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Showing posts from 2017

Imagine if your best friend was an ancient oak tree

In life, you don't need a lot of friends. You only need one good friend who is by your side, day after day, through thick and thin. For one little boy, that best friend is Bertolt. 

But Bertolt, isn't like any other best friend. See, Bertolt is an ancient oak tree. 

And this little boy loves Bertolt. He spends a lot of time hanging out with this 500-year-old oak tree (he estimates that's Bertolt's age based on his scientific calculation of another tree that was cut down beside it.) 

Springtime is especially beautiful, when he can hang out in the coolest hangout ever, spying on the neighbourhood below. Bertolt's leaves create the best privacy for the boy. Nothing gets past this little boy. Not the lawyer's daughter kissing Kevin, or the Tucker twins stealing bottle from the grocer and selling them back to him. Nope, there is so many interesting things to see and do when you hang out on the high branches of Bertolt. 

Then winter arrives, and the boy must say goodbye …

Liam Takes A Stand by Tory Wilsom and Josh Holinaty

This book tries to pack a wallop of teaching moments into it, and actually succeeds.
Lesson 1:  Work Hard. Work Smart.
Lesson 2:  Sibling Rivalry Is Real
Lesson 3 When Life Throws You Lemons, Make Lemonade

Liam has two brothers older than him. Lister and Lester are identical twins, who are constantly busy trying to outdo one another. Regardless of the activity, their first instinct is to compete with it each other. 

All Liam really wants, is to hang out with his brothers and do things with them. But they barely notice him. 
The twins are too busy trying to figure out what their next big competition will be.

One day, a bit of entrepreneurial spirit strikes and they open up rival lemonade stands outside their house. Lester first starts the game opening up a Lemonade Universe. Which immediately prompts Lister to open his own Lemonade Multiverse. 
This just escalates the competitiveness. Each one trying to outdo the other in their branding, product development and even execution, in the effort to ge…

In Focus by Libby Walden

Ten illustrators.
Ten subjects.
One fascinating book.

Looking at 101 wonders of the world from the outside, in, ten illustrators including Tracey Tucker, Thomas Pullin, Barbara Bakos and Chester Bentley, explore a subject in depth, in an attempt to provide unique perspective and ignite in kids, a curiosity for the world and our fascinating planet. 

From cutaways, to close-ups to cross sections, this interactive book is engaging and a pleasure to indulge in. Both parents and kids will enjoy learning about everything from famous landmarks to fruit, and the natural world, to vehicles. 

Close-Ups allow you to enjoy a fresh perspective by looking at the world from the outside, in. 

Cross Sections slice through 101 objects, animals, and buildings to reveal some extraordinary interiors. 

Cutaways allow the reader to reveal wonderful surprises. 

One of my favourites is the section on buildings of the world that includes the Taj Mahal, the Colosseum, St. Basil's Cathedral and The White House. Did …

Love Comes In All Sizes

Me Tall, You Small by Lilli L'Arronge A whimsical banter between a parent and a child is represented by a pair of weasels, and delightfully captured in a series of vignettes. 

Me Tall, You Small by Lilli L'Arronge celebrates the difference between parents and kids, while highlighting their common love for each other. 

Let's face it, parents and children are different. They think differently. They look at the world from different perspectives. They disagree on almost everything. Even cookies? Yes, even cookies. But at the end of the day, they admire and love each other, and are able to find a commonality. 


There is a silliness to the word play. The book has a nice balance of banter, partly filled with nonsensical words like "whoop" "bop" and "bip", while also sprinkled with real words, that represent the moment. 

The real strength of Me Tall, You Small rests in its simplicity. Lilli L'Arronge takes …

A B.C. Blues Crime Novel

Undertow by R.M. Greenaway

BACKGROUND: This is the second in the B.C. Blues crime series set in the province of British Columbia. In the series opener, Cold Girl, constables Dion and Leith found themselves working together in the northern interior. In Undertow, they once again reunite, this time in the City of North Vancouver. For Dion, North Vancouver is a challenging comeback, and for Leith, it's a whole new experience. Both find super sized stress in the busy streets, interwoven murder investigations to solve, and the omnipresent push and pull of the Pacific on their psyches. 

The scene: A haunting murder that seems without motive. 
A young electrician is beaten up. His wife and baby girl are being tracked down too. Why? 

More twists and turns dominate the plot line. 

Who battered and asphyxiated a wealthy nightclub owner in his own garage? 

As crime series' go, this one combines all the ingredients to keep you fixated. It's no wonder the writing is dead on, after all, R.M. G…

Start April in the company of friends

CITY OF FRIENDS by Joanna TrollopeLife is unpredictable. Careers don't span like you'd like. Neither do relationships. 
City Of Friends navigates through the lives of four friends, now in their forties, whose lives steer off path...understandably. Blueprints rarely are set in stone.  The downward spiral begins with Stacey, who at the beginning of the book, has a huge upset in her existence. 
Stacey Grant has just lost her long time private  equity job, and she has no idea how she's going to deal with the incredible sense of injustice. Sixteen years at one company, and just like that, it's over. It all started because she thought she deserved some flexibility on the job. A chance to balance life and work, and an ailing mother, who's illness was starting to demand more of her time. Would this have happened if she were a man? 
Within a matter of weeks, Stacey was starting to realize that her original plan of spending long days at home with Bruno (her dog), and taking her…

The Break by Katherena Vermette

The Break by Katherena Vermette is set in Winnipeg's North End. One fateful night a crime occurs witnessed by a young Métis mother. The Break is narrated from several viewpoints, adding to the complexity and interest of the storyline. 

"I choose to live in hope," Katherena Vermette said at a Canada Reads event at Indigo Chapters last month. And when you read The Break, you see that this theme lingers in the background, despite the gut-wrenching narrative. The protagonist, perseveres. 

The story revolves around the crime committed but the reader is forced to piece together the journey captured from various viewpoints and make sense of the differing frames. Shifting narratives, by people connected with the violence, narrate the story leading up to the night of the crime, making the pacing and suspense thoroughly satisfying. All in all, there are ten perspectives that act as the magnifying glass to the solving of the mystery. One of these, is the girl at the centre of the cri…

Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis

Does human intelligence lead to happiness or misery? That’s the question at the crux of André Alexis’ Fifteen Dogs.
The book already won the 2015 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and rightfully so. Masterfully created, not to mention, a philosophical wonder, Fifteen Dogs once again won the hearts of the CanLit world to sit as one of the five finalists on the esteemed 2017 Canada Reads list. 
How do you take a book centred around dogs and make it add meaning to the modern era? Not easily, but André Alexis has managed to do it with panache. 
The novel is set in Toronto. The gods Hermes and Apollo, are already downing down a few pints at a tavern, when they decide to make a bet. A small group of animals would be ingratiated with language and intelligence. The outcome is to determine whether the theory that human intelligence is “an occasionally useful plague” is true, and whether it will cause more misery than gratification.
" I wonder", said Hermes, "what it would be like…

Company Town by Madeline Ashby

Company Town is a city-sized oil rig, set in a posthuman world. Its residents have been enhanced in some shape or form, whether it’s to make them smarter or stronger. Everyone, except for Hwa. The protagonist of Madeline Ashby’s novel has zero bio-engineered enhancements, and while this may seem like it could be limiting for her survival, it actually proves to be a great strength. 

With her martial arts expertise and her sharp wit, Hwa is always one step ahead of people who are bigger, faster, and stronger than her. She’s tough and looks it too, because of the big scar across her face. But, don’t feel sorry for her, because while this may seem like a permanent disfigurement, it actually is a huge advantage for her, as she is able to go undetected in facial recognition software.
Hwa’s a bodyguard, who teaches self-defence classes and protects sex workers. When the oil-rig is bought by a wealthy family, the Lynchs, Hwa is approached to protect the youngest member of the clan. In the meant…

The Right To Be Cold by Sheila-Watt Cloutier

One woman's story of protecting her culture, the arctic and the whole planet.
The Right To Be Cold is a memoir about Sheila-Watt Cloutier's early life in the Arctic and her fight against climate change as an adult. At a young age she and her friend Lizzie were taken from their Inuit family in New Fort Chimo, to live in Nova Scotia with Joseph and Peggy Ross. The journey south was traumatic, and as Sheila-Watt Cloultier puts it, foretelling of the struggles soon to come. 

When they arrived in Blanche, Sheila-Watt Cloutier was bedridden for the next three days, unable to eat. The Rosses felt that the faster the girls adapted to southern ways, the better it would be for them. Their diet was an important part of this adjustment, and it was the first in a long line of adjustments that they would have to make in order to survive this new journey. 

Ten years old, and very naive about what it really meant to be away from her mother, grandmother and community, she was as she puts it, &quo…

Paint like Picasso

Our stressed-out lives demand some sort of sanity and most recently this sort of therapy has emerged with an onset of a slew of creative pursuits. Trends have included colouring books, crafts, pottery, and painting. These are all things we did as kids (and loved them), now as adults, it makes sense for us to go back to that happy place.

People who know the writer in me, may not be privy to the fact that I pursued a lot of art growing up, evening winning a competition or two. But over the years, in pursuit of a career path and long work hours, I haven't painted as much as I would like. Once in a while, I frequent my favourite art stores like Deserres and Curry's and buy myself a range of art supplies. 

I recently acquired DK's book Artist's Painting Techniques, and it's just the inspiration I needed to make my part-time hobby into a full-time obsession. Growing up, I never really had any proper textbooks on art theory and techniques. We followed the teacher's guid…

The Senses Deform, The Mind Forms.

“Art is not a plaything, but a necessity, and its essence, form, is not a decorative adjustment, but a cup into which life can be poured and lifted to the lips and be tasted.”  ~ Rebecca West
Rebecca West's iconic quotation speaks to her belief of art transforming our human existence into something that is meaningful. In our lives we are inundated with materialism and simply surviving ("being"). 

But art gives us more, and coming to appreciate, and love art in its many forms need not be the purvey of an elite few. It can be learnt, but learning need not give flashbacks to arcane dryness of academia. No, for the rest of us -- the silent majority who wish to cut through the obscure jargon of art history and the inaccessibility of theory -- there is "The Art Book -- Big Ideas Simply Explained". 

The Art Book is packed with almost every tidbit of knowledge you’d care to know about your favourite artists, from Pablo Picasso to Vincent van Gogh, and those modern maestro…

Making Sense Of A World That Just Doesn't Seem To Add Up

How do you take a story about a girl with autism and make it relatable, heartwarming and funny? Well, Benjamin Ludwig sure knows the secret formula. In his first novel, his protagonist, Ginny Moon, is just a normal teenage girl who plays the flute in the school band, enjoys basketball and studies Robert Frost poems for English class. She also currently lives in her Forever Home with her Forever Mom and Forever Dad. If you didn’t quite glean from the latter statement, Ginny is an adopted child. Her Forever Parents are great and love her very much, but Ginny longs to return to her drug addict birth mother, Gloria, and take care of her Baby Doll.
So, she plans her own kidnapping. And if anyone can pull it off, it's this smart resourceful girl with a heart of gold. While kidnapping is not the savviest of solutions, Ginny's reasoning is so compelling that we are willing to take a backseat on her journey, although our hearts desperately ache for her to see reason. 
I had mixed feeling…

Do you remember the worst breakfast you've had?

Well these two sisters do. Sitting at breakfast one morning, they have a conversation and debate of the most yuckiest breakfast they've had. 
From bad eggs that were severely underdone, to porridge that was too thick, too gluey, too salty, when really it should have been creamy, made of oats, and not just what seemed like gunk scraped from the hull of boats.
But this is a conversation after all, and they continue down memory lane to recall other food disasters. One by one, they start to cross out breakfast after breakfast, arguing perhaps that it wasn't the worst after all. What about the breakfast that had far too much honey in it, so it became thick and runny, and with sticky eyes and sweetened hair, they trailed that honey everywhere? 
With such fun lyrical language, rhymes and visual intrigue, the book by China Miéville & Zak Smith is a true delight to read. It's immersive and hilarious, especially when it gets to a long list of food items that you just may think abou…

How much would you give up to live in your dream house?

Enter the world of One Folgate Street and discover perfection...but can you pay the price?
After months and months of searching for for a flat, Emma and Simon, suddenly have been made privy of the perfect house. And, it's more that perfect. It's uber perfect. Designed by a world famous architect, this house is an architectural masterpiece, boasting sleek designs and soaring ceilings, and best of all, in a desirable neighbourhood. Who in their right mind, would say no to an opportunity of a lifetime? 

That was BEFORE. 

NOW, meet Jane. She's also house hunting and frustrated with the housing stock out there, based on what she can afford. Her agent suggests a hidden opportunity, a modern house in Hendon, one bedroom but with loads of space. The address: One Folgate Street. 

Two stories. Two timelines. One House.

The chapters alternate between the two stories; Emma's story begins with a chapter heading "Then", while Jane's with "Now". The stories paralle…

After The Bloom by Leslie Shimatakahara

It was bad enough being Japanese. It was the 60s and as one of the only two girls of Asian descent in her school, Rita sensed the discrimination. She felt everything a new immigrant kid feels living in a racially skewed city. Embarrassment. Fear of rejection. A heightened sense of being perceived as different. Rita lived in constant fear that her friends would find out that there was something funny about her mom. The last thing she wanted was to be seen as both the Japanese girl and the girl with the crazy mother.
Rita’s dad left when she was less than a year old. How do you get over someone you can’t remember? The mother-daughter relationship has continued to evolve,  but the baggage and pain of the past have stayed, and the tight rope between them feels like it could snap at the touch of a finger.  

Perhaps if she had been a bit older when her dad ran off, Rita may have seen her mom's aloneness as a distinctive change from an earlier, happier state. For Lily, struggling to get by…