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The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared
by Jonas Jonasson
Edition: Paperback
Prix : CDN$ 12.73
44 used & new from CDN$ 0.59

4.0 étoiles sur 5 What delightful, light-hearted ROMP!, Jan. 31 2016
When I started reading, 'The Princess Bride' immediately came to mind. And then (as weird as it sounds), Dr. Seuss. I could go on, but I believe the headline says it all.

Life After Life
Life After Life
Offered by Random House Canada, Incorp.
Prix : CDN$ 12.99

1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Wow-ish., Jan. 24 2016
Ce commentaire est de: Life After Life (Kindle Edition)
This could have been an entirely self-indulgent show-off exercise by a writer of substantive abilities. As it turns out, it's not.

What it is, is a fascinating notion played out over decades with a pretty good gaggle of characters expressed quite ably in an entertaining fashion. However...

The premise could have been played-out much more effectively at 2/3 the length of the book. What gripped me were the brief 'What if?' portions that would invariably lead back to the fountainhead of it all. What didn't grip me were a) the lengthy Germany-based material, and b) the gradual petering-out of the 'time-lines' premise. I would have been far more entertained had the author stuck with the succession of what are essentially self-contained short stories.

All-in-all, 'Life After Life' is a fascinating novel, though not as compelling a one as I'd hoped it would be.

Lamb by Nadzam, Bonnie (2011) Paperback
Lamb by Nadzam, Bonnie (2011) Paperback
by Bonnie Nadzam
Edition: Paperback
2 used & new from CDN$ 26.97

3.0 étoiles sur 5 'Ew',' he said, staring at the book..., Dec 19 2015
Well, then. That was an experience. I was gobsmacked. I felt very uncomfortable. I was creeped-out. And more.

This story... I'm trying to figure out how this is going to look on the silver screen. (The movie was a 2015 SXSW fave.)

It's a weird book. Starring a very, VERY weird guy. The fact that he's this weird and obviously has been for a long time, and his girlfriend (?) hasn't seen it, or it hasn't registered with him, or his friend at work, or (maybe) his wife...even THAT'S weird. Even moreso the arrangements he makes regarding the girlfriend. The basic premise is an awfully shaky one, and this alone stopped me in my tracks. Constantly. And I don't feel that what was revealed about him -almost exclusively by way of dialogue- connected the dots plot-wise.

I guess for me, all things considered, him ending up having an even higher quotient of 'weird' than the premise just didn't pass muster.

Some other points:

-Some of his dialogue didn't fit; it was authentic to the narrator, but not to him. I think I was struck (in a bad sense) by this quite a bit.
-Fascinating how almost all characters have names that end in 'ie' or 'y'. Gary. Tommie. Linnie. Emily. Emory. I'd love to hear the author's reasoning behind it. (I'm guessing it was for the subliminal effect of applying a certain 'juvenile' layer to the tone of the story. Or one of innocence, maybe?)
-There's too little narrative/exposition for this to be a piece of 'literary fiction', and it's too much an exploration of a bent character's persona to be mass-market. I guess one of its merits, then, is that it's 'unique'.

Ultimately, 'Lamb' struck me as a shaggy-dog tale. Or, to paraphrase Gertrude Stein, "There's not enough 'there', there."

EMF French Press Tea/Coffee Maker with Stainless Steel Base,27-Ounce
EMF French Press Tea/Coffee Maker with Stainless Steel Base,27-Ounce
Prix : CDN$ 12.00

1.0 étoiles sur 5 As my late father would tell me..., Nov. 26 2015
Achat vérifié(Quest-ce que cest?)
...'Always buy as much quality as you can afford; you'll never regret it,' I should have waited until I could afford to purchase something of 'better quality' as this item. Regret, thy name is me.

Between You and Me: Confessions Of A Comma Queen
Between You and Me: Confessions Of A Comma Queen
by Mary Norris
Edition: Hardcover
Prix : CDN$ 18.77
42 used & new from CDN$ 12.23

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Naturally, the Queen is a snob..., Nov. 9 2015
It was a kick reading this memoir, catching a glimpse of a world we rarely see. However...

I did have to laugh at the instances of snobbishness. Front-and-center was the James Salter episode. Cutting to the chase, there were four instances where she questioned the writer's use of commas.

Mr. Salter's response to her included this: "Punctuation is for clarity and also emphasis, but I also feel that, if the writing warrants it, punctuation can contribute to the music and rhythm of the sentences. You don't get permission for this, of course: you take the liberty."

Her response? "When a writer who is not a poet invokes rhythm, copy editors often exchange looks..."

Mine? I did a wide-eyed spit-take and muttered "You cow!" Frankly, I was amazed that she took this tack. That she was either blind to the fact that writers at their best do exactly what Mr. Salter suggests.

Having said that, I enjoyed her bit about hyphens (I confess to being an ardent user), found it startling that she saw using a semi-colon to start a in 'Dear John;' be wholly wrong, and am in complete agreement with her take on apostrophes.

As a writer, I'm far less concerned about 'the Oxford comma' and all that, as I am about bad grammar and lazy word choices. (Or pronunciation: I roll my eyes at the American versions of 'foyer', 'niche' and 'Farve') Ms Norris seems to have different priorities. But I got a kick out of her book, nevertheless.

P.S. Because it's not a contraction, technically 'Ms' does not require a period. Or, as they say in Britain, a full-stop.

The Prize: A Novel
The Prize: A Novel
by Jill Bialosky
Edition: Hardcover
Prix : CDN$ 21.63
14 used & new from CDN$ 14.28

2.0 étoiles sur 5 Clearly, I'm out of step with every other reviewer..., Oct. 25 2015
Ce commentaire est de: The Prize: A Novel (Hardcover)
This is the second novel by Ms Bialosky I have not finished. (Or perhaps more accurately, 'I could not finish.') This time I got past the hundredth page, so I guess I'm improving.

There was nothing drawing me forward. I really didn't care about any of the characters. And the exposition is so flat, I felt like I was being regaled with an endless stream of facts. At some point, writers need to be reminded to 'Show, don't tell.' I think Ms Bialosky either didn't get the memo from her editor(s)...or they just didn't send her one.

Speaking of editing... I'm always a little suspicious (and my confidence in a writer plummets) when egregious errors crop up. Case in point: Edward's father died of suicide at the age of 42. And yet 'His mother put the house on the market and moved to New Horizons, a retirement community where Bev, her old friend from college, lived.' Huh? Say what?!? A woman just past the age of 40 moves to a retirement home?!?

I really, really wanted to love this novel. But I ended up not even liking it.

The Life Room
The Life Room
by Jill Bialosky
Edition: Paperback
Prix : CDN$ 17.95
34 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1.0 étoiles sur 5 Could not finish it., Oct. 8 2015
Ce commentaire est de: The Life Room (Paperback)
The number of novels I haven't finished reading over the years is something less than two hands' worth. For me to not want to spend the time getting to the end, there's got to be something really wrong with the story. Or the writing. Or both. In the case of 'The Life Room', I'd gotten about 75 pages in, and I was regularly shaking my head. Partly because I was getting tired of the back-story that seemed way too 'assignment-like'. And partly because of the unbelievable characterizations and worse, their dialogue. I'd get to a section where there were exchanges between 12 and 13 year olds, and I was laughing as I said out loud 'No kid that age speaks that way.' And because of these repeated instances, Ms Bialosky lost credibility, and therefore, lost me as a reader. This was all very disappointing, given that I'd recently read 'History of a Suicide' and enjoyed it quite a bit. I'm going to read 'The Prize', simply because I want to see if she's been able to tell a story that's worth spending the time reading, and that 'The Life Room' was an anomaly. Wish me luck.

Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America
Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America
by Linda Tirado
Edition: Hardcover
Prix : CDN$ 21.71
19 used & new from CDN$ 10.23

3.0 étoiles sur 5 Too long and too shiny, April 11 2015
This book was depressing. Yes, there's too much there (by about a third, maybe even a half), and it's repetitive at too many turns, but when she nails a truth, it hurts, it's so depressing.

I stared at pages, I shook my head at pages, I had to stop reading pages.

The book shines light on what it's like to be poor. What it's like to live in poverty. Why this leads to that, why it's a series of incidents that lead to crisis and not some single catastrophe. And why it's so hard to escape.

Her tales are not unique. But at times the power of their messages was like fists to the gut.

The book is too long at almost 200 pages. And the fact that it's been packaged as a hardcover with its heft and shiny packaging struck me as a little bit wrong. Were it an extensive memoire delving deep into her journey, it might have made sense to have it as long as it is. Greatly reduced in size and packaged as a sparse paperback would have been more appropriate.

Required reading for those who yammer on about a world they know little of, for those most critical of the poor.

Smoke River
Smoke River
by Krista Foss
Edition: Hardcover
Prix : CDN$ 29.95
8 used & new from CDN$ 4.60

4.0 étoiles sur 5 A kinder, gentler cousin to Paul Haggis's film 'Crash', April 5 2015
Ce commentaire est de: Smoke River (Hardcover)
Over the past six months or so, I've attended two author readings featuring Ms Foss. The first time, in Hamilton, what she read didn't pique my interest. So I didn't take the book out of the library, as I normally might. Last month, I saw her again in Grimsby. As I sat waiting for the event to begin, I flipped through a friend's copy of the book. I was a little startled; what I was reading (randomly) wasn't the stuff of the Hamilton reading. As a writer, I am constantly looking for the 'fix' that a wordsmith provides. The deft turn-of-phrase, the choice of this word over that, the assembly of thoughts that don't just inform, that evoke. Her reading was, I believe, the same one she'd done previously, with some variations. (My apologies for my unreliable memory.) But this time, listening to her did pique my interest. Not because of what she was sharing, but because the stark contrast with the lovely bits I'd found by way of my casual perusing.

I often make distinctions that others don't. Such as the difference between a 'singer' and a 'vocalist'. A 'guitarist' and a 'guitar player'. Ms Foss? Hmm... F. Scott Fitzgerald said 'You don't write because you want to say something. You write because you have something to say.' Ms Foss definitely has something to say, and she has a reverential way of saying it, so in my books, she's a 'writer', not merely 'someone who writes'. You can tell that she loves language, loves how language can make us feel, the joy to be found in using just the right word... Yeah. 'Joy'. Her writing is infused with 'joy'. You can tell that she cares deeply about phrasing, about word use, about avoiding the common without veering off into the precious. (I regret not having compiled a list of these, but they're there. And each one...including ones that had me going to my dictionary...made me smile.)

Having said this, I don't think that this novel showcases her as a 'storyteller'. Another distinction I draw is the difference between 'story' and 'situation'. I usually trot this out when examining films, but it holds here, as well. This is a fascinating situation that she presents. She delves into some pretty intriguing areas, and does so with honesty and alacrity. She's done her research. But I can't say that this is a 'great story'.

As well, she manages to hit some true notes when it comes to how she draws some of the characters. But their presentation does not match her wordsmithery. I don't mean to imply that they're superficial. Or stereotypes. Just that while some hint at being well drawn, none of them captivated me.

I suspect that her next offering will showcase better storytelling, and by extension, richer and more compelling characters.

I'll end off with a comment made by a friend who had taken me to the second author evening, one seconded by more than a few of her book club readers: there were too many characters. I was intrigued when she was telling me this. As a writer, you want the world you're creating to be a full one. And if it's best served by having 12 characters instead of 6, so be it. But the opinion was that there were too many, and that with so many, confusion often resulted. Well, as I've now read the novel, I can understand why they felt this way. But I don't believe that the confusion is the result of having too many characters. I believe it's the result of the two factors I've mentioned already: lack of a powerful story, and not-quite-there characterizations. All of the novels I hold near and dear to my heart that feature an abundance of characters work because the characters are fully developed, and the story grips you. Could she have excised some of the character profiles and their histories? Sure. But in taking these away, she would had to have made up for it with a meatier story and richer characters for it to have worked.

Looking forward to her next novel...and attending yet another reading.

Into the Blizzard: Walking the Fields of the Newfoundland Dead
Into the Blizzard: Walking the Fields of the Newfoundland Dead
by Michael Winter
Edition: Hardcover
Prix : CDN$ 32.95
19 used & new from CDN$ 8.57

1 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Astoundingly personal, wonderfully written., March 27 2015
I had a chance to see Michael at a reading earlier this winter as part of a fundraising series. (Normally I don't refer to the authors of books I review by their first name...but I do here, simply because it feels appropriate to.) I'd not heard of him previously. He was fantastic. Charmingly engaging. So much so that I'd have preferred to hearing him just talk, and have done without the actual reading.

'Into the Blizzard' is the sort of 'raconteuring', the kind of conversation best had in a booth at a diner over breakfast. With lots and lots of refills on your coffees. But it's not merely personal in the sense that we hear about his adventures re-tracing the steps of all of those Newfoundlanders a century ago. It's personal because of what he manages to weave of his own life into the tale. His plain observations. Seemingly unrelated factoids that, because of his friendly (and generous) narration, are brought together to ultimately infuse the book with real intimacy. This is not a scholarly tome. It does not rely hardly at all on numbers, or issue the standard reverent patriotic declarations. While this may render 'Into the Blizzard' too light a read for some, for me, its informal spareness was the perfect framing for the subject matter.

And of course having been affected so, I'm now off to consume Michael's fiction.

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