FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT

DARYNDA JONES

Charlotte Jean “Charley” Davidson, is a PI and consultant for the Albuquerque, N.Mex., police department. She is helping her detective uncle, Bob Davidson, investigate the fatal shootings of three lawyers who were representing a client accused of murder. But that is her “day job”. She also lives on other planes.  As the grim reaper, she sees the spirits of people who have not yet crossed over and she escorts them”into the light.”  She helps souls complete what ever it is that is holding them back. Souls come to her because she is actually a porthole into the light. Charley finds herself oddly attracted to the hunky and handsome Reyes Farrow, a convicted criminal in a coma. She also has amazingly erotic dreams when he comes to her at night. Another of her special abilities is the ability to heal at fantastic speeds.

Charley sets the tone of the novel through her sass and wit.  She’s appealing, funny, and has a great attitude about life. All and all First Grave is a fun, good read.

 

 

NEVER KNOWING

CHEVY STEVENS

Sara’s childhood had been less than ideal. Her father had always favoured his two biological daughters. When Sara decides to search for her birth parents she never could have imagined the immense ramifications. First her birth giver Julie won’t have anything to do with her. Then she finds out that Julie is the one woman who survived the serial killer known as the Camp Site Killer. How will this impact her own daughter and her relationship with her fiance.

Knowing is repetitive for the first three-quarters of the novel so needs a lot of skimming. But it has a great ending.

MY BEST BOOKS OF 2011

Annabel                                   Kathleen Winter

The Night Circus                    ERIN MORGENSTERN

The Cat’s Table                        MICHAEL ONDAATJE

The Help                                    KATHLEEN STOCKETT

The Lazarus Project              ALEKSANDAR HEMON

IT GETS BETTER: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living

Edited by  DAN SAVAGE, TERRY MILLER

MIRIAM TOEWES                Irma Voth

Help Me Jacques Cousteau            GIL ADAMSON

Alone In the Classrom                     ELIZABETH HAY

Love and War in His Homeland    Basharat Peer

We Had It So Good                             LINDA GRANT

The Tiger’s Wife                                  TEA OBREHT

DESERT FLOWER: The Extraordinary Journey of a Desert Nomad

WARIS DIRIE and Cathleen Miller

I SHALL NOT HATE: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey             DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH

WAR IS BORING: Bored Stiff, Scared to Death in the World’s Worst War Zones

DAVID AXE and MATT BORS

Hidden Wives                                      CLAIRE AVERY

OVERTHROW: America’s Century of Regime Change

STEPHEN KINZER

Wetlands                                               CHARLOTTE ROCHE

Sh*t My Dad Says                               JUSTIN HALPERN

The Crying Tree                                   MASEEM RAKHA

Room                                                     EMMA DONOGHUE

The Beauty of Humanity Movement      CAMILLA GIBB

THE UNCOUPLING

MEG WOLITZER

Wolitzer has crafted an amazing novel on the power of literature. When the new high school drama teacher chooses Lysistratra, the Greek comedy in which women decide to stop having sex with their men to end a war, a spell is created that spirals through the staff, the parental community, into the wider community and even into the student body. Women suddenly stop feeling desire for their mates. They end their conjugal obligations like the banging of a cell door. Dory and her husband Robby Lang, both teachers at the high school, seemed to have a perfect relationship but this changes when Dory is affected by the spell. The best part of the book is the ending, starting with the stage production of Lysistratra.

An excellent read.

 

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THE NIGHT STRANGERS

CHRIS BOHJALIAN

A deliciously well written mysterious thriller. Chip is a pilot who is forced to land his regional jet on Lake Champlain. He prays that he can create a miracle like the pilot who landed on the Hudson River with out a single death. He does not succeed; most of the passengers die. His wife Emily decides that the best thing for the couple and their twin ten year old daughters is to move to the calm and peace of northern New Hampshire. They purchase a Victorian house that has lots of rooms and back stair cases and hidden passages. There are even weapons secreted in unusual places. But most mysterious is the door in the basement that has been sealed shut with thirty-nine 6-inch-long bolts.

The neighbours are friendly but weird. All the women have names of herbs and plants. They all have green houses and they grow strange plants that they have found from around the world with which the make salves, tinctures and potions. Their baking is succulent but somewhat off at the same time.  And they are obsessed with the twin girls.

A must read. Also read Bohjalian’s Twin Sister Radio, which is fantastic.

 

I liked this cover better than the cover of the copy I read so I borrowed it.

ANNABEL

KATHLEEN WINTER

1968, an inter-sex child is born in a small village in labrador. The child has one testicle, a vagina and a what appears to be a penis. Or is it a clitoris?  The father want to raise him as a boy so he can hunt and trap with him and learn his skills and his love  of the wild. The doctor agrees. When the doctor measured the penis it was larger than a centimetre; larger than a centimetre and it is considered a penis but if it is smaller then it is considered a clitoris. The boy, Wayne, needs to take pills every day but he doesn’t know what they are for. He feels like there is a girl curled up inside him. Annabel is the name the midwife whispered in his ear at his christening and would call him when they were alone together. No one knows what the right or the best thing to do is. As Wayne grows older he needs to know who he is. The parents start with a strong relationship gradually drift apart. Bridges are a major theme in Annabel and Wayne bridges male and female.

Annabel is a must read.

THE CAMELOT CONSPIRACY: A Novel of the Kennedys, Castro & the CIA

E DUKE VINCENT

What is the truth about  11/22/63   the day JFK died. People from my generation clearly remember that day, even Canadians.  A shot that was heard around the world. Vincent’s imagining is quite engaging but the subtitle should have included “the MOB.” The mob were angry that their casinos in Cuba were taken away from them. There show girls were given jobs in Havana and kept in rotation as Fidel’s mistresses. The mob were angry that JFK would not take a definitive stand on getting rid of the communists in Cuba. They were angry that JFK’s brother John, the Attorney General, was taking such a strong stance against them. Their motto: if a snake is bothering you, cut off its head. The Cuban diaspora was angry at Kennedy also. They wanted to return home to their wealthy positions of power.

An interesting read but it bogs down with too many characters. There is a three page list of characters two of which are historical figures and one is fictional characters. The list does help keep it all straight.
I am looking forward to reading Steven King’s latest novel on this same subject 11/22/63.

 

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BRIDE OF NEW FRANCE

SUZANNE DESROCHERS

When her father died Laure was taken by a wealthy woman to be raised as her daughter. There she learned to sew, embroider and make lace as well as read and write. But when her benefactor died no provisions had been made for her. The person who took over the estate told her that he did not need another servant. So she was sent to the poor house in Paris, to the best floor of the poor house where still conditions were substandard. Laure took it upon her self to write to the King to plead for better food and conditions. The reply was sent to the warden telling her to tell Laure and the other women to buckle down and asking the warden to choose one hundred women to send to New France to be married to soldiers and courier du bois. Of course the warden was gleeful to tell Laure that she was the first to be chosen to be “une fille de roi.”

The first part of the book in Paris is slow, but when the women and Laure get on the boat for New France  and when the arrive were quite interesting. A good read.

THE REINVENTION OF LOVE

HELEN HUMPHREYS

History is stranger than fiction is an oft repeated cliche. Certainly it describes this true story of the love affair between Adele Hugo, the wife of writer Victor and literary critic Charles Sainte-Beuve. Especially given the strange fact that Charles was a hermaphrodite with an unusable penis and female genitalia underneath. “A sex the size of a snail.” It seems that Adele liked this. She did have several children with her husband Victor and did not want any more. The couple take turns narrating their story. For public meetings Sainte-Beuve disguised himself in his mother’s clothing as “Charlotte”. He sometimes thought that Adele loved Charlotte more than Charles.

Humphreys writes well. Love is well worth the read.

THE NIGHT CIRCUS

ERIN MORGENSTERN

Night Circus is magic realism at its best. The fantasy world Morgenstern creates reals in the reader amazingly quickly and takes him on a magic carpet ride through a world where magicians can control matter with their minds. Two characters create the Night Circus as a challenge to see who is the greater magician. The Night Circus opens at midnight and closes at dawn. Audiences might watch a tattooed contortionist fold herself into a tiny glass box, feast on chocolate mice and caramel popcorn, or wander through a sequence of tents that includes an ice garden, a desert and a maze constructed from towering clouds. There seems no end to the exploration of the circus.

Morgenstern’s imagination is magnificent. Circus is a page  turner.

 

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THE CAT’S TABLE

MICHAEL ONDAATJE

Michael is on a long journey to England, to meet his mother.  He can’t remember what she looks like. In the early 1950’s it is a 21 day journey by boat from Ceylon to London. He has almost no supervision though he is only 11 years old. For meals he sits a the cat’s table; the table where the lease important people sit. There he meets two great friends Ramadhin and Cassius as well as a group of eccentric and intriguing passengers. The boys have all kinds of adventures on this huge ocean liner. The three boys make a vow: each day they will do at least one forbidden thing. They stay up to midnight to see the prisoner take fresh air and exercise while locked down in chains. They strapped themselves to the deck to feel the wrath of a tropical storm. They sneaked into first class buffets to eat the superior food, later leaving their dishes in the safety boats.  Having nothing else to do, one night the boys snap off twigs from a cane chair to light and suck on like cigarettes. They plan on smoking the whole chair before their voyage ends. “There was darkness all around us but we knew how to walk through it. We slid silently into the swimming pool, relit our twigs, and floated on our backs. Silent as corpses we looked at the stars. We felt we were swimming in the sea, rather than a walled-in pool in the middle of the ocean.”

The adult characters that populate Ondaatje’s book are also wonderful. There is Mr. Mazappa, a half-Sicilian pianist who has “hit the skids.”  Botanist Larry Daniels keeps a garden hidden in the ship’s bowels, the brilliant greens and golds dazzling amid the shipboard palette of blue and grey. Miss Lasqueti sketches life on board and carries pigeons within the 10 cushioned pockets of her jacket.

Truly a great read.

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THE HELP

KATHLEEN STOCKETT

“The times they are a-changin’.”  The time is the early 60’s. All the good homes in Mississippi have black maids who not only clean their houses but raise their children. Sometimes the babies think the maids are  their mothers. The maids make little money, work long hours, put up with stupid rules and chores that their Mrs. makes them follow and do. They over hear the white ladies talking about how stupid their maids are, how lazy, disease ridden. The won’t even let the maids use the same toilet; they build the maid a toilet out in the garage so they don’t catch the negra’s diseases. But there is one young woman who know some thing is wrong. Skeeter returns from college so wanting to see the maid who raised her, Constantine. But Constantine is gone and no one is saying why or where. Skeeter wants to be a writer and begins soliciting stories from The Help. Stories that white people have never heard before.

Definitely a must read.

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BALDUR’S SONG

DAVID ARNASON
The story of Icelandic immigrants to Northern Manitoba is told  through the story of Baldur. Baldur, an ambitious young man from New Iceland, in Northern Manitoba, comes to Winnipeg at the turn of the last century to make his name and fortune. His aptitude for music helps launch his career but it is his fortunate meeting of Johnny Ashdown that propelled him onto fortune. They met at Baldur’s first job, shining shoes at the railway station in Winnipeg. His next job was playing quitatr and singing at a house of ill repute. Ashdown has big dreams and is not afraid to chase them and make them reality. He also wants Baldur as a partner though the reason for that is never really explained.
Song is a quick and easy read. Quite delightful.

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THE ORCHARD

THERESA WEIR

Weir’s memoir reads amazingly like fiction; she is that great of a writer. She apply describes the dysfunctional family she grew up in and the dysfunctional family that she marries into. She went from a crazy mother to a cold, hateful mother-in-law. Rejected by her husbands family only made her resolve to stay grow stronger.

A must read.

She is a prolific writer. I would like to try some of her fiction.

 

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