Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Curse of the Spellmans

so then i read the next installment of the spellman files, titled curse of the spellmans. (see earlier review of the spellman files). once again, we are joined by this odd ball family of private investigators, with isabel remaining our faithful narrator. i think this book took place about a year after the first book finished, but it doesnt really matter. anyway, this time, isabel is staying with henry stone, the detective who handled her sister's disappearance, because she got kicked out of her apartment. her sister and henry are best friends, which is odd, because the sister, rae, is 15 and henry is like, 47 or something. anyway isabel is trying to clear up several mysteries. 1) why is her dad suddenly taking care of his health? 2) why is her brother moping and why has his wife (isabel's best friend) has left town? 3) why does rae suddenly have friends other than henry? 4) why is her mother vandalising some random motorbike? 5)why is her neighbour so suspicious, and why does he seem to have a connection to two missing women? and 6) who is behind the vandalism of some woman's yard? not only that, but why is the vandalism exact replication of the vandalism isabel herself committed against the same woman 15 years prior? (mystery number six is the only one isabel has actually been HIRED to investigate. the others are just due to her impulse control problem and over arching, prominent suspicion of everyone).
anyway, the hijinks are back, and once again lutz has managed to avoid falling into the genre fiction trap. definitely worth the read.

The Rapture

ok comrades, i am way behind on book reviews, so here we go. a couple of weeks ago, i finished the rapture by liz jensen. this book was excellent, if not a little frightening, given how very very possible the storyline is. this book takes place in the not so distant future, where global warming has become even more unbearable than it already is. the main character is gabrielle, a french-canadian (?) parapelegic art-therapist who is starting her first job since her accident at a high security psychiatric facility for dangerous juveniles. her most interesting and dangerous client is bethany, who killed her mother with a screwdriver when she was eight (i think, its been a few weeks since i read the book) and has been in lockdown ever since. at the time of our reading, bethany is now sixteen (i think) and still refuses to talk about the incident with her mother. she has however taken a liking to electroschock therapy, as she feels that the volts enable her to correctly predict natural disasters. of course no one really believes her, but gabrielle starts to notice she does have an uncanny knack for being right. on top of all this, there is a huge group of people who are part of the "faith wave" who are hard core evangelical right-wing Christians who sit around waiting for the rapture all the time. in a somewhat predictable but necessary twist, bethany's father (who refuses to visit her in the facility) is a major minister of the faith wave. anyway, long story short, bethany ends up predicting this massive, massive natural disaster that could knock out most of europe and probably more. (the story takes place in england). eventually gabrielle starts believing in bethany's predictions and then she and her newly acquired physicist boyfriend are trying to make people believe that the disaster is coming, and of course the faith wave people think that they are going to be raptured before hand.
this book is well written and exciting, but as i said, a little frightening. (not to mention i was distracted by all sorts of negative thoughts like, would dave still love me if i was paraplegic?) the only negative thing i have to say about it, is the story is written in the first person, from gabrielle's point of view, and she drags out telling you stuff in an effort to surprise you, but its so friggin obvious from the very beginning. (example: the fact that she is in a wheelchair). also there is this really irritating section of the book where she thinks that the physicist is cheating on her and he so obviously isnt and it is so distracting, because all you can think about is how stupid she is not to see that and have trouble getting through the plot-related stuff. anyway, i suppose i can forgive this because the bonus of having a first person narrative is that the narrator is imperfect and flawed and only sees things the way she wants to. or whatever. anyway, if you want a thought provoking but disturbing read, this is the way to go.

Monday, September 28, 2009

I Could Have Used Some More Sleep Last Night

well comrades, i had a good idea for a blogging topic, but that was like two hours ago, and now i cant for the life of me remember what it was *sigh* anyway, today there is a "wind warning" and it is very gusty. i cant decide if i want to keep up with my book reviews or not... i havent had a chance to do them for the last 4 books that ive read. maybe i will go to the school some time this week and do all four. i dont know. man im so pissed that i cant remember what i was going to write about. maybe i should start writing my blogs down on paper and then transcribing them. that might be an idea. although in my own defense, i am very spaced out today. so im forgetting all things equally. anyway, if it comes to me, i will blog about it. i cant believe how bad this post is going. i think im distracted because im trying to think of an original piece i could do for the cbc literary awards this year. i didnt do one last year but i think id like to. maybe i should write that story ive been thinking about for a while called "giving up the ghost" i also wonder if perhaps i should read some of the winners from previous years to see what sort of writing wins or would actually be competitive... but i fear that would just result in my trying to emulate someone elses style, which would just be stupid..... *sigh*

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Downtown Owl

so this morning i finished downtown owl by chuck klosterman. i was so into it i was late for work because i didnt want to leave the house without finishing it. this is yet another from the mcnally robinson flyer. this book was AWESOME. it was genuinely hilarious but also strangely moving. its about a little town in north dakota that gets hit by this unexpected and brutal blizzard that kills 20 people. the book chronicles the lives of three totally unrelated people who dont even really know each other in the months leading up to the blizzard. it is SO cool. anyway, im not going to get into all the details, but what i realised once i finished it is that what this book is really about is how we read articles in the newspapers about tragedies and stuff, but we just think wow that sucks. and we dont think about the reality of the fact that one of those people suffering might be a young teacher who has a drinking problem but only in the most hilarious sense of the phrase. or an old man who may or may not have killed his wife for merciful reasons. or a young boy who hates his football coach and is saddened and proud of the fact that his younger sister is probably the best football player in the state. anyway, this book was un-fucking-believable. it was that good. really.

School Year's Resolutions

alright comrades, for anyone who is still marginally interested in my life instead of what books im reading, here is the update. as of this morning, i have decided to stop drinking during the week. this is officially a weekend only activity (with the exception of the occasional beer at barbs, but that doesnt happen very often). in addition, i am getting my fat ass back in the pool as of monday... possibly sooner. im heading over to the mcmaster website directly to check the swimming schedule. i want my body and mental health back, and by jove, im going to get it!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Panic In Level 4

alright, so here we have yet another book from the mcnally robinson insert. this book is by robert preston, who wrote the hot zone which is the true account of the ebola virus. if i am not mistaken, the hot zone was the inspiration for the movie OUTBREAK with dustin hoffmann. anyway, so preston is a nonfiction/sciency/journalismy type of guy and this book is a collection of a few of his articles that have been dressed up and revamped and updated a little for the book. in general, this book was excellent. i thought it was brave of him to start with the article about the brothers chudnovsky, who built a super computer and were able to calculate pi to over 2 billion digits, a world record. i found this to be one of the best articles in the book, but i think a lot of people would pass on the book because of it, since i have found that the sweeping majority of the population has a strange aversion to mathematics. (?)
i would recommend this book to pretty much anyone with half a brain, and i was impressed that he did very little over explaining of basic scientific concepts for the lay person, which i was prepared to tolerate and not looking forward to. the only other thing i really have to say about it is it really should have a warning on the jacket or something because some of the topics get a little graphic and gruesome... not to mention some of the photos. (example: photo of a guy who has a disease that caused him to eat off his own lips and rip out his own teeth). BUT if you can handle that sort of thing, it is a very interesting, well written and overall absorbing read.

American Nerd

so this is american nerd by benjamin nugent, the next installment from the titles i gleaned from the mcnally robinson insert in my walrus magazine last month. (sadly, there was no insert this month). anyway, this book is about the history of what a nerd is and how it came to be that this is a "type" of person that we all know and recognise. then it goes on to reflect on why people become nerds and what it is that unites nerds and there are some funny anecdotes relating this topic to nugent's past. the book was interesting, at times amusing, and well written, but it was more akin to something that would be on the required reading list for a cultural studies course. not so much leisure reading, at least not for me. anyway, if you're looking to tickle your brain and have a penchant for nerds and/or history, this book is for you.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Coffee Angels

well, the P.A.M.'s where anne and i go for coffee all the time "renovated" and got new lighting above where the baristas work. and it makes them look like they are glowing from within, and the features of their faces actually appear more defined than they used to. and i told them that they looked like they had descended upon us from another world to bestow us with heavenly cofffee. and as i sat there drinking my tea and looking at them, i thought, there are my little coffee angels. a sweet little piece of the divine.

My Holden Caulfield Moment

well, i have to admit its been a long time since this happened, but on monday evening, i totally had a holden caulfield moment. dave and i were on the subway, on our way to visit trevor for his birthday (happy birthday trevor! wooo!) and there was this very well dressed, good looking, well built man reading a book. and he was drinking a happy meal carton of milk. with a straw. and i just thought it was the most amazing and beautiful piece of humanity i had seen in forever. and i dont think i will ever forget it.

When You Are Engulfed In Flames

so this weekend i read when you are engulfed in flames by david sedaris. apparently, i am even more out of touch with popular culture than i thought i was, because after googling around for this image and some contact info to write him, i learned that he is, in fact, rather famous. i was unaware of this, but i can see why because this book is both excellent and hilarious.
when you are engulfed in flames was the next installment on my list of titles i got from that robinson-mcnally flyer that came with my walrus magazine. the jacket flap bills it as "a book of essays," which is a sort of loose definition. basically, this is the book we all wish we could write and make a living off of. mr. sedaris has basically written a bunch of musings, observations and reflections upon various events in his life. the result is both interesting and insightful, as well as being totally hilarious. if only we could all be captivating enough for people to be interested in our thoughts on quitting smoking or naming spiders that live in our windows. i would highly recommend this book to anyone, and i intend to read his other work once i get through this little reading list ive created from the robinson-mcnally flier.

Friday, September 04, 2009

The Night of the Gun

so i finally finished the night of the gun this morning, and it took me much longer than most books do. this was in part due to the fact that my mother and sister were visiting, so i wasnt reading as much this week as usual, but it was mostly due to the writing. this is not a negative comment, its just that this book was a bit more of a thinker and the writing style was quite unlike most books that i read. i think this is because the author, david carr, is a lifetime journalist. but ill get to that in a minute.
this book was very unique in a genre where being unique is damn near impossible. it is a story of a recovering crack/coke addict/alcoholic and his journey from addiction to recovery, relapse and beyond. what makes this version of a tired story so different is that david carr, being a journalist, decided to INVESTIGATE the details of his own demise by doing research and interviews, treating his own tragic life history like another article he was about to write. in so doing, he was trying to reconcile his own version of events with those of the people in his life. the idea is, i suppose, that the truth is somewhere in between. as such, the whole book kind of osillates between reading like a newspaper article and reading like some sort of university essay waxing eloquence about memory and truth. this is what made the reading a little difficult at times, but you have to admire carr's dedication in providing us with the most realistic account and truthful information he could find.
carr transisitons seamlessly between the past and present, holding the reader's interest. he manages to make this story not just one about addiction and recovery, but an analysis of the nature of memory and perception, truth and recollection. rather than taking us through the past journey of his addiction and recovery, the book feels more like hes taking us through the journey of self realisation and discovery that he didnt see coming when he decided to research and write this book. as such, the book is a stand alone in a genre that has been done to death, and it is definitely worth a read. but be prepared to spend a lot of time on it.