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Category Archives: Book review, books
Beacon 23 – Hugh Howey (2016, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston)
It starts off like a scratchy, unshaven version of The Martian: first person storytelling, self-deprecating humour, a protagonist who faces a lot of scrapes that he needs to MacGyver himself out of. But Beacon 23 changes over the course of five stories, and it becomes less about the minutiae of the life of a man alone in space, sent to the beacon to protect FTL travellers from fatally crashing. This is actually a darn good anti-war novel, and a deeply emotional exploration of a soldier with PTSD. The superfluous stuff – the bounty hunters, the cute alien pet – give the book a bit of levity some readers might require for balance, but for me, it is all about the way this unnamed, war-ravaged man feels and how it influences everything he does – including making the most agonizing, horrific decision anyone should ever have to.
I had one annoyance, but when reading other reviews of the book online, it didn’t seem to bother anyone except me, so take this with a grain of salt: of course these stories were originally published as five singles on Amazon, and as befitting an omnibus edition, they were just slapped together as is in their complete forms. I would have preferred to see them slightly rewritten for this format so that they ran together smoothly as one complete novel – I hated going to the next story and getting a full recap of the events that took place earlier. I found it jarring. I guess I should have read them in their original form; it wouldn’t have been an issue then.
Living Wreaths: 20 Beautiful Projects for Gifts and Décor – Natalie Bernhisel Robinson (2014, Gibbs Smith, Utah)
You’ve probably seen scads of stuff like this on Pinterest – metal frames filled with soil, moss and succulents or other durable plants, living art that you can hang on your door to welcome visitors. I’m not in the least bit crafty, so you won’t find me building one anytime soon, but Robinson does an excellent job of making the process accessible to everyone in this easy how-to book. I’m just in it for the eye candy, though – some of my favourites include wreaths made from colourful varieties of lettuce (yes, you read that right – why not?), strawberries, tomatoes, spider plants, and a beautiful mix of ivies. You can even learn how to make a wreath from cacti, for use as a centrepiece on the dinner table…just be careful when you’re passing the peas.
Foodshed: An Edible Alberta Alphabet – dee Hobsbawn-Smith (2012,TouchWood Editions, Canada)
Do you ever think about where your food comes from? Do you know your local farmers, ranchers, beekeepers and cheese-makers? dee Hobsbawn-Smith does, and she’s compiled a comprehensive A to Z guide to 72 of the talented and hard-working people that bring all that delicious food to Alberta tables. (My hubby and I participate in the CSA share program from one of the farms mentioned in the book and it was particularly interesting to read the interviews with the farmers who grow our veggies and cut flowers). Although this guide may be most useful to Alberta residents, anyone who is interested in sustainability, agriculture, and the environment will take important stories out of Foodshed.
As an added bonus, there are some amazing recipes included – everything from the (mouth-watering) mouthful Berry Rhubarb Buckle with Yogourt Cream and Berry Ginger Compote and Apple-Thyme Mousse and Carmelized Winter Fruit with Filo “Sails” to Lemon Ketchup and Cucumber Raita. Food for thought AND food – what more can you ask for?
One for the Money – Janet Evanovich (St. Martin’s Paperbacks, 2012 – originally published 1994)
Okay, I know, I know, I’m really late to the Stephanie Plum party – it’s not like (several, SEVERAL) people haven’t tried to get me to read these books. And it’s not like I was unwilling – it’s just that there was always something nearer to the top of my Gigantic Pile o’ Reading. I actually finished reading One for the Money the week the movie came out (so now you know how late I am with this entry) – and boy, oh, boy, I really have been missing something. Continue reading
My Mercedes is (Not) For Sale – Jeroen Van Bergeijk (2006, Broadway Books, New York)
I always get a kick out of travelogues, and this one is no exception: in My Mercedes is (Not) for Sale, Dutch journalist Jeroen Van Bergeijk takes a 1988 Mercedes Benz 190D from Amsterdam to Ouagadougou, through Morocco and the Sahara Desert, to the heart of West Africa, in order to sell the car in the lucrative African used car market. It’s a harrowing journey, full of mechanical breakdowns, agonizingly lengthy waits and torments at border crossings, and seedy neighbourhoods – he even survives a political coup in Togo. Continue reading
A Gardener on the Moon – Carole Giangrande – 2010, Quattro Books, Ontario (co-winner of the 2010 Ken Klonsky novella contest)
Traumatized and grieving, Pete LeBlanc returns to his family home and his girlfriend Lorraine in Massachusetts after fighting in World War II, only to find that he cannot stay: he packs up everything and moves to Quebec, Canada, leaving it all behind. He spends the next few decades erasing his former life Continue reading