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NorthVan Dave (BC, Canada)

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Toronto Noir
Toronto Noir
by Janine Armin
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.78
25 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not really all that good, Nov. 13 2008
This review is from: Toronto Noir (Paperback)
I picked up this book because a) I used to live just outside of Toronto and b) I'm a big supporter of Canadian writing. So it is fair to say I had high hopes for this book. Despite my high hopes for the book, I was disappointed.

This book contains a series of short stories all set in the Toronto area. All the stories are by Canadian authors who have, at some point in time, had dealings with the Toronto area. Therefore their stories, while fiction, are based to some extent on their own experiences. Usually this proves to good story telling.

But the stories in Toronto Noir are a let down. They don't reach out and grab the reader. They are plain, dull, and dare I say it, uninteresting. And this is a real shame because Toronto is a vibrant city with lots going for it and it is too bad the authors couldn't capture that feeling and put it down on paper.

The classification for this book is fiction/mystery. The mystery bit also puzzles me because there really isn't any mystery in any of the stories.

Finally, I understand this book is one in a series of 'Noir' novels that are set in different parts of the US. I can't comment on those books, but if this if your first time looking in to the 'Noir' series, I'd suggest looking elsewhere.

De Niro's Game
De Niro's Game
by Rawi Hage
Edition: Hardcover
34 used & new from CDN$ 1.20

5.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed this book, Nov. 12 2008
This review is from: De Niro's Game (Hardcover)
I finished De Niro's game a few days back, but am just getting around to making an entry now. In short, I liked this novel. Author Rawi Hage does a good job, I think, of capturing what it is like to live and grow up in war-torn Beirut. As I read the story, I felt as though I could feel the internal struggle facing the two protagonists. Do they try to escape the city and a life in the militia, or do they join the militia and enter into a life of questionable practices.

According to the dust jacket, Rawi Hage lives in Montreal. And, at one point during his novel (and I'm not giving too much away by saying this) it is suggested that one of the protagonists move to Canada. This little bit of writing started me wondering. How much of the story is fiction, and how much of it is based on Hage's own experience? Are the characters a split of the experiences Hage endured, or are they a composite of all the people he knew growing up? Given the chance, I would have enjoyed talking with him about this.

Nonetheless, the book is well written. The language is easy to digest and the plot is easy to follow. I can see why the book was a Giller and GG finalist. Pick this book up and give it a read. It won't take you very long and is well worth it.

Leviathan
Leviathan
by Paul Auster
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.36
62 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A great read, Nov. 1 2008
This review is from: Leviathan (Paperback)
I don't know what it is about Auster's writing style, but I enjoy it very much. Having recently finished Leviathan, I confess that this was one book I had a hard time putting down. The book is party mystery novel part romance.

The plot focuses on the death of a man and the story of the dead man's life as told by his friend. His friend, coincidental enough, is an author as well.

I realize that I'm not doing the book justice. And that's a shame because it really is a good book. Auster does a great job of weaving a story of one man's life and how his life becomes inter-connected to all those around him. At the heart of this novel though is the simple fact that it is a good story. Auster does a good job of weaving a story and keeping the reader interested. At no point in time did I want to put the book down and forget about it. I was drawn in to the characters, the location, and the plot.

If you've read other Auster novels, then it is likely you have either read this one already or are about to read it. And if you're new to Aster's books then do yourself a favour and pick this one up.

Pig Island
Pig Island
by Mo Hayder
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.75
15 used & new from CDN$ 2.07

5.0 out of 5 stars A good little read, Oct. 21 2008
This review is from: Pig Island (Paperback)
I quite enjoyed this novel. Mo Hayder is one of the better writers out there who can write a suspense/horror type novel. She manages to build the right amount of suspense and build a plot that keeps readers turning page after page after page. She did this with The Devil of Nanking, and she did with Pig Island too.

The plot of the book focuses on an investigative reporter who is investigating a cult. And from there, Hayder builds her novel. I don't want to share too much about the story, for fear of ruining the plot. But I will say this. The novel is well written. The characters well researched. The plot believable. And finally, it is a good page turner.

If novels of suspense are what you're in to, give this one a read.

The God Delusion
The God Delusion
by Richard Dawkins
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.12
54 used & new from CDN$ 7.10

1 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too Educational For Me, Oct. 21 2008
This review is from: The God Delusion (Paperback)
Quite simply, this novel was way WAY too educational. Reading this book, I felt like I was reading a masters thesis. Make no doubt about it though, Dawkins has done his homework. The book is fantastically well researched. Loads of footnotes. Lots of references. And a well thought out thesis.

But dull. Reading this book at time was like pulling teeth. And I wish it wasn't. Dawkins presents a fantastic thesis, and sets about proving it. I just wish I would have been able to remember his arguments for use in my on daily life. However the dryness of his writing style makes it almost impossible.

Take this novel for what it is. A thesis passed off as a book.

The Silver Swan: A Novel
The Silver Swan: A Novel
by Benjamin Black
Edition: Hardcover
46 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1.0 out of 5 stars What a waste of time, Oct. 18 2008
I had high hopes for this novel. The central character is a fellow named Quirke and he is a pathologist working in Dublin. Having read other books where the central protagonist is a pathologist or medical investigator (Simon Beckett's novels come to mind) I was eagerly looking forward to reading Benjamin Black's novel.

Boy, was I ever in for disappointment.

The plot of this book could not move along slower. The fact that Quirke is a pathologist had no bearing on the story. Black didn't write a thing about the profession. In fact when I'd finished reading the novel, I was left with a sense of "so what?". I didn't learn anything new and I certainly wasn't enlightened or even entertained. All in all I kept wanting to put the book down and pick up something what I knew would hold my interest.

But I didn't. I kept hoping beyond hope that Black would draw upon some area hidden within the novel and my suffering would be rewarded. Alas, it was not meant to be. Instead the Black just goes on and on and on with all of this useless trivia that has nothing to do with the novel and does very little to advance the plot. Ugh. I certainly wish I could get the weeks back I spent reading this travesty. The characters are very one dimensional, despite Black's feverish attempt to make them seem not so.

For those who haven't guessed it yet, this is a mystery novel. Or at least it was supposed to be. However I had figured out the 'whodunit' of the novel a little less than halfway through. All I can about this book is skip it. You'll be glad that you did. And I can pretty much assure you this is my first and last novel by Benjamin Black.

The Billionaire's Vinegar: The Mystery of the World's Most Expensive Bottle of Wine
The Billionaire's Vinegar: The Mystery of the World's Most Expensive Bottle of Wine
by Benjamin Wallace
Edition: Hardcover
47 used & new from CDN$ 0.71

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book!, Oct. 2 2008
I have finished The Billionaire's Vinegar. This book was one of the best non-fiction books I've read in a long time. This book is about a bottle of wine bought by the Forbes family for the (then) record price of $156,000 at Auction. The bottle was believed to have been ordered by President Thomas Jefferson, and demand for it was what put the price over the top at auction. Benjamin Wallace (the author) does a great job of telling the story of wine, giving a history of how the centre of influence in the market shifted from Europe to the United States, while at the same time ensuring the reader became aware of the major players in the international wine market.

But the history of wine is not the focus of the book. Rather the focus of the story is how the vintage wine market, once thought to believed pure from fraud, suddenly became ripe for the picking. Wallace goes on to talk about how the believedfraudster, Hardy Rodenstock , managed to con an entire wine tasting public over the course of several years. Yet not only did the con take in the wine tasting public, but it also took in members of auction houses,magazine publishers, and others.

What I liked about this book was the way it was written. Easy to read, easy to understand. If you have an interest in wine, especially how wine is bought and sold at the international level, then this book is for you. If you have an interest in how large scale international cons take place (like the Hitler Diaries - which are often referenced in this book) then this book is for you. Heck if you just enjoy reading good books, then this book is for you.

As Arnold would say "Read it. Read it now!!!".

A Wild Sheep Chase: A Novel
A Wild Sheep Chase: A Novel
by Haruki Murakami
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.96
40 used & new from CDN$ 4.31

2.0 out of 5 stars This novel didn't speak to me, Sept. 21 2008
For the life of me I couldn't get in to this novel. I tried. I really really tried. I heard such good things about Murakami's novels that I was really looking forward to this one. But alas, it was not to be.

There was just too much going on in this novel and none of it seemed to tie together very well. The main protagonist in this story falls in love with a woman who has lovely ears. And the ears start to become the focal point of the man's life. Plus there is the side issue of a crime lord who involves himself in the man's life and the fallout that comes from this association as well.

I don't wish to say too much on the chance that I ruin the story for others. And based on the number of positive reviews here, it seems as though I'm in the minority when it comes to this novel. But what can I say? For me, this novel definitely didn't hold my interest. Best of luck!

The Brooklyn Follies: A Novel
The Brooklyn Follies: A Novel
by Paul Auster
Edition: Paperback
41 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Highly enjoyable, Sept. 21 2008
Well considering I'm a fan of Paul Auster's literature, it should come as no surprise that after finishing The Brooklyn Follies I can confidently say I enjoyed this book. And since I enjoyed it, I would naturally recommend this novel.

As a summary of what the book is about, Nathan Glass (the main protagonist in this story) returns to Brooklyn after a divorce. He and his now ex-wife have raised a family and, realizing they no longer love one another, have divorced one another. Nathan returns to his roots, Brooklyn, where he plans to live out his days in peace and quiet.

What Nathan doesn't realize is that his old way of life is about to catch with him. People from his past who frequented the Brooklyn scene have returned. And almost immediately after coming back to Brooklyn, Nathan finds himself caught up in the lives and event of his friends and family.

I like this story because it is just that - story. The people are believable and I could put myself in to Nathan's shoes and realistically believe this story took place. Regardless of the fact it is fiction, I think Auster does a fantastic job of making it believable fiction. And that, to my mind, is the mark of a great writer.

Although summer is over (at least in my part of the world anyway) this is a great summer read. Definitely a book to take with you to the beach. And if summer is over in your part of the world as well, then make sure you pick this book up anyway. You won'tregret it.

Caught Inside
Caught Inside
by Daniel Duane
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.27
51 used & new from CDN$ 1.63

3.0 out of 5 stars So - so on this one, Aug. 24 2008
This review is from: Caught Inside (Paperback)
I enjoyed reading about how Daniel Duane (the author) went out and met people. I enjoyed learning how he was able to gain the confidence of the locals and work his way in to their inner circle of secluded surf spots. This part of the story was well written and provided good insight in to the working of the surfer mindset.

Also, Daniel Duane did quit well at writing about the history of surfing. He was able to synthesize the parts of several surfing novels, and intertwine those bits and pieces in to his own story.

So why didn't I like this book then? Dry. The book was dry. There was very little to hold my attention and many times I found myself wanting to put down the book and not pick it up again. Duane does a fine job of writing about the thing he is passionate about - surfing - but a poor job of keeping the readers attention. Perhaps if there had been some more action in the story, more tales of how he almost died (like there was in the intro) then the story wouldn't have been as dull.

Should you read this book? Hard to say. If you've ever wondering what it would be like to quit your job and surf for a year, then sure. But if you are looking for a book about what it is like to surf, then I'd take a pass.

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