Monday, 17 September 2018

Sometimes I Lie

Sometimes I Lie
Sometimes I Lie

By Alice Feeney
Sometimes I Lie, by Alice Feeney is a psychological thriller, a genre that I rarely choose as I don’t like to sleep with the light on. However, I have recently delved into this type of book a little. Having survived The Girl on the Train, I thought I would try Feeney’s novel on the recommendation of a friend.  I did not end up checking under the bed or in the closet, but this story definitely got me thinking….thinking that I didn’t really know what to believe or who to trust.

Told from the point of view of our main character, Amber, she begins by telling us a little about herself:

My name is Amber Reynolds.
There are three things you should know about me:
1. I'm in a coma.
2. My Husband doesn't love me anymore.
3. Sometimes I lie.

Amber lies in hospital in a coma hearing all that goes on around her, but not being able to open her eyes or to speak. Through her listening she begins to piece together and remember what happened in the week leading up to her current state, and the reader is learning right along with her. The chapters alternate between Amber’s thoughts in her hospital room, the events of the week before and Amber’s childhood diaries. 

There are so many twists and turns as we read along, at one point I had to go back and read a piece again as I just couldn’t believe what I had read. 

I am sorry I can’t tell you anymore without giving away the plot, but you can easily find out for yourself (and I recommend you do) as it is a quick read and a cliffhanger all the way through.

Friday, 7 September 2018

The Overstory

The Overstory
The Overstory

By Richard Powers

The most wondrous products of four billion years of life need help.” (p.165)  In Richard Powers’ novel The Overstory, trees, the powerhouses of the Earth, draw in a cast of characters from vastly different backgrounds. 

There’s Nicholas Hoel, whose family has spent generations documenting the growth of the Hoel Chestnut tree with one photograph a month over a series of lifetimes; Olivia Vandergriff, whose college party days are stopped dead by her electrocution; and Mimi Ma, whose Chinese immigrant father instilled a love of trees in his three daughters.  There’s Neelay Mehta, whose fall from a tree made him a paraplegic, an accident which spurred him to create digital worlds that take gamers beyond the bounds of Earth.  And there’s Patricia Westerford, a dendrologist whose studies have brought tree communication to the attention of the scientific community and beyond.

There are many more characters as well, each of whom has a moment of insight which focuses their attention on the plight of the forests.  Each is moved to do something to save them. Nicholas and Olivia, in fact, spend an entire year living in an old-growth tree to prevent its destruction.  

When Nick and Olivia team up with Mimi, Adam and Douglas, all of whom have been inspired to join the ranks of the anti-logging movement, they begin to plan their own actions that grow more and more dangerous.  Protests lead to arson, which leads to something far beyond what they expect.

Meanwhile, Neelay continues to expand his digital worlds, realizing that the Earth can no longer meet the needs of human desire.  And Dr. Westerford continues her research, proving that trees have communication systems, can sense impending disaster, live in tandem with surrounding animals, and provide untold healing and pharmaceuticals to humans.

All of these diverse characters and stories are linked by the overarching story of the tree.  Powers fills The Overstory with scientific facts and a wealth of information about trees and the forest.  Part epic, part popular science, part political manifesto, The Overstory is a riveting and timely tale.  As each character takes a stand to protect the forests, whether it’s in the protest camp or their own backyard, readers are forced to consider their own position and whether the long term damage we inflict on the Earth can be justified by our ever-growing desire for more.

Saturday, 1 September 2018

Murder at the House of Rooster Happiness

by: David Casarett 

Ladarat Patalung, nurse ethicist, widow, amateur sleuth? At the Sriphat Hospital in Chang Mai, Thailand, Ladarat is approached by a local detective to help solve a potential case of murder.  A woman brought her husband to the emergency room where he then passed away. This is nothing strange in a hospital; however, what is strange is that a staff member thinks they’ve seen that same woman come in before, but with a different husband who also died just as suddenly! As a nurse ethicist, Ladarat has a gift for communication and empathy, two talents she employs to great effect to solve this mystery.

Murder at the House of Rooster Happiness is a light, cozy mystery with an exotic setting.  Beyond the intriguing mystery of the woman with multiple dying husbands, there are also a number of smaller mysteries in the hospital that Ladarat uses her skills to solve. While there were a number of storylines happening at once, the author handles them all quite well and the story never feels disjointed.  What made this book a stand out for me was the connection it had to Thai culture. There was a lot of description of Thai food, Thai phrases, and my favourite, the different types of Thai smiles. Each smile has a Thai name and description that make it easy to envision exactly what facial expression is happening in the scene.  These added tidbits throughout the story were so fun to read. 

Murder at the House of Rooster Happiness is a good read for fans of Alexander McCall Smith’s No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. Strong female characters, exotic setting, and mystery solving based on human character rather than forensics are all characteristics of both series that make for a cozy, enjoyable read.

Sunday, 26 August 2018


Uprooted by Naomi Novik had me from the first line: “Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, not matter what stories they tell outside our valley.” There is something about fairy tales that always grabs the imagination regardless of the reader’s age, especially if there is a dragon involved. Novik takes everything I ever liked about fairy tales and combines it into a wonderful story.                                                                                                                                                                                                                Novik brilliantly develops interesting characters and builds a magical world that is both beautiful and terrifying. Agnieszka, the main character, could have easily fallen into the cliché “chosen one” stereotype that is so common in fantasy, but she escapes that horrible fate by being well-developed with strengths and weaknesses. The Dragon in the story is not exactly a dragon, although he might be said to have the personality of one, and the prince is most definitely not Prince Charming. The world Agnieszka inhabits is one of constant danger. The Woods is full of a malignant presence that is constantly taking over land, animals and people and corrupting them. No one knows exactly what this presence is, how long has it been there or why it is doing what is doing. The only clear thing is that is you become corrupted, you will die a horrible death, but not before hurting everyone around you and infecting anyone you touch.

Agnieszka’s town is just on the border with the Woods, and it is under the protection of the wizard known as the Dragon. Every ten years the Dragon takes a maiden to serve him. Agnieszka is terrified of the fast approaching choosing. She knows the dragon will take her best friend Kasia. The Dragon always takes the most talented girl, or the most beautiful, or the bravest; and Kasia is all of those things. No one is more surprised than Agnieszka when the Dragon takes her instead. As happy as she is that her friend is safe, Agnieszka is scared for herself. No one knows what the Dragon does with his maidens, but it can’t be anything good. They all left when their time was done, never to be seen again.

I recommend this book to anyone that enjoys dark fairy tales with a tad of magic, a bunch of danger and a dose of creepiness.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Love and Other Consolation Prizes

Love and Other Consolation Prizes
By Jamie Ford

Love and Other Consolation Prizes is another lovely historical tale from Jamie Ford, author of The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. It is based on the true story of a Chinese boy who was raffled off at the 1909 Seattle's World’s Fair, when the owner of the charity house where he had been living put him forward as the grand prize. 

Ernest is that 12-year-old boy who comes to live at the Tenderloin, a high class brothel, when the flamboyant owner buys out the raffle to ensure she wins. Brought to the Tenderloin as the house boy, Ernest’s new home is a welcome change since arriving in America from China on a boat at the age of 5. He quickly befriends two young girls living at the house, Maisie, the daughter of the brothel’s madam, and Fahn, a maid. Ernest settles in and develops a sense of family and home through their friendship. 

However, things begin to fall apart when the house madam increasingly suffers an illness that jeopardizes the well-being of the house and its residents. 

Fast forward to 1962, and the World’s Fair is once again in Seattle and Ernest is reluctantly remembering his life in Seattle fifty years ago. His grown daughter, a journalist, is digging into the past and asking uncomfortable questions to which Ernest does not want to tell her the answers. Ernest struggles to care for his ailing wife, whose memories threaten to expose family secrets he would rather protect his daughters from. 

This historical story is told in alternating chapters from the present and the past, transporting the reader between each time while dealing with equality, social justice, class issues, and women’s rights of the times, yet also giving us a heartwarming story of enduring love and the importance of family and home.

For other popular reading suggestions check out Richmond Public Library's Web site at 

Sunday, 5 August 2018

The Lost Diaries of Susanna Moodie

The Lost Diaries of Susanna Moodie
The Lost Diaries of Susanna Moodie

Cecily Ross' The Lost Diaries of Susanna Moodie is a fictional and very readable account of the life of Susanna Moodie, a Canadian pioneer and one of Canada's earliest writers.

Lost Diaries begins during Susanna’s youth in 1815 England.  In a home of eight children, including six girls, there is little chance that everyone will receive a dowry.  Only the eldest and most attractive sisters are slated for marriage, but Susanna’s interests lie elsewhere: in writing.

Unlike many girls of the time, the sisters receive some education and are able to immerse themselves in London’s literary scene.  Susanna and several siblings, including
beloved companion Kate and older sister Agnes, become writers.  Despite their lack of means, they are well-regarded in the community and find “patrons” who act as second fathers.  Their writing appears in various publications.

Although Susanna is not wealthy, she is unabashedly class conscious, stating, “I have lived in proximity to the lower classes all my life… They had their place and I had mine.” (p. 155)
Against her own expectations, Susanna meets and falls in love with John Moodie, an ebullient man with a zest for life and a hankering to explore.  Once she and John marry, they decide to move to Canada where land is ripe for the picking.

The move brings Susanna’s progressive lifestyle to a crashing halt.  Canada, it turns out, is little more than dense bush, rocky soil and muddy roads.  Its population is undereducated and does not take kindly to being looked down upon by the likes of Susanna.

So begins several years of “roughing it” and producing many children while John Moodie pursues a host of “get rich quick” schemes that sink the Moodies deeper and deeper into debt.  They endure years of abject poverty – a life that Susanna never imagined.

But despite the drudgery, the Canadian wilderness works its way into Susanna’s heart.  The majestic trees and hidden lakes hold a magic that the Moodies never encountered in England.  The indigenous people are welcoming and knowledgeable. Susanna’s haughtiness diminishes in the face of her new-found life and although she continues to write, she is humbled by her fellow wilderness inhabitants. 

Lost Diaries tells of a journey from old world to new, but is also the journey of a human soul. Susanna experiences the birthing pains of a new country, and discovers her true identity along the way.