Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sending a Big Cheer of Thanks out to all the Bear Rescue Facility supporters!

Thank you to all who voted in my recent cause on the Aviva Community Funding Competition! Here's a big cheer from a little bear! (It's probably a squeal for a meal, but I prefer to think it's a cheer!) It was a long haul and this will be my final message about voting. No more votes, your votes along with thousands of others put the Bear Rescue Facility at the Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter in Smithers into the finals and we just got the outcome. The Bear Rescue Facility was awarded $140,000! So once again, thank you. This has been an amazing adventure.

Betty and the bears

Dances with Marmots - From Mexico to Canada along the Pacific Crest Trail by George Spearing

George Spearing gets a sudden urge to do a long hike. Now, George lives in New Zealand, one would think he might elect to hike the two islands of New Zealand from bottom to top, but no. George has decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the border of Mexico to Canada, a distance of 4,280 km, or 2,659 miles in five months. This is his story of preparation, research, and finally his long trek over mountains through deserts, marshes, rattlesnake country and bear country, not to mention the ticks toward the latter part of his journey.

He has plotted well, arranged for food and other necessities sent on to small town post offices along his route to cut down on weight in his pack. Still it often gets up to 100 lb. at times. He does this trip as a solitary hiker, but often meets up with other hikers, some several times en route. A great demonstration of how small the world is, he also meets up with the very man he contacted through a friend for advice on the trip when still in New Zealand!

This book is slight reminiscent of Bill Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods" as he hiked the Appalachian trail through the eastern states. George will be doing the western states. I found the book very informative, humourous, and often giving historic trivia about various stops along the way. George has a tendency to talk to himself either out loud or in his head. On meeting his first group of marmots, he had quite a conversation with them, and enjoyed their company. He encountered marmots several times and found them to be very entertaining. Even his run-ins with bears are written with fear yet humour. Not being at all acquainted with bears, I can sympathize with him when crashing around the tent makes him wonder if he is going to become an appetizer. This is a very readable and entertaining book, includes photos.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Such Wicked Friends by Rod Hoisington

Published by EnteraBooks
Cover Art by
Mark Hoisington

Feisty, smart and sassy, Sandy Reid has traded in her whiplash field investigations for the courtroom...or has she? She has recently passed the bar and is now a criminal lawyer, but no staid lawyer is she. Retaining her voracious appetite for the truth, she turns the world of law on its ear.

Rod Hoisington's latest mystery all begins with a more or less routine phone call from a woman to Martin, her partner, the lawyer she "rents a desk from". He passes the arranged meeting with the client over to Sandy to deal with. Martin likes his cases to be simple and civil and meeting an unidentified woman with husband troubles after dark wasn't something he wanted to take on. Unfortunately, when Sandy finds the woman, she has a bullet hole in her forehead. From that moment on, matters go from bad to worse as she is taken away, cuffed, by the police. No residue is found on her hands, but Sandy sees a fair-sized blood stain on the back of her hand, wondering why no one has mentioned it. It makes her feel connected somehow to this woman she only met in death, as though it is a plea for help. Apparently she is the only one who can see it. She must also admit to touching, in fact to picking up an envelope from the woman's lap, and though she immediately put it back, she knows this is going to go badly for her. Sandy just can't keep out of the way of her old nemesis State Attorney Lawrence Moran and his ongoing vindictiveness toward her. She made the unforgivable mistake of proving him wrong when they first met. Now, on what should be a misdemeanor, he is going to do everything in his power to have her disbarred, and power is something he has in spades. On the other hand, Sandy has a few tricks up her sleeve, too, including Martin, who is well-versed in the law, and her current beau Det. Chip Bogard, with all his police knowledge, background and friends.

Enter the perennial party-goers Jenna and Brad, long-time friends of Martin, and he is introduced to Prissy, a dressed-down somewhat shapeless but nice-looking woman who zeroes in on him with lust and moneybags in her eyes. Though these people do not appear to have anything to do with the murdered woman, you just never know about people. What it does provide at this point is romantic entertainment for Martin, and the timing is right because he has just hired a caretaker for his father suffering from Alzheimers, giving Martin some worry-free freedom.

As it turns out, this seemingly innocuous "marital dispute" death, simple and sad, is more than it seems and will have global ramifications. Sandy will have proven herself once again, getting shot up in the process, one tough cookie, but fun as well. As Sandy might say to Moran "Put that in your pipe and smoke it!", or probably not quite in those words. Another great Sandy Reid mystery from Rod Hoisington. He just gets better and better. This story was very fast-paced, thrilling, sexy and funny by turns. I really enjoyed it.

Friday, January 6, 2012

El Porto Summer by George Matthew Cole

California in the summer, surfing, hanging out with your friends, what could be better? Well, this summer Brett is about to find out both better and worse, and an unhappy young girl will find her way after moving from inland to the coast, a coast she fears. George Matthew Cole begins this book with individual chapters for the book's characters. The reader knows right away who these people are and that they will all show up interactively in the story. A teenage summer of discovery, a story of teenage angst, a time of life that is uncharted territory and full of pitfalls.

The author has a wonderful grasp of these awkward years and tells it well. He goes deep inside the insecurities that exist within most teenagers. Reading the book brought back some memories that are now decades old. I like a book to show me something new, and this one didn't fail me. I learned some about surfing, and how to study and learn (something I really could have done with years ago).

This is a young-adult book, and does have a bit of rough language as could be expected. These are mid-teens, discovering urges, learning new lifestyles, finding their strengths, meeting bullying head on, and finding empathy. I am very happy to recommend it. The characters are diverse, but consistent at their cores, even as the book takes us through a change and new self-discoveries. Most of the characters are well-meaning, decent kids and a very few older teens are not just bullies but a part of the criminal element, juvenile delinquents. Still, it is basically a happy book with growing pains. For older readers, it will bring back some memories, whether living near the water or elsewhere in North America. The author takes us through everything as smoothly as the flat water at slack tide. I enjoyed this book and the characters within. A great coming-of-age story.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Walled Flower by Lorraine Bartlett

Published by Berkley Prime Crime, New York
Review based on ARC

 What a stressful life our Katie Bonner is living these days! Aside from her daily routines at the Artisans Alley, which are about to be interrupted in a less than happy way, she is rushing around to find a place to live and down to a very short deadline since her apartment has been rented out already. Then one of her vendors talks her into becoming her Matron of Honour (and must have read and copied every book on a Matron of Honour's duty), with a deadline just over a week away. Another vendor is adamantly demanding that her neighbouring vendor be arrested for stealing with no proof whatsoever, and her dream to own and operate the old Webster mansion for a Bed and Breakfast is revived again when the property goes up for sale---and again she can't afford it. It does sell, though, and the new owners are planning on doing exactly what Katie had planned, they are renovating the house to be a Bed and Breakfast, with many of the same ideas Katie had.

Lorraine Bartlett knows how to write sharp, witty, intriguing mysteries, often with several smoothly entwined in a single book, a book that is very hard to put down. I think this is the best yet. New characters come and go, and some remain adding to the population of Victoria Square. I love the title of the book and how it fits with the story. There is indeed a "walled flower", not the kind of flower you would expect, but one forever caught in the bloom of its life. Katie is about to uncover this flower when she makes a welcoming visit to the new neighbours, who are busily tearing down a wall. They allow her to try her hand with the mallet which she does with the relish and zeal of a thwarted homeowner, breaking away pieces until she suddenly realizes something is inside the wall. The skeleton of a young woman, obviously in the wall for many years, the walled flower, a death too soon. At this point an over-stressed Katie issues what must be the understatement of the decade, "Well, this could ruin your day."

As the insensitive and formidable homicide Detective Ray Davenport arrives and the area is cordoned off, Rose Nash, one of the older vendors at Artisan's Alley and a special friend to Katie, is allowed in when it appears she may have information about the body. She is able to identify the locket the skeleton is wearing and identifies the girl as her niece Heather, who disappeared 22 years before. From the moment of identification, this story takes on a life of its own, involving many people, possible suspects, and more bodies piling up. As usual, the detective does not seem to be moving, or at the very least moving in the right direction, so Rose becomes Katie's sidekick as they investigate together, a partnership I found very satisfying and would enjoy seeing again. Rose proves herself reliable and quick.

In the meantime, between the looming wedding, the accusations of thefts, a child left unattended by the accusator, the hunt for a place to live (and wondering why current boyfriend Andy won't let her rent his apartment over the store) and more, Katie is quickly becoming overwhelmed. Searching for an apartment introduces her to some very strange owners! She is aided, and sometimes abetted, by various members of the Alley. Many surprises are in store for the reader. This is an enjoyable romp with action all through. I did not want to put the book down, though I often felt I needed to catch my breath. A wonderful cozy read.