logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: Canadian
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-04-18 15:40
Corvus / Harold Johnson
Corvus - Harold Johnson

Eighty years have passed since flash floods, droughts, and tornadoes ravaged the North American landscape and mass migrations to the north led to decade-long wars. In the thriving city of La Ronge, George Taylor and Lenore Hanson are lawyers who rarely interact with members of the lower classes from the impoverished suburb of Regis and the independently thriving Ashram outside the city. They live in a world of personalized Platforms, self-driving cars, and cutting edge Organic Recreational Vehicles (ORVs), where gamers need never leave their virtual realities.

When Lenore befriends political dissenter and fellow war veteran Richard Warner, and George accidentally crash-lands his ORV near the mountain-sheltered haven of a First Nations community, they become exposed to new ways of thinking. As the lives of these near-strangers become intertwined, each is forced to confront the past before their relationships and lives unravel.

 

The author of this book will be coming to the annual When Words Collide conference here in Calgary in August. I try to read at least one book by each of the guests of honour before the conference and since I am a birder, how could I resist a book called Corvus?

I really enjoyed the book—Mr. Johnson is a talented writer. I loved how many threads he managed to weave into this story, everything from Aboriginal issues to climate change to poverty issues. He also painted an intriguing and rather grim view of the future. I loved his Organic Recreational Vehicles, developed from birds—swans, ravens, hawks, etc. One of the main characters, George Taylor, purchases a Raven ORV and true to Raven’s mischievous nature in Aboriginal tradition, George is taken on some unexpected adventures.

Some of Johnson’s themes are really overt—there are a couple of places where I was dismayed with the bludgeoning of the reader with his opinions (even though I agree with them). That prevented this from being a higher rated read for me—your mileage may vary.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-04-16 17:17
Unbuttoned / Christopher Dummit
Unbuttoned : a History of Mackenzie King's Secret Life - Christopher Dummitt

When Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King died in 1950, the public knew little about his eccentric private life. In his final will King ordered the destruction of his private diaries, seemingly securing his privacy for good. Yet twenty-five years after King’s death, the public was bombarded with stories about "Weird Willie," the prime minister who communed with ghosts and cavorted with prostitutes. Unbuttoned traces the transformation of the public’s knowledge and opinion of King’s character, offering a compelling look at the changing way Canadians saw themselves and measured the importance of their leaders’ personal lives.

Christopher Dummitt relates the strange posthumous tale of King’s diary and details the specific decisions of King’s literary executors. Along the way we learn about a thief in the public archives, stolen copies of King’s diaries being sold on the black market, and an RCMP hunt for a missing diary linked to the search for Russian spies at the highest levels of the Canadian government. Analyzing writing and reporting about King, Dummitt concludes that the increasingly irreverent views of King can be explained by a fundamental historical transformation that occurred in the era in which King’s diaries were released, when the rights revolution, Freud, 1960s activism, and investigative journalism were making self-revelation a cultural preoccupation.

 

If you are picking up this book to read the salacious details of the private life of William Lyon Mackenzie King, set it back on the shelf. There are precious few details about our 10th Prime Minister’s dabbling in spiritualism or his probable visits to prostitutes. Instead, this is an analysis of the way Canadians have viewed/judged/responded to these revelations about WLMK.

It’s an examination of our changing attitudes towards politicians, about the limitations of privacy, and what is acceptable behavior in Canadian society. Basically, the psychological changes as we moved from Victorian to modern sensibilities. Much of the text deals with the history of the voluminous diaries kept by WLMK and how they were a thorn in the side of his executors. King was notorious for doing just enough to get through a crisis and not another thing more—so of course he had wanted certain excerpts of his diary available to historians and the rest destroyed. However, he never got around to specifying which parts were which. The upshot is that all of his diary is now available for perusal and today you can search them online through Library and Archives Canada. His executors only destroyed the binders which detailed séances WLMK attended.

Looking backward from the 21st century, King’s foibles seem pretty tame, but they caused a sensation when they were first revealed to the public after King’s death. With no social media to out him, he was able to conduct his psychic research without penalty during his time in office. I’m not sure that Canadians are interested in more than the broad strokes of their politicians’ lives and beliefs even yet. We are much more likely to leave them alone when we encounter them in the community, because we respect private life, even if we don’t respect the politician his/her self.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-04-06 23:44
Water monsters and other beasts in the prewar Okanagan
Our Animal Hearts - Dania Tomlinson

Disclaimer: I won a copy of this book via the Goodreads Giveaways program.

 

I generally find literary novels to be a challenge to review/rate because they often aren't the sort of thing that you 'like'. They're not asking to be liked or to provide entertainment in the same way genre fiction does. So when I say I didn't like this book, that's not meant as a criticism, exactly. It was an engaging, well-written piece of fiction and an excellent debut.

Iris is a preteen of British descent living in the Okanagan around the turn of the last century. Her working-class Welsh mother prefers to be called by her first name, drifts around their fanciful house with her pet peacock generally defying propriety, and tells alarming legends or fairy stories. Her father is upper-class English and generally absent. Iris's mother may be a seer, a character from legend, a madwoman, an abusive parent, an epileptic, an abused child, unfaithful, or a mother of monsters. Iris is her mother's daughter and lives in her mother's world of magic and monsters. It is not a kind world.

 

I would have enjoyed more emphasis on the supernatural elements, and less of the dark heart of man, but that's not the sort of book this is. It reminded me of Gone With The Wind - selfishness, pettiness, jealousy, cruelty and a lack of taking responsibility for one's actions wrapped up in a story about coming of age as your world falls to the violence and loss of wartime. This is not a book about the redemptive power of stories. It is not a story about using magic to escape or defeat darkness.

 

However, there is much to like. The setting - a tiny lakefront settlement in the Okanagan in the early 1900s - is tangible, rich, earthy and otherworldly by turns and all at once. I appreciated the nuanced portrayal of diverse communities, both their existence and the challenges they faced. I hadn't previously been aware of a significant Japenese community in the Okanagan working the orchards, and while the book doesn't quite cover both wars, it does stretch up to the Japanese internment tragedy. The First Nations community exist mostly as ghosts or a marginal presence, quite literally unseen or half-seen at the edges of things, and the tension between British-descent Canadians and immigrants, and other white (specifically Eastern-European) immigrants and their children was also handled well. Supernatural elements similarly feature a blending of influences, most strongly in the water monster in the lake, who is referred to by Welsh, First Nations, and Japanese terms.

 

This story is both beautiful - ethereal, intricate, magical - and horrific in its portrayal of humanity. Its excellent quality, historical detail, imaginative format, and philosophical positioning will likely make it a polarizing read, with both fervent fans and those who won't appreciate its uniqueness. I wouldn't be surprised to see it shortlisted in more than a few of next year's literary prizes.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-04-05 19:35
Vlad : the Last Confession / C.C. Humphreys
Vlad: The Last Confession - C.C. Humphreys

Dracula. A name of horror, depravity and the darkest sensuality. Yet the real Dracula was just as alluring, just as terrifying, his tale not one of a monster but of a man... and a contradiction.

 

His tale is told by those who knew him best. The only woman he ever loved...and whom he had to sacrifice. His closest comrade...and traitor. And his priest, betraying the secrets of the confessional to reveal the mind of the man history would forever remember as The Impaler. This is the story of the man behind the legend...as it has never been told before.

 

Once again, Chris Humphreys has written a captivating book—the tale of Vlad, Prince of Wallachia, told retrospectively as a confession to a Church functionary by his mistress, his closest frenemy, and his confessor. Vlad, who is Prince, hostage, crusader, lover, ruler, friend, steadfast enemy, and, of course, the Impaler. As Humphreys points out in his afterword, the man is still honoured by the Romanian people, for whom he is synonymous with just (if brutal) rule and honour.

I have to point out that this is an intense book. About half way through, I had to set it down and go read something less gruesome. And yes, many people are tortured and/or impaled, so if you have a weak stomach for that sort of thing, you may want to give this book a miss (although I would absolutely recommend that you try some of Humphreys’ other offerings, as he is a fabulous writer). This would definitely qualify for Grim-Dark and most of it is semi-verifiable history. Humphreys visited many of the sites where the action happened, so the environmental descriptions are evocative. As an actor, I think he brings a unique way of understanding the behaviour and motivations of the people he is writing about, giving a very visceral feel to the actions of his characters.

I must say that I am also reading a YA series set in the same place/time (Kiersten White’s The Conqueror’s Saga) and although I have really enjoyed both of them, there is no comparison. White’s series makes Vlad into a woman, Lada Dracula, and it is also well worth reading. By contrast, Humphrey’s version very much deserves an “Adult” rating, as it is much darker & grittier.

If this time period interests you, if you enjoy well-written historical fantasy, or if you have a yen to learn more about the man who served in some small way as the template for the modern vampire mythos, this is definitely the book for you.

 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-03-29 19:19
Funny, unsettling, fragmented literary thriller
Bellevue Square - Michael Redhill

Fascinating exploration of character, identity and perspective with excellent character writing. Not in love with the lack of closure in the wrap-up, but it's very literary and in keeping with the fragmented structure and unreliable narrator. Features nuanced depictions of mental illness, quirky character studies, excellent Canadian world-building/description, and some borderline horror/suspense elements. Despite a lack of traditional story structure, the reading experience was engaging; I basically inhaled this book in (almost) one sitting. Is there such a thing as a literary thriller?

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?