Wednesday, May 28, 2008

What the Psychic told the Pilgrim - Jane Christmas

The subtitle of this memoir is: "A Midlife Misadventure on Spain's Camino De Santiago De Compostela".

Christmas was on a plane promoting her first book - The Pelee Project: One Woman's Escape from Urban Madness - when a random conversation with an air attendant sparks a decision to announce on a national televison interview her intention to walk the Camino Trail.

In the Pelee Project, she left behind her job, sold her home escaped with her 10 year old daughter to a small Canadian island to get away from it all. It too is a really good read.

Once the decision to celebrate her 50th birthday on the Trail is publicly announced, offers and requests pour in from other women to join her. A year and a half later, she leaves her children with her mother, meets up with a group of roughly 15 other pilgrims and heads to Spain.

There has been a dearth of 'finding yourself on a pilgrimage' books lately. What I absolutely l loved about this one is the brutal honesty. Christmas does start out with ideas of wonderful epiphanies, spiritual awakenings, etcetera, but nothing goes quite as anyone envisioned. The group has nominated Jane as their leader - a position she has no interest in. There are splits in the group, personality conflicts,illness and a lot of sqabbling.

When Christmas inadvertently loses the group and strikes out on her own, that's when her Camino journey begins.

Where does the psychic come in? Well, before Christmas heads out, she consults a psychic, who has firm predictions about this journey. Do they come true? Does she find her truth on the Trail? I'll let you discover that.....

Friday, May 23, 2008

Fifteen Minutes of Shame - Lisa Daily

Fifteen Minutes of Shame exposes the heartache of Darby Vaughn. Darby is a successful dating expert ( the Dreamgirl Academy) with a happy ( or at least she thought so...) marriage and two beautiful step children she adores.

Her publicist husband Will arranges for Darby to find out that the marriage is over while doing a promo for her book tour on the Today Show with Matt Lauer. To make matters even worse he has taken the children and gone back to his ex wife Gigi. Darby promptly vomits and passes out on the set.

Her career as a dating/relationship expert has been trashed, she's lost the children she loves and she's been humiliated in front of the entire country. What's a girl to do? Get even, of course. She hires Holt Gregory as her lawyer and begins some high profile dating to get her career back on track.

As with pretty much all chick lit novels, you can kind of fill in what happens next. ( Holt is a charming good looking attorney!)

What makes this book interesting is that Lisa Daily is a dating/relationship author in real life. Stop Getting Dumped is both a column and book. Interspersed throughout Fifteen Minutes of Shame are tips from Darby's Dreamgirl Academy. Daily is part of the Debs (see link in blogroll) a group of 6 female authors releasing their debut fiction novels this year.

A great fun book to take to the beach.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Junk Beautiful - Sue Whitney & Ki Nassauer

As promised, a bit of a departure from the fiction front. For me, digging through the flea market back room, seeing what's on the garage sale table, perusing the auction sale listings, are FUN activities!

Sue Whitney and Ki Nassauer think so too. So much in fact that it's how they make their living - and very successfully. This is the second book they've written.

What they do is scour for items that no one else seems to want and then they re purpose them. It's an acquired taste and not for everyone, but their makeovers have a beautiful shabby chic look. Their inventiveness is amazing. While some ideas were really ' out there', others sparked a little light bulb. This was just a fun book to peruse. Included are some inside shots of projects from the book.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Dead Time - Stephen White

Funnily enough, both Jonathan Kellerman and Stephen White released new novels within weeks of each other. They both are clinical psychologists in real life as are their protagonists.

White's character Alan Gregory practices psychology in Boulder, Colorado. His sidekick is Detective Sam Purdy. Sam is on suspension for offences committed during the last case Alan and he worked on. Gregory's wife Lauren suffers from Multiple Sclerosis. The mysteries that White writes about are fascinating, but so are the interpersonal relationships of the main charaters, particulary between Lauren and Alan.

This book is a bit of a departure from previous books in the series. Lauren and Sam do not figure as predominantly. Instead every other chapter is from the standpoint of Alan's ex wife Merideth, who has remarried. Her new husband Eric and five friends were involved in a tragedy that happened in the Grand Canyon years ago. One of the five is also the child of a fellow psychologist. Meredith asks for Sam and Alan's help to locate a surrogate mother that they have engaged. She has disappeared. There may be a connection between the two incidents. Alan's personal life is also undergoing great stress.

I found it interesting to explore Meredith's character a bit more. This novel seemed to overdo the personal introspection a bit. Some of the story surrounding the Grand Canyon event is a bit convoluted. I was a little hard pressed to find all of Alan's support of Meredith believable. Nonetheless, Dead Time is still a great read.

Now folks, I think I will break out of the mystery/thriller genre for a while and bring you something different next review!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Coming Soon - Driving Sideways - Jess Riley

Here's one to watch for. I'm just waiting for my copy of Jess Riley's debut novel Driving Sideways to arrive. It goes on sale May 20th. The cover is so inviting (just says summer read doesn't it?)and the story sounds even better! Watch for the review!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Hold Tight - Harlan Coben

Harlan Coben is one author who is on my 'Must Read" list. His latest - Hold Tight- does not disappoint!

Tia and Mike Baye decide to 'spy' on their 16 year old son after much deliberation. Adam's best friend Spencer committed suicide and Adam himself has been distant and non communicative. They are worried about him, but also worry that they have crossed a line by 'spying' on him. They install a program on his computer that catches all keystrokes including instant messages. They are stunned when they intercept one that reads

" Just stay quiet and all safe".

Mike is a doctor and he and his partner are searching for a match for a kidney transplant for the young son of Mike's next door neighbour. All is not as it seems on the surface at this house either.

The mother of Spencer cannot accept his suicide and is constantly searching for answers as to why he killed himself. What she finds opens up the whole tragedy again.

Adam disappears - has he run away or has been abducted by the sender of the 'all safe' message? Mike tries to track him and is attacked by unknown assailants.

The local police are also dealing with the unsolved murders of two local women.

All these seemingly disparate stories come together in a way you can't imagine. Although the ending gets wrapped up a little too neatly, its still a good read.

Coben is one of the best selling thriller writers today. If you enjoy James Siegel, James Grippando, Jonathan Kellerman, or John Sandford (new one in the Prey series coming soon!) you will enjoy Coben.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Right Away Monday - Joel Thomas Hynes

Another 'coming soon' ( July 29) from Harper Collins Canada
is the trade paperback of Right Away Monday by Joel Thomas Hynes .

Clayton Reid lives in St. John's, Newfoundland - if his life can be called living - I guess it depends on your viewpoint. Clayton lives in a permanent booze soaked, drug induced stupor. He stumbles through life anesthetizing himself to avoid dealing with hurt, anger and love. His longest stretch of sobriety has been two weeks... sometime last year. He lives with his Uncle Val - a musician who inhabits the same lifestyle. Much of the story takes place on Water Street - in the bar owned by slumlord Mike and populated by various characters lost in the same gutter as Clayton.
Clayton meets Isadora, an aspiring actress and can actually visualize a life beyond Water Street with her. But only for brief lucid moments. Clayton, though smart and aware of what he is doing is unable to halt a further downward spiral.
The first half of the book is gripping and gut wrenching but becomes a bit of a grind further on, replaying scenes that depict the same thing over and over. Sometimes the effect of the debauchery is lost after repetition. The book is written with the rhythms and dialect of the speech of Newfoundland. While this adds greatly to the characters and setting, it is sometimes difficult to decipher. The run on thought dialogue also takes some getting used to.
A gritty look at human failure and redemption and the ultimate power of human contact, Right Away Monday will appeal to readers of Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Out Backward - Ross Raisin

Here's an intriguing debut novel to add to your "Coming Soon" list. Out Backward by Ross Raisin is being released by Harper Collins Canada on June 24/08.

Sam Marsdyke is an odd young man. He lives on the family sheep farm in Yorkshire with his angry, taciturn father and his docile mother. He no longer attends school, having been told to leave after an "incident" involving a female student. No charges were pressed.

"Southerners" are buying up the local properties around the Marsdyke farm. The town dynamic is changing. Old pubs and shops are falling by the wayside to make way for 'new and better'. When a 'town' family buys the farm next door, Sam is warned off by his father. " And you'll let them alone 'an all. They've a daughter".

Sam has limited social skills, but an active imagination. Too active. He is a lonely young man, but frightening as well. He brings a basket of mushrooms to the new neighbours, but after giving them to the family, he skulks around their windows, spying on them and inventing situations and dialogue. He becomes fixated on the young daughter of the family. He sits for hours on the hills, watching their house with only his dogs and sheep for companions.

We feel sorry for Sam and his limited life, but repelled by his vindictive thoughts and the frightening actions that sometimes follow, as with his elderly neighbour Delton.

Raisin has endowed Sam with a rich and full Yorkshire vocabulary, which greatly adds to the Sam's character development.

Sam grasps desperately at any interactions with Jo the neighbour girl, building upon them in his mind. For her part, we wonder is she using him to create trouble with her parents or is she actually interested in him as a person? She is a rebellious girl and we are alternatively hopeful that she will see the good in Sam, angry that she may be taking advantage of him and worried that she should not be around the unpredictable Sam.

For all his misguided attempts at normalcy that end badly, we still want to cheer for Sam. His heart seems to be in the right place, but his mind is not there with it.

Jo - the girl- decides to run away from home and asks Sam to go with her. Sam is thrilled and off they go. However the journey does not go as planned for either one. Sam has great plans for the two of them and only wants to look after Jo, but he quickly runs off track. Jo has had enough and wants to go home, but Sam won't let her.

Is Sam as daft as he lets on, or is he mad, with moments of lucidity? Has he been taken advantage of or has he engineered his own downfall?

I won't spoil the ending, but I was thinking of the book and it's characters long after I finished it. Raisin has painted a portrait of a young man that is both appealing and unsettling at the same time.

I look forward the the next offering from this new author.