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If you still have a few names left on your Christmas list, or if you’re looking for something to read on your days off during the holidays – here are a few ideas! I’ve reviewed a few dozen books this year, and here are my top 10 picks of 2014. So head to your local bookstore and pick up the one that catches your eye. Then, curl up on the couch, pour yourself some eggnog, and read away!   FICTION Interference: When I first started reading Interference, I wasn’t convinced that a novel made up (partly) of standalone short stories could flow nicely. I was soon surprised at just how expertly Michelle Berry was able to lace everything together into a fast-paced, suspenseful, and powerful page-turner. She reminds you that no one’s life is perfect, that you shouldn’t be jealous of someone else’s gains because you don’t know what their lives might be missing. SEE MORE…  Crimes Against My Brother: David Adams Richards is undoubtedly a gifted writer. I’m stunned at how he was able to create such a complicated, twisted tale. Every single movement, phrase, object, minor character in this story has a purpose. It may take several ... Read more

BOOKENDS REVIEW: Will Starling by Ian Weir

Will Starling Ian Weir Fiction SYNOPSIS: Will Starling is a surgeon’s assistant in a post-Napoleonic-War world of scientific discovery and Romanticism.   The story is set in London in 1816. Starling’s mentor, Alec Comrie, is one of the most skilled surgeons in town. But most of all, he is honest. That’s in contrast to an old schoolmate, Dionysus Atherton. Atherton is certainly talented. He’s also ambitious, greedy, and will give bribes whenever he can to get his way. He wants to be remembered as a revolutionary in the scientific world, and to accomplish his goals he will sink to the lowest of lows.   Starling begins to question Atherton’s practices when a woman witnesses the surgeon seemingly bring a body back to life. As he investigates Atherton, Starling comes across the Doomsday Men, grave robbers who sell corpses to some of London’s shadiest characters. MY THOUGHTS: This was a book I read next to the fireplace once the sun went down. With the book set in the early 1800s, a room lit by candlelight seemed only fitting as a backdrop for this reading experience. I would describe the book as a bit of a Frankenstein mystery, with some Jack the ... Read more

BOOKENDS REVIEW: All My Puny Sorrows (Writers' Trust fiction prize winner)

All My Puny Sorrows Miriam Toews Fiction **Miriam Toews was awarded the 2014 Rogers Writers’ Trust of Canada fiction prize and shortlisted for the 2014 Giller Prize for All My Puny Sorrows. SYNOPSIS: Yoli and Elf love each other. The sisters would do anything for each other. But when Elf asks Yoli to do her one last favour, one that would end Elf’s life, Yoli isn’t sure she can do it. Elf, the successful, talented, happily married sister, only wants to die. Yoli, the divorced and broke sister, wants to keep Elf alive. Yoli tries everything to convince Elf that her life is worth living. Will she convince Elf, or will Elf convince Yoli otherwise? MY THOUGHTS: Miriam Toews delves deep into the miserable topic of suicide without saddling you with too much emotional weight. I don’t mean to say that the book is light, the whole story is about sorrow and death. But Toews makes it more about having an earnest discussion on mental health, and less about a depressing succession of events. What startled me a bit is how quick and uneventful the most dramatic moments seem. You might not think that a “dramatic” moment could be “uneventful.” ... Read more

BOOKENDS REVIEW: The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy Rachel Joyce Fiction SYNOPSIS: Rachel Joyce calls this a companion novel to her first book, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.  In that debut novel, Harold Fry receives a letter from an old friend, Queenie Hennessy, informing him that she is dying of cancer. Harold writes a letter in return. But as he makes his way to the post office, he realizes he can’t stop walking. He decides that no matter what, he has to get to Queenie himself before she dies. She has to wait for him as he walks across the country to get to her. In The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, we hear the other side of the story. As Queenie lies in a hospice bed waiting for Harold to arrive, her past comes rushing back. She realizes that her first letter to Harold wasn’t enough. She begins to write a second one, revealing something she has been hiding from him for 20 years. MY THOUGHTS: Queenie Hennessy has a nice mix of grief and guilt, as well as happiness and subtle humour.   Two years ago, Rachel Joyce created a lovable character named Harold Fry. And ... Read more

BOOKENDS REVIEW: Coming Ashore (A memoir)

Coming Ashore Catherine Gildiner Non-fiction (memoir) ABOUT THE BOOK: Coming Ashore is Catherine Gildiner’s third memoir, covering her life from the late ‘60s to the early ‘70s. And what a life she’s had. First, Catherine goes off to Oxford, where she studies poetry and gets a firsthand lesson on British society. And she hangs out with Jimi Hendrix. She then travels back to Ohio where she works as a teacher during the Hough Riots, a tense six days in a predominantly African-American community. When she moves to Canada, Catherine ends up living with members of the FLQ. Along the way, she has endless adventures and mishaps. MY THOUGHTS: The situations that Catherine Gildiner has gotten herself into are incredible. Some of the people she’s met are remarkably fascinating. She herself admits that memories are subjective. She tells her story in the way that she interprets her experiences. There’s no way that she has remembered every conversation retold in her memoir the way it actually happened. But that doesn’t matter. Gildiner will entertain you. She’ll make you laugh. She’ll make your mouth drop at times. She might also remind you of your own adventures. As I was reading about her years ... Read more