Book Reviews

****** Fantastic!

***** Excellent


*** OK but uninspiring

** Weak

* Catastrophe

These "quick reviews" will appear as soon as I have completed reading the book. Some such as Surfacing, are re-reads. After thirty years it is beneficial to re-introduce some of these classics.

Gone With the Wind****.....Margaret Mitchell. Not much has to be said. The story of Scarlett O'Hara, a true heroine who faces the death of husbands from war, infatuation with a man she loved and married a cousin, and the end of the playful planatation life. She depicts beautifully the mood of the grand South and paints a historical tapestry over the melo-drama. 

Margaret Mitchell                                                        


A Place of Hiding*****.....Elizabeth George. Another great Inspector Lynley mystery. Great story about Guy Brouard, who escaped the Nazis in Paris. He was invoved in a museum project honouring those who resisted the German occupation on the isle of Guernsey. A great history lesson that is gripping and suspenseful. George's usual perfect balance of intrigue, detail of landscape and chracter analysis.

Fox Evil*****.....Minnette Walters. A great murder mystery full of resentment and gossip. A wealthy landowner, who's wife has been killed, is not a suspect of the police but he hovers over the novel like a hungary hawk. Walter's does not use her popular "letter writing" technique in this novel, but she does well going into the darkest of human spirits.

In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner*****.....Elizabeth George. Another Lynley classic. A multi-faceted surprise ending and very suspenseful plot. Very well drawn cahracters. Miss Havers is as complex and human as ever. One of George's top ten.

Elizabeth George

The Dionne Years*****.....Pierre Berton. This is one of the most heart-wrenching true tales I have ever read about and researched. Berton is very thorough as he documents the role of government in this great tragedy. He never misses an opportunity to provide details to really set the spirit of time and place. Berton does not editorialize, he gives us every detail and let's us feel heartbreak.

The Silent Cry****.....Anne Perry. One of the long series of William Monk murder mystery, by Anne Perry, who happens to be a real-life murderous. Respected solicitor Walter Lane is viciously beaten to death. This murder is connected to a series of rapes and beatings of local prostitutes. The only fault of Perry's in my opinion is that she could do a better job of bringing the Victorian Era to life more vividly.

Anne Perry

Amazing Grace******.....Jonathan Kozol. This is a gripping and powerful writing on the lives of the children in the most destitute part of New York city. This is hard to read at times, being profoundly disturbing, and tells honestly and simply of the lives of these children and the strange characters who dominate their lives.

Gil's All Fright Diner****.....F. Lee Martinez. I don't normally read from this genre but I thought I was about due. It was really enjoyable. Included in this hilarious and touching story was a romance between a vampire and a graveyard guardian ghost. Well woth reading.

Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town******.....Stephen Leacock. This was everything it was cracked up to be. It was full of humorous stories about life in Orillia in the 1920's. One over-riding theme was the spirit of individualism and liberalism that initiated a certain spirit of social well-being. The passenger boat, when sinking in knee-high water was precipitated with a unique type of casual sophication by the townfolk. A must read!

Stephen Leacock

Drowning Ruth*****.....Christina Swartz. A somewhat melodramatic but interesting story of a young woman searching for her identity. I guess you've heard that one before! Though a common theme the characters were well tapestried against the rural landscape of Wisconsin, and tension was maintained well throughout.

The Cure for Death by Lightening******.....Gail Anderson-Dargatz. 

 A great surprise. Brilliant! Another tale of a young girl who sees bigotry agianst he Indian neighbours, has a father lost in frustration and poverty, a strange relationship with another girl that poses questions about sexualiy, a rediculous feud between the Swedish neighbour and her father, and a confusing relationship with one of the farmhands. Added to this is the addition of various "country recipes" that decorate the story, and add a strong spirit of place.

Gail Anderson-Dargatz

Alias Grace*****.....Margaret Atwood. A great look at Ontario in the mid 19th century. Grace Marks, the apparent murderous, face sexual discrimination and critical evaluation by the likes of Suzanna Moodie. Through the eyes of Grace herself, she shows no sense of victimization, only an awareness of her struggle. Edgy and concise. A must read.

Margaret Atwood

Waiting for the Weekend****.....Witold Rybezynski. A fun journey into how we got to our "weekend" oriented culture. A little repetitive at times, but fun and very readable. Lots of historical references and a decent attempt to connect cultural, religious and economic factors.,,315197,00.html

Barilko, Without a Trace*****.....Kevin Shea. A well researched story of the Leaf legend. As often is the case with biographies, there is a lot of detail that is uninteresting and not terribly significant. Many areas of his research do manage to be interesting though. I particularly like the section that pertains to the famous photographs of the famous overtime goal in 1951. Nat Turofsky's explanation to his leading up to his famous snapshot is fascinating. A great look into the growth of a star and a fun look at the Leaf organization from 1948-1951.

The famous goal...

Atonement******Ian McEwan.

 A great novel. A young girl witnesses a murder but lies, and lives in denial. The young man whose life she destroyed becomes unavoidably intertwined in her life. As a reader, I waited for "atonement". The sense of place is the most poweful aspect of the book in my opinion. The description of the large ominous home, complete with magestic, historical and romantic structures surrounds the characters with what might be construed as an elevated sense of importance. An interesting film starring Ailidh Mackay, Saorse Ronan and Brenda Blethlyn.

Saoirse Ronan was brilliant in "Atonement"

Saturday*****          Ian McEwan. 

 Dr. Perowne wakes up, not only physically naked, but emotionally as well. He witnesses something outside the window that scares him, and puts him on the defensive. He is fortyish and a neurosurgeion, and his "Saturday" involves experiences which make him doubt his self-worth and purpose. His family become meer decorations. The unexplained incident at the beginning give us overtones of a post-911 state-of-mind perpetuated by fear.

Ian McEwan

Fall On Your Knees******Ann-Marie McDonald. 

 My number one read. A startingly bleak story of a family in Cape Breton. The young girls face so many challenges; a suicide by their mother, a drunken father, prejudice against Jews and Lebanese, and the temptations of prostition. The girls are forced to grow up all to fast. Supplementing this story is the life of their oldest sister who goes on to New York to be a professional vocalist. She experiences a major transformation of identity, and at the end the youngest daughter travels by herself to find out the truth. She is so dramatically described getting on the train in her threadbare green dress and red rubber boots. This is not for the squeamish!

The Way the Crow Flies******Marie-Ann McDonald. 

 Another McDonald classic. This story is based on the Truscott murder. It beautifully depicts life in a small Ontario town, that is a military base, and seems to be stuck back in time. We are taken inside the minds of young school-girls as they experience an intolerant school system, fear of right-wing political thinking and sexual inequality. Sexual identity becomes a central emotional issue for the protagonist. The ending, which provides us with a conclusion regarding the murder, is shocking and thought provoking.

Coming Through Slaughter*****Michael Ondaatje. 

 A real reading adventure. It is based on the life of jazz cornetist Buddy Bolden. It is written like a jazz composition. There are riffs, lots of improvisation and main themes that occasionally reoccur. The story at times is improvised so much that we (or at least I) lose our way. I always found my back though as Ondaatje's soloing always had a melody somewhere. Ondaatje's style is effective and has great emotional impact in describing Bolden's wild life in this manner. Sometimes I felt like I was in the same stupor as the protagonist!

Michael Ondaatje

In the Skin of a Lion*****Michael Ondaatje. 

 A great experience being absorbed in the life of Toronto in the 1920's. Patrick Lewis was a young man of the unsophisticated sort who went through life like a bulldozer but had a type of genius. He had intensely emotional relationships, but super-imposed on these was his view and involvement of the new eco-technical era. He witnessed discrimination in the workplace, the growth of trade unionism and political corruption. We read about the construction of the Bloor Street Viaduct, and the amazing "swingers" who hold on to ropes and swing courageously over the gaping valley. We are even taken on a "Fantastic Voyage-like" trip through the Toronto Water Filtration Plant. Sound strange? Try it!

The Corpse in Oozak's Pond (A Peter Shandy Mystery)***Charlotte McLeod. 

 A standard Cristie-like who-done-it. A body is found in Oozak's Pond and it is linked to the members of the Buggins family. We are provided with a diagrammed family-tree to help us wade through the suspects. I read it through to find out who the killer was, and because it was humorous at times.

Billie Holiday****Stuart Nicholson. 

 A gripping story of the great Lady Day. Whenever I read about Billie Holiday I always ask what if, and why, But, I don't think those questions can ever be answered. All we can really say is that like all of us, she made her own decisions most of the time and suffered the consequences. Nicholson goes into great detail and provides us with vivid examples of her masocism. Her relationships were based on instant gratification. She may or may not have been aware of this, but it was a survival technique...her music being the ultimate example. Well worth the read, likely the best on Billie.

Lady Day


Marilyn****Norman Mailer. 

 I'm a big fan of Monroe. One reason is obvious, but she was also a great actress, and a versatile one. Her singing was under-rated as well. Mailer however seems mainly preoccupied with why her type of sexuality was so attractive. She obviously had a girl-next-door innocense, intrigingly blended with a sexual openess, and maybe it is as simple as that. She put it on the screen like no one else though. Mailer describes her relationships and how the men in her life failed to accomodate her special needs. He also filled the book with most of the great photos of Marilyn. It struck me that she had a particular beauty as a teenager, when her hair was red, and that her "final" image was very much different. Not a masterpiece but worth the read and "look"!

A young Marilyn

Watership Down******Richard Adams. A classic storytelling. This is a heroic fantasy about a group of sapient rabbits who have a unique personified culture, language, set of proverbs and mythology. They establish different home locations in their struggle to survive, and avoid enemies which include rabbits of less gentility and mankind. Hazel is the inspirational leader of the rabbits and is responsible for the establishment of the social-democratic society. The rabbit's sense of values depicted those which seem to be lost by modern man.

Richard Adams

Wilderness Tips*****Margaret Atwood. An extraordinary collection of ten short stories. In these stories Atwood hauntingly sets the past against the present and puts her protagonists in a struggle between the social and natural landscape. My two favourites of the collection are Bog Man and Death by Landscape. "Landscape" leaves us thinking about the mysteries of death and "Bog" Atwood metaphorically portrays the gradual disappearance of the protagonists lover in her memory and draws a parallel to him through an ancient legend.

Invisible Circus****Jennifer Egan. It might be better than I rated, but although I enjoyed it, it didn't generate a strong reaction. It was made into a film starring Cameron Diaz, who played Faith O'Connor. She travelled to Europe and had various sexual and cultural experiences, while searching for the truth about her sisters death. The perspective of her experience was that her sisters life was super-imposed against her life as a teenager during the social revolution of the 1960's.

Cameron Diaz as Faith O'Connor

The Feline Mystique: On the Mysterious Connection Between Cats and Women*****Clea Simon. A very interesting topic. Simon delves into Greek mythology, sexual symbolism, the cultural phenomenon and understanding of the "cat woman" and the strange relationship between cat owners and their pets. Philosophical, a serious study and humorous as well.

The Twenty-seven Ingrediant Chile Con Carne Murders***Nancy Pickard. One of thousands of light mysteries, that are read simply for entertainment. Pickard uses an interesting metaphorical device, paralleling Eugenia Potter's Chile Con Carne recipe with the intracacies of solving a murder.

When Eugenia Potter receives an urgent phone call from the manager of her ranch near Tucson, she's only too happy to drop everything and fly home. Something inside of her is calling her back to the desert. Why else would she be preparing spicy Mexican meatball soup at her cottage in Maine when the menu clearly calls for clam chowder?

But once she arrives home. Mrs. Potter discovers that her ranch manager and his granddaughter are missing from her ranch, Las Palomas, and feared dead. When a guest at a dinner gathering thrown by Mrs. Potter is found poisoned--apparently from eating her famous 27-ingredient chili--she knows she must act quickly before the murderer strikes again. And it doesn't hurt to have the help of a long-lost beau to spice up the danger with romance....

Searching for Bobby Orr*****Stephen Brunt. Not many sports biographies are worth reading, but this one is. I grabbed it for two reasons, one; I consider Brunt to be possibly Canada's best sports reporter (can be seen on Prime Time Sports) and second; the story of Bobby Orr is one that warranted telling. It was great to read about his Parry Sound days, his relationship with Alan Eagleson and Brunt's analysis of Orr's legendary knee.

  Stephen Brunt 

The Grapes of Wrath******John Steinbeck. Nothing has to be said. This great novel was heart-wrenching and was Steinbecks usual display of tenderness and compassion for the human spirit and the plight of the unfortuneate. It is also a great study in the social revolution taking place during the Dust Bowl era. Steinbeck epitomomizes the best in popular literature as his writing is prophetic, profoundly descriptive but very readable and not overly decorated with intangible symbolism. Also a great film featuring Henry Fonda and Jane Darwell.

John Steinbeck


The Stone Angel******Margaret Laurence. Another classic. If you haven't read this, you must be from another planet! Margaret Laurence is at her self-effacing best. Her main character appears to fall into our own trap of being eccentric, but she is only trying to keep from falling into the hands of dubious doubters of her value and spirit. Laurence is so readable and so full of clarity that her message goes straight to the jugglar, because it no where else to go.

Margaret Laurence


A Jest of God******Margaret Laurence. This, written in first person present is a very naked novel that brings rachel right to the surface of your emotions and intellect. She is eccentric and full of dreams, and acts impulsively as a reaction against doing what id evaluated as correct. She talks of her actions as past things that were done out of fear or dislike and she fears she will be affected negatively by this. She keeps fighting and shows a humor about herself that allows her to befriend herself.

Surfacing******Margaret Atwood.

 This is about a nameless heroine who searches for her lost father and has experiences with language, romance and nature that grows her inner self. She strips herself of her humaness as she evolves into seeing herself as an animal. Her lover, Dave, is an outspoken simplist, who inspires her to rebel. This great novel has been used in university studies for anthropologists, geographers, sociologists and cultural historians. It greatly helped to define Canadian nationalism and feminism. It was written in 1972 a year in which (first year of university) I was developing a heightened thirst for knowledge and understanding, in particular about man-environment relations. Made into a film starring Joseph Bottoms and Kathleen Beller. 

    I first read Surfacing when I was at Exeter studying for a Modern Fiction module, and remember understanding almost none of it. Now I understand rather more, but only having read it a few more times. Learn from my experience, and have some patience with this novel. It's very rewarding when you know what’s going on, and I hope you will come to really enjoy it.
       Now, to business: You might have read interviews with Margaret Atwood, or you might now feel moved to read them in the future, in which case you will have divined that she is partly a genius and partly bonkers.
       Atwood has a reputation for savaging her interviewers, who usually make some general comment about her fitting into the Western feminist canon, and end up looking like muddy primary school children.
       It seems to me that to avoid this we should stay on the safe side of the fence, and assume that Atwood is bonkers. Her narrator in Surfacingquite clearly is, and the narrative voice derives from a trait of Atwood’s – that while she is writing, she is completely immersed in her own world. So it is bonkers, but I think you’ve got to respect that.
       The book is short. It is disengaged in tone. However, this does not mean it is straightforward to study because it is also, in effect, prose poetry. And if there’s one thing we should know about poetic language it’s that there are always layers of meaning.
       Thus the novel itself is multi-layered. An exploration of its language should turn up ideas about womanhood, religion, landscape, birth, animals and modern society, and many other themes, all together. What we’ve got to decipher is exactly how the language is conveying these things. If you’re inquisitive – and work off your own back, rather than just mine – you’ll get a lot of fun out of it. I promise.                                                   Richard Cheadle

Breath, Eyes, Memory*****Edwidge Danticat. A very personal and touching story about Sofie, a young girl brought up in Haiti, torn between the traditional Creole mores and the challenges of being married, with a new child in America. Her mother performs a poking ritual to her, to confirm her virginity, and later in the novel she injures herself in order to excuse herself from her mother's care and "blackmail" her boyfriend into marraige. She returns to her homeland out of humiliation and obligation being once again exposed to intolerance and social chaos. It is a graceful and modest narrative.

Deadly Decisions****Kathy Reichs. A murder mystery set in Montreal. Dr. Temperance Brennan, a forensic anthropologist has to put together the pieces of motorcycle gang attack, that kills an innocent young girl. She must deal with the arrest of her boyfriend, a detective, a chauvenistic police-chief, and a nephew who comes to visit and befriends a suspicious media personality. Lots of forensic garble, which can be fascinating at times, and a group of well developed characters. Interesting geographical and social references to Montreal, as well as a detailed breakdown of the biker wars.

Kathy Reichs

The Sucker's Kiss**** Alan Parker. Lots of fun. A fictional tale about a young boy who becomes a professional pick-pocket. He documents an attitude that states the belief that if you don't take, you'll get taken. Naturally you empathize with him,as he seems to take an unavoidable turn. There are also interesting historical references to the San Francisco fire of 1906.

Goodnight Desdemona*****Ann-Marie MacDonald.

A brilliant parody on Shakespeare that juxtaposes three different elements. There is the current-time conscience mind of the protagonist writing student, Constance, the sub-conscience of Constance that mingles with the third element, which is the group of Shakespearian characters from Othello and Romeo and Juliet. Constance also has problems with her university professor, and her personal conflicts are dealt with through her fraternity with the Shakesperaian characters.

Ann-Marie MacDonald

The Sunday Philosophy Club***Alexander McCall Smith. This mystery did not contain the usual suspense or action. Isabel Dalhousie meandered into philosophicl musings, which were the basis of her methodology for problem-solving. The protagonists approach to sleuthing was based on ethics and morality, not good vs evil.

Couplehood***Paul Reiser. This is primarily a compilation of thoughtys about marriage, paced and arranged much in the same way as a stand-up comedy routine. He comments on things such as chocolate on pillows, the role of women on talk shows, a married couples' bhavior at the movies, and picking out greeting cards.

In the tradition of the #1 best-seller  SeinLanguage, Bantam Books proudly presents the first book  by Paul Reiser, television's sharpest, funniest  observer of love, marriage and other mysteries of  life. A veteran comic performer, Reiser is best-known  as the co-creator and star of the highly-rated NBC  comedy, "Mad About You", which  TimeMagazine called "The season's  best new sitcom"in its 1992 debut. Every  Thursday night more than twenty million viewers watch  as Paul Reiser reveals the most intimate and  hilarious scenes of a marriage. Now for the first time,  Reiser brings his trademark wit to the page in a  book that will delight his eagerly-awaiting  audience, and anyone else who has ever fallen in love--or  tried not to. In Couplehood, a New York Times  bestseller for more than 40 weeks, Reiser reflects on  what it means to be half of a couple -- everything  from the science of hand holding, to the technique  of tag-team storytelling, to the politics of food  and why it always seems to come down to chicken or  fish.

Murder Sees the Light****Howard Engel. A well written tragicomedy mystery. Mr. Engels give sit great dynamic effect by injecting very descriptive passages using colourful metaphors. His characters are interesting, including the put-upon mistress of the evangelsit-on-the-lam, and the outlandish Maggie McCord. The ending involves an Agatha Christie type gathering of the suspects.

Howard Engel

Straight No Chaser***Jack Batten. A fun detective story, in the spirit of Engel. It is one of the "Chang" series that colourfully describes downtown Toronto in the 1990's and it's jazz scene. Also...lot's of characters fron Chinatown, including four Vietnamese drug traffickers.

Classic Batten--on the rocks

Jazz. Cocaine. Vietnamese triads. Dope-dealing yuppie lawyers. Jack Batten's got them all in his second mystery novel starring Crang, the unconventional criminal lawyer with a taste for straight vodka and a nose for trouble. This time out Crang is hired by his buddy Dave Goddard, a sax player whose playing style is from the fifties, but whose unwitting involvement in a complex coke-smuggling ring is pure eighties.

Crang's friendly offer to help Dave find out who is tailing him takes a reluctant sleuth into a series of unlikely locales: behind the scenes at Toronto's oh-so-chic film festival; into a triad-run afterhours boozecan; and into the gang's inner sanctum, the office of Big Bam, the ring's genial but deadly kingpin.

No one could ever accuse Crang of being a superhero, but with his usual mixture of innate cool and naive enthusiasm he brings the villains to justice and readers to the end of a cleverly entertaining romp that leaves us looking forward to Crang's next case. 

The Old Dick****L.A. Morse. Lots of the spirit of Raymond Chandler. A detective, out of retirement deals with a gangster who he put in prison years before, but who now has been released.

Retired private eye Jake Spanner may have gotten old, but he hasn’t gone soft. When an old gangster Jake put away some forty years ago shows up at his door, it’s time for Jake to grab his hat and Browning automatic and get back to work.

Old? Sure. Slower to catch his breath? Maybe. But, sharp as a tack and with a lifetime of investigating know-how, Jake Spanner has nothing to lose and everything to prove. Sniffing out leads between Sunset Boulevard and the Hollywood Hills, Jake pulls in old friends to help. The work is hard; it’s gritty. So is Jake. And, with a three quarters of a million dollars ransom at stake, the bad guys don’t stand a chance.

The Romanov Bride****Robert Alexander .The series of historical novels by Alexander are not brilliantly written, but are readable, interesting and have a certain type of appeal. They dramatize a very fascinating part of history. This is excellent storytelling, and brings you close to the Romanov bride, her fears for safety and her political ambivalence.

Rasputin's Daughter****Robert Alexander. Another in the series. A little more interesting than the Romanov Bride, with a humorous and intriguing look at Rasputin and the strain put upon his daughter by his crude behavior. Her courage is uplifting and Alexander as usual, tells a great story.

Robert Alexander

The Reader*****Bernard Schlink.

 A fascinating read. It is the story of a 15-year old boy who is gravely ill and is brought back to his home by a stranger. The stranger is a 36-year old woman who works as a tram conductor. The boy, Michael Berg feels obligated to visit the woman and they develop a friendship. takes on almost a solely sexual nature, and both are somewhat distant emotionally. She becomes somewhat abusive and Michael feels a sense of guilt, and feels obligated to please her. Later on when he is a student studying the war trials, he finds out that she worked at Auschwitz and is on trial. The book evolves into a study of attitudes towards the Holocaust thriugh language. Made into a film starring Kate Winslet.

Kate Winslet in The Reader

The Key****Patricia Wentworth. A traditional who-done-it, introducing a cluster of characters at the outset. The characters converse in decorative language. The eloquant accusations are humorous. This suave satire creates a taught ironic tone.  Miss Brown and Ida Mottram are intersting portrayals.

Honeymoon With Murder**Carolyn G. Hart. Very run-of-the-mill murder mystery. The town of Broward's Rock reminds me somewhat of the town in Kelly Martin's mystery woman series, or Cabot Cove of Jessica Fletcher fame. There are the stereotypical meddling mother-in-law, the New-Age psychic and the peeping Tom. The annotation of Annie Laurence's sketches creates interest, and the novel is a light read.

The Big Enchilada***L. A. Morse.Another Raymond Chandler inspired novel by Morse. Comparable to Chandler but a little more unsophisticated and "pleasantly" vulgar. It could be said by today's standards to be sexist, politically incorrect and cliche-ridden. The mood is cynical and the world seems ethically challenged. Lots of fun regardless!

Cover Her Face*****P. D. James. It seems James and George are the two old reliables. They are not like a box of chocolates, because you know what you're gonna get! Sally Jupp, an unwed mother is strangled as well as taking a drug overdos. The murder takes place the same day as the church fete, a situation very reminiscent of a Midsomer murder setting. Sally's controversial life is blanketed over the story and seems to suffocate the other characters. The characters act on petty jealosy and hypocrisy. Superb!

P. D. James

A Pocketful of Rye***Agatha Christie. Fun stuff, but the characters and plot are rather pedestrian. Mrs. Percival and Miss Ramsbottom are developed above the average for Ms. Christie. The "blackbirds in the pie" incident was interesting symbolically and added a sinister element to the story.

Dangerous to Know***Margaret Yorke. This was a suspenseful novel, written in a matter-of-fact style, which gave it a farcical touch. It is a story of one womans' oppression and a mans' journey through life as an abuser, seemingly unaware of the consequences.

The Memory Game*****Nichi French.

 A very dramatic and intense novel. The plot is simple, but the author focuses on the unwinding of the protagonists mental state. Old bones, found under a barbeque at a family reunion, takes the story back twenty-five years. Jane Martello begins to see her childhood as just a mirage.

The House of Cards****Kay Hooper. Maybe not worthy of four stars but there was something inexplicably pleasing about it. It was "Christie-esque" with the stereotypical Georgian mansion setting, with an array of motley and idiosyncratic characters. Pedestrian conflicts and incidental actions gradually gained momentum until the climax. It was written in a very persoanl first-person narrative.

Still Life*****Louise Penny.

 A great Canadian mystery novel. A Chief Inspector Armande Gamache novel. An elderly women is murdered in an artisan community. There appears to be absolutely no motive for such a crime. It was a very fascinating study in the forensic science of arrow tips, quivers, hunting bows, bow pins, recurves and compounds. Dominated with very dark humor.

The Dark Room*****Minnette Walters. 

 As Walters often does, she uses press clippings and personal letters to illoustrate events, and events and evolving relationships. The readert senses getting an "inside scoop". In this particular story we are left wondering whether the protagonist attempted suicide or was a victim of attempted murder. 

Deception on His Mind******Elizabeth George.

 A great novel. The plot was complex but always lucid. The racial tensions of Northern England between Anglo-Saxons and east Asians were realistically and tastefully illustrated. I enjoyed the characterization of Barbara Havers who at times was over-judgemental, but with determination and imagination waded through the tangle of political espionage, racial tension and romance. George as always, does a masterful job of creating a dynamic spirit-of-place. One of the best in the TV series, starring Sharon Small and Nathanial Parker.

Sharon Small and Nathanial Parker as Havers and Lynley

The Door*****Mary Roberts Rinehart.

 This mystery was a great "puzzle". There was a rapid-fire series of murders, of which the guilty party seemed obvious. During the court case near the end a raft of new information clouded the issue. "Elizabeth Jane" was an atypical middle-aged female sleuth, of the early twentieth century.

Mary Roberts Rinehart

Overture to Death*****Ngaio Marsh. 

  The plot was marvelous and the murder itself was sinister and ridiculous, worth the price of admission! A prank, which involved a water gun being placed in the orifice in a piano turned to tragedy as the water pistol was replaced by an actual gun and wired  to perform the kill! Miss Campanula, the victim, was a spiteful gossip and manipulator, but as the plot unwinds, it appers she may not have been the target.

Jerusalem Inn***Martha Grimes. 

 A little predictable and dull. Her imagery and setting descriptions are only average, and her old mansions, cemetaries, , quaint villages and old churches are a litle banal. It is very "Christie-like" with all the suspects gathered at Spinney Abbey with Inspector Richard Jury and Melrose Plant. 

Martha Grimes

Bon Bon Voyage**Nancy Fairbanks. This was a "cookbook" mystery, some of which are good, but not this one. Though amusing at times it was just a little too superfluous. Food columnist Carolyn Blue goes on a Mother's Day cruise with her girlfriend and mother-in-law. The mother-in-law is embarrassing and the girlfriend is promiscuous.

The Portrait****Iain Pears

 Something very different. The entire book is a monologue, by an artist, while he is engaged in doing a portrait. William Naysmith, the model, is an art critic and we soon hear the painter unravel his past with him and a message of hatred and hostility breaks through. A lugubrious reading experience.

Murder Has Your Number****Hugh Garner. 

 A great read, espcially for Torontonians as Garner takes us through sections of the central north end. It is written in the usual no-frills Garner style.  His characters show a skeptism toward the affluent and an overall ineptness in human beings in general. A fun Inspector McDumont mystery.

Cabbagetown***** Hugh Garner

Set in Toronto's east-end Cabbagetown neighbourhood ("the largest Anglo-Saxon slum in North America," not the comfortable middle-class enclave it has since become), Garner's novel begins on the eve of the Great Depression, with his teenage characters leaving school, finding paltry jobs, and attending half-innocent kissing parties at their more privileged friends' homes. The effects of the stock market collapse slowly begin to crush Cabbagetown's paltry economy, and Garner's characters--the earnestly struggling Ken Tilling and the sometime love of his life Myrla Patson most prominent among them--do what they can to survive. Some turn to crime, prostitution, or wage slavery and others ride the rails, while one cynical social climber becomes a crypto-fascist and government clerk. 

Stones of Treason (An Art World Mystery)*****Peter Watson. Very well written. It is detailed with interesting references to famous masterpieces of art  and sculpture, as well as detailing the social politics of the Royal Family , it's institutions and it's relationship with the acting government. A group based in Greece, has demanded a return of "The Marbles" to the Parthenon. Wonderful book!

Peter Watson's Stones of Treason

A Potion for a Widow****Caroline Roe. 

 A medieval mystery. Blind physician Isaac of Verona must search for the killer of a mild-mannered clerk. A secondary plot involves the identity of a boy who a local Lord finds on his journey. He is found to be a girl in disguise who is the daughter of the murder victim. Cross-sexual identity is common to Shakesperian offerings. 

The Bone Collector*****Jeffrey Deaver. Chilling. Amelia Sachs was a well developed character, a beautiful but somewhat troubled woman, hampered by arthritis at a relatively young age. She had no crime scene experience but had great instinct and became the arms and legs of a quadriplegic former head of forensics for the NYPD. She follows Lincoln Rhyme's instructions methodically facing harrowing conditions. There are many fascinating references to turn-of-the-century New York...reminiscant of Caleb Carr. A good film also, with Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie.

Scene form the Bone Collector

Bump In the Night***Colin Watson. 

 This could be called absurd mystery. The town was Flaxborough, and the crime overseen by Inspector Purbright. The crimes were almost comical and the characters clown-like, but there was a darkness behind it all. As in many English mysteries the polite dialogue effectively disguises the sinister intentions.

The Strange Death of Mistress Coffin******Robert J. Begiebing. 

One of the better mysteries I have read. It is a chronicle of a murder that took place in Piscatague, New England, in the 1640's. Jonathan Cole, who could be a suspect himself, comes to the aid of a gentleman whose wife was murdererd. Elizabeth Higgins was a fascinating character, married to a man who acted as the victimes "guide". This was a time when woman had to be escorted. The role of magistrates and associate courts was interesting. A must read.

The Case of the Substitute Face***Erle Stanley Gardner. This was a typically fun Perry Mason detective story. The victim of the crime is suspicious as his integrity is in question. Was he an embezzler, or did he keep secrets to protect his family? Full of edgy dialogue.

Erle Stanley Gardner

Crushing Crystal****Evan Marshall. 

 This was a particularly hilarious mystery novel, primarily because of the "Goddess" character who reminds me somewhat of a more grotesque version of the "El" character of "Legally Blonde" fame. Jane is an amateur sleuth who heads a literary agency, deals with a series of obnoxious people. It seems all the players have a motive for the murder, and the police are comically inept.

The Link: A Victorian Mystery*****Robin Maugham,_2nd_Viscount_Maugham

A very interesting novel, dealing with murder and homosexuality in the Victorian period. The story was based on the actual "Tichborne Case" where a man claiming an inheritance, is thought to be an imposter, but is supported by others. He finally was proven an imposter, aided by the actual son of the inheritor, who was his lover. A fascinating portion of the story takes place in a beautifully described Chile.

The Weight of Water*****Anita Shreve.

 Written with great style and originality. This was a mystery about an 1873 murder of two woman and the escape of another. Jean, the story-teller along with her husband take a Morgan-41 sailboat to re-enact the route the convicted murderer had apparently taken. She pieces together the crime with the help of a letter sent to the survivor, who lived in Norway, prior to migrating to Smuttynose and the tragic incident. A beautiful job of super-imposing the period of the murder to current times and Jane's intense study. Made into a movie starring Sarah Polley.

Scene from The Weight of Water

Creation in Death**Nora Roberts as J. D. Robb. The novel is strong on dialogue and has some interesting projections of life in 2060. There was a sense of urgency throughout as Eve Dallas was constantly in danger. There was very little character development, which left a large void in dramatic effect. I would not recommend this book.

Death's Savage Passion***Orania Papazoglu. 

 Not bad but a little muddled with characters and multiple goings-on. It was interesting as a "bookumentary" on the publishing business, and the romance novel industry. Romance novelists were in a panic because of plummeting sales. A new genre, romance-suspense was taking over. The murders were almost depicted as a matter of course in the competitive industry.

Cracking Open a Coffin***Gwendolyn Butler. Somewhat interesting in terms of the relationship between the two institutions, the Second City University and the refuge for battered women. Inspector Coffin was very intelligent and philosophical studying human behavior and response very perceptively.

Where the Dark Streets Go****Dorothy Saisbury Davis. A mystery, involving the murder of an artist, but it is more about the role and obligations of a man of the cloth, and his relationship with a lover of the victim. Written in 1962, it is very readable realistic, with characters who were not overly romanticized.


An American Tragedy******Theodore Dreiser. A long dramatic novel about a young man, Clyde, who attempts to climb the social ladder but stumbles along the way because he lacks the fortitude and character to avoid lifes pitfall. Clyde is developed in great detail, and despite his poor judgement and foolishness, seems to attract some pity. He is raised in poverty and fruitless idealism and learnshis early social lessons as a hotel clerk. He is involved in a love triangle, attempting to break away from a relationship that offers him little in terms of status and entering into a world of glamour. Made into a film, A Place In the Sun, starring Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor and Shelley Winters.

Mongomery Clift as Clyde and Shelley Winters as Roberta

Human Traces******Sebastian Faulkes. A tremendous reading experience. As a aspiring novelist myself, this novel is exactly what I look for in a complete novel. The history of psychotherapy is intermingled with the story of two pioneers, prevailing attitudes, economics, mores of marriage, discrimination, narrow-mindedness, and of course human drama, which always has to be the core of any novel that triggers an emotional response. 

On Green Dolphin Street**** Sebastian Faulks 

It is often said that characters are well illustrated when their vulnerability is apparent. Well...if no vulnerability is apparent then you have no character. Faulkes characters are colorful and deal with their existence is contrasting, sometimes stereotypical ways. However, the background of the optimistic, but fearful time of America in 1959 creates a appealing story.

American Sphinx****1/2 Joseph J. Ellis

A sensational account of Thomas Jefferson as a man of great intellect, reserved energy, ambiguous intentions, innocent hypocrisy, and moral political vision and reluctance.  This great study illustrates the quality of leadership that American had during it's infancy.

Beloved****1/2 Toni Morrison

  Toni Morrison

Oprah Winfrey stars in film as Sethe

A very dramatic and intense novel. It is full of bright symbolism and fluctuating sequences. This makes the novel a challenging read, demanding an intuition towards Morrison's very creative style. It is undoubtedly a literary masterpiece, involving the interaction of an escaped slave and her children, which is characterized by jealousy, bitterness, and manipulation. A great saga of a woman's' response to desperation.

The Bookman's Wake****1/2 John Dunning


Cliff Janeway is an ex-cop turned book dealer who became involved in the investigation of a much cherished copy of Edgar Allan Poe's book "The Raven". The intrigue is delicious, the investigation beautifully crafted and the provision for historical information regarding the edition and the book preservation industry is fascinating. Well above the standard detective series. 

A Rhinestone Button****1/2 Gail Anderson-Dargatz 

Gail Anderson-Dargatz transports us into a world filled with richness and magic, where divine intervention drops from the sky and silos are billboards for God. A Rhinestone Button has all the hallmarks of the author's previous, award-winning fiction, with a cast of unforgettable characters and a landscape drawn with perfect and loving detail.

The Oxford Book of Canadian Short Stories**** 

One of Canada's leading writers and the dean of Canadian anthologists have pooled their talents to produce this lasting tribute to the great variety of talent Canadian writers have brought to the genre. The team of Atwood and Weaver have compiled an anthology that is authoritative as well as historically and regionally representative. Above and beyond everything, this is a collection of some of the greatest stories in the English language.
Arranged chronologically with forty stories in all, the book provides an excellent survey of Canada's leading writers, including a story by Atwood herself ("The Sin Eater"), as well as stories by Morley Callaghan ("Last Spring They Came Over"), Mordecai Richler ("The Summer My Grandmother Was Supposed to Die"), and Stephen Leacock ("The Marine Excursion of the Knights of Pythias"). The book features biographical notes and an index of authors.
Handsomely produced, this is a book to own and to give as a gift, to read and enjoy. 

Tomorrow is Another Day*** Stuart M. Kaminsky 

It's 1938 and P.I. Toby Peters is watching Atlanta burn in the biggest scene in the biggest movie ever made. When an extra is found lying dead in a ditch, Toby could swear he sees Clark Gable--Rhett Butler himself--watching from the shadows. Now, years later, Gable is receiving anonymous death threats in poetry. 

The Englishman's Boy***1/2 Guy Vanderhaeghe's_Boy 

The Englishman''s Boy intelligently and creatively depicts an American West where greed and deception are tempered by honor and strength. As Richard Ford has noted, "Vanderhaeghe is simply a wonderful writer. The Englishman''s Boy, spanning as it does two countries, two centuries, two views of history-the Canadian Wild West as ''imagined'' by Hollywood-is a great accomplishment. Readers, I think, will find this book irresistible." 

A Recipe for Bees**** Gail Anderson-Dargatz

Raised by her silent but companionable father and a mother who kept bees, headstrong Augusta marries shy, deferential Karl, twelve years her senior, and goes to live with him on his father's remote farm. Terrified that she will literally die from loneliness and isolation, she finds work in town, and for a short time, fulfillment with another man in a romance that will reverberate throughout her life. Not until many years later does she find her salvation in beekeeping, the practice she first learned from her mother. It is beekeeping that reconnects her to the world and at long last brings fire to her steadfast marriage. 

My Family and Other Animals******     Gerald Durrell

 My Family and Other Animals is an autobiographical work by naturalist Gerald Durrell, telling of the part of his childhood he spent on the
Greek island of Corfu between 1935 and 1939. It describes the life of the Durrell family on the island in a humorous manner, and also richly               discusses the fauna of the island. It is the first and most famous of Durrell's Corfu trilogy, together with Birds, Beasts, and Relatives, and The  Garden of the Gods.

The book is an autobiographical account of five years in the childhood of naturalist Gerald Durrell, age 10 at the start of the saga, of his family, pets and life during a sojourn on the island of Corfu. The book is divided into three sections, marking the three villas where the family lived on the island. Apart from Gerald (the youngest) and Larry, the family comprised their widowed mother, the gun-mad Leslie, and diet-obsessed sister Margo together with Roger the dog. They are fiercely protected by their taxi-driver friend Spiro (Spiros "Americano" Halikiopoulos) and mentored by the polymath Dr. Theodore Stephanides who provides Gerald with his education in natural history. Other human characters, chiefly eccentric, include Gerald's private tutors, the artistic and literary visitors Larry invites to stay, and the local peasants who befriend the family.

The human comedy is interspersed by descriptions of the animal life which Gerald observes on his expeditions around the family homes, island, and seashore and which he frequently brings back and keeps as pets; these include Achilles the tortoise, Quasimodo the pigeon, Ulysses the Scops owl, numerous spiders, Alecko the gull, puppies named Widdle and Puke, and the birds known as the Magenpies.

The Woman in White*****     Wilkie Collins

The Woman in White is an epistolary novel written by Wilkie Collins in 1859, serialized in 1859–1860, and first published in book form in 1860. It is considered to be among the first mystery novels and is widely regarded as one of the first (and finest) in the genre of 'sensation novels'.

The story is considered an early example of detective fiction with the hero, Walter Hartright, employing many of the sleuthing techniques of later private detectives. The use of multiple narratives draws on Collins's legal training,[1][2] and as he points out in his Preamble: 'the story here presented will be told by more than one pen, as the story of an offence against the laws is told in Court by more than one witness'. In 2003, Robert McCrum writing for The Observer listed The Woman in White number 23 in "the top 100 greatest novels of all time",[3] and the novel was listed at number 77 on the BBC's surveyThe Big Read.[4]

The House of Seven Gables*****     Nathanial Hawthorne

The House of the Seven Gables is a Gothic novel written in 1851 by American authorNathaniel Hawthorne and published the same year by Ticknor and Fields of Boston. Hawthorne explores themes of guilt, retribution, and atonement in a New England family and colors the tale with suggestions of the supernatural and witchcraft. The story was inspired by a gabled house in Salem belonging to Hawthorne's cousin Susanna Ingersoll and by those of Hawthorne's ancestors who played a part in the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. The book was well received upon publication and later had a strong influence on the work of H. P. LovecraftThe House of the Seven Gables has been adapted several times to film and television.

Living History****     Hilary Rodham Clinton 

In spring 2001, Monica Lewinsky was interviewed for a TV special in New York. Asked whether she regretted that her affair with the president had wounded his wife, Lewinsky tossed her hair and replied: "I didn't think she would ever find out." But of course Hillary Clinton did find out, along with the rest of the sentient world. Post-September 11, post-Iraq, the American hysteria over a mere sex scandal seems like a relic of an insular and protected time. Nevertheless, as the unprecedented publication-day sales of Clinton's memoir of her White House years demonstrates, the private lives of political figures still open big. Curiosity about the way a first lady betrayed in front of the country feels, responds, and recovers compelled thousands to stand in line at bookstores.

Not Quite Dead***     John MacClachlan Gray

On a rust-bucket cargo ship bound from Liverpool to the United States in 1848, an Irish stowaway named Devlin steals a suspicious package after witnessing it changing hands between two sea captains. All he finds is a seemingly worthless pile of papers marked “David Copperfield, Final Four Numbers, by Charles Dickens.” Devlin is determined to see if he can somehow turn events to his advantage by paying a call on Dickens’s American publisher.
            A year later, a newly admitted patient to a Baltimore hospital, a disreputable writer who goes by the name of Edgar Allan Poe, is clearly raving mad, which makes it easy to dismiss his claims to have information about the murder of an innocent woman.

Meanwhile, the eminent English novelist Charles Dickens has embarked on a tour of America, where his views are not received as he would have wished. Dickens’s growing discomfort reaches new heights of intensity when he finds himself sharing disreputable lodgings---and reluctantly collaborating with---none other than Edgar Allan Poe, who has gone into hiding after faking his own death in a desperate attempt to escape the Irish mob.

Like White Stone Day, which The Washington Post hailed as “a Dickens of a thriller,” this is a brilliantly imaginative tale in which crime and literature intersect in surprising ways.

The Case of the Queenly Contestant***     Earle Stanley Gardner

Twenty years after Ellen Adair had given birth to an illegitimate child, the result of her affair with the son of a rich tycoon, she finds herself fighting for her son's inheritance and up against those who would deny his parentage. 

The Midwife of Venice****     Roberta Rich

The Midwife of Venice is a gripping historical page-turner, enthralling readers with its suspenseful action and vivid depiction of life in sixteenth-century Venice. Roberta Rich has created a wonderful heroine in Hannah Levi, a lioness who will fight for the survival of the man she loves, and the women and babies she is duty-bound to protect, carrying with her the best of humanity’s compassion and courage.

The Sisters Brothers****     Patrick de Witt

Hermann Kermit Warm is going to die: Eli and Charlie Sisters can be counted on for that. Though Eli has never shared his brother’s penchant for whiskey and killing, he’s never known anything else. On the road to Warm’s gold-mining claim outside San Francisco -- and from the back of his long-suffering one-eyed horse -- Eli struggles to make sense of his life without abandoning the job he's sworn to do.

Patrick DeWitt, acclaimed author of Ablutions, doffs his hat to the classic Western, and then transforms it into a comic tour-de-force with an unforgettable narrative voice that captures all the absurdity, melancholy, and grit of the West -- and of these two brothers, bound to each other by blood and scars and love.

The Cater Street Hangman****    Anne Perry

While the Ellison girls were out paying calls and drinking tea like proper Victorian ladies, a maid in their household was strangled to death. The quiet and young Inspector Pitt investigates the scene and finds no one above suspicion. As his intense questioning causes many a composed facade to crumble, Pitt finds himself couriously drawn to pretty Charlotte Ellison. Yet, a romance between a society girl and so unsuitable a suitor was impossible in the midst of a murder....

Death in a Promised Land: The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921****     Scott Ellsworth

Exhaustively researched, Death in a Promised Land is a compelling story of racial ideologies, southwestern politics, and yellow journalism, and of an embattled black community's struggle to hold onto its land and freedom.

The Haunted Lady****     Mary Roberts Rinehart

Eliza Fairbanks may be old, but she's hardly senile. So when she claims to have found bats in her bedroom and arsenic in her strawberries, Miss Pinkerton is quickly assigned to investigate. It doesn't take the shrewd nurse-detective long to discover that Mrs. Fairbanksis quite sane after all - and quite dead!

Disobedience****     Jane Hamilton

Reading someone else's e-mail is a quiet, clean enterprise. There is no pitter-pattering around the room, no opening and closing the desk drawers, no percussive creasing as you draw the paper from the envelope and unfold it . . . In and out of the files, no trace. It could be the work of a ghost, this electronic eavesdropping.

The Whiskey Rebellion*****     William Hogeland

After the Constitution was adopted, Alexander Hamilton, the Secretary of the Treasury, wanted to build the credit of the United States. He chose to do so through a bill that would, among other things, assume the war debts of the states and tax people and products for payment. He got in a big shouting match with Washington’s Secretary of State (Thomas Jefferson) and the two went back and forth quite a bit on the subject. In the end, Hamilton won out.

One of the products taxed was whiskey, and Hamilton’s scheme involved local regulators prowling the countryside, looking for stills. When they found one, they demanded to see the license and tax documents. If they didn’t have them, he would demand payment, which was gauged based on the capacity of the still, quality of the liquor, and other various measures. It ended up affecting small back-country distillers more than big city/high volume distillers, and anger stirred.

The people of the countryside around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in particular did not care for the situation, and performed what should rightfully be described as one of the first post-Constitution secession attempts. Unfortunately for them, and fortunately for the Steelers, they ended up losing. Hogeland tells a wonderful story of how that all happened.

Alexander Hamilton comes off, rightfully so, as the counterrevolutionary villian, intent on his ambitious plan to build an American Empire that would rival Britain. His nature appears tyrannical, eager, and vain. Other characters, including Herman Husband, a leader in the rebellion, appear as a well-meaning but clearly flawed actors in the story, setting out with good intentions but failing in the heat and pressure of violent action against oppression. One reads of tar-&-featherings and house & farm burnings by the rebels, intimidation and abuses of power by the authorities, and a particular tendency towards collectivism on both sides of the debate.

Dead Right****     Peter Robinson

On a rainy night in Eastvale, a teenager is found in an alleyway, smashed over the head with a beer bottle and beaten to death. What first looks like a typical after-hours pub brawl gone seriously wrong soon becomes more complex and more sinister. The victim, Jason Fox, was a member of a white power organization known as the Albion League, and had recently been let go from his factory job because of his racist views.

So who was his killer? The Pakistani youths he had insulted in the pub earlier that evening? The shady friends of his business partner, Mark Wood? Or could it have been someone from the organization who was concerned with Jason's growing power?

Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks and Detective Constable Susan Gay must struggle with a case complicated by escalating racial tensions and simmering departmental politics.

Roughing it in the Bush****     Susanna Moodie

 Roughing It in The Bush chronicles Susanna Moodie’s harsh and often humorous experiences homesteading in the woods of Upper Canada. A frank and fascinating account of how one woman coped, not only with a new world, but with a new self, this unabridged text continues to justify the international sensation it caused when it was first published in 1852.

Very readable, will placed touches of humor and irony. The author shows her initial lack of understanding of new attitudes, but we see her grow more patient and understanding as she climatises herself to a new environment.


Unless ****    Carol Shields

“Unless you’re lucky, unless you’re healthy, fertile, unless you’re loved and fed, unless you’re offered what others are offered, you go down in the darkness, down to despair.”

Reta Winters has many reasons to be happy: Her three almost grown daughters. Her twenty-year relationship with their father. Her work translating the larger-than-life French intellectual and feminist Danielle Westerman. Her modest success with a novel of her own, and the clamour of her American publisher for a sequel. Then in the spring of her forty-fourth year, all the quiet satisfactions of her well-lived life disappear in a moment: her eldest daughter Norah suddenly runs from the family and ends up mute and begging on a Toronto street corner, with a hand-lettered sign reading GOODNESS around her neck.

GOODNESS. With the inconceivable loss of her daughter like a lump in her throat, Reta tackles the mystery of this message. What in this world has broken Norah, and what could bring her back to the provisional safety of home? Reta’s wit is the weapon she most often brandishes as she kicks against the pricks that have brought her daughter down: Carol Shields brings us Reta’s voice in all its poignancy, outrage and droll humour.

Piercing and sad, astute and evocative, full of tenderness and laughter, Unless will stand with The Stone Diaries in the canon of Carol Shields’s fiction.

The Unusual Life and Times of Nancy Ford-Inman****           Nancy Erb-Key
 This "easily- read and informative biography" of a severely crippled child who grew into womanhood determined to succeed not only in a career and to do more with her life according to Michael Coren is "essential reading for anyone who cares about truth and experience. How Nancy Ford-Inman overcame her debilitating affliction and went on to develop many contacts amongst the notables (Laurence Olivier in the sophisticated social milieu of the British middle and upper class, and became a well-known figure in the whirl of British stage and film is a miracle in itself.

Nineteen Eighty-Four******     George Orwell

Written in 1948, 1984 was George Orwell's chilling prophecy about the future. And while the year 1984 has come and gone, Orwell's narrative is timelier than ever. 1984 presents a startling and haunting vision of the world, so powerful that it is completely convincing from start to finish. No one can deny the power of this novel, its hold on the imaginations of multiple generations of readers, or the resiliency of its admonitions. A legacy that seems only to grow with the passage of time.
One the the handfull of books that I have read that can be called life-changing.

Unveiling*****     Suzanne M. Wolfe

This dark and lovely first novel from Wolfe, the executive editor of Image ("A Journal of the Arts and Religion"), uses themes of faith, brokenness and redemption to create a memorable work of fiction. Dr. Rachel Piers specializes in restoring old panel paintings, but she's failed to strip away the dirt and damage done to her personal life. Divorce, an incestuous adolescent rape and a forced abortion have left her soul sick, her idealism shattered—as fragile and scarred as the artwork she refurbishes. When Rachel travels to Rome to direct the restoration of an old triptych amid politics of the art world that threaten her integrity, she dares to hope she might learn to love and trust again. With beautiful prose and an extensive, fresh vocabulary that doesn't succumb to showiness, Wolfe guides the reader through the mechanics of art restoration while chronicling Rachel's emotional and spiritual healing. As she works on the triptych, "Her fierce joy in stripping away the accumulated detritus of dirt and varnish, or uncovering, inch by inch, section by section, original pigment and the miracle of form, sprang from a passionate need to recover something blighted, something lost through human neglect and the obscuring overlay of time." The amount of technical art restoration facts and description occasionally feels a bit weighty, and one of the few missteps is the unnecessary incorporation of September 11 references. Nonetheless, this is an excellent novel that should appeal to both general literary readers interested in the art world and readers of faith. 

All Quiet on the Western Front******    Erich Maria Remarque

All Quiet on the Western Front (GermanIm Westen nichts Neues) is a novel byErich Maria Remarque, a German veteran of World War I. The book describes the German soldiers' extreme physical and mental stress during the war, and the detachment from civilian life felt by many of these soldiers upon returning home from the front.The novel was first published in November and December 1928 in the German newspaper Vossische Zeitung and in book form in late January 1929. The book and its sequel, The Road Back, were among the books banned and burned in Nazi Germany. It sold 2.5 million copies in 22 languages in its first eighteen months in print.[1] In 1930, the book was adapted as an Oscar-winning film of the same name, directed by Lewis Milestone.

Tess of the Durbervilles******   Thomas Hardy

This novel is generally regarded as Hardy's finest. A brilliant tale of seduction, love, betrayal, and murder, Tess of the d'Ubervilles yields to narrative convention by punishing Tess's sin, but boldly exposes this standard denouement of unforgiving morality as cruelly unjust. Throughout, Hardy's most lyrical and atmospheric language frames his shattering narrative. The novel centers around a young woman who struggles to find her place in society. When it is discovered that the low-class Durbeyfield family is in reality the d'Urbervilles, the last of a famous bloodline that dates back hundreds of years, the mother sends her eldest daughter, Tess, to beg money from relations with the obvious desire that Tess wed the rich Mr. d'Urberville. Thus begins a tale of woe in which a wealthy man cruelly mistreats a poor girl. Tess is taken advantage of by Mr. d'Urberville and leaves his house, returning home to have their child, who subsequently dies. Throughout the rest of this fascinating novel, Tess is tormented by guilt at the thought of her impurity and vows to never marry.

The Harp in the South

Some Came Running

The Idiot


Animal Farm

King Lear

Jennie Gerhard

The Great Gatsby

Tender is the Night
Anatomy of a Murder
The Philadelphian**** Richard Powell
A rather well-written and well-structured novel telling the inspiring story of how, through determination and wits, impoverished immigrants can in a few generations can produce a hot shot lawyer who joins high society, helps corporations dodge tax liabilities, and generally betrays his struggling ancestors' class interests (because that's what they would have wanted).
This novel was entertaining. The storytelling was taught yet embellished enough to develop interest. The morality and character development was predictable and simple, yet believable, creating a bit of saccharine emotion. Well worth the read.
Ten North Frederick
Brave New World****** Aldous Huxley

Brave New World is an unsettling, loveless and even sinister place. This is because Huxley endows his "ideal" society with features calculated to alienate his audience. Typically, reading BNW elicits the very same disturbing feelings in the reader which the society it depicts has notionally vanquished - not a sense of joyful anticipation. In Brace New World Revisited (1958) Huxley describes BNW as a "nightmare".

        Thus BNW doesn't, and isn't intended by its author to, evoke just how wonderful our lives could be if the human genome were intelligently rewritten. In the era of post-geonomic medicine, our DNA is likely to be spliced and edited so we can all enjoy life-long bliss.

A novel that leaves you spellbound and amazed that this could have been written in 1931.

Charlotte's Web
Lord of the Flies
The Bottle Factory Outing****** Beryl Bainbridge
Freda and Brenda spend their days working in an Italian-run wine- bottling factory. A work outing offers promise for Freda, and terror for Brenda, passions run high on that chilly day of freedom, and life after the outing never returns to normal.
A black comedy, sharp and raw....and yet gentle. The relationships are painfall and frustrating and teach you a lot about yourself.... which is what a great novel does.

Jitterbug Perfume***** Tom Robbins

“The unhappy person resents it when you try to cheer him up, because that means he has to stop dwelling on himself and start paying attention to the universe. Unhappiness is the ultimate form of self-indulgence. When you're unhappy, you get to pay a lot of attention to yourself. You get to take yourself oh so very seriously.” 
― Tom RobbinsJitterbug Perfume

In this wildly imaginative novel, Robbins deals with war, politics, family, marriage and sex, including all the twists and turns, and dare I say, makes sense of it all.

The After House*** Mary Roberts Rinehart
Out of funds, Ralph Leslie jumps at the chance to sign aboard a luxurious yacht as steward of the After House. It was easy sailing until one summer night, when the dream voyage became a nightmare.

Not one of the better efforts by Rinehart, but the main character, Ralph Leslie, was complex enough to create interest.

Stormy Weather
The Death and Life of Great American Cities
Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage
The Case of the Curious Bride
Murder in Miniature
Murder in the Smokehouse
Newton and the Counterfeiter
Doctor Bloom's Story
Adult Onset
Bleak House
The 100 Mile Diet
The Maltese Falcon

Red Harvest
A Blunt Instrument*******
Georgette Heyer
When Ernest Fletcher is found bludgeoned to death in his study, everyone is shocked and mystified: Ernest was well-liked and respected, so who would have a motive for killing him? Enter Superintendent Hannasyde who, with consummate skill, begins to uncover the complexities of Fletcher's life. It seems the real Fletcher was far from the gentleman he pretended to be. There is, in fact, no shortage of people who wanted him dead.

Perfect tone of early 20th century England. Perfect characterizations and spirit of place. Entertaining.


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