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Len (Slave Lake, Alberta, Canada)
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The Orenda
The Orenda
Offered by Penguin Group Canada
Price: CDN$ 14.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Historical insight, adventure, romance, and heartache all between one set of covers, March 25 2014
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This review is from: The Orenda (Kindle Edition)
It’s sixteenth, early seventeenth century. Colonization has begun in New France and Samuel de Champlain has made a treaty with the Huron. He will support them against their archenemies, the Iroquois or Haudenosaunee if they will in turn support his side against the English. The tragedy of the alliance was that the English would supply their allies with guns while French would not do the same. The novel is told as a first person narrative by three different characters: Bird, a Huron leader, who’s lost his wife and daughter to the hated Haudenosaunee; Snow Falls, an Iroquois girl he captures and then adopts to replace his lost daughter; and Christopher, a Jesuit priest Bird has agreed to have live in his village in return for a favoured trading status with the French. Snow Fall is the daughter of a husband and wife Bird has killed in front of her and at first, her hatred for him seems so intense that it will last the full 448 pages. However, Bird’s unconditional love for his new daughter eventually wins her over. The priest's naive approach maintained through the entire length of the novel was not entirely believable to me and might have been intolerable if not for the strength of Mr. Boyden's writing. The Huron people have little use for his teachings because, unlike Jesus of Nazareth, they have no institutions to fight or foreign rulers to obey (except of course for the French government that has brought these Jesuit priests to the New World.) Their lives are more accurately reflected in the Orenda or spirits that surround them in the Canadian wilderness.
Through these narrators, we are provided with uniquely different perspectives of life at the time. Bird’s concerns are with the survival of the tribe against the ravages of disease introduced by the French and attacks from the Iroquois. Snow Fall matures in a changing world, much like our own, caught between the demands of her aboriginal life and a curiosity for what the Jesuits bring. Christopher, Crow as he is known by Snow Fall and Bird, provides perspective on the ignorance of those who first came to this country intent on changing those whose lifestyles are more ideally adapter to their environment. Impending tragedy looms over the novel with such intensity that upon my first attempt, I quit about a third of the way into the novel. Fortunately, I returned to the narrative a few weeks later and was rewarded handsomely for the effort. "The Orenda" provides historical insight, adventure, romance, and heartache all between one set of covers.

Shovel Ready: A Spademan Novel
Shovel Ready: A Spademan Novel
Offered by Random House Canada, Incorp.
Price: CDN$ 10.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bleak, convaluted and just a little bit dumb, March 20 2014
Manhattan in the near future has emptied after a dirty bomb detonated in the subway. The wealthy have retreated to the burrows. Spademan, our hero, was a garbage man who quit his job after his wife was killed by that same bomb. Through a series of coincidences, he becomes a contract killer and then gets hired by T.K. Harrow, a wealthy preacher to assassinate his daughter Persephone. New technology has allowed the wealthy to wire their brains to a virtual reality where they live their dreams without the barriers and consequences of real life. Harrow offers this heaven on earth for his less wealthy congregation with the promise of a period of time spent evangelizing for future church members.. Unfortunately, for Harrow, Spademan has certain rules that don’t include killing a pregnant woman, which his Persephone happens to be. And so, our story begins. Harrow is a powerful foe that Spademan must disappoint and then defeat. It’s very bleak, complicated and just a little bit dumb.

Half of a Yellow Sun
Half of a Yellow Sun
Offered by Random House Canada, Incorp.
Price: CDN$ 13.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A riveting tale of love, politics, war and depravity, March 17 2014
Ms. Chimamanda tells her story using three different narrators, Ugwa, a houseboy who moves from a tiny village to work for Odenigbo, a professor at a university in the Nigerian town of Nsukka. Odenigbo treats Ugwa as more than a houseboy teaching him English and sending him to school so that he can become educated and perhaps, not always a houseboy. Olanna, Odenigbo’s romantic interest is the second narrator and daughter of a wealthy chief from the capital of Lagos. The final narrator is Richard Churchill, a Brit, who’s arrived in Nigeria to pursue his writing and follow an interest in Igbo artifacts that date back hundreds of years. Coincidentally, he falls in love with Olanna’s twin sister Kanene. It’s the early sixties and intellectuals such as Odenigbo are planning the separation of Bithe southern portion of Nigeria into the new nation of Biafra with a planned flag that features half of a yellow sun. Biafra would be home to the Igbo who mainly follow Christian and animistic faiths. In the north, live the Moslem Hausa and Falani peoples. An amicable separation might have been possible if the future location of Biafra did not possess most of the oil reserves in the country. After Biafra declares independence in 1966, as many as 30,000 Igbo people caught in the mainly Hausa populated north were slaughtered before they could reach the safety of their new country. War broke out and the Biafran people were cut off from supplies of food and medicine. The hardships of war and starvation are well documented by Ms. Chimamanda’s and provide my first in depth understanding of what went on there at the time. With her three narrators she is able provide multiple perspectives of the war that provide a riveting tale of love, politics, war and depravity that will stay with me long after I finished the novel.

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
Offered by Random House Canada, Incorp.
Price: CDN$ 15.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Jesus as zealot devoid of magic and mystery and the possibility of a messiah., Feb. 28 2014
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Mr. Aslan is careful to separate Jesus Christ from Jesus of Nazareth. Very little historical evidence is available regarding the life of Jesus however, the author tries hard to extract a few. First, Jesus was born in Nazareth, one of at least four brothers who practiced their craft of carpentry in nearby Sepphoris, the seat of Herod and many other wealthy Jews of the time. Mr. Aslan argues that Jesus was a Zealot, that is, when he spoke of the “Kingdom of God,” he was not speaking of it in terms of the afterlife. He was talking about it as a possibility in his lifetime in the holy city of Jerusalem, once the Romans were removed. Jesus was one of a number of Jews calling themselves the Messiah. John the Baptist was another. According to Mr. Aslan, Jesus was actually a follower of John and not the other way round which became one problem for the writers of the Gospel. Another was Jesus’ death on the cross. This was a punishment reserved almost exclusively for the crime of sedition. According to Jewish tradition, this would have excluded Jesus from being the Messiah because he had not delivered the Kingdom of God. The answer for the Gospel writers was the resurrection and ever-lasting life in a Kingdom of God that would become reality after the death of mortal life. Plenty of historical evidence is provided for Mr. Aslan’s theories as well an historical context for what else was happening immediately before and after his life. Mr. Aslan lives up to his objective, delivering a history of the life of Jesus as zealot devoid of magic and mystery and the possibility of a messiah.

The Lowland
The Lowland
Offered by Random House Canada, Incorp.
Price: CDN$ 12.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars “Lowland” is beautifully written with little plot and central characters that plod inevitably to their sad, lonely end., Feb. 28 2014
This review is from: The Lowland (Kindle Edition)
Two brothers grow up in lowlands of Calcutta during the turmoil of the 1960s. As children, they sneak into a nearby golf course to steal golf balls lost in the bushes by the largely expat members. This is the beginning of a series of misadventures initiated by the younger Udayan. At university, they are exposed to radical Marxist ideas believed by many to be an answer to the poverty experienced by a majority of the Indian people. Udayan is swept up in the hope and romanticism of the movement while his older brother, Subhash, worries about completing his university studies and disappointing his parents. After completing his undergrad degree Subhash accepts a scholarship to attend on Rhode Island. In his absence, Udayan marries Guari, another university student, and they move into his parent's house. Udayan’s reckless behaviour and dedication to the cause eventually lead to his undoing and an end to the happiness of his now pregnant wife. Contrary to what I expected from the novel’s title, the majority of the story takes place in America, which was a disappointment to me. I know nothing about the Maoist movement in India and would have enjoyed learning more. “Lowland” is beautifully written with little plot and central characters that plod inevitably to their sad, lonely end.

The Internet is a Playground: Irreverent Correspondences of an Evil Online Genius
The Internet is a Playground: Irreverent Correspondences of an Evil Online Genius
Offered by Penguin Group USA
Price: CDN$ 13.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars After a particularly aggravating day at work, this book really helped put it in perspective., Feb. 18 2014
The book consists of posts published on Mr. Thorne's website, 27bslash6, he apartment number for George Orwell. His posts include the ideas and conjectures of fictional characters such as Josh, a young man who lives in New Zealand who informs us of his future plans to become king of that country and learn to drive the village car. His aunt who is also his second cousin pays him in shells to watch out for his Uncle Robert who’s also his nephew. Mr. Thorne's most funny bits involve him replying to emails sent by people asking for payment of services rendered, requests for a favour, or complaints about a posting on his blog. His website became viral when he posted a series of emails sent to the secretary of chiropractor offering a picture of a seven-legged spider instead of the 200 plus dollars owing. When his request is rejected, he insists that the picture be returned. If this sounds silly and a bit stupid, it is but isn’t that what makes people so endearing, their stupidity and silliness, myself included. Even though he makes fun of other people, he also makes fun of himself. After a particularly aggravating day at work, this book really helped put it in perspective.

Swag: A Novel
Swag: A Novel
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers CA
Price: CDN$ 11.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another story of the hapless thief., Feb. 10 2014
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This review is from: Swag: A Novel (Kindle Edition)
Swag follows the adventures of two armed robbers brought together when Stick, a talented car jacker attempts to rob the dealership at which Frank is employed. Frank reports the theft and so, Stick, otherwise known as Ernest is arrested. Frank realizes that he can use Stick’s skills at car jacking and so we have the partnership of Frank and Ernest. During the trial, Frank tells the court he can no longer identify the man who stole from the dealership and so Stick is freed. Following the trial, Frank takes Stick out for a drink when he shares his ten rules for success as a thief and the great opportunity available to those willing to take up the profession of armed robbery. They are highly successful and make a great team and so it seems they may live happily ever after. Then again, they are thieves caught in an American novel amongst other thieves with whom there is no honour.

Riding the Rap (Raylan Givens)
Riding the Rap (Raylan Givens)
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers CA
Price: CDN$ 11.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Raylan's cowboy ethics make him a favourite with the ladies and many a reader, Feb. 10 2014
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Raylan Givens returns to help out Harry Arno who's been kidnapped by three hapless criminals led by Chip, a skinny, sixty-something hippy living in the house of his hospitalized mother. As in other Leonard novels, there is no honour among thieves which eventually leads to their undoing. In the mean-time, Raylan Givens must unravel the mystery of Harry’s disappearance and location before he can be taken to environs unknown. Raylan uses his own methods of legal jurisprudence and enforcement not entirely in keeping with the marshal service that employs him. Nevertheless, his cowboy ethics make him a favourite with the ladies and many a reader.

The Siege: Three Days of Terror Inside the Taj
The Siege: Three Days of Terror Inside the Taj
Price: CDN$ 9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mostly exciting and interesting., Feb. 1 2014
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Most interesting was the background of the young men who were recruited to carry out the siege and the zealots doing the recruiting and planning. Having paid eight dollars for a coffee in the restaurant in the Taj, I have some idea of the exclusivity of its clientele however I knew little or nothing about those willing to give their lives for a cause they didn't altogether understand or believe in. It is nice to know about the innocents under siege in the hotel but not in the kind of detail provided and I can’t help but wonder about the poor Indians shot on the platform of the train station or the tourists murdered in the Leopold Café.

We Need New Names: A Novel (NoViolet Bulawayo)
We Need New Names: A Novel (NoViolet Bulawayo)
Offered by Hachette Book Group Digital, Inc.
Price: CDN$ 9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating look at life in Zimbabwe through the eyes of child., Feb. 1 2014
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The story starts in Zimbabwe with a group of children searching for guava fruit in an upscale subdivision known as Budapest. This is a bit confusing however the confusion is quickly overcome when they return to their village of shacks, dirt roads and inadequate footwear. Darling hangs out with Bastard, Godknows, Sbho and Stina. Besides stealing guavas, they play games like “Find bin Laden” and the “country game" which is explained in great detail. Written in the first person, Darling witnesses the bulldozing of her family’s once “normal” house, her father with Aids, and the uprising of blacks in the once white dominated country of Rhodesia. Then, she moves to Detroit, Michigan to join her aunt in America. Even though she appreciates the opportunities of the new country, she misses the sense of place and community she enjoyed in her old country. Few novels take place in Africa and so I appreciated the insight provided by this however lots of books have been written new immigrant experience in Canada and the U.S. so I was a bit disappointed when the setting moved to that location.

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