Wednesday, 27 May 2015

The Daughter: A Novel by Jane Shemilt

The Daughter
The Daughter
A Novel
by Jane Shemilt
William Morrow Paperbacks, 352 pages

How well do you really know your family?

The layers of Jenny's family secrets, intricacies, and complications are peeled away bit by bit in the days, weeks, and months after her daughter disappears.

The perfect seeming family crumbles slowly with tragedy, showing that perfection was never there to begin with. Each member of the family has much to hide.

An interesting view on family and families. One woman's breaking down and building back up in spite of everything and everyone around her. Of finding herself in the most terrifying of situations.

The book demonstrates that we can be stronger than we look. And that you never really know what is going on inside another human being.

From the Back Flap:

Jenny is a successful family doctor, the mother of three great teenagers, married to a celebrated neurosurgeon. 

But when her youngest child, fifteen-year-old Naomi, doesn't come home after her school play, Jenny's seemingly ideal life begins to crumble. The authorities launch a nationwide search with no success. Naomi has vanished, and her family is broken. 

As the months pass, the worst-case scenarios—kidnapping, murder—seem less plausible. The trail has gone cold. Yet, for a desperate Jenny, the search has barely begun. More than a year after her daughter's disappearance, she's still digging for answers—and what she finds disturbs her. Everyone she's trusted, everyone she thought she knew, has been keeping secrets, especially Naomi. Piecing together the traces her daughter left behind, Jenny discovers a very different Naomi from the girl she thought she'd raised. 

Jenny knows she'll never be able to find Naomi unless she uncovers the whole truth about her daughter—a twisting, painful journey into the past that will lead to an almost unthinkable revelation. . . .

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41475About Jane Shemilt

While working full time as a physician, Jane Shemilt received an M.A. in creative writing. She was shortlisted for the Janklow and Nesbit award and the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize for The Daughter, her first novel. She and her husband, a professor of neurosurgery, have five children and live in Bristol, England. Follow Jane on Twitter, @janeshemilt.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Make Something Up: Stories You Can't Unread by Chuck Palahniuk

Make Something Up
Stories You Can't Unread
by Chuck Palahniuk

Doubleday Canada Hardcover, 336 pages

Certainly the strangest book of short stories I have read in quite some time. Possibly ever. One can't help but wonder if at least some of them are the travails of a drug-fueled mind. Others have a certain sense of wisdom. And a few seem forcibly shocking. None of these descriptions would shock a Palahniuk fan, of course - this book is, I am guessing, exactly what they would hope for in a collection of his short stories.

For those not familiar with Chuck Palahniuk (of Fight Club fame), enter with caution.

These are wild waters. Bad is good, good is bad. Sin is delicious and normal is nowhere to be found.

I know there is a certain subset of the population that gobble up these bizarro tales and their twisted sense of morals - and they will be well pleased indeed.

From the Back Flap:

Stories you'll never forget--just try--from literature's favourite transgressive author.

     Representing work that spans several years, Make Something Up is a compilation of 21 stories and one novella (some previously published, some not) that will disturb and delight. The absurdity of both life and death are on full display; in "Zombies," the best and brightest of a high school prep school become tragically addicted to the latest drug craze: electric shocks from cardiac defibrillators. In "Knock, Knock," a son hopes to tell one last off-colour joke to a father in his final moments, while in "Tunnel of Love," a massage therapist runs the curious practice of providing 'relief' to dying clients. And in "Excursion," fans will be thrilled to find to see a side of Tyler Durden never seen before in a precusor story to Fight Club.

     Funny, caustic, bizarre, poignant; these stories represent everything readers have come to love and expect from Chuck Palahniuk.

CHUCK PALAHNIUK is the author of fourteen novels--Beautiful You, Doomed, Damned, Tell-All, Pygmy, Snuff, Rant, Haunted, Diary, Lullaby, Choke, Invisible Monsters, Survivor, and Fight Club--which all have sold more than five million copies in North America. He is also the author of Fugitives and Refugees, published as part of the Crown Journey Series, and the nonfiction collection Stranger Than Fiction. He lives in the Pacific Northwest. Visit him on the web at

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

The Predictions: A Novel by Bianca Zander

The Predictions
The Predictions
A Novel 
by Bianca Zander
Paperback, 400 pages

The Predictions starts off in a hard working commune that doubles as a sort of human experiment in parenting. Or not parenting, as it were.

The kids are left to find out who they are on their own, and form a bit of a clan themselves.
When the hard-working commune has a shift in focus, the young start to scatter to find themselves away from the confines of where they were raised.

Poppy Harvest (a last name they all share) clings to the Predictions that a visitor has made for her and her life.

As she gets buffeted around the real word, her only point of reference to fall back on is the card she was given that night.

An interesting coming of age book. Certainly different context than many have experienced. I am not a stranger to communal life, but this is certainly more extreme than I remember.

More Kibbutz than hippie. Strict. No wonder the kids want out.

I can't say I really connected with the characters, but I found the trip fascinating nonetheless.

An adventurous story of growing up. 

From the Back Flap:

Gaialands, a bucolic vegan commune in the New Zealand wilderness, is the only home fifteen-year-old Poppy has ever known. It's the epitome of 1970s counterculture—a place of free love, hard work, and high ideals . . . at least in theory. But Gaialands's strict principles are shaken when new arrival Shakti claims the commune's energy needs to be healed and harnesses her divination powers in a ceremony called the Predictions. Poppy is predicted to find her true love overseas, so when her boyfriend, Lukas, leaves Gaialands to fulfill his dream of starting a punk rock band in London, she follows him. In London, Poppy falls into a life that looks very like the one her prediction promised, but is it the one she truly wants?
The Predictions is a mesmerizing, magical novel of fate, love, mistakes, and finding your place in the world.

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Bianca ZanderAbout Bianca Zander

Bianca Zander is British-born but has lived in New Zealand for the past two decades. Her first novel, The Girl Below, was a finalist for the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award, and she is the recipient of the Creative New Zealand Louis Johnson New Writers' Bursary and the Grimshaw Sargeson Fellowship, recognizing her as one of New Zealand's eminent writers. She is a lecturer in creative writing at the Auckland University of Technology. Check out Bianca's website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Boo: A Novel by Neil Smith

A Novel
by Neil Smith
Trade Paperback, 320 pages

Boo is a strange and magical book. A book about life, death, the afterlife (such as it is), bullying, being weird, self-discovery, and forgiveness.

This all happens in an odd yet compelling format. And Neil Smith pulls it off.

In an afterlife of thirteen year-olds, Boo, ever the scientist, sets out to discover the truth about his surroundings and ultimately himself.

It is odd and oddly real. Touching and funny and heartwarming.

And you will immediately think of all the people that need to read it.

Good for ages 12 to 112, and likely should become part of the curriculum. I just handed it to my 23 year-old son, I hope he recommends it to all his friends.

From the Back Flap:

Boo is the highly anticipated debut novel from one of the most incomparable voices in Canadian literature: Bang Crunch author Neil Smith.
          Oliver Dalrymple, nicknamed "Boo" because of his pale complexion and staticky hair, is an outcast at his Illinois middle school--more interested in biology and chemistry than the friendship of other kids. But after a tragic accident, Boo wakes up to find himself in a very strange sort of heaven: a town populated only by 13-year-old Americans. While he desperately wants to apply the scientific method to find out how this heaven works (broken glass grows back; flashlights glow without batteries; garbage chutes plummet to nowhere), he's confronted by the greatest mystery of all--his peers. With the help of his classmate Johnny, who was killed at the same time, Boo begins to figure out what exactly happened to them (and who they really were back in America) through this story about growing up, staying young and the never-ending heartbreak of being 13.

NEIL SMITH is a French translator and the author of the critically acclaimed national bestseller Bang Crunch. He has been nominated for the Hugh McLennan Prize for Fiction, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize–Best First Book (Canada), as well as the Journey Prize 3 times. He has also won the First Book Prize from the Quebec Writers’ Federation. He lives in Montreal.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Harmless: A Novel by James Grainger

A Novel
by James Grainger

Trade Paperback, 288 pages

This is a fascinating book. The genre does seem to twist and turn as you read on, keeping you alert and guessing.

Starting off in a Bill Chill type reunion of old friends, some of which were better at keeping in touch than others. Most, seemingly through becoming parents and maturing (or not), somewhat suspect of each other. Old lusts, judgements, competitiveness and self-doubt surface in this seemingly idyllic setting for a weekend in the country together.

The prose is tight. The pacing as well. It all takes place in seeming real time - in fact in less than 24 hours.

At the end I would say it is a book about one man's personal journey while dealing with the biggest crisis one can imagine - and who he is at the end.


From the Back Flap:

Set over the course of a single day and night, Harmless is a tense, provocative, and psychologically astute first novel in the tradition of Herman Koch's The Dinner, Tom Perrotta’s Little Children, and Christos Tsiolkas’s The Slap, about a weekend reunion of old friends that takes a terrifying turn when two teenage girls go missing.

At a remote farm, a group of old friends gather to catch up, sit by the fire, and forget about their overworked lives. But a long weekend in the country is not Joseph’s idea of a good time -- not when he’s promised his ex-wife he'll use the occasion to talk to their troubled fourteen-year-old daughter, and not when the farm belongs to his former lover and her husband, Alex. Once best friends, Joseph and Alex are now estranged, with much left unspoken between them. As more guests arrive and the reunion unfolds, old rivalries, new pressures, and erotic tensions surface. But things take a terrifying turn when the adults return from a nostalgic drug-fuelled bender at sundown to discover their two teenage daughters are missing. As night descends and the girls remain unfound, Joseph and Alex decide to enter the surrounding woods together in search of their daughters. What the two men encounter in the wilderness will push them to confront how far they are willing to go to protect the ones they love.

By turns blackly comic, thought-provoking, and harrowing, Harmless introduces James Grainger as an unflinching observer of the way we live now, and exposes the dark impulses we conceal beneath the veneer of our modern lives.

JAMES GRAINGER's debut collection of stories, The Long Slide (2004), was the winner of the ReLit Award for Short Fiction. His reviews and articles have appeared in the Toronto Star, Quill & Quire, the Globe and Mail, Elle Canada, Men's Fashion, Sharp, and Rue Morgue

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Orient: A Novel by Christopher Bollen

A Novel
By Christopher Bollen
Hardcover, 624 pages

As I lifted this heavy tome (624 pages!) I thought to myself - this had better be good.

It wasn't. It was great! I loved the book right from first page.

The book is chilling. Complex. Intelligent. Thoroughly satisfying. The characters are well developed and the setting is real.

I knew when I was only part way through it that I was going to be sad when it ended. I was. But that did not stop me from carrying it with me everywhere and reading it every chance I got.

A great book is a secret world that you enter. This was such for me. I escaped into this book and was bereft when it was over. I immediately ordered his previous book.

Christopher Bollen has rocketed to the front runners of my favourite authors.

Read Orient!

From the Back Flap: 

As summer draws to a close, a Small Long Island town is plagued by a series of mysterious deaths— and one young man, a loner taken in by a local, tries to piece together the crimes before his own time runs out. Orient is an isolated hamlet on the North Fork of Long Island—a quiet, historic village that swells each summer with vacationers, Manhattan escapees, and wealthy young artists from the city with designs on local real estate. On the last day of summer, a teenage drifter named Mills Chevern arrives in town. Soon after, the village is rocked by a series of unsettling events: the local caretaker is found floating lifeless in the ocean; an elderly neighbor dies under mysterious circumstances; and a monstrous animal corpse is discovered on the beach not far from a research lab often suspected of harboring biological experiments. Before long, other more horrific events plunge the community into a spiral of paranoia. As the village struggles to make sense of the wave of violence, anxious eyes settle on the mysterious Mills, a troubled orphan with no family, a hazy history, and unknown intentions. But he finds one friend in Beth, an Orient native in retreat from Manhattan, who is determined to unravel the mystery before the small town devours itself. Suffused with tension, rich with character and a haunting sense of lives suspended against an uncertain future, Orient is both a galvanic thriller and a provocative portrait of the dark side of the American dream: an idyllic community where no one is safe. It marks the emergence of a novelist of enormous talent.

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Christopher BollenAbout Christopher Bollen

Christopher Bollen is an editor at large for Interview magazine. He is the author of the novel Lightning People, and his work has appeared in GQ, the New York Times, the Believer, and Artforum, among other publications. He lives in New York. Find out more about Christopher at his website.

Monday, 4 May 2015

The Accidental Pilgrim, a Novel by Stephen Kitsakos


The Accidental Pilgrim
by Stephen Kitsakos
Paperback, 306 pages

I do love a mystery that combines science, history, spirituality, mystery, family, and the unknown. All the bones are here for a great story, a great concept. And I did enjoy the book, I just found it hard to connect with the characters and the typos were distracting.

Stephen Kitsakos is a journalist and that style comes through in his writing. More of a reporting than a painting of a scene.

He has great imagination and vision, I look forward to seeing how his talents as a novelist mature and flourish in time.

From the Back Flap:

In the summer of 1974, Dr. Rose Strongin, a marine biologist, inexplicably disappears for three hours on the last day of an archaeological dig at the Sea of Galilee. She has no memory of the disappearance, but it causes her to miss her flight home from Israel. That plane, TWA 841, explodes over the Mediterranean killing all aboard. Twelve years later she learns that a 2,000 year-old perfectly preserved vessel, dubbed the “Jesus Boat,” is uncovered at the site of her disappearance and she begins to understand what happened and why.
The novel crosses several decades exploring the intersection of science, religion and the unexplainable as a family gathers to say goodbye to the matriarch who held a family secret. 

Stephen KitsakosStephen Kitsakos is a theatre writer and journalist as well as the author of three opera librettos. His current project is the opera adaptation of Khaled Hosseini’s international bestseller, A Thousand Splendid Suns with music by Sheila Silver. Other works include the Sackler-Prize award winning “The Wooden Sword” and “The White Rooster: A Tale of Compassion” for the Smithsonian Institution. His work often explores the connection between religion and art. He divides his time between Key West and New York.
Find out more about Stephen at his website, and follow him on Twitter.

• Publisher: ASD Publishing 

Friday, 1 May 2015

On the Move: A Life by Oliver Sacks

A Life
by Oliver Sacks

Hardcover, 416 pages

I love Oliver Sacks. Have since a teenager when I "borrowed" my mother's copy of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. She was an excellent source of books and - then, as well as now - there was nothing I wanted to do more than curl up with a good book. (Occasionally I was encouraged to go outside, but nothing has ever replaced reading as my first and foremost love.)

Sacks is a neurologist and has written some amazing, inviting books on the wonders of the brain and how small changes to it can deeply affect people's lives. He does so in a conversational tale-style that is perfect for the curious but not professional. Layman's terms. Somehow he manages to portray his awe, respect, fondness and curiosity for his subjects in a way that is infectious. 

On the Move is an autobiography. Vignettes into a fascinating life of a man who became a writer first, and a neurologist by choice. One thinks he would have written just as fascinatingly about marine biology, or travel. Or anything else he set his passions to. I love him even more after reading this book. He holds nothing back.

He has a unique vision of people, himself and the world in general. And it is wonderful. 

From the Back Flap:

An impassioned, tender, and joyous memoir by the author of Musicophilia and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.

When Oliver Sacks was twelve years old, a perceptive schoolmaster wrote in his report: “Sacks will go far, if he does not go too far.” It is now abundantly clear that Sacks has never stopped going. From its opening pages on his youthful obsession with motorcycles and speed, On the Move is infused with his restless energy. As he recounts his experiences as a young neurologist in the early 1960s, first in California, where he struggled with drug addiction and then in New York, where he discovered a long-forgotten illness in the back wards of a chronic hospital, we see how his engagement with patients comes to define his life.

With unbridled honesty and humor, Sacks shows us that the same energy that drives his physical passions--weight lifting and swimming--also drives his cerebral passions. He writes about his love affairs, both romantic and intellectual; his guilt over leaving his family to come to America; his bond with his schizophrenic brother; and the writers and scientists--Thom Gunn, A. R. Luria, W. H. Auden, Gerald M. Edelman, Francis Crick--who influenced him. On the Move is the story of a brilliantly unconventional physician and writer--and of the man who has illuminated the many ways that the brain makes us human.

Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks is a practicing physician and the author of twelve books, including The Mind’s Eye, Musicophilia, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, and Awakenings (which inspired the Oscar-nominated film). He lives in New York City, where he is a professor of neurology at the NYU School of Medicine.