Welcome to my library! We are all readers looking for the next fabulous book. In my search I have found many books that will just knock your socks off. Books that I have to share. So come on in and look around. Pull up a chair and make yourself comfortable; gently flip open the pages, the magic is about to begin.

My intentions for this blog are:

1) To have monthly author spotlights in which I will write about the authors themselves and give several reviews of their different books.

2) Biweekly book reviews. I will review one book but also discuss similar books of the same topic. Because one book is never enough.

3) Newbie writer alert will review books of new unheard writers whose work deserves to be heard.

4) I will endeavor to talk about Canadian writers and titles.

Book Hunt section where people can ask about books they would like to read and get suggestions. If you have read a great book that you want to share with someone else, please feel free to leave your comments.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Remarkable Creatures

My daughter has been sick with a cold and has kindly passed it on to me; families that share get to sit round together blowing their respective noses and watching Harry Potter movies.  As such, the review I had been working on is shelved due to extreme crankiness, and the strong possibility that the review will come out far more harsh then what I would normally write, for example loved half the book, the other half was sh…  I have decided to share with you a review I did a couple of months ago.  Tracy Chevalier is one of my favorite authors.  The latest book is Remarkable Creatures and was released prior to Christmas in trade paperback.  This is a historical novel about fossil hunting on the beaches of the English coast and specifically about the lives of two unknown women who made great contributions to the field of paleontology.  Now this book brought back memories of my childhood spent with my sister Darlene and my best friend Tracey.  We spent many hours digging for dinosaur bones and Indian burial grounds in the woods behind my home on Glen Mountain.  Now, we never found anything of consequence other than rocks and petrified wood, but the time spent together in our imaginations was priceless treasure.  The urge to dig up rocks and other treasures has been passed on to my son Liam who has accumulated a vast collection of ‘interesting’ stones.  Shortly, the family and I will be off for a Caribbean vacation and some serious shell hunting.  If we find any dinosaur bones, I will be sure to let you know.

The Review of Remarkable Creatures             

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier is a quiet reflective fictionalized story of Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot, two very different women of different social backgrounds who shared a passion for fossil hunting at the turn of the century.  Chevalier gives a voice to these mostly unknown women whose contributions added greatly to the study of extinct animals, paleontology, in a time when men did not recognize a woman’s skill nor expertise, and had no qualms about stealing both the fossils and the credit of acquisition.

  This is clearly a well researched novel.  Chevalier evokes the settings of Georgian England, with both London and Lyme Regis, a coastal beach town, brought to life in fine historical detail and captures the sights, sounds and even, smells of everyday life.  The values and beliefs of the 1800’s are explored with regard to a woman’s place within the fabric of this society, as well as the religious vs. scientific beliefs of the time.  Chevalier weaves knowledgeable descriptions and details of the fossils and ‘creatures’ seamlessly into this remarkable story of friendship, in which, together, two women pursue a decidedly unladylike occupation as they strive for independence and fulfillment.

This story of unlikely friendship is told through the alternating first person point of view of Mary and Elizabeth. Each character is given a distinct voice with a completely different manner of speaking and language construction.  The reader can open the book mid-chapter and easily recognize either POV immediately.  The beauty of Chevalier’s writing is that it conveys the feeling that these characters are speaking directly to the reader and sharing their intimate feelings of their triumphs and frustrations, isolation and loneliness.  With both characters, but especially Elizabeth who is from a higher social class, there is a pervading sense of being watched and judged.  The uniting characteristic of Mary and Elizabeth is their well developed powers of observation that they both carry to the beach which allows them to find fossils and creatures where others only see rocks.  This power of observation is also brought to bear, especially by Elizabeth, in her acute ability to read people.  Elizabeth’s descriptions and inner sense of the people she encounters, both in the beach town of Lyme Regis and the city of London, adds greatly to the reader’s engagement in the story.

With no marriage prospects and little money Elizabeth Philpot and her two sisters are ‘banished’ to Lyme Regis following the death of her parents and the marriage of her brother.  Reduced to living in a small cottage with only one belligerent servant to attend to the household, Elizabeth misses her old home Red Lion Square, the city environment of London, not to mention, the society with whom she had grown up.   Lacking her usual entertainments, the well educated perceptive Elizabeth begins taking walks on the fossil strewn beaches finding a gold ammonite, and ‘succumbs to the seductive thrill of finding unexpected treasure.’  Secure in her situation as a spinster, and having no one she ‘wanted to impress with her femininity,’ Elizabeth takes up the hobby of fossil hunting; her specialty would become fish, as she is attracted to the delicate fan-like shapes.  At first resentful of her situation, over the years Elizabeth learns to appreciate the independence that is gained by living in the far off small village of Lyme Regis and gains much satisfaction from being able to dictate her own interests and activities.  The fossils open a world of thought to Elizabeth that is radically different from her Anglican upbringing and brings her into conflict with the local vicar.  Initially Elizabeth is concerned with how she will be perceived having acquired this hobby that people of society look down upon.  As Elizabeth acquires knowledge and hands on expertise, she becomes more and more comfortable with herself and gains more confidence in her interactions with the men of science who she encounters while fossil hunting.  Elizabeth’s sections of the book are very revealing of how women who were unable to secure a proper marriage were isolated and denigrated within the English society of the 1800s. 

Elizabeth meets Mary Anning when Mary is still a young girl.  Even though Mary has lived in Lyme Regis all her life, she is treated differently, not only for her particular fascination with fossils, but also because she survived being struck by lighting while she was a baby.  Claiming to remember the incidence that killed two other people, Mary believes that the lighting remains within her and helps her see better and locate the fossils and creatures that no one else can find.  Mary is a poor mostly uneducated girl whose home situation becomes desperate following the death of her father.  Her mother Molly struggles just to provide the most basic of necessities for her children and depends heavily upon the income from the sales of Mary’s fossils.  Despite the difference in age, education and social class, Mary becomes the teacher and educates Elizabeth with regard to how to find and clean the fossils, as well as, the importance of safety on the beach, schedule of tides and where to seek safety if faced with an incoming tide.  This unlikely friendship blooms over the years only to be destroyed when Mary, having discovered a skeleton of a previously unknown animal in the cliffs, attracts an unscrupulous man with whom she falls in love.  Mary’s sections of the book are a very sharp reflection of poverty and a desperate view of what happens to a family that loses a husband, father and provider.        

I have read all Tracy Chevalier books. Remarkable Creatures confirms she will remain on my must buy and read list.  Chevalier writing is as always soft, lovely and elegant.  Her evocation of time and place, as well as, her intimate characterizations, place the reader directly in the story.  I feel I know Mary and Elizabeth; they are more than just characters in a book.  Remarkable Creatures has given me an opportunity to acknowledge how far women have come in our society in terms of independence and self- determination.  Our independence in travel and ability to go where we want, if only across town, to be educated in a field of our choosing, the ability to seek an occupation of our own choice, and not to be overlooked, the ability to direct and obtain financial security are taken for granted by myself each day.  We owe a great deal to these early women who pushed against the barriers of sexism, allowing us, the women of the 21st century, the freedom we enjoy today.  I applaud Tracy Chevalier for rescuing these forgotten women from the annuals of time and providing them each with a voice to tell their remarkable stories.

Other Books by Tracy Chevalier:

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

The Truth or Lies, What’s Your Preference? Book Review of The Placebo Effect by David Rotenberg

Quote of the Week

The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.”
Oscar Wilde
The Canadian author David Rotenberg has a new novel called The Placebo Effect, Book one of The Junction Chronicles, a very Canadian story filled with both Canadian humor and locations drawn up in clear crisp detail.  As you are aware I love reading Canadian and was happy to have won this book, a story which I very much enjoyed, from Simon and Schuster in a first reads Goodreads contest.  David Rotenberg like his main character Decker Roberts has a history of directing, lives in a suburb of Toronto called the Junction, and works as an acting coach.  From this I surmise that Decker is an alter ego for David or at least a microphone to voice his own opinions on life, and has taken  an opportunity to give his view point on the state of the union.  I read this very thought provoking book in the late fall and have been sitting on the review.  This is one of those books where there are so many things to talk about, I barely knew where to begin, my ideas multiplying like rabbits on Viagra.  Since, I just have had too many ideas to discuss I have been busy trying to willow them down.  (This is, of course, very difficult as I am notoriously long winded and a huge fan of all ideas Jackleen; I would no sooner trash a good idea than give away one of my own children.)  While The Placebo Effect is a thriller, it is a story about what is true and real in our lives and how the popular culture of North America has evolved as a false (placebo) form of faith for generations living superficially in the now.  What follows are my thoughts on truth inspired by The Placebo Effect.

North American culture has a great stake in the truth. Journalists dig deep for current stories to ‘reveal the truth.’  Politians and celebrities lives are brought under the daily scrutiny of the masses because ‘we deserve to know the truth.’  Wars and other violent murders are examined in depth for our ‘glorification of the truth.’  The most popular books and movies are concerned with ‘digging out secrets’ and ‘exposing the truth.’  Our favorite characters are those who fight against ‘powerful forces’ and ‘conspiracies of silence’ because ‘The Truth is out there,’ and in order to ‘conquer the lies’ and ‘against all odds,’ the hero will ‘up hold the truth.’  The darker and deeper the secrets, the more we, the public, clamor for detail.  Would Dan Brown be the success that he is if he had not taken on and ‘exposed the greatest secret of our times.’  (AKA, the Catholic Church lied about the beginning of Christianity.  Let’s be serious who really knows what happened 2000 years ago, I have enough trouble remembering what happened last week.)  At the time the book caused a great controversy which of course led to the sale of even more books.  But, millions would not be shaken from their faith and 10 years later it is a bestseller for sure, but in the end, just another book on the shelf. Of course there are hard horrible truths that arise in society that we must accept; truths we must learn from in order to never again repeat these atrocities.  However, from what I see on the nightly news the human animal is greatly handicapped in the memory department; we seem to keep making the same mistakes; every night that little screen is filled with wars, murders and violence.  The truth, versus lies and deceptions, what are we really more comfortably living with?

Of course, there are truths we must accept, but seriously, would you always want to be told the truth?  Do you really want to know that your husband thinks you have gained a little weight?   Or if he told you instead, you look fabulous, is that not better for your self esteem?  And, in the end are we not just happier?   Everyone gets along so much better if we sometimes avoid the cold hard truth.  Those little white lies smooth out conversations and, prevent unnecessary domestic conflicts.  As Ray remarked in the Everyone Loves Raymond TV series, “honesty is overrated.”    Recently, I was reading one of the news magazines my husband Paul is fond of, in which an older Canadian journalist, He_whose_ name_ I_ have_ forgotten, (look Joanne, I can do it too) was complaining about the change in dinner conversations at parties in our ‘post Oprah bare our soul times.’  He talked about how people have forgotten how to lie politely in a genial conversation.  It was an amusing article, but, for me, a nurse and magnet for all people diseased, perhaps, a little too close to the… well, truth.  To paraphrase the journalist, He_ whose_ name_ I have_ forgotten, years ago, when a person greeted another with the familiar “how are you?”  The answer to this was always, “Fine, thank you and you?  To which the response would be, “Yes, I am very well.”  Both people could be hemorrhaging to death, but too polite to mention it.  Now, when asking “how are you?” people tell you the truth which may well include the full details of every medical ailment from the past year or decade.  Do I really need to know about someone’s hemorrhoids over coffee?   Have we gone too far with this truth and honesty business?  Or is that we just do not know what truth to tell?

Despite the fact we are cautioned don’t believe everything you read or every thing you see on TV,  the media now has great influence over what becomes seen as true.  The words of Michael Jackson, “ …be careful what you do, because a lie becomes the truth,” have even greater meaning then when he first wrote Billie Jean.  We believe the rumors and speculations because ‘popular culture’ has now been taken on as the new faith.  Actors and the Hollywood movie machine are our gurus of this new faith.  The number of actors representing influential foundations has sky rocketed.   It is admirable that these people take the time to help the less fortunate and aid in bringing attention to world disasters.  However, the problem is we are also taking our cues on how to behave, how to talk, how to dress and finally, how to think, from people who spend their days pretending to be a character they are not.  From films and books, we look for ‘good role models’ for our children.   But am I not pushing my own parenting tasks off on to a person who is at best a fictional character or at worst a teenager who was hired on the basis of their looks?  Is the make believe world of acting over shadowing what is real?  Is our faith in these people misplaced? Do not misinterpret what I am saying; I love my books and movies as much, if not more, than the next person.  Actors and directors in the film industry, as well as, authors and journalists in the publishing business do a great deal to bring much needed attention to social issues and do a wonderful job of raising public awareness of very real horrors occurring both here in North America and abroad.  But, once given this information should we not at least begin to think for ourselves or at the very least remember?  Should we not act on these horrors and do something.  We seem to be as a society addicted to crises, from the weather channel on up.  We are all plugged into our new church and spend hours kneeling before our new alters of TVs, computers, and Ipads, all of which provide a gratifyingly quick fix for our short attentions spans.  The situation I believe is somewhat slippery as faith is that slope we slide down to reach truth. At the bottom, I wonder if we will find that we all have become ADD and any ‘realized truth’ we gain from this pop culture faith is really just the latest shiny new ball on the horizon.

So while we serf on our gadgets, wonder if Brangalina will adopt yet another kid, have superficial chats with our 350 friends on facebook and watch TVs the size of airport hangers, real life passes by our windows.  Should we know every personal thought and action of various celebrities sent fast and furious over twitter when we barely know how our own child spent his day?  Perhaps it is time to unplug, talk to real people, go outside and engage real life and have real life experiences with family and friends.  In short, live a life that is balanced between what is a truth and a placebo; what is real and what is make-believe; distinguish between the importance of knowing the truth about everyone’s dirty little secrets and what you truly need to know about your family and friends; and, have faith in yourself in order to make yourself happy in the life you have now in the concrete world.  In short maybe we should all learn to think for ourselves and learn to distinguish between what is important, real and true and what is just plain hype.

‘Art reveals truth’ and ‘life imitates art’ but to each of us is granted a separate life and individual path to follow and what you will believe, where you place your faith, and, what you see as truth is personal and no one’s business but your own. But please, if you feel a big reveal coming on vis a vis your hemorrhoids or, God help me, your recurrent vaginal yeast infection, save it for your doctor who is mentally prepared to hear about gross stuff, I mean your medical condition, and is most probably not eating his lunch at the time of your conversation. As my husband Paul would say, this is a lot of yak what about the book!  The Placebo Effect is a thriller with many layers, meanings and concepts.  And, if you only want to read a good exciting story, it is all that too. 

Summary from Goodreads:

Decker Roberts has the dangerous gift of detecting the truth (synaesthesia). But when his carefully compartmentalized life starts to fall apart he has to go on the run and figure out why he’s being targeted. There’s also a government agency hunting him down who seems to know everything about him and other people of “his kind.” How will Decker find out which truth was endangering his life? Who betrayed him and revealed all his secrets? Decker needs to find answers quickly, before knowing the truth turns from a gift into a deadly curse

Book Review: The Placebo Effect

Genre: Thriller, some paranormal elements
Depth: Serious tone
Topic: A man who is able to know if a person is lying is being hunted by both good and bad characters, some of whom want him dead.
Book complexity: Multi-character, Multi-layered, need to pay attention to detail to follow story
Writing style: Quick and concise
Rating: 4 stars. Great Book
Received from: Simon and Schuster Canada Firstreads Goodreads contest

The new novel The Placebo Effect, book one of The Junction Chronicles by David Rotenberg, Canadian thriller with Canadian locations and Canadian humor, is a very thought provoking smart story in addition to being a fast paced action packed adventure crossing from one end of North America to the other.  With a cast of colourful characters, and a truly fascinating concept hook, the story addresses the repercussions of always knowing the truth about strangers while at the same time never being unable to understand or read those closest to us.

The colourful troupe of characters are well drawn and everything you would expect in a good thriller and yet incredibly unique and interesting.  What will distinguish a really good book from a mediocre book, for me at least, are the characters, particularly if the main character stands out in my mind. And, Decker definitely stands out.  Even if I do not always like Decker, he did manage to get inside my head, if not always my heart.  Decker is so well formed that I would expect to find him wandering about the Junction. Decker Roberts is a synaesthete who receives visual clues in front of his closed eyes to distinguish between the truth and a lie.  Yslan Hicks is in charge of the file for synaethesia for a secret government organization and is hunting Decker down; Yslan would very much want to investigate, if not apply, Dickers skills.  Emerson Remi is a Princeton educated journalist in hot pursuit of the next big story for which he believes Yslan to be the key and is busy tracking Yslan’s every movement.  Henry-Clay Yolles is a pharmaceutical executive on the surface but in reality a gangster complete with hit men, on the brink of making a huge amount of money from the production of a new antidepressant drug and who to his absolute delight has found out about the synaesthetes network and is busy taking full advantage of this secret knowledge.  Mike, ratio-man is a synaesthete whose talent of being able to determine the correct balance and ratio for anything, is coerced into working for Yolles Pharmaceuticals by Henry-Clay, and in doing so has exposed the synaesthetes world. Mac Macmillan is a thug and hit man of Henry-Clay whose latest job is to take out Mike and then, Decker who both know too much.  Eddie is Deckers best friend and confidant who manages Deckers real life and keeps in contact with Seth, Deckers estranged son.  Seth is sick and suffering alone with cancer but wanting absolutely nothing to do with his father. 

The story is delivered in short quick sections from third POV from all the above characters and their divergent storylines flow neatly into each other. The writing is crisp, direct and concise and together with the structure of short chapters and the rapid shift between characters, the story maintains a fast pace.

The settings for the book of both Canadian and American cities are very well described.  Although I have never been to most of the American cities described, I can say that Rotenberg’s’ description of Toronto was right on the money.  The Junction in particular was brought to life in full colour and is both evocative and moody.  (Clusters of churches guarding evil right in the middle of the Junction, I will be on the next train out!)  I grew up in the Eastern Townships of Quebec and he caught the mood and tone of Stanstead perfectly; a small town inundated with tourists and outsiders for whom the townies must give way. (Don’t we know it.)

Decker Roberts is a human lie detector.  He is blessed, or cursed depending on point of view, with the ability to tell if a person is speaking the truth, due to a condition called synaesthesia.  (This is a real medical condition that can sometimes be found to develop after head injuries, and reasons unknown, in which a person’s neurological pathway of the senses for vision, hearing, smell, touch and taste get scrambled.  So a person with synaesthesia sees what he tastes or hears what he touches.)  Decker sees patterns before his eyes when someone speaks to him and these patterns change shape when someone is lying.  This skill is limited as he is unable to use this skill with people he truly cares about.  Decker in his normal job is an acting teacher. Working as an acting coach, he teaches young actors to reach for the emotions and feelings within themselves and apply these to the character they are to portray in film or on stage.  On the side and in secret, Decker has been applying his lie detection skill in the corporate world and making a great deal of money.  Decker’s world begins to unravel when his house is burned down, his credit cards cancelled and the building from which he leases a studio for his acting classes is condemned.  It seems Decker may have uncovered a truth better left buried.  Now he is trying to back track through his latest truth detecting jobs to determine who is out to get him.  With Yslan, Remi, Mike and Mac following in Dickers’ wake, the race is on and the truth for Decker is unusually elusive. 

The underlying themes of The Placebo Effect, are in fact about the placebo effect both in medicine and generalized to our popular culture.  First, let us review a quick definition of the placebo effect.  A placebo is an inert medicine or treatment used in what is called double blind medical studies in order to measure the true effectiveness of a new drug or medical treatment.  Double blind just means neither doctor/nurse nor patient know if they received the real medication so that the results are not influenced either way.  The placebo effect is a beneficial effect, produced by a placebo drug or treatment, that cannot be attributed to the properties of the placebo itself, and must therefore be due to the patient's belief in that treatment.  In other words, patients will improve given any medication or treatment due to their (blind?) faith and belief that the doctor or the medicine will make them better.  In short a placebo is a fake, artificial, a lie. Rotenberg is efficient at pointing out all manners of things that are placebos and fake and weaves this theme through the backdrop of The Placebo Effect. Decker like many people in our North American society has lost faith, faith in him, and faith in others.  As Decker believes that he harms those closest to him when he uses his gift of lie detection, he keeps a distance from others. Decker is lonely. He really has only one friend and a few acquaintances that he meets through his job as an acting coach.  His wife is dead, he and his son are estranged and he maintains a very superficial relationship with all he meets.  There is a network website for synaesthetes run by Yslan in order to study and keep track of these special people.   Decker only feels good when he is in the chat room of the synaesthetes site connecting with people with similar traits to him.  A social media site, in short, a social placebo, his new faith, to which even on the run from killers, Decker will log into in order to feel good. 

This extremely interesting novel concept of being able to distinguish the truth from a lie carries the whole story.  As a basic thriller recipe, The Placebo Effect starts with the mandatory fast paced exciting story, mix in the type cast sad lonely good guy and evil corporate guy turned evil scientist guys, sprinkle in the mysterious government agencies, and add all the running about that we expect from a good thriller, at the bare bones the story is all ready well on to being a wonderful book.  The icing with all those sugary sprinkles that the kids like is the commentary that Rotenberg adds to this story. We are given an examination of our society from the point of view of Rotenberg, a man who has spent many years directing and teaching in the acting business.  A business based on fabrications and illusions.  Rotenberg’s insights into the current influence of pop culture are very revealing if not dead on.  Those sugary sprinkles are the insightful examination of what is real and true in our lives, family and friends in which we can invest our faith and belief, as opposed the false, pretend, placebo pop culture that has infiltrated North American.

My only complaint is that there is a lot thrown into the mix, some of it brilliant, some of it distracting.  I admit to be confused and lost at points in the story.  To be honest I am not sure all the threads got tied off at the end or if I missed something or if I am just to find out that bit within the ongoing story of the series.  But, who said reading is suppose to be easy.  But, whether it was me not being able to keep up or the manner of the delivery, I docked the book a half star.  
Thrillers are usually fun to read and there is a lot that can be learned from this genre.  James Rollins has taught me much about quantum physics and when reading John LeCarre I gain a better understanding of the state of the world politically.  Rotenberg has done something completely new and unexpected; he has included a thread of philosophy about life, faith and love and the North American culture in general.  I am looking forward to the next book in the Junction Chronicles, A Murder of Crows.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Need Something Funny for February, The Charlie Davidson Series by Darynda Jones

“If I couldn't be a good example, I'd just have to be a horrible warning.”
Darynda Jones, First Grave on the Right 

Need a good laugh? Are you feeling the February blaws coming on?  Wiarton Willie the ground hog from Ontario did not see his shadow and now predicted an early spring. Thank goodnes, I thought we here in Ottawa would getting freezing rain and ice storms from now until June!!  But february is so long for such a short month.  Well I have the cure for you.  Last fall I discovered a new writer by the name of Darynda Jones from New Mexico who writes the Charlie Davidson Series.  It is a paranormal mystery series and is hilarious.  The writing is quick and snappy, full of comedic situations and witty come backs.  It is everything I ever wanted to say but much smarter.  A fan club has started on Goodreads, where you can find like minded people quoting Charlie.  Jones has created such catchy phrases that people naturally want to repeat these clever quips and I can see how they may even be adopted into every day speech, much like Seinfield in the 80’s- high talkers, man hands, double dipping. 
Yes, I am now a member,"because that’s how I roll."

Genre: Paranormal Mystery/Romance
Depth: Quick read. Light and VERY funny
Topic: Private investigator who specializes in clients who are dead, solves crimes
Book complexity: Story told form primary character Charley first person
Writing style: Quick and snappy
Rating: 4 stars. Great Books
Received from: Library

Book Review: The First Grave on the Right

Hilarious! This book should come with a warning label on its cover: CAUTION DO NOT READ IN PUBLIC! Because this is a laugh out loud book. And, not just the barely audible polite tee hee hee under your breath kind of laugh; but, the kind of laugh that is very loud, screaming, stomach aching, eyes tearing, choking, nose running, you should be wearing rubber pants... you get the picture. I mistakenly took this book to the doctor's office, not the place you normally find laughter and good cheer. Well... let's just say that the other patients determined my medical condition was more mental that physical!

Charley Davidson sees dead people a la Sixth Sense. But Charley is different from your garden variety ghost seeing person, she is the Grim Reaper. Her ghosts are far more interactive shall we say. Very touchy, feely. As in she can touch them, and, they can touch her. She has been able to converse freely with this other dimension all her life. Her father and uncle, both policemen, have capitalized on Charley's talent since she was a small girl, involving her in their murder investigations, and, subsequently reaping the glory and envy of their fellow officers. Because, when all you have to do ask is the victim, 'who killed you?' the search for the killer can wrap up pretty quick!

Charley is now running her own private investigator agency out of the top floor of her now retired father's bar. Her job is to convince these recently murdered ghosts to go into the light. In order to send them on their way to their own personal heaven, she must first solve their murders. And, she accomplishes this all very well, thank you very much.  Although, not always in the most coordinated elegant fashion. The best thing about Charley is that she is so real in both her human vulnerabilities and her quirky mannerisms.

Admittedly, Charley has some help from a rag tag team of both the quick and the dead. Cookie, her office manager, neighbour, best friend and self assigned therapist, keeps Charley going physically and mentally. A young boy ghost, Angel, definitely an oxymoron, runs secret investigations for Charley, while the ghost of a psychiatric patient, having all the names of the dead scrolled over the defunct hospital walls, acts as an informer from the beyond. Uncle Bob is her police contact in the real world and has his hands full keeping Charley out of trouble, on top of his normal job of solving murders. And, finally, there is this dark entity that Charley calls The Bad, who has swooped in and saved her life three times; helpful but terrifying.

The current case concerns the mysterious murders of three lawyers.  The case is more complicated than usual since not one of the lawyers saw who committed their murders.  And, being lawyers there is a long list of suspects; some of them very nasty characters, indeed.

 Charley is normally well in control of these ghosts, but the problem is something...some kind of entity, has infiltrated her dreams every night for the last month. Some kind of hot, mind blowing sexy, very touchy entity. Well, when this entity begins to infiltrate Charley's wide awake day time, something has to be done. As she begins to investigate her own dreams entity, Charley will be lead into memories of her own past and her own personal shocking reality.

A diabolically funny paranormal mystery debut, but, anything that can make you laugh this hard, has to be good for your soul.    

Book Review: Second Grave on the Left

All the usual suspects return for the second very funny wise talking installment of the Charlie Davidson Series with the addition of a few demons, a ghost of a dead homeless guy, a missing woman whose friends have a habit of turning up dead, FBI agents, talkative mobsters and, oh ya, Charlie recently found out that her boyfriend is the son of Satan.  All in a normal days work for Charlie Davidson Grim Reaper PI.

In the Second Grave on the Left, Charlie has a few too many balls to juggle.  Well, three active cases and host of lively characters (well some of them are alive) keep the pace of the book quick and sharp.  Darynda Jones has a great snappy writing style that allows three storylines/ plots to merge into a hilarious perfect story.
To begin with Cookie’s friend Mimi has been missing for a week.  When Mimi texts Cookie in the middle of the night, Charlie and Cookie go rushing off to meet her only to find a scrawled message on the bathroom wall of the restaurant where they were to meet.  Following the clues leads to more and more recently deceased people.  As the body count rises, the clues point to a mysterious disappearance of a young 16 year old 20 years earlier. It becomes clear that all the people who last saw her alive are dying.  Mimi is on that list and in order to save her, Charlie must solve the 20 year old case.

Finding Mimi is becoming more complicated than Charlie originally assumed and now on top of this, Mobsters show up at her apartment at four thirty in the AM for intimate chats and cryptic FBI agents visit her office.  Other people are looking for Mimi but are they fair or fowl?  Even more annoying, someone has been following Charlie around town.  As much as Charlie is used to the dead following her around, this stalker is still amongst the living and it is creeping her out.

To add further complications to Charlie’s workload, the ghost of a dead homeless guy is found in the trunk of Cookie’s car.  Naturally, Charlie helpfully extracts him from his cozy locale, only to have him take up residence in her own apartment… bathroom…shower actually, where he likes to pop in mute and dazed just when Charlie is soapy.  Tracking down the previous owner of Cookie’s car leads to a few unexpected results.

Charlie is desperate to locate her boyfriend, Reyes, or at least his body.  Reyes Alexander Farrow convicted murderer, on the lam from prison and son of Satan, literally, and Charlie’s new boyfriend- opposites attract- is currently being held prisoner by demons hoping to entrap Charlie in order to hitch a free ride to heaven.  Reyes is being tortured by these demons and slowly dying. Reyes pops in and out telepathically but he refuses to give up the location of his body as he is afraid of the consequences for both Charlie personally and the universe in general.  Charlie is in a race against time and must discover her own powers to save Reyes and herself.   

Second Grave on the Left is a quick satisfying read that is both extremely funny and with enough suspense to keep it interesting.  While the majority of the storylines were resolved, Jones left the reader with a perfect little ending giving us just a taste of the next book to wet the appetite.    


Book Review: Third Grave Dead Ahead
Being Published on Feb 2!! 

Since I managed to srew up my ereader in little over a month (yes I do read instructions.  It said not to forget to eject the ereader.  What am I a moron would I get up with it still plugged into the computer and walk off!  Well apparently I was supposed to have clicked on a little box called eject, go figure.  Short story long my ereader needs to be factory reset which will wipe it clean like nothing happened but I also lose the book I am currently reading and one I want to review.)
So no new Charlie for a couple of weeks
I am 34 on the library list!

Preview from Goodreads
Charley Davidson—grim reaper extraordinaire, private investigator . . . meh—is practicing her profession under the influence, caffeine and copious amounts of it, due to an extreme desire to induce insomnia. Every time she closes her eyes, Reyes Farrow, the part-human, part-supermodel son of Satan, is there. Only thing is, he’s a tad peeved. She did bind him for all eternity, so it’s hard blame him. But 13 days without a wink is bound to bring out the crazy in a girl. So, when a man hires her to find his wife, Charley accepts the job with one goal in mind: Put the man behind bars, and not the wet kind. She can sense the guilt waft off him and vows to find the woman’s body and prove he’s a murderer.

In the meantime, Reyes is back in prison and none too happy about it . . . so Charley thinks, until she is carjacked by the dark-haired rake, who swears the very man he went to prison for killing is not only alive, but close by. And he wants Charley to find him.

While a visit to her old friend Rocket sheds no light on Reyes’s situation, Charley finds out the man’s wife is still alive and time is running out. Finding her before she dies would be a miracle, but she has to try. Together with the help of a fashion-impaired receptionist named Cookie, Charley sets out to bring the bad guys to justice. She just hopes Reyes is not one of them. And that she’s not hallucinating from her self-induced bout with insomnia.

Does that not make you want to read the book!!  For some strange reason I am craving coffee.

Books you may also like:

Paranormal Mystery

Phil Rickman- The Merrily Watkins Series
Begins with The Wine of Angels.  Merrily Watkins is a single mother and an Anglican parish priest pressured into becoming an exorcist solves mysteries in her small border town between England and Wales.  These are very spooky well written books.   Last month Diana Gabaldon put Phil Rickman on her methadone list (books she recommends to her fans.)  This is a big deal as her fans read what she recommends and good for him because with the quality of his books he should be better known.  There are so far 13 books in this series.  I highly recommend.

Tanya Huff- writer form Toronto wrote the Blood series about an woman ex-cop turned private investigator suffering from night blindness who meets a vampire and together they solve crimes in the GTA (greater Toronto Area for those people from elsewhere.)  The first book in the series is Blood Price.  The books were made in to a very popular TV series called Blood Ties.   

Historical Mystery with some humour
William Dietrich- The Ethan Gage series.  I love his style of writing and the main character is a hoot.  There is also a touch of the paranormal rippling through all the stories. First book in the series is Napoleon’s Pyramids, followed by The Rosetta Key, The Dakota Cipher and The Barbary Pirates.   I love this series.   

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

About Honour Killings, A Book Review of Tell It to the Trees

Quote of The Week

Crown attorney Gerard Laarhuis after the verdicts:
"This jury found that four strong, vivacious and freedom-loving women were murdered by their own family in the most troubling of circumstances. We all think of these four, wonderful women now who died needless deaths. This verdict sends a very clear message about our Canadian values and the core principles in a free and democratic society that all Canadians enjoy and even visitors to Canada enjoy

Anita Rau Badami

Given the completion of the horrific trial of the murders of the Shafia girls and their step-mother-- who were found drowned in a car in the Kingston Mill Locks on  June 30 of 2009--and the conviction of their parents and brother, Hamed, this week, I have decided to post a review I did last October, my first ARC, Tell It to the Trees by Anita Rau Badami.  There are insightful, if not creepy, parallels in this story to the true life tragedy of the Shafia family.  Badami, like the Shafia family is also from Montreal. Her ethnic origin is Indian and she writes convincingly from the newly arrived immigrant point of view.  The effect of her writing is that, while I realize I was reading fiction, I felt I was being given insight into the frightening real lives of many immigrant woman isolated by language and culture, imprisoned and abused by their own family.  In short, Badami, in Tell It to the Trees, opens a window on the lives of these immigrant woman from which we can learn and understand the conditions and restraints that they must live with in order to literally live.

Tell It to the Trees is a gripping tale of twisted loyalties and murder in a recent immigrant family living outside a remote village in British Columbia.  Captured in this frightening tale are the cycles of abuse that are handed down through the generations.  At the heart of this abuse are the control of women and the cultural subjugation of both dress and behaviour.  But most importantly, this is a story about family secrets and above all preserving the family name and honour.  Although, the real life tragedies of the Shafia woman and girls and the fictitious story of the Dharma family, differs somewhat culturally, the underling factors that propel a family to murder are chillingly similar.  Much is being made in the press about honour killings, and I agree that this is some of the motivation for these ghastly killings, the starting point, but; it is not the whole of it.  The children and the step-mother went outside the family for help, sought help from the children protection authorities of Montreal, complained of their treatment within the family.  They betrayed the family secrets, aired the dirty laundry.  The members of the family allowed to live would keep family business, including murder, a secret.  The members who would tell were killed.  Talking outside the family is the universal taboo of all dysfunctional families regardless of culture.

Now, I do not believe that all women who maintain their traditional dress are abused.  I have worked with several women both nurses and doctors who chose to wear the traditional coverings.  All of whom were very happy and independent women.  First, the problem is when this form of dress is forced upon the woman as a means of taking away their freedom and identity.  Secondly, and even more importantly, is the reaction of the community in which these women live.   When the community that surrounds them does not see these women as individuals, but, as a cultural group, their personhood is lost.  Unfortunately, this is how the Montreal children protection workers saw these Shafia women, as an example of their cultural group who must wear this and behave so, not as four abused women who were in danger from their own family.  A social worker had been in the Shafia house in May and found no immediate concern.  The four were killed the next month.  The social worker could not get past the scarves to see the real pain and fear of the women beneath.  In addition the Shafia family were very affluent, with no appearnace of obvious neglect, the claims of the children were dismissed.  The importance of outward appearances of the children is repeatedly emphasised in Tell It to the Trees.  These children do not 'look' abused.  They 'look' well dressed.

Badami in Tell it to the Trees, explores the effect of secrets upon the different children in the Dharma family.  And shows how one child may embrace the family dysfunction and how another will be become more and more frightened and distressed.  And what of the surviving Shafia children that keep the secrets?  Can you keep a secret of murder, even if only after the fact, and remain sane?  Two girls and a boy survived this family cull; I am sure the girls now firmly know their place as Afgani woman but will the boy understand that you can not get away with honour killings in Canada or only that it must be more expertly executed.  And what of Hamed, now convicted killer, only 18 at the time of this crime, would he have become a cold blooded murder if raised in another family?  How will he feel years from now knowing what his parents had him do and the fact that in the end they were quite willing to hang him out by convincing him to change his testimony to admitting he was there at the scene when the car fell into the Kingston Mill Locks?   Will he realize that his parents were willing to let him take the blame while they would go free?  After all, they did have another ‘good son,’  willing to testify in court to the Shafia version of the truth.

Laarhuis cross-examines a surviving Shafia son, who can't be identified:
Laarhuis: "The reason that you're confirming this with Hamed and your mom is because you know there's a problem with that part of the story."
Son: "No, not really. I'm just trying to help them (tell the truth)."
Laarhuis: "That's the remarkable thing about the truth — you don't need to remind people what the truth is."
From Global News. 

To be fair to these three surviving children and even Hamed, they are also victims of the reining terror in the Shafia household; those that complained got put into the car and drowned in the lock.

The Book Review of Tell It to the Trees
Anita Rau Badami

This book will grab your attention from page one and will linger in your mind long after completion. It is a thought provoking book concerning family secrets, an unexplainable death of a tenant and an isolated family invested in maintaining a good family name. The cold harsh setting of a small Canadian town springs to life in Anita Rau Badami beautiful lyrical writing. The Dharma family- consisting of autocratic Vikram; his aged mother Akka, who has chilling secrets of her own; sweet gentle Suman, Vikram's second wife, newly immigrated from India and rushed into marriage; the troubled teenage daughter Varsha, abandoned by her first mother; and Hemant, the sensitive seven year old, haunted by ghosts- live at the end of a lonely barren road outside of a town called Merrit's Point, referred to as Hell by old Akka. Everyone loves secrets...or so you think...and this story is all about secrets, what you tell... who you don't tell...but when you are 7 and have to tell, you tell it to the tree.
This puzzle of a story is told from four view points Suman, Ana, the Dharma family tenant, and the two children Varsha and Hemant. The characters come alive in your mind. Each is given a unique voice expressing alternate views of the story. Each piece of this jig saw puzzle flows smoothly into the next, until a complete chilling picture is revealed at the end.

In Tell It to the Trees, Anita Rau Badami evokes a chilling depth of insight into the psychological aspects of a dysfunctional abusive family. Badami presents us with an opportunity to see those unfortunate abused woman beneath their cultural garb, whatever that might be, and see the person lost and isolated underneath.  This is a book that all women should read, all men should read. This is one of those important books that come along every so often that can change how people view unmentionable aspects of our society. Most books are read for pleasure, entertainment, and, make no mistake, there is a very good mystery story in this book, but, very few go to the heart of such difficult and mostly hidden aspects of our society with such a sense intimate feeling. This book goes beyond entertainment; this is a cautionary tale of isolation and abuse. Tell it to the Trees describes the cycle of abuse and how it passes down the generations. As Suman dreams of escape, Badami describes how such a situation can entrap, ensnare and beat you down until you are capable of fabricating excuses for inexcusable behaviour. Why does she not just leave, is often queried with regard to women who suffer from abuse. This book will show you why. But more importantly, it will clearly show why you should get out, for yourself and, especially, for your children. Does Suman get out in time? We can only hope...

No Victim Impact Statements

Following the trial and conviction of murder, normally victim impact statements would be presented by family members and loved ones from whom the victims had been harshly taken away.  Sadly, in the case of the four Shafia women no one from their family or community will speak on their behalf.  

Zainab, 19: Chose to marry a man of her choice.
The marriage was disallowed by her father.
Two months prior to her murder she fled the Shafia home for a women's shelter.
Unfortunately she returned home.

Sahar, 17: She wanted to be a doctor.
Looks like every 17 year old I know.
Complained to teachers and social workers about abuse at home.
Including a suicide attempt in the spring before her death with no results.

Geeti, 13: Requested to be put in foster care.
Sadly, she was left with her family.
Teachers noted increasingly wild behaviour.
That's called being terrified and no one helping you.

Rona, 52: Died because she loved these girls.
The press has put forth that this was a convenient way to get rid of the first wife.
I do not believe she was part of the original plan.
For a family that purchased a cheap car to kill their family members,
why would they allow the expensive jewlery she was wearing to go to the bottom of the lock?
If only in my imagination, I like to think she went down fighting.
Surely to God, someone would fight for these girls. 

We all should speak on their behalf, because no one should be murdered for just being a girl.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

All About Sisters, Book Review The Last Will of Moira Leahy


Quote of the Week

“If you have a sister and she dies, do you stop saying you have one? Or are you always a sister, even when the other half of the equation is gone?”
Jodi Picoult, My Sister's Keeper

Sisters most of us have some.  Love them, hate them; they are the ones that stand by you when the chips are down.  I have been blessed with two sisters.  Younger sisters who stole my clothes, hogged the phone and fought with me tooth and nail through my childhood. I would not change them for the world...well maybe just a little!

For my sisters, Darlene and Jeneffer.

The Review of The Last Will of Moira Leahy 
Therese Walsh

Genre: Suspense, woman’s fiction, mysticism, travel and paranormal elements
Depth: Serious, dealing with grief, learning to remember, forgive and let go  
Topic: The surviving twin’s grief at the loss of her sister, regaining herself
Book complexity: Dual storylines, Dual timelines, several characters
Writing: Fluid, excellent
      Rating: 5 stars. Exceptional book
      Received from: The good old public library

The Last Will of Moira Leahy is a captivating, haunting debut novel by Therese Walsh.  This is a heart wrenching, soul searching story of grief and loss, as the surviving sister, Maeve, tries to reconcile herself to a life without her identical twin, Moira.  Normally at this point I would say what genre this novel would fit into, however; The Last Will of Moira Leahy does not fit into any one specific category.  Walsh wrote this novel much like knitting a multi-coloured sweater.  It is not blue nor red nor purple but a pleasing blend of suspense, woman’s fiction, mysticism, coming-of-age story, romance, a journey and a sprinkling of the paranormal, while exploring the family dynamics of grief, as well as, the actions and reactions of those left behind.  Beautifully written, The Last Will of Moira Leahy will reach in and squeeze your heart.

What makes a novel exceptional is not necessarily the story itself, but the manner and method used to construct the story.  The Last Will of Moira Leahy is written in alternating first person current time and third person back story from 1995 to 2000; two separate story lines that build on each other in momentum and suspense. The pace of the story adds greatly to the suspense as all the right notes are pitch perfect.  Walsh manages with both her lovely writing style and the manner in which she has constructed her novel, to demonstrate how family dynamics both pulls and pushes its members closer and further apart much like magnets as they can simultaneously attract and repulse. 

Maeve’s story is from the first person view point in current time and is gripping in its description of isolation and loneliness, emphasising oneness and being alone.  The reader is confronted with a pervading sadness as we meet this character who is not only separated her friends and family, but, from her true self as well. The Maeve we meet in the beginning of the novel does not stray from routine and has virtually erased herself to the point that she has bleached her once dramatic red hair.  Once a musical protégée, Maeve has suppressed this talent and has been living an isolated life in academia as a professor of languages.  She is haunted by sounds of piano music and dreams of little girls with red hair; Maeve fears for her own sanity.  She quietly keeps these fears to herself.  Maeve attends an auction to distract herself from her tragic memories of November and becomes obsessed with purchasing a Javanese dagger, keris. The keris is very similar to a knife that belonged to her grandfather lost years ago by herself and Moira playing pirate out in the bay in Castine, Maine. Reminded of happier times with Moira, Maeve forcefully bids and successfully purchases the keris.  A note from the previous owner is later found with an invitation to Rome with the incentive to find out more about the meaning behind this specially carved blade.  Completely out of character, Maeve embarks on a on a journey to Rome in search of the origins of the keris, only to be led on a journey of self discovery and healing. 

The back story of Maeve and Moira’s childhood is told from Moira’s point of view, third person set at a distance, emphasising the distance in time and place.  As children Maeve and Moira are extremely close to the point that they feel each others emotions and pains, and even have their own language.  Their mother wants the girls to have separate identities and emphasises the difference between the girls.  Adding stress to family life, the girl’s mother takes on the care of their grandfather after he suffers a stroke.  Maeve becomes the talented fun loving twin and Moira the dependable home body, her mother’s good girl. As the girls enter adolescence, Moira, living in her sister’s shadow, begins to pull away from Maeve in a desperate search for a separate identity and self worth.  Moira’s need to define herself and exert her own will in opposition to the expectations of both her mother and sister comes to a head when both girls become attracted to the same boy.  Moira craves adventure, and, wilfully, embarks on a secret romance.  In doing so she must sever her most intimate relationship with her sister, Maeve.

The threads of the story weave together as Maeve, now in Rome, learns of the magical properties of the keris that mysteriously links to the past she has tried to forget.  Notes are nailed to Maeve’s door with only the Javanese word eling, meaning remember.  Maeve is joined by Noel, a long time friend and not quite yet a boyfriend.  Afraid of becoming too close again to another, Maeve must confront her fears of intimacy as Maeve and Noel together search Rome for the previous, and now, elusive owner of the keris.   More mysterious notes direct Maeve to different locations within the city where she finds painful memories of her tragic past along with the beautiful sites of Rome.  The keris exerting its own will, leads Maeve back to remember and confront her past. Only in her memories of her sister, Moira, can Maeve find the forgiveness she needs to allow herself to let go of this past, and, the will to really live her life.

Even though the reader is well aware that Maeve lost her twin tragically at 16 from the very first page of the story, this is a novel of exquisite suspense as Walsh delivers a well paced story leading the reader irresistibly to the surprising conclusion.  The book was impossible to put down.  Walsh has written a wonderful story of grief and forgiveness, remembering and letting go. We would all be so lucky to have a magic knife or keris fly into our lives to cut through the illusions and delusions in which we surround ourselves, and help us clearly see our selves and those people who are most important to us, and; in doing so, help us find our own truth.  Therese Walsh you are very talented and must write more books.

Highly Recommend.
Sisters and Secrets

Have you noticed that most books that are about sisters are also about secrets.  Sisters keeping secrets from or for each other.  There was  4600 books at my public library on the subject of sisters and at Amazon over 27,000 titles just with sister in the name, never mind the books about sisters that did not get tagged as sisters related.  Why do scary sisters always come in threes?

Books you also may like:

Kate Morton:  House at Riverton- A suspenseful story of sisters of an aristocratic family and secrets concerning the mysterious death during a party in 1924.  The story is told from the point of view of a servant, Grace, working at Riverton House, a large English estate, whose own life is entwined with the family.  Excellent.  

The Distant Hours: Kate Morton third novel is set in an old crumbling country estate, Milderhurst, in which three old sisters have lived their entire lives, full of secrets mysterious deaths.  The beginning of this novel is slow, but builds in momentum and plot.  Excellent

Rachel Hore: A Place of Secrets- Not yet released in Canada or the US, but already a best seller in Britain. I will be doing a complete review soon.  In a nut shell, while performing her job as a auction house appraiser examining the books of an eighteenth century astronomer in northern Norfolk, Jude uncovers the secret writings of a mysterious young girl, and her own family secrets as well.  Very Good

Audrey Niffenegger: Her Fearful Symmetry-  Looking for a creepy twin ghost story, look no further, this is the one for you.  Excellent writing and full of twists and turns and of course the setting of the historic Highgate cemetery only adds to the atmospheric setting.

Kimberla Lawson Roby: Secret Obsession- This is sibling rivalry to the ultimate max.  A light quick read about sisters, family dynamics, mental illness and ultimately forgiveness. OK 

Jodi Picoult: My Sisters Keeper-  I only saw the movie but the book is suppose to be even better.  Parents with a daughter suffering from leukaemia genetically engineer a second daughter in order to save the first.  Medical ethics aside, a very dramatic story.  Need Kleenex with this one.

Frances Greenslade:  Shelter- This I had hoped to win in a different book giveaways but now on awaiting list at the library.  Parental abandonment and sisterly responsibilities.  Sounds great. 

Susanna Kearsley: The Rose Garden- Katrina's sister dies and she is given the task of finding the perfect place to scatter her ashes, returning her to where she belongs.  Katrina returns to Cornwall where they spent happy childhood summers and in doing so, confronts ghosts from her own past.  Time travel in this story as well.  Very Good.

The comment box, my personal bane of existence, apparently could only take messages from me alone.  I have now, I hope configured the comment box to take comments from anyone.  These will be screened prior to being posted in the blog.  So, if you want to let me know about a book you have been reading, have a comment about the blog, want a suggest for your next book, or just have the need to write something, feel free.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

White Witch Pond by Jody Kihara Review and Why We Love Witches

Our topic today is going to be WITCHES and the review of the new book White Witch Pond by Jody Kilhara.

Quote of the Week:  Most books on witchcraft will tell you that witches work naked. This is because most books on witchcraft were written by men.”
Neil Gaiman

First, I must thank all you who have taken the time to read my earlier posts.  19 members, Wow!  To be honest, it was easier to write when I thought it was just me and the computer.  Of course that brings to my mind a scary X-Files episode where the computer falls in love with his maker and kills people for him.  Not to worry, due to my blatant computer illiteracy, my computer can barely tolerate me and I believe occasionally deletes my work and moves files to mysterious locations in a fit of pique.

Second, I learned how to get pictures into the blog posts.  Apparently copy and paste does not work in every situation.  Pictures need a picture format, go figure.

Thirdly, I apparently do have a comment section that works after every blog.  I added a do- hickie thinking it was a quick box tick thingy, but it is actually the comment box.  Wish I had known this before I spent hours trying to up load a supposedly free comment section that wanted me to send them two dollars.  Hey I am Canadian; if it’s free, it’s free.  Canadians are big on free.  It comes up several times in our national anthem, for instance: “The true north strong and FREE…”  and “God keep our land glorious and FREE…”  So feel ‘free’ to leave comments.  Also I match books to readers.  If there is a type of book you are hankering for, but do not have a title ask me.  I can find you something good to read.  Matching books to readers since, well…now.

Last year I discovered something wonderful…the internet.  Contrary to my prior belief that the internet was fully of crazies and nudie pictures, I found places where people like to discuss books, such as, Goodreads, Library Thing and book review blogs.  I also went on to find book giveaway contests.  That’s right, books given away for FREE!!  (Be still my beating heart.)  I am person who normally does not win contests, but I have been lucky to have won some really great books that I would like to share with you.


One contest that I entered was for White Witch Pond by Jody Kihara, a Canadian author from Vancouver.  Jody writes Youth fiction and has now written 7 novels.  What attracted me to Jody’s book, aside from the fact that I do have a fondness for witch stories, is the story centered on a pond in which a witch was supposed to have drowned.  I grew up in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. Sally’s Pond is a creepy yet beautiful spot found along the Bolton Pass, a road close to my home. Supposedly, a woman named Sally drowned in this pond years ago.  I had many childhood stories built in my mind about this pond.  Sally was an Indian… Sally was a witch… So I was delighted to read this witch tale so similar to my own childhood musings.

White Witch Pond
Jody Kihara

Genre: Youth Fiction/ Horror and Ghost fiction
Age Range: Teens, 13 and up, too scary
Topic: Brother and sister being haunted and witches
Complexity: Straight forward storyline, suspenseful
Style of Writing: Scary Stephen King-like suspense, no violence
Quality of writing: Very Good, Fluid, yet tight
Received from: Jody Kihara in online contest
Published: Star Magnolia Publishing, September 2011
Pages: 173
Rating: 4 stars, Great book.

Goodreads Summary:

Shaya Solen’s walk home from school takes her past an eerie pond, where one day she finds an old bracelet made of raven feathers. Soon, strange events begin to unfold: a shadowy figure glimpsed across the water, ominous nightmares haunting Shaya, and rumors of a witch who once drowned in the pond. With the discovery of a strange family connection to the witch, Shaya is drawn into a mystery that must be solved before the approaching Halloween, which is the thirteenth anniversary of the witch’s death – and Shaya’s birthday.

Review of White Witch Pond

Looking for something creepy to read, look no further.  Jody Kihara has written a very spooky, spine tingling, hair standing up on the back of your neck witch/ghost story for teens and adults alike.  Eerie ponds, dark winding streets in October, strange black dogs and even stranger creepy happenings all combine in a suspenseful quest to solve the mystery of a witch who drowned in a pond on Halloween thirteen years earlier.

Shaya and Dev Solen have just moved to a new city.  The new neighbourhood is made up of a nest of winding streets in which the uninitiated are soon lost.  As a rule, Shaya must walk home from school with her older brother.  While taking a short cut through the park, they pass a pond, rumored to be the site of a drowning of a witch thirteen years earlier.  Next to the pond Shaya finds a raven feather bracelet.  The bracelet gives Shaya a very bad felling and she throws it away. Unfortunately, the bracelet is picked up and taken home by her brother.  Shaya begins to see shadowy images of the witch both near the pond and at home.  When her brother becomes ill and begins to behave strangely, Shaya knows she must investigate the death of the woman in the pond and return the raven bracelet.  But where should she bring the bracelet?  Now running around alone, by herself in the dark October evenings, Shaya sets out to investigate just what happened thirteen years earlier and to find the true meaning of the raven bracelet.
White Witch Pond is youth fiction, but since the arrival of Harry Potter and other children literature, adults have felt more comfortable reading books ear marked for kids.  There is something to be said for a book that you can pick up and read in one sitting.  Youth fiction, Harry Potter’s 700 plus pages aside, tends to be formatted for younger readers, therefore; shorter in length and designed to get the attention of younger readers quick and sustain this attention to the conclusion.  In my opinion, those authors who write good youth fiction must have better writing technique then those writing for adults.  They must employ fewer words, write more concisely and yet, at the same time deliver a high caliber plot driven story designed to keep children’s attention.  Jody Kihara is a master at clean concise writing that grabs your attention from the creepy beginning to the not- a- Disney- ending, dramatic cemetery conclusion.

The suspenseful pace and creepy settings are straight out of a Stephen king horror book, minus the hand shooting out of the ground.  Lost in twilight running down dark allies, being chased by a big scary black dog and shadowy glimpses of the witch near the pond and even in front of Shayas’ own home, added a spooky atmosphere to this fast paced book.  This book is scary.  I read this book from beginning to end in one night tucked up in my bed.  I was caught up in the building suspense and at a point in the story where someone seemed to be sneaking up on our main character, Shaya, when my husband decided to walk into the bedroom, as he is wont to do for the last twenty years.  Bad timing. I screamed.  He nearly jumped out of his skin, and looked behind himself, because surely there must be an axe wielding mad man or maundering bear immediately behind him to cause such a reaction.  What’s wrong with you, he yelled. (Years and a team of professionals might be able to come up with an answer to that!)  Scary book, was my only answer.  I had only intended to read the first couple of chapters but once I started reading I was hooked.  (In all honesty, I needed the story resolved before I could sleep.)

The characters are well drawn and true to life, Mom acts like a typical busy mom, distracted and yelling.  Older brother, Dev, is annoying in the way that all brothers are, pestering and superior.  The relationship between siblings is very real with equal parts competive, antagonistic and loving.  The main character Shaya is a bright twelve year old, full of the insecurities of a young girl in a new school and new neighborhood.  Shaya employs great determination to resolve this mystery and does not give up despite being very frightened, and, uses good detective skills in order to save her brother.

I believe girls will like this book more than boys.  The true depiction of the older brother’s taunts and lack of contribution to household chores may be a little too real for a boys taste.  Shaya is a fine model for young girl as she demonstrates good problem solving and independent thinking.  Although new in school, Shaya is able to maintain her own identity and does not allow herself to get caught up in the questionable activity of her new friends.

I thoroughly enjoyed this well written book and will certainly encourage my children read White Witch Pond.  Jody Kihara has written 6 other books which we hope to read soon.

Why do We Love Witch Stories

Witches stories have always been a source of great fascination for me since I was a young girl.  And, given the plethora of witch books, I believe many girls and women remain fascinated with this genre.  The witch tale can be both empowering for women and a historical tales of caution dealing with the society’s reaction to those individuals who are different.  Mostly, I believe, especially with the success of the Harry Potter series, that woman and men just want to be able to magically fix things.  The drive that produces gadgets and machines which make our world easier to live in, has its roots in childhood fantasies of magic and witches.  Fantasy promotes wonder and imagination; the urge to make things happen.  You need to be able to imagine a better world before you can create a better world.

Books you may also like:


Harry Potter Series- Excellent for both children and adults alike.  What is great a about Harry is that he is a boy.  Magic and witches prior to this series had been firmly in the realm of girls.

Narnia Series-  A classic series of magical tales by C.S. Lewis  should be on a mandatory reading list for both adult and children alike.  I reread this series with my children one summer, just wonderful.

Wicked-  by Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguie.  Teenage witch series for older teen 15 and up.  Some mature themes.  Good degree of scariness

The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel Series- by Michael Scott is an imaginative magical story about twin brother and sister beginning in the book The Alchemyst.


The Mayfaire Witches series- by Anne Rice begins with The Witching Hour is by far the best witch books I have ever read to date.  Known for her vampire chronicles, Anne Rice has beautiful writing combined with a creepy New Orleans setting and imaginative plot.

Corrag- by Susan Fletcher.  A historical tale set in Scotland concerning a woman accused of witchcraft.  Lovely writer.

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane- by Katherine Howe combines both contemporary and historical timelines to create a very spooky tale.

The Witches of Eastwick-  by John Updike.  If you have not seen the movie, you should classic.  The book is a very worthwhile read.

The Heretic’s Daughter- by Kathleen Kent. A good historical fiction

The Burning Times- by Jeanne Kalogridis. A historical novel of medieval France.  Love this author. 
Wicked Series – by Gregory Maguire.  This series has been on my to read list for a while, last book in the series is now out.

For those who are fans of witch series, there is a reading challenge going on at Melissa’s Eclectic Bookshelf.

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