirsten McKenna, who is entering grade seven. She has hardly seen her best friend Rory over the summer, and now Rory seems to be hanging out with a different group of girls. Kirsten's parents are constantly fighting and her mother keeps talking about Kirsten's recent weight gain and food issues. Luckily Kirsten's little sister Kippy is an ally in the household and the girls comfort each other.
Also starting at the same school is Walker Jones, one of the few black kids at the school. Walker is there on scholarship and he is under pressure from his single mother to do well. Walker hangs out with Matteo, another scholarship student, who seems to be willing to do anything the class queen asks him to, no matter how wrong.
As the kids find their place in the school and deal with their parents' issues, they learn about themselves as well.
This is a good story, with interesting characters. The story alternates between Kirsten and Walk telling their versions of what is going on, and other characters are given depth as well.

New Mystery

Finished September 11
Fear the Worst by Linwood Barclay
Got through the latest mystery by this great mystery writer in just over a day. Definitely a page-turner.
Tim Blake is a car salesman. His wife divorced him because she wanted him to be more ambitious and she is now in a serious relationship with a man who owns his own used-car business.
Tim's daughter is staying with him for the second summer in a row. Last year she worked at the dealership where he works. This year, she wants a little more space, so has found her own job, working for a small hotel in town.
Tim has had a girlfriend recently, but decided she was a bit flaky and has been looking for a way out of the relationship.
One morning Tim and his daughter Sydney have a few words over breakfast. That evening she doesn't come home. When Tim goes looking at the hotel where she worked, they say she never worked there. Her best friend Patty has no idea where she might have gone. As days pass, Tim won't give up looking for her. But he is finding himself in more and more compromising situations and things are looking bleak.
A great plot and sympathetic characters make this a great read.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009


Finished September 7
I'm Down by Mishna Wolff
Mishna has a very unusual childhood, growing up in a poor black neighbourhood of Seattle, with a white father who thinks and acts black. Her father works occasional construction jobs, but generally doesn't do a lot to support his family. Her parents split up when she is quite young, but unusually for the time, she and her sister Anora stay with her father. The neighbourhood she grew up in is the same one her father grew up in, and while he fit in, friends with the black men in the area, she doesn't. She feels white and out of place and she doesn't know how to act to fit in, although her sister has a better time of it. When she gets accepted into a progressive school, she finds she doesn't fit in with the white kids there either, as she is too "black" to fit into that culture. When her father remarries, this time to a black woman, it doesn't get any easier and Mishna has a difficult time finding her way, determined to get a better life and yet unsure how to attain that goal.
I found this memoir very engaging and interesting not just for Mishna's own experiences, which she tells in a lively and honest way, but also because I have an adopted sister who is black, and she has told me that she has trouble fitting into black culture because she was raised "white". This is an interesting look at culture and environment and how it shapes us.

Historical Fiction

Finished September 6
East of the Sun by Julia Gregson
This novel has an epic feel to it, even though it takes place over the period of just over a year, from late 1928 to early 1930. We follow Viva Holloway, a young woman who grew up in India and now wants to go back to revisit the place where she lost her family. To do this she takes on work as a chaperone, but while generally level-headed, she is also inexperienced.
Two of her charges are young ladies. Rose is going out to India to be married to a young officer that she has only met a few times. Victoria, Rose's bridesmaid is determined to find a husband while she is in India and never return to her domineering mother.
The third charge Viva has taken on is a young man, Guy Glover, who has been expelled from his school and is returning to his parents in India. Guy is a very disturbed young man, and when he acts out during the voyage, Viva is out of her depth, and only manages with the help of a doctor on board the ship, Frank.
Once in India, Rose faces her new life in marriage while Victoria (Tor) is taking advantage of every opportunity to enjoy life and find a man. Viva finds that Guy's parents leave her in the lurch and she must find a job quickly to make ends meet. She begins working in an orphanage.
While Viva keeps in touch with Rose and Tor, she finds that she cannot escape Guy and it is her relationship with him that eventually brings her back to facing down her own past and finding out what happened to her family.


Finished September 4
What I Thought I Knew by Alice Eve Cohen
This is a memoir of a certain time in Cohen's life and she is very open about her feelings and thoughts during these time. Cohen and her husband had tried to have a baby and found that she was infertile. Her own mother had taken DES during pregnancy, and this affected Cohen's own reproductive health. Cohen began hormone treatment to treat some of her health issues. They adopted a daughter and later divorced. A few years later, Cohen is in a new relationship, engaged to be married and happier than she has ever been. It is at this time that her story truly begins. She feels ill and takes her myriad of symptoms to her doctors who run tests and diagnose her with gastrointestinal problems. Months later, when she is still feeling badly and is told she has an abdominal tumor, she is sent for an emergency CAT scan that shows that she is six months pregnant.
Cohen is in her mid-forties, has had no pre-natal care, has been on drugs that could harm her fetus, has minimal health insurance, and is bombarded by opinions on the possible outcomes for her child. She vacillates between doubt, rejection and acceptance, and is extremely honest about her thoughts during this time. She worries about the health of her child, family finances and her own ability to handle the whole thing.
This is a memoir like no other I have read, and one that was gripping to the end.

Literary Fiction

Finished August 31
Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
I got my copy of this book through Powell's Book's Indiespensable program and it has been sitting on my nightstand for a while before I began to read it. The story follows Laura McAllan, her husband Henry, his brother Jamie, their tenant farmers Hap and Florence Jackson, and the Jackson's son Ronsel. Each of these characters tells part of the story from their point of view, a story that ends, as we are told at the beginning of the book with the death and burial of Henry and Jamie's father Pappy. The voices are individual and each tells their own version of events, yet the tale never loses its flow. While we begin at the end, we quickly go back to the beginning and follow the story along arriving at the end again, this time more fully.
This is a story of culture and the difficulty of change, a story of relationships and their development, a story of both race and class. Set in the American South just after the Second World War, it is well told and the setting is really a character unto itself.