Daily Archives: August 18, 2018

Inspirational Reads: ‘There There’ By Tommy Orange, ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ By Delia Owens and ‘Women in Sunlight’ By Frances Mayes

 

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‘There There’ By Tommy Orange
Here is a story of several people, each of whom has private reasons for travelling to the Big Oakland Powwow. Jacquie Red Feather is newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind in shame. Dene Oxendene is pulling his life together after his uncle’s death and has come to work at the powwow to honour his uncle’s memory. Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield has come to watch her nephew Orvil Red Feather, who has taught himself traditional Indian dance through YouTube videos and has come to the powwow to dance in public for the very first time. There will be glorious communion, and a spectacle of sacred tradition and pageantry. And there will be sacrifice, and heroism, and unspeakable loss.
Fierce, angry, funny, heartbreaking, There There is a relentlessly paced multi-generational story about violence and recovery, memory and identity, and the beauty and despair woven into the history of a nation and its people. A glorious, unforgettable debut.
https://www.penguinrandomhouse.ca/books/563403/there-there-by-tommy-orange/9780771073014
Review:
You will be hard pressed to find any book out there right now that is so beautifully curated, respectful to American Native Indian story telling and written with such an authentic voice you will be moved to tears. ‘There There’ By Tommy Orange has all the makings of a ground breaking and award winning novel. Told through a variety of voices that intersect in a moment of sheer terror – each character tells us their own unique vision, educates us on Native Indian cultures, and exposes crumbs of their history which is riddled with an emotional texture that leaves you salivating to learn more. The lead up is to a pow wow which each character has a deafening connection to – but before we get to the pow wow we are exposed to a landscape that far is free from rocks and debris of time past and is instead is laden with memories and images that reminds us that we will never know the full story. As the reader we must stretch ourselves further and read more about this culture so we in turn can support them in making things right be it in Canada or abroad.

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‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ By Delia Owens
For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.
https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/567281/where-the-crawdads-sing-by-delia-owens/9780735219090/
Review:
You may feel that you have read this story before but in fact you haven’t. ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ By Delia Owens is a poetic piece of storytelling that can immediately be brought to screen with its rich ode to the south and all its romanticisms. We are introduced to Kya who we can all relate to at least at one time in our lives – feeling like the outcast, perhaps feeling like we have been left to our own devices and the feeling like we are losing a constant battle. Owens does a wonderful job creating a space for the reader to view Kya in her darkest hours and what she accomplishes to overcome those short comings with the help of characterization which is as diverse as her style of writing. Buried within the course of the plot is a mystery that perhaps you may not see coming within the suffering of our heroine. The mystery is the icing on the cake in bringing the story together and reminding us that deep within our lens of change there is always fast one that we least expect to be had.

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‘Women in Sunlight’ By Frances Mayes
By the bestselling author of Under the Tuscan Sun, and written with Frances Mayes’s trademark warmth, heart, and delicious descriptions of place, food, and friendship, Women in Sunlight is the story of four American strangers who bond in Italy and change their lives over the course of an exceptional year.
She watches from her terrazza as the three American women carry their luggage into the stone villa down the hill. Who are they, and what brings them to this Tuscan village so far from home? An expat herself and with her own unfinished story, she can’t help but question: will they find what they came for?
Kit Raine, an American writer living in Tuscany, is working on a biography of her close friend, a complex woman who continues to cast a shadow on Kit’s own life. Her work is waylaid by the arrival of three women—Julia, Camille, and Susan—all of whom have launched a recent and spontaneous friendship that will uproot them completely and redirect their lives. Susan, the most adventurous of the three, has enticed them to subvert expectations of staid retirement by taking a lease on a big, beautiful house in Tuscany. Though novices in a foreign culture, their renewed sense of adventure imbues each of them with a bright sense of bravery, a gusto for life, and a fierce determination to thrive. But how? With Kit’s friendship and guidance, the three friends launch themselves into Italian life, pursuing passions long-forgotten—and with drastic and unforeseeable results.
https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/546989/women-in-sunlight-by-frances-mayes/9780451497666/
Review:
If you are a fan of ‘Under a Tuscan Sun’, ‘Women in Sunlight’ By Frances Mayes should be right up your alley. Mayes lens towards her style of writing reads like a painting. She hardly colours within the lines nor does she colour by numbers – she instead creates a web for her characters to find their way out of while also exposing a little about themselves and how they came to be that we can relate to as the reader. We meet Kit again and see her in a new time in her life full of new characters and growth. She is still very likeable and begins to forage a new way of living through the arrival of her guests. As usual, Mayes throws us into a beautiful Italian way of life and living. If you haven’t been anywhere this summer and want to get absorbed into a book that will surely satiate your travel bug with a glass of wine and cheese plate – grab this book!

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Books You Need to Read ASAP: ‘Lying in Wait’ By Liz Nugent, ‘Defying Limits Lessons from the Edge of the Universe’ By Dave Williams and ‘Katerina’ By James Frey

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‘Lying in Wait’ By Liz Nugent
The second heart stopping suspense novel by international bestselling author Liz Nugent—filled with dark secrets, twisted relationships, and unexpected surprises.
My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it.
In 1980s Dublin, Lydia Fitzsimons seems to have the perfect life—wife of Andrew, a respected judge, and mistress of Avalon, the beautiful house where she grew up. Her pride and joy, however, is her only child, her son Laurence, to whom she is utterly, obsessively devoted.
But her husband’s murder of Annie Doyle, accidental or not, sets into motion a dark downward spiral. No one knows what Lydia and Andrew were doing with a drug-addled prostitute late at night on a deserted stretch of the strand near Dublin, but they stuffed her body into the trunk of their car and buried it in their tidy suburban garden, hoping that will put the matter to rest. Annie was a junkie from the wrong side of the tracks; surely no one will miss her or care to find out what happened to her.
Except that Annie has a sister. Her twin, Karen, who has fared much better in life, is desperate to find her. And when Karen crosses paths with Laurence, isolated and lonely, things begin to unravel. Laurence may be overweight and ungainly and bullied at school, but he’s more clever than he’s given credit for. He knows that something is very, very wrong in the Fitzsimons household—and he is determined to discover the truth…
http://www.simonandschuster.ca/books/Lying-in-Wait/Liz-Nugent/9781501191299
Review:
Nugent’s ‘Lying in Wait’ is a perfect long weekend, you can read it quickly and it will give you all the joys of a book well read. Think intrigue, mystery and moments where you will hope the characters will not do what you know they are going to end up doing but you don’t want them to do. Nugent is a pro at building an exquisite arc and characters that are rich, troubled a little bit crazy at holding their own secrets that are slowly revealed on their terms. ‘Lying in Wait’ maybe a book you think you read in the past but will prove rather quickly in its dark murkiness and suspenseful pull that it is clearly a game changer on the scene!

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‘Defying Limits Lessons from the Edge of the Universe’ By Dave Williams
An inspirational, uplifting, and life-affirming memoir about passion, resilience and living life to the fullest, from Dr. Dave Williams, one of Canada’s most accomplished astronauts.
I had dreamt about becoming an astronaut from the time I watched Alan Shepard launch on the first American sub-orbital flight on May 5, 1961. Eleven days before my seventh birthday, I committed to a new goal: one day, I would fly in outer space.
Dr. Dave has led the sort of life that most people only dream of. He has set records for spacewalking. He has lived undersea for weeks at a time. He has saved lives as an emergency doctor, launched into the stratosphere twice, and performed surgery in zero gravity.
But if you ask him how he became so accomplished, he’ll say: “I’m just a curious kid from Saskatchewan.” Curious indeed.
Dr. Dave never lost his desire to explore nor his fascination with the world. Whether he was exploring the woods behind his childhood home or floating in space at the end of the Canadarm, Dave tried to see every moment of his life as filled with beauty and meaning. He learned to scuba dive at only twelve years old, became a doctor despite academic struggles as an undergraduate, and overcame stiff odds and fierce competition to join the ranks of the astronauts he had idolized as a child.
There were setbacks and challenges along the way—the loss of friends in the Columbia disaster, a cancer diagnosis that nearly prevented him from returning to space—but through it all, Dave never lost sight of his goal. And when he finally had the chance to fly among the stars, he came to realize that although the destination can be spectacular, it’s the journey that truly matters.
In Defying Limits, Dave shares the events that have defined his life, showing us that whether we’re gravity-defying astronauts or earth-bound terrestrials, we can all live an infinite, fulfilled life by relishing the value and importance of each moment. The greatest fear that we all face is not the fear of dying, but the fear of never having lived. Each of us is greater than we believe. And, together, we can exceed our limits to soar farther and higher than we ever imagined.
http://www.simonandschuster.ca/books/Defying-Limits/Dave-Williams/9781501160950
Review:
Move over Chris Hadfield, Dave Williams needs a minute of your reader time. If you want to change up your optimism lens this summer as we head into a new school year and work quarter, ‘Defying Limits’ is for you. It’s hard to find an autobiography that really walks the walk and shows you the behind the scenes of not only a demanding lifetime of a career but what we as humans can learn from our mistakes and others. ‘Defying Limits’ is indeed the story of a talented astronaut, doctor and scientist but also a story of a family man who speaks to us of what it means to let go of our own insecurities and perhaps create a space for change not only for ourselves but for the community around us – be it on earth or what lies beyond our earth. Aim high is truly given a new meaning through Williams’s words and story. A book that will leave you reflecting for a few days after you finish reading it.

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‘Katerina’ By James Frey
From the New York Times bestselling author of A Million Little Pieces and Bright Shiny Morning comes Katerina, James Frey’s highly anticipated new novel set in 1992 Paris and contemporary Los Angeles.
A kiss, a touch. A smile and a beating heart. Love and sex and dreams, art and drugs and the madness of youth. Betrayal and heartbreak, regret and pain, the melancholy of age. Katerina, the explosive new novel by America’s most controversial writer, is a sweeping love story alternating between 1992 Paris and Los Angeles in 2018.
At its center are a young writer and a young model on the verge of fame, reckless, impulsive, addicted, and deeply in love. Twenty-five years later, the writer is rich, famous, and numb, and he wants to drive his car into a tree, when he receives an anonymous message that draws him back to the life, and possibly the love, he abandoned years prior. Written in the same percussive, propulsive, dazzling, breathtaking style as A Million Little Pieces, Katerina echoes and complements that most controversial of memoirs, and plays with the same issues of fiction and reality that created, nearly destroyed, and then recreated James Frey in the American imagination.
http://www.simonandschuster.ca/books/Katerina/James-Frey/9781982109202
Review:
I had some reservations reading Frey’s latest ‘Katerina’. But man was I wrong! Talk about redemption and a book that is transformational not only as a Writer but through a truly fresh way of story telling. I was taken back to a time in my youth to relive not only the debauchery of what was but also meeting similar folks that I may have bumped into in 90’s Paris when I was in my 20’s. Indeed full of deep introspective moments and affairs that run far deeper than the heart and soul – ‘Katerina’ will leave you aghast with its nods to intimacy, social media lures and a sadness that runs the breath of the novel but you just can’t place it until the end. Frey is a storyteller without a traditional writer’s pen – but yet again, like his previous controversial work he will take you on a tour in time that will not only deeply resonate with you but will also remind you of what you may have lost and wonder what became of those losses?

Canadian Writers That Matter: ‘Dreaming Sally: A True Story of First Love, Sudden Death and Long Shadows’ By James Fitzgerald and ‘Warlight’ By Michael Ondaatje

 

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‘Dreaming Sally: A True Story of First Love, Sudden Death and Long Shadows’ By James Fitzgerald
George Orr dreamed that his girlfriend, Sally Wodehouse, would die on the trip she wanted to take, and he begged her not to go. But Sally did not take him seriously–how could she? She left for Europe in July 1968 with twenty-five other private-school kids, on “The Odyssey,” a Sixties version of the Grand Tour. In August 1968, only hours after becoming engaged to George via telegram, she died as he had dreamed she would, in a freak accident.
Sally was George’s first love, but she was also James FitzGerald’s. James first met Sally at a family cottage; he was drawn to her energy and warmth, a stunning contrast to the chilly emotional life of his own family. At seventeen, not exactly a hit with the girls, James was delighted when he realized that he’d be spending the summer with his old friend. And soon, even though he knew that Sally had a serious boyfriend back home, they became inseparable, touring the glories of Western culture by day, dancing and drinking the nights away–giddily unshackled from the expectations and requirements of their class and upbringing.
To George and James, both sons of parents who knew how to make demands of their children but not how to love them, Sally represented all the optimism and promised freedom of the ’60s. Her death has haunted both men for fifty years–arresting their development, miring them in grief and unreasoning guilt. Dreaming Sally is a profound and evocative exploration of the long shadow left by an eighteen-year-old girl, an uncanny story of first love, sudden death and the complexity of trauma and mourning.
http://www.jamesfitzgerald.info/Dreaming-Sally.html
Review:
A fantastic novel to give you a flavour of what the most prestigious private school students lived in the 1960’s – Toronto, Ontario. ‘Dreaming Sally’ reads like a Dateline NBC extended episode with titillatious backdrops and dreamy characters that all hold a secret or two. There is an early foreshadowing of what is to come for one of the main characters with a few lovers chomping at the bit will make you turn the pages even faster during this great summer read. I appreciated the nods to Toronto history, landmarks and geography. Fitzgerald even drives the reader out into cottage country and overseas all the while exposing us to yummy cuisines, scenery and sounds that perhaps do not exist anymore but at one point did – only to the super elite that is. Indeed, a great mystery novel while also providing an education on what makes Toronto, Ontario a holder of many stories and sympathies.

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‘Warlight’ By Michael Ondaatje
In a narrative as beguiling and mysterious as memory itself–shadowed and luminous at once–we read the story of fourteen-year-old Nathaniel, and his older sister, Rachel. In 1945, just after World War II, they stay behind in London when their parents move to Singapore, leaving them in the care of a mysterious figure named The Moth. They suspect he might be a criminal, and they grow both more convinced and less concerned as they come to know his eccentric crew of friends: men and women joined by a shared history of unspecified service during the war, all of whom seem, in some way, determined now to protect, and educate (in rather unusual ways) Rachel and Nathaniel. But are they really what and who they claim to be? And what does it mean when the siblings’ mother returns after months of silence without their father, explaining nothing, excusing nothing? A dozen years later, Nathaniel begins to uncover all that he didn’t know and understand in that time, and it is this journey–through facts, recollection, and imagination–that he narrates in this masterwork from one of the great writers of our time.
https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/567854/warlight-by-michael-ondaatje/9780525521198
Review:
Ondaatje’s latest offering brings all the makings of why he is one of the best Canadian writers of our time. Intrigue, passion, an intricate arc storyline and characters that although hardly verbose speak through their behaviours to tell us their story. ‘Warlight’ is a book that requires your full attention or you may find yourself doubling back to re-read and make sure you are on the same page as Rachel and Nathaniel. Themes of neglect, abuse and some back alley dealings paint a wonderful dark portrait of post war England. Living in that period time through Ondaatje’s words provides the reader a wonderful texture of not only what life was like but also what people needed to do to survive without much in their pockets whilst leaving behind living casualties who were in just as much clinging pain and sorrow as the buried dead.

Poignant Reads: ‘The Melody’ By Jim Crace and ‘The Aftermath’ By Kelley Armstrong

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‘The Melody’ By Jim Crace
From the Booker Prize-shortlisted author of Harvest, Quarantine, and Being Dead, a tender new novel about music, celebrity, local intrigue, and lost love–all set by the Mediterranean Sea
Aside from his trusty piano, Alfred Busi lives alone in his villa overlooking the waves. Famed in his town for his music and songs, he is mourning the recent death of his wife and quietly living out his days, occasionally performing the classics in small venues–never in the stadiums he could fill when in his prime. On the night before receiving his town’s highest honor, Busi is wrested from bed by noises in his courtyard and then stunned by an attacking intruder–his hands and neck are scratched, his face is bitten. Busi can’t say what it was that he encountered, exactly, but he feels his assailant was neither man nor animal.
The attack sets off a chain of events that will cast a shadow on Busi’s career, imperil his home, and alter the fabric of his town. Busi’s own account of what happened is embellished to fan the flames of old rumor–of an ancient race of people living in the surrounding forest–and to spark new controversy: something must finally be done about the town’s poor, the feral vagabonds at its edges, whose numbers have been growing. All the while Busi, weathering a media storm, must come to terms with his wife’s death and decide whether to sing one last time.
In trademark crystalline prose, Jim Crace portrays a man taking stock of his life and looking into an uncertain future, all while bearing witness to a community in the throes of great change–with echoes of today’s most pressing social questions.
https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/566442/the-melody-by-jim-crace/9780385543712

Review:

A perfect book to take with you on a road trip, to the cottage and a long weekend out of town.  There are definite throws to a supernatural presence amidst or perhaps something more sinister outside Busi’s dwelling.  Or is he struggling with his own inner demons?  Jim Crace, has a wonderful written hand.  Not only is ‘The Melody’ a poetic read but it is also infused with lots of moments for you to ponder your own life and life’s work that maybe dangling at the your finger tips through the eyes and actions of our hero, Busi.

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‘The Aftermath’ By Kelley Armstrong
Secrets don’t remain hidden for long in this thrilling read from a #1 New York Times bestselling author that’s perfect for fans of Adam Silvera’s More Happy Than Not and Barry Lyga’s Bang.
Three years after losing her brother Luka in a school shooting, Skye Gilchrist is moving home. But there’s no sympathy for Skye and her family because Luka wasn’t a victim; he was a shooter.
Jesse Mandal knows all too well that the scars of the past don’t heal easily. The shooting cost Jesse his brother and his best friend–Skye.
Ripped apart by tragedy, Jesse and Skye can’t resist reopening the mysteries of their past. But old wounds hide darker secrets. And the closer Skye and Jesse get to the truth of what happened that day, the closer they get to a new killer.

Review:

‘The Aftermath’ was one of my highlights reads this summer!  It painted a shocking potrait of what is left behind after a tragedy such as school shooting.  The hatred, mental health issues and social isolation is exposed along with the people who have been effected and their struggle to overcome it’s trauma.  Armstrong does a wonderful job drawing you within the egg that her novel reads like a true film – be ready for intrigue, suspense and a lot of questioning.  I was literally off my seat wondering what is to come after every chapter and it left me with a strong ‘who done it glow’.  As a casual observer, this topic will leave you feeling slightly more educated around it’s residue and perhaps emphatic to the causes that bring people into it’s space.
https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/535131/aftermath-by-kelley-armstrong/9780399550362/