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Content by Peggy Vincent
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Reviews Written by
Peggy Vincent "author and reader" (Oakland, CA)

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The Laments: A Novel
The Laments: A Novel
by George Hagen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 35.95
20 used & new from CDN$ 1.99

4.0 out of 5 stars High body count, July 18 2004
This review is from: The Laments: A Novel (Hardcover)
This is a novel that defies description. It falls somewhere between bizarre slapstick and sarcastic social commentary. The deal is that a couple from South Africa marry and have 3 children - well the first one really isn't theirs, because their real child was kidnapped at birth, then killed the same day in a car crash, so the doctor who inadvertently precipitated the kidnapping suggests that the bereaved couple just take home the baby of the couple killed in the car crash, no problem, no one will be any wiser, papers? who needs papers, everything will be fine, yada-yada.
Then they begin moving from one continent to another, always searching for the greener grass on the other side of some ocean, always slightly dissatisfied, always at odds with their surroundings. A large part of the story is told from the point of view of their eldest son, the one who was switched at birth. Not only does he feel at adds with whatever school/neighborhood/city/country/continent in which he finds himself, he also feels out of synch with his own family - as though he just doesn't belong.
Little does he know...
A little bizarre, a little unusual, a little indefinable, The Laments is a witty and sarcastic piece of writing that lampoons one society after another, from puffed up Rhodesia to suburban America. Really, really good.

The Last Run: A true story of rescue and redemption on the Alaska seas
The Last Run: A true story of rescue and redemption on the Alaska seas
by Todd Lewan
Edition: Hardcover
27 used & new from CDN$ 1.51

5.0 out of 5 stars High seas adventure, terror, wreck�Wow!, July 17 2004
Carrying on in the tradition of The Perfect Storm and Shadow Divers, author Todd Lewan recreates the true story of five fisherman who are at the end of a catch of a lifetime, the kind of catch that will set them up for a good while, when they realize their greed has contributed to their waiting too long to head for home. They are caught in a particularly nasty storm off the coast of Alaska - they bail, and their boat sinks, along with the fish they've caught. Those fish were part of the reason for their dilemma: the boat was too heavy, rode too low in the water, and wasn't as maneuverable as it would otherwise have been.
There's a dramatic Coast Guard mission of rescue (those guys are either truly crazy or lifetime adrenaline freaks), there's lots of past history involving women (Well, duh! What's a good yarn without a little sexual conflict?), alcohol, trouble with the law, some time in jail, and there's denouement and resolution, despair, growth, drama, tragedy...and change.
But best of all is the writing. I'm a writer myself, and when I read, I look for energetic dialogue that moves the story forward, fast pacing, evidence of good editing, the ability to tell a story without losing one's audience, and, in a book such as The Last Run, the earmarks of true creative nonfiction: telling a nonfiction story using the techniques of fiction to enhance the reading experience. Todd Lewan does it all.

Walking into the Night: A Novel
Walking into the Night: A Novel
by Olaf Olafsson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 33.00
24 used & new from CDN$ 0.63

5.0 out of 5 stars Not always easy, but always mesmerizing, July 9 2004
Christian Benediktson, the butler of William Randolph Hearst at his castle in San Simeon, is a man of mystery. He's quiet, unassuming, and intensely private, revealing himself to readers thru bits and pieces revealed in a series of letters to the wife he abandoned years ago. These letters accumulate in his desk drawer at the Hearst home. There are other chapters, some told in 1st person, some told in omniscient 3rd person, a few in the point of view of other characters, that round out the story of Christian's complicated past lives in Iceland and New York. It is frequently difficult for readers, at the beginning of some of these chapters to tell exactly who is speaking and what point in time is being related. While this is initially confusing, it adds, ultimately, to the mesmerizing, dream-like quality that allows readers to feel they are being carried along, floated along, on the sad, guilt-ridden narrative.
Very loosely based (via a series of journals and letters that came into the author's possession) on Hearst's real-life butler, the story is peopled with real people and narrates real events in their lives, all seen thru the remorseful eyes of the butler.
Excellent, excellent, excellent...

Party Nuts!: 50 Recipes for Spicy, Sweet, Savory, and Simply Sensational Nuts That Will Be the Hit of Any Gathering
Party Nuts!: 50 Recipes for Spicy, Sweet, Savory, and Simply Sensational Nuts That Will Be the Hit of Any Gathering
by Sally Sampson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 15.95
38 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Zowie!, July 9 2004
Here are 50 recipes for the nut lover, the party giver, the snacker, the innovator, the hostess, the midnight nibbler, the kitchen experimenter, the entertainer, the cook, the non-cook, the culinary name it. Sweet, spicy, savory, or just plain delicious, they're all here. With this book, plus the recipe for Bar Nuts from the Union Square cookbook, any nut lover will be set for life.
Plus: they're easy! What more could you want?

Cesar: Recipes from a Tapas Bar
Cesar: Recipes from a Tapas Bar
by Olivier Said
Edition: Hardcover
21 used & new from CDN$ 4.57

5.0 out of 5 stars Another offering from the home turf of Alice Waters, July 5 2004
No, Alice Waters of Chez Panisse didn't write this book, but it springs from the fountain that she set flowing more than 20 years ago and continues in the fine tradition of all the cookbooks that have emerged from her little neighborhood in North Berkeley. The authors were all formerly affiliated with Chez Panisse, and it shows.
César, a tapas bar/restaurant, was an instant success. The cookbook will be, too. The only downside for some readers will be that fully one half of the book is devoted to cocktail recipes; that same feature will be a huge upside for other readers. The second half of the book is recipes for the tapas, little Spanish dishes that are meant to be ordered with drinks and shared with friends. They're not hard - I've already met with high success with 3 of the recipes, esp the artichoke recipe!!! - but many require ingredients that aren't going to be easy for someone living in East Podunk, Nebraska, to find at her local A&P. However, you can get the stuff online at [...] - or, if you're lucky enough to live 3 minutes from Berkeley as I do, visit The Spanish Table on San Pablo Ave.
This is a cookbook for the experienced cook with a sophisticated palate who wants to treat her guests to a few things they've probably never tasted before.
For the right audience, highest recommendation.

A Son Called Gabriel
A Son Called Gabriel
by Damian Mcnicholl
Edition: Hardcover
27 used & new from CDN$ 0.03

4.0 out of 5 stars Another Irish coming-of-age story, July 5 2004
This review is from: A Son Called Gabriel (Hardcover)
Suddenly there are lots and lots of these Irish coming-of-age stories. I suppose it all began with Angela's Ashes. Some of them are mediocre, some are terrific. A Son Called Gabriel is one of the better-than-average ones, and it's author Damian McNicholl's first novel. Kudos.
Set in Northern Ireland between 1964-1978, it follows the struggles of Catholic Gabriel to overcome all the many barriers tossed in his path as he strived to fit into not only his conflicted community but also his family. At the core is Gabriel's awareness/fear of his homosexual tendencies and his efforts to hide/transform/deny the increasing proof to not only himself but to the world at large.
Definitely worth a read.

Cold Mountain (Collector's Edition) (Sous-titres français) [Import]
Cold Mountain (Collector's Edition) (Sous-titres français) [Import]
DVD ~ Jude Law
Offered by gamerudy
Price: CDN$ 11.45
43 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Heartbreaking Civil War love story, July 4 2004
Inman's odyssey, his epic journey to return to his love waiting for him on Cold Mountain, forms the backbone of this story. Inman, played by Jude Law with admirable silence and restraint, is on a trek of the highest magnitude, walking across mountain after mountain, hiding from and sometimes fighting off the murderous Home Guard, and hiding from and sometimes fighting off equally miserable Union soldiers.
Ada (Nicole Kidman), Inman's love, is the daughter of a Charleston preacher who moved to Cold Mt "for his health and on his doctor's advice," right before the war began. He dies, leaving Adam raised to be a lady with no practical skills whatsoever, to fend for herself as the South loses and loses and loses. The farm is on the brink of being reclaimed by the surrounding woods when onto the property walks Ruby, Renée Zellweger. She lacks all the social graces that Ada possesses, but she's got what, today, we'd call "street cred": the girl knows how to slaughter a chicken, build a fence, till a field, whatever.
The movie flips back and forth between Inman's Odyssean journey (during which he meets every kind of person, place, animal, and thing) toward home and Ada and Ruby's attempts to try to insure that there's such a thing as home for him to return to.
It's the stuff of a good old-fashioned romantic epic.

You Remind Me of Me
You Remind Me of Me
by Dan Chaon
Edition: Hardcover
27 used & new from CDN$ 1.62

5.0 out of 5 stars A search for redemption, July 4 2004
This review is from: You Remind Me of Me (Hardcover)
Chaon's been awarded acclaim and praise for his short story collections, but this, his first novel, will push him into an even higher realm. With gorgeous language, soaring metaphors, and utterly engaging characters (primarily a missing child, a pregnant teenager, and a disillusioned drug dealer), he weaves a rich and varied tapestry of memories, pain, and a search for redemption in a small Midwestern town. There are ghosts of haunted pasts that bring the characters, maimed both physically and spiritually, to the brink of irredeemable tragedy as their paths converge.
Constructed in the newly popular but not always successful technique of fragmentary flashbacks into times of an indeterminate past, You Remind Me of Me is sometimes confusing, always engaging, and forever memorable.
Highest praise.

Shadow Divers: The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of World War II
Shadow Divers: The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of World War II
by Robert Kurson
Edition: Hardcover
60 used & new from CDN$ 0.74

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hitler�s missing submarine, July 3 2004
If you like books such as The Perfect Storm or Into Thin Air, you'll enjoy Shadow Divers. It's the true adventure story of 2 American divers who discovered Hitler's missing-and-presumed-dead submarine off the coast of New Jersey.
It was long believed that this missing German sub, number U-869, had been sunk somewhere off Gibraltar. Then two death-defying wreck divers from the US began delving into this boat found off NJ in 1991 and discovered the German U-boat had actually been sunk by its own torpedo, killing all on board. But that wasn't the end of the killing. During the discovery/exploration phase of this expedition, 3 wreck divers died, mostly from the complications of SCUBA diving in 230 feet of cold water.
But the physical aspects are only part of the tale. There are also the relationships and psychological games that are played out among weekend warriors wearing wet suits.
Mystery, action, danger, history, drama, fame: who could ask for more from a true adventure book?

Crossing California
Crossing California
by Adam Langer
Edition: Hardcover
31 used & new from CDN$ 0.82

5.0 out of 5 stars Not California, but Chicago, July 3 2004
This review is from: Crossing California (Hardcover)
I'll wager many will buy this book thinking it's going to be about California. Not. It's set in Chicago. But I'll also wager that they won't regret their purchase. Adam Langer's book is epic in its sprawl and its sometimes insane attention to detail and the minutiae of his characters' lives, but it spans a period of only 2-3 years (1979 - 1981). Focusing primarily on the members of 3 families who live on one side or another of California Ave, the street that divides a Jewish neighborhood into those of the upper middle class from those of the mostly working class, the book allows us to see all aspects of that important time in America's 20th century through the eyes of a group of teenagers who come together, drift apart, and come together again in a different mix.
Really, really, really, really good.

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