Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Artemis - Andy Weir

I'm betting you've either read or watched Andy Weir's first novel, The Martian. (Or like me - both). I was excited to see that he has a newly released book - Artemis.

I was hooked by this line from the publisher..."- a heist story set on the moon." I love 'heist' novels. (And movies) But every heist tale needs to have the right protagonist. Weir has created an interesting one in Jasmine Bashara. She's bold, brilliant, irreverent, daring and is an 'ethical smuggler'. But things get bigger than just some low level smuggling for Jazz. All she has to do is the impossible - destroy four 'harvesters' - and a million slugs ($) are hers. A new space suit, an apartment with a bathroom and her debt paid off. But with every heist movie there are of course, snags. And there are some big ones in Artemis's plot. (Although on finishing the book,  I do think caper would be a better descriptor than heist.)

Weir's dialogue throughout the book is snappy.  But, I found some of the jokes to be borderline juvenile and the sexual references fell flat for me. There are letters to and from a 'penpal' on Earth that Jazz has had since she was in school. I enjoyed the discourse between the two. But even in this personal format, we never really get a look at the 'real' Jazz - the one behind the flippancy. She does seem written for the screen almost. I did enjoy the supporting cast, especially tech wizard Svoboda.

Weir has a background as a software engineer and ''devoted hobbyist of subjects such as relativistic physics, orbital mechanics and the history of manned spaceflight." Without a doubt, his work benefits from this detailed knowledge. I don't read a lot of sci-fi and found I got a little bogged down with some of  the details of air locks, chemicals, welding etc. Of course these details are integral to the plot, but I enjoyed the descriptions of the city and daily life on this imagined city on the moon much more.

Not as good as The Martian for me, but still an entertaining read. Read an excerpt of Artemis.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Music Shop - Rachel Joyce

I'm often asked - who is your favourite author? Well, I just can't narrow it down to one, but Rachel Joyce is on the top ten list. Her books are so affecting - they resonate with me long after the last page has been turned.

And that is true again with her latest book, The Music Shop.

"There was once a music shop. From the outside it looked like any shop, in any backstreet. It had no name above the door" ...... "As long as it was on vinyl, there were no taboos. And if you told Frank the kind of thing you wanted, or simply  how you felt that day, he had the right track in minutes. It was a knack he had. A gift. He knew what people needed even when they didn't know it themselves."

Joyce's characters are always a little left of center, eccentric in their own ways. Inherently good and kind, but a little lost. Frank is missing something in his life, but he doesn't know it until the mysterious woman in the green coat enters his shop. Her arrival is the catalyst for a change in Franks' life. And not just Frank, but the other inhabitants of Unity Street. Although Frank is the lead character, I found myself just as drawn to the supporting cast - especially Kit - the 'assistant manager' of the music shop.' His innocence, bouncing around, love of posters and unfailing good nature endeared him to me. Maud, the surly tattoo artist was another favourite. They're all a little out of step, but I would love to be a resident of this wee little back street and walk with them.

Joyce has such a way with words - her prose are thoughtful and worth savouring. "They spoke in the flat monotone they used these days in order to remain on open road where nothing would jump out and surprise them. One wrong word and it was like trees coming down."

Now, as I first started to read, I began writing down the musical references and referrals that Frank makes. I was fascinated by the explanations of the music, the background of the pieces and what to listen for. The list soon grew too long and I was too caught up in reading to stop and add to the list. But, I do want to go back and listen to some pieces recommended by Frank and catch his interpretation of the piece. The explanation of silence within music intrigued me, as did many more of the musical references. Joyce neatly ties those references to what is happening with the characters.

It'd be lovely if there was a Frank - who doesn't want to have the right music 'prescribed' for them. On reading the author's notes, I learned that the premise for The Music Shop sprang from events in Joyce's own life.

I loved The Music Shop - absolutely recommended! Here's an excerpt of The Music Shop.

Friday, December 8, 2017

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #188

- You can't judge a book by its cover - which is very true.
But you can like one cover version better than another....

US cover
UK cover
Robert Crais has a pair of characters that I really enjoy - Elvis Cole and Joe Pike. The latest novel to feature both of them is The Wanted - releasing at the end of the month in North America and in June in the UK. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. Palm trees are part of each cover - which makes sense as the book is set in LA. Both are at dusk, but depicted with two different tones. The author's name is larger and first up on the US cover and flipped on the UK cover. I do like the tag line on the UK cover - it gives you an idea of what the book might be about. The UK picture looks somewhat familiar, like I've seen another cover with a similar shot. Still, for me this week it's the UK cover. Any plans to read The Wanted? Which cover do you prefer?
You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Over the Counter #395

What book caught my eye this week as it passed over the library counter and under my scanner? A wee space to call my own....

She Sheds: A Room of Your Own by Erika Kotite.

From the publisher, Cool Springs Press:

"Create your very own hideaway right at home with She Sheds.

They've got their man caves, and it's time for you to have a space of your own. She Sheds shows you how to create cozy getaways with inspiration from across the country. Start by defining the goal and purpose of your space. Will you use it for entertaining, crafting, or alone time? Then, use the gallery of over 100 photos as inspiration for your decor, paint colors, and landscaping. You'll even find fun upcycling ideas to personalize your space. Get inspired, and get started on your very own tricked-out retreat!"

(Over the Counter is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World. I've sadly come the realization that I cannot physically read every book that catches my interest as it crosses over my counter at the library. But... I can mention them and maybe one of them will catch your eye as well. See if your local library has them on their shelves!)

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Brother - David Chariandy

David Chariandy's first novel Soucouyant, 'was nominated for nearly every major literary prize in Canada and published internationally.' His second novel, Brother is recently released and it too is racking up accolades.

Brother is the first reading of this author for me - and I was blown away....

1991 Scarborough, Ontario. Michael and Francis are the children of Trinidadian immigrants, living with their mother in a housing complex in this urban center. Their mother dreams of more and better for her sons and works tirelessly to ensure this happens. The boys also imagine their futures. Francis in the music industry and Michael dreams of a life with Aisha, far from the concrete walls of 'The Park'.

But in 1991 Scarborough, racial tensions are running high, violence is becoming part of everyday life, police presence is heavy and prejudices are rampant. Those hopes and dreams of the three members of this family are changed forever by the violence of that year.

Brother is told in a back and forth timeline spanning ten years. In the present we learn about the past as the book progresses.

Brother is a slim novel, but it took me a while to read it. I had to put the book down numerous times - to absorb and avoid the inevitability of what was coming next - even though I knew what that was. The story is real - and raw. Chariandy's prose are absolutely beautiful, drawing you in and wrapping themselves around you. I cried more than once as I read.

As a mother, that is where I felt that punch the hardest - her hopes, dreams and desires for her children. And the undercurrent of the loss of her own wants and desires. Her perseverance, fortitude and strength resonated with me - even as it eroded and collided with ugly reality. I'm sickened by the indignities, attitudes and prejudices depicted. Even more so as I know they are not fiction. But those moments are juxtaposed and tempered by the acts of love, joy and happiness that also part of the life of this family.

Cr:Joy Van Tiedemann
Brother speaks to the immigrant experience, to family, love, loss, hope, duty and desires. And the fact that the past is still the present. Absolutely, positively recommended reading. Here's an excerpt.

"David Chariandy grew up in (Scarborough) Toronto and lives and teaches in Vancouver. His debut novel, Soucouyant, received stunning reviews and nominations from eleven literary awards juries, including a Governor General's Literary Award shortlisting, a Gold Independent Publisher Award for Best Novel, and the Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist. Brother is his second novel."

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Deal of a Lifetime - Fredrik Backman

Next up on the holiday reading/listening list is The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman.

I really enjoy Backman's writing - his 'left of centre' characters and the situations he places them in.

In this novella, the lead character is a man who was driven all his life to succeed and excel at business. Where he failed was as a father. He narrates this tale, finally acknowledging his absence and shortcomings to his son. A chance meeting with a dying little girl gives him a chance at redemption. I'm not going to spoil things by telling you how that comes about. It's not quite what you would imagine at all.

"Hi. It's your dad. You'll be waking up soon, it's Christmas Eve morning in Helsingborg, and I've killed a person. That's not how fairy tales usually begin, I know. But I took a life. Does it make a difference if you know whose it was?"

Backman's writing always moves me. And he's able to do the same thing that he's done in his books as in this 'small' piece of work. I chose to listen to The Deal of a Lifetime. The reader was Santino Fontana. His voice is clear and he enunciates well. His voice suited the mental image I had of this businessman and his regrets. He provides believable voices for the other two characters in the book. He interprets the emotion of the story well. The Deal of a Lifetime was a short, sweet listen, perfect for this ruminative time of the year. The reader can't help but reflect upon their own life - what and who is important in your life? And what would you do to 'fix' things?

The title is clever - as you'll find out. Backman's introduction is just as poignant as the tale he tells. Listen to an excerpt of The Deal of a Lifetime. 

Friday, December 1, 2017

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #187

- You can't judge a book by its cover - which is very true.
But you can like one cover version better than another....

US cover
UK cover
Italian author Luca D'Andrea's latest book - a thriller - has been sold in thirty countries Beneath the Mountain releases in North America in January and is newly released in the UK as The Mountain. So, US cover on the left and UK cover on the right. The first think I noticed was the juxtaposition of looking at teh mountains from 'outside' versus looking out from seemingly inside the mountain (perhaps a cave?) on the UK cover. I do find the black and white shot on the US cover more effective in terms of starkness. It seems more remote - which is part of the plot. The blue of the UK cover says 'underwater' too much to me. But we know it can't be underwater as there is a helicopter in the centre of the picture. Which just seems kind of random to me. The colour of the title is red on both covers, but the font used on the US cover is more effective in my opinion. Both covers use the same tag line. Cold case and killers? Count me in. A pretty easy choice for me this week - US. What about you? Any plans to read this book? Which cover do you prefer?
You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.