Tag Archives: book review

Common Ground by Justin Trudeau – Book Review

I must say that I am even more in respect of Mr. Trudeau after reading his autobiography. The first half of the book is about his family, childhood and how all of that shaped him into the man that he is. He speaks of his mother and her struggle with bi-polar disease, how she has become a spokesperson for it and his immense respect and love for her. His father, former PM of Canada and strict in many ways, but also a very loving father. He took time every day to spend quality time with his children. And raised them to never believe themselves ,to be better than others, with some very interesting examples. He speaks of the loss of his brother and the crushing impact it had on the family. He speaks of his wife, Sofie, how they had known each other through his brother, the depth of the love and respect he holds for her and the family they have made.

The respect he shows for all people shows as a part of his core makeup as is evidenced by his words.  His belief in women’s rights, the rights of immigrants, the rights of the poor and displaced.   The theme that is repeated throughout the book is, We are stronger not in spite of, but because of our diversity.  We, as Americans, can learn much from his lessons.

I have probably somewhat unfairly given it only four stars because I was far less enraptured with the second half of the book as he spoke at much length about his rise through the political system. Though I realize its importance, I found it rather tedious at many points. I did appreciate the things he had to say about equality and a more equal distribution of wealth, which most economists state as a necessity for a healthy economy and society. And though the US holds the gauntlet on the extremes on this, it has become an issue in many, if not most countries. He also spoke much about the inclusion of all people in Canada and how they came close to becoming two Canadas and the steps taken that prevented that. He ends the book with an absolutely beautiful First Nation’s poem.

Its worth reading to learn more about this amazing man and its also full of pictures of him! 🙂



The Mermaid’s Singing by Val McDermid

The Mermaid’s Singing by Val McDermid

This was just a nice taste of twisted!  You have a serial killer who is fascinated with ancient torture methods, is a skilled handyman and makes his own rack and other devices after seeing them in a museum and finding a picture book.  You just have to love picture books, don’t you?  They can show you so much.  Add to that, he keeps a recorded diary of his work and its outcome.  And to add just another taste of twisted to it, he video tapes them and feeds them into a virtual game computer to be relived over and over.

Tony Hill is a psychologist that has been hired to try and create a profile of this killer.  A minor problem is that he finds the killer fascinating.  He’s actually a bit turned on by him.    And in his off hours, he is stalked by a phone sex worker, Angelica.  She is annoying and pushy, until she starts to do it for him.  Or is it the cocktail of the killer with her that is the right mix?

I am beyond impressed with this woman’s ability to write the mind of a psychopath.  Admittedly, this was an audiobook.  And admittedly, the man who did the voice of the killer was excellent.  But, I believe I would have stayed up nights to finish it had I had it in print form.  Twisted minds like Val’s are a rare commodity.  I will be reading more of her stuff!



Blind Curves: A Woman, a Motorcycle, and a Journey to Reinvent Herself

Blind Curves: A Woman, a Motorcycle, and a Journey to Reinvent Herself by Linda Crill

I really wanted to like this book more than I did. I was looking for awakenings, insights, and interesting stories on the journey. However, the author was fixated through the entire book on her motorcycle, learning to ride it, maneuver it, etc. And though I can understand how that needed to be a part of the book, she rarely deviated from it. She made the entire Pacific Northwest route where she gave only a couple of pages to the surroundings. Overall, I found the book tedious lacking in atmosphere and engaging storytelling. The author is used to giving talks and speeches before crowds for work she does. And maybe that is where the problem is. She writes like someone standing before a crowd trying to do an infomercial. I actually found myself skimming through areas of the book so that I could reach the end, hoping that she would something of real interest. Ah well, maybe the next book.


Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng

I listened to this book as an audible.  It was narrated by Cassandra Campbell.  I think I should probably start designating whether I “read” a book or “listen”.  Listening to books while I drive makes the drive so much more endurable.  Cassandra did an excellent job on the narration, even in simulating the male voices.

Wow!  Wow!  And Seriously, Wow!  “Everything I Never Told You” has to be one of the best and most profound books I can remember reading.  The book begins Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet. . . . 

Lydia’s body is found in the local lake.  The story is told through the voices of Lydia, her family and Jack, the neighbor boy.  Its told through many time shifts, from when her Chinese father met and married her American mother.  The isolation and rejection her father faced as a Chinese man in the US at that time.  Her mother, raised by a Home Ec teacher who tried to make her daughter into the perfect domestic partner for her future husband, but would up with one that excelled in the sciences.  Who vowed she was going to be a doctor, not a wife.  That is, until she met James.  And when she has Lydia, she pours herself into trying to make her into the doctor she couldn’t be.

Jack, the one outsider in the story, is at a time, suspected of foul play with the drowning of Lydia.  Or at the very least, corrupting her in some way that led to her death.  Though he doesn’t have his own voice in the story, you learn about him through the eyes of everyone else, and each of them see him from a different perspective.

What makes this book so profound is not the story itself, but the way it is told and the beauty of the prose in its pages.  Celeste takes you deep into the hearts and minds of each of the family members and you see a trace of the unspoken reality of who they really are, so very different from whom they are perceived to be.  She lays bare how people so misunderstand each other, how all seem to mirror their own fears and biases into interpreting the motives and personalities of others.  You walk away reevaluating your perception of the people in your life, how often are you guilty of those very same misconceptions?

She had me in tears as the book neared its end.  Not for Lydia, but for the people and family she left behind who had been exposed to their barest bones by the time she was done.  We are all of us somewhere in those pages, in at least one, if not more of the characters.  The tears are for the lack of sympathy we had because we didn’t see the real truth, but only the surface or a single face of another.  And the tears are for knowing that others look at us with the same blindness, seeing our motives, our deeds through the colored glasses of their experience.  The tears are from realizing how little we know each other, even the ones we claim to know the best.

I was stunned when I realized this was Celeste’s first book!  If this is any indicator, I will be waiting with bated breath for any and every new book she follows with.  Read her, breathe in her words, let them settle in deep.  Her words are a tonic for the soul and the heart.


Sephi PiderWitch
January 31, 2017


Roses and Rot by Kat Howard

roses-and-rot-by-kat-howardI found this little gem on the New Arrivals at the library and it looked like it had some real promise.  Neil’s comment did help in making my decision to walk it to the checkout though.  I have since been told that it is listed as a YA book.  If that’s the case, I shall be looking at more that fall under this category!

Roses and Rot was a surprise and a delight.  The stunning revelation was that this is Kat’s first novel.

Its about two sisters who are accepted into a coveted artist retreat for 9 months.  One, Imogen, is a writer, the other, Marin, a dancer.   No evil stepmother here, its the real mother that has the evil heart.  And much of the girl’s drive comes from attempting to escape from her.  And the retreat?  It borders on the land of Faerie.

Is sort of a “Sell Your Soul to the Devil for Riches and Fame” story, but replace Devil with Fairy and add some interesting mythology, Evil mom, and a whole resort full of artists who don’t blink an eye over something less than ordinary.  She speaks the voices of artists with all their jealousies and quirks and generosities and daring to live out loud.  She lays open their fears, their dreams and the price they are willing to pay.

I think one of my favorite quotes is when she offers up the truth of faeires.

“They are beautiful and without mercy.  Cruel.
Stories of the Fair Folk are not at all then what we think of as fairy tales, those moralistic stories wherein evil is punished and virtue triumphs, that were set safely in once upon a time, and had happy endings guaranteed.  True fairy tales are horror stories.”

And though the main story plot is not new.  The reality is, how many really are?  It is told with a lot of interesting twists and turns and through a very unique voice.  Her biography says she was a lawyer, turned writer.  I think she found her true calling.  Though I am sure she was silver tongued as an attorney, her skills are better employed at weaving tales to be enjoyed by the world.  Hers is a voices whose prose is so beautifully wrought and cast down to paper that we will be combing the new releases for anything that has her name.  Which makes one wonder, how long was she a Tithe for???



The Small Backs of Children by Lidia Yuknavitch

The Small Backs of Children by Lidia YuknavitchThe Small Backs of Children is like walking into a dream. No, its like walking through the dreams of a group of people. Its lyrical and fragmented and at times you have no idea what turn you just took and how it connects to the rest of the fragments. But, you forget it quickly and let the new dream stream carry you along its current.

The author, Lidia Yuknavitch is not a writer. She is a word painter, bringing together all the genres of her characters as they paint their own unique story upon your soul.

The story begins with a young girl caught on film by a photojournalist as she is leaving her home just before a bomb explodes and takes her entire family with it. And in that moment begins the web of all the women connected within its strands.

The girl, who I don’t believe is ever referred to anything other than “the girl” disappears into the woods after the infamous picture is taken and begins to paint . . . . with blood. She tells the story of her life with her blood paintings as well as the story of those she has known. At the doors of a widow, who lures her to safety as one would a feral animal and shows her kindness and teaches her and readies her for the outside world.

So also begins the search for her, by the photographer, the writer, the poet, the playwrite. Each with their own stories, their own paintings, their own pains and demons. Wrought in vivid color and sound and feeling. Each dream fragment, incomplete, yet standing firmly on its on and embedding itself in your memory and your soul. Cruelty and forgiveness, sacrifice and conquest, all laid out in a bare spattering of words.

And that is one of the things that makes this book so unique and powerful. Lidia doesn’t use a single word that isn’t utterly necessary. It is as if each word has been carefully chosen and sharpened to perfection before insertion into its precisely engineered line. Till you find yourself holding your breath on almost every page and needing to walk away and allow those last couple pages time to fully digest before you dare taste any more.

The Small Backs of Children is not a story, it is an experience. Unlike any I have ever encountered between the pages of a book before. If Ms. Yuknavitch is not nominated for a entire rash of awards for her achievement, someone needs to answer why. Other than words as naked as hers are sometimes difficult for even the critics to gaze too long upon. Personally, I am humbled before this woman’s expertise in extracting the soul from her ink.



Practical Demonkeeping by Christopher Moore

Practical Demonkeeping by Christopher MoorePractical DemonKeeping is just one of those fun silly books.  Its about Travis O’Hearn and the Demon he picked up 70 years ago, Catch.  The book had a bit of a stumbling start and I wasn’t entirely sure where it was going when I first started.  But, he finally found his footing and the story began to emerge.  Travis became the “accidental” keeper of Catch and is sorely mismatched for the role of demon-keeper.  And Catch is a bit odd from what one would expect from a demon.  Yes, he likes to feed on people and must every so many days or he will go out of control and on a mass killing rampage, but he also likes comic books and old movies.  Its a cute quirky story and an entertaining break from some of the other books I have read lately.  Given that this is only his first book, I will check out some more of his stuff to see how he has improved with practice.