Thursday, 15 September 2016

DOGS and DATING



I've recently changed writing gears to work on a more lighthearted project, inspired by a chance moment in my life when I went out with a friend to walk her dog, a cute, woolly little mutt. As we strode down the leafy path, I was amazed at the number of people who stopped to chat and generally fawn over my friend's dog. In that short walk we met more new people in half an hour than I had in several years, and some of them were hunks! My friend and I are both married, but it didn't take much of to stretch our imagination and ponder the question: Could walking a dog help you meet the man or woman of your dreams? And that's how THE DOG WALKERS' DATING CLUB was born.
The main character, LILY, is a self-professed dog hater after some traumatic dog-bite incidents in her childhood, which lends the book a more interesting dynamic when she decides to take on a puppy in the hopes of improving her chances of meeting someone to love. She wrestles with her new responsibilities but learns a lot about people and life as she struggles to fit a new puppy into her life .

I can relate to Lily, since I've never really been a "pet person", though we took on a puppy in later life after my daughter begged for one. That's when Bella, the "shorkie" came into our life and I realized the challenges and benefits that come when you have a pet in your home. The house training, the walking, the feeding, the behavioural quirks, the puddles on the floor, the chewed Kleenexes and all those other irritations are all mitigated by the unwavering love, loyalty and devotion of your dog, which inevitably becomes a member of the family.
In the novel Bella becomes "Baby", a tiny but major intrusion into Lily's almost perfect life.
The first couple of chapters are available for preview on Wattpad so you can read them for free! Check it out right HERE.  

To celebrate the ideas in the book I'd love to hear about your crazy or funny dog stories or see your doggy pics and videos. Either leave a comment on my blog or contact me through my website HERE. if you ask me, I'll feature them on my blog. Just send me the details.

FEATURED BOOK REVIEW:

THE ART TEACHER by Paul Read

As an ex-teacher I was interested to read this gritty story of an ex-rock musician who struggles with his fallback teaching career. Working as an art teacher in an inner city secondary school, Patrick Owen feels stuck in a rut he can't remove himself from. Separated from his wife, his young son and his beloved music, he barely tolerates the students who show little interest in art or anything else he tries to get across to them. The result is that he's merely putting in time, staying under the radar until something better comes up. All that changes when a difficult student causes a problem during class that Patrick can't ignore. When he finally snaps, he becomes the boy's number one target which draws him into the dangerous world of  the local gangs who terrorize a nearby housing estate. In his efforts to help a female student caught up in the conflict he's drawn directly into the line of fire and soon finds himself at the centre of media scrutiny as well as trapped in an untenable position which he can't seem to escape.
Read's experience as a teacher really shows through in his tense descriptions of classrooms disrupted by troubled students and the absolute helplessness of teachers with no support from the higher-ups. Though Patrick is at times an arrogant character with very little empathy, one can't help feeling sorry for the way he's trapped in a career he hates. He seems to float through life unmotivated and unable to climb from out of the pit he's dug for himself. Perhaps that explains the questionable choices he makes when it comes to the war he unwittingly provokes. In his mind any change in routine is good - even if it means he lives in utter fear rather than total boredom. The plot moves very quickly, compelling the reader to keep going just to find out how far Patrick will go, how many lies he'll tell and how much he's prepared to sacrifice to get himself out of the mess and reunite with his young son. Though there is a surprise turn of events at the end I had already guessed it beforehand and found the ending a bit rushed . Other than that this was a good read.
*I received a free Kindle copy from Legend Press in return for an honest review*.
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Tuesday, 16 August 2016

SUMMER MUST-READS: Part 2





Well, it's just past the mid-point of August when we're all trying to savour the last weeks of summer. Take more walks, go to the beach, sit on the deck or patio and enjoy the sun - with a good book in hand, of course. I've reviewed a few more books you might be interested in reading. They're mainly suspense/thrillers, because I needed to be in that mode to complete the book I've working on. Thankfully I've finished the first draft. Now the tough part comes when you ask yourself if it's really any good and what it needs now to make it work in terms of story, language use, world building etc. etc.
Anyway, hope you like these books:



ARMADILLOS by P.K. Lynch

This slow-burning story of Aggie, a young girl who escapes her Texas backwoods home by simply opening the door and walking away from years of chilling and deliberate abuse, is one that gradually settles itself into your bones and compels you to read on no matter how depressing the situations the main character  inevitably lands in. Aggie, because of her poor, deprived background, is doomed to stumble from one risky, marginal situation into another. And all the while she's haunted by the guilt of leaving her sister JoJo but driven by the idea that the world must have something else to offer her and maybe she'll find somewhere to belong. Eventually she lands in a "family" of sorts - a squat populated by a crazy collection of misfits and runaways. There she befriends Freak, a whacked-out self-cutter and "The Beast Woman" who fashions odd knick-knacks out of old tires and gives dignified burials to armadillos found as roadkill - an obvious metaphor for Aggie and her tireless drive not only to survive, despite all the abuses hurled against her tough shell, but to confront the abuse she endured at the hands of her father and brother. The author relates the horrors of Aggie's life with effective, unsentimental detachment that makes it all the more powerful. Though I enjoyed the book and the characters I did feel something was a little "off" and when I discovered the author was Scottish and had only visited Texas, I realized the voice of the characters and the whole "feel" of the setting didn't have quite the authenticity it needed. Despite this I would recommend the book as very compelling and well written.
I received this book from Legend Press in return for an honest review.



SLEEP by Nino Ricci

Nino Ricci burst onto the Canadian literary scene with his first novel, Lives of the Saints, which won the Governor General's Literary Award as well as many others. Since then he's gone from strength to strength with a whole run of prizewinning books. I must say, however, this latest novel is better than anything I've read of his. I was initially drawn to the cover which features a compelling painting by my favourite artist, Alex Colville. It's a brooding, menacing picture and Ricci's story uses this ominous sense of danger in his story of David Pace, a man who seems to have it all - brains, successful academic career, happy family. We soon discover the irony of his last name. Pace - which in Latin means peace, is the total opposite of David's personality. He's a man at war with himself due to a rare sleep disorder that scrambles his brain and causes him to submit to an ever more powerful cocktail of drugs to keep a lid on the utter chaos inside him. As sleep haunts him and eludes him, his world gradually unravels and his choices become increasingly destructive in his quest to shake himself free of the effects of the disorder. The only thing that seems to calm him is to hold a gun. So begins a downward spiral that leads him to make terrifying choices in the gradual destruction of his life. The pace of Ricci's story is intense, as he delves into the turmoil of David's mind, and portrays him often as a loathsome and deceptive person with no scruples. At the same time making us aware of his helplessness in the face of his disorder. This is definitely not a breezy beach read, but an intense, compelling experience that only flounders when it comes to the ending. One is left with the idea that Ricci couldn't think how better to finish it. Despite this, the book left a great impression on me.



THE WICKED GIRLS by Alex Marwood

This fast-paced page-turner is the story of two women who first met on one fateful day when they were both eleven. At the end of that day they were both charged with murder. Fast-forward twenty five years, journalist Kirsty Lindsay is sent to a seedy English seaside town to report on a series of gruesome murders of young women. There her investigations lead her to interview carnival cleaner, Amber Gordon. It's the first time these two women have met since the darkest day of their lives twenty five years ago. When each woman realizes the implications of this meeting and the very different lives they're leading, they're both gripped with the fear of trying to keep their wicked secret hidden from those they now love, and all amidst a terrifying murder hunt that comes way too close for comfort.
The characters and setting were so well-drawn that I was immersed in the lives of these people and the way their lives intertwine both in the past and the present. The author controls the movement of the story in a way that compels you to keep reading and I have to say, the ending was one of the best I've read in a long time. A great book!



THE BONE CLOCKS by David Mitchell

David Mitchell's books have been nominated for the Man Booker prize and this book was rightfully named as one of the top ten fiction books of its year by Time and several other influential magazines.. The Oprah magazine called it "A time-traveling, culture-crossing, genre-bending marvel of a novel," a great description of this wildly ambitious book that spans time and distance, yet manages to put forward some simple truths about the human condition. Though the book has also been widely criticized by readers who preferred Cloud Atlas, Mitchell's other famous novel, I loved it simply because I found it entertaining, moving in parts and very beautifully written in others (though there are definitely some sections that could have been edited more).
The title refers to one thread of the story - the idea of immortality and the lengths human beings will go to to avoid our ultimate fate - to become a dead sack of bones after a prescribed term of life. In other words, our countdown (or clock) begins the moment we are born. I found that it's really more a story about love, heroism and the power of the human soul. The story follows the life of Holly Sykes who we first meet as a fifteen year old. 
Holly is a sensitive child who was once contacted by voices she called "the radio people". As she journeys away from her old life, she's unaware that she's caught the attention of a cabal of dangerous mystics and their enemies.  After a fight with her mother about her boyfriend, Holly slams the door on her old life and sets out on a journey that will last a weekend, but will result in the disappearance of someone she loves. This mystery leaves her family scarred and will reverberate through the decades affecting even those not yet born. As with Mitchell's other book, the story shifts to other characters, A Cambridge scholar, an Iraq war reporter, a middle-aged "has-been" writer. All become connected to Holly in some way and all have a part to play in the invisible war that rages on the edges of humanity.


HAPPY READING!!

Monday, 18 July 2016

SUMMER MUST-READS: Part 1



It's that time of year when you're stretched out on your deck, patio, the beach, by a lake or river or at the park taking in the sunshine. Cold drink to your right, healthy snack (chips contain Vitamin C, don't they?) to your left, and a magical book in your hands. Summer is the time for a novel you can't put down - or only put aside long enough to go for a dip to cool down or share a glass of wine and lunch or dinner with friends and family.




Summer is the time when you lie in bed, windows open, warm night air blowing the curtains and the moon shining down on your book. Imagination runs wild on warm summer nights, maybe bringing back memories of some long-forgotten night in your life.
Here's a few books that will thrill you in different ways - maybe even make you shiver! But they'll certainly draw you quickly into their world.



A MAN CAME OUT OF A DOOR IN THE MOUNTAIN by Adrianne Harun

Set in isolated British Columbia this beautifully written, magical book tells the story of a community haunted by the disappearances of its young women. Inspired by the infamous "Trail of Tears" BC highway where countless young women - mostly native - have vanished, this story takes an original, almost mythic approach to the tragedy. Leo Kreutzer and his four friends are aware of the disappearances but have not been touched personally until a series of mysterious and enigmatic strangers arrive in their town. Strangers who seem like characters from native legends: Kevin Seven, the trickster, who beguiles shy Ursie with his card tricks and sleight of hand. Hannah Swann, bone-white, with long, black hair - the Ice Queen - who bewitches Bryan with ideas of violent revenge against the tyrannical and villainous local meth dealer and his messed up gang. The story follows the five friends - Leo, Bryan, Ursie, Tessa and Jackie - and tenderly though chillingly reveals the harsh realities of living in a depressed rural area where danger lies in the forest or the highway or even the local motel but you never know until it's right there in front of you. On a positive note the story also shows that real friendship knows no boundaries. An exciting, spellbinding and exquisitely written novel.

A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY by Lauren Grodstein



Narrated in a totally authentic male voice, it's sometimes difficult to remember the book is written by a woman. This tells the complex story of a father and husband's fall from grace. Pete, an affable, respected internist with a thriving practice in suburban New Jersey, a wife and son, has everything he needs - on the surface. Dig deeper and his life is plagued by insecurities about his marriage, his uber-successful best friends and his teenage son who can't seem to settle on a direction for his future. Enter the wild card, Lauren, his best friend's beautiful daughter, with a past so shocking people try not to speak about it. Pete's world changes irrevocably but not in a predictable way, which is what really makes this novel shine. That and the complex inner world of Pete's mind that Grodstein captures so well as Pete tries to save his family, his reputation and himself.

AFTER HER by Joyce Maynard

Joyce Maynard is the author of Labor Day, also a fairly successful movie and At Home in the World, an autobiography that became controversial because of its expose of her relationship with the famous but reclusive writer J.D Salinger. Maynard is an exquisite writer and After Her is a wonderful, and evocative portrait of the type of childhood in which children run wild, their imagination left to create magic and mystery as well as terror. Set in Marin County near San Francisco in the late '70's it is the story of Rachel and her younger sister Patty who enjoy unlimited freedom exploring the wild mountain trails behind their home. Their charismatic and handsome father is a detective, but his infidelity has caused the family to break up, leaving their mother a chronically depressed women who spends most of the day in her room barely supervising her girls. When young women begin to turn up dead on the mountain trails, the entire area is gripped by terror and when Rachel and Patti's father is appointed to head the investigation, their adoration and pride knows no bounds and they look forward to every visit from him. When the case proves difficult to break, Rachel sees the toll it's taking on her father and decides to take matters into her own hands. Her decision has far-reaching effects on her family and on his career. A spell-binding portrait of a daughter's devotion to her father and her sister. A great read.

BROKEN HARBOUR by Tana French

Tana French is essentially a writer of thrillers and police procedurals, but she writes with such lyricism and style her books read like literary novels. Broken Harbor is one of her best. Set in post-economic-collapse Dublin, the action takes place in a suburban wasteland - a new, ambitious housing development by the old seaside town of Broken Harbor, abandoned mid-project by the builders and left to fall apart. Left behind are families who believed in the dream, vainly trying to cope with derelict half-framed homes on their street, poorly built houses falling apart, gangs of disaffected teens roving the streets, graffiti, isolation and general depression. When Patrick Spain and his children are found brutally murdered in their own home and his wife, Jenny is barely clinging to life, Mike "Scorcher" Kennedy and his team are sent to investigate and to figure out what happened. As he digs deeper the portrait of a family in crisis emerges: missed mortgage payments, hidden baby monitors, holes punched into the walls. The mood becomes increasingly haunting as Kennedy also has to deal with ghosts from his own past and childhood spent in Broken Harbor with his troubled sister Di. This is a complex, haunting and multi-layered novel that is impossible to put down.

So those are my picks for this month. I'll be reviewing more in my next blog.


MY NOVEL UPDATES!
Check out this brand new cover for Chasing a Thrill which I've decided to turn into a series. I'll be starting work on the next book in September.

THE IDUNA PROJECT
My YA trilogy continues to garner rave reviews. Check out reviews for The Forevers, The Parasites The Feeders right here.


THE SAVAGE INSTINCT
This book cracked the Amazon Top 100 for British and Irish Literary novels this month. If you haven't read it yet, check it out here.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

THE LOST AND FORGOTTEN ONES




After a short break from blogging, I'm finally back to let you know that I haven't actually gone missing in action. I'm still writing - at least trying hard to finish the first draft of my new novel, a suspense/thriller set in Minneapolis.
These months of close family celebrations have made me really appreciate how fortunate I am to be part of a stable, loving family network. That isn't the case for many children.
The main character in this story is a survivor of the foster care system, and while I must say that many children who go into foster care enjoy the warmth and security of some very good homes, there are far too many who endure years of abuse, neglect and impermanence which leaves them deeply traumatized and unable to form lasting relationships later on in their lives.
While doing the research for this novel I read many disturbing reports, both from Canada and the US. One quote really stood out to me, from a survivor of multiple foster homes:

Even though sometimes on the outside I wouldn’t show it, I was always looking for time to spend with foster parents or someone that would give me time and show me comfort. I felt like a lost wolf that strayed from the pack - a dog that couldn’t speak about his pain. I needed someone - even though I may have rejected hugs, and laughed at heartfelt sentimental moments - but I was a kid, and I didn’t know how to ask for love and comfort let alone handle the feelings of guilt and humiliation of doing so.

Former youth in care (As quoted in Brady, n.d.)




An important study from the Office of the Children's Advocate (Manitoba 2016) entitled Don't Call Me Resilient: What Loss and Grief Look Like for Children in Care outlines very vividly how well-meaning adults can misinterpret a child's behaviour and ultimately fail to treat the deep-seated emotional trauma that results when a child is taken from their home. Here are some of the important points made:

  • When a child is taken from his/her home - even an abusive home - he/she experiences grief and loss.
  • With every placement change, losses mount and grief multiplies. This sense of loss is unaddressed in the current system
  • Loss and grief can cause anger, confusion and fear
  • A child who appears depressed and delinquent may actually be expressing sorrow
  • Constantly changing placements cause instability and fear. The child experiences a loss of personal history, identity, belonging and control. The child may withdraw from emotional commitment or put barriers around his/her emotional state of being

Here are some very revealing comments from children who have been in care:
I couldn't talk to anybody, couldn't trust anybody, I wanted to end everything.

Adults said about us, They'll be fine, they're young, they'll get over it. they won't remember. They just need to toughen up.

One day the new foster parent just picked us up from school. (My worker) was too busy to introduce us to our new placement.

Our few belongings were just tossed in garbage bags.


One child actually endured 105 changes of placement in one year. It's no wonder that chronic sorrow and unresolved grief are the consequences of an overstressed system.
My research shows many similarities between the systems in Manitoba and Minnesota. I'll be touching on more of these issues in later blogs. In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments, go to the CONTACT section on my website HERE since the comments section on this blog doesn't seem to be working. I'd love to hear from you.



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Saturday, 19 March 2016

TOP TEN READS: ANOTHER FIVE

Sorry for the delay in bringing you the next five great books to read, but here they are in all their glory. I've featured more mystery/suspense stories because that's exactly what I'm in the midst of writing myself. More news to follow on that later. But I certainly hope there's one here that you'll enjoy!

LITERARY MYSTERY/SUSPENSE

ELIZABETH IS MISSING by Emma Healey.


This debut novel became an international bestseller and it's easy to see why. With a brilliantly original premise, precise and detailed characterization and lovely, perceptive language, this book is difficult to put down. Its central character is Maud. In her late eighties, she's physically mobile but forgetful, confused and suffering the onset of dementia. She makes a cup of tea and forgets to drink it, goes to the store and can't remember why she's there - usually returning with cans of tinned peaches. Daily visits from carers and her daughter allow her to live at home, but Maud is troubled with the overwhelming feeling that her dear friend, Elizabeth is missing. Driven and determined, she resolves to discover the truth even though no one will listen to her. The clues she discovers lead her back seventy years into the past when her own sister, Sukey, disappeared without a trace. Could the two mysteries be linked? Maud's confused but utterly human journey is documented with such sensitivity and insight that we can't help but root for her.

THE STEADY RUNNING OF THE HOUR by Justin Go



Tristan, a young American graduate student, is shocked to learn he may be heir to a massive estate left by an English lord and mountaineer, who willed his fortune to a mysterious former lover. Now eighty years later, Tristan races to London to discover that he must prove his connection to the former lover, but only has weeks to do it as the trust will expire. He follows elusive clues from London to French WWI battlefields to the fjords of Iceland, gradually becoming consumed by the lovers' story, but in the process, finding out about his own roots. Will his quest lead him to the huge unclaimed fortune? Read this exquisite and lyrical novel to find out.


AUTOBIOGRAPHY/MEMOIR

THE GLASS CASTLE by Jeanette Walls



This brilliant memoir documents the story of a vibrant yet unconventional and dysfunctional family. Raised by a free-spirited, self-indulgent artist mother who abhors the traditional maternal role and a charismatic, brilliant father whose drinking drives him to recklessness and dishonesty, the Walls children somehow manage to bring themselves up. Feeding, clothing and caring for one another in the most impossible circumstances in which hunger and poverty are daily realities. At his best, their father's inventive mind captures their imagination, and his lessons on physics and geology make them outstanding students at school. Both parents teach them to embrace life fearlessly, but the lessons come at a great cost: moving from one home to another, sleeping in bedrooms dripping with mould, and going hungry for days. The children finally leave the control of their deteriorating parents and find their way to New York, living successful lives, but their parents decide to follow them and actually choose to be homeless, living in a series of run-down squats even as their children prosper. Walls finally comes to terms with her unconventional parents and it is her sensitive and complex portrayal of them that makes this such a compelling story to read. She writes with a riveting eye for detail and her lack of sentimentality makes her journey even more real and convincing.

FAMILY SAGA



THE ASHFORD AFFAIR by Lauren Willig

If you love long family sagas, then this book is for you. It's loving attention to rich period detail and fast pace, make it an extremely compelling story. Set in two time periods - 1999 and the early 20th century, this is the story of Clemmie Evans, a workaholic lawyer in a Manhattan firm. Rebounding from a broken engagement and in her mid thirties, she feels life slipping her by. When the family gathers for her grandmother, Addie's ninety-ninth birthday, a relative lets slip hints about a long-buried family secret that leads Clemmie on a journey into the past that could change everything about her life. The story flips back and forth from Clemmie's quest to Addie's story in the early 20th century. Addie grew up at the grand house, Ashford Park with her cousin Bea. Close as sisters, their love is eventually tested by a bond that proves even stronger. The nature of this bond and the hidden secret gradually unfurl, affecting Clemmie's life and changing it forever.

SCIENCE FICTION

FLASHBACK by Dan Simmons




I've long been a fan of Dam Simmon's richly detailed, incredibly accurate historical novels. The brilliant and chilling Drood as well as the epic Black Hills are two novels I'd highly recommend. Dan Simmons' novels, however, are not for the faint of heart. Like his other novels, FLASHBACK is densely packed with details and ideas, but it has a fast moving plot reminiscent of Michael Crichton or Robert Ludlum. This dystopian novel is set in a future United States reeling from nearly total economic, political and moral collapse. The country is segmented, ruled partly by Japanese overlords, Hispanic gangs and Muslim caliphates (sounds like Trump was a consultant on this one!!!). Only small sections remain US led, but most of the population doesn't care since they're addicted to flashback, a drug that allows users to experience the best moments of their lives again and again, rendering them completely useless to society. Nick, the main character, is a former cop who becomes an addict when his wife dies in a car accident. Now living in an abandoned shopping mall, the drug leads him to lose his job and his teenage son. Out of the blue, he's called up by a top government advisor to investigate  the murder of the advisor's son. When the investigation turns up more secrets than he bargained for, Nick is soon faced with extreme danger and his actions could lead to a reunion with his son but could also affect the future of the entire nation. Simmons' predictions and his vision of the future seem eerily possible and that's what makes this such a compelling read.

HAPPY READING!


Tuesday, 9 February 2016

TOP TEN READS: THE FIRST FIVE

Since I read on average about two books a week, I thought it was time to recommend some reads to all of you out there who enjoy a good story. I've sorted them into categories so I hope there's something for everybody. You can find these books on all the online retailers as well as the bookstores. Check them out!

THRILLERS AND SUSPENSE




STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG by Kate Atkinson

I've read some great literary novels by Kate Atkinson but had no idea she wrote crime fiction until I found this book. If you love Robert Galbraith's crime series you'll love Kate Atkinson who writes with the same humour, sly wit and unflinching eye for detail in this story featuring main characters who are basically likeable loners and quirky misfits. Tracy Waterhouse, ex-cop now head of mall security, sets out on what she thinks is a typical routine day. Along the way she makes a decision that will change the entire course of her life and turn it upside down. Witnesses to the event are Tilly, a dotty, elderly actress on the verge of senility and Jackson Brodie, ex-military PI on the hunt for someone else's birth parents. These three people converge in the most compelling and entertaining way. A great read!



THE HIDDEN GIRL by Louise Millar

Another thriller set in the UK! This is a compelling read full of twists and turns and nail-biting suspense. Hannah Riley and her husband, rock music producer, Will, hope that a move to an idyllic but crumbling old house in the countryside will provide the fresh start needed for them to provide a loving home for an adopted baby. When Will is in London and Hannah is cut off by a massive snow storm, she discovers the little village is less than idyllic and as she scrambles to ready the house for a visit from the adoption agency, she uncovers evidence of a terrible crime and secrets hidden by the town's not-so-friendly inhabitants.



THE HOLLOW MAN by Oliver Harris

Yet another UK thriller! This fast-paced story of political and police corruption beautifully conjures up the settings of North London, especially around Hampstead Heath. Here's the back cover blurb:
Waking up on Hampstead Heath not far from a crashed squad car, Detective Nick Belsey wants out—out of London and out of the endless complications of his life. When Alexei Devereux, a wealthy hermit, vanishes, leaving behind a suicide note and his Porsche, Belsey discovers an opportunity—a new identity and a fortune—waiting for the taking.
Unfortunately, there are others who share the detective's interest in Devereux, including Scotland Yard. A dead rich man with suspicious financial holdings is bound to have some dangerous ties and a few ruthless enemies. Now, Belsey and his clever plan are about to be overshadowed by far more ambitious players with their own brilliant—and deadly—scheme.
A terrific page-turner!



LITERARY NOVELS

OLIVE KITTERIDGE by Elizabeth Strout

This Pulitzer prizewinning novel is a masterful portrait of small town Maine and Olive herself, a retired schoolteacher who watches the world changing around her but cannot always reconcile herself to what's happening. A stern, sometimes patient, perceptive, but repressed woman, Olive reminds me of Margaret Laurence's Hagar Shipley from her brilliant novel, The Stone Angel. Olive struggles to communicate with her own adult son while her irrational sensitivities cause her loyal husband Henry much internal turmoil and conflict throughout the marriage. This book is structured as a collection of linked stories and contains a cast of unique and damaged characters who experience tragedy and joy. Ms Strout writes with ruthless honesty bringing the reader to a deeper understanding of the human condition.


UNDER THE SKIN by Michael Faber

I would classify this book as literary science fiction. This haunting novel is so beautifully written it draws the reader into the strange world of Isserly, a female driver who cruises the Scottish Highlands picking up hitchhikers. Faber gradually reveals the truth about Isserly - she's scarred, awkward, deformed yet strangely erotic. And she listens to her passengers as they open up about their lives, providing an accurate mosaic of modern society and its prevailing beliefs. When the shocking truth of her mission is finally clear to the reader, there are lessons to be learned about our own moral instincts. I can't reveal more without giving away spoilers, but I can say this is a masterfully written story - even for those who shy away from sci-fi.

Hope you enjoy my recommendations. Also you may want to check out my newest release, A CREATURE OF FANCY, on sale at Amazon.com this week.
Happy reading!!

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

SIX DEGREES OF BOWIE



I couldn't let this week slip by without paying tribute to Bowie.
From the moment I first saw him on BBC TV in 1970 (check it out here), I knew he was no ordinary musician. Then when he moved from one incarnation to another, I realized this guy was a trailblazer, a true rebel, a total artist.

During my university years in the early 70's, Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars and Aladdin Sane were all must-have albums and Jean Genie was a dance anthem for 70's students keen for something different after the '60's diet of The Beatles, The Stones and various flower power sounds. Bowie promised something futuristic. A glimpse into bold new worlds, a blurring of gender lines, a complete and total integration of fashion, art and music. My favourite song of his was definitely Life on Mars. Words like:
See the mice in their million hordes, From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads were a plaintive yet truthful commentary on creeping commercialism. Check it out here.



Here's a little clip (set in 1973)from an unpublished work of mine entitled Searching for Robert P that shows just how much Bowie influenced music and fashion in the 70's:


The Bunch of Keys was a small pub about half a mile away from the residence and within twenty minutes we were sitting comfortably in front of three glasses of vodka and orange listening to a local band doing David Bowie covers. The lead singer looked like Ziggy Stardust on a bad hair day and the rest of the band was decked in orange nylon spaceoid gear
“Is it just me ,” said Pam, “or does this group look like they just parachuted in through a cosmic storm?”
“Why the hell are we all so critical tonight?” said Patsy, digging into a jumbo-sized basket of scampi with tartar sauce and chips. “We’ve had three non-stop nights of wild and crazy fun.”
“Yes,” said Pam, “and why does everyone look like they belong in a Hieronymous Bosch painting – sort of primal and bawdy and rude and pathetic and mindless and cloddish and tasteless and….”
“Take one of these hot scampi and shut up,” said Patsy dipping a deep-fried pellet into a  puddle of sauce 
“We’re sober – that’s the problem,” I said, scanning the dance floor, which was populated by Mick Jagger, Rod Stewart and David Bowie impersonators. The Micks pouted their lips and strutted around doing sideways claps, the Rods with their spiky hairstyles, made love to imaginary microphones, and the Bowies generally floated through space like multi-coloured androids.
After a couple more drinks Pam and Patsy got up to dance. They tried to drag me along but I was cemented to the chair, lost in contemplation at the marvelous power of popular culture – the supremacy of these pop icons – resulting in mass production of their image in every little pub, working men’s club and students' union bar. 


I came close to Bowie only a couple of times. Once when we crashed a party in 1973 we were awestruck that Bowie's hairstylist was there! We waited the whole evening in case the great one arrived. Too bad he didn't!
The next time was in 1987 on his Glass Spider Tour. We were so close to the stage at the football stadium in Winnipeg. It was one of the best concerts I've ever seen. Bowie's voice was so good live. He didn't need much electronic enhancement. He looked great, sang incredibly and boy could he dance!
It's fitting then, that he even left this life in a burst of artistic creativity. He'll be sadly missed but his legacy will live on.


There's a starman waiting in the sky
He'd like to come and meet us
But he thinks he'd blow our minds


HE DID!!