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BOOKENDS REVIEW: Business or Blood: Mafia Boss Vito Rizzuto's Last War

Business or Blood: Mafia Boss Vito Rizzuto’s Last War Peter Edwards and Antonio Nicaso Non-fiction ABOUT THE BOOK: This is the story of Canada’s “godfather” and the lead-up to his “last war.” While Vito Rizzuto sat in a Colorado prison, two of the closest men in his life were killed – his oldest son Nick Rizzuto Jr, and his father Niccolo Rizzuto. When Vito returned home from prison, his enemies started dropping like flies. All of a sudden, Vito morphed from the Mafia boss who brought crime groups together to get business done, to a man with a vendetta. Business or Blood goes through many years of history of the Rizzuto family, as well as that of other Mafia clans in Quebec, Ontario, the U.S. and Italy, that led up to Vito’s last days. MY THOUGHTS: There is so much that I’ve wanted to say about this book as I’ve been reading it but now that I’ve finished, all I keep thinking about is the end. Unlike with fiction, I can finally talk about the end of a book in my review because what happens is factual and well known. This is the first non-fiction book I’ve read that has ... Read more

BOOKENDS REVIEW: The Illuminations

The Illuminations Andrew O’Hagan Fiction SYNOPSIS: At 82, Anne Quirk has dementia. It’s not her illness, though, that has caused her to alter the reality of her past. When she was young, Anne was an innovative photographer. What is unclear to her family is when and why she lost her art.     Her grandson Luke is a member of the British army trying to bring peace to Afghanistan. Luke questions the purpose of his presence there, and when a mission goes horribly wrong, he returns home.   Luke decides to take his grandmother on a journey through her past. They visit Blackpool, where Anne has a history full of untold stories. MY THOUGHTS: Anne is a fascinating character. You’ll spend most of the book trying to figure her out, until her real story is revealed. Not many people are able to show the truth of life like Anne can in her photographs. And yet she lives a dream, a life full of secrets and fictions as she hides from the truth. Her struggle with dementia only intensifies her fantasies. Andrew O’Hagan’s writing is like an echo of Anne’s dementia. The story, the characters’ memories and thoughts jump back and forth. ... Read more

BOOKENDS REVIEW: The Hunger of the Wolf

The Hunger of the Wolf Stephen Marche Fiction SYNOPSIS: Two hunters find a body in the snow in Alberta. Naked. Curled in the cold. A body worth $27-billion. It’s Ben Wylie, the eighth-richest person in the world. Set in the U.S., the U.K., and the Alberta wilderness, the story follows the lives of three generations of the Wylie family. Over several decades, the Wylie men build a business dynasty worth billions of dollars. As their wealth and power grows, the struggles they face may change but not diminish. After Ben’s death, struggling journalist Jamie Cabot, who’s also the son of the Wylie family’s housekeepers, sets out to find out how and why his life came to such a miserable end. MY THOUGHTS: Through the lives of three generations of the Wylie family, Stephen Marche shows the complexity of money, desire, loneliness and the eternal search for satisfaction. He adds a genre twist with a touch of fantasy in the form of werewolves. Money is a problem for those who have it, for those who don’t, for those who don’t know what to do with it, and for those who always want more. What's most interesting to me in the book ... Read more

BOOKENDS REVIEW: Vanessa and Her Sister (Historical Fiction)

Vanessa and Her Sister Priya Parmar Historical Fiction SYNOPSIS: Set in London in the early 1900s, the story revolves around the Stephen siblings – Vanessa, Virginia (Woolf), Adrian and Thoby – and the Bloomsbury Group of artistic friends that they bring together. The circle of intellectuals gathers in the Stephen household before any of them have met with real success. Of course we know that eventually names like Virginia Woolf, E. M. Forster, John Maynard Keynes, Lytton Strachey and Roger Fry will become renowned. The story focuses on the dedicated sisters, Vanessa and Virginia. Their relationship takes a sharp turn when Vanessa gets married. Virginia feels abandoned and becomes terrified that the family is being torn apart. MY THOUGHTS: As the title suggests, this book is very much about the relationship between two sisters with opposing personalities. Even though Vanessa is the narrator, it’s Virginia that grabs your attention. Priya Parmar’s Virginia Woolf is needy, desperate, and competitive. You’ll be begging Vanessa to stand up to her once and for all, and yet some part of you will want to forgive Virginia for her faults. Parmar says in her Author’s Note that while the external chronologies are mostly accurate, the ... Read more

INTERVIEW: The Devil You Know (psychological thriller)

The Devil You Know Elisabeth de Mariaffi Fiction LISTEN: I chat with author Elisabeth de Mariaffi about part of the inspiration behind the book, her own memory of getting a phone call from police when her friend Sharin’ Keenan disappeared in 1983. SYNOPSIS: As rookie reporter Evie Jones covers the arrest of Paul Bernardo in 1993, she is haunted by her own past. Twelve years earlier, her best friend Lianne was kidnapped and murdered. The suspected killer has never been found and Evie becomes determined to connect the dots herself. As she searches for the missing elements to the story, she brings trouble to her own doorstep. MY THOUGHTS: Elisabeth de Mariaffi does a good job at twisting the storyline and keeping you guessing as to who did what and who is who. She does an even better job at getting you inside the mind of the main character. Evie is someone who takes things to extremes – both her paranoia, and her recklessness. It’s her obsessive thoughts and irrational actions that accelerate the story. De Mariaffi keeps the tension at a satisfying level throughout the book. There was a moment while reading that I let out a loud sigh, ... Read more