Monday, September 29, 2008

by the time you read this

by the time you read this by Giles Blunt

John Cardinal's wife has committed suicide after being hospitalized for manic depression a number of times. When Cardinal, a police detective, receives a cruel note regarding her death he is determined to find her killer. Everyone believes it is a suicide. She has even left a note in what is indisputably her handwriting. Cardinal must investigate her death on his own. Who out of his past could want this kind of revenge?

Delorme, his colleague, is totally engrossed in a sex crimes case which the Toronto police have figured out from internet pictures to be in the local area. Delorme thinks that Cardinal is 'denying' his wife's death. Is she right?

I love the Canadian background to the book. Blunt takes local places and twists them enough for a Canadian to recognize (Algonquin Bay - North Bay). A great book with enough twists and turns to keep the interest going

First Line: "Nothing bad could ever happen on Madonna Road."



Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Subtle Knife

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

This is the second book in His Dark Materials series. Lyra has found several new worlds and teams up with Will Parry. Lyra, at first finds herself in a world where adults are set upon by specters and rendered almost comatose. It is a haunting world in which the children are left to fend for themselves. She encounters Will who is in search of his father and has stumbled upon this world through a rift. He had had to leave his old world because he had murdered some men in search of his father's letters.

Lyra and Will go from world to world searching. Lyra is intrigued by Will's world and seeks some help from a physicist there. While there she incurs the interest of a evil man who steals her truth compass. In the meantime Will has found an even better tool in the form of a knife that will cut anything.

This second book is even better than the first. There is lots of adventure, witches, angels, sorcery and good and evil. I loved how Lyra and Will connected and their relationship. I feel that Pullman moderated the whininess of Lyra and made her more likable.

First Line: "Will tugged at his mother's hand and said, "Come on, come on ...""



Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

The final book of His Dark Materials trilogy certainly leaves nothing back. It certainly wraps up this epic trilogy quite well. This book sees Will and Lyra joining forces with the polar bears, small men and women called Gallivespians, angels, and people to fight against the Church. Except Will and Lyra don't take instruction well and go off on their own to fight their own battles, including going into the world of the dead.

Meanwhile, the doctor that Lyra and Will met also sets out in an attempt to help the children in this multi-world battle. She comes to a world of people that are 4 legged creates with a diamond-shaped body and trunks who communicate with movement and different sounds. Once Dr. Malone learns to communicate with these creatures, she finds that they are distressed by an essential tree not growing like it used to, 300 years ago. She creates an amber spyglass to see what is happening to dust and try to save this civilization.

While in most series, the first book is the best and the second and third books aren't as good, this isn't the case with this series. Each book is as strong as the previous and the story is kept moving along. You care about the characters and want to see good triumph over evil. Although, I was unsure how I felt about Mrs. Coulter by the end of the book.

I am very happy that this series made the BBC Top 100 list because I never would have read these books otherwise. They were fabulous! It was page turning, imaginative, and entertaining. Plus, they weren't predictable. I highly recommend these books!

First Line: "In a valley shaded with rhododendrons, close to the snow line, where a stream milky with meltwater splashed and where doves and linnets flew among the immense pines, lay a cave, half-hidden by the crag above and the stiff heavy leaves that clustered below."



Friday, September 19, 2008

Julie & Julia

Julie & Julia by Julie Powell

This book is more of a cooking blog than anything else. Julie decides to cook all the recipes in the book Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. Several of her endeavors are downright funny but most are just okay. Julie is slightly neurotic and episodes of making gelatins and not having them set are not worthy of fits. We have all had disasters in the kitchen. We just don't write about them.

I would find it odd that someone wants to cook every recipe in a book but I myself like to try 3-4 new recipes every week. I can not imagine the effort required to work a full day and then come home and cook a gourmet meal. Julie said they were eating late but ... Also if I ate like that I would be an elephant not just gain a few pounds.

First Line: "As far as I know, the only evidence supporting the theory that Julia Child first made Potage Parmentier during a bad bout of ennui is her own recipe for it."



Friday, September 12, 2008

The Golden Compass

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

Lyra is a 12 year old girl who has been raised at Jordan College in Oxford by scholars. She has been somewhat neglected and hence has become a 'wild' child. She plays with Roger, one of the kitchen maid's sons. When Lyra sneaks into the retiring room and catches sight of the Aurora Borealis and visions of an alternate world, she is excited beyond belief. Roger disappears one day and Lyra is terribly concerned.

Soon thereafter she is apprenticed to a Mrs. Coulter who is planning a trip to the Arctic. Before long however, Lyra finds out that Mrs. Coulter is really one of the people who are snatching children off the streets. The rumors of what are done with these children are horrendous. Lyra begins a real adventure and rescue.

Pullman has created a fantasy world that is wonderful. Each human has a daemon who is attached for life. Animals talk, witches fly and there are polar bear kings. All the stuff of a really good 'fairy' tale.

First Line: "Lyra and her daemon moved through the darkening hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen."



Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Magician's Assistant by Ann Patchett

The Magician's Assistant by Ann Patchett

Sabine is lost when her husband, Parsifal, passes away. She knew he wouldn't have much longer but with a sudden aneurysm, she's left in shock. She remains in her husbands large house and ponders over their unusual relationship. Sabine met Parsifal as a waitress when he was performing as a magician and asked her up on stage to help out. She fell in love with him, even though he was gay, and became the magician's assistant. Parsifal fell in love with Phan however, a Vietnamese man who moved in. When Phan passed away, Parsifal agreed to marry Sabine.

After Parsifal's passing, Sabine gets a call from the estate lawyer telling her that Parsifal is leaving money to his family. Except, Parsifal told Sabine that his family was dead and she doesn't even know they exist. This book follows Sabine's journey as she learns who Parsifal's family is and why he told her they were all dead. Slowly she learns more and more about her lost family-in-law, and why they were suddenly abandoned.

This book is well written, but is way too slow. The pace was only JUST enough to keep me reading it. Each time you learn something new you think the pace might pick up a bit, but it doesn't. Then there's the ending. The ending was unexpected, shocking, and yet still disappointing. I almost felt like it was a cop out and that Sabine was just throwing away Parsifal's memory to find a replacement.

First Line: "Parsifal is dead."



Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Almost Moon

The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold

This is a very troubling book. It all takes place in the span of 24 hours after Helen murders her mother. Helen's mother, Clair is mentally ill and very demanding on her daughter. She also suffers from agoraphobia, the fear of leaving your own home. When a neighbour calls Helen to tell her that her mother does not even recognize her, Helen goes over to find her mother sitting in her own waste. What is she to do? Well, her solution is murder.

Helen is far too controlled. The events that follow are really not believable. The book is written in the first person but it is too literary for that and the fact that Helen is trying to come to terms with what she has done. Sebold does develop the characters very well. The relationship between Helen and her parents and their relationship is very complex and the reader is pulled in. I have loved Sebold's previous two books but didn't like this one much.

First Line: "When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily."



Friday, September 05, 2008


Stiff by Mary Roach

This is a very different book. It deals with the subject of cadavers. What happens to you when you are dead? If you donate your body, what happens then? Anything having to deal with cadavers is talked about.

I was interested to see that the Body farm in Tennessee was discussed. I have read all of Bill Blass's books with interest and this just provided an added dimension.

Roach touches upon everything including cannibalism and differing methods of funeral arrangements. It is all done with a sense of humour. Without the humor it would have been as stale as days old bread. She asks the questions no one would have the nerve to ask. Also along the way she gets yourself into 'trouble' trying to follow up on some myths. Roach seems to take a verboten subject and make it interesting.

I lost interest towards the end. If the book had ended about 50 pages sooner or the chapter on a greener type of 'burial' were skipped, I would have been happier.

First Line: "The way I see it, being dead is not terribly far off from being on a cruise ship"



Monday, September 01, 2008

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials #2)

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

Before I even get to the review, let me tell you how much the cover of this book creeps me out. You a guy seemingly looking directly at you and then this creepy furry creature in the background looking like he's 1/2 way between being scared of you and wanting to eat you. Anyways....

This is the second book in the His Dark Materials trilogy. The last book left us with Lyra following her father into a new world. This book sees her meet Will, a boy without a daemon, who also has run from his world when strangers came looking for his dad who disappeared 12 years ago. Lyra and Will join forces to learn more about dust, find Will's dad, and stop Mrs. Coulter from her continuing campaign of power. Several other characters make reappearances in the book including Lee Scoresby and Serafina Pekkala (excuse the incorrect spelling). They continue in their own world to help Lyra's campaign and learn of the impending war across all worlds in which Lyra will play a pivotal role.

Usually the second book in the series is never as good as the first, but that was definitely not the case here. This book was as good, if not better than the first book. I spend a good portion of my Labour Day finishing the book because I just couldn't put it down. I thought Lyra lost a bit of her courage and cunning nature in this novel, however Will seemed to pick it up and even things off. I'm very much looking forward to the next one!

First Line: "Will tugged at his mother's hand and said, 'Come on, come on...'"