Monthly Archives: January 2017

‘Truly Madly Guilty’ by Liane Moriarty

truly-madly-guiltystarstarstarAustralian author Liane Moriarty really knows how to weave a page-turning domestic thriller! The small cast of characters in this one are well described and sufficiently troubled to cast doubt on several people at once–as one reviewer aptly remarked, “she gives her characters enough baggage for a world tour.” If this is not your first Moriarty, you will recognize some of the things she writes about best: fraught friendships, troubled marriages, and checkered pasts. The ending was a bit too neatly tied up, but I thoroughly enjoyed the ride once again.

“Six responsible adults. Three cute kids. One small dog. It’s just a normal weekend. What could possibly go wrong?” In Truly Madly Guilty there is an incident at a backyard barbecue that has had devastating consequences, only you don’t know what that terrible thing is until quite far into the book. After the ‘reveal’ however, it’s not over yet. Other twists and turns continue so that like peeling an onion, more layers slowly come to light. I’ve almost read all of her books now,  The Husband’s Secret is still my favourite.

‘A Place at the Table’ by Susan Rebecca White

a-place-at-the-tablestarstarstarstar“When you embrace the thing that makes you different, you become whole.”

What a beautifully written, compassionate and compelling story. This book has a ‘real’ feel to it–happy endings are overrated. Life is messy and miraculous at the same time. The author has a way of crafting sentences that capture a great perspective on faith, family, and finding yourself. I will definitely look for more books by this author.

A Place at the Table tells the story of three unforgettable characters whose paths converge in a storied Manhattan café. Bobby, a young gay man from Georgia who has been ostracized by his family; Amelia, a wealthy Connecticut woman whose life is upended when a family secret comes to light; and Alice, an African-American chef from North Carolina whose heritage is the basis of a renowned cookbook but whose past is a mystery to those who know her.”

I loved how the pieces of this novel come together. Each piece is significant in its own right, but together they make a whole. The characters are all exiles, finding their way from very different corners towards communion with each other and fulfillment in themselves. Food plays a central role in the novel and in case your mouth is watering from frequent references to a scrumptious pound cake, there is a recipe provided at the end of the book!

‘Still Life’ by Louise Penny

still-lifestarstarstarFinally getting around to this popular Canadian series that has worldwide recognition. What a great introduction to Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and the residents of Three Pines. Watching him enter the small town and sift through the dark secrets and murder clues, was just the thing for these cold January evenings. Crime fiction often comes in series, and getting to know the detective who solves the mysteries is a big part of the attraction. There’s always lots of details floating about with the reader unsure about which facts and theories are important and which are not, but in the end it doesn’t really matter, because you can depend on the trusty Inspector to sort it all out in the end. There’s a grand comfort in that.

Louise Penny offers a nice balance of action and reflection, making this feel ‘more than’ the usual whodunit. Her work has been paralleled with British whodunits which tend to have (according to wiki) “murders by unconventional means, bucolic villages, large casts of suspects, red herrings, and a dramatic disclosure of the murderer in the last few pages of the book.” Loved the Canadian setting outside of Montreal (just like Kathy Reichs’ Bones series; if you liked that, you’ll love this) and looking forward to more from this author–since I bought the three book starter set at Costco, the next two instalments are likely imminent! Judging by the reviews, future instalments keep getting better and better. And after all, it’s still going to be cold and dark for awhile yet…

There is a movie based on Still Life. It’s available on youtube.

 

‘French Rhapsody’ by Antoine Laurain

french-rhapsodystarstarAfter thoroughly enjoying The President’s Hat and The Red Notebook by this author, I was so looking forward to his next one, but unfortunately it is completely different and quite disappointing.

The premise is great: Alain Massoulier receives a letter that was lost in the postal system for decades. It contains an offer from a recording company–thirty-three years too late. The letter is a catalyst for him to get in touch with The Holograms, his former band members, but this results in a boring description of a number of different characters, almost like separate vignettes, and the thread of the story gets lost. This third book was not nearly as enjoyable and entertaining as the other two.

‘Christmas Under the Stars’ by Karen Swan

christmas-under-the-starsstarstarI was disappointed with this book although it was a convenient mindless read during the holiday season. According to the reviews in Globe and Mail and Toronto Star, what I thought was going to be a delicious Canadian Christmas romance with plenty of twists and turns, turned out to be flat and predictable and very little about Christmas after all. Though the setting of Banff was charming as the place itself, the novel was slow and depressing and way too long.

British author Karen Swan has written many Christmas themed books as well as summer ones. This one was a shout out to a country that she loves and wanted to thank her readers in. It’s about a tragic event in the Canadian Rockies during a blinding snowstorm that connects Meg, who is desperately trying to radio for help, with an astronaut who from his perspective in space, can see what she cannot. Relationships and secrets are not what they seem and there is only one person who understands what it is to be truly alone.

Bookshelf Detective

p1090807Happy New Year!

Thanks for another year of reading and discussions about books. It’s been grand! And I have no doubt there will be plenty of reading in 2017 once again, judging by my very long TBR pile and multiple lists. I’m sure it’s the same for you. Every New Year I look at my bookshelf and make a resolution to read all the books that I own that I haven’t even read yet…maybe this year I’ll succeed! I can always hope, although placing holds at the library is so irresistible. It did get me thinking about bookshelves…

read-your-book-caseOne of my favourite things is being a bookshelf detective, especially when I’m in a stranger’s home and have no other clues to go by, making deductions based on the collections of books that I see… Is there more commercial than literary fiction? More fiction than non-fiction? Are there bestsellers or more obscure titles? Does the space look dusty and musty or has it been recently cleaned and culled to create space for newer titles? Are there some obvious ‘his’ and ‘hers’ choices? Any children’s books? Are there clues to a vocation or an ancestry, or hobbies, or travel destinations? If someone examined my own bookshelves, what would they conclude about me?

bookshelfOur house has several libraries of books with different foci: children’s books in the guest room, professional books in the office, a sewing library in my quilting room, and of course a collection of cookbooks in the kitchen. There’s mostly fiction on a built-in staircase shelf which houses dog-eared favourites as well as new books I’m longing to get to. Since we’ve moved many times, the books we have are the survivors. Many of the fiction books we’ve read have been passed on and the non-fiction keepers are kept more for perspective than information. The absence of a set of encyclopedias is notable in this computer age.

Our living room bookshelf pictured above, has the most variety and says the most about us as a family. There are books on countries and cultures where we have lived or travelled to, hobbies like motorcycling and hiking, humour, self-help, faith, biography, and family photo albums. As far as fiction goes, there’s plenty of volumes that I haven’t read yet because the TBR pile beside my bed was getting tall enough to be lethal! And last but certainly not least, the most needed book companion item perched on the wooden nose—the now necessary pair of reading glasses!