Monday, April 28, 2008

The Outcast

Quickie Recap: Lewis is just a little boy when tragedy befalls him. Instead of rallying around him, he becomes an outcast in his own family, and eventually in his whole community who easily slip him into the role of menace to society, a role he reluctantly fills.

Quickie Review: Whoa. It's not too often that I just get swept away. I wish it was. I wish every book delivered on its promise. This one was bursting with potential from the prologue - and even knowing what was coming, I still spilled tears, I still tasted bitterness, I still felt displeasure. I can't believe this is her novel! Please, sign me up for the second. Miss Jones, I hope you are busy writing! I think the beauty of this novel is that yes, something rather extraordinary happens to Lewis, but that's not the story. The story is in the rather mundane ways he is affected or not affected by it. It downplays the drama. That's such a sophisticated way to write it just blew me away. It's subtle. And brilliant. It leaves you singing for redemption.

Quickie Recommendation: Absolutely. Note the name: Sadie Jones is going to be a major writer.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Secret Lives of Saints

Child Brides and Lost Boys in Canada's Polygamous Mormon Sect, by Daphne Bramham.
Quickie Recap: You might be shocked to learn that B.C. is quickly becoming Canada's Utah - a safe haven for people who break the law in the name of religion. By the end of this book, you won't be able to say you didn't know about it; you won't be able to turn a blind eye.
Quickie Review: This book sells itself. It's so topical that all I had to do is carry it in my arms a couple of days at work and people were stopping me to discuss. This has clearly become a Canadian problem too, and we have a duty to protect those who cannot protect themselves. I was shocked to learn of the lax policies at border crossings; how is it that no one questions an unaccompanied child entering a country on foot? Why are law enforcement and even our judiciary system ignoring the problem? This book made me angry. It was great in raising all sorts of questions I hadn't really bothered to ask myself, but it fell a little short on answers. What can we do to make a difference? I guess that's up to us.
Quickie Recommendation: Yes, inform yourself for those who cannot.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Stories by Craig Boyko.

Quickie recap: Short stories that really span in content - from the arcade to domestic disputes, and even all the way to a post-war Russia - this book is bursting with stories waiting to be told.

Quickie review: I immediately felt like Boyko must be an interesting person because anyone who can put himself into so many diverse skins must be tolerant, observant, and talented. This is an excellent carry-around book because each story is easily digestible. You don't need an enormous time commitment or attention span, you can just dive right in and take any one on its own - you could even read them out of sequence, and that's exactly what I plan to do on my second read-through. I'll definitely be looking out for more from this guy.

Quickie recommendation: Ben oui.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


a novel by Anne Simpson.

Quickie Recap: When tragedy strikes an already-tragic family, they take cover in Niagara Falls to relive some memories while trying to forget others.

Quickie Review: I admit, I was drawn to this book because I am drawn to the Falls, but even if you judged it on that one facet alone, it comes out looking pretty spiffy. Simpson lets the Horseshoe Falls stand in as a large, rushing, intimidating metaphor, but it never felt forced. Actually, there's a symmetry to this book that is intensely satisfying. It builds and releases, builds and releases. Perhaps it is morbid that I find grief to be so fascinating, but I believe that it is grief's personal nature that makes us all mesmerized if reluctant witnesses. The characters are perfect in their imperfections, all of them real because they are raw, because they bleed, because they feel things in gray, not in black or white.

Quickie Recommendation: A very gray book indeed, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Quirks & Quarks Guide to Space

42 Questions (and Answers) About Life, the Universe, and Everything, by Jim Lebans.
Quickie Recap: Why are rockets a lousy way to get into space? How do you cook an astronaut? These, and other questions you may or may not have even asked yourself are yours to consider.
Quickie Review: This book contains something seemingly more rare than the elusive black hole: a funny scientist. I'm nerdy enough to be fascinated by the information in this book, and retarded enough to really appreciate the golden nuggets of hilarity that make the physics-mathematics-quantum-whatnots actually bearable. Can I get an A-men! I wasn't ever bored, rarely confused, and I think I may have even learned something, like why poor Pluto got demoted and if you and I are actually all made of stars. This book, filled with such gems as "If you think that's confusing, wait until we try to explain it", and warnings to the reader to take a "precautionary analgesic". All in fun, of course. And it was fun, absurdly, surprisingly. Good fun. Go space!
Quickie recommendation: To infinity, and beyond.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts

Close Encounters with Addiction, by Gabor Maté.
Quickie Recap: Maté is a psychologist working with vulnerable populations in downtown Vancouver. He works from a "take them as they are" perspective, but his book goes one better and tries to understand the addict, and the addictive process.
Quickie review: A friend sent me a link to an article that appeared in The Globe and Mail recently, written by Maté. I enjoyed the article. I enjoyed the book less so. Maté's strength is his ability to sketch the characters, to give a human touch, a name, and even a face to this disease. His downfall, however, is his incredible ability to mimic a textbook. Unfortunately, the brightness lent by the personalities that inhabit the book just weren't enough to sustain me during the long and dry chapters in between. I really had high hopes for this book, and I'm sorry to say (shocked to say, really) that the reading dragged on and on. I was avoiding it! I NEVER do that. I was disappointed.
Quickie recommendation: Pass.