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Cover Image of Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl : A Novel by TRACY QUAN published by Three Rivers Press
Cover Image of A Year at the Races : Reflections on Horses, Humans, Love, Money, and Luck by JANE SMILEY published by Knopf
Cover Image of Lost in Translation by Nicole Mones published by Delta
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Saturday, September 08, 2018

What do Darwin and Lincoln have in common? (Book Reviews)

Check out Stephen King Has One of the Top Books On Writing: Read It (Book Reviews)

Notes on “Stephen King's "On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”

There are plenty of books on writing, but few are any good. Stephen King may not write the genre of book you like to read, but his success at selling books and having several of those books adapted to feature films that have been box office success is a powerful reason to explore his book on the writing craft as worthy a peek.

Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (published by Random House) begins with a history of his childhood, his family background, his high school mishaps, his first jobs, his college experience, how he met his future wife, his first years of marriage and as a parent, his work as a teacher while writing fiction in his spare time, his first published work and his first big payment from his publisher. This is the memoir part of the book, and there are lots of insights embedded inside which will resonate with readers, particularly people who enjoy his books. This is what makes Stephen King tick. The second half is all about Stephen's rules of writing - the meat of it.

It slams you with a confession

Thursday, April 13, 2017

A New Book About Joni Mitchell (Book Reviews)

Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchellby David Yaffe (FSG/Crichton, June) - A biography, with dozens of in-person interviews with Mitchell, reveals the backstory behind the famous songs—from her youth on the Canadian prairie, the child she gave up for adoption, through her albums and love affairs, to the present.

For those of you who did not grow up listening to the music of Joni Mitchell it is fair to say that she remains one of Canada's foremost singer-songwriter-producers of the late 60s and 70s whose body of work has continued to evolve through to her last album released in 2016. She went from folk to pop to rock and roll and has worked with blues as well as jazz artists. She was won through competition and been awarded every accolade a singer and a songwriter of her distinction can be given. She was named 9th on Rolling Stone's Top 100 Best Songwriters list, and 42nd on their Top 100 Singers list. Having just sustained a brain injury, sadly she is confined to a wheelchair. When you play your Joni Mitchell music, you'll likely be pairing it with the likes of other fine Canadian artists: Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, and her US contingents in this league: Bob Dylan and Joan Baez.

For me her music has intelligence, playfulness and a soulful melancholy individualism. Fellow musicians praise her complex and skillful phrasing, chord changes, tempo changes and timeless lyrics. When she located her own daughter, whom she'd lost to adoption during an era when she was a destitute artist undoubtedly contributed to her philisophic complexity. Her lyrics are lush with observations about the confines of mores and society. Joni simply valued her freedom, to remain "unfettered and alive" as she says in her song "Free Man in Paris".

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right (Book Reviews)

The New York Times begins its review of Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right with a description of the staff writer for The New Yorker, ­who spent five years working on this book, the beginnings of which originated from an article she wrote on the Koch family that was published in the magazine in 2010.

"Neither Charles nor David Koch agreed to talk to her, and several of the most important figures in their political network were unavailable. But she reached hundreds of sources who did want to talk: longtime conservative campaign operatives, business associates, political opponents and political finance scholars. Some of these sources spoke on the record and some did not, but all in all “Dark Money” emerges as an impressively reported and well-documented work.

I was intrigued by her book because of the compelling -- stunning, really, in every sense of the word -- documentary on PBS's Frontline Black Money produced by investigative correspondent, Lowell Bergman who examines the shadowy world of international bribery. If you have a chance to watch this first you will want to get the book to be better informed on how world politics and the underbelly of business is being conducted.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Who Served Adam Smith Dinner? (Book Reviews)

The name Adam Smith in economic and finance circles is sacrosanct. His mantra was simple. People act out of self-interest. This fundamental is at the core of the reasoning behind capitalism and the free market economy. But Swedish author Katrine Marçal asks the question - what about the mothers, wives and workers whose motivation is founded upon love or altruism? Isn't there room for an economic inclusiveness that is not based on self, but on others; on love, not greed; on altruism, not cynicism? And how are they remunerated, or at least accounted for on financial ledgers of companies and countries? Well, I'll bite! Enter Who Cooked Adam Smith's Dinner: A Story About Women and Economics by Swedish author Katrine Marçal (published by Portobello Book in the UK, 2016).

About the Author

Portobello Books tells us that Katrine Marçal is the lead editorial writer for the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, where she writes articles on Swedish and international politics, economics and feminism. On publication in Sweden, Who Cooked Adam Smith's Dinner was shortlisted for The August Prize and won the Lagercrantzen Award. She lives in London. Do delve deliciously deeper for more background on this important writer on the PB website.

About Portobello Books

A little more about Portobello Books. In 2009 they were short-listed for Independent Publisher of the Year. And this I did not know -- they bought the esteemed literary magazine Granta and as such, share design, marketing and sales teams.

Here's how they describe themselves:

We aim to give our readers books that are enlightening and searching, with a particular focus on non-fiction. We offer our writers a creative, innovative, and supportive environment.

The company was founded in 2005 by the philanthropist Sigrid Rausing, the Academy Award-winning film producer Eric Abraham and the publisher Philip Gwyn Jones. Its first books, published that autumn, were Jeremy Leggett’s Half Gone, Nasrin Alavi’s We Are Iran, Gina Ochsner’s People I Wanted To Be and Glen Neath’s The Outgoing Man – urgent non-fiction in ground-breaking form, outstanding short stories from America via Eastern Europe, and highly experimental British fiction.

Look to their website for font list, midlist and backlist titles (are there any there yet? LOL) Surprise! They represent Hurta Muller who won the Nobel Prize in 2009. That appears to have been a very good year for Portobello.

Here is the link to her Nobel Prize. Might as well get her book, Land of Green Plums, The: A Novel while you are at it!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The PEN Literary Award Shortlist for 2016 (Book Reviews)

PEN announced its shortlist for the 2016 Literary Awards. There are several categories and each has roughly 5 contenders. The winners will be announced on Mar 1st and April 11th at the New School in New York City. We've pulled this feature from the Star Tribune, so if you see a hyperlink it takes you to a Star reviews.

Here are the finalists:

PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction ($25,000):

In the Country: Stories (Alfred A. Knopf), Mia Alvar
The Turner House (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Angela Flournoy
Mr. and Mrs. Doctor (Coffee House Press), Julie Iromuanya
The Sympathizer: A Novel (Grove Press), Viet Thanh Nguyen
Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness (Europa Editions), Jennifer Tseng

PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay ($10,000):

After the Tall Timber: Collected Non-Fiction (New York Review Books), Renata Adler
Between the World and Me (Spiegel & Grau/Random House), Ta-Nehisi Coates
The Quarry (New Directions), Susan Howe
The Givenness of Things: Essays (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), Marilynne Robinson
Sidewalking: Coming to Terms with Los Angeles (University of California Press), David L. Ulin

PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award ($10,000):

Rain: A Natural and Cultural History (Crown), Cynthia Barnett
The End of Plenty: The Race to Feed a Crowded World (W. W. Norton), Joel K. Bourne Jr.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Antarctic Book of Cooking and Cleaning (Book Reviews)

Anyone who has ventured out of the city to spend time in the wilderness knows that it takes planning, talent and ingenuity to create an appealing meal and that some of our most vivid and satisfying food experiences are heightened during such travel. Now imagine that your voyage has taken you to the polar region of the planet and your makeshift kitchen must somehow sustain the palates of a consortium of hungry volunteer workers who have joined you from seven nations and four continents for the exclusive purpose of an environmental clean-up project. That is exactly the challenge and the feat accomplished as told in The Antarctic Book Of Cooking And Cleaning: A Polar Journey, the story of Carol Divine and Wendy Trusler's "journey through an austral summer" to a small island 120 miles off the Antarctic Peninsula.

Part travel/work log, part cook book, and part homage to historic expeditions of the past, this volume will capture your heart and your stomach as you follow the team from concept to completion (and from strangers to an esprit de corps) in this collaborative effort to return the pristine environment of one of the world's last remaining wilderness destinations. The fact that it occurred 1995-96 marks this as a formative example of the positive trend toward eco-conscious travel.

In the process we see the region's unique appeal through the principal photography of Sandy Nicholson whose images comprise: ice formations, polar landscapes, rich marine wildlife and members of the team engaged in various activities, along of course with Chef Wendy, centre stage, prepping satisfying ethnically diverse food, served in appealing rustic presentations that reflect the culinary tastes of the volunteer brigade from Russia, Canada, Chile, the Ukraine, People's Republic of China, Brazil and Uruguay. To paraphrase Carol and Wendy, "Food might not be the first thing you think of when embarking upon Polar travel - but it should be the second." Check out recipes...

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

The Antarctic Book of Cooking And Cleaning (Book Reviews)

Anyone who has ventured far away from the city to spend time in the wilderness knows that it takes talent and ingenuity to create a meal and that some of our most vivid and satisfying food experiences are heightened during such travel. Now imagine that your voyage has taken you to the polar region of the planet and your makeshift kitchen must somehow sustain the palates of a consortium of hungry volunteer workers who have joined you from seven nations and four continents for the exclusive purpose of an environmental clean-up project. That is exactly the challenge and the feat accomplished as told in The Antarctic Book of Cooking and Cleaning, the story of Wendy Trusler and Carol Divine's "journey through [an] austral summer" to a small island 120 miles off the Antarctic Peninsula.

Part travel log, part cook book and part homage to historic expeditions of the past, this volume will capture your heart and your stomach as you follow the team from concept to completion in a collaborative effort to return the pristine environment of one of the world's last remaining wilderness destinations. People have long held a fascination for the region and past colonial efforts to explore, claim and exploit the region have resulted in some of our most enduring

Sunday, April 05, 2015

A Review of John Vaillant's First Novel: The Jaguar's Children (Book Reviews)

Anyone who has read John Vaillant's books knows that he is a champion for causes. Be it a rare golden spruce on the West Coast of Vancouver Island in BC or an endangered Amur tiger in the Pri­morye region on Russia’s far eastern border.

He is also a consummate storyteller who takes facts from his exhaustive research to construct plots with convincing detail and thriller-like tension. Was the missing Grant Hadwin an eco-terrorist who cut down the 500 year-old iconic tree? Was he murdered, drowned or hiding? Was the Amur tiger a man-killer, stalking for revenge? Would the search team tracking the wounded animal's blood in the snow reach the animal before it would have a chance to kill again? Gripping stuff—and this is nonfiction we're talking about!

So when John announced he was working on his first novel, we all waited with baited breath. What will it be about? Where will it be set? Would he succeed in contriving characters and conflict evoked from his imagination as well as those in real life? Of course good story telling is based on something equally as powerful as facts. To make great fiction you must construct truth. For in fiction the reader is looking as hard for mistakes in the logic of your writing as the footnoted sources of your nonfiction. Throw on too much sentimentalism, too much bravado and like a failing movie your audience will not feel safe to suspend the disbelief that carries them to the fateful end.

The Jaguar's Children: A novel is set deep in Mexico in Oaxaca and on the borderland between Mexico and California. Two boyhood friends, Hector and Ceasar have decided to flee their homeland; one for the promise of a better life, the other to bring promise back to the people left behind. They pay a coyote [slang for a person who smuggles Mexican nationals] to weld them inside the belly of an empty water truck along with a dozen other desperate illegal immigrants. The truck breaks an axle

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Secret Sharer: Movie Review of Debut Screening of Oscar-winning Filmaker's Latest (Book Reviews)

I had the good fortune to meet Oscar-winning filmmaker, Peter Fudakowski (Tsotsi 2005 Best Foreign Language Film: producer credit) at a private screening of his latest movie The Secret Sharer (2014) in Whistler, BC. to which Fudakowski is both the writer and director. This is a film completely unlike his previous, but equally deserving of superlative accolades. Shot on a decaying freighter in the coastal waters off Thailand with actors speaking both English and Chinese language with subtitles it is quickly being picked up at Film Festivals around the world.

The Secret Sharer is a story about a young ship's officer, (British actor, Jack Laskie) who is promoted to the rank of captain for the purpose of taking commission of a cargo freighter whose wayward crew has taken control, making it their floating possession. Orders are to return the vessel to its owner at a port in China. Upon arrival on aboard ship, the young Captain, who speaks perfect Chinese, is faced with complete indifference to his orders by the motley crew. And they are breaking all the rules: women, alcohol, laziness and potted plants everywhere.

Just as

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Antigone Poems by Marie Slaight (Book Reviews)

I hold in my hand a copy of The Antigone Poems (Altaire Publication 2014, poetry/art). As a book maker I value production quality. The choice of paper, ink, binding, type, layout, images; all of these decisions go into making both pulp editions or a trade art piece. The former is fast disappearing into digital fodder. But people with a regard for artifact have produced the latter with Antigone Poems.

Antigone has a rich brown, generously-thick card stock cover with a French fold that is printed with a creamy silhouetted charcoal drawing by Terrance Tasker (1947-1992). A line from the poetry inside seems to describe the haunting image of the woman depicted at right: "No words, Only the gaping silent scream." The poetry is an homage to the Sophocles tragedy written before 441 BCE wherein the debate over ethical principles governing civil and family law by rule of God or man is argued. But an interesting part of the story behind the making of this slender volume lends additional perspective.

Surprisingly, the source material—verse and drawings, were created in the 1970s while poet, Marie Slaight and artist, Terrance Tasker lived together in Montreal and Toronto. Reading Antigone, I begin to ponder their relationship. (The book is dedicated to TT.) Through this work I imagine them in their youth with a roiling ferver for life--artistic passion mixed with lust, obsession, anger, fear, questions—the stuff of life. Their hormonally gorged vessels pulsing with energy that fuels their respective ouevres.

Had he lived, Terrance would have

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (Book Reviews)

Fans of Donna Tartt have been waiting for her new novel since they closed the pages of her last one. She's kept us waiting almost a decade. The Goldfinch (published by Little and Brown, 2013) does not disappoint, all 766 pages of it in the hard cover version that depending on the font size you select on your e-reader can grow to as many as 1200 pages! As the title suggests the central figure in the story is a bird. Well actually, a painting of a bird (which also happens to exist in RL - real life) and comes with its own intriguing back story.

Painted by the Dutch master Carel Fabritius, it is one of only a few works left in the world, his others having been lost in a tragic explosion of the gunpowder factory situated next door to the painter's studio and home that also took his life. Fabritus is supposed to have been the forerunner of Rembrandt who helped his protoge acquire his masterful technique. The painting is introduced to the precocious 13-year-old New Yorker, Theo Decker by his mother on a visit to the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art on the fateful day of a terrorist act. A bomb goes off in the gift shop of the museum and Theo, who has separated from his mother, survives. Just prior to the blast Theo has become entranced with both the painting and an enigmatic girl accompanied by an elderly man. In the chaos and confusion of the blast, Theo connects with the dying man who passes him his signet ring for safe keeping - a talus that will connect Theo to the next important person coming into his life. As Theo stumbles his way out of the gallery in darkness, in chaos, choking through the dust in search of his mother and escape, he clutches the very painting off the wall that he's been admiring and instinctively saves, the priceless Goldfinch.

The rest of the book takes the reader through Theo's life after the blast, as he

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Empty Glass by J.I. Baker (Book Reviews)

"In the early morning hours of August 5th, 1962 Los Angeles County deputy coroner, Ben Fitzgerald arrives at the home of the world's most famous movie star, now lying dead in her bedroom. There he discovers The Book of Secrets—Marilyn Monroe's diary—revealing a doomed love affair with a man she refers to only as "the General". In the following days, Ben unravels a cover-up that implicates the Kennedy's, the Mafia and the CIA. Soon the sinister and surreal accounts in the Book bleed into Ben's own life, and he finds himself trapped - like Monroe - in a deepening paranoid conspiracy.

A knockout combination of fact and legend, The Empty Glass is a rivetting debut thriller."

James Ireland Baker is the executive editor of Condé Nast Traveler. Before that, he was development editor at Time Inc. He has also worked at Real Simple, Glamour, and Us, and is a founding editor of Time Out New York. The Empty Glass is his first novel. Baker lives in Westchester County, New York. This book is published by Penguin, USA

It's not often you re-read the back cover blurb on a paperback novel after you've completed reading the book itself and realize that it captures the essence perfectly. It's not often that the book's cover art, a photo of Marilyn Monroe with red lipstick letters scrawled across that famous-tragic face, commands you to pick up the book and continue reading it every time you pass the table on which it sits in your house. It's not often that the combination of fact and fiction blend so seamlessly that you are compelled to search the Internet to establish the facts so you can confirm the depth of the vortex you are being sucked into by some pretty darn captivating noir fiction writing.

I used to live in Los Angeles where occasionally a movie theatre located on Wilshire Boulevard at the edge of Santa Monica and Westwood

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Message From Michael Cunningham: Electric Lit (Book Reviews)

Why does history remember some novels, and forget others? Okay, because most novels are forgettable. But there are some, a handful or two, that brush up against greatness itself, and yet don’t seem to get a ticket on the literature train. Hence, Glenway Wescott’s The Pilgrim Hawk.

I’m urging you to experience something like what I did, in consenting to read an obscure novel, an experience that involved not only the discovery of the novel itself but the attendant realization that the world is host to such novels—call them the “invisible classics.” Call them “Canon B.” It makes for a richer, more fabulous sense of what might be out there, beyond the titles one read (or pretended to have read) in college. - Signed,
Michael Cunningham, Electric Literature

Electric Literature is an e-magazine put together by a core of literary minded folks based out of Brookline, NY. Not only are they at the center of emerging writers' primordial goo, they offer treasures like this as tasty inducements to broaden membership at nominal charges.

Click on their link and join the party. Often in our book group when members can't decide between books, we ask the host to "read the first paragraph of the first chapter". Here is the first tantalizing paragraphs of Pilgim's Hawk...

NOW CULLEN HAD RISEN and was standing at his wife’s elbow, shaking his finger at the falcon teasingly. I thought that the bird’s great eyes showed only a slight natural bewilderment; whereas a slow sneer came over his face and he turned pale. It was the first revelation I had of the interesting fact that he hated Lucy.

He would willingly have sacrificed a finger tip in order to have an excuse to retaliate, I thought; and I imagined him picking up a chair or a coffee table and going at her with smashing blows. What a difference there is between animals and humans! Lucy no doubt would be disgustingly fierce when her time came; but meanwhile sat pleasantly and idly, in abeyance. Whereas humanity is histrionic, and must prepare and practice every stroke of passion; so half our life is vague and stormy make-believe.

  • Electric Literature Website
  • Literary Review of Books
  • Michael Cunningham's Website

    Monday, May 07, 2012

    Who Killed Mom by Steve Burgess (Book Reviews)

    The cover design of Who Killed Mom? (Greystone Press) has a black and white photo of a beautiful young woman seated on a picnic blanket holding a scrappy puppy with her three babies seated directly in front of her. The children have that look children get when you are taking their picture at this age of minimal awareness of the importance of holding still for something that remains bafflingly obscure to their immediate need. The mother, Joan Burgess has a look of serenity and fragility at once. Fine bone structure and a side-parted short hairstyle with her trim figure in a practical dress speak volumes. The book has been sent to me by the author's publicist. From my first e-mail exchange with Steve, I am treated to his wit. He jokes, "Guess which one is me in the photo? Two are girls so be careful who you insult".

    I guess correctly, "You're the toe-head on the right looking off to the side instead of at the photographer, " I say describing the baby with no shirt and a roly-poly stomach.

    Right!" he answers.

    "Somehow I feel you have always been a man of distraction and drool." I quip.

    Next I study the author's website and his photo. He is leaning out the window of what looks like a bus, nattily dressed, sporting a grand smile and a high forehead above dark framed glasses. Burgess is an avid traveler and award winning magazine columnist, web contributor for the likes of MSN, Salon, AOL and has been a broadcast host at CBC. He could easily take over as the savvy urban version of Garrison Keillor, the OTHER radio broadcaster I enjoy listening to on CBC (from syndicated programing at NPR).

    Over the course of the next week, while

    Thursday, March 01, 2012

    The Power of Habit (Book Reviews)

    Neuroscientists have been studying how habits are formed, and how those habits, good or bad, affect our lives. The knowledge is used by a surprising array of people. Like companies who want to determine how to get you to buy their product. Proctor and Gamble had a product designed to destroy odors. It was losing money and so they studied a group of women cleaning their houses to determine how to better market their product, Fabrese. After re-designing their advertising to suit the new information, the company and the sector it spawned now has annual sales of $1billion.

    Companies benefit internally from recognizing and infusing good employee habits. Personally we all have things in our lives we'd like to change or improve upon. I used to have an issue with accounting. I'd rather have a dental hygenist appointment than work on my budget. Then I downloaded an App for my phone (Expense It) that has a daily reminder to input receipts and income streams, and now it's a become a habit with visible rewards, like seeing pie graphs of my business expenses and personal spending.

    People hire habit makers (or breakers) all the time for things like improving diet and exercise habits, to stop smoking or avoid procrastinating. Successful people are merely those who have developed effective habits to accomplish the things they need to move forward with their lives.

    The interesting part about the author of this book is

    Tuesday, November 29, 2011

    The Fear Index by Robert Harris (Book Reviews)

    If you have an interest in these two things; CERN and the consequences of algorithmic trading, then Robert Harris's new novel The Fear Index (Hutchinson UK, Knopf NAmerica Jan2012) is a must read. I told my husband about it and he picked up a copy at Heathrow airport and says it's a real page-turner, er, iPad-turner.

    Bloomberg's correspondent Hephzibah Anderson met up with the author to discuss his book the premise to which is a "physicist-turned-hedge-fund-manager unleashes a trading algorithm that feeds on human emotions to predict market fluctuations. In just a week, VIXAL-4 makes a profit of $79.7 million. Then, on May 6, 2010 -- the day of the so-called flash crash, when the Dow briefly dropped 9.2 percent -- it goes rogue, catapulting its creator into a paranoid universe of murder and market mayhem."

    “The fund is like a malevolent creature,” says Harris, 54, the author of bestselling novels including “Pompeii,” “Fatherland” and “The Ghost,” the basis for Roman Polanski’s movie about a thinly veiled Tony Blair. Speaking from the depths of a leather chair in a London hotel, he shares some of his own anxieties over club sandwiches and lounge music.

    Anderson: What inspired the switch from historical and political thrillers?
    Harris: I see myself as writing books about power and this is the same -- it’s all about control. A dozen years ago I wanted to write a version of George Orwell’s “1984” in which the threat to the individual wasn’t the state, but rather corporations and computers. I got very interested in artificial intelligence. It wasn’t until the financial crisis that I realized I could marry finance and computers. Financial Research

    Anderson: How much did you know about finance going into this project?
    Harris: I didn’t understand what a short was, or a credit derivative, or even precisely what it was that a hedge fund did. I asked a lot of very embarrassing questions of very busy people. Anderson: So plenty of research, then?

    Saturday, November 26, 2011

    New Biography of KURT VONNEGUT by Charles Shields (Book Reviews)

    Upon learning that Kurt Vonnegut's mother successfully committed suicide when he was 21 - on Mother's Day, a peep of insight into the writer's life works begins to dawn. The author of “Cat’s Cradle”, “Sirens of Titan”, “Breakfast of Champions” and his masterpiece, “Slaughterhouse-Five”

    Monday, June 20, 2011

    Ape House by Sara Gruen (Book Reviews)

    MyAltTextHere What would you do if you could talk to animals? What would you say? What would this discovery mean to our society? Sara Gruen’s award winning novel Ape House is a thought provoking read, which poses several questions about how we treat our closest relatives.

    Gruen holds a mirror to human culture and we can see it reflected in the engaging eyes of a great ape. Bonobos are part of the great ape family, they are less aggressive and dominant than chimpanzees and are distinguished by their long legs, pink lips, and dark faces. Their facial expressions, and hand gestures are freakishly human in nature, and it’s this human connection that intrigued award-winning writer Sara Gruen.

    “Although John already knew that the bonobos’ preferences varied (for example he knew Mbongo’s favourite food was green onions and that Sam loved pears), he was surprised by how distinct, how different, how almost human, they were.”

    Friday, May 06, 2011

    Angelology by Danielle Trussoni (Book Reviews)

    MyAltTextHere Oddly enough I have actually studied angel iconography as part of my English Language degree. I shied away from the phonetics and advanced syntax classes on offer and delved into the eclectic mix of subjects that made up the Folklore Department. We covered supernatural beliefs, place name study, and eventually we were allowed to choose a subject to research that would give us the larger portion of our marks. When I saw the cover of Danielle Trussoni’s second novel Angelology I was immediately drawn in. The dramatic black front with a white winged figure in chains sets the tone for the book - the story is as dark as the image suggests. These are not the angels of self help books, or the ones on the front of Christmas cards, this book depicts them as more demon than angel. In a modern world obsessed with vampires, myth and legend, secret sects, and anything dark and sexy, Danielle Trussoni could be adding angels to the aforementioned list.

    Tuesday, April 12, 2011

    Shanghai Girls by Lisa See (Book Reviews)

    Shanghai Girls Shanghai Girls I have just finished Lisa See’s latest novel, and I am devastated. I turn to the next page in hope that it’s a misprint and that there must be more written – this just can’t be the end. I have been following two Chinese sisters, May and Pearl, as they embark on a journey from their home country to America. It is a story of displacement and identity. Underpinning it all is the tale of sisterly love, as well as sibling rivalry. Lisa See weaves an enthralling tale at a time in history where there were so many stories to be told.

    Lisa See is the author of critically acclaimed and international bestseller, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (2005). She has also written a three part mystery series, as well as non-fiction and short story works. Lisa See released her first book in 1995, On Gold Mountain: The One Hundred Year Odyssey of My Chinese-American Family . This is the story of her grandfather’s journey to Los Angeles, and how he became the godfather for Chinatown. Her latest novel is the third in her Chinese set, and from what I hear will not be the last.

    Thursday, January 27, 2011

    The Four Agreements (Book Reviews)

    January is a time for renewal and self-examination. If you don't think you need to do this from time to time, you are mistaken. We go along in life taking care of pressing details: family obligations, work commitments, chores and projects, and we tend to neglect our personal well-being. We are like a root-bound plant in a pot. When the seed is planted the nutrients are plentiful, the soil soft, the plant has room to grow and thrive. As the soil nutrients deplete and the root fibers tangle, the plant chokes. This is where The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, A Toltec Wisdom Book written by Don Miguel Ruiz can help you. The slim hand-sized volume has been published by a number of entities and sells out with each reprint - a good sign that people have found the advice useful!

    And what are the Toltec tidbits? They're simple:

    1. Be Impeccable With Your Word
    2. Don't Take Anything Personally
    3. Don't Make Assumptions
    4. Always Do Your Best

    Read on for supporting arguments.

    Wednesday, January 05, 2011

    The Sea Captain's Wife by Beth Powning (Book Reviews)

    MyAltTextHere “Often, she paused on the porch and looked out at the blue line of Nova Scotia and the silver gleam in the southwest where the bay widened to the Gulf of Maine: the sea spread before her, thundered in her ears; and sometimes she loathed it, since Nathaniel was at its mercy. At other times, she closed her eyes, tossed back her bonnet and breathed deep of the world’s size.”

    I am a sucker for historical fiction, throw a bit of swashbuckling romance in there and I’m hooked. When I imagine sea voyage back in the 1800’s I must admit to conjuring up images of impressive vessels smashing their way across the oceans, with grandeur and glamour that can’t possibly of existed. The real stories, like the one that Beth Powning relates in her latest novel The Sea Captain’s Wife, showcases the more realistic side to seamanship - illness, solitude, risk, and the heartache that inevitably follow a life amongst the waves.

    Monday, December 06, 2010

    Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling (Book Reviews)

    I am a book snob. I am an English Major. I don’t read Oprah’s Bookclub picks. I don’t read chicklit. I don’t read Da Vinci Codes or Twilights or Dragon Tattoos, though I may reluctantly see the movies whilst maintaining an air of pretentious superiority. But it was because of a bestseller franchise and the associated films that I changed my stringent policy on popular-in-this-century fiction after a TV marathon of the Harry Potter series left me desperate for answers. “Alright,” I conceded, “what the *#&%* happened to Dumbledore.” And so I caved. I purchased the last installment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7) -- along with a face-saving business book on the art of negotiation, lest the one-armed clerk at Barnes & Noble judge me -- and I’m not ashamed to say it changed my life ... People, Harry Potter is bloody good.

    So I’ll just come out with it: I CRIED. I cried! No spoilers, but I literally was moved to tears by the written word, which hitherto only happened in dog-related scenes in renowned pieces of literature (and one hooker scene in Murphy; when I recounted the experience and choked up again in my Professor’s office he recoiled in horror and said, quote: “this is unheard of in Beckett.”) Thus it has been ingrained in me that there are appropriate times to cry in books and life and there are not. Even most men will admit, for example, that it’s acceptable to cry in Rudy, or when your hockey team loses in the playoffs for the second year in a row to the Chicago Blackhawks, (I cried once in my living room in the presence of my mocking friends, and then, a little more privately in the bathroom). But HARRY POTTER? This was quite shocking to my system and sense of identity as a Reader. Indulge me, please, as we delve into why…

    Thursday, October 21, 2010

    For The Natural History Buff In All Of Us (Book Reviews)

    Most people have a natural fascination for the physical world. We want to learn about the creatures that populate the earth; from near or far, minuscule or gigantic. I've had the good fortune to travel to Washington DC and tour the Smithsonian Institute's Natural History Museum where there are thousands of examples spanning every classification. If you're planning a trip to the Smithsonian be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and map your tour route by order of personal priority - there's so much to see, you'll be disappointed if you run out of time or energy and miss a favorite. The good news is that a definitive new resource book has just come out on this topic titled, Natural History. It is produced for Penguin by DK Publishing and has 648 pages of exquisite photos and text beautifully bound in a handy 9.25 x 6.25 inch size. It catalogues 6,000 of earth's species from the simplest lifeforms of bacteria to minerals to plants and animals. Written and researched by a worldwide team of natural history experts and overseen and authenticated by the Smithsonian, it is the ultimate resource book for your home. And it will likely land a place on our "BookBuffet Holiday Gift Pick List" next month. DK has a reputation for crafting beautifully made books that are bound and stitched to make handling easy, use of quality paper stock and production values. Whether you add Natural History to your collection of resource materials on your bookshelves, keep it open on the coffee table, squirrel it away in the powder room or gift it to a budding naturalist - it's your call.

    Thursday, August 12, 2010

    The House of Special Purpose (Book Reviews)

    The House of Special PurposeFrom the author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas comes a new historic fiction. John Boyne’s seventh novel, The House of Special Purpose (Doubleday, 2009) transports you back in time to a fractious Russia in the early 20th Century. Two worlds are at war; the Tsar’s days of lavish enjoyment run alongside a rebellious populous. Boyne’s talent is that when faced with a story that has death, tragedy and loss at its centre, he manages to find light in his characters that make his novels so compelling.

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010

    Song Over Quiet Lake by Sarah Felix Burns (Book Reviews)

    Song Over Quiet Lake is the second novel by Canadian author, Sarah Felix Burns. Her first novel Jackfish the Vanishing Village, 2007 (reviewed here) won the 2009 Northern Lit Award. This built anticipation for her next book. What shines through in her writing again is Burns' understanding of the human condition and the degree of empathy she evokes in readers for her characters. It is not surprising that she holds a degree in Women’s Studies and History from the University of British Columbia, with a masters degree in Social Work from the University of Toronto.

    Saturday, May 22, 2010

    Point Dume: by Katie Arnoldi (Book Reviews)

    If you crossed T.C. Boyle's Tortilla Curtain with Kem Nunn's surf noir trilogy novels and added breasts you would almost get this book, Point Dume written by Los Angeles author Katie Arnoldi (published by Overlook Press, May 28, 2010). Katie grew up in a tiny beach enclave just north of Malibu called Point Dume, popular among surfers. Sounds like she may have been the bad-ass version of Gidget, that is if she bears any similarity to her novel's saucy protagonist, Ellis Gardener. Somewhere between hanging up her own surf board, a short body-building stint and obtaining a degree in art history, Katie learned to write. She likes obsessive and damaged characters from dysfunctional families set in throbbing plots within issue-related themes. This is her third novel. The first thing that intrigued me was the rave review printed on the back cover by one of my literary icons, Joan Didion in praise of her first novel Chemical Pink a story about the weight lifting culture. It's written from Arnoldi's real life experience as an amateur competitive weight lifter. Point Dume is also a real place, and like all idyllic locations within close proximity to a thriving metropolis, it has been invaded by the rich: film directors, A-list actors, successful business types all looking for that fresh salt air, unobstructed sun and wide-open space. They've bulldozed the surf shacks and built mansion compounds verily driving out the original residents and their way of life. The beat-up pickup trucks along the beach loaded with short boards tacky with layers of thick bumpy wax are being crowded out by the BMW-driving wanna-be's who ride squishy 7-9 footers enabling them to take up the sport and in Ellis's opinion, fake the lifestyle. Yuppy yoga practicing housewives exchange psychologist referrals and drink soy-chai lattes while their hispanic nannies, gardeners and pool boys enable their privileged lifestyles. With the Pacific Ocean in the front yard, there's a whole big back yard consisting of miles of hills covered in tall wild scrub brush made accessible by a crisscross network of trails and fire access roads. Add a little water via an illegal tap into state water pipes and domestic irrigation systems, and you've got a thriving local industry of clandestine grow-ops run by various drug cartels looking to avoid the post 9-11 border hassle importing las herb. Point Dume the novel, could be on the bibliography list for a college degree in hydroponic canibisology. That seems to be Arnoldi's forte - capturing the underbelly of her subject with...

    Tuesday, March 30, 2010

    Deloume Road by Matthew Hooton (Book Reviews)

    Canadian author Matthew Hooton spells his first name with double t's and his last name with double o's. This inherent symmetry is reflected in his prose, and who knows, may have been the subliminal force in his entire life, starting from the moment when he began to practice printing those consonants and vowels with a large diameter pencil on lined paper in primary school. After all, one of the first things we learn to print is our own name. That means that Matthew Hooton, with double t's and double o's, has been writing parallel and contrasting letters his whole life. I think that is rather a clever observation, and one that portends well for readers, because his first novel, Deloume Road (Knopf, Canada 2010) is the embodiment of sublime and subtle symmetry. Deloume Road is located on Vancouver Island on the "wet coast" of British Columbia where the dense forest grows to giants with just enough space between the trees to permit a few rays of light to penetrate down onto the forest floor and sustain a carpet of thirsty ferns and moss. It's the perfect playground for brothers Josh and Andy and their neighbourhood pal Matthew on this particularly hot August. Other folks living on Deloume Road will factor in the story as well, and their narratives, told in chapters as short as one paragraph, will skilfully lead the reader into a gentle and ominous tension that is contrasted by the pastoral setting of this country road community. Not since John Vaillant’s GG winning novel The Golden Spruce (also set on Vancouver Island) has there been a writer able to capture the essence of the Pacific Northwest and bring us a host of meaningful characters whose lives intersect in touching and disturbing ways.

    Monday, December 14, 2009

    Why Women Have Sex (Book Reviews)

    Sex holds a universal fascination. From our basic limbic drive of "preservation of self and species" to the furthest extremes of sexual practice, everyone wants to know how it works and where they fit into the spectrum. Starting from our first sexual stirring and tracking behavior to the oldest fornicators, researchers are gathering information to determine what stimulates our sex drive, the mind-body connection and social-cultural differences for normal and abnormal behavior. In 1998 when Viagara came on the market for men, the push was on to discover the pink pill equivalent for women. Female sexuality, these studies show, is even more complex and nuanced than male sexuality. Researchers Cindy M. Meston and David M. Buss, both psychology professors at the University of Texas at Austin discovered some fascinating new information, which is contained in Why Women Have Sex: Understanding Sexual Motivations from Adventure to Revenge (and Everything in Between). I am particularly interested to read the section talking about the sex practices of young women today. What are these third generation feminists up to? You'd be surprised to see the frank level of experimentation and use of sex, almost as a tool in their armanentarium to get what they want. Seems like a good book to purchase for anyone who wants to understand the sexuality of women better. (Uh... who doesn't that include?)

    Tuesday, October 20, 2009

    The Soul of Money, by Lynne Twist (Book Reviews)

    What if you were the head of a struggling non-profit that was working for the good of humanity, to stop global hunger, and a top executive at a food conglomerate offered you $50K as a public relations gesture to counter some bad press his company had received lately. Would you accept the check? Fast forward to a meeting in Harlem you are holding that same night where a group of significantly less privileged people have gathered because of your appeal for help for the hungry people in Africa. A tear-choked woman dressed very plainly listens and then, with barely any hesitation, comes forward from the back of the room and joyfully gives the $50 she earned that day doing housework for a white woman. This sets a stream of people in the room to come forward with shouts of glee as they toss their their dollar bills and change into the basket. The gifts that evening total $500.

    Remarkably Lynne Twist was that struggling non-profit representative realized at that moment in time that money has a soul. She returned the food executive’s check to him the very next day with a note that went something like, “Dear Sir, I am returning your check to you. Please use it toward a charity that has meaning for you.” Years later when the executive retired, he contacted Ms. Twist, this time to give a far more substantial monetary donation from his own personal funds toward her cause, with the comment “In all my years of business, nothing stuck with me more than your act of returning our donation. Please accept this now, from the bottom of my heart.”

    That point illustrated to me the very essence of, The Soul of Money: Reclaiming the Wealth of Our Inner Resources. Money can be used for good, or it can be used to destroy hope, integrity and incentive. It doesn’t matter how much you have, it is our attitude surrounding money that determines which way the balance tips. We have the power to choose.

    Tuesday, September 08, 2009

    Ian McAllister The Last of the Wild Wolves (Book Reviews)

    Ian McAllister’s latest book, The Last Wild Wolves: Ghosts of the Rain Forest is a collection of photographs and stories from the Great Bear Rainforest about a family of elusive Coastal Wolves. Ian and his wife Karen live on Denny island, where they have been working tirelessly to preserve BC’s threatened forest and its inhabitants.

    The book is a testament of patience as well as an urgent call to action. McAllister spent days, weeks and years building the trust of the pack and waiting for the intimate photo opportunities that read like a family album of portraits from a bygone era of raw wilderness. The Great Bear Rainforest is in fact the last remaining temperate rainforest, relatively inaccessible and therefore retaining its rare magnificence—for now.

    Wednesday, July 22, 2009

    The Wilderness by Samantha Harvey (Book Reviews)

    When I was first given this book the subject matter made my heart skip as I watched my grandmother deteriorate with Alzheimer’s and it could not have been more heartbreaking. She recounted full stories about her childhood, how her school had a netball court that was slanted, how my granddad sent letters when he was in the war which she posted in sequence all over the kitchen. At other times, in contrast, she couldn’t remember who my family was and would shout and scream, when she had previously never in our whole time together raised her voice. Alzheimer’s changes not only your memory but your behaviour and personality, and at times neither one of us recognised the other.

    The Wilderness: A Novel (published by Nan A. Talese 2009) throws the reader into a tangled web of memories and emotions as we follow the protagonist into the uncertain depths of Alzheimer’s disease. An architect by trade, Jacob Jameson is a Lincolnshire born, half-Jewish widower in his 60s. We follow him as he delves into the puzzle of his past, trying to decipher fact from fiction.

    "In amongst a sea of events and names that have been forgotten, there are a number of episodes that float with striking buoyancy to the surface. There is no sensible order to them, nor connection between them."

    Thursday, June 18, 2009

    Miriam Toews: The Flying Troutmans (Book Reviews)

    New out in paperback this month, Miriam Toews fourth novel, The Flying Troutmans (Vintage, June 2009) follows along the author’s well-worn path of funny-sad books about misfits who experience loss and misfortune, but somehow manage to deal with it. It is the story of two sisters, one functional, and the other eccentrically dysfunctional. All their lives the younger sister, Hattie has lived a mix of awe and dread for what spectacle or catastrophe her older sibling, Min would concoct that would either embarrass or frighten her. When Min carries the behavior over into adulthood and relinquishes her hold on life and motherhood to a paralysing depression that requires hospitalization, Hattie returns home to look after her sister’s two kids aged 14 and 11. Logan is a confused pubescent basketball-obsessed young man who writes precocious rants and his younger sister Thebes is a savant eccentric with purple hair, appalling hygiene and a penchant for quoting the dictionary and doing crafts like making giant novelty checks. Instead of facing their pathetic domestic non-routine with the spectre of their mother’s illness hanging over the household, Hattie packs the kids up for a road trip through the United States under the auspices of finding their long lost father who’d been driven out by their mother years earlier. What ensues is a poignant journey of discovery with frequent laugh-out-loud moments as they establish their fundamental bond and accept each other’s insecurities, deficiencies, and quirks. Ultimately they connect through their abiding love for Min. For anyone who doubts that an awesome road trip can't help but connect people, this book is for you. The insights into US-Canadian quirks is bonus.

    Monday, April 20, 2009

    Canvey Island by James Runcie (Book Reviews)

    How Water Marks

    The news brings horrifying reports of floods in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, New Orleans and many other places. We are hit with images of people standing on top of their homes waiting for rescue while their belongings are swept away. In need of food, shelter and safety these people become refugees at the mercy of others. But what happens next? What happens to the survivors whose lives have been torn apart by this act of nature? James Runcie’s third novel Canvey Island (2006, The Other Press, NY) explores the aftermath of such a tragic event focusing on the struggles of one family over a forty-year time span in postwar England. It shows how a sound bite on the public's radar compares to the lifelong effect a tragedy evokes in the lives of the victims. It's also a book about uncommunicated truths. Secrets, both personal and political were handled differently in the '50s. Find out how. Runcie’s spare lyric style of writing makes this simple story a quiet thunderstorm on your weather map. Prepare to open the flood gates.

    Tuesday, April 07, 2009 Poligamy (Book Reviews)

    The 19th Wife: A Novel, by David Ebershoff (2008)

    What in the world does polygamous community in the early Mormon Church (and the persistent remnants of the practice in modern renegade cults which refuse to banish the practice) have to do with having it all, today? This anwer is, a great deal and very little. At first glance, we are mystified by these communities. Recent and recurring media fascination with polygamist cults in the West reveals that the allegedly private exercise of religion often includes the underage 'marriage' of girls as young as 14 to men in their forties and fifties, and the teen pregnancies that inevitably follow. We cannot understand how the women in these communities can defend so staunchly a way of life that sentences their own teen daughters to such marriages. We see a concept of community gone awry—where admirable tenets of sisterhood and faith are twisted into a practice where women are often emotionally abused and where children hunger for scraps of a father's love and attention together with dozens of siblings, resulting in mass neglect. We can only assume that the women and girls in this community know no alternatives, and have been brainwashed into believing that their eternal salvation and, perhaps more significantly to a child, that their reunion in heaven with everyone whom they hold dear, depends upon their compliance.

    Monday, March 16, 2009

    What If: The World Without Us (Book Reviews)

    What if? In his extraordinary book, The World Without Us (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press 2007) Alan Weisner asks the question, "What if?" Imagine a world where suddenly humans didn’t exist, where we had suddenly vanished leaving the world as it is now. What would we leave behind? What would the world inherit from our existence? How quickly would nature take back the land we have borrowed? Do you think the Eiffel Tower would still be standing one thousand years from now, would the Panama Canal still be intact, would the Euro Tunnel have caved-in? Weisner takes the reader all over the world exploring different places and the effects we have had on them, and what effects we have set in motion for the future.

    Monday, February 23, 2009 Passion (Book Reviews)

    It's almost a cliché—mention heart transplant and we imagine dramatic deathbed scenarios with life-altering passion at their core. What is striking, and frankly somewhat surprising given its title, is that Stephen Lovely couches his heart-transplant story, Irreplaceable, in the lives of very ordinary and occasionally unlikeable characters. This is the February book review from the good folks at website, a source for consulting, speaking, training and mentoring women at all stages of balancing education, career, family and life.

    Friday, January 30, 2009

    The Groom To Have Been (Book Reviews)

    The Groom to Have Been, Saher Alam’s first novel has been lingering in my head ever since I opened its bright cover. In essence it is a story about finding love, but with a twist that makes the modern world meet a much more traditional ideal. It poses a lot of questions that are sometimes hard to debate or formulate a good argument for or against. How does traditional religion fit in with our everyday lives? Are we shifting in such a way that these ideals no longer transcend along with our modern culture? What is love and how do we decide to stay with the same person for the rest of our lives? This book intertwines the lives of several very different characters all held together by the bond of family, religion and wanting to do the right thing.

    Monday, January 19, 2009 The Models of Yesteryear, This Week (Book Reviews)

    The Models of Yesteryear, this week: The Best of Everything, (Reissued by Penguin, 2005) Rona Jaffe (1958)

    When The Best of Everything was published in 1958 it was considered revolutionary. The book chronicles a shift in the social dynamic even as it was occurring, as young women began to enter the workforce in droves. Jaffe writes in her 2005 foreward to the reissue of the book, "I had the vision of the beginning of the book, which is all the hundreds and hundreds of girls walking to work."

    Monday, December 01, 2008 Book Review: Giving Thanks for What Is (Book Reviews)

    Following upon the American holiday of giving thanks, we bring to you two books recommended not only for their messages of gratitude but for the very differences in perspective that make them a forceful combination. At the core of these two writings is a belief in embracing one's reality that perhaps can resonate for each of us at a time when so many are anxious and fearful and experiencing the pain of dramatically altered lives. Here is the review of To Love What Is, Alix Kates Shulman Loving What Is: Four, Byron Katie

    Monday, November 17, 2008

    Jack Kerouac Isn't The Only Author Calling For (Book Reviews)

    There have been many books about the value of a good road trip. From Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values (P.S.) where the author finds spiritual enlightenment to his troubles and which has been a manuel to people since, to Jack Kerourac's, On the Road(Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century) from the 60s Beat generation when wanderlust was a Life Skill 101 class field trip and required reading. A new book has emerged to join them. Written by Doreen Orion Queen of the Road: The True Tale of 47 States, 22,000 Miles, 200 Shoes, 2 Cats, 1 Poodle, a Husband, and a Bus with a Will of Its Own (Broadway Books, New York 2008) pretty much says it all. And BookBuffet reviewer Dee Raffo reports that it is "One of the best feel good books [she's] read all year." So if the financial crisis has got you down and you can't quit your job because that mortgage underwater, pick-up a little escapism and start planning your next - ROAD TRIP!

    Thursday, November 13, 2008 Weekly Book Review: You Just Don't Understand (Book Reviews)

    You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation (Harper) by Deborah Tannen. Lunch with your girlfriends whizzes by as you update each other on work, kids, schools, and husbands, and it feels like you barely scratch the surface. You know the names, sports and personalities of your female colleagues’ children, and where they are applying to college. You discuss their dating challenges and your mutual concerns about recent losses in your 529 and 401k accounts. The sole male in the conference room seems to dominate the discussion even though he is not leading the meeting. Your boss banters with male colleagues about NBA playoffs and free agents in baseball, but your efforts to connect with him on a personal level wither because you are not a sports fan. Your husband reads the paper over breakfast and watches the evening news when he gets home. He doesn’t ask about the details of your day, but is quick to interrupt your story before you finish telling it to offer “solutions.”

    Wednesday, September 24, 2008

    The Common Bond by Donigan Merritt, Other Press, NY, 2008 (Book Reviews)

    Donigan Merritt is a graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop and the author of seven novels. He lives in Washington, DC. A world traveler who has lived a rich life, Merritt imbues his novels with the same variety and intensity. He writes of love and loss and adventure in many different settings. The Common Bond is set in Hawaii in the '80s. The protagonist, Morgan Cary is a s a commercial fishing boat captain, who trolls the Pacific for yellowfin tuna and blue marlin. After a decade of life spent in California, Morgan flies home to Hawaii arriving with a broken heart and an overwhelming sense of guilt surrounding the death of his wife, Victoria. He finds comfort in the wet green mountain slopes, the pearl-colored volcanic haze, and the tropical perfume of gardenia, plumeria, and eucalyptus, but he cannot escape painful and persistent memories. "Resonant with human emotion and insight, The Common Bond is an exquisite novel of precision and grace that captures the depths of the human capacity for guilt, and the traps of compassion and hope in redemption."—Other Press. Join BookBuffet reviewer, Dee Raffo who untangles the unconventional story line of this novel, and follows with her interview with the author over SKYPE.

    Monday, July 28, 2008

    "Stealing Athena" by Karen Essex, Doubleday 2008 (Book Reviews)

    BookBuffet reviewer, Dee Raffo enjoys the historical fiction genre. Here is her July book review: "As I pick up Karen Essex’s fourth novel, Stealing Athena: A Novel (Doubleday 2008) I am struck by its beautiful cover. It is an 18th century self-portrait by French painter Marie-Genieve Bouliard, as she envisioned herself as the Greek courtesan and philosopher, Aspasia. The cover certainly does match the dual narratives of the book, where two characters 2300 years apart, one in ancient Greece, the other, 18th century Scotland, find themselves inexplicably linked with the Elgin Marbles, and the controversy and passion that surround them."

    Thursday, May 15, 2008

    Canadian Feminist Writer Sarah Felix Burns Writes BIG Fish Story (Book Reviews)

    Jackfish, The Vanishing Village (Inanna Poetry & Fiction) is not a regular fish story—but it will hook you. Clemance-Marie Nadeau is haunted by memories unraveling from a traumatic past. Her story begins as she boards a train bound for Sault Ste. Marie and falls under the spell of a charming stranger who promises her a life of adventure. Nothing she will experience could be further from that promise. Based on her own life and stories from the trauma/torture survivors that Sarah Felix Burns has counseled over the years, Jackfish will mesmerize and invoke a gamut of emotions. Not since, Bastard Out of Carolina will you be so moved by a book of this kind. Don't let your group miss Jackfish. The author writes, “This book is dedicated to all those people who battle with the demons of guilt, shame addiction, and mental illness.” Take a look at BookBuffet Reviewer Dee Raffo's review.

    Sunday, April 20, 2008

    Farewell, My Subaru: Adventures in Green Living (Book Reviews)

    "In Farewell, My Subaru: An Epic Adventure in Local Living, Doug Fine writes about his hilarious adventures in green living and some surprising facts he discovered about energy consumption; such as, it takes several thousand gallons of jet fuel to fly an organic banana from Honduras to Silver City, NM, or three times the amount of fuel he uses in his car each year. After graduating from Stanford, Doug Fine strapped on a backpack and traveled to five continents, reporting from remote perches in Burma, Rwanda, Laos, Guatemala and Tajikistan. He is a correspondent for NPR and PRI and the author of Not Really An Alaskan Mountain Man. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, Wired, US News and World Report, Christian Science Monitor, and Outside magazine. A native of Long Island, he lives in an obscure valley in Southern New Mexico alongside many goats and coyotes. Visit his web site at

    Thursday, February 14, 2008

    20th Century Ghosts: Horror Fiction to Die For (Book Reviews)

    It’s the variety that makes Joe Hill’s collection of 20th Century Ghosts, (William Morrow, 2007) stand out from the crowd of horror novelists. The stories range from the grotesque, to unnerving, even poignant and nostalgic.

    Sunday, December 09, 2007

    Xiaolu Guo's Third Novel is Set in London (Book Reviews)

    A poet from the age of fifteen, Xiaolu Guo first came to London in 2002 as an experienced novelist and filmmaker from mainland China. Her observations led to her third book, the first in English, a remarkable mix of eastern and western ideals with a clever, funny, often profound and engaging writing style. Titled A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers: A Novel (Published by Nan A. Talese, September 4, 2007), The novel explores a subject that many people can relate to, the acquisition of a new language. This book was nominated for the 2007 Orange Prize for fiction. Read the review then listen to the interview, and view clips from her filmography. Xiaolu Guo is a talent we will see and hear more.

    Saturday, December 08, 2007

    Book Review: American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin (Book Reviews)

    "Prometheus stole fire and gave it to men." -Apollodorus, The Library, book 1:7, second century B.C.

    "My two great loves are physics and New Mexico. It is a pity that they can't be combined." So wrote J. Robert Oppenheimer, the enigmatic and mystic genius who managed to do just that at Los Alamos following his appointment as Scientific Director of the Manhattan Project.

    The father of the atomic bomb was a unique polymath who can justifiably be credited with founding the foremost school of theoretical physics in America. Moreover, in contrast to many gifted mathematicians and physicists, Oppenheimer's intellectual curiosity extended well beyond the limits of his chosen career. He was a prolific reader and loved the arts, especially poetry. He was also fascinated by mysticism and with his remarkable facility to acquire languages with astounding ease, he learned Sanskrit so that he could study the ancient Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita.

    Thursday, November 29, 2007

    CS Richardson's Amazing Little Gem: The End of the Alphabet (Book Reviews)

    The End of the Alphabet by CS Richardson (Doubleday, 2007) is a one-hundred-and-nineteen-page gem coming out in paperback that you can read in one sitting. Be prepared to be taken on a roller coaster of emotion. It is the story of a couple, one of whom has just been diagnosed with a terminal illness and told will not live past one month. It is a story of love, of courage, and of loss. It is a story you will read and pass on to friends, because we all admire this kind of love; we all fear this kind of devastation and find ourselves compelled to look into their abyss. The End of the Alphabet has just been awarded the Commonwealth Writers Prize for First Novel. Congratulations Charles!!

    Monday, February 05, 2007

    Loree Fahy Review: War On the Middle Class (Book Reviews)

    BookBuffet's political books review editor, Loree Fahy tackles the latest book by CNN anchor and managing editor, Lou Dobbs. Read this review of War on the Middle Class (Viking, Oct 2006) and weigh-in with your comments.

    Sunday, November 19, 2006

    Loree Fahy Reviews: Audacity (Book Reviews)

    As Barack Obama ponders the presidential bid, our new political books editor, Loree Fahy has chosen a timely review of this US Senator from Illinois' book, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream(Crown, Oct 17, 2006)

    Wednesday, July 19, 2006

    Francine Prose Writes to Readers and Aspiring Writers (Book Reviews)

    One of my favorite writers and critics, Francine Prose, has published a new work directed toward just about anyone interested in books. It has the unwieldy title, Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write. (Harper Collins 2006) An excellent interview of the author appears in The Atlantic today.

    Thursday, March 23, 2006

    The Parchment by Gerald T. McLaughlin: The Next Da Vinci Code? (Book Reviews)

    Dan Brown's bestselling book, The Da Vinci Code has gone down in history as one of the most popular novels. Translated into 40 languages with over 40 million copies sold and garnering the author an annual income of $76 million dollars. But another book combining a plot to threaten the foundations of the church with stolen artifacts and Templars is out.  The Parchment (Lindisfarne Books) by Gerald T. McLaughlin. Lovers of The DaVinci Code should take a look.  

    Sunday, January 29, 2006

    A Kick-Ass Workout Book Testimonial (Book Reviews)

    I consider myself a reasonably fit person; I've done a couple marathons, I play tennis, bike and jog regularly, and I put in about 30 days of skiing a year. I've always had an inch or so of unwanted "padding." You know—that little bulge beside the bra strap, and spillage around my low-rise jeans. Well, it's gone -- all gone! I have an emerging abdominal six pack, and arm definition a 20 year-old would be proud of, and I am in my mid-forties. How? The Boot Camp Workout, by Cat Smiley.

    Wednesday, September 14, 2005

    Zadie Smith's Third Novel: On Beauty (Book Reviews)

    Zadie Smith's first novel White Teeth (Penguin) set critics on the edge of their seats.  Now that she has reached the ripe age of thirty she is once again back on track and solidly claiming her place in the literary firmament with her third work, On Beauty: A Novel.(Penguin) This work gathers narrative steam from the clash between two radically different families, with a plot that explicitly parallels Howards End. (E.M. Forrester is a favorite)

    Sunday, April 24, 2005

    For The Guys: Malcolm Gladwell as Hip Intellectual (Book Reviews)

    If you're looking for a book you, your husband, boyfriend or co-worker might like, look no further than Malcolm Gladwell. The wunderkind writer for NewYorker magazine is influencing all the hip-intellectuals with his first two books... (photo by Brooke Williams)


    Friday, January 21, 2005

    The News From Paraguay: Lily Tuck's Epic Love-War Story Wins the 2004 National Book Award (Book Reviews)

    It is Paris 1854 and Ella Lynch, a broke and beautiful courtesan, decides to take-up with the dashing and wealthy Francisco Solano—the future dictator of Paraguay—and move to his isolated country to become his mistress. Taking with her a servant, her possessions and a horse called Mathilde, she reports the news in letters back to Paris of her experiences in an exotic new world of isolation and adventure, power and wealth, fraught with harrowing challenges of war, disease, and her own spiral into her husband's cruel ambition.

    Saturday, January 01, 2005

    The Way The Crow Flies: A Book About Secrets and Lost Innocence (Book Reviews)

    Ann-Marie MacDonald's second novel, The Way the Crow Flies tops bestseller charts in the paperback edition in her home country.  It portrays the Canadian Cold War perspective as experienced by the McCarthy family, who live in a small Ontario border town on an RCAF military base. 

    Thursday, August 12, 2004

    So You Want to Be A Rock & Roll Star: Jacob Slichter's look at Celebrity and the Music Industry (Book Reviews)

    If you are not inclined to air guitar while listening to your favorite rock riff, and playing in a Rock & Roll band was never your secret fantasy, then you must certainly go out and buy Jake Slichter's new book because you are missing-out on an interesting perspective of life.

    Monday, August 02, 2004

    Why Read? Mark Edmundson's New Book (Book Reviews)

    In this technological age, statistics show reading is down. What individual and societal effect does this fact imply? Why should we care? Beyond all we are taught in school, the morals we learn from family while growing up—only reading, Edmundson argues, can shape our thoughts, opinions, actions as adults.

    Sunday, April 04, 2004

    Lost Art of the Seductress (Book Reviews)

    Betsy Prioleau is author of The Seductress (Viking Press, 2003), about women who ravished the world through the lost art of love. Reviewed by David Bowmanat

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