Sunday, January 11, 2015

Review: Green Grass, Running Water, by Thomas King

Green Grass, Running WaterGreen Grass, Running Water by Thomas King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Without doubt Thomas King is the secret and wickedly clever twin of Salman Rushdie. Green Grass, Running Water is my introduction to this master of magic realism, and what an introduction it has been.

In the first third of the novel I realized bedtime reading this novel should not be (echoes of Yoda there), because the narrative, weighted heavily toward sharp, incisive dialogue, required a reader fully awake, engaged and firing on all cylinders. (Warp 9, Number One!)

By the second third I realized I needed to rein in the rapid-fire narrative and set about reading as though I were a beginner, pausing on each word, each phrase, because without that sort of careful consideration I would be sure to lose the avalanche of nuance Thomas King wields with careless, effortless abandon.

Dear god I wish I could write like that!

The novel abounds with metaphor, both subtle and sledge-hammer: the four elders who are escapees from a home for the mentally challenged, who assume the identities of Ishmael, Robinson Crusoe, The Lone Ranger and Hawkeye. There are the derelict cars Nissan and Pinto, one red, one blue; the puddle become lake that follows both vehicles; the lone cabin at the bottom of a dam which is known to be flawed and has yet to work; a woman seeking motherhood but not a husband; an appliance salesman seeking freedom; Coyote and Old Coyote attempting to narrate the genesis story.... I could go on. But the mind stutters and pauses and seeks breath. And even with all these seemingly disparate stories, King weaves the threads together into a lustrous cloth.

This is a rich, lavish, humorous and irreverent novel that will change the way you think about story-telling and the world in general.

Highly recommended. But read when you're completely awake!

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Friday, January 2, 2015

First sale for 2015

Received notification yesterday I've sold my short story, Dreams of the Moon, to Garden Gnome Publications' Garden of Eden anthology. How cool is that?


This is another small triumph for me, given I don't have an abundance of time to devote to my own writing now I've donned the publisher's hat. And this story in particular I'm very pleased to have sold, because it certainly isn't mainstream nor commercial. In fact it's a purely speculative piece. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Joy from me to you

As a girl I have wonderful memories of singing carols in St. Paul's Anglican cathedral in Toronto with the Havergal choir. One of my favourites was Angels We Have Heard on High. I remember how our voices seemed to rise and collect in those towering, vaulted ceilings, creating a sublime resonance that could bring tears to the most arctic of hearts.

In tribute to that memory, but with a fresh, modern jazz vibe, I thought I'd share with you a music video by the hugely talented group, Pentatonix.

Wishing all of you joy.


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Review: Was, by Geoff Ryman

WasWas by Geoff Ryman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Geoff Ryman clearly demonstrates his prowess as a writer with his novel Was. This is a tragic exploration of the Dorothy/Oz culture of L. Frank Baum from both an historical and modern perspective.

Ryman chooses the voice of a fictional inspiration for Baum's story, that of Dorothy Gael, who is orphaned due to a diphtheria epidemic, and is sent to live in Kansas with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry. That story explores the benign neglect of Dorothy and the eventual destruction of what had been an innocent, intelligent, creative soul under the weight of religious zeal, ignorance, and the inability to control primal needs.

As a counterpoint to that tragedy, Ryman also introduces the character of Jonathan, with whom we journey from his boyhood struggle with autism through his tragic demise as an AIDS sufferer.

The story is told with an honest, compelling narrative, beautiful in its delivery, rending in its simplicity. Highly recommended.

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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Review: Keeper'n Me, by Richard Wagamese

Keeper'n MeKeeper'n Me by Richard Wagamese
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It is difficult to offer literary comment on a novel which is, in fact, the first published by Richard Wagamese, and second all but autobiographical.

Certainly if one were to study Wagamese's work it would be easy to identify the promising talent of an emerging author with this his first published work. Keeper'n Me offers a great deal to the canon of Canadian literature. There is a deft handling of the idiom of language and dialect. He does create evocative images and settings. Wagamese certainly is capable of drawing emotional response from his readers.

However, as compared to his later work, in particular Indian Horse (in which Wagamese demonstrates an author come to maturity and comfortable with his craft), there is a naivete to Keeper'n Me which does discredit to the very real issues that form the foundation of the novel, and the talent of the author.

In telling the story of an Ojibway boy who is seized by Children's Aid authorities and raised severed from his heritage, Wagamese ends up portraying the return of a lost soul to his remote, reservation community. There, he finally comes to accept his birthright.

It has the makings of a moving and profound tale. In its own way the novel is. But it could have been more. Had Wagamese refrained from sketching life on a reserve without water facilities, hydro, sufficient housing as one virtually without hardship, where the people are generally content, relatively well-adjusted, in constant laughter, and all pursuing the path of their ancient paradigms, there would have been a greater ring of truth. Unfortunately, there is a bit of a feeling of Disney in the background, of rainbows and chattering, befriended wildlife.

And that is very sad indeed. Still, Keeper'n Me is worth reading, if for no other reason than to further discover Wagamese's later work and come to understand the profound development of an emerging Canadian author.

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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Three reviews

Have been a bit busy of late and am catching up on reviews. There are three today, varying widely in subject matter and genre.


Kraken BakeKraken Bake by Karen Dudley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dudley absolutely captivated me with the first in this series: Food for the Gods, and the sequel Kraken Bake follows the wit, humour, whimsy and galloping good narrative of the first.

Our hero, Pelops, celebrity chef to Athens' elite populace and pantheon of gods and demigods, finds himself in deep disfavour with Poseidon, to the point he cannot take advantage of the surfeit of kraken (thanks to the California-stylin' hero, Perseus) in which Athens finds itself awash. And it is imperative, Pelops is sure, that he overcome Poseidon's jinx in order to win the culinary competition of the century to be held in Dionysus' amphitheatre.

Filled by turns with deeds dastardly and benevolent, this is simply an intelligent, rocketing good read. Highly recommended, especially for lovers of all things culinary and mythological.

Well done, Karen Dudley! Well done!

And you will please forgive the reviewer the many puns and allusions.

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The Next Sure Thing (Rapid Reads)The Next Sure Thing by Richard Wagamese
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A gritty, crusty, very male-oriented novella from Richard Wagamese, exploring the underbelly of mobsters, playing race track odds, and an Ojibwa man just trying to make his way in the world.

A bit naive in its ending, but given the Rapid Reads series is likely geared toward YA readers, understandable.

As always Wagamese delivers remarkable detail, although in this story I felt his characters were a bit predictable and cardboard.

Still and all, a good read, if not one of Wagamese's best offerings.

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Him StandingHim Standing by Richard Wagamese
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another in Orca's Rapid Reads series, Wagamese delivers a novella drawing from his own rich Ojibwa heritage, this time sketching the story of a wood carver commissioned to carve a mask. The story which unfolds is a classic power-play between dark and light, good and evil, in this case of a dark shaman who wishes to resurrect an evil shaman of old.

Guided by an Ojibwa elder, the carver discovers the power of his own ancestors, and a way to defeat the emergence of an ancient and destructive power.

Again, a bit naive in its delivery, and with a definite feeling of being rushed through the story, I felt Wagamese was unable to deliver his usual rich world-building and story-telling ability.

Still, a good read, and one which would certainly appeal to a younger audience.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Review: The Door in the Mountain, by Caitlin Sweet

The Door in the MountainThe Door in the Mountain by Caitlin Sweet
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Caitlin Sweet approaches ancient Greek mythology from the YA market with a dark retelling of Ariadne and the minotaur's labyrinth at Crete.

Sweet's world shudders with the power of the gods. It seems near everyone but Ariadne has some eldritch and scintillating ability, mostly misdirected and excessive. Therein lies the undercurrent of Sweet's story: Ariadne's envy of the gods-given powers bestowed on everyone but her, but most especially her envy of her brother who is the minotaur.

One would think with such powerful myth and motivation Sweet's story would sweep away the reader, but somehow the story stutters under the weight of all that adolescent angst. Ariadne becomes a predictable and unlikeable antihero who whines and plots and inflicts pain as though that were her own god-given power.

Unlike Sweet's earlier novel, The Pattern Scars, there is a lack of depth in The Door in the Mountain, a parsimony in her former elegant phrasing, character development and narrative arc. It is a readable story, indeed quite consumable. But for this reader it is a disappointing second novel, lacking the considerable talent of her earlier work.

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