Tuesday, December 29, 2009


It has been quite some time since I have posted and I apologize. Life and work simply caught up with me. However, I am back.

Some books you simply must read in 2010:

Tomorrow by Philip Wylie (University of Nebraska Press): Wylie is considered one of the kings of science fiction and this book supports that. A story of a typical American Midwestern city during Christmas, the plot takes on a nightmarish one when Condition Red is sounded and hysteria rears its ugly head. A metaphor for the American obsession with technology and fear of terrorism, this book is a must read.

The Lie by Petra Hammesfahr (Bitter Lemon Press): Hammesfahr is considered the German Patricia Highsmith; her work is suspense at its best. Two women with remarkable physical similarities switch lives for what is supposed to be one weekend...their scheme soon turns into a deceitful game that neither can walk away from alive.

The Semantics of Murder by Aifric Campbell (Serpent's Tail): Based upon the true story of the 1971 murder of UCLA Professor Robert Montague, Campbell creates a remarkable read of literary fiction with a frightening theme.

Thursday Night Widows by Claudia Pinero (Bitter Lemon Press): A prize winner and soon to be film, this Argentinian novel uses three murders as the basis to tell a story about living beyond your means, living to impress and life without concern for others.

The Passport by Herta Muller: Muller, the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2009, tells an incredible story of Germans caught in Romania during the dictatorship of Ceausescu. This is the book that every human being must read this year.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Summer Must Reads

Summer Must Reads:

Check out some of the great books that you simply must read this summer!

Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz takes you inside the world of college admissions.

Follow Me by Joanna Scott tells the incredible and intriguing story of Sally Werner and her offspring.

Mating Rituals of the North American WASP by Lauren Lipton is a hysterical look at love between the mismatched.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Fifty is Not a Four Letter Word

It's nice to see that publishers actually acknowledge that some of us are over 40 and still read chick lit. Linda Kelsey has written the ultimate chick book for the over 45 crowd and has done so with the sardonic British twist. Hope Lyndhurst-Steele has everything - a great job, a loving family - that is until it all falls apart. She loses her job, her son is running after the local MILF and her husband can't seem to stand her. Determined to change her state, Hope runs away alone to Paris and begins to see herself in a new light.

Kelsey develops some truly great characters in this book; they are relateable and interesting. Not a typical chick lit book, this novel really delves into the female mid life crisis and shows how a real woman can come out on the other side.

Busy Woman Seeks Wife

Alex Hill is a successful London based executive who doesn't have time for anything; her life is a whirlwind of meetings and events. Everything changes when her formerly famous mother injures herself and must move in with Alex. After placing an ad in a local paper looking for a "wife" to take care of mom and the household, a ebullient and capable young woman appears. But is everything as it seems? The answer, in this humorous book by Annie Sanders, is no. Soon Alex realizes that someone else is behind the scenes and he is definitely not the typical "wife."

Sanders, author (Sanders is actually a writing team) of Goodbye, Jimmy Choo, delivers a funny and heartwarming book about the modern day woman and her needs, desires and dreams.
A very different type of book for well-known author Jane Hamilton, Laura Rider's Masterpiece is the story of a husband and wife who are at a crossroads both in their marriage and in their lives. Charlie and Laura Rider run a beautiful nursery and successful landscaping business together. While their business venture is blooming, their love life is not; they sleep in seperate beds and do not have any feelings of sexual intimacy. When a famed radio talk show host moves into town, Laura pushes Charlie into an email relationship as a means to end - Laura believes that the exchange will provide perfect fodder for the great romance novel she intends to write. However, it soon becomes clear that Charlie has fallen hard for our host and that Laura's novel will have a different ending.

Hamilton, best known for her The Book of Ruth, is making a strong statement about the nature of email, the anonymity of the Internet and the concept of what makes a writer.
Everyone in the world, it seems, is either prettier or thinner (or both) than Beauty Marie Zavala. And the only thing "B" resents more than her name is the way others judge her for the extra 40 pounds she can't lose. At least she has her career. Or did, until she overhears her boss criticizing her weight and devising a scheme to keep her from being promoted. Enter B's new tax accountant, a modern-day matchmaker determined to boost B's flagging self-esteem by introducing her to rich, successful men who will accept her for who she is. As B's confidence blossoms, so do her fantasies of revenge. But will B find true happiness or true disaster when she unwittingly falls for the one guy she shouldn't? (Description courtesy of Grand Central Publishing).

Ferraras' debut novel has a great moral at its core - we need to accept ourselves as we are. B is a young woman who has allowed her weight to become the focus of her life; although she is outwardly okay with her size, she allows others to shatter her self-worth. Her boss won't promote her due to her weight, she can't find love because of her weight, she is second fiddle to her best friend because of her weight. Once a Russian "madam" comes into the picture, B suddenly realizes that she is worth something , that she is a woman who can be loved and find love.

As I read the book, I was intrigued by the fact that the author was male. Was he writing from a male Latino perspective or from a purely metrosexual perspective (i.e. a male with a female side)? This is a book with a fantastical plot but an important statement.

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Cool DVD Site

Every now and then I come across a non-literature site that I simply must tell everyone about. The team at First Weekend Club DVD (http://www.firstweekendclub.ca/dvd-club/) helps to build audiences for Canadian films via grassroots initiatives including screenings, filmmaker focus Q&As and other programs. You can join at the site and be the first to receive notification when new Canadian films are released - you can even win tickets to great premieres and parties. All I can say is that Canadian films do rock!

Songs My Mother Never Taught Me  by Selcuk Altun (Telegram, April 2009): A wonderful book about two men whose lives are fated to cross in modern Turkey. 

Cham by Jonathan Trigell (Serpent's Tail, May 2009):  Winner of the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, Trigell tells the story of Itchy, a young man living in the mountains of Chamonix Mont Blanc. A lost soul, Itchy is thrust into the shadows of a serial rapist; he must pull from deep within to find redemption for his past and hope for his future.

Houston, We Have a Problema by Gwendolyn Zepeda (Grand Central Publishing, 2009): Jessica is a young woman who relies on her neighborhood psychic for answers to all of life's questions. However, what will happen when the psychic tells Jessica to expect a big change? Will Jessica be ready for a life-altering event? Zepeda writes with humor and honesty in this multi-cultural chick lit book.

The Pools

Serpent's Tail, 2008.

Another brilliant debut novel courtesy of the brilliant team at Serpent's Tail. It is England, mid 1980s and the body of a 15 year old boy is found by the pools. What is the cause of his death?

Through the eyes of narrators Howard (stepfather) and Joanna (a young teenager), a disturbing story is told; one that keeps the reader intrigued until the bitter end.  Roberts' characters are realistic, filled with bad behavior and questionable decision making; yet, this is what compels one to continue reading. Why? How? The sense of foreboding is overwhelming and yet, essential to the essence of the work.  I guarantee you will walk away from reading this work a changed person.

The Sound of Building Coffins

Toby Press, 2009

This powerful novel set in 1890s New Orleans is a complex debut novel from Louis Maistros. Maistros, owner of a voodoo botanica in New Orleans focuses on the nature of rebirth in a place that is filled with demons, both physical and literal. The city itself becomes the main character within the pages as we wander its streets, learn of its inhabitants and its history. Lyrical in its prose, the book deftly paints a world that is changing, a world where music fills the streets even as pain fills the doorways. A beautiful and compelling first novel.

Serpent's Tail, 2008

I LOVED THIS BOOK!!! Cathi Unsworth takes the reader through the dark alleyways of the world of punk music as she weaves the tale of journalist Eddie Bracknell who is writing the ultimate story of cult band Blood Truth. As Bracknell uncovers the sad truth behind the disappearance of lead singer, Vincent Smith, he discovers a world of loneliness, drugs, sex and music. 

While the story primarily focuses on the mystery surrounding the glorious Smith, it is also a tale of undying love; a love that can leave one in pain and misery, that can send one to a state of near insanity. Bracknell's life begins to parallel Smith's as he wanders back in time in an attempt to understand the real reason for the band's fall from fame. Unsworth vividly paints a picture of the U.K. at a time where music could bring youth to their knees, could make a strong moral and political statement (The Clash) and could create a bond between disaffected youth. This is a book that the reader will not want to put down; the characters are ones we care about, ones we want to follow and learn about. A true book about a movement and a group of people determined to change the world one song at a time.