Friday, April 18, 2014

The Jade Pirate - Elizabeth Latimer Pirate Hunter series by Deborah Cannon

Published by Createspace

Great adventure, mixing history with fantasy
The Latimer girls, their friends and CJ the parrot are on the hunt again. In this, the second book of the series, they are once again searching for their missing father supposedly lost at sea. While their cousin is working as a marine physicist on a classified mission on an oceanographic research vessel in China, they are enjoying their day at the market when Elizabeth notices a shop with little wooden boats exactly like her father used to make, right down to his unique signature graphic. Thus begins another rollicking adventure through the vortex, this time into the days when pirates ruled the China Sea.

I love this young adult adventure series by Deborah Cannon, full of humour, murderous attacks, kidnapping and Elizabeth's feelings escalating between two young men, one from the past...or is it the from her own time. Though she finds her father in the home of Cho, and escapes with him, he is again kidnapped. Will she find her father again? Will he know her if she does? Fraught with danger, this is a great adventure, mixing history with fantasy as their search for their father and Cho, a modern day pirate and his captor, goes deep into the pirate world of the greatest pirate on the China Seas in the 1800s, Cheng I Sao, Mrs. Cheng.

The biggest problem facing our group, other than staying alive, is to avoid changing history. Lulu at home is keeping track of that on her I-phone and indeed history has been changed a few times; they must correct all the wrongs. Great characters, along with CJ the irascible but irresistible parrot and the mysterious Daniel, all in all, this is an exciting storyline, built on fact and fiction both. This book has all the elements of excitement for young adults, early teens, and adults.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Newfoundland Drugstores - a history by John K. Crellin

Published by Flanker Press
Reviewed for Edwards Book Club

I was pleasantly surprised when I began reading this book. Perhaps because I have a personal interest in the subject, indeed I recall many of the concoctions that were still in use in the 1940s as well as remembering stories heard about the various "chemists" in my own ancestry. But I must stick to the book.

This is really an evolution of apothecaries and drugstores from the early 19th century through it's growth. John K. Crellin has written a well-researched, presented and illustrated history in general but particularly in Newfoundland. At the time, Newfoundland was not a part of Canada, so most associated companies and ideas were British. At one time many of the medicines were mixed with mortar and pestle, though some were imported from Britain and France. The changes in the present and into the future are worthy of note. We learn that drugstores have at one time or another contained besides medicine, such things as candy, cosmetics, perfumes, sodas, books and other items usually expected in other stores. We appear at this point with our huge drugstores, we might say we have come full circle.

I enjoyed reading this book and learning so much of the past and present. How the druggists handled crises, their doctoring skills, among others. This is a capsule of the evolution of drugstores everywhere, but in Newfoundland the history is abundant. A very interesting part of a history we all share in a way.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain - a Novel by Adrianne Harun

Published by Penguin Group Canada

Adrianne Harun has nailed it!

I live along Highway 16. Adrianne Harun has taken this "Highway of Tears" and created an amazing fantasy based on the disappearances of mostly aboriginal girls, a case that defies solving to this day. Mixing reality, myth, the plight of small logging towns in northern British Columbia, and the boredom of mixed-race youth and hopelessness of the poor, she has run with this fascinating story. Her descriptive prose, the stories told by Leo's Uncle Lud, and a man who is unknown yet known, and a mysterious young girl--is she really the Snow Woman?--all combine to make this story compelling. The devil has many faces.

The characterizations and mindsets are spot on, too often found in these small one-store towns in the forests of British Columbia. Youngsters must work, alcoholism is rife, and in their free time they make their own entertainment, whether good or bad. A group of friends stick together, surviving the odds. Adrianne has taken on these elements and many others to give us a mythical yet not unknown reality, mixed it up and turned out full-blown a novel we can feel. Sad though these stories are, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I was mesmerized and found it hard to put the book down, not wanting to lose a single thread. Remember her name, I'm sure we will be hearing it in the future.
Review based on Advance Reading Copy (ARC)

Friday, January 17, 2014

Really Dead - a Ria Butler Mystery by J.E. Forman

Published by Dundurn

When action is called on this set, they really mean business!
An entertaining romp in the British Virgin Islands as a TV reality show is in the multiple forms of production. Ria Butler is just returning from a trip in the Andes when she receives a call from her brother's friend to come to the British Virgin Islands. Forget Galapagos and the promised photo for her niece of a blue-footed boobie, she is on her way via a number of flights.

As a travel writer, Ria Butler has seen many strange and interesting things, but nothing could have prepared her for what she finds when she arrives on the set of the reality show her brother James is producing. When she finally gets to the island where filming takes place she finds herself unable to avoid being under surveillance everywhere. How will she be able to find out from Rob, James' friend, what prompted his urgent call that James may be in trouble?

On her arrival James certainly seems to have both hands and more full with his room-mate, presumably not the trouble referred to. Ria does smell a mystery, though, and her curiosity expands the more she gets to know the cast and crew, but goes into overdrive when it comes to James' partner the obnoxious Dan, and Albert the mysterious courier, curiously coming and going at odd times flying between the islands and Toronto, delivering canvas bags one way and carrying a metal case back.

When action is called on this set, they really mean business! Fast-paced and unexpected action. As a reality show, competition runs in the extreme with the finale about to be filmed. With the assistance from afar of Ria's boyfriend Glenn, an investigative reporter, the mystery deepens. A young member of the crew has disappeared and left behind her luggage and her severed foot...or was that a production prop? Why do the police in Toronto say she is at home and whole? I loved this book, not just for the mystery and intrigue, but for the feel of the excitement, practical jokes, hustle and bustle of TV production. Well-written and taut, great characters, J.E. Forman knows what she's talking about. I'm happy to learn this book is first in the "Ria Butler series," a series I'm sure will have a long run.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Grandma Says: Weather Lore from Meteorologist Cindy Day

Published by Nimbus Publishing
Reviewed for Edwards Book Club

I was so excited to have the opportunity to read and review this little book. Besides the wonderful old sayings our grandparents and great-grandparents had about the weather, Cindy Day is a 25-year veteran of meteorology most recently seen on CTV.

Many of us have heard the saying "Red sky at night, Sailors delight; Red sky at morning, Sailors take warning" but the one my Grandma used to say, especially if we were on a car trip, was "If there's enough blue sky to mend a pair of Dutchman's breeches, the weather will be fine." Now, please take no offence to this, in Grandma's day the men and boys in Holland wore very wide-legged pants that came in at the ankle, hence if there were clouds in the sky but a big blue patch among them, the day would turn out fine. I was happy about seeing this one because I'd never heard anyone other than Grandma (and myself) say it!

This little treasure, divided by seasonal weather sayings, gives us the sayings of the past, but the added bonus is the meteorological science connecting the dots. We are given the how and why these sayings would come about and how true or not they were. I enjoyed this book tremendously, and now I know how so many of these weather 'wisdoms' came about, Groundhog's spring predictions aside, many are much more realistic. This is a remarkable opportunity to learn why these sayings were so often on the mark and what science tells us how they worked. For me, this was a happy trip down memory lane, but put it all together and it's a cohesive book of lore and science, which don't clash at all. A Globe and Mail year-end top 20 Bestseller. Recommended for any age.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Silent Assassin (Dan Morgan #2) by Leo J. Maloney

Published by Pinnacle

Who or what is the silent assassin? You may begin to wonder as you get into this book. Maybe a unique unit of non-identities who miraculously come back alive...most of the time. Maybe the good one, maybe the bad one, maybe a conspiracy. Seat of the pants innovative methods of attack and rescue are consistently used or developed in this high, above top security, group of individuals as slick as a single entity. Country-jumping...or maybe not since they rarely have any idea where they are going, nor often where they are when they get there.

I was drawn in very quickly. The writing was great and kept me on my toes. If I stopped to backtrack to check something out I invariably got left behind in the action from which I had come. Such are the heroes and heroines and yes, often assassins who keep the country safe, the world on track, and on whose quick actions and snap decisions the reader can count on...if you can keep up. 'Cobra' is well-named.

If you like a book you won't want to put down, this is it! Spies in covert operations, cloak and dagger is only a cliche; innocent businesses that may or may not house something very dark and very deep, non-traditional inventions, technology breaking the limits of invention. CIA and FBI forget it, some groups have far surpassed their capabilities and with the hand-picked staff, tightly kept secrets, covert operators, and rife with tension this group kept me going full blast! Leo J. Maloney is an author to take the breath away.

What's Going On At UAardvark? by Lawrence S. Wittner

Reviewed as ebook

What is going on is more real than one might think. This hilarious political satire shows a bit of light onto how universities are falling victim to greed and corporate involvement from within administration and where the money is pocketed. Great satirical writing! Some references will be easily recognizable to many academics and students in academia.

The book is fast-paced, very entertaining in its portrayal of the infiltration of corporations in places of learning. A revolt is bound to happen, but how, when and by whom? The characters, or perhaps more correctly caricatures in the book are probably in evidence already. In fact, they are so well-drawn I felt myself back working in university joking with my friends about what we perceived at the time. I'll leave it to the readers to enjoy those who populate this book.

Lawrence S. Wittner gives us lots of laughs and monkeys in a barrel while presenting a story that is already an issue in many places of learning. Revolts? Yes, if they are not here yet they will be. Congratulations on presenting with with great tongue-in-cheek humour what the future could and quite possibly will be. A word of warning, wear a thick skin when you read, but take the caricatures with their personalities as they come.