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Showing posts from 2018

Vi a novel by Kim Thúy

Referred to as one of the most interesting new voices in Canadian literature by CBC Books, Kim Thúy really needs no introduction to avid followers of CanLit. Book bloggers have release dates blocked out in their calendar when there's a new book announcement. 

Her previous two novels were huge successes. Ru was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Mãn was a poetic masterpiece reviewed on SukasaReads. 

In Mãn, Kim Thùy creates a poetic masterpiece. Words and sentences caress the page as does paint a canvas; such is the dedication to the craft by an artist. ~ Shilpa Raikar Kim Thúy brings that same love of the craft to Vi. Every sentence has a purpose. Every book has a message. Kim Thúy moves you with her powerful words that have been precisely translated by Sheila Fischman. 

The novel speaks to the struggles of the Vietnamese refugees as they try to not only adapt into the new world they are immersed in, but also to reinvent themselves in their new surroundings. It's a stru…

Vacation by Blexbolex

A picture says a thousand words. But what does a book full of pictures say? 

Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh

Beachy Hill. A beautiful, yet haunting locale, that would be the centre of a murder investigation. It's the place where copycat suicides occurred, almost a year apart. A husband, and a wife. But were they really suicides? Or murders? 

That is what Detective Murray is investigating. The couple's daughter, Anna Johnson, has pleaded with him to reopen the case. It's a tall order, especially since it seems like an open-and-shut case of suicide. Other detectives would scoff at this, but Murray has always subscribed to a different set of rules. His motivation was people, not crimes. Victims, witnesses, and even offenders fascinated him. He was compelled to investigate the mysteries of their lives. 

Anna Johnson, is feeling extremely vulnerable. In a year, she has lost both her parents and had a baby. Anonymous notes and threats force her into a state of confusion. She's had a hard time accepting that her parents committed suicide. Her dad who had no previous history of mental …

The Steves by Morag Hood

Competition can be healthy (and fun). And, when it's two puffins competing, the entertainment level is off the charts. Especially when Morag Hood does the writing.

She's the creative genius who wrote about an unlikely friendship between vegetables - Colin and Lee, Carrot and Pea

There's a playfulness to her writing and the illustrations are adorable. She knows just how to appeal to kids (and adults alike).

In her new book, The Steves, she once again brings the same level of humour and engagement. Two puffins, both called Steve, compete to be "Number One". 

When Steve first meets Steve, he's flabbergasted. How can there be two Steves? One must surely be the first Steve, they reckon, or perhaps the best Steve. Or perhaps the fastest, or the strongest. Or, the wiser, or the taller. 

What ensues is a competition. Which Steve can catch the most fish? Which one is the strongest?

Not long after the competition takes a dark turn. They start insulting one another. Steve s…

How Money Works - THE FACTS visually explained

I have to admit to an eccentricity; I'm one of those people fascinated by how things work in reality rather than how they work in theory, and at the top of my list of fascinations is money. 
It isn't enough for me to have studied about the financial system in graduate business school, or read papers in journals related to financial markets -- because, by and large many of the abstractions in these papers and texts are wrong. 

But I'm a geek in this regard; I'll happily pore over text like Godley and Lavoie's Monetary Economics, or Stigum's Money Markets, but what about the rest of the population that isn't (thankfully) as eccentric like yours truly, but just wants to be better informed? This is where DK's How Money Works comes in. 

DK takes a page out of Simon Mitton's advice to the late, great Stephen Hawking, prior to his preparation of A Brief History of Time, by eschewing equations in the exposition of some complicated material, In Hawking's ca…

Hey! says Manfried.

In fact, those are the only words that Manfried The Man utters in this brilliantly bizarre graphic novel, that flips the familiar cat/human dynamic on its head. So, Manfried is really a man, but plays the role of the cat (as you would see in a real life situation). The role reversal concept makes the graphic novel hilarious.

Steve Catson is an introverted humanoid tomcat, at a dead-end job, whose only companion is his pet, Manfried, a stray man who just eats and sleeps all day long. 

He lives a life dominated by routines and constants. Feeding Manfried. Work. Boredom. Home. Feeding Manfried. Repeat.

His workdays are consumed with mundane tasks of answering calls at an IT call centre. His boss hates him. His coworkers feel sorry for him and make fun of him. Bored, he plays pranks on his coworkers and draws cartoons.With no friends, and no life, no girlfriend, all Steve Catson looks forward to is going home to spend time with his man Manfried. 

The character adheres to every stereotype of a…

Dreampad - Techno Dreams or Nightmares?

Jeff Latosik's collection of poems is inventive and unexpectedly relatable. It's life as we know it, but with a twist. 

How do we consume information? What impact does technology have on our existence? Who is responsible for creating this byzantine labyrinth of infrastructure and software that keep us interconnected -- to the point of addiction for many. Where will this end? Will it be technological super intelligence as envisioned by von Neumann, Vinge, and Kurzweil or something more sinister (à la Terminator's Skynet)? 

The recent popularity of voice assistants in our homes has been adopted nation-wide with alarming ignorance. In Jeff Latosik's poem THERE IS A DELIVERY SPECIALIST he alludes to the fact of innocence being lost. We can't just chill and just listen to music like we used to. Our music is now spying on us. Conveniences he feels are being "gushed in until they were unintelligible". 

It used to be we could go a generation 
and still know where you…

It's complicated...especially when meddlesome family members are involved

An Unsuitable Match - By Joanna Trollope 

Critics have said, "No one writes about family tensions better than Joanna Trollope". 

Everyone loves a great story about second chances. So why wouldn't you cheer for a heroine who's found love again? Well perhaps because you are swayed by opinions and interference from those characters closest to her, whom you figure obviously also care about her well-being. 

We all have meddling family members, but there are extraneous circumstances in Rose Woodrowe's relationship with Tyler Masson that lay the foundation for additional drama in her life.

Tyler's just the kind of sensitive man that Rose felt she should have met forty-seven years earlier; before her disastrous marriage to her first husband. Now with five grown-up children between them, Rose and Tyler must fend off the criticisms, or figure out how to keep the peace between their families. 

With the love birds being in their sixties, this is a more mature themed novel tha…

Canadian Politics in a Thriller

The God Game - By Jeffrey Round

Politics. Drugs. Gambling. These themes interweave in The God Game by Jeffrey Round to spell out a story that is well played out in and around the Toronto setting. And when you infuse an extra element of murder into the mix, the intelligent mystery novel takes on an intriguing tale that is totally unputdownable. 

The Background: 
The husband of a Queen's Park aide runs off to escape his gambling debts and Dan Sharp (PI) is hired to track him down. The city's political landscape verges on the bizarre -- a crack-using mayor (sounds scarily familiar?) and a major scandal looming -- Dan finds himself pitted against a mysterious figure known for making or breaking the reputations of upcoming politicians. Then a body turns up on Dan's doorstep, and he realizes that he's being punished for sticking his nose into dirty politics. Can he clear his name and the mystery? 

A great read for the reader looking for a sharp-witted mystery rift with political…

Coding is hard? Scratch That!

Look around you and you'll see that the world is evolving at an alarmingly fast rate. From Google Mini and Alexa, now in at least half of the homes around the country, and a generation of robots heading our way very soon, the future could be very exciting.

What's at the crux of this evolution, is technology. From an AI-inspired chatbox that pops up every time we go online shopping, to interactive animation, games, stories and even art. 

On a recent episode on TVO's The Agenda they discussed Automation, Artificial Intelligence and the Arts. Automation, it is clear, doesn't just affect the manufacturing industry. Technology is also revolutionizing the world of art, literature, music, and improv. The show goes on to discuss whether AI could ever displace creative minds. You can watch the entire episode here. 

The fact is coding is a big component to the future of technology. Kids are learning this at a very early age, and it is predicted that kids who know code are far ahead…

Play with Art

I can't think of a better way to spend a weekend than by immersing myself into a creative activity. Especially since winter is not my thing. So delving into the world of colour, paint and exploration, is a productive way to spend some time indoors. 

I have to say when I came across DK Canada's book PLAY WITH ART, it took me down a nostalgic path...visions of me as a three-year-old block painting and using potatoes to create the most awesome shapes and colours, that would be hanging on the fridge art gallery wall after. When did we begin to lose that sense of fun and discovery with the simplest of objects around the house?

Some ideas were familiar. I remember making pretty patterns with oranges and apples, and printing blocks made out of wood blocks. But adding a twist to these basic techniques, like using string on a wooden block, or using bubble wrap are new creative ideas that I hadn't considered. 

That's basically what this book is about. Ideas. Plenty of them. So that…

16 International women authors compete...sadly no Canadians

It's #InternationalWomensDay and what better time to reveal the 2018 #WomensPrize longlist. It constitutes some of the best of the best writers on the planet. From Arundhati Roy to Jessie Greengrass, there's a lot of food for thought amongst the books who made it. Congrats to the authors. 

The winner will be announced on June 6, 2018. Here is the complete 2018 longlist: H(A)PPY by Nicola Barker The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati RoyThe Idiot by Elif BatumanThree Things About Elsie by Joanna CannonMiss Burma by Charmaine CraigManhattan Beach by Jennifer EganThe Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes GowarSight by Jessie GreengrassEleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail HoneymanWhen I Hit You by Meena KandasamyElmetby Fiona MozleySee What I Have Done by Sarah SchmidtA Boy in Winter by Rachel SeiffertHome Fire by Kamila ShamsieThe Trick to Time by Kit de WaalSing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

The woman in the window by A. J. Finn

When Stephen King, the king of thriller novels, calls A. J. Finn's debut novel, "One of those rare books that really is unputdownable...delightful and chilling." just may want to pay attention. 

Undeniably one of the most thrilling rides that I have gone on this year, The Woman In The Window, is wrought with the right balance of suspense and believability. 

Anna Fox is an agoraphobic, arecluse trapped within the confines of her home. She hasn't ventured outside her home in months, and her only lens to the outside world is through her window. 

She spends her days gazing across the street at her neighbours, wondering who they are and meticulously putting together the pieces of the puzzle that seem to make up their lives. 

The Russells have just moved into the house across the street. To Anna, they seem like the perfect family, one similar to the kind she used to have...a nuclear family with a father, a mother and a teenage son. The new neighbours spark feelings of no…

The Boat People by Sharon Bala

We may have all come on different ships, but we're in the same boat now. ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
The refugee crisis is an ongoing challenge. There are two sides to the equation. One perspective is from the refugees' viewpoint. A lot of refugees coming into Canada are innocent people, fleeing persecution from their war torn homelands. But there also may be some bad apples in the crowd, masking their true identity to seek refuge in a country that has been known to be "too soft" on refugees. How do you differentiate between the two types of claimants? 

Based on real events, The Boat People focuses a lens on an illegal refugee journey into Canada. It was 2010, when a boatload of Sri Lankan refugees arrived on the shores of Canada, and were received with a icy cold reception from the Harper Conservative Government. 

On the boat is Mahindan and his six-year-old son. They have endured brutal hardship on the boat, but hope for a better future have kept their spirits up. 

They n…

The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances

She loves your son, she wants your life.It's a classic case of girl meets boy; boy then falls in love with girl; and as a result, mother of boy wants to meet this mysterious girl that her son is so smitten with (within such a short amount of time). They say curiosity killed the cat. In this game of cat and mouse, you wonder if that's going to be an eventuality for one of the characters.

Laura's life looks perfect on paper. A long marriage to a rich husband, a handsome son Daniel who's in medical school, and a successful career. 

But the cracks begin to surface in this picture perfect setting as soon as Cherry (Daniel's girlfriend) comes into her life and starts to create a wedge between her and her son. The book begins with a love story of sorts. Daniel has just met Cherry, but within a week, she's become a fixture in his life. It's not hard for figure out that Laura is quickly starting to lose her son to Cherry, and her place in the hierarchy is threatened.