Thursday 28 July 2016



By Kathleen Winter

When Kathleen Winter is offered a chance to journey through the relatively unknown waters of the Northwest Passage, she responds truthfully, “My bags are already packed.”  As a writer, Winter is always ready to embark on a journey and she’s fascinated by the mysteries of the Arctic.  In her memoir, Boundless, she is joined by researchers, scientists, musicians, artists and members of the Inuit community, learning from each other as they travel to this legendary place.

Winter uses the voyage to revisit and release the ghosts of her past.  Her explorations mix with biography as we learn about her life.  Winter takes us through the death of her first husband, to whom she said farewell with a Viking funeral; she took all of his belongings out to sea in a raft and lit them on fire, all the while circling the raft in a rowboat and watching this closed chapter of her life burn behind her.

As she travels, Winter also explores the idea of “belonging”, questioning whether a person can really belong to a land or culture outside the borders of one’s birth.  As the Arctic landscape deteriorates, she wonders how this impacts the Inuit who call this land home.  

There is an element of the spiritual to her voyage, but the physical beauty she describes is striking.  Winter’s ship travels past the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier, “greatest mother of ice in the northern hemisphere.”  She is often overcome by the purple, gold and white scenery, and scrutinizes lichen, tiny flowers, and Inuit art and artifacts.

But the Northwest Passage itself, Winter realizes, is a colonial construct.  “Northwest from where?” she asks. Her Inuit companions assure her that no one who lives in the north calls it the Northwest Passage, and Winter attempts to deconstruct her own colonial ideals in order to see the Arctic lands with new eyes.

Winter learns much from her Inuit companions, who act as cultural guides as well as gun bearers, essential for the passengers’ protection in polar bear country.  An unexpected detour has these visitors following the path of the doomed Franklin expedition.  The realization that these Arctic waters are still, to some degree, uncharted, gives the sense that these travelers are truly explorers.

Boundless is non-fiction but highly readable.  Those who love travel will especially enjoy it!

Wednesday 13 July 2016

The Paris Wife

The Paris Wife The Paris Wife
Paula McLain

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, is a lilting story of the life of Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson. Written from Hadley’s perspective, we get an inside look to what it was like to be a woman in the 1920’s married to a chauvinistic, self-obsessed man who is trying to make a name for himself in the literary world. It truly has the feel of an autobiography, although it is merely based on McLain’s historical research of the couple.

The love story opens in 1920 when Hadley and Ernest first meet. It starts as one of those boy pursues girl stories, in which Ernest chases and finally marries Hadley. Their marriage is one of deep love for each other, and lasts, perhaps longer than it should because of two things, the time period in which it occurred and Hadley’s deep feelings for Ernest. 

While Ernest goes off every day to write the “one true sentence” he seeks, Hadley is left in their meagre apartment to amuse herself. Although Hadley’s trust fund finances their early married life, and Ernest seeks her honest opinion of much of his writing, she is not his equal, and her identity is tightly tied to her husband. Eventually she does return to her music and is just finding herself, going as far as planning a concert performance when their marriage reaches a turning point which causes her to cancel. 

The best times of their marriage seem to be when they escape Paris for the Alps and have some real family time. It is during these holidays that Ernest is not so obsessed with his own writing and is occupied with other activities, allowing them to be truly together. 

However, Ernest’s frequent affairs and quick temper wear on Hadley, finally culminating in her ability to end the marriage on her terms. 

I enjoyed this story, and was able to sympathize with Hadley as she put up with Ernest’s behaviour. At times I was frustrated with all she endured, although the writing is very matter of fact and guides the reader to realize a woman’s limitations within the life and times of 1920’s Paris. The ending comes just as we are ready to give up on Hadley’s happiness, and I was glad that later on she did find someone who appreciated all she had to offer.

Friday 8 July 2016

The Kill by Jane Casey

The Kill
The Kill
by Jane Casey

I read a lot of mysteries, but surprisingly I have not read anything by Jane Casey before. I’m not sure how I missed her over the years, but I am really glad I stumbled upon her books. The Kill is the fifth book in Jane Casey’s fantastic Maeve Kerrigan’s series. The books build upon each other, but you don’t necessarily need to read them in order.

Maeve Kerrigan is a young DC in the Metropolitan Police in London. She is smart, ambitious and strong, but she is also vulnerable, temperamental and flawed. Her partner and senior officer DI Josh Derwent is all rough edges, has the subtlety of sledgehammer, and has an unrepentant sexist approach that would have most women screaming in rage. Despite this, he grows on you and there is a fascinating chemistry between both characters that’s completely unexpected and just right.

The Kill has a really intriguing plot. It all starts when a police officer is found shot in is car in a part in a secluded part of a city park. What was he doing there? Was he alone? Was he killed because of something in his personal life? Or could he have been attacked because of something he was working on? These are the questions in Kerrigan and Derwent’s minds when they get another call: a second policeman is also found dead, and then another. Suddenly, the police go from being the protectors to needing protection less they fall prey to a relentless and vicious cop killer. No one knows where of how the killer will strike again or have any clues on how to stop him.

The pace of this book was just right with the perfect combination of mystery and character development. I loved how everything in the plot was connected. Looking back on it, I can see how all the clues were there in the smallest details pointing in the right direction, but it still left me guessing until the very end.

I have no hesitation in recommending The Kill for fans of complex mysteries with a hearty dose of character development.  Other similar mysteries you might enjoy are those by Robert Galbraith, Kelley Armstrong, Mo Hayder and Tess Gerritsen.

A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic
A Darker Shade of Magic
by Victoria Schwab

Just when I thought that there was nothing new under the sun, I stumbled upon “A Darker Shade of Magic” by Victoria Schwab. At first glance, this fantasy has many elements that might be familiar to readers of the genre: invented languages, magic, a large cast of characters, and political drama. However, dig a little deeper and you might find, like I did, a novel like no other. Unique, is not a word that I use lightly when describing a book, but this one has earned it.

Picture four different parallel worlds, each with a city named London. There is Red London, where magic flows freely, bringing beauty and laughter. There is Grey London, where magic has been gone for so long, no one believes it ever existed anymore. Then there is White London, where people and magic are in a constant fight for control. And then there is Black London, but no one speaks of it any more.

Once upon a time, any one with some magic in them was able to cross from one world to another using magical doors and pathways. But then Black London happened and the doors were closed forever. Only Antari magicians have the power to travel between worlds.

Kell is the adopted son of the King and Queen of Red London. As the only Antari in Red London, Kell serves his adopted family by carrying messages between the royals from each London. When a series of unfortunate events have Kell fleeing into Grey London, he crosses paths with Delilah Bard, a pickpocket with a hunger for adventure. She first robs him, then saves his life, and then forces him into taking her with him because in her own words, Delilah would “rather die on an adventure than live standing still”.

And Lilah might just get her wish when a lost relic from Black London resurfaces that threatens to destroy everything and everyone.

I loved, loved this book. It was a fantastic read filled with interesting and colourful characters, adventure, and an imaginative world unlike anything I’ve read before. Schwab has a way of presenting fantastic things in such a manner that even the unbelievable becomes believable and relatable. I recommend this book for those readers who want adventure, some excitement and even a bit of danger in their books.