Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Murder on the Yukon Quest by Sue Henry

In Murder on the Yukon Quest, Jessie is a musher competing with her team of dogs in one of the most difficult sled races, the Yukon Quest. When one of the other racers is kidnapped, Jessie becomes embroiled in the attempt to get the girl back alive. The rugged terrain, the numbing cold and the dangerous assailants threaten not only her life, but those of her dog team as well.

I loved this book. I learned a lot about dog-sledding, dogs and the areas in which the race took place, namely Yukon and Alaska. It gave me an appreciation for winter and although I won't be taking up sledding any time soon, I think I'll probably enjoy this winter just a little bit more because of Henry.

The book is a well-written mystery with plenty of suspects and motives. I breezed through this book in just a couple of sittings because I didn't want to put it down. I didn't think I'd enjoy it so much, but Henry's writing and descriptions drew me right in.

I loved many of her passages about the area, the wildlife and scenery. Her descriptions were wonderful and left me with many vivid images. They made me feel like I was really there, right down to the shivering. When Jessie was cold, so was I. Lately, I've become somewhat of a birdwatcher and really enjoy identifying birds in our backyard. Because of that, I particularly liked Henry's descriptions of the ravens:
Overhead several ravens danced on the wind, effortlessly revolving on the thermals in swoops and dives, like kites anchored to strings.

Highly recommended. I think dog lovers and winter adventurers would especially enjoy it. I'm so glad a I have a few more books by Henry on my bookshelf. I hope to get to them soon.

The Cat Who Had 14 Tales by Lilian Jackson Braun

The Cat Who Had 14 Tales is a nice collection of cat tales from the mistress of cozy cat mysteries, Lilian Jackson Braun. The stories are varied and short enough that several can be enjoyed in one sitting.

I'm a huge fan of "The Cat Who..." series. I love Jim, Koko and Yum Yum. This book is a little different because it doesn't feature these characters. It's still really good, though. Because I generally enjoy short stories, I had a blast with this one. I don't remember if I had any favourites (I read it awhile ago and am now just writing a short review), but I'm sure there were some I liked more than others.

While I enjoyed each story, my least favourites were the three in the middle of the book that were part of the “Oral History Project” of Gattville Community College. I didn’t like the interview-type style in which there were written. I might have liked them better had they been separated and place throughout the book rather than lumped together in the middle.

Recommended for fans of the series. Others might like it, too.

The Highland Fling Murders by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain

In The Highland Fling Murders, Jessica Fletcher and some of her Cabot Cove friends have flown to the United Kingdom. Jessica first meets with her book publisher but then everyone travels to Scotland to visit Inspector George Sutherland, of Scotland Yard, her old friend. As one can expect, it's not long before a body shows up. It's that of a local woman who's been found with a pitchfork through her heart...just like the famous Scottish witch whose ghost now haunts the castle they are visiting.

I loved the TV series on which these books are based. While I enjoyed the whole series, I preferred the ones where Jessica lived and investigated around Cabot Cove. They just seemed more quaint. Having said that, I still enjoyed this one. The story was appealing and the characters were varied and fun to read about. It didn't seem to have any really contrived bits (that I can remember. I read it awhile ago and am now just writing the review) that I found in a few others of this series. Well, I guess the whole premise of the book can come off as contrived, but what I mean is situations or scenes where one of the characters does something extraordinary and unbelievable that just happens to yield a clue to the mystery.

Overall, this book was pretty standard for this series and quite enjoyable.

Recommended for fans of the books and/or TV show.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Murder on Ice by Alina Adams

In Murder On Ice, Rebecca "Bex" Levy is a figure-skating researcher. It's her job to put together all of the facts, tidbits, history and whatnot for the announcers when figure skating is televised. Bex has her hands full with the two announcers, Francis and Diana Howarth, bickering and trying to get one up on each other. Her producer Gil isn't about to give her a break either. When American's darling doesn't win and comes in second to the Russian, things start to get ugly. But that's nothing compared to what happens when the Italian judge is found dead. The producer, Gil, challenges Bex to find the killer in time for the gala broadcast and that gives her just four days to get to the bottom of things.

I loved this book. The story is non-stop fun. I really didn't want to put it down. I used to watch figure skating and only ever saw it from an spectator's point of view; never from off the ice. It was interesting to get a look from behind the scenes of the practice, the performance and the broadcast.

The main thing that I loved about the book was the sense of humour. Both the author and the main character, Bex, were sarcastic and hilarious. I laughed-out-loud many times while reading the book. Sometimes the characters are a little over the top, but not totally unbelievable. I'm sure at least some of what the author describes has actually happened.

Adams used to be figure-skating researcher and feature producer for some major networks. It's no wonder she a lot about the figure skating world. This knowledge really added credence to the story.

Highly recommended. Especially for the figure-skating lovers and cozy mystery readers. I hope to read many more books by Adams.

Want to read another review? Check out the one on Books and Quilts.

Dead Cert by Dick Francis

In Dead Cert, Alan York, a steeplechase jockey, is also a millionaire. He doesn't have to race, but he loves it. When one of the other jockey's is killed during the race, York is convinced it isn't an accident and sets out to prove it and find the killer. He's even more determined after he gets beat-up by a gang of thugs and then wakes up in the hospital with some memory loss after his own racing accident.

I love Francis' writing. His stories are complex with fascinating characters. I always learn something about horse racing and human nature from him. I get wrapped up in the story and usually don't want to put the book down. All of this is true with this book. I really enjoyed it.

Highly recommended for horse racing enthusiasts as well as anyone looking for a solid, well-written, interesting mystery. I'm so glad I have a bunch more of Francis' books to read.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Choosing to Be: Lessons in Living from a Feline Zen Master by Kat Tansey

Choosing to Be: Lesson in Living from a Feline Zen Master is a fictional account of how author Kat Tansey overcame depression by learning and practicing meditation. With help from her beloved cat, Poohbear, the feline Zen master; Catzenbear, the new kitten; and some human teachers, Kat outlines her journey on the road to recovery.

A delightful, insightful and peaceful read. I enjoyed it immensely. Her writing is serene and Zen-like. It instantly made me relax. I'm so used to reading thrillers and mysteries which leave me pumped up and a little anxious. This book was a nice respite from that.

I love how Tansey blends her real life depression with advice from her fictitious talking cat. Oh, the cat is real, I just don't think he actually talks. However, if Tansey had said he talked, I'd believe her. I love cats. Unfortunately, I also have an allergy to them. I do, however, try to have contact with them as much as possible and just put up with the symptoms. Other family members have cats as do many of our neighbours. When I see these cats, I greet them as friends. I always thought they were special. Tansey just confirmed my suspicions. Poohbear and Catzenbear were Maine Coons. It's not a breed I'm that familiar with. I'll have to do a little searching on the internet for more information.

Each chapter in this book starts with an inspirational quote and a relevant photo of one of the cats. The quotes are wonderful and each photo is adorable. The cover photo is my favourite. The look on Poohbear's face is enough to stop anyone in their tracks. You just know he's important and intelligent. I'd certainly follow any advice he gave. ;)

While I found most of the story light-hearted and soothing, I became emotional when Kat was describing her relationship with her father. It came on suddenly and surprised me. I think it reminded me of my relationship with my father which wasn't as close and loving as it should have been.

Tansey provides some suggestions for further reading on Buddhism and meditation. She also provides additional information on her website. It's definitely worth a visit or two.

Highly recommended for cat lovers, those interested in meditation or for anyone trying to overcome depression.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Best of 2008

I thought I'd try something different this year and assemble a "Best of 2008" list. Other people do it so why not me, eh? Anyway, I still have a few reviews to post for books I read this year (I hope to get them done by year end, but I might not), but I think I'm ready to assemble my list. Note that these are books I read this year and not necessarily published this year.

[It's no coincidence that there are a lot of books from HarperCollins on the list. That's because I have received some awesome books from their First Look program as well as the The Reading Group on Facebook.]

In no particular order, here's Daisy's Best of 2008.

Hitman: Forty Years Making Music, Topping the Charts, and Winning Grammys by David Foster
When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson
Broken by Daniel Clay
Starclimber by Kenneth Oppel
Downtown Owl: A Novel by Chuck Klosterman
Fuzzy Navel by J. A. Konrath
The Last Oracle by James Rollins
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Belong to Me by Marisa de Los Santos
The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver
Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
Remembering the Bones by Frances Itani
The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian
Ines of My Soul: A Novel by Isabel Allende
Crooked Little Vein: A Novel by Warren Ellis
The Luxe by Anna Godbersen
Bound by Sally Gunning
Promise of Wolves Dorothy Hearst
The Paris Enigma by Pablo De Santis
The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill. [Technically, I read this one last year, however, I wanted to mention it here because it's a recent Canada Reads pick. Besides, it's one of the best books I've ever read and it makes the list an even 20].


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Attachment by Isabel Fonseca

I generally finish every book I start. There are, of course, exceptions and unfortunately Attachment is one of them.

In the book, Jean opens an "erotically charged" email intended for her husband, Mark. Apparently, it's from his lover, Giovana. Instead of confronting him, she poses as her husband and corresponds with Giovana via email. I thought that sounded like a great premise and showed some promise, but the story didn't resonate with me. I've read about a 1/3 of it and I struggled with every page. I just didn't really care about the characters; nor did I find the story engaging. That's not to say it isn't well written, it is. It's just not for me.

One of the things that sort of bugged me in the book were the few graphic bits about sex. At the risk of sounding like a prude, I found them gratuitous and jarring against the other parts of the book. As much as I didn't care for those parts (they really were few and in between), they would not have stopped me from reading the book had I been enjoying it in the first place.

While this book wasn't my favourite, shall we say, I really don't think it deserves the harsh criticisms that I found on Amazon. In my opinion, no author deserves such treatment.

I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone I know, but I'm sure there are lots of people who would enjoy it. You could do a whole lot worse. Different strokes for different folks, as they say.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Midlife Can Be Murder by Jane Isenberg

[I'm currently reading some older books that have been gathering dust on my bookshelves. Better late than never.]

In Midlife Can Be Murder, Bel is a middle-aged community college professor who, at the urging of a close friend, has decided to have her bat mitzvah. While at her study group at the synagogue, she runs into a former student, Ashley. Ashley's is upset because her colleague has died after a suspicious rock climbing episode. She convinces Bel to look into the matter. With her friends, Bel starts snooping by going undercover and investigating what looks like corporate espionage and other dangerous activities.

Good, fun read. I learned a little about Judaism, surveillance, "middle age malaise", and through Bel's profession a little about teaching in a community college. Isenburg's storyline was appealing and her characters were believable and hilarious. I especially liked the beginning of each chapter in which Isenburg features an email or similar correspondence from one of the other characters. Bel was my favourite character because of her dedication to her students, her commitment to her studies and her determination in solving the mystery despite her hectic and busy life. Other than Bel, there are a number of other wonderful characters in the book, but for me two of them stood out: Nathan and Illuminada.

Recommended for cozy mysteries lovers, especially if you're in midlife or interested in Judaism in funny situations.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Too Many Crooks Spoil the Broth by Tamar Myers

[I'm currently reading some older books that have been gathering dust on my bookshelves. Better late than never.]

Too Many Crooks Spoil the Broth is the first book in the Pennsylvania-Dutch cozy mystery series featuring Magdalena Yoder. Magdalena runs an inn and with her current group of guests, she has a lot to contend with: vegetarians, animal rights activists, avid hunters, an Amish cook who doesn't know the first thing about cooking for vegetarians and oh yeah, two dead guests. Well, they don't show up like that. They actually walk in the door under their own steam, however, like any good cozy mystery, it doesn't take long for the bodies to start piling up.

I'm glad I finally dug this one out of the box to read. I usually end up reading series out of order and then complain that I don't have any of the back story. Myers provides plenty of background information so that the reader know just how Magdalena ends up in this mess...I mean, opening an inn and catering to lots of different people. The one thing I noticed right away that's different from the other/later books in the series, is that Magdalena has not yet picked up the slightly annoying habit of calling everyone "dear". Other than that it's pretty much like the others, in that it contains lots of comical situations to make you laugh (despite the deaths), a fun mystery to follow and some delicious looking recipes to try.

Speaking of recipes, I tried one: Susannah Yoder Entwhistle's Boiled Cookie recipe. While the cookies turned out ok, the batter spread out a little too much (in my opinion) on the parchment. I'd suggest adding an extra 1/2 cup of oatmeal or 1/2 cup of unsweetened coconut to the mix before spooning them out. I really liked the peanut butter in this one. Yum.

Back to the book: I would like to read the rest of books in order, however, it's not likely. I'm definitely going to read more of them, though and I'll probably just grab any old one off the shelf to read. I love this series.

Recommended for cozy mystery fans.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat? by Peter Walsh

Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat? offers a unique approach to weight loss. Peter Walsh, author of It's All Too Much, uses his organizing skills to tackle weight loss. He makes the connection between the clutter in your house and life to the extra "clutter" on your body. It's definitely not your ordinary weight loss book. There are no meal plans or exercise plans, but there are plenty of activities to not only track down the cause of your extra weight, but also to help you lose it. At the end of each chapter, there's a checklist so that the reader can keep track of the activities and quizzes as they complete them.

This really is an awesome book. Walsh offers some excellent advice and plenty of things to think about and do with regards to weight loss. His writing style made the whole book fun and easy to read. Admittedly, Peter isn't an expert on weight loss. However, through his clients, he noticed a trend that when they decluttered their houses, they also lost weight. One of the things I really liked about Peter's advice is that looked at weight loss in a whole new way.

My favourite chapters were 4 through 7. It's in those chapters you learn to take a look at your home and declutter your kitchen, as well as learn the benefits of stocking good food and preparing homemade meals. The first activity (jump up and down in front of a mirror naked) had me gasping in horror, but I soon got over that and really enjoyed reading Walsh's program.

My least favourite part of the book is his use of letters from people who write to him. I don't know if these are actual letters or just represent the types of letters he gets, but I didn't think they added much to the content. At first they were ok, but after awhile, they got old.

The book is chock full of great advice and interesting takes on weight loss. I've selected two of my favourites to include here.
On takeout (page 177):
Think of it as junk mail. It comes into your house pretending to offer you something you want, but if you don't stop it at the door, it just keeps coming...You have no idea whether junk mail contains stuff you want or don't want, but it just keeps coming until it takes over your home.

On enjoying the food you eat (page 167):
We know how to eat--eating is the mechanical action of placing food into your mouth, chewing, and swallowing it. But isn't that exactly what your pet does? If there isn't a significant difference between how your pet eats and how you consume food, then something is seriously wrong.

Like with most self help books, I try to read the whole book first (so that I can get an really good idea about the program before I jump in with both feet and in this case so that I can get my review out quickly) and then go back and tackle the activities and put in the work necessary to succeed. So with the exception of a few of the quizzes, I have not yet done the activities, lost any weight or cleaned up my kitchen. That comes next.

Even though my house isn't drowning in a never ending sea of clutter and I generally eat homemade, nutritious meals, I still think there are areas I can improve and hope to put some of the skills I've learned (and hope to learn on my second pass) to good use.

Recommended, if clutter and weight are two of your issues or if you've tried other "diet" books and want to try something new. I'm tempted to pick up Walsh's It's All Too Much to get other areas of my house in order. It, too, looks like a fun read.

This review copy was provided by the publisher through the wonderful people at Edwards Magazine.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Unholy Business by Nina Burleigh

In Unholy Business: A True Tale of Faith, Greed & Forgery in the Holy Land, Nina Burleigh tells us how the James Ossuary goes from being the artefact that proves the existence of Jesus Christ to being the "the fraud of the century". She details the items, the players on both sides of the forgery, the procedures used for examination and more. She brings to light the corruption and forgery that infiltrates all levels of the antiquities market. From the high-end museum display pieces to the low-end items that are on sale for tourists, only a few people in the world know what's real. Even then, they don't always agree.

I loved this book. Burleigh's writing and storytelling abilities make this work accessible, fascinating and easy to read. A number of the players' names start with "G" and I got them mixed up a few times, but other than the story is quite easy to follow. I particularly liked her examination of what the ossuary, if it's authentic, means to the various religions. I was raised in the Catholic church and found this section interesting and enlightening. I also loved her descriptions of the various cities in the Middle East. Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and others; I could really picture the cities as she described them. Also, Burleigh's detailed descriptions of the procedures used to prove authenticity were easy to understand and intriguing.

I appreciate the tremendous amount of research and travel to gather the information. I especially loved that she didn't just quote other people's work. She travelled extensively and walked and talked with the collectors, archaeologists and other antiquity specialists to put together a comprehensive piece of work.

Highly recommended for those interested in religion, archaeology or museums. It might make you look at museums and their displays in a whole new way.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hitman by David Foster

In Hitman, David Foster goes from young Canadian piano student with perfect pitch to music producer who spent "forty years making music, topping charts & winning Grammys". That's 15 Grammys for those who are counting. David grew up in Victoria, British Columbia the middle of seven children and the only boy and now works as a music producer/songwriter/arranger/performer with some of the biggest names in music. This memoir details his successes, his not-so-successful moments, his children, his foundation to help disadvantaged children and so much more.

This is an awesome book. There's never a dull moment. It was both interesting and educational. I'm not much of a celebrity follower and don't know the in and outs of anyone's career, so a lot of the details were new and fascinating. I was also surprised to learn what producers do; that they have control over the whole music making process, not just the business end. It's so much more than I thought they did. This memoir, too, is much more than it could have been. I'm sure Foster could have filled the pages with just stories of the people he's worked with over the years. However, David shares the intimate of his failed marriages, his guilt over his relationship with his five daughters, his phobias, his health and more. Having said that, at times I thought he could have been a little more open about his feelings and dug a little deeper to show his vulnerability. He came across as a little guarded, but he is writing for a bunch of strangers. I think I'd be guarded, too.

There are many things I loved about this book. One thing was the references to the life lessons he learned along the way. They really tied the memoir together into one cohesive unit rather than a bunch of stories of his life. Another things I particularly enjoyed were the pages of acknowledgments and lists of awards and nominations at the end of the book. It's amazing when you look at his accomplishments all laid out like that. And he's not done, yet!

One of my favourite quotes:
I can only be who I am, and who I am is a guy who writes music that people make babies to--and I'm not going to apologize for it.

One of my favourite artists that David has worked with is Renee Olstead. She's a young jazz singer with an incredible voice. If you haven't heard her sing, you're missing something great.

Foster also made me realize that I'm probably missing out on listening to some great voices. I'm determined to expand my music horizons to include Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli just because of the wonderful things Foster had to say about their talents.

There's many facets to the music industry, but for Foster it comes down to only one thing: music. David Foster certainly is *the* Hitman.

Highly recommended.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Getting the Girl by Susan Juby

In Getting the Girl, Sherman Mack is determined to find who's behind the "defiling" pranks at his new school. All he knows is that someone is posting girls' pictures stamped a "D" on them around the school. The girl then becomes a social outcast and no one will have anything to do with her. He's fancies himself a detective and a ladies' man, so this mystery is right up his alley.

This book is such a fun read. Once I picked it up I didn't want to put it down. Juby's characters are unique and believable. I loved Sherman Mack. He's good at detecting *and* cookery. He certainly loved the ladies and he'd do anything for them. What more can you want in a man? I couldn't quite picture him in my head (a young Ralph Macchio (The Karate Kid) or maybe that kid from Malcolm in the Middle.), but his attitude and personality really came through. I couldn't help but feel sorry for the defiled girls. It just reminded me of how cruel high school can be and even though I wasn't a social outcast, I wouldn't go back there if you paid me.

My one complaint is that the story seemed to run out of steam in the middle and not too much happened to advance the story/mystery. However, it picked up again rather quickly and had a really good ending.

I'll be looking for more books by Susan Juby. I also look forward to more "Ask a Juby" posts on The Savvy Reader blog. They are always fun to read.

I'm sure most young people won't have a problem with relating to the situations in this book. Recommended.

Starclimber by Kenneth Oppel

In Starclimber, Canada is setting its sights on space and Kate de Vries, an expert in zoology has been asked to enter the new space program. Her friend and love interest, Matt Cruse, a pilot of a aerocrane, also wants to enter the program, but he must compete for his spot. As they prepare for the mission and eventually lift off, Matt and Kate make every attempt to keep their relationship a secret. This book is the third in the Airborn series.

Oppel presents an awesome and exciting story that's so detailed I felt like I was aboard the Starclimber airship myself. I'm not familiar with the other books in the series, so I was a bit confused with this world that Oppel has created for his characters, but that did not at all keep me from loving this book. I could easily get hooked on this series. The whole thing was fascinating and filled with many memorable characters. From Matt and Kate, to Tobias, Hugh, Shepherd, Mr. Lunardi and many others. All great.

Even though the book can stand alone, there are numerous references to past adventures and events, which probably occurred in the previous books. With other books, I felt like I was missing something because I hadn't read the previous books. Not so with this book. I just made me incredibly curious about these characters and excited to know that I could read more about them. I will definitely keep my eye out for the first two books (Airborn and Skybreaker) in the series. I'm hoping that they will give me a good background into the world in which these characters live. I might even try one of Oppel's other books. ;)

Highly recommended.

Jolted by Arthur Slade

In Jolted, almost everyone in Newton Starker's family has been struck and killed by lightening. That's why he's always on the lookout for bad weather, especially cumulonimbus clouds. To try to break the curse on his family, Newton enters the Jerry Potts Academy of Higher Learning and Survival in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Once there, he acquires all kinds of skills that will hopefully allow him to survive the curse and learn to appreciate the outdoors.

What a great book! The story was interesting and fun to read. I loved the "Newton's Rules for Survival" as well as all of the little extras that the author made part of the story (excerpts from newspapers and manuals, letters etc.)

Slade has created a number of great characters in this book, but my favourite was Newton. He penchant for truffles (the fungus ones, not the chocolate ones) was unique and amazing. He had such a sophisticated palate for a youngster. His circumstances made me care about him.

I couldn't help but think of Harry Potter series when reading the book. There are many similarities between Harry and Newton. Lightning (lightning bolt scar, in Harry's case), special school, little to no family left, misunderstood, scary enemy and probably a few more I can't think of right now. This story, though, is not at all dark as the Potter books turned out to be and Newton does not appear to have any other-worldly type abilities.

Recommended. I have Dust on my bookshelf gathering dust (what else?). I'll be sure to push it closer to the top of my to-be-read pile.

Dreaming Again Edited by Jack Dann

Dreaming Again, presented by Jack Dann, is an amazing collection of short stories in the speculative fiction genre from Australian authors. From science fiction, fantasy and horror, these short stories are diverse and imaginative. Dann precedes the collection with a nice introduction explaining the premise of the book. The back of the book says it best: "Breathtaking in scope, originality and imagination."

I've read quite a few short stories before, but almost everything else about this book was new for me. First there's the Australian authors. I haven't knowingly read any that I can think of. Also, I don't read much speculative fiction. In fact, I could probably count the number of such books I've read on one hand and those were all science fiction. I can't remember ever reading any fantasy (except if you count Harry Potter, which I don't because to me he's real) or horror. It's not that I didn't enjoy the few that I read it's just that I tend to gravitate towards other genres.

I really enjoyed reading this book. In fact, at times I didn't want to put the book down and couldn't wait to see what the next story was about. The stories were diverse with unique characters and story lines. The three subgenres(?) were well represented. Dann's selection of stories and editing of the book were superb. One of the first sentences in the first story gave me an indication of what I was in for "...I had regrown my left foot...". I knew right then and there this book was going to be different from any other book I've read.

My favourites include:
The Constant Past, The Forest, This Way to the Exit, Empire, Lost Arts and many more. That's enough for now. I could be here all day listing them. I also have a list of those I'd like to reread.

Definitely recommended. Even if you think you might not like speculative fiction, I'd say this book is still worth a try.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Fire by Katherine Neville

In The Fire, the long awaited sequel to The Eight, Katherine Neville tells the tale of the Montglane Service, a chess set that once belonged to Charlemagne. It's rumoured to have special powers and for centuries people have sought to possess it. Switching back and forth between present day (2003) and the 1800s, this novel offers a story within a story. After the French Revolution, the chess set rears its head in Albania and Haidee's father enlists her to embark on a journey to save it. Skip to present day. Thirty years ago, the chess set was scattered around the world and was buried. Recently it's surfaced again and the hunt for its powers have resumed with a whole new set of players.

This sensational thriller with intricate puzzles and conspiracies was fun to read. It was not only entertaining, but it was also informative. The story line contained a little something for everyone: history, romance, mystery, puzzle-solving and strategy. I love it when authors combine fictional characters with real life famous people. In this book, Neville includes Lord Byron, Napoleon, Napoleon's mother, Percy Shelley, Isaac Newton and others. Some readers might attempt to draw some comparisons between this novel and The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown. In my opinion this novel is far superior in almost every way. Better writing, better storyline and better characters.

While I really enjoyed the story, I found the whole "Game" aspect confusing. There were many references to the "Game" and the players, but I couldn't quite figure it out. I kept looking for some rules or explanation on game play, but I had a hard time deciphering any from the story. Perhaps it would have been clearer had I first read The Eight. The parts set in the 1800s also gave me a little trouble. I got lost more than once and stumbled with the Middle Eastern and European names and places. Some pieces of the plot in that time period were convoluted and hard to follow. It didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book, though.

My husband is the chess player in this family. I know how the pieces move, but don't have the patience to learn strategy and I just don't get the whole war/battle aspect. I do, however, find it fascinating. I've read a few other novels featuring chess and have enjoyed each one.

This novel undoubtedly required massive amounts of research on so many varying subjects. That fact is not only verified by the intricate details in the story, but also by the "Acknowledgements" section at the back of the book which ranges from "Albania" to "Volcanoes and Geysers" and much, much more. Very well done.

I think I might track down and read The Eight and then go back to this book to see if I can get a better understanding of the parts I found confusing. For now, the book is going back to the shelf.

Recommended for mystery, chess and history lovers as well as fans of The Eight. I'd also recommend it for book clubs. There's lots of symbolism and themes running through the book that should keep discussions going for hours.

Broken by Daniel Clay

At the beginning of Broken, Skunk Cunningham, an eleven-year-old girl, speaks to us from her hospital bed. She's in a coma. Through the rest of the book, we learn of her life before the coma and how she got this way. It's a story about innocence, love, betrayal, mental health, bullying and living through it all.

I absolutely loved this book. I really can't say that enough. The storyline was superb, compelling, heartbreaking and at times surreal. That isn't to say it wasn't believable because it was...mostly, anyway. There was just so much going on, it seemed bizarre that so much could happen to these people in such a short time. Even so, I couldn't help but feel sorry for some of these characters. Amidst the anger, pain and horror there are moments of hopefulness, innocence and humour.

Clay's novel is filled with unique and outrageous characters. The most notable are: Bob Oswald and his out-of-control gang of girls who's names all start with 's'; Broken Buckley, who is slowly driven to madness; Mr. Jeffries, Skunk's teacher, who should be on the verge of a breakdown after all that happens to him; Skunk herself, who's innocence is in jeopardy, and a host of other characters who round out this cast of misfits. Out of all of them, I think Skunk (who names their kid Skunk?) was my favourite with poor Broken a close second. Bob Oswald and his children scared me. I didn't get beat up in school, but I do remember a few bullies. These girls are beyond that. With the exception of the little ones, this family terrorised and basically took this neighbourhood hostage. I'm hoping that this family is a gross exaggeration and that a family like this really doesn't exist. However, I fear that I'm wrong. As horrible as this family is, some of the characters are inexplicably drawn to them which ultimately leads to their "brokenness".

Clay's writing is straightforward and easy to read. I loved his matter of fact style and the sections where he outlined the story in a "bullet" or list fashion. Unique and effective. Usually books without chapters give me a hard time. Not so with this one. I devoured this book in just a few sittings and did not want to put it down. It fascinated me, entertained me, made me laugh and scared the hell out of me.

I liked that the story started and ended with Skunk's narrative in the first person. It then switched to a third person to tell the rest of the story with Skunk occasionally interjecting her commentary. It reminded me that she was still there in her coma slowly revealing the story for us.

I think one could make the case that almost everyone in this book is "broken" in some sense. The Oswalds, Broken, Broken's family, Cerys, Mr. Jeffries, and finally Skunk herself.

Awesome first novel. I'd definitely read another book by Mr. Clay.

Highly recommended.

This review copy was provided by the publisher through the wonderful people at Edwards Magazine.

When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson

In When Will There Be Good News, Dr. Joanna Hunter, who witnessed her family's brutal murder thirty years ago, is now missing along with her child. Her family's killer, Andrew Decker, has just been released after serving his time and the police expect him to hunt her down to "finish the job". Is he the reason she's missing? Her baby's nanny, Reggie, Detective Chief Inspector Louise Monroe and ultimately a former private detective, Jackson Brodie are all on the case, but mostly working independently, to find her and her missing child.

Atkinson presents a beautifully written, fantastic mystery with plenty of twists and memorable characters. I really enjoyed it. It was substantial, suspenseful, compelling and exciting. I found it really hard to put down once I started reading it. I particularly liked her writing style with the little asides (adages, lines from nursery rhymes etc.) inserted into the story. A few times I had to stop and figure out where I'd heard that line before. I also found her non-linear storyline to be a fresh and unique approach to laying out the story for the reader. It definitely added to the suspense in this mystery.

Atkinson's characters were believable and appealing. There wasn't one that I didn't like. Her characters had overlapping connections to each other and intriguing backgrounds to support the story.
I was particularly drawn towards Reggie, the tenacious teenage nanny of Dr. Hunter. She refused to give up on Dr. Hunter and did her best to find her and convince others that they should be looking, too. I also enjoyed reading about Jackson Brodie, the former private investigator. Anything I say about him at this point, will likely give the story away. So I'll just say that I'd love to read more about him.

The near misses and intersecting lives left me wondering how it was going to all come together. I won't give the ending away, but the author does a great up in tidying up the loose ends and gives the reader a hugely satisfying conclusion.

This is the first book I read by Atkinson, but it won't be my last. I have more of her books on my bookshelf that I haven't gotten around to reading yet. Now, I'm anxious to jump right in. I'm definitely looking forward to reading Case Histories and One Good Turn both of which feature Jackson Brodie.

Highly recommended.

This book review is also available on Edwards Magazine.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Her Last Death: A Memoir by Susanna Sonnenberg

In Her Last Death, Susanna Sonnenberg is being summoned to her mother's deathbed. Many people would drop everything and go. However, she's very reluctant. Through the rest of the book, we find out why. Starting with her childhood in which she was hobnobbing with celebrities and being exposed to drugs, sex and other things she was too young for, to her adulthood in which she'd never know how her mother would react to things or if she was telling the truth, Sonnenburg lays it out for us in her extremely interesting and well written memoir.

I really enjoyed this book. Her writing is compelling; her story is thought-provoking. I sometimes have trouble reading memoirs, especially when it comes to the memories of childhood. We all know that children see the world differently probably because of their limited life experiences. Often what they see as a gross injustice turns out to be a life lesson. I didn't have that problem here. Sonnenberg's memories are consistent throughout her story in that her mother was loving and caring one minute and irrational and bizarre the next.

Susanna's mother, Daphne, didn't set boundaries for her children, exposed them to all kinds of adult things, lied to them repeatedly and, in my opinion, robbed them of their childhood. Whether her judgement was clouded because drug use (prescription and recreational) or mental illness (my opinion), her erratic behaviour was inexcusable. Because she was a chronic and compulsive liar, her family was unable to tell if she was telling the truth at any time. I can understand Susanna's reluctance to run to her mother's deathbed.

Because of her upbringing, Susanna was spiralling downward in her life and used sex as a way to cope. She's to be commended for pulling herself out and straightening herself up. She had enough sense to know when enough was enough when it came to her mother.

Highly recommended.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Paris Enigma by Pablo De Santis

It's 1889. The Eiffel Tower is just about complete and the Paris World's Fair is set to begin. The Twelve Detectives, an elite group of crime investigators, is preparing to meet for the first time at the fair. They will be presenting a display of their craft to the world. When one of them becomes ill, he decides to send his assistant, acolyte as they call him, in his place. His name is Sigmundo Salvatrio and used to work with his father in the family shoe store. That is, until he become a student of Renaldo Craig, the founding member of the Twelve Detectives. Now, he carries with him Craig's cane, for the exhibit and a secret message for Arzaky, another one of the detectives. The detectives and acolytes are called into action when a series of murders takes place.

The Paris Enigma is a fantastic mystery from Argentinean author, Pablo De Santis. It's wonderfully written, filled with great characters and is a joy to read. There was a mystical,
whimsical, philosophical and fantasy-like aspect to the whole book that I quite enjoyed. Not like any other mystery I've read. The fact that it was written from the point of view of one of the acolytes rather than one of the detectives, made the story appealing, since the acolytes were supposed to take a back seat to the detectives. Some of the detectives didn't even talk to their assistants.

I admit it was a little hard to keep track of all of the detectives and acolytes and I sometimes got them mixed up. I also had some trouble remembering which acolyte belonged to which detective. It wasn't all that bad, though, and certainly didn't get in the way of my enjoyment of the book.

De Santis's writing is superb. There were many times I put down the book to record a favourite quote or passage. I've included three here. They might not make sense out of context, but I wanted to make note of them.

From page 189:
Everyone knew that the important stuff was what was said in the corners, not in the center of the room.

From page 193:
The first audience members leave the theater chatting and laughing, eager to abandon the world of fiction and reenter the real, where they fell at home. The last ones to leave, on the other hand, have to be forced out by the ushers or the lights going up or the silence that follows the applause. If it were up to them, they would remain there in the imaginary world the performance offers them. These last stragglers came out without saying a word, grieving over having to abandon the Mermaid's island. They didn't know their place in the world outside; in the real life the seats aren't numbered.

From page 205:
Science no longer strives to collect answers, but rather to obliterate the questions.

I'd definitely read another book by this author.

Highly recommended.

Sweetsmoke by David Fuller

Set during the American Civil War, Sweetsmoke follows the life of Cassius, a slave on a tobacco plantation owned by Hoke Howard. The book is part historical fiction about the lives of slaves and part mystery in which Cassius plays detective to solve a murder of his friend, Emoline Justice. She not only nursed Cassius back to health, but she also taught him to read. Cassius is also different from the other slaves in that he has a special relationship with Hoke. This gives him a little more freedom to investigate Emoline's death.

In his first novel, Fuller presents a wonderfully written and thoroughly researched account of life on a tobacco plantation. We get to see the brutal treatment of the slaves and the deplorable living conditions in which the slaves live. We also get to see the relationships that are formed between the slaves, supervisors and owners. Two relationships were particularly interesting: the one between Hoke and Cassius because it's unlike the other slaves and gives Cassius more freedoms; the other between Cassius and Quashee because through all of the indignities, pain and suffering, their relationship was on the verge of blossoming and their spirits were not broken.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and especially liked the ending. However, I thought that the mystery part of the novel was a little weak in places and I would have liked to see it make a stronger presence and filled out a little more. However, Cassius's detective skills pick up considerably towards the end of the book, which added to my enjoyment of the conclusion. Because Cassius keeps his reading abilities secret, it allows him a certain advantage many times throughout the book especially when trying to solve the murder. His literacy and his freedoms made the detective angle to the story possible and plausible. It's a fascinating way to present historical material. In this ARC copy, the publishers included an interview with the author in which he explains more about how and why he wrote the book this way. It's well worth the read.

I thought the author made an interesting choice not to use quotes or proper punctuation around the words that the slaves spoke in the novel. It could have made it hard to read, but it didn't. It certainly set apart their words from the others. I could guess at why he did this, but I'd really like to hear the author's explanation for doing so.

David Fuller is a screenwriter with an interest in African American history.

I hope Fuller writes another book. I'd read it. Recommended.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman

***Slight spoilers included***

Downtown Owl follows three residents of Owl, a small town in North Dakota, through roughly 5 months of their lives. There's Mitch, the high school football player; Julia, a new teacher in town; and Horace, the old man who meets his buddies for coffee. With just a few exceptions, each of the chapters is written from the viewpoint of one of these characters.

Awesome book! I loved it. Klosterman's writing is straight forward and easy to read. His characters and insight into these characters is amazing. We get to know them intimately and through them we get to know the other people in town. I loved that the three main characters do not interact, in fact they have nothing to do with each other. They live separate lives and are only brought together because they live in the same town. Otherwise, their stories would be standalone. That is, until their fates collide on one fateful day; February 4, 1984. Even then they don't interact. I haven't lived in a small town (I'm a city girl), but it wouldn't surprise me if these people really did exist in small town USA or Canada for that matter. They were so believable.

My favourite chapters included: November 22, 1983 (Julia) where Julia and Vance have a conversation in the bar and the author includes what they are thinking in the dialogue; and January 5, 1984 (Mitch) in Mitch is taking a test on the novel 1984 by George Orwell but is clearly thinking of other things. I also really liked the chapter where we learn what happened to Horace's wife. That chapter was disturbing, especially the ending. I sometimes have trouble sleeping and let's just say this chapter didn't help me with that.

While the ending shouldn't have been too much of a surprise, it was. I guess I was so caught up in the story and the characters, that I forgot about the newspaper article at the beginning of the book.

I generally don't read books that deeply nor do I try to analyze them after I finish reading them. Having said that, I'm sure there are plenty of themes running through the book that book clubs could discuss.

Highly recommend. I'd definitely read another book by Klosterman.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Night of the Gun by David Carr

The Night of the Gun is an autobiography by former addict turned journalist, David Carr. He outlines the nitty-gritty details of his addiction and profession, but doesn't stop there. He attacks his story like a journalist would attack any story. He gives us what he knows then attempts to back up those memories by interviewing the people (friends, family, cops, etc.) who were there and gets the facts from them.

The premise is great and I really wanted to love this book. Unfortunately that wasn't the case. There wasn't anything wrong with the book (it's very well written), it just didn't grab me like I thought it would. I read about 100 pages and then put the book down. While I found it interesting, it just wasn't "calling me" to pick it up again. It could be that it was just too much of a contrast from my previous book. I love this premise so much, I haven't totally given up on it yet. One day, I hope to try again.

I truly admire his bravery for seeking out his past and putting it down on paper for all to see. I know I wouldn't be that brave and I don't have near as many skeletons in my closet as Carr does (or did). I'd rather leave my past in the past, but I admire his decision.

For now, it's going back to the bookshelf.

100 Girls by Adam Gallardo and Todd Demong

In 100 Girls, Sylvia is one strange teenage girl. She's extremely strong, can move like a gymnast and has some weird nightmares. Her parents are beginning to notice that something is wrong and soon she gets in trouble at school. Things really get interesting and heat up when she meets another girl who looks a lot like her.

This is the first graphic novel I've read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The story was likeable enough, but definitely written for a much younger audience. What I loved the most were the illustrations that accompanied the text. They were awesome. A far cry from the simple storyboards that accompanied the "Archie" comics of my childhood. Because I've never been much of a comic book reader, I had a little trouble figuring out which dialogue to read first, but after awhile I got used to it.

Since the book didn't quite conclude and even though I didn't love the story, I still think it would be sort of neat to follow Sylvia's further adventures in subsequent books. I'm curious as to what happens to her next.

Overall, I enjoyed it as a graphic novel. I'd recommend this book for tweens or young teenage girls.

Fuzzy Navel by J.A. Konrath

In Fuzzy Navel, Police Lieutenant Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels is at the scene of a homicide, when shots ring out. Things are about to get really interesting as the cops become targets for a group of unknown gunmen. As the smoke clears on that scene, the day has really just begun for Jack as trouble from her past and present follow her home. She'll be lucky if her and her loved ones make it out alive.

Awesome book with a great story! I thought from the cutesy title, I'd get a cutesy mystery. I was wrong. It's an amazing dynamic, high action, fast-paced, gore filled, humorous thriller in which everyone has more lives than a cat. It's hard to believe all of it takes place in such a short amount of time. Nine hours, in fact. I just didn't want to put it down, but I also didn't want it to end.

I loved that each chapter was written from the viewpoint of one of the characters. Many of them in the first person. Because of this I got lost once or twice because I missed the chapter heading that stated who was talking. Other than that, it was very easy to follow and a quick read.

Konath's characters were a little over the top at times, but that made the story more entertaining. I liked all of the characters, but I really loved Jack as well as her friend Harry. I don't know why but I kept picturing him as Jerry Orbach. Weird, eh?

I had trouble getting into my next couple of books because they were not as dynamic as this one. I kept kicking myself because I read it so fast rather than savouring it. Oh well, it's a good thing there are more books in the series. I'll be keeping my eye out for those on the backlist as well as any subsequent books.

Highly recommended.

First Darling of the Morning by Thrity Umrigar

First Darling of the Morning: Selected Memories of an Indian Childhood is the memoir of author, Thrity Umrigar. She includes stories from her early life that not only shaped her later in life but also shaped the books she would come to write. It was fascinating to read about her friendships, her family relationships, especially her tumultuous relationship with her mother, and her agonizing decision to leave India and move to America.

I really enjoyed reading this book. Thrity's writing is beautiful, fluid and easy to read. While I didn't enjoy it as much as I did her books (The Space Between Us and If Today Be Sweet), it was still a worthwhile read and I'm glad I got a chance to read it. It was neat to see that some of the events in her life vaguely resemble some of those in the lives of her characters. Now I know where a few of her ideas came from.

One of my favourite "characters" was Mehroo, Thrity's aunt. Thrity would have turned out to be a very different person had she not had Mehroo in her life. I think Mehroo benefitted too from the relationship.

If you've read Thrity's other works, this is a must read. It's a great companion to her novels.


Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Rosetta Key by William Dietrich

In The Rosetta Key an American adventurer, Ethan Gage, is on a quest to find the Book of Thoth, which is rumoured to contain great secrets and magic. The year is 1799 and Gage's adventures takes him across the Holy Land, Egypt and France. He's joined by a motley crew of characters some of whom are new friends; other he's run across before. As Gage continues on his journey he remembers the teachings of his mentor Benjamin Franklin, who's advice proves to be very helpful in getting out of the dangerous situations in which he finds himself.

At one time I thought historical novels had to be dull, boring and humourless. Dietrich has proved that this isn't true. This book was fun and highly entertaining to read. The protagonist is witty, cocky and has more lives than a cat. He can get out of harm's way with his wits and sometimes a little help from his friends. A little like Indiana Jones, but in my opinion, more entertaining. Besides Gage and his misfit friends, some real-life persons, like Napoleon and Josephine as well as other from the time period, are included in the story.

There are many interesting explanations scattered throughout the book; how the gypsies got their name, the Rosetta Stone, the Ark of the Covenant, Moses, Jerusalem and the Knights Templar. I don't know if any of it is true, but it's all fascinating stuff.

My one problem is the many reminders that this book was part of a series. Dietrich frequently references Gage's previous adventure at the pyramids. While I'm sure readers of that book were thrilled, I think it's a little unfair to those who didn't read it. Having said that, I found this book interesting enough that I'm likely to find and read the first one in the series, Napoleon's Pyramids as well as any subsequent books in the series.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Last Oracle by James Rollins

In The Last Oracle, Commander Gray Pierce, a member of SIGMA Force, tries to stop a group of scientists from carrying out their evil plot that could destroy the world. Gray travels from country to country searching for answers after a supposedly homeless man hands him a rare artefact possibly dating back to the Oracle of Delphi. Meanwhile, Monk is half way around the world in a hospital room suffering from amnesia. With the help of some children with autistic savant abilities, he escapes and must save himself, the children and, ultimately, the world. These children are fleeing from the scientists who are planning to use them to create "a world prophet for the new millennium".

I really enjoyed this face-paced, thriller combining science, religion, history and a little psychology all into a one novel that was well-written, easy to read and hard to put down. I loved the author's timing. Just as a piece of the mystery was to be revealed, a gunmen would appear or a bullet would buzz by or he would simply cut to another scene with other characters. Very suspenseful.

Even though Rollins uses autistic children in this novel, he doesn't focus on the disorder so much as he does the savant abilities that some autistic children exhibit. I was amazed at the range of abilities that these young children had. Fascinating stuff. I don't know if some of these abilities (as stated by Rollins) actually present themselves in real life, but I found it interesting enough that one day I'd like to poke around on the internet to find out.

The author uses an interesting and thought-provoking quote regarding autism. It's from real-world Dr. Temple Grandin:
If by some magic, autism had been eradicated from the face of the earth, then men would still be socializing in front of a wood fire at the entrance to a cave.

There are plenty of diverse characters for the reader to root for. My favourite was Kowalski, the muscle who I think was written in for some comic relief. I often laughed out loud at his antics, although, I've never met a man so obsessed with shoes. Other great characters include: Gray, Monk, Marta, Pyotr and Sasha. The relationship between Marta and Pyotr was particularly intriguing.

Rollins' notes at the end of the book are quite interesting. In them, he presents some scientific facts to support his fiction. There are some surprises including a list of well-known historical people who may have showed some autistic tendencies. Very cool.

I'm looking forward to reading more books by this author. The short bio on the back cover of the book indicates that the author's interests are quite diverse. Spelunking, diving, veterinary medicine, and, although it's not listed, presumably writing. When I read the line "he'll often be found either underground or underwater", my first thought was, I wonder where he prefers to write: underground or underwater. ;)

Definitely recommended.

The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver

The Post-Birthday World starts off in the "pre-birthday world" where Irina, Lawrence, Ramsey and Jude were friends. Every year for Ramsey's birthday they get together to celebrate. When Ramsey and Jude divorce and Lawrence is out of town, Irina and Ramsey are left to celebrate his birthday alone. At the end of the birthday dinner evening, they find themselves in a compromising position and Irina has a choice to make. It's either full steam ahead or high-tail it out of there. From that point on, the characters find themselves in the "post-birthday world". In alternating chapters featuring one of the two outcomes, we see how the lives of the main characters unfold based on this one decision.

Written from Irina's point of view, this is one of the most amazing books I've read. However, I had to get into it about 100 pages before I really started appreciating it. Her writing is dense with details and is far from simple, but it still felt like a quick read. The storyline is ingenious. I loved the parallel worlds in which events happen or words are spoken on both sides, but not always with the same characters. [It's hard to explain, but you'll see what I mean when you read the book.] Her characters are realistic, engaging and interesting. Irina was my favourite, but the other main characters were fun to read about also. I think I laughed every time Irina's mother called "Ramsey", "Rumsey". With respect to Ramsey, I kept picturing him as Richard Dawson ("Hogan's Heroes", "Family Fued") even though the physical description was completely off.

Because Ramsey is a professional snooker player, Shriver spends some time explaining the game and the circuit. Sure, I'd seen snooker a couple of times on TV and while I did find it interesting, I couldn't make heads or tails of the rules. Anyway, I learned more about it and that's always good. I even learned the right and wrong way to pronounce "snooker" or is it "snucker". Hmmm...I guess I've forgotten which way is proper. ;)

I loved Shriver's use of alliterations. To me they are like a seasoning in cooking. Too many can spoil a dish or in this case too many alliterations can spoil a novel. However, Shriver's a master chef in regards to alliterations knowing exactly when and how much to throw in. [I'm kicking myself now that I didn't save an example to include here. Trust me, she's good.]

In my favourite quote, Irina is talking about the moral in a children's book:
The idea is that you don't have only one destiny...But whichever direction you go, there are going to be upsides and downsides. You're dealing with a set of trade-offs, and not one perfect course in comparison to which all the others are crap.

I'm really looking forward to more works by this extremely talented author. I already have a copy of We Need to Talk About Kevin and hope to start it soon.

Highly recommended.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Water for Elephants is an incredible story of Jacob Jankowski, who as a young man inadvertently runs away with the circus shortly before writing his final exams to become a vet. Before long, he becomes familiar with the seedy underbelly of the circus world. Both compelling and heartbreaking, this story is told from Jacob's point of view as he sits in a nursing home and daydreams of his former life.

This is an amazing book. I just can't express how much I loved it. It's a sensational story with many wonderful characters. It's engaging, touching and filled with so many stunning details that I wanted to crawl into the story and not come out. My favorite characters include: Marlena and Rosie, both of whom steal Jacob's heart; Camel, a circus worker who helps Jacob get a job and then needs Jacob's help; Walter, a performer who's forced to share his room with Jacob and of course Jacob himself.

Even though the author, Sara Gruen, exposes the sleazy side of the circus life, it still felt romantic. That could be just me, though, because I've always wanted to run away with the circus. Ah, but that's another story for another time. For now, I'm satisfied with reading this book. I found myself routing for my favorite characters and wanting things to work out for them. Don't worry, I'm not going to let you know what happens. You're going to have to read this fantastic book for that.

I love Gruen's use of historical circus photos that precede some of the chapters. They really set the scene and transported me to a time when circuses were in their heyday.

At few years ago, we visited Baraboo, Wisconsin and the Circus World Museum. I fell in love with the place. The old circus wagons, the parade, the calliope, the spectacle; all fabulous. If you like the circus, it's the place to go. Be warned though, it's guaranteed to put a smile on your face and even make the grumpiest of grumps or the most ardent skeptic a circus-lover. For more information regarding the museum, Wikipedia or the official website should be helpful.

I'd highly recommend this book. It's a must read for those who ever thought about running away with the circus or anyone who has been to the circus or anyone who's had a dream, or anyone at all for that matter.

I hope that Gruen has written more books (and continues to write) because I intend to read many more of them. Awesome job on this one.

Friday, August 8, 2008

It Only Takes A Moment by Mary Jane Clark

In It Only Takes a Moment, Janie, the daughter of well-known news anchor Eliza Blake, has been kidnapped along with the housekeeper/nanny, Mrs. Garcia. While the FBI examines the evidence, Eliza and the rest of the Sunrise Suspense Society team do a little investigating of their own even though are beside themselves with worry. They, along with the police, are determined to find the pair and catch whoever is behind the abduction.

I really enjoyed this novel. It was fairly well written, definitely engrossing and certainly entertaining to read. It was fun to follow along with the investigators as they worked through the clues to determine the culprits. The author provides plenty of suspects for the police and Eliza’s team to investigate. As a fan of CNN’s program American Morning, I particularly enjoyed the behind-the-scenes glimpses into reporting and producing segments for the network news. Eliza’s boss at the network who wanted to get the scoop on this story seemed a little callous at times, but maybe that’s what the job requires.

I wouldn’t classify this one as a cozy mystery, but it is a fairly light read. Mary Jane Clark is the “Queen of Short Chapters”. In this book of 341 pages, she squeezes 135 chapters. I dread stopping in the middle of a chapter, so these short chapters allowed me to read as many pages as I wanted in one sitting. At most I'd only have to read a page or two to get to the next chapter. Because the book was so enjoyable, I didn’t really put it down that much. I couldn’t wait to get to the end to find out if Janie and Mrs. Garcia were going to be ok and to learn the identities of the kidnappers.

I’ve also read When Day Breaks, another book in this series. I found this one a little edgier or dark. It could have been my mood or perhaps the subject matter. Kidnapping isn’t a light subject, than again neither is murder.

I loved Clark’s use of what I call “red herring characters”…innocent bystanders who, by circumstance or whatever, lead you astray from the real kidnappers. They add tons of suspense (and sometimes confusion) to the story, but make the story that much more fun to read. She did a great job in revealing these characters and motives at the end. I loved it.

Recommended as a nice light read. Perfect for a day at the beach or a lazy afternoon in the hammock.

I’m looking forward to the next book in the Sunrise Suspense Society series.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Telex From Cuba: A Novel by Rachel Kushner

Telex From Cuba by Rachel Kushner is an interesting and compelling novel about an American community in Cuba before Castro’s revolution. Set in the 1950s, part of the story follows K.C. Stites and Everly Lederer, children of the American workers. K.C. Stites’ father runs the United Fruit Company cane fields while Everly’s father works at the nickel company run by Mackey. It’s through them that we learn of their parents’ lives in Cuba. In the other part of the story, a Frenchman, in Havana now, is strangely drawn to a dancer and the two of them became tangled up in the complicated political environment in which Castro and others reside.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It’s the first one I’ve read set in Cuba and written by a Cuban author. It’s well written and contains some outstanding, believable characters. I knew very little about Cuba and was hoping to learn more about it. I was not disappointed. It was extremely fascinating to see the trials and tribulations of a changing Cuba.

My favourite characters were K.C and Everly. I loved hearing the story through their innocent eyes. I didn’t quite get a handle on Christian de La Mazière, but I was fascinated with his story and the real life political characters he met. Speaking of “real life characters”, this story would be missing something had it not at least mentioned some of the some famous Cubans and visitors of the time period. Kushner includes the Castro brothers, Fidel and Raúl, Batista, Carlos Prío Socorras, Desi and Lucy Arnaz, as well as Hemmingway and Papa Doc Duvalier. I was quite surprised at the characterization of Raúl. I’ll have to pay more attention to the news now that he’s in charge of Cuba.

The one thing I had trouble with in the story was the “jumping around in time”. There are little jumps/tangents about other things in other time periods (forwards and back) and it was a little hard to follow. At first I had no trouble, but soon I got tired of it and my concentration wavered enough that I got lost. It was helpful that a couple of the chapters/sections are preceded by dates. However, I would have preferred that the author did this more often. The shifts in time made a lot of sense once I read the ending, which was really good by the way.


I’d definitely read another book by this author.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos

In Belong to Me, Cornelia moves from the city to the suburbs with her handsome husband, Teo. She desperately wants to find her place and make friends in this new environment. She meets her new neighbours: Piper, the neighbourhood know-it-all who’s best friend, Elizabeth is gravely ill and Lake who is also new to the area. She’s moved here so that her son Dev, a genius, can attend a special school. In this suburb, the secrets are plentiful and the relationships complex. At first, these characters barely know each other and have only brief encounters. However, soon their lives become connected in ways we couldn’t imagine.

Marisa de los Santos presents a beautifully written, thought-provoking and heartbreaking novel in which lives are torn apart, secrets are revealed, friendships are made and tested, and love is defined. I wasn’t surprised the find out that she was a poet. Her writing is lovely, engaging and captured my attention from the very first word. At first it’s hard to imagine how these lives become (or are) connected, but slowly and surely de los Santos reveals the story to us.

I love stories written in the first person. Therefore, I was particularly drawn to the chapters about Cornelia. Rather than having the whole book in the first person, the author presents the other chapters, the ones where Cornelia isn’t the “prime” character, in the third person. A unique and interesting idea. I think this is the first book I’ve read that is written this way. It was a delight to read.

de los Santos’ characters are believable and easy to love. My favourite was Cornelia. She was tough, smart and has a wonderful sense of humour. In addition, I liked Dev’s inquisitive and brilliant side, but not his teenage side so much. Piper was tough to like, but in the end I think I really enjoyed reading about her. Both her and Cornelia grew a lot through the course of the story.

I’ll be looking for more works by this exceptional author.

Even though Belong to Me is the second book featuring some of these characters, you don’t have to read the first one to enjoy this one. It can really stand on it’s own merits. At the time I was reading this story, I didn’t even know the other one, Love Walked In existed. Now that I know it’s out there, I’d love to read it.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

How To Be Bad by E. Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle

In How to Be Bad, Jesse, Vicks and Mel go on a road trip to Miami to see Vicks boyfriend, Brady who’s gone off to college. The teenagers work at the Waffle House together and while Jesse and Vicks are friends, Mel is only invited along because she has money and can finance the trip. Each of them has a secret. When they embark on their journey, these secrets are intact, but maybe not for long. Along the way, they meet Marco, a handsome young stranger, who temporarily distracts them from their “mission”. Before the trip (and story) comes to an end, they will learn a whole lot more about each other and we will learn about how “bad” these girls are.

This young adult novel about adventure, friendship, love and secrets is a collaborative novel written by three authors. Each author has written one of the three main characters. The characters take turns laying out the story of their adventure. I think their effort was successful. The novel is fun to read and very entertaining. It couldn’t have been easy sharing the writing duties and making this novel complete. However, because the authors’ styles are similar, the story came together in one cohesive unit. The different characters “voices” became muddled a few times, but most of the time it was very easy to tell who was telling the story.

The three main characters were very different from each other: Jesse is the good-two-shoes Christian girl; Vicks grew up with many brothers and is definitely not a softy; Mel is a sheltered rich girl, who’s new to the area (from Montreal). This mix of characters made the story appealing as the characters faced many decisions and dilemmas along the way.

I’d definitely recommend this book to young adults (and maybe even a few adults). I probably wouldn’t seek out separate works from these authors, but it was sure fun to read this collaborative effort. Well done.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Palace Council by Stephen L. Carter

In Palace Council, Eddie Wesley, a member of the “dark nation” and up-and-coming young author, stumbles upon the body Phil Castle, a member of a highly secretive group trying to control the highest ranks of United States politics. It was rumored that Castle left behind a document of great importance. When Eddie’s sister then disappears, he’s determined to find her and untangle the mysteries surrounding Castle’s death and his sister’s disappearance. Before he knows it, Eddie and his long time love interest Aurelia are drawn into a mystery that spans many years.

Carter presents a complicated interwoven political thriller that is compelling, riveting and well written. The chapter endings offer a little piece to the mystery to make the reader want to read more. The story takes place during the 50s and 60s, which was a very turbulent period in American history. Carter often veers off the mystery and focuses on the political climate and social climate of the time. It’s all fascinating stuff. The story was also educational for me. Since history isn’t really my thing and because I was born in the mid 60s, I knew very little about the politics and social atmosphere. This book really gave me a taste of what that period was like.

Of course you couldn’t have a book about racism and politics in the 50s or 60s without cameo appearances from the American’s political players of the era: Richard Nixon, J. Edgar Hoover, as well as others. There are also a host of other well-known figures of the time making appearances or at least being mentioned. These “characters” are essential to the story and add to it rather than detract from it. Carter’s fictional characters were important, believable and outstanding.

I loved reading a political thriller especially at this time. In the past months, I’ve spent many hours glued to the TV following the U.S. primaries: the candidates, pundits, issues, scandals and rhetoric. This book gave me a better understanding of the whole process.

I’d definitely read another book by Carter.


Sunday, July 6, 2008

Promise of the Wolves by Dorothy Hearst

In Promise of the Wolves, Kaala, a newborn wolf in the Swift River pack, was sired by an outsider. This is forbidden and she along with her littermates are to be killed. Kaala, is lucky, though and she is saved. She lives on to tell us the story of her pack, it’s members, the ravens who taunt and help them, the wolves of other packs and most importantly the humans they must avoid.

Written in the first person (or is that first wolf) from Kaala’s point of view, this is a superb first novel. Hearst’s writing isn’t overly complicated so the book quick and easy to read. Her storytelling is exceptional and while it reminds me a little of some First Nation’s/Native American tales I’ve heard, this story is unique, interesting and educational. I often forgot that most of the characters in this book were wolves. The first two chapters were so heartbreaking I barely made it through them. I didn’t think I was going to be able to finish the book. I put down it several times because it was just too sad. Once I got past that point though, I didn’t want to put it down at all. I loved hearing about Kaala’s adventures and it gave me a new respect for wolves and ravens.

I was surprised that the ravens played such a big role in this story. I’m left wondering if it’s because ravens and wolves have a special relationship in the wild or if it’s just the author’s imagination at work. I’ll have to do a little investigation to find out more.

Even though this isn’t my usual genre, I enjoyed this book immensely. I’m definitely looking forward to the next book in the series. The author left a few loose ends in this story that will hopefully be addressed in the next instalment. I can’t wait.


Candy Everybody Wants by Josh Kilmer-Purcell

In Candy Everybody Wants, Jayson wants to be a star. He is convinced that his low-budget, self-directed video, Dallasty (a combination of primetime soaps/TV series Dallas and Dynasty popular in the 80s) will be embraced by Hollywood and he will be on his way. Well, not quite. With his wacky neighbours and even stranger family members to contend with, Jayson travels the country in search of fame and fortune.

I LOVED this book. Kilmer-Purcell presents a host of unique and quirky characters with a fascinating, hilarious, almost surreal story line with locales that span the country and morals that run the gamut. The story is set in the 1980s and is filled with references to TV series of that decade. I was thrilled when he mentioned one I was familiar with. He often compares Jayson’s life to a TV series and uses lots of TV lingo. I laughed out loud many times while reading the book; I didn’t want to put it down. It’s not just funny; it’s smart, interesting, entertaining and thought provoking.

While my life is nothing like Jayson’s, I did at times I feel a connection to him in that I, too, feel like I’m surrounded by “crazies”. Some days I wish I could get a “cast change” in my life. One of favourite quotes from the book regarding this:
Jayson had always thought that he was the normal one in the circus that surrounded him. He’d always, in the back of his mind, felt that Toni, and Willie, and Garth, and Franck, and Gavin and everyone else who’d ever found themselves part of the Blocher menagerie were the mutants, and that it was he who put the thin veneer of normalcy out in front of the world. But it was so clear to him now. He belonged in his queer family. He was one of them. One of the freak show.

The P.S. section at the end of the book was equally entertaining. If you read one only P.S. section in any of the HarperCollins books, make it this one. You won’t be sorry.

I definitely want to read Kilmer-Purcell’s memoir I Am Not Myself These Days.

Highly recommended.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Chasing Harry Winston by Lauren Weisberger

In Chasing Harry Winston, Emmy, Leigh and Adriana are good friends, but are very different from each other. Emmy, is the marrying type, but has recently been dumped by her long time boyfriend. Leigh has a great job and wants to find the man of her dreams. Is her current beau the right one? Adriana is the rich, shallow girl living off her parents’ money. She’s not looking for Mr. Right…she’s looking for Mr. Rightnow. Emmy and Adriana challenge each other to make major changes in their lives and give each other a year to do so. Meanwhile, Leigh looks on not expecting much to happen for her. The women are in store for some changes, but it’s not what they expect.

This is a wonderful and fun summer read. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Once I picked it up I really didn’t want to put it down. I couldn’t wait to see how it would end. Even though some of the situations the women faced were distressing or upsetting, the story was presented in an upbeat and light manner. At some point in the story, I felt a connection with each of the women, but I think I identified most with Leigh. She was somewhat emotionally aloof, but cared for her friends and family. Her actions, thoughts and words didn’t match up with each other in that she was thinking one thing, but doing another. She was confused about her life but didn’t show that side of herself to the Emmy and Adriana who were busy making changes in their own lives. I loved her “No Human Contact” Monday nights. [I wonder if my family would go for that? Hmmm…]

The ending was good, but a little disappointing. I won’t give anything away, but it felt a little flat. I would have liked more fanfare. Other than that, the book was great way to spend a summer day.

I haven’t read anything else by Weisberger, but I’ve been meaning to read The Devil Wears Proda. In fact, I already a copy. I guess it’s time to dig it out of the to-be-read pile.

Recommended as a nice fluffy summer read.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Why Good People Do Bad Things: How to Stop Being Your Own Worst Enemy by Debbie Ford

In Why Good People Do Bad Things, Debbie Ford focuses on the two sides of our personalities, the light loving side and the dark destructive side, that exist in each of us and how these sides influence our daily decisions and actions. She also describes the masks people wear in public and private lives that act as shields against danger. In the second section of the book that deals with healing, Ford gives the reader some direction for mending ourselves.

This book was enlightening and extremely interesting, but hard to read at times. It forces the reader to look inward at their dark sides and confront the ugly aspects of their personalities. At first, I didn’t think the book was going to be that useful for me because it started out with examples of cheating, adultery and abuse. I haven’t had experience with those things. However, once the author got into more general items like cheating on your diet, acting out in anger, telling that little lie, negative self-talk, and other self-sabotaging things, I was pretty sure I was going to like this book. These are things to which I relate.

This isn’t self-help book that offers a series steps to follow. Instead Ford explains how our dark sides operate and how they came into being. She then presents some “signposts” to look out for, which indicate destructive behavior and “antidotes” for dealing with them. In the healing section, she stresses the importance and power of forgiveness. I wish she’d spent more time on healing, but she did give the reader a good start.

One of my favorite parts of the book was the story of the chief describing his “inner wolves” to a young brave. One good wolf, one bad wolf. The chief knew that each had its place and each needed nourishment and attention. Very interesting story.

Several times throughout the book, I suddenly felt a weight being lifted off my shoulders. I think I was really meant to read this book. There’s so much to take in, I’ll have to read it again.

I’ve already mentioned this book to a few people and each of them has expressed an interest in reading it.


Friday, June 6, 2008

When Organizing Isn't Enough: SHED Your Stuff, Change Your Life

In When Organizing Isn’t Enough: SHED Your Stuff, Change Your Life, Julie Morgenstern walks the reader through a 4-step program designed to help individuals through transition periods or big changes in their lives. SHED is an acronym that stands for “Separate the treasures”, “Heave the trash”, “Evaluate yourself”, and “Drive yourself forward” and can help readers lead more fulfilling and rewarding lives after marriage, divorce, retirement, job change or any other major life changes.

This book is easy to read and offers down-to-earth and practical advice. It focuses on what happens or should happen before and after you clear away the clutter in your life to keep that clutter at bay and to make the changes long lasting. The author suggests a certain order for tackling the chapters, however, for the purposes of this review, I read the book straight through.

Of the four steps in the SHED program, “Separate your treasures” and “Heave the trash” are definitely the more concrete steps and easier to grasp. Each step is important, though, and the author warns the reader about skipping steps. In addition to these SHED steps, the author outlines the work the reader must do before tackling the program in order to be successful. No one ever said change and transition were easy.

The author uses real life examples liberally. It was very helpful that she used the same people throughout the whole book so that we could “follow” their journeys through the SHED program. These examples allowed me to understand the program better and I found them to be interesting, relevant and necessary.

This book isn’t for everyone. If your physical space is clutter-free, your schedule is fulfilling, and you have no bad habits, this book won’t help you. Even if this doesn’t describe you, but you are perfectly happy with how your life is, you don’t need this book. However, if you’re stuck at a point in your life and having trouble moving forward or if there’s something that just doesn’t quite thrill you in your life, this book can help tremendously. It won’t be easy, but it promises to be rewarding.

I’m definitely going to go through this book again this time tackling the chapters as the author suggests, doing the necessary work between chapters and reflecting on the contents.

Highly recommended.

This review copy was provided by the publisher through the wonderful people at Edwards Magazine.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

We Are Now Beginning Our Descent by James Meek

In We Are Now Beginning Our Descent, Adam Kellas, a journalist and new novelist, receives an email from Astrid, a woman he met while covering the war in Afghanistan. In the email, she says she desperately wants to see him. Disillusioned from his war experience and convinced that he’s in love with Astrid despite their brief time together, he doesn’t think twice about boarding the first plane to the U.S with only the clothes he was wearing. Once he’s there, he not only learns the fate of his new book, but he also gets to see and know the real Astrid.

Meek is an exceptional writer. His prose is suspenseful, intense and very descriptive. I felt like I was part of the novel. It drew me right in and I didn’t want to put it down. Meek’s experience as a journalist covering the war for The Guardian gave him the necessary expertise to present this compelling and thought provoking novel.

One of my favorite parts of the book was the dinner party scene. It was amazing to watch as a disagreement amongst guests and an indiscretion on the part of the host lead to utter disaster. Given Kellas actions and state of mind, the title of the book is very representative of continual downward spiraling of Kellas’ life. His book, his relationship with his friends or Astrid: none of it is going well.

The only trouble I had was with the backtracking during the first half of the book, which made the story a little hard to follow. I got lost more than once and spent some time confused about what was going on. However, those periods were short lived and I quickly picked up the story again.

The ending was a little cliché, but in Meek’s very capable hands it comes across as sincere rather than corny.

I’d definitely recommend this book. I hope to read more of Meek’s work.

This review copy was provided by the publisher through the wonderful people at Edwards Magazine.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A Palm for Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy GIlman

In A Palm for Mrs. Pollifax, Carstairs has given Mrs. Pollifax has a new assignment. She is to track down some missing plutonium at a famous health resort in Switzerland. It’s just enough plutonium to make an atomic bomb. Once there, she meets an eclectic bunch of characters. Some of them help her in performing her task; other hinder her. Mrs. Pollifax must be very discrete in her search for the plutonium. One wrong step could cost her her life.

I love this series and this installment is no exception. Mrs. Pollifax is a hoot. She always gets in more trouble than she should. She’s not bumbling, but sometimes she just stumbles upon the information or item she’s supposed to recover. Sometimes, she uncovers more than she should and that always gets her in trouble.

Besides Mrs. Pollifax, my favourite character is Robin Burke-Jones. He steals every scene he’s in. He’s funny, self-assured, forthright and despite his unsavory occupation, very helpful to Mrs. Pollifax. Hafez, the little boy who befriended Mrs. Pollifax, was also a delightful character. Because he was a child, he tended to go unnoticed and could eavesdrop on the sensitive situations. I loved how he just showed up sometimes. Of course, he became one of Mrs. Pollifax’s many distractions.

My one complaint about the series is that sometimes it’s a little too political. If that’s not bad enough, the series was written in the 70s, so the politics are dated. I don’t know a lot about the political climate at that time, so I think some of the nuances or implications are lost on me. I still love these books a lot, though. I wouldn’t change a thing.

I love this series and intend to read each of the books.

Monday, May 5, 2008

My Liar by Rachel Cline

My Liar is about the unusual and troubled friendship between of two women, Laura and Annabeth, in Los Angeles. Laura is a director, trying to get her movie, Trouble Doll, made. Annabeth is an editor who desperately wants to work on Laura’s film.

While the book was mildly entertaining and easy to read, my favourite part of the whole book were the sections detailing Annabeth’s editing job. It offered a great behind the scenes look at an aspect of the movie-making business that we don’t often get to see. The beginning of the book, about David, was so promising. It drew me in and I thought I was going to love this book.

However, that was not the case. I just didn’t care about the characters. I felt sorry Annabeth because of the way Laura treated her and her troubled upbringing, but Annabeth should have just stepped away from the relationship and sought better friends. I thought Laura’s final act of “betrayal” was beyond belief.

Cline uses a lot of references to real life movies and people in the business, including actors. I think devoted moviegoers would probably appreciate this, but most of the references were lost on me.

Rachel Cline fans, avid movie fans and those looking for an out of the ordinary L.A. based story may enjoy this one.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Bound by Sally Gunning

In Bound, Alice, an indentured servant in the mid 1700s, runs away after being mistreated by her master. The widow Berry and her border, Freeman, take her in and Alice soon earns her keep by preparing and spinning wool for the widow. What the widow and Freeman don’t know is that Alice has a secret and it’s only a matter of time before everyone finds out. When Alice’s past comes back to haunt her, her world is turned upside down. She must depend on those she doesn’t fully trust to save her.

I loved everything about this book. The story, the characters, the writing style. All wonderful. The story is powerful, thought provoking, and heartbreaking. Even though the time period was very different from my own, these characters seemed very real to me as if they could have walked right off of the page. The dilemma in which Alice finds herself isn’t too different from what could (and does) happen today. I think this makes the story and characters all the more real.

I appreciated all of the main characters and would have loved to know more about them, but this was Alice’s story. I especially liked that the whole story was told from her point of view. The reader only knows what she knows. Because of this we don’t get the full story about the widow’s fire or fine details about Freeman’s travels. How different the story would have been had the author included the points of view of Freeman, the widow, Nate or even some of the minor characters. I’m glad she chose to limit the story to Alice.

The insider’s glimpse into the birth of a country and it’s politics was especially interesting. I always found history out of a textbook dry and boring, but first hand accounts, even fictional ones, make it much more inviting. Gunning must have done a tremendous amount of research to be able to tell this story in such vivid detail. Thanks to novels like this one, historical fiction is fast becoming one of my new favorite genres.

The book was the historical note at the end of the book was very enlightening. In the note, the author explains the difference between indentured servants and chattel slaves and provides a few statistics on the slave trade in the world today. Fascinating stuff.

Highly recommended. I’ll definitely be picking up a copy of The Widow’s War to read more about the widow, Lyddie Berry.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

At A Loss For Words: A Post-romantic Novel by Diane Schoemperlen

In At A Loss For Words, a successful writer with writer’s block shares her story of a failed romance. He broke her heart 30 years ago and now he’s back to do it all again. Luckily she has her closest friends with whom she can commiserate. Meanwhile she tries to break through her writer’s block using suggestions from self-help books.

I really enjoyed Schoemperlen’s story. Most love stories out there are of the happy variety or at least have a happy ending. We don’t usually get to read about the disastrous romances. So not only is the story itself unique, but the way in which it’s written is too. Told in short snippets, it’s quirky and easy to read. I really didn’t want to put it down. The writer shares her inner most feelings and despite her broken heart, she keeps her sense of humor. There are some really funny bits that gave the story an overall lightness. A few times, though, it was hard to read because it reminded me of a few past relationships that I’d rather soon forget.

I questioned a few times whether what she was feeling was really love. Maybe it was, but it was also bordering on obsession. What is it about love that makes us so blind, deaf and well, stupid?

My one complaint is about the last page where the author reveals a previously unknown (to the reader) fact about the lover. At first, I didn’t think the additional information was necessary and somewhat changed my opinion of the book. However, now that I think about it, perhaps that is what the author had in mind. That is, to offer us one piece of information that could possible erase everything we felt previously for the heartsick writer. If that were her plan, it wouldn’t have been the same had she offered that information earlier in the book. It had to be revealed at the last possible moment to make the biggest impact. Interesting concept. I’m still not sure how I feel about it, but it definitely was a shock and invoked a strong response in me.

My favourite quote:
They [Kate and Michelle] remind me that if love is not exactly blind, then certainly it is a master of magical thinking, a wizard at seeing only what it wants to see, a virtuoso at hearing only what it wants to hear, and an unrivaled genius at revising reality to suit itself.

I’d definitely read another book by Schoemperlen and in fact, I already have Our Lady of the Lost & Found on my shelf waiting for me.