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The Rosie Effect

The Rosie Effect - Graeme Simsion

Not quite as good as The Rosie Project, but still highly enjoyable!

Sweetness in the Belly

Sweetness in the Belly - Camilla Gibb

Once again, a book that makes me appreciate the privilege of growing up in a truly democratic country.  We may whine and grumble about the government of the day, but we have rights and opportunities that many in the world don't have or have been heavily denied in the past.


This book is the story of Lilly and her life in Ethiopia and later, in England. She is the only child of hippies who pass away when she's quite young.  After her parents passing, she becomes a devout Muslim woman, which has its challenges in Ethiopia, being that she is white.


The story takes place in the past, between 1970 and 1974 as well as in the "present", between 1981 and 1991.  The period of past is the last years of Emperor Haile Selassie's reign, when so much famine and inflation was happening in Ethiopia.  The present has Lilly living in and amongst the refugees from Africa and working in an organization that she's created, that helps to settle these refugees.


Suffice it to say that there are situations described that are horrific.  I was only a teenager when the Ethiopian famine was happening, but I certainly had no clue of the politics behind a lot of the famine.  Things happened in Ethiopia back then, that no human should have had to experience; things that, while fictionalized, are central to this this book.


Ms. Gibb tells the story without being exploitive or overly/unnecessarily graphic.  The story has a great flow that progresses to an appropriate end.  I'm glad I spent the time!


Long story short, this is a very good book.

Small Wars

Small wars - Sadie Jones

When I was in the Military in the '80s, Canada had a contingent of peacekeepers in Cyprus.  I never really understood the crisis there, and why peacekeepers were needed.  This book does a good job, I think, examining that situation, but more importantly, it examines the effect of trauma on individuals, especially the trauma of battle.


I read some reviews that thought that some the story was too weak and/or that the ending was disappointing.  I don't know about that.  I must admit, it didn't end the way I was expecting but certainly, in the 50's, PTSD wasn't even called PTSD and soldiers, officers in particular, were expected to 'buck-up' and Carry-on!  I think Ms. Jones captured quite well, the struggle and crisis of conscience that a soldier, officer or otherwise, would face in such a situation.


Maybe having been in the military helps, but I really enjoyed this book!

The Underpainter

The Underpainter - Jane Urquhart

I loved all the art talk.  It took a long time however, to pull the story together but I liked that it wasn't predictable.

The Mistress of Nothing

The Mistress Of Nothing - Kate Pullinger

This is the fictionalized story of Sally Naldrett, ladies maid to Lady Lucie Duff Gordon, and is set in the late 1800's.  Both Sally and Lucie were real people.  However, while a fair piece is known about Duff Gordon, known for her book Letters from Egypt, little is actually known about Sally, other than what Lady Duff Gordon wrote in her letters.


The book is narrated by Sally as she journeys from from England to Egypt in service to "her Lady" and then, once in Egypt, up and down the Nile river.  Pullinger's imaging involves a what happens in Sally's life after a very significant event radically alters her relationship with her boss.


The whole British class system and the snobbery that seems to be so prevalent in that class system, is on vivid display here.  It would be interesting to know what really transpired for Sally, but I expect Sally's life in reality, was not how Pullinger imagined it to be.  I did enjoy though, the strength of character found in Pullinger's take on Sally.


The book is also infused with visual imagery of Egypt that made me seek more information.  I'd love to travel to Luxor some day, to see the Village of Kings and the other places described in the book.  Just not in the Egyption summer!!  I can't imagine how anyone can survive that kind of heat, especially back then when there was no such thing as air conditioning!!

East of the Mountains

East of the Mountains - David Guterson

In the vein of Anthony Robbins, this was a great examination of "changing your pattern". 

Ben Givens sets out on a mission to end his life (not a spoiler) and on the way, he encounters some very interesting people who give him pause. 

Gone Girl

Gone Girl: A Novel - Gillian Flynn

Wow, that was seriously twisted!!  Can't wait to see the movie!

The Sisters Brothers

The Sisters Brothers - Patrick deWitt

What an interesting story and like another reviewer mentioned, what a great basis for a Coen brothers movie!!


I really waffled between giving three and four stars for this book.  The writing is excellent, I loved the short little chapters and there isn't a lot of wasted "breath" to set the scene.  Each chapter gets to the heart of the matter in relatively short order.  I really like too, how the main characters, while criminals, aren't complete thugs.  Rather, there's a conscience in both of them, more so in Eli.  Eli's relationship with Tub is quite fun (poor Tub) and the conversational aspects are quite good too.  What the heck is that formula anyway??


The reason though, why I chose to stick with three stars is that the ending kind of left me a bit flat.  I'm not sure why; I'm thinking it would be better on screen.  The visuals, if done well, would be quite stunning in a movie version of the book.


It is likely going to be a movie though.  I read that John C. Reilly (Will Farrell's "Step Brother") optioned it and wants to star in the film.  I would definitely go to see the movie!!  I did enjoy the book though and would recommend it.

Girl with a Pearl Earring

Girl with a Pearl Earring - Tracy Chevalier

This wasn't a bad book, it just wasn't that exciting.  The talk of art was interesting, especially with respect to the grinding and mixing of pigments to make the paints used by the artist.  However, the characters all seemed kind of flat and really, how did Griet think Cornelia would relate to her when she slapped her on the first day they met, in front of her siblings!


At any rate, there was definitely some interesting history about the Netherlands in the 1600's, but overall the book was just ok for me.

The Lowland

The Lowland - Jhumpa Lahiri

Like so many of us who've experienced loss, the effect is rarely the same, from one person to the next.  Granted, the "history" behind the loss has a great bearing on how one deals with their loss.


This book examines different types of loss amongst members of the same family.  It is also starts out in the fifties when the moral expectations were often more upheld, no matter what culture you belonged to.  We have two brothers on quite divergent paths, we have their mother, who seems to favour one son over the other, we have the woman who has a relationship with both brothers and a young girl who's caught up in the fray as well (can't say too much without having spoilers).  They all deal with some sort of loss and we find out in the book, how it affects them over the long term.


Suffice it to say that there are strong differences in culture, from what I grew up with and what is expected in India!  I just know that how this all played out was not only interesting but believable.  The book is not what I would consider cheerful, but there it's not overly morose either.


I've not read any of this author's writing before this book, but will likely seek out more, as I understand from other reviews that this work is not necessarily her best.  It is very good though, worth the read!

The Gathering

The Gathering - Anne Enright

An interesting reflection on a sibling relationship, by the surviving sibling.

The Good Fairies of New York

The Good Fairies of New York - Martin Millar, Neil Gaiman

This was, quite literally, an adult fairy tale!  Who knew there were fairies flying all over the world? ;)


This is not my usual cup of tea, but it kept me interested enough to finish it, but I guess my whole "suspend your attachment to reality" abilities aren't as strong as they are for others.  I mean really, sex-crazed, alcoholic fairies that fly across the ocean on "moonbows"? Ya, I know, lighten up!  Perhaps if the writing had been stronger, but I found it a tad crude.  Oh well, the story, which was kind of short if you consider there were only 236 pages of larger font, was okay while it lasted.  If I had the energy to really analyze the story, I'm sure I could find all kinds of parables. but I don't have the energy nor any sort of inclination!


If you like complete make-believe, you may well love this book.  If you don't, you may find it mildly entertaining, but not much more than that!

The Cure for Modern Life

The Cure for Modern Life - Lisa Tucker

While highly implausible and a little bit preachy, this was a simple book that was easy to read and kept me engaged.


Other reviews commented that the characters were annoying.  I don't know about that, I did however, find that a lot of the premise between Amelia and Matthew was based on unresolved feelings and hurt and so typical of many a rom-com movie!  I don't for a second buy the scenario with Matthew and the "kiddies", but hey, books are all about escapism!


It's far from Pulitzer material but this book was good enough to keep me reading.  I actually found some of the drug company stuff kind of interested, especially the whole "Pain Matters" piece.


Moral of the story, if this book were made into a movie, I'd watch it and likely enjoy it! Sappy and schmaltzy to the end!


Kiss of the Fur Queen

Kiss of the Fur Queen - Tomson Highway

This book was great, not so much for the writing but what it actually tells us about the hell that was the residential school system in Canada.  The most searing aspect was that, if one reads Mr. Highway's bio, it was largely autobiographical.  The actual writing was very hard to follow a times, but the gist was always clear.   Suffice it to say that this is an important and powerful account, by someone who was there.


I think it's time for lighter fare!!

On Chesil Beach

On Chesil Beach - Ian McEwan

Oh, but for what might have been...


Ru - Kim Thuy

A fascinating little book in a different sort of style.  It is kind of like little vignettes, sort of a diary/journal meant to record random memories.  This is certainly a very quick read, a read that makes me appreciate the gift of being born in a country called Canada (rather than Vietnam)!