Book Review – Pumpkin – The Raccoon Who Thought She Was a Dog

pumpkinThis was just a fun read with great pictures.  Pumpkin is raccoon Instagram star who, when only a few weeks old, fell out of a tree in the Bahamas and broke her leg.  Her parents had abandoned her and she was adopted by a couple who have raised her with their two dogs, Oreo and Toffee.  Pumpkin is so cute but can get into a lot of trouble but it is so enjoyable reading those stories (especially if you aren’t responsible for cleaning up the mess after).  Every day, her human-mom has been posting a picture or a video of her on Instagram and Pumpkin became an instant star.  The proceeds of this book are going to benefit animals in Bahamas so not only is it a great coffee-table book, but the money goes to a good cause.

Advertisements

Book Review – A Great Reckoning

a-great-reckoningThis is the latest installment of the Louise Penny series starring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, the former head of the Surete in Quebec.  He has just nicely accepted the position of the head of the Surete academy so that he can clean it up.  The staff in power previously had been corrupt and had taken promising cadets and humiliated, mentally harassed and endangered them to the point that these cadets turned into vicious, vindictive officers.  Gamache was determined to turn things around so that the new crop of cadets going through the academy would be exceptional officers.

We again return to Three Pines where an old map of the area, drawn around the time of World War I, has been found in a wall of The Bistro.  Copies of the map are given to four cadets by Armand and they are tasked with finding out why this map was created and what it means.  Shortly thereafter, a professor is found murdered at the academy and in his nightstand drawer is one of the copies of the map.

The reader is once again entertained with the characters from Three Pines, but I think Louise Penny has outdone herself in this book with respect to Ruth.  The dialogue and part she has written for Ruth in this edition is laugh out loud funny.

I highly recommend this mystery series.  The development and growth of the characters is one of the best that I have ever seen in a series.  This is book 12 and it is no-where near getting stale like a lot of series that I have read.  Her characters continue to grow and develop and it is a joy to pick up each new book in the series.

Weekend Reads – October 28, 2016

girl-with-a-pearl-earringI just finished reading Girl With A Pearl Earring last night and I really enjoyed it.  I question how much is actually true but it was an entertaining story nonetheless.  If I am ever in Holland again, I want to travel to The Hague and see this picture in person.  I am planning on renting the movie tonight while the book is still fresh in my mind (cozy blanket, good snacks, pajamas and a good movie – best Friday night ever!!!).

the-crucibleI am currently reading The Crucible by Arthur Miller.  I bought it in the new limited  Penguin Orange edition and I absolutely love the cover.  While I am interested in the actual story of the Salem witch trials, this is in a play format and it is the first play that I have read.  I am not really enjoying this format very much and with there being a lot of characters, am finding it a bit of a slog but I do want to finish it.  It is so short that a couple of more hours and it will be done anyways so I should polish this off sometime this weekend.

and-then-there-were-noneThere a few library books waiting for me which I will go and pick up later today so I’m not sure if I will start one of those or read my first Agatha Christie – And Then There Were None.  The other option is The Joy of Leaving Your Shit All Over The Place which sounds like the anti – life changing magic of tidying up.  Should be a humorous read.

the-joy

Weekend Reads – October 21.2016

a-great-reckoningLast night I picked up Louise Penny’s newest installment in the Armand Gamache series, A Great Reckoning.  I am only forty pages in and already I had a hard time putting it down this morning in order to arrive at work on time.  As I plan out my weekend activities, I find myself looking for huge blocks of time so that I can indulge myself and dive right into this book.  So, that’s my plan for the weekend!

Book Review – The Likeness

the-likeness

I originally read this book in 2011 and until the newest book in the Dublin Murder Squad, The Trespasser, was published in 2016, The Likeness was my favorite Tana French book.  I finished reading The Trespasser a few days ago and the experience made me want to re-read The Likeness.  I knew that in five years, I would have forgotten most of the plot and I did find that it read like a brand new book for me.

The premise of the story is that a group of five university friends live in a house in a small village outside of Dublin.  One of the young women in this group is found deceased from a stab wound in an old run down cottage on the outskirts of the village.  When the police are called, they believe that it is one of their own, Detective Cassie Maddox that has been killed as she is a doppelganger for the deceased.  The identification on the deceased’s body shows her name as Alexandra (Lexie) Madison, an alias that Cassie used in an undercover case a number of years prior.  And so begins the plan to have Cassie go undercover and pretend that she is Lexie in order to try to determine who the killer is.

The story given to the four university friends is that Cassie has short-term amnesia and cannot remember the last few hours before she (Lexie) was stabbed and only recalls waking up in the hospital.  This way if any of the four friends are the killer, this may put them at ease that Cassie/Lexie cannot remember the attack.  Cassie easily slides into Lexie’s life and soon becomes entrenched in the lives of these friends to the point where her supervisor begins to get concerned that she is losing objectivity.

Once again Tana French delves into the psychological as we begin to get to know these characters.  I enjoyed this book immensely the first time around and I enjoyed it just as much the second time.  The only reason I could not give this book five stars is that although Cassie apparently looked exactly like Lexie, the probability of someone being able to successful slip into someone else’s life without notice, is next to impossible so while the premise of the story is intriguing, I felt I couldn’t give it five stars.

Book Review – Black Water Lilies

black-water-lilliesI knew very little about Claude Monet’s life prior to reading this book other than I loved his water lily paintings.  The setting for this book is Giverny, France which was not only Monet’s home but also where he painted his famous waterlilies.  Until I read this book, I didn’t realize that he created the Japanese garden at his home in Giverny and painted all his waterlilies there.  Each year tourists flock there to see the famous gardens and some of his paintings.

The story begins with a body, Jerome Morval, being found in Monet’s gardens.  He has been murdered and the new police inspector, Laurenc Serenac, is on the case.  At first this seems to be a rather methodical, but quite boring mystery.  At times I was tempted to DNF it but because I had really looked forward to purchasing it, I carried on until I finished.  About 85% of the way through I was sure that I was going to end up rating it two stars, however, very close to the end of the book, there is a twist.  A marvelous twist that I did not see coming – my respect to the author for being able to pull this story line off.  I did increase my rating to three stars due to the twist, however, I did find that the story moved very slowly and I easily became distracted by other books simply because this story did not keep my attention for long.

 

Book Review – The Trespasser

the-trespasserThe latest installment of the Dublin Murder Squad series focuses on detectives Antoinette Conway and Stephen Moran.  The murder case they have been assigned is Aislinn Murray, a young woman who has been found dead in her home from head trauma.  Aislinn was in a new romantic relationship and it was obvious that she had been in the middle of preparing a romantic dinner for her new boyfriend when she was killed.  Her boyfriend denies responsibility advising the detectives that when he arrived at her home, there was no answer when he rang her doorbell and after waiting around for half an hour, left assuming that she was blowing him off.  Her girlfriend advises that she doesn’t know why someone would want to hurt Aislinn but the detectives feel that she is withholding information.  They also know the boyfriend is not telling them the whole truth and so begins the rollercoaster ride for the reader.

Antoinette and Stephen are both fairly new to the murder squad.  Antoinette transferred in from Missing Persons about two years prior, however, her integration into the unit has not gone well.  Subtle, and at times, aggressive harassment has occurred with no one in the squad taking responsibility leaving Antoinette unsure whether it is one person in the squad who dislikes her or whether the whole squad wants her gone.  The harassment has varied from her locker being broken into and someone urinating on her personal items to her witness statements being tampered with resulting in her having to have the witness redo their statement.  While Antoinette’s nature is naturally prickly and cranky, being the only woman in the unit leaves her isolated with little support other than her partner (with whom she has a good working relationship with).

At first glance, this case seems like a slam-dunk – the boyfriend must have killed her, but as the detectives dig further into Aislinn’s life they begin to question the real reason why she was killed.  They even start to suspect that their unit may have been involved somehow.

Tana French is the queen of leaving the reader in suspense until the very end.  You are not sure who the killer is and whether there really is something crooked going on within the squad or whether Antoinette’s paranoia is growing because of the harassment.  This book left me guessing until the end and so far, is my favorite read of 2016.  It is an excellent installment to her series.

Weekend Reads – October 14.2016

I have always been a big fan of Tana French but I am absolutely loving her latest book in the Dublin Murder Squad mystery series – The Trespasser.  I have been very disappointed with a couple of thriller/mystery books I have picked up recently where I have figured out the-trespasserthe ending no later than 50% through the book.  Thus, no feeling of satisfaction when I finish the book, just a sense that the last 50% of the book was a waste of my time because I already knew how it was going to end.  This is certainly not the case with The Trespasser.  I am 80% complete in my read, and I am still not quite sure how everything is going to end up and I am very okay with that.  I believe that The Trespasser is going to turn out to be my favorite read of 2016 and it makes me want to re-read The Likeness (which was my favorite Tana French novel prior to her newest to the stable).

black-water-lilliesIn my anxious hurry to get reading The Trespasser last weekend, I ended up putting down Black Water Lilies.  I don’t have much left and will be finishing off this book as soon as I am finished The Trespasser.

After that, I am really not sure what I am going to pick up next.  I am tempted to read The Likeness again, however, I also did just get The Tenant of Wildfell Hall in the beautiful Penguin cloth bound edition (I just love those).  What to do, what to do …… the-tenant-of-wildfell-hall

Weekend Reads

This weekend is Thanksgiving in Canada which means an extra day off of work and more time for reading.  Yeah!!!!

I am currently reading (and almost finished) two books.  black-water-lillies

Black Water Lilies by Michel Bussi.  This book is set in Giverny, France, in particular in Claude Monet’s garden in Giverny.  A body has been found in the garden and the mystery unfolds from there.  The book contains great descriptions about the garden and Monet’s life in the small village.  Makes me want to book a trip there!  I am about 60% complete and will finish it sometime this weekend.

The other book that I have almost completed was a complete surprise when I spotted it at the bookstore this week.  It is Secret Life (The Jian Ghomeshi Investigation) by Kevin Donovan.  Kevin is a reporter with the Toronto Star and was heavily involved in this story even before it broken in the fall of 2014.

Jian Ghomeshi was the golden boy at CBC Radio (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation).  His talk show called Q had a large and varied listener base – he had people in their 30’s tojian seniors listening to his show.  It was considered an art and culture show as he often talked books, music, art and had major and minor celebrities/musicians/actors on his show.  He was also active in the book/author community by hosting the week long program “Canada Reads” and hosting the Scotiabank Giller Prize award ceremony which is televised each November.

When he was fired from CBC two years ago, I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news.  It was a Sunday afternoon and I got a notice on my Ipad informing me that CBC had put out a special statement announcing that Jian would no longer be with CBC.  I remember thinking “what the hell is going on – he is the goose who laid the golden egg for CBC”. The CBC has always struggled financially and with finding talent.

A few hours later this story had gotten legs and the next news item was a Facebook posting that Jian had posted which described how he was fired from the CBC because of his bedroom activities and that he enjoyed “rough sex” but that he always had consent from his partners.  At the time I was torn between feeling like Jian had a right to be angry — should corporations be involved in what happens in a staff members’ bedroom, but on the other hand, what Ghomeshi had laid out on his Facebook page had the “ick factor”.  As Kevin Donovan from the Toronto Star kept reporting over the days to come, woman started coming forward and claiming that they had been physically and sexually abused by Jian and it was not consensual.  Some of them went to the police and filed charges.

Eventually a trial was held and he was found not guilty on all counts.  I have a lot of feelings about the outcome of the trial.  I believe the woman and their claims, however, I also believe they showed poor judgement in their relations with him.  In some cases, he would physically abuse them but they would turn around and text him the next day a picture of themselves or try to continue to date him.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe in blaming the victim and in my opinion, he should have been found guilty but I don’t believe these women did themselves any favors with their actions.  The judge found that as they continued to try to have contact with Ghomeshi, he found it difficult to believe their claims and therefore, found him not guilty.

As the next sexual assault trial against Ghomeshi was set to start, he came to an agreement with the Crown and signed a peace bond and issued an apology for his actions against Kathryn Borel.  Borel was also a former CBC employee who claimed that Ghomeshi had sexually harassed her on the job.

So essentially he walked away from all the allegations with no retribution other than his reputation and career is in tatters.

Before the CBC firing of Ghomeshi, Kevin Donovan had been investigating rumors of his reputation among women and how he treated them.  He didn’t have enough proof to file a story until the CBC actually fired Ghomeshi.  This book outlines the timeline of everything that occurred during his investigations and reporting of this matter.

One of the things that I found so maddening about Ghomeshi was that he portrayed himself as a feminist and supportive of women.  At the beginning of each Q episode he would give a three or four minute monologue about an issue he wanted to address and many, many times it was about women’s rights, feminism, rape culture, etc.  It turns out that he never wrote any of these “essays” and that they were always written by his staff.

In so many ways, I am disappointed in Jian Ghomeshi – not only how he treated women and thought it was his right to do so, but I also feel that he was extremely dishonest  in allowing his audience to assume that he was the author of the opinions expressed during the Q monologues.  It was like someone drawing back the curtain at Oz so that we could all see the strings and what the reality actually was.  I feel no sympathy whatsoever for him.

Also, during reviews of CBC’s practices, it has come to light that despite complaints by women to Q producers, nothing was ever said or done to curb Ghomeshi’s sexual harassment in the work place.  They turned a blind eye because he was considered a “CBC God”.  I understand that they are now trying to adopt a new culture among staff, but I just have to say “shame on you CBC – you should have known and done better than you did”.  I hope that the culture at the corporation can and will change.  In my opinion, if it doesn’t, public funding towards this institution should be stopped.

October Reading

Normally I create a TBR with a detailed plan of what I am hoping to get read for that particular month.  It is a task that my organized and anal mind enjoys greatly – the planning, anticipation and then, when successful, the crossing off of a completed task.  For once I am going into a month with no set TBR – I don’t really know what I am going to read.  I have a birthday coming up this month and I have requested a few books (as usual) and so I will just have to wait and see what happens.  I do know that October has normally been a very good reading month for me so regardless of what I read, I do hope to get through quite a few over the next 30 days.

black-water-lilliesCurrently I am reading Black Water Lilies by Michel Bussi.  This book was translated from French and is a psychological suspense story set in the village where Claude Monet painted his famous water lilies paintings.  A murder has taken place and the body is found in the stream that runs through the famous gardens.  When I first heard about this book, it ticked so many boxes on my “what I look for in a book list” — it is a psychological suspense which I enjoy, it weaves actual history into the story and I love Claude Monet’s works.  I am only 10 pages in currently but it has already captured me.

Happy reading everyone.  Gwen