Archive for October, 2009

Reading by Lightning

I loved this book. But it’s really weird because I can’t tell you why. It’s just a really good read. Was it the writing, the characters, the setting? I think it was everything, all perfectly blended together like some tasty food you just to have more of (I’m always thinking of food eh.). Reading by Lightning by Joan Thomas (published by Goose Lane) just won the Amazon.ca First Novel Award and I am not surprised. Not once was I even tempted to put it aside and or give up. The story starts out with Lily Piper and her family living on the drought-ravaged Prairies in Nebo, Manitoba.  With the death of her Grandfather, Lily is sent to England to care for her Grandmother and is immersed in a world so foreign to her very religious, small town Canadian family.  Thomas is able to weave multiple stories together effortlessly, telling us the story of Lily’s father and his journey to Canada, being scammed by a lure of land, deeds, and a life full of opportunity, and Lily’s life from Manitoba to England, where she lives a life totally foreign to her family back home. With the outbreak of World War II Lily is forced to  return to Nebo to look after her recently-widowed mother and a life that isn’t much different from when she left. It’s a wonderful story. The prose seemed to flow easily, and kept my interest – I wanted to know more about what happens to Lily. And things didn’t always turn out the way you think they would, and sometimes we’re left wondering. I liked that in this book.

Since I wrote the above, this book has also won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book, Canada and the Caribbean AND the Manitoba Reads Book of the Year, AND has been nominated for the 2010 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

See… I told you it was good!!

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Incontinent on the Continent

Jane Christmas’ third book, Incontinent on the Continent: My Mother, Her Walker, and Our Grand Tour of Italy, (published by Greystone Books) was a great book to take along on a trip, since it’s about a trip. Though mine wasn’t nearly as grand as hers was. Jane decides to try and make amends with her aging mother by taking her on a 6 week trip to Italy. What  a wonderful way to try and connect with a mother she felt alienated from and at odds with for most of her entire life. Mum loves art, architecture and antiques and there’s no better place to find them all than in Italy. Her father’s dying wish was “try and get along with your mother”. She said he might just as well have asked her to win the Nobel prize, that’s how daunting his request was. But it becomes obvious that this is not going to be any ordinary trip to Italy. Her mum is, as she says, “between 65 and 100” years old, has multiple medical problems (which require an enormous amount of prescription medication), uses a walker (and occasionally needs a wheelchair), and is not easy to get along with (she’s constantly telling Jane “do something with your hair”). Why Jane would even attempt this is a mystery to me!  Anything that sounds more like work than fun at my stage in life is given VERY serious consideration. And she often wonders the same thing on this romp through Italy. Travelling with a handicapped senior is like travelling with a small child – the same enormous quantity of stuff to lug around, early bedtimes, and lots of cranky moments where you just want to throw up your hands and go home. It’s a fun book though, except for the background of constant rain, and her observations often surprised me. Did they eventually “bond” like Jane had hoped they would?  Read it and see for yourself.

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Wash Your Hands!!

Soap and Water and Common Sense: How to Stay Healthy in a Germ-Filled World by Dr. Bonnie Henry (published by Anansi Press) is a VERY timely book.  If you’re at all concerned about your health re the flu or a virus – and who isn’t right now!! – you should definitely read this book. It’s so up to date that even the H1N1(Swine) flu is mentioned. Get the facts right, learn the difference between a virus and bacteria, when and when it’s not time to call in the heavy equipment and use an antibiotic, and what can be done to protect yourself from nasties like E. Coli and Salmonella.  Learn about the history of typhoid, smallpox, malaria, SARS, and even West Nile. They’re all mentioned, and all fascinating. Being bombarded daily by the media with info about the Swine flu, it gets so that you can’t sort all the facts out enough to make a consciencious decision about what to do to protect yourself. Dr. Henry lays it all out in plain English. She certainly has the smarts – she’s currently the Director of Public Health Emergency Management at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control. She is a public health physician, a preventive medicine specialist and an epidemiologist. And the title of her book just about sums it all up … soap and water & common sense goes a long way in helping us fight off a host of  illnesses in our germ-filled world.

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High Chicago

 High Chicago (published by Random House) is Howard Shrier’s second novel, and it’s every bit as good as his first, probably even better. He has definitely found his groove and is on a roll. Our favourite investigator, Jonah Geller is back again, this time with his own investigation company, World Repairs, along with his trusty assistant  Jenn Raudsepp who jumped ship from their  previous job at Beacon Security.  Geller is asked to investigate the death of 22 year old Maya Cantor, the daughter of  real estate developer Rob Cantor in Toronto. The police say it was a suicide – case closed, but her mother thinks otherwise. Is it possible that the famous American real estate  developer Simon Birk is involved in her death? Are a couple of other deaths in Toronto linked to Cantor’s high profile $500,000,000 Birkshire Harbourview complex, which Birk is heavily involved with?  Geller enlists the help of former hit man Dante Ryan, known to us from book #1, to help work  the case with him and provide some muscle. The book is gritty, violent in spots, with too much info about guns for my taste, but all is forgiven because it’s a great book and really funny in parts. Highly recommended. Give it a go.

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