Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Teaser Tuesday (very early Wednesday)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
My teaser:
"What I am about to bring into the world is precious," Yael assured him. "So if you are to blame, then you are the one to whom I offer my gratitude."

from The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

Monday, 26 September 2011

A World Elsewhere

Finished September 26
A World Elsewhere by Wayne Johnston
Read this one in less than a day in two sittings. Wonderful story that kept surprising me.
Set in the late nineteenth century, Landish, a young man from Newfoundland is at Princeton. He is approached for friendship by an extremely wealthy young man, Van, and it changes his life. The two become inseparable at Princeton until one betrays the other.
Landish returns to Newfoundland and refuses to follow in his father's footsteps as a sealing captain, wanting to be a writer instead. He is disowned and shortly thereafter convinced to take on a young boy, who was orphaned as a result of Landish's father's actions. The boy Deacon and Landish struggle to survive, but things become more and more precarious for them. When Van offers them a way out it seems at first an escape, but their new life is as much a difficult one as their early life together was.
A tale of jealousy, friendship, and love, this story resonates with life.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Natural Order

Finished September 24
Natural Order by Brian Francis
This is a touching novel that explores a woman's feelings around motherhood, acceptance and regret. Joyce is in her eighties and living in a seniors' care facility. The appearance of a young man as a volunteer causes her to dig into her memories and think about the past. She thinks about the young man she had a crush on as a teenager and the sad end to his life she was told. She thinks about her own son, who died years ago, and her relationship with him. She thinks of the various times in their relationship that she had the opportunity to treat him differently than she did, and she struggles with the guilt she has over her relationship with him.
Through these memories and talking to the young volunteer, she finally admits the truth of her son's life and death, a truth she has denied even to herself for years.
This book reaches inward as Joyce sees how she failed her son even as she loved him and tried to do what she thought was best. Touching, honest and heartrending, this novel fills a void in Canadian literature.


Finished September 23
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, read by Neil Gaiman
Of course I loved it, it is Neil Gaiman. Every one of his books amazes me, but all in different ways. He has such an imagination that I am in awe.
Here, the main character is Richard Mayhew, a young man living in London and living a quiet ordinary life, a meek man. His life is changed completely when he stops to help a girl he finds bleeding on the street, as he and his fiance are on their way to an important dinner. His act of human kindness takes him to a side of London he never knew existed and causes him to disappear from his ordinary life.
The London he now exists in is a difficult place, full of shadows and hidden meanings, full of creatures that are unpredictable or horribly predictable, full of creatures with special talents and amazing histories. Richard struggles against this world at first, until he realizes that he must deal with it.
Richard is everyman, who has been leading an ordinary life until he finds himself in this situation. This book asks the question: what does a man really want from life? and finds that the answer isn't as easy as one thinks. Taking someone completely outside of reality as they know it and challenging them to be all that they can be is a life-changer.
I loved it.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Lethal Rage

Finished September 21
Lethal Rage by Brent Pilkey
This is not your average police mystery book. It is definitely not police procedural, and shows the dark side of police work.
Set in 51 Division in Toronto, the main character is a recent arrival to the Division, but has been a cop in Toronto fox 6 years. 51 Division is the grittier part of the city though, and Jack takes to it like a duck to water. He feels he is making a difference there.
His wife Karen isn't as happy with the move. She worries about him more and says she doesn't like the change in him that she sees. Her parents aren't happy either. They are well-off and move in influential circles. They haven't liked Jack from the beginning, and he thinks they never will.
As the pressure on Jack to help solve a drug crime increases, he is quicker to anger and takes on guilt over an incident he was involved in.
Gripping, with a willingness to show the darker side, Pilkey's police background shows here.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The Antagonist

Finished September 20
The Antagonist by Lynn Coady
This book is told in a series of emails from one man to another. Gordon Rankin (Rank) is nearly 40 and is led to begin these emails by coming across a book written by a man who he considered his closest friend 20 years earlier. Rank feels the book betrays that friendship, exposing Rank's inner thoughts and yet still portraying him as a caricature.
Rank is a big man and beginning with his father has been cast in a role that he doesn't want. The role is enforcer, bouncer, goon. His father, his university hockey coach, his friends, all consider him as a man who is defined by his size and not what goes on inside his head.
He is haunted by a dual tragedy that occurred when he was a young man and has lived his life in fear of such a tragedy occurring again.
This is a book to shake you out of your assumptions, to open your eyes to how we see each other. Particularly in light of recent tragedies related to those hockey players defined as enforcers, this is a book for the times. The novel shows insight, character growth, and shows our society in a new light. A wonderful read that I could barely put down.

Monday, 19 September 2011

River City

Finished September 19
River City by John Farrow
This wide-ranging novel was a little long for me. At first I found it tough going, but a little more than halfway through it started to flow for me. It helped that it told you what time period you were in. I think once I saw the connection directly between the different time periods that helped.
Taking the reader from the time of Cartier until the early 1970s, this book covers a great deal of Quebec history. The author mixes real history with fiction in a seamless way that makes me interested in reading some straight-up history to figure out which parts are real. I feel like I learned a lot of history, but am unsure which parts are real.
He takes us through many explorers of New France, and through many leaders. Particularly prominent characters include Houde, Duplessis, and Trudeau. These historical figures and the fictional ones alongside them come to life here.
This book is history, social commentary, and a mystery all rolled into one. We have the struggle of French-English that still exists in Quebec. We have the corruption that still apparently exists. We have real history of riots, FLQ, and discovery. We have the role of the Catholic Church. And we have passion throughout.
All the main characters throughout time were passionate about what they were doing. That really comes through here and makes the book.
A good, if rather long, read.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Buried Secrets

Finished September 15
Buried Secrets by Joseph Finder
This fast-paced thriller is set around Boston. Alexa Marcus, daughter of a billionaire, appears to have been kidnapped. Instead of the police, her father turns to a family friend, Nick Heller, who does detective work.
The father is sent a link to a live stream of Alexa pleading for her life. She gives clues that lead them to believe she has been buried alive.
Nick is ex-army Special Forces, and has many skills at his command. He also has contacts and friends in many places, including an ex-girlfriend who works for the local FBI. He doesn't believe in following rules.
Nick also thinks of Alexa as a little sister and is committed to finding her, whatever it takes.
He must work his way through lies and false trails by both sides, and find the truth.
The scenes with Alexa were compelling, and the action kept things moving throughout.
A good read.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

On Being Born and Other Difficulties

Finished September 14
On Being Born and Other Difficulties by F. González-Crussi
Not sure how this got on my list (too long ago), but I finally got around to reading it and am glad I did.
It is an interesting book composed of a series of reflections on birth, sexuality and related body-focused topics. The author (at the time the book was written, 2004) was Professor Emeritus of Pathology at Northwestern University Medical School. His writing is surprisingly literary for the topic, and the accompanying black and white medical illustrations add to his text nicely.
He mentions a variety of sources in his writing from the science fields to the literary and philosophical. This shows the broad base of education that used to be so much more common than it is today. Writing with insight, humour, and knowledge, this book will cause the reader to reflect as well.
A very interesting book

Monday, 12 September 2011

One Bloody Thing After Another

Finished September 11
One Bloody Thing After Another by Joey Comeau
This is a short odd horror novel. It is funny, spooky, stomach-churning, and makes you care.
Jackie keeps track of trees that are important in her life. There is one for her first kiss, one for a car accident, etc. When one is cut down Jackie reacts in a distant, yet logical to her way. My favourite line in the book occurs when the police arrive: "That's embarrassing," Jackie says to him. "You both wore the same outfit today." It is Jackie's dead mother who assists in her escape.
Jackie's best friend is Ann. Ann and her sister Margaret have their own issues. Their mother is chained up in the basement and won't eat anything that already dead. The two girls struggle to find food for her.
Then there is Charlie. Charlie is an old man who doesn't particularly enjoy social interactions. He walks his elderly, none-too-bright dog Mitchie every day, putting up with the frequent stops and the attentions of children. As he returns to his apartment each day he is greeted by the ghost who leads him to another apartment where he has a conversation with Mrs. Richards.
There is much going on here, and sometimes its hard to grasp, but it all works out.
Horror isn't my usual genre of choice, but this was an  interesting and enjoyable read.

Victim Rights

Finished September 11
Victim Rights by Norah McClintock
This teen novel is part of the series featuring Ryan Dooley. Ryan is trying to get his act together after a crime he committed a few years before. He lives with his "uncle", who is a retired police officer, and he is back in high school.
He has a girlfriend, Beth, who is from a well-off family that don't like that he is part of her life. They tolerate him. In this book, Beth is going away to do a work project with her school friends, building homes for a charity. She has hidden from Ryan that a boys school will be going as well until the last minute. He is a bit resentful of this and makes that clear to her. She promises to phone him every day, but she doesn't.
When he hears that she has been flirting with a rich boy and perhaps more, he is upset. He must fight his emotions to find out what is really going on, and who is telling the truth.
This is a good teen novel, with lots of issues around relationships, truth, and perceptions. It also deals with the issue of power and class.
As usual McClintock does a great job of being in the head of a young man and expressing his inner thoughts.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Black Alley

Finished September 11
Black Alley by Mauricio Segura, translated from the French by Dawn M. Cornelio
This is a short intense novel set in the Côte-des-Neiges area of Montreal. Marcelo is the son of Chilean refugees and a quiet boy. Cleo is the new boy at school and is from Haiti. It is grade five for the two boys and they both run track. A bond is formed as they both make the top relay team for the school.
Years later there is a rivalry between two gangs, Latino Power and the Bad Boys with events and revenge escalating between the groups. The leaders of the two groups must decide whether the old childhood friendship will influence what happens next or race ties will triumph.
Set in a diverse multicultural community in a poor neighbourhood, this novel moves back and forth seamlessly between the two time periods, adding to the feeling of intensity. The use of language adds to the reality of the scenes. The way dialogue is used here is interesting with conversations moving in and out of each other.
This is an interesting novel, showing an environment unfamiliar to me, but relevant today to society as a whole. We see the struggle for acceptance that the youth have and how the different relationships influence them.
This is a good book to show the issues that are relevant on our streets today.

Rin Tin Tin

Finished September 10
Rin Tin Tin: the life and the legend by Susan Orlean

This book is the culmination of years of research by Orleans, and it shows.
The book describes the life of Lee Duncan, the original owner and trainer of the dog Rin Tin Tin. We see the life of the real dog Duncan brought back from France after World War I, and the on-screen persona in both film and television. Orleans gives a picture of the movie and television business over the years, and shows the various players involved from producers, screenwriters, and directors to co-stars.
She shows how the fame of Rin Tin Tin spread internationally, and how it grew to change the landscape of dogs as they moved to become pets more than working animals.
We see how the persona of Rin Tin Tin was embraced by generations and in different countries. We also are shown how the this love grew the popularity of German shepherds and a dynasty of Rin Tin Tin descendants.
Duncan was initially driven by pride in his dog and wanting others to recognize the uniqueness of Rin Tin Tin, but that grew to include encouraging others to train their own dogs. Duncan always connected with the love between children and their dogs, and this influenced his choices in film and television projects.
Orleans has taken an immense amount of research, both personal interviews and boxes and boxes of papers. She looked at artifacts from the commercialization of Rin Tin Tin, and most interestingly her own motivation to tell this story. From a child's love of a figurine, to this wonderful and extensively researched book, she acknowledges her own role in the Rin Tin Tin story.
From the personal to the legend, Orleans covers all aspects of this story over the course of almost a century. This is a book for dog lovers, those interested in social change, and those who just love a good story.

Friday, 9 September 2011

And Me Among Them

Finished September 8
And Me Among Them by Kristen den Hartog
This is the story of Ruth, a young girl with a growth issue, and her parents Elspeth and James.
Elspeth and James met in England, when James went looking for a hat for his mother at the hat shop Elspeth worked at. Elspeth followed James back to his home in Canada, and began doing piecework in the local suit factory. James went back to his job as a mailman. They were pleased with their child Ruth, but began to worry when she kept growing. They worry about her relationship with others and about her health. We see things from all three points of view and see the issues with communication that have developed between them. This book talks to the emotions involved and sees how the family struggles with acceptance of themselves and each other. We see how they conceal things from each other and deny things in their struggle to cope.

61 Hours

Finished September 8
61 Hours by Lee Child, read by Dick Hill
I love the Jack Reacher novels, and this was no exception. Hill has the perfect voice for these books and adds to the ambience.
Here, Jack has got a ride on a bus that is touring seniors around South Dakota in the winter. When the bus crashes on the highway, the group is stranded near the small town of Bolton.
Bolton has a couple of situations. One is a recent murder. Another is the recent arrest of a drug dealer. Local police are protecting the witness.
There is a large jail just outside of town that has federal, state and county facilities. The Bolton police are backup for the jail in case of emergency (like riots or escapes).
As usual, this has a great story, lots of suspense, and great characters.
One of my favourite lines, that repeats several times in the book, was about one of the bad guys. "Because he was Plato, and they weren't".
I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The Many Revenges of Kip Flynn

Finished September 6
The Many Revenges of Kip Flynn by Sean Dixon
This wonderfully quirky novel absolutely enthralled me. Great story, great characters, great writing.
Kip is a young woman who works hard at a variety of self-employed endeavors, making a living and enjoying her life. As the story begins, she and her boyfriend Mani are entering a house under construction, driven there by Mani's outrage at the house owner's attack against their livelihood. Things go horribly wrong.
Kip, in shock, agrees to a deal in exchange for her silence, and wanders back into the night. We learn about her life in Kensington Market; her roommate Nancy, who has been politically motivated by the actions of Mayor Ford; her friend Henry, who moon after Nancy; the Ghost, who also shares the apartment with Kip and Nancy; and Kip's father Lionel, who has secrets he hasn't given up yet.
We also learn about Pat York, the young man who caused Mani's antagonism, and about his life and how he became the man he is now, and about how he turns into a different man.
There is wonderful humour here, social commentary, and Dixon gives a real picture of Toronto in the present day. I absolutely loved this book and could hardly put it down. Read it, you'll love it.

A Thoroughly Wicked Woman

Finished September 5
A Thoroughly Wicked Woman by Betty Keller
This book is based on a true story of a murder that took place in Vancouver in late 1905. Thomas Jackson was the victim. He had been away from home for some time, staking claims, and had only been back in Vancouver a couple of days when he was poisoned. He lived with his wife Theresa, who was much younger than him, and his mother-in-law Esther Jones, who took in boarders. The boarders in the house were Harry Fisher, a nephew of Jones, and Ernest Exall, a young man who worked for the CPR.
There was already a case of theft pending against Esther Jones by her landlord. When the poisoning took place suspicion fell on both women and the boarders. Harry Fisher took off for the states and the two women were arrested for perjury, alleged to have been given at the coroner's inquest.
Keller sets the scene in the introduction, giving us the legal environment, the political environment, and the news scene of the day. Much of the information here comes from newspaper stories, and Keller has created a couple of reporters to assist with this end. Most stories of the day didn't have bylines, so particular reporters were not associated with the stories at the time. This device helps to give a personal touch to the book, without influencing the facts of the case.
It was very interesting to see the legal maneuverings and see how different things are now. One does wonder what eventually happened to all the key players and where they ended up.

Missing Matisse

Finished September 3
Missing Matisse by Jan Rehner
This is a mystery with a story within a story. In present day Toronto Chloe Rea is watching Adam Jensen. He has a Matisse drawing that she believes is hers. The drawing was owned by her grandmother Sylvie, and a family story says that Sylvie once posed for Matisse. Chloe's actions draw her to Adam's attention and the picture draws them both to Adam's late brother Jamie and Europe.
The second story, told in its own voice interspersed throughout is a voice from history. It is a voice from a woman who worked in Matisse's house and it takes us a while to discern her identity.
As we see what happened in Matisse's world and with Sylvie, a young Canadian caught in France during World War II, we also learn about art and the makings of it. In the present we also learn about art, but also about the business of it.
Adam and Chloe follow the minimalist clues they have to find what truly happened and whether there really was a painting. Intrigue, subterfuge, and romance all bring this story to life. The art history was interesting and I learned a lot I didn't know, always a plus.
A good read.

Monday, 5 September 2011


Finished September 2
Sunnyside by Glen David Gold
This has been my bedside book for quite a few months now, and I'm glad to say I've finished it. I enjoyed most of it, but it is a very complex novel with several storylines.
It begins on November 12, 1916 with a day where there were sightings of Charlie Chaplin in many places (a real historical happening). The book follows not only Chaplin himself, but also Leland Wheeler (aka Lee Duncan) a young man who witnesses one of the sightings and risks his life in trying to reach Chaplin. Leland has a dream of being on the big screen, and despite several setbacks, never lets that dream go. We also follow another young man, Hugo Black, who goes on to be an American soldier fighting in Russia, an extension of the first World War that is little acknowledged. There are several other figures we move on at different times: generals, actors, young women with their own agenda, but the three young men, Chaplin, Leland, and Hugo are the primary focus.
With scenes from Hollywood to Germany, France to Russia, the environment varies widely. We see the rise of actors' rights in Hollywood, the terror and tragedy of World War One, the bleakness of the Russian campaign. We see the loss of dreams and the achievement of dreams. We see families and the dynamics that take place within them. There is sadness and joy here, and much to take in.
The author has included historical figures and events along with fictional ones, and it is interesting to see the linkages. We see the beginning of the career of Rin Tin Tin here as well.
I enjoyed this book, as it got me thinking differently about many things and awakened me to events I didn't know of.

Sheilagh's Brush

Finished September 1
Sheilagh's Brush by Maura Hanrahan
This novel is set during the 1930s in a small fishing village in Newfoundland. It begins with young Sheilagh giving birth to her first child. She attended by a nurse from a nearby village, the local healer, her mother and younger sister. It is a difficult and painful birth. Sheilagh married young and feels close to her husband and child. She lives the life expected for young women in her community.
Her younger sister Claire sees a different life for herself. She stays close to their mother and then begins to assert her independence. As she sets her own course, we see the relationship between the sisters change and see how others in the community may not be the people we think them to be. Sheilagh's daughter is a watcher, who sees far more than others think and she takes it all in.
A good short novel giving a snapshot of a particular time and place.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

The O'Briens

Finished September 1
The O'Briens by Peter Behrens
This is the saga of Joe O'Brien and his family. It starts in the Pontiac region along the Ottawa River, but ranges across North America to the Canadian Rockies, to Venice Beach, California and back again.
Joe spends most of his married life in Montreal, as does one of his brothers. We see the strong feelings around families here with Joe's support for his siblings and theirs for him and his family. We see marital difficulties, influences of war, and the more mundane everyday aspects of life.
Joe is involved in the Canadian railway boom, the military industry of the World Wars, and construction of many infrastructure projects. He dreams big and yet sometimes doesn't know what he really wants. We see how people love each other, but don't always understand each other.
This is an engaging book, with characters that captured the imagination. I sat up late to finish it to a satisfying ending.