Jeannette Walls, author of the hugely popular memoir The Glass Castle (It was on the best seller list for something like 260 weeks!) finally has a new book, The Silver Star, for her legion of fans out there to sink their teeth into. Fifteen year old Liz, and her twelve year old sister “Bean” (really Jean) Holladay live with their artistic, tempermental, scatterbrain mother in Lost Lake, California in 1970. Mum’s always trying to score big with her music career and often leaves the girls to fend for themselves (with a stash of chicken pot pies in the freezer). But after weeks of surviving on their own, when the local cops (“Bandersnatches” the girls call them) come knocking to check up on them, Liz & Bean decide to hightail it to Virginia to stay with their Uncle Tinsley. Kin is kin, and even though mum left Byler vowing never to return, the girls have nowhere else to go. They bus it to Byler, defending off a “perv” as Liz calls him, and arrive unannounced at Uncle Tinsley’s place hoping he’ll accept them into his home, and he does – sort of… the first night they sleep in the barn. Moving from southern California to the back woods of Virginia ain’t easy. But it does get better. Til it gets worse. Bean discovers who her father was, and Liz discovers that standing up for what’s right often means falling down hard in the end. Walls has drawn a beautiful picture of these girls and right from the get-go you’re rooting for them. They are survivors, they deserve better, and you wish them well. There is a distinct similarity between this book and some of the real life antics and memories Jeannette described in The Glass Castle. But that’s OK. I feel they somehow give this book added depth. This is a book about character, circumstances, and survival and it shows us that “life ain’t perfect”… get on with it. It’s a great read. Easy to digest. And will make a great addition to your summer reading list.
Hey avid readers out there… remember The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls? (If you read it, you’ll never forget it, and if you didn’t, why haven’t you?) It was hugely popular a few years ago, was on the best seller list for years actually. Wells has written a new book The Silver Star and she’s going to be heading to Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary and Vancouver sometime soon. Check out your local media to see when and where to catch this amazing author in your hometown.
On a recent trip to Toronto I met Robert at Indigo when he was there for the release of his 4th book Stranglehold.
Detective Ari Greene is back, and oi vey!… he’s got himself in a real mess. He’s been carrying on a secret affair with Crown Prosecutor Jennifer Raglan. Their usual Monday morning rendezvous comes to a crashing halt before it even begins when Greene arrives at the seedy motel as per usual, and discovers her dead body. Standing in the motel room stunned & shocked, trying to analyze the situation, it takes him a moment to figure out he’s been set up. Poor Ari! He has ample opportunity to give his version of the events to the police. He’s been on the investigating side of the law for years. He knows how this works. Knows the ropes he has to climb to get out of this nasty situation he’s landed in. But he wants to be the one who discovers who murdered Jennifer so he keeps his trap shut – no matter how further and further into the muck he gets stuck. Detective Daniel Kennicott, his co-worker, is handling the case, and it’s because of Greene’s great training that he’s able to put 2 and 2 together and figure out Ari was Jennifer’s lover. And so the story goes (I don’t want to give away too much). Crisp writing, interesting plot, humour, and local interest (Lordy! wait til you read about Mayor Hap Charlton!) - how could I not like this? Plus in his “other” life he’s a criminal lawyer so Rotenberg knows how to create intriguing fiction from years of navigating the legal world, and I am always fascinated, and often shocked, by what I read. Our old favourites are back, including – surprise! - Mr. Singh from book #1. Remember him? He was the newspaper carrier who discovered body #1. If you’ve been following events in TO recently you will get a real kick out of this book. It’s very au courant. I loved it!
The Aviator’s Wife by Melaine Benjamin is the story of Ann Morrow Lindbergh. Her husband Charles was the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1927. He swept everyone around the world off their feet with his accomplishment, men & women alike, girls swooned over him, but it was shy Ann, a recent Smith College graduate who’s father was the American Ambassador to Mexico, who managed to snag the world’s most eligible bachelor. Ann learned on her honeymoon that she was to be his partner, not only in life, but in the plane as well. She was expected to learn to fly. She became his co-pilot and helped him map a route to the Orient, leaving her year old son at home for 6 months in the care of a nursemaid. Imagine! They had an odd relationship to say the least. Their life together as man & wife was secondary to their life in the plane. Poor Ann. She became nothing more than the Aviator’s wife. The world would not leave them alone. Hounded constantly by the public, the press, and even the famous they cocooned themselves from everyone trying to live a normal life. But it didn’t work. Their first-born son Charlie was kidnapped and killed in what was described as the Crime of the Century. She eventually had 5 other children and was busy keeping the home fires burning while Charles abandoned her to fly off to foreign places while he focused his attention on his career. Ann was a bright, well educated woman, but it was only late in life that she ever received any recognition at all for her accomplishments. This book was a real eye-opener for me. Quite sad and shocking at times. Even jaw dropping! It really is true what they say… “Behind every great man, is an even greater woman.” *****
This book is historical fiction. Melanie Benjamin states in the Authors’s Note that she hoped to make Ann “the heroine of her own story”, and this she did. She wrote an amazing book. I love historical fiction and I’ve read a whole stack of books in the past few years that highlight the exceptional fortitude and character of women standing in the shadows of famous men. This book is probably the best of the lot by far.
This is quite the book! A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki will blow your little mind. It’s is very original. Not like anything I’ve ever read before. It’s fiction, with footnotes on some pages that translate Japanese words or expressions into English. It has appendices that explain various things mentioned in the story in detail. In Japan, time is running out for young Nao Yasutani. She wants to record the story of her great-grandmother Jiko who, at 104 years old, has been an anarchist, feminist, novelist and Zen Buddist nun. This diary that Nao (pronounced Now) writes somehow ends up inside a Hello Kitty lunchbox, along with a few other interesting artifacts, washed up on a remote island in the Pacific Northwest of Canada. When Ruth discovers this strange package while walking along the beach, she brings it home and quickly thinks it could quite possibly be debris from the 2011 tsunami. The more she reads of Nao’s diary, the more involved she becomes in trying to discover the meaning of the strange contents, and whether or not Nao survived this catastrophic event. Believe me, you will be shocked by what you read, educated (who knew Japanese crows could be so fascinating!), filled with laughter & horror (you think we have a problem with bullying in our schools!!), “enlightened” (there’s even a page telling you how to meditate – remember Jiko is a Buddist nun) and often stop and think about what you just read (the parrallel between the flow & containment of water at the Fukushima nuclear plant with the flow & containment of information in our high-tech world is brilliant). Oseki is an amazing writer, but be forewarned, at times the descriptions are difficult to read. And some of it is pretty heavy to digest. I guess I’m slow on the take because I was almost half way through the book before realizing that Ruth, one of the characters in the book, has the same name as the author, they’re both writers, AND they both have a partner named Oliver. (I always read the “Acknowledgements”.) Fact turned into fiction, in tiny bits maybe? It made me wonder how much of the British Columbia part was based, even slightly, on their lives. When I picked up the book I wasn’t totally sure it was my “type” but I decided to give it a go anyway. Now I can’t say enough good things about it. Somehow it has flown under the radar screen, and I’m not sure why. It deserved WAY more praise and publicity than it’s been getting. Buy the book and spread the word. Tweet… skype… blog… facebook… do whatever it is you do and get the word out!!
If you want to see something beautiful go to http://www.ruthozeki.com/ and play the little video she provides as a backdrop to her book. It is breathtaking. And read about what the British publishers have managed to do with their version of this book. I really want to get my hands on one of theirs now.
Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala is a very powerful book. It is riveting in the depth of it’s despair. Almost unbelievable. It is so shocking that at times I had to remind myself that it was a memoir and not fiction. If you haven’t heard about this book yet, you definitely will in short order. It is the absolutely devastating story of how Sonali lost her husband Steve,7 year old son Vikram, 5 year old son Malli, her parents Aachchi & Seeya, and best friend Orlantha in the Boxing Day Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004 while vacationing over Christmas in Sri Lanka. (Most of the reviews I read failed to mention the names of the family members she lost in this terrible tragedy - they’re just reduced to husband, sons, mother & father. I found this appalling!) It was the last day of their vacation, Orlantha knocked on their hotel door to see if they were ready to leave (in just a minute, Steve is in the bathroom)… and then all Hell broke loose. They saw the enormous wave, panic ensued, they try to escape in a jeep up into the hills (no time to even knock on her parents’ door) the water kept rising, then surged over everything, the jeep turned over, and they got separated. Sonali managed to cling to a tree branch while everyone else disappeared never to be seen again. Eventually rescuers spot her spinning like a top, covered in mud, minus her trousers. It’s unbelievable to imagine how anyone could survive this, never mind the years of agony to follow. When reality sets in and she is ready to admit that everyone is gone, years of absolute misery coping with this unbelievable tragedy follow. Interspersed with the details of her story are little snippets of memory, happy times, that give us a look into the lives and personalities of Steve, Vik, Malli, Mum, Dad, and Orlantha before that dreadful catastrophy took their lives away. Life really isn’t survival of the fittest, it’s survival of the most resilient. I can’t imagine anyone more resilient than Sonali.
I knew nothing about this book, or the author, when I plucked if off the shelf. I’d just finished a series of historical fiction books about WWI and I really wanted something entirely different. A palate cleanser of sorts… I chose well. Me Before You is written by British writer Jojo Moyes. I love British writers. Spunky, funky-dressed, Louisa Clark is an ordinary 27 year old girl with an ordinary life, working at the local cafe (the Buttered Bun) and living at home with Mum, Dad, Granddad, sister Treena and her nephew Thomas. When her boss announces he’s closing the cafe and heading back to Australia, Louisa is desperate to find a job. Money is tight in the Clark household, with just her and Dad actually bringing home the bacon. Reluctantly she accepts a position as “care assistant” to quadriplegic Will Traynor, ex-Master of the Universe, former extreme sports enthusiast, world traveler and business tycoon. As her Dad said when she announced she’d accepted the position… “If it wasn’t punishment enough ending up in a ruddy wheelchair, then you get our Lou turning up to keep you company.” Humour abounds in this b0ok. But be forewarned, there is a very serious issue at the heart of the story. Will is often uncommunicative, moody, and bossy. Lou finds it a trial to deal with at first, and isn’t sure she can cope, but eventually realizes his happiness means more to her than she ever expected. She sets out to prove that his life is worth living, even though he has plans to the contrary. She soon discovers just how challenging it is, and in doing so, eventually comes to realize that Will has changed her life for the better in ways she never imagined. When I started this book I thought it would be verging on “fluff” but I was dead wrong. Moyes is a wonderful writer, and this is a great book. Give it a go.
Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss is a real whopper of a book. Sorry for the pun, it’s intended. This is a book that delves into the giants of the processed food industry and how they manipulate our tastebuds. It’s a real eye opener that illustrates how far from real food we’ve wandered during our quest for quick, cheap, easy to cook food. We waddle (cause we’re fat) like lemmings over the cliff of sensibility and reason into the processed food isles of the grocery stores to satisfy our addictions (to salt, sugar & fat) that we didn’t even know we had. These are the 3 ingredients used by the processed food industry that determine whether or not their products fly off the shelves & into our mouths or die a fast death due to low sales. Money is everything to the industry, and you won’t believe the billions made on sales of packaged products that are SO BAD for our health. There are way too many facts & figures in this book to even zero in on a specific product or company here, but I’m sure you can name a few yourself. The depth Moss goes to, to uncover the manipulation of our mouths, is mind-boggling. The more I read, the more I kept thinking that food journalist Michael Pollan has it right. In his wonderful book, In Defence of Food, he said one thing that has stayed with me for years… “If it comes from a plant, eat it. If it’s made in a plant, don’t.” Michael Moss just goes further into explaning why this rule is so important to our health today when nobody actually cooks a meal from scratch, and cheap junk food is everywhere to tempt our tastebuds. It’s “eater beware” now. Read this book and you may never look at the stuff on the grocery store shelves the same way again… at least I hope you won’t.
A Future Arrived is Phillip Rock’s 3rd book in his trilogy of the Greville family at Abingdon Pryory set pre and post WWI (this book actually ends in October 1940.). Having enjoyed the previous two immensely, I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into it. I’m sorry there were only 3 books in the series, I really wish Rock had decided to just continue with a social history of England set against the backdrop of world history. It would have been fantastic I think. He’s a wonderful writer (he died in 2004). The saga continues… Charles Greville finds love again, and becomes Headmaster of Burgate House, and journalist Martin Rilke continues to dominate the newspapers & airwaves of the world. The next generation, the Wood-Lacey twins – Jennifer & Victoria, as well as their younger sister Kate, and Colin Mackendric Ross (Alex’s son), figure largely as time marches on towards WWII. And we’re introduced to Albert Thaxton, Ivy’s brother, who follows in Martin’s footsteps as he travels through Europe headlining the turmoils & troubles of the world. I love historical fiction, and this series of books has been one of my favourites. I just spotted it sitting on the shelf in the bookstore and decided to take a chance. And I’m SO glad I did. Read all 3 books, you won’t be disappointed. ***** for all 3 books.
Circles of Time is Phillip Rock’s second book in his trilogy of Abingdon Pryory. You can read it without having read the first (there’s enough overlap of info that you won’t be confused as to who’s who and what’s what) but I suggest you start at the beginning. It’s like trying to watch season 2 of Downton Abbey without having watched season 1 – why would you? Time marches on at Abingdon Pryory, the Greville family are coping with the aftermath of WWI, rebuilding their precious “estate” to it’s former glory. William and Charles, both of who were wounded in battle - in different ways (I don’t like to give anything away) get on with dealing with their demons. Beautiful, smart Alex comes to admit to her mother’s desire for a proper marriage to a proper British gentleman, and along with Martin, the American cousin who has become an international success as a journalist, they all figure large in the book and it’s a great read. It’s the age of jazz, looser morals, changing ideas and ideals. But all is not good. On the horizon is the problem of what to do about Germany, left battered and broken by the war. Someone named Hitler has appeared on the scene and he’s slowly winning over the minds of the broken, hungry, and destitute. I love the book, maybe even more than book #1 (less war stuff) but it’s hard to say since that one was a favourite too. I just wonder why we’ve never heard of these books before. Rock wrote this book in 1981- he died in 2004. I bet it’s the Downton Abbey craze that has brought them to the forefront now. Better late than never is what I say. The writing is terrific, and you’ll get just as caught up in his 3 books as the blockbuster TV series. I want to keep book #3 to read when I’m away in a few weeks, but it’s going to be really hard to keep from peeking.