Monday, July 31, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: Anonymous Lawyer by Jeremy Blachman

Anonymous Lawyer (AL) is the power-hungry, hiring partner at the Anonymous Law Firm where he is vying with The Jerk for the firm's chairmanship. In charge of the summer interns, his main focus is ensuring a fresh crew of drones to feed the firm’s insatiable need for billable hours and maintaining the leading position for the chair.

On a whim, AL starts a blog in which he vents his true feelings: about the partners at the firm; about the battle with The Jerk; about employees who expect to have a work/life balance; and especially about the evil ways he dreams up to torment the lowly associates and interns. Quickly gaining a loyal following, AL’s blog threatens to destroy his career when someone inside the firm claims to know his secret.

Jeremy Blachman’s first novel Anonymous Lawyer: a Novel, based upon his satirical blog of the same name, is a scathing look at the legal profession through the eyes of his alter ego. AL has little good to say about his colleagues, his family or the summer interns who populate his blog entries. Some of the nicknames given characters are truly cruel: The One Who Doesn’t Know How to Correctly Apply Her Makeup; The One Who Missed Her Kid’s Funeral; The Guy With The Giant Mole; but Blachman has gifted many of them with distinct personalities, although those of his family are could benefit from further fleshing out. The only people AL shows any humanity toward are Anonymous Niece and Anonymous Son, and his reasons seemed based entirely upon the benefits they offer his career.

Composed of blog entries, email correspondence and an unsympathetic protagonist, Anonymous Lawyer shouldn’t work and yet, it is impossible to put down. Blachman has produced a novel that feels like an evil treat, readers will be secretly rooting for AL to triumph while feeling they are hiding a dirty little secret. Rooting for AL feels as depraved as hoping the Wicked Witch of the West beats Dorothy, and yet this reviewer expects that most readers will be doing just that.

Light on plot, Anonymous Lawyer nevertheless delivers a solid dose of humour and perfectly suited to hot summer days, when readers want nothing more than to be entertained.

Excerpt (to read a long excerpt, click here):

Monday, May 8

I see you. I see you walking by my office, trying to look like you have a reason to be there. But you don’t. I see the guilty look on your face. You try not to make eye contact. You try to rush past me as if you’re going to the bathroom. But the bathroom is at the other end of the hall. You think I’m naïve, but I know what you’re doing. Everyone knows. But she’s my secretary, not yours, and her candy belongs to me, not you. And if I have a say in whether or not you ever become a partner at this firm—and trust me, I do—I’m not going to forget this. My secretary. My candy. Go back to your office and finish reading the addendum to the lease agreement. I don’t want to see you in the hall for at least another sixteen hours. AND STOP STEALING MY CANDY.

And stop stealing my stapler, too. I shouldn’t have to go wandering the halls looking for a stapler. I’m a partner at a half-billion-dollar law firm. Staplers should be lining up at my desk, begging for me to use them. So should the young lawyers who think I know their names. The Short One, The Dumb One, The One With The Limp, The One Who’s Never Getting Married, The One Who Missed Her Kid’s Funeral—I don’t know who these people really are. You in the blue shirt—no, the other blue shirt—I need you to count the number of commas in this three-foot-tall stack of paper. Pronto. The case is going to trial seven years from now, so I’ll need this done by the time I leave the office today. Remember: I can make or break you. I hold your future in my hands. I decide whether you get a view of the ocean or a view of the dumpster. This isn’t a game. Get back to work. My secretary. My stapler. MY CANDY.

#Posted by Anonymous at 1:14 pm

ISBN10: 0805079815
ISBN13: 9780805079814

Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Publication Date: July 25, 2006
Binding: Hardcover


Sunday, July 30, 2006

Type Books, a must visit if you're in Toronto

I finally made it to visit Toronto's newest independent bookstore yesterday (after two months, shameful), and I think one of the owners must have crawled into my head before designing their bookstore. Tons of light, tall bookshelves with lots of open space in which to browse, a great magazine selection and the books - a fantastic selection of new and backlist titles. It's my dream bookstore!

I picked up Blue Angel by Francine Prose and some book-related periodicals but the best was the 45 minutes or so of browsing. I didn't make it much past the fiction section, except for a small foray into the children's section and the science/nature section.

Two recommendations if you get a chance to visit:
1) Make sure you go to the kid's section and sit on the blue mushroom. Then find out where they got it and let me know! I think I just found a must-have item...super comfy.
2) Check out the scented pencils, especially the rootbeer one. (Hint: they're by the cash register) I think it's the first time I've found a scented pencil that smells like the real thing. (Thanks to my friend Jennifer who found them!)

Type Books is located at 883 Queen Street West and business hours are as follows: Mondays – Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10:00am to 6:00pm, Thursdays and Fridays from 10:00am to 8:00pm, and Sundays from noon to 5:00pm. I didn't make it downstairs into their gallery space but they currently have an exhibit of handmade books which sounds worthwhile.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: Lake of Sorrows by Erin Hart

Nora Gavin is on her way to County Offaly in the Irish midlands to examine a bog body found during peat excavation, a body carrying all the signs of suffering a triple death. The peat bog has preserved the body, as it does with all remains within its depths, but the clock began ticking as soon as the body was exposed to air and Nora and the museum staff must step in quickly to preserve the body. Shortly after her arrival at the site, a second body is found also bearing the signs of triple death – only this one is wearing a wristwatch.

Still haunted by her sister’s gruesome murder, Nora had hoped this time in the midlands would offer her the chance to tell her lover, archaeologist Cormac Maguire, that she was leaving to return to the United States. Now however, Nora is just hoping to save Cormac from a murder charge, and keep them both alive.

Erin Hart burst onto the mystery scene in 2003 with her multiple award-winning novel, Haunted Ground. In her second novel featuring Nora Gavin, Lake of Sorrows, Hart returns to the bogs for another look at local history, buried secrets, and Irish music. Hart creates her multi-layered plots by weaving together archaeology, folklore, local history, and well-crafted characters. Lake of Sorrows is a moody book, carrying in it a feeling of isolation and despair. Hart has an uncanny ability to craft a setting so real that readers will expect to smell peat smoke in the air.

A peat bog is harsh and unforgiving to the life that exists within its boundaries. A single misstep can lead to a slow, agonizing death, with the body preserved for centuries in the depths. Illaunafulla (Island of Blood), the bog surrounding the excavation, holds many secrets within its layers and the release of these secrets have profound effect on the residents of this region.

In an interview with Hennepin County Library, Hart shares that she loves “to write stories that have layers of meaning – significant images that are repeated, ideas and themes that might make readers think…I grew up reading Dickens and Jane Austen and Dostoyevsky, so I tend to like dense, complicated crime novels with an historical or philosophical element and interesting psychological twists.”

One of the main themes in Lake of Sorrows is sacrifice, explored most obviously in the triple death used by Iron Age pagans and the body Nora has traveled to study. The triple death is a sacrifice to appease the pagan triple deities; the victim was hanged or strangled, the throat cut, and then buried or staked down in a watery place. One theory is that ritual sacrifices were made at times of great stress and conflict within the society. By raising the theory that the modern body found at Loughnabrone is the victim of a ritual sacrifice, Hart adds an undertone of unease to Lake of Sorrows.

Every action taken by characters having the remotest connection to folk tradition or pagan religion, cause readers to wonder if there is a deeper meaning attached. In Lake of Sorrows, ancient practice does not feel far removed from the modern day. Readers can easily be excused for questioning whether Hart has found a way to bring merge history with the present day, for the veil separating the ages appears to have vanished, creating a world which quickly enmeshes the reader.

This review is published at Curled Up with a Good Book.

ISBN10: 0743471016
ISBN13: 9780743471015

Publisher: Pocket Books
Publication Date: February 28, 2006
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
Author Website:

Related Titles:
* Haunted Ground by Erin Hart
* The Bog Man and the Archeology of People by Dan Boothwell
* The Bog People: Iron-Age Man Preserved by P V Glob
* The Buried Soul: How Humans Invented Death by Timothy Taylor
* The Man in the Moss by Phil Rickman


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: Abode of Love: Growing Up in a Messianic Cult by Kate Barlow

Kate Barlow grew up knowing her family was “different” but was unclear about the details. In 1948, Kate, her mother and her two sisters moved into their grandmother’s home Agapemone (Greek for “abode of love”), after her parents separated. Twenty elderly ladies shared a house with their grandmother, and joined her in revering Barlow’s grandfather, who all referred to as “Dear Bèloved.”

Whenever Barlow asked questions about her grandfather, the house or the elderly ladies, she was met with evasion, until the day she found out the truth from a school friend who asked her “Did you know your grandfather said he was Jesus?” In one moment Barlow’s life was turned upside down as she discovered that her grandfather claimed to be the Messiah and that her grandparents were never legally wed. Not only was Agapemone the home where Barlow lived, it had been home to a notorious cult led by her grandfather, the Reverend Smyth-Pigott.

Spaxton, a quiet village in Somerset, was an unlikely home for an infamous cult. Established in 1846 by Reverend Henry Prince, Agapemone was a collection of houses and cottages, the manor house and a chapel called Eden, all surrounded by a high wall and guarded by dogs and the village constabulary. After the death of Reverend Prince, Barlow’s grandfather succeeded to the leadership and arranged for the construction of a magnificent temple in London.

Abode of Love: Growing Up in a Messianic Cult is the first book about Agapemone written by an insider. Barlow’s extensive research is evident in the details included about the cult’s history, as well as reminiscences of former members, culled from newspapers articles of the day and interviews conducted by Barlow and her sisters. Abode of Love reads like a work of fiction and, the blending of the cult’s history with personal memories, creates a work which is difficult to put down.

To modern readers, the story of Reverend Prince’s cult sound commonplace: sex scandals; accusations of brainwashing; dramatic rescues of members by their families; moral outrage from respectable society; and virulent attacks in the popular press. In the 19th century, the tales of Agapemone and Reverend Prince’s actions, led to public outcries of indecency and a court case brought against Reverend Prince. The taint lingered around the community long after the deaths of Reverend Prince (the first incarnation of Jesus) and Barlow’s grandfather, affecting the way Barlow and her sisters were raised.

Barlow and her sisters spent their educational years at boarding school, a decision her mother made in the hope that the girls would have a chance at a normal future, away from Agapemone. Abode of Love is Barlow’s struggle to come to terms with her family’s skeletons, dispel some of the mystery surrounding her grandparents, and close the door on a childhood unlike any other.

ISBN10: 0864924577
Publisher: Goose Lake Editions
Publication Date: September 2006


BOOK REVIEW: Kristallnacht: Prelude to Destruction by Martin Gilbert

“Kristallnacht was the prelude to the destruction of a whole people, and an indication of what happens when a society falls victim to its baser instincts.” Sir Martin Gilbert

On November 9, 1938, the flames of carefully fanned hatred erupted into a night of unprecedented violence against the Jewish citizens of German-controlled territories. Perpetuated by both Nazi stormtroopers and German citizens, Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) as the following 24 hours came to be known, saw the burning of nearly all of Germany’s synagogues, destruction of tens of thousands of Jewish homes and business, and the deportation of more than 30,000 Jewish men to concentration camps.

This night was witnessed by journalists faithfully reporting the horrors to readers throughout the rest of the world - inciting international outrage. In Martin Gilbert’s opinion, Kristallnacht was a turning point in world history. The systematic eradication of Jews, who traced their origins in Germany to Roman times, began with Kristallnacht and, along with Hitler’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1939, hastened the onset of World War II and the Holocaust.

Gilbert presents an unflinching account of the depth of brutality perpetuated in an orgy of violence on November 9/10, 1938 and the tales of the heroic citizens who risked everything to save Jewish lives. Kristallnacht: Prelude to Destruction presents a look at this pivotal event in a way unlike any, by presenting more than 50 eye-witness accounts of German survivors who were terrorized simply for the crime of being Jewish.

Gilbert writes in a conversational tone, creating a setting to pull readers in closer to events. His use of contemporary news articles and first person accounts puts a human face on the tragedy, moving it from “history” to a personal account, one of terrifying immediacy.

Esther Ascher, a fourteen-year-old girl “who did not look Jewish” and therefore should be safe leaving her house, relates the story of being sent to find out what had happened to her uncle’s store. “The streets were deserted except for SS men, marching with a Jewish male between them. It became clear to me that these unfortunate people were on their way to a concentration camp.” It is only when she sees for herself the destruction of her uncle’s store that the truth begins to sink in. “The harsh reality of what had happened, and what still might happen, began to sink in…From that point on life changed for me. I had but one goal, to leave Germany…”

The strength of Kristallnacht lies not only in the first hand accounts gathered by Gilbert, but in his in-depth research and understanding of his subject. The second part of the history focuses on the origins of Kristallnacht in the five years of discrimination beginning with Hitler’s rise to power in 1933.

When reading any book, it is important to know the author’s intent, what message he wishes to share. In Kristallnacht, Gilbert is contributing to the ‘Making History’ Series, the purpose of which is to “take a moment at which an event or events made a lasting impact on the unfolding course of history…Each volume of ‘Making History’ will stimulate the reader to think about Europe’s and America’s relationship to their past, and the key figures and incidents which moulded and formed its process.”

Gilbert’s selection as a contributor to this series is natural. A leading Holocaust historian and the author of seventy-seven books, Gilbert is Sir Winston Churchill’s official biographer. His book The Holocaust: A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War is a classic work on the subject.

Series: Making History
ISBN10: 0060570830
Publisher: HarperCollins Limited
Publication Date: June 2006
Author Website: Martin Gilbert


Monday, July 24, 2006

Further Summer & Fall Selections

The publisher's catalogues continue to trickle in, in a more manageable fashion luckily. Two weeks ago the Canadian Manda Group catalogues arrived and I'm finally ready to list some titles here. Canadian Manda Group represents a long list of publishers in Canada, some whose catalogues I covered in June and won't repeat here.

Sterling Publishing
* Andean Folk Knits: Great Designs from Peru, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador & Bolivia by Marcia Lewandowski (Paperback, September 2006)
* Knitting Beyond the Edge: Cuffs and Collars, Necklines, Hems, Closures by Nicky Epstein (October 2006)
* Knitting Color: Design Inspiration from Around the World by Brandon Mably (October 2006)
* Museum of the Missing: a history of art theft by Simon Houpt (October 2006)
* Vogue Knitting Stitchionary 3: Color Knitting by the Editors of Vogue Knitting Magazine (October 2006)
* Knits from a Painter's Palette: Modular Masterpieces in Handpainted Yarns by Maie Landra of Koigu Wool Designs (November 2006)
* Knit.101: the indispensible self-help guide to knitting and crocheting by the Editors of Knit.1 Magazine (November 2006)
* Origin of Everyday Things (November 2006)
* The Curry Companion (November 2006)

* Missing Masterpieces: Lost Works of Art 1450 - 1900 by Gert-Rudolf Flick (already available)
* Reading Women by Stefan Bollmann(already available)
* In Praise of the Needlewoman: Embroiderers, Knitters and Weavers in Art by Gail Carolyn Sirna (September 2006)

Stewart, Tabori & Chang
* Secrets of Slow Cooking: Creating Extraordinary Food with your Slow Cooker by Liana Krissoff (September 2006)
* Knit 2 Together: Patterns & Stories for Serious Knitting Fun by Tracey Ullman & Mel Clark (October 2006)
* Knitting for Peace: Making the World a Better Place One Stitch at a Time by Betty Christiansen (October 2006)
* Eating Cuban: 120 Authentic Recipes from the Streets of Havana to American Shores by Beverly Cox and Martin Jacobs (November 2006)

Andrews McMeel Publishing
* The World at Worship: a Celebration by Connie Sullivan (September 2006)

Independent Publishers Group
* Andean Inspired Knits: Designs in Luxurious Alpaca by Helen Hamann (Interweave Press, September 2006)
* Cluny: In Search of God's Lost Empire by Edwin Mullins (Bluebridge, September 2006)
* Lady of Mercy by Michelle Sagara West (Benbella Books, September 2006)
* Natural Knits for Babies and Moms: Beautiful Designs Using Organic Yarns by Louisa Harding (Interweave Press, September 2006)
* Neal Cassady: the Fast Life of a Beat Hero by David Sandison and Graham Vickers (Chicago Review Press, September 2006)
* The Broken Book by Susan Johnson (Allen & Unwin, September 2006)
* Year's Best Fantasy 6 edited by David G. Hartwell & Kathryn Cramer (Tachyon Publications, September 2006)
* Spin to Knit: the Knitter's Guide to Making Yarn by Shannon Okey (Interweave Press, October 2006)
* Stagestruck Vampires and Other Phantasms by Suzy McKee Charnas (Tachyon Publications, October 2006)
* The Cat's Pajamas and Other Stories by James Morrow (Tachyon Publications, Paperback, October 2006)
* The Messiah: the Little Known Story of Handel's Beloved Oratorio by Tim Slover (Silverleaf Press, October 2006)
* Talking to God: Portrait of a World at Prayer edited by John Gattuso (Stone Creek Publications, October 2006)
* A Journey into Ireland's Literary Revival by R. Todd Felton (Roaring Forties Press, November 2006)
* The Grit Vegetarian Cookbook: World-Wise, Down-Home Recipes, revised and expanded by Jessica Greene and Ted Hafer (Chicago Review Press, November 2006)
* Victorian Lace Today by Jane Sowerby (XRX Books, November 2006)
* A Journey into Flaubert's Normandy by Susannah Patton (Roaring Forties Press, February 2007)
* The Horse in the Attic by Barbara Frackowiak (Burman Books, Inc., February 2007)
* Sacred Places Europe: 108 Destinations by Brad Olsen (CCC Publishing, March 2007)
* The Erotic Agony: Bolivar's Love and Death by Victor Paz Otero (Vellegas Editores, March 2007)

* The Adventuress by Audrey Niffenegger (September 2006)
* The Gothic Reader: a Critical Anthology edited by Martin Myrone (September 2006)
* The New English: a History of the New English Art Club by Kenneth McConkey (November 2006)
* How to Read a Modern Painting: Lessons from the Modern Masters (December 2006)
* Worldchanging: a User's Guide for the 21st Century edited by Alex Steffen (January 2007)




Friday, July 21, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: Sonnet of the Sphinx by Diane Killian

Comfortably settled in England’s beautiful Lake District, literary scholar Grace Hollister has just sold her first book. She has rented a cozy cottage and is eager to explore her developing romance with ex-jewel thief Peter Fox, as she assists at his antique shop, the Rogue’s Gallery. While sorting through papers acquired from Mallow Farm, Grace stumbles upon a letter suggesting the existence of a previously unknown Shelley sonnet, “Sate of the Sphinx.”

Suddenly Grace and Peter find themselves in the midst of chaos: Peter is threatened by a menacing thug, from his past; Grace and Peter are suspects in a murder investigation; and someone keeps trying to kill Grace. Can Grace keep herself alive long enough to unravel the mystery of the Sphinx?

Sonnet of the Sphinx is the third outing for Grace Hollister, the American sleuth invented by Diana Killian. The Poetic Death mystery series combines adventure, mystery and romance with literary mysteries. At the heart of each one of these cozy mysteries is Grace, a literary scholar researching the Romantic Poets of the Lake District for her Doctoral thesis. Inevitably her research overlaps with crime and she is drawn into the fray. High Rhymes and Misdemeanors focuses on a relic, which may shed new light on the work of Lord Byron. In Verse of the Vampyre, Grace continues her research into Romantic Poets and acts as an advisor on a local production of the play, “The Vampyre”, written by Lord Byron’s doctor.

In Sonnet of the Sphinx, Killian maintains the high quality of writing praised by critics in her earlier works. She manages to maintain the action of the plot, create empathetic characters, realistic settings and intriguing mysteries, while still including substantial literary information about the Lake Poets. She manages to integrate this research so well, that the pacing of the plot is unaffected.

The opening scene of Sonnet of the Sphinx launches readers headlong into the discovery of a letter, hinting at the mysterious Shelley sonnet. Coming immediately on the heels of a prologue so different in time and place, this can be rather disjointed for readers. This reviewer needed 15 or 20 pages to become immersed in the plot, after the initial stumble.

On her website, Girl Detective, Killian expresses her preference for mysteries of the 30s and 40s, an era of style, restraint and smart dialogue. Traces of these classic mysteries fill the pages of Sonnet of the Sphinx, evoking memories of days spent reading Nancy Drew mysteries or The Thin Man. When outcomes are mostly guaranteed, what truly matters is how the author helps readers reach that ending. Killian manages it with grace and aplomb.

Diana Killian is one of the nom de plume of writer D.L. Browne. When asked in an interview why she writes under several names, she replied “I just think it helps readers know what sort of book to expect. As Diana Killian, I write romantic suspense; as D.L. Browne I write poetry and the Mary Kelly detective stories.” Browne also has published works as Louise Harris and Colin Dunne.

Read the review at Curled Up with a Good Book.

ISBN10: 0743466802
ISBN13: 9780743466806
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publication Date: March 28, 2006
Author Blog: Girl-Detective Blog
Author Website: Girl Detective

Poetic Death mystery series:
· High Rhymes and Misdemeanors
· Verse of the Vampyre
· Sonnet of the Sphinx


Thursday, July 20, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: A Deadly Yarn by Maggie Sefton

Kelly Flynn loves being back in Fort Connor, Colorado and living across from the best place to get her daily fix of coffee and fibres is a dream come true. Her daily knitting breaks with her friends at House of Lambspun are quickly becoming a necessity and she’d gladly spend more time with them, if only her boss would stop pouring on the work. Kelly suspects he wants her to return to the office in DC, while she’d rather build up her freelance business, remain in Colorado, and explore her developing relationship Steve Townsend.

Allison Dubois, one of Kelly’s knitting friends and a truly gifted fibre artist, has been invited to join an influential fashion designer at her studio in New York. When Kelly shows up to take Allison to the airport, she discovers her friend dead of apparent suicide. Kelly and the knitting circle at House of Lambspun know that Allison wouldn’t have given up this chance to pursue her dream. As they begin to investigate Allison’s life, they discover tempestuous relationships, professional rivalries and conflicting stories.

A Deadly Yarn is the third offering by Maggie Sefton in “A Knitting Mystery” series. As in the previous books in the series, A Deadly Yarn focuses on one area of the knitting industry, in this case the glamorous world of fashion design and textile art. Sefton deftly integrates Kelly’s developing knitting skills with her penchant for solving puzzles. Once again a knitting pattern discussed in the story, and suitable to Kelly’s level of skill, is included at the end of the book, with a recipe for one of the dishes eaten by Kelly and her friends.

The real strength of this series is the wonderful cast of characters Sefton has developed. Her characters have matured significantly since the first book, Knit One, Kill Two, and readers of the series will likely have strong connections to the characters. Readers usually have their favourites, this reviewer’s being Carl the golf ball thief (Kelly’s rottweiler), Lizzie and Hilda von Steuben and Megan Schmidt.

The only blight readers may find in an otherwise outstanding cozy mystery is the tentativeness Kelly exhibits in reaching a decision about her future in Colorado. While this quibbling may fit the plot outline, it seems at odds with the straightforward nature she normally exhibits.

Maggie Sefton has delivered the fourth book in this series to her publisher and is hard at work on the fifth Kelly Flynn mystery. Sefton is also the author of Dying to Sell: a Real Estate mystery.

See the review at Front Street Reviews (and stay tuned for reviews of the rest of the series there as well).

ISBN10: 0425207072
ISBN13: 9780425207079

Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Publication Date: August 3, 2006
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
Author Website:
Author Blog: The Cozy Chicks

Related Titles:
* Knit One, Kill Two by Maggie Sefton
* Needled to Death by Maggie Sefton
* Died in the Wool by Mary Kruger


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: Angelos by Robina Williams

The friary is in an uproar. Father Fidelis has left for a new position, replaced by the Guardian, Father Aidan. Brother Jerome, deceased but still around, wanders the grounds of the friary, visiting his old friends and the world he has left behind. Brother Peter finds the friary cat Leo rather unnerving, most likely it’s the green eyes (which occasionally turn a glorious gold) and the cat’s habit of disappearing into thin air.

On the fateful night in question, a falling rock sets off a quantum leap, sending the Minotaur to the friary in the twenty-first century and Brother Jerome to the labyrinth in Knossos. Leo, or Quantum as most people know him (Quant for short), must step in to put things right, ensuring that Father Aidan’s crisis of faith plays out as it must. Only through Brother Valentine’s copies of Old Masters does he begin to see light in the darkness.

Readers who have not read Robina Williams’ first book, Jerome and the Seraph, may find Angelos slow at the beginning, as the story begins with the assumption that readers are familiar with both characters and setting. Within a few pages; however, the action takes off and Angelos becomes a book that is difficult to put down.

Paintings are tied into the plot of Angelos, and serve to guide Father Aidan on his quest. Not being familiar with the paintings in question, this reviewer found the art gallery featured on Williams’ website a helpful tool. The key paintings - The Scapegoat by William Holman Hunt (1854) and The Blind Girl by Sir John Everett Millais (1856) – are shown, along with commentary and links to the galleries where the paintings reside.

Williams has set a difficult challenge for herself, to meld quantum physics, philosophy, Christianity and classical mythology into an engaging fantasy novel. Surprisingly she succeeds with Angelos, creating an intelligent novel where the discussion of quantum physics, time, religion and philosophy do not feel out of place or preachy.

ISBN10: 1933353600

Publisher: Twilight Times Books
Publication Date: May 2006
Binding: Trade Paperback
Author Website:

Related Titles:
* Jerome and the Seraph by Roberta Williams
* In Search of Schrodinger's Cat by John Gribbin
* Schrodinger's Kittens and the Search for Reality: Solving the Quantum Mysteries by John Gribbin
* Who's Afraid of Schrodinger's Cat?: An A-To-Z Guide to All the New Science Ideas You Need to Keep Up with the New Thinking by Danah Zohar and Ian Marshall
* Schrodinger's Cat Trilogy: The Universe Next Door, The Trick Top Hat, & The Homing Pigeons by Robert Anton Wilson


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

On a cold winter’s night in 1964, Norah Henry goes into labour. Unable to reach the hospital in time, her husband David, an orthopedic surgeon, and his nurse Caroline, assist Norah with the delivery. Paul, the couple’s healthy baby boy, is born quickly and it is only while telling his wife the good news that David realizes something isn’t right. Sedating his wife with gas, Paul’s twin is born with Down’s syndrome, a little girl whom David names Phoebe.

Passing the child to his nurse, he instructs her to take the child to an institution and, reluctantly, Caroline agrees. When Norah awakes, David tells her that their little girl died as she was born. Miles away, Caroline finds herself unable to leave the child in the miserable institution and makes a decision that will change her life – she walks out the door and leaves everything behind to start a new life with Phoebe.

Kim Edward’s first novel, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, is not an easy novel to read. Filled with a haunting sadness, painful decisions and far-reaching consequences, the world inhabited by the Henrys is a melancholy place. Haunted by the choice he made, David Henry is physically there for his wife but emotionally unavailable. Unable to share her grief with a world expecting the delight in her son to cover-over the loss of her daughter, Norah careens through her days unable to cope. Many cities away, Caroline is faced with a world which would rather her daughter be hidden away, and finds herself unable to keep silent.

In her February 12, 2006 review in the Washington Post of Ayelet Waldman’s Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, Kim Edwards subtitles her review “How a woman mourning the death of her infant daughter finds her way back to life.” This could just as easily be applied as one of a variety of subtitles for The Memory Keeper’s Daughter. So much is encompassed in this amazing book that, only with reflection do subtleties begin to shimmer into focus.

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter must be read within the context of its setting. To our modern sensibilities, the immediate disposal, upon birth, of a child with Down’s syndrome is repellent. By treating his daughter with careless disregard, David causes ripples far exceeding his expectations. Some readers will find within The Memory Keeper’s Daughter a meditation on loss and grief, traveling the lonely road with Norah as she grapples with the loss of a child she never sees, and a marriage within which this child is never discussed. Those same readers will most likely find David an unsympathetic character, whose misery is little payment for the pain he causes so many.

Others will read The Memory Keeper’s Daughter as a commentary on love and hope, focusing on the relationship between Caroline and her adopted child Phoebe. For those readers, Caroline is a force for change and rights for her daughter, insisting the world see Phoebe as a person capable of learning and of ability.

Despite some uneven writing, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter is astonishing in its power. Edwards does not allow readers to hold their preconceived notions for long. The translucent dress pictured on the cover illustrates Phoebe’s presence in her birth family, the unspoken words in David and Norah’s marriage, the haunting hole with Paul where his twin should be. The unseen Phoebe, the person she will never be, is at such odds with her reality that the effect is like a slap in the face, jolting the reader out of the too comfortable pathos and anger to see hints of the complex web Edwards has woven.

Kim Edwards is the author of the short-story collection The Secrets of a Fire King, which was shortlisted for the PEN/Hemingway Award. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter is her first novel.

This review was published at Curled Up with a Good Book.

ISBN10: 0143037145
ISBN13: 9780143037149

Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: May 30, 2006
Binding: Trade Paperback


Monday, July 17, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: You Can't Win If You Don't Enter by Carolyn Wilman "The Contest Queen"

When I attended BookExpo Canada in June, I briefly met Carolyn Wilman aka "The Contest Queen" where she was promoting her book You Can't Win If You Don't Enter, a how to guide on being a winner.

As anyone who reads this blog knows, this isn't the usual type of book reviewed here. And no, it wasn't the shamrock green bracelet I got that swayed me to read Wilman's book. I was curious to get a look at her system, since she enters several thousand contests and sweepstakes a month!

I don't win much as a rule, the largest probably being the $50 in groceries I won at the fall fair when I was 14 - not something too thrilling to a kid I might add. But here's this woman who has won trips all over the world, a year's supply of pizza and loads of DVDs and books.

Learning more on how to win free books is something I'm always interested in. Winning a trip may not be too bad but I'm not sure about free weed whackers or a year's worth of diapers.

This is a specialized book, of interest to those who love entering contests and want to become, or may already be, dedicated "contestors," Wilman's spelling for someone who enters contests daily. She works through her system for tracking and entering online contests, the best ways to increase your odds, attracting luck, links to contest sites and a great deal of other helpful information. The information is provided in a logical format with many personal anecdotes to illustrate Wilman's points.

I visited several of the sites mentioned in Wilman's book and entered some relevant draws, looking for contests with short entry time periods to increase my odds. So far I haven't had any results but I suspect that's due to the contests still accepting applications - rather than Wilman's advice!

The internet has opened up the field for contests and if you're wary about contesting online, then this is a great resource to help you differentiate between scams and valid opportunities to win something. Wilman also offers a free bi-weekly eNewsletter with news and tips for her readers, which you can sign up for on her website.

This is the Canadian Edition, the American Edition is due out in October 2006.

ISBN10: 1419613286

Publisher: Imagination Edge Inc.
Publication Date: 2005
Binding: Trade Paperback
Author Website:

Friday, July 14, 2006

This just explains so much about my life

I think I burned out writing so many reviews in such a short here's today's tidbit, totally unrelated to books.

Crazy Aunt Purl's response to Esquire's article The State of the American Man. I'm not convince that this is limited to American men...

My only response to CAP is that she's hit the nail on the head, and described the last ten years of my life.

Women aren't perfect either (I know I'm not) but there seems to be a lack of respect going both directions. What ever happened to good, old-fashioned dating?


Thursday, July 13, 2006

What have they done to Jane Austen?!?

From The Telegraph (thanks to BookSlut):
Jane Austen's novels have been repackaged as chick-lit to reflect our modern conception of her as a romantic novelist.

Have I been reading the same books as these people? One has only to read Sense and Sensibility to see what Jane Austen thinks happens to girls with romantic delusions. Jane Austen writes of women's reality in her time and is quite unflinching in what she portrays. The Telegraph article nails it with this:

Charlotte's subsequent life is a kind of decorous hell, made bearable by the fact that the alternative would have been worse. She is the stony reality at the heart of Pride and Prejudice. She tells a woman's story, but in a way that is utterly remote from feminine convention: with scant emotion, appealing to nothing other than rationality. And, like her creator, she has remarkably little to do with cosy readings of The Jane Austen Book Club and communal swoons over Mr Darcy.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

An Interview with David Long

I had the pleasure of corresponding with and interviewing David Long, author of The Inhabited World - released Monday. If you haven't had a chance yet, please head over to Curled Up with a Good book and read the interview. David is a fascinating author and has a lot to say about modern literature and the charcter motivation in his new novel.

...and the interview questions are pretty good too, but of course I'm biased!


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Initial thoughts on a book

Sometimes after reading a book, I discover that I can't immediately put pen to paper to write a review. It's almost like I need time to digest the book, to formulate my response and truly figure out my reaction to it. The Memory Keeper's Daughter is such a book. It's an amazing novel, to put it bluntly, but there is so much to think about that I barely know where to begin.

Do I talk about the treatment of children with Down's Syndrome? Or focus on the nature of twins? Or the consequences choices have over decades? Being physically present in a relationship yet emotionally not there? Photography as a window into a person's soul? The relationship of the cover image to the story?

Perhaps I am paralyzed by too many options and so many words in my head. In the meantime, do yourself a favour and run out to buy this book. You won't regret I'll go back to pondering, and hopefully write my review.


Monday, July 10, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: The Uncrowned Queen by Posie Graeme-Evans

The Uncrowned Queen, the finalé to Posie Graeme-Evans’ Anne trilogy, picks up eighteen months after The Exile. Commencing shortly after Edward Plantagenet, Edward the IV, lost the throne of England to the Lancastrian line (Henry VI and his wife, Margaret of Anjou) for several months in 1470-1471, Anne de Bohun lives on a small farm outside the walls of Brugge. In the eighteen months since Anne has seen her lover, Edward the IV, she has returned to the a more natural life, growing saffron and other medicinal herbs while tending to her growing son Edward.

Edward has fled England, driven away by the combined treachery of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick and George, Duke of Clarence, Edward’s younger brother. Seeking shelter at Binnenhof with his friend Louis de Gruuthuis, the governor of the province of Holland for Charles, Duke of Burgundy, Edward hopes that Charles will lend aid to recover the English throne. Faced with a strong foe in Louis XI, King of France who is plotting with Warwick to reinstate Henry VI on the English throne, Charles faces war with France if he assists his brother-in-law Edward.

Anne, close friends with Charles’s wife, is Edward’s only hope to broker a deal with Charles and, as a last resort, he sends her the desperate message ‘The king needs you.’ Charles has the means to help Edward regain his throne, but the question is, will he? Will Edward and Anne be reunited for good? The Uncrowned Queen is a memorable and dazzling end to this historical saga.

Set amidst a turbulent period in European history, Graeme-Evans has created a compelling love story which manages to hold up amidst the political drama which drives the plot. Although the character of Anne is fictitious, Edward IV is known to have had many mistresses, and fathered children with several of them, so the relationship, which has developed through this trilogy, has a ring of truth.

What is most fascinating in Graeme-Evans’ writing is the portrait of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, another of Edward’s brothers. Long viewed as the scheming hunchback protrayed by Shakespeare in Richard III, Graeme-Evans portrays him as Edward’s right hand and most trusted supporter. This portrait is so at odds with the conventional understanding of Richard, that it has prompted this reviewer to seek out contemporary biographies of both Richard and Edward IV to better understand this turbulent period in England’s history.

The Uncrowned Queen (or The Beloved as it is titled outside of North America), while the concluding chapter in a trilogy, contains enough adventure, passion and drama to engage readers, even if they have not read the preceding two instalments of Anne’s journey.

This review is published at Front Street Reviews.

ISBN10: 0743443748
ISBN13: 9780743443746

Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: June 6, 2006
Binding: Trade Paperback
Author Website:

Related Books:
· The Innocent
· The Exiled
· Edward IV by Michael Hicks
· Elizabeth Woodville: Mother of the Princes in the Tower by David Baldwin
· The Princes in the Tower by Alison Weir
· Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
· Richard III by Michael Hicks


Sunday, July 09, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: The Inhabited World by David Long

Evan Malloy realizes he died in 1992, but the how and why of his suicide eludes him. Trapped on the property of his home in Seattle, his only companion a ginger tom, Evan watches a progression of residents come and go, until Maureen Keniston moves in during the summer of 2002. Something about this troubled woman causes Evan’s memories to slowly return, casting him into the past, reliving the events leading up to his death. Told in series of flashbacks interspersed with the story of Maureen’s increasingly desperate attempts to leave her married lover, The Inhabited World explores the nature of relationships, fidelity and self-acceptance.

David Long has paced his novel in a deliberate manner. The passages revealing Evan’s reflections are long and drawn out, as days must appear to a ghost. Interspersed are short moments in the present through which the reader gradually learns of Maureen’s turbulent relationship with Ned, her lover and former co-worker. The scenes of Maureen’s life serve to propel the narrative forward as each one moves Evan deeper into reflection, slowly leading to acceptance of his history. Languid scenes at the beginning, which feel infused with golden light and naïveté, shift incrementally to become the claustrophobic darkness which binds both Evan and Maureen.

Long’s ability to evoke volumes with the sparseness of his prose illustrates mastery of his craft. The choice to place all dialogue in italics, rather than quotation marks, is initially a distracting one, causing the reader to wonder if the italics signify a different narrator or voice. Soon, however, the italics help evoke the dissociative state in which Evan must exist, creating the languor that permeates this deceptively simple novel.

The Inhabited World is not the typical novel usually considered when discussing literature; however, it is an important work that compels readers to look beyond the words on the page and consider what message Long wishes to leave behind. Long has fashioned a remarkable work for those willing to enter his world.

David Long is the author of two previous novels and several collections of short stories. His fiction has appeared in many publications such as The New Yorker, earning him many honors including an O. Henry Award and a Pushcart Prize. The Inhabited World is his third novel.

See the review, and my interview with David Long, at Curled Up with a Good Book.

ISBN10: 061854335X
ISBN13: 9780618543359
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company
Publication Date: July 10, 2006
Binding: Hardcover
Author Website:

Other works by David Long:
* The Daughters of Simon Lamoreaux
* The Falling Boy
* Blue Spruce (Short Stories)
* The Flood of ‘64 (Short Stories)
* Home Fires (Short Stories)


Saturday, July 08, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: The Unwritten Girl by James Bow

Rosemary Watson tries to slip through life unnoticed, although the other students at her junior high tend to make her the butt of all their jokes. She tries to be normal, to keep life as quiet and nondescript as possible so people won't think she's like her older brother Theo, who suffered from a nervous breakdown years earlier. She manages to have a fairly normal life, that is, until the day in the school library when she sees a girl fold herself up until she disappears. Which just happens to be the day she meets Peter McAllister.

The Unwritten Girl is the story of Rosemary’s quest to rescue her brother Theo who has been trapped in The Land of Fiction by a book he is unable to stop reading. Assisted by her new friend Peter and the mischievous Puck, most recently read in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Rosemary must overcome her fear and desire to be invisible if she has any hope of success.

First and foremost, The Unwritten Girl is a story about books. James Bow says in his blog that "The Land of Fiction is a compilation of a number of stories I read when I was younger (or had read to me) that had a lasting effect on me." He goes on to state that he loves children's literature for "the clarity of the storytelling, the innocence, the wonder and the sense of transformation."

Bow has taken the standard quest formula and turned it on its head or as he describes it: "The Unwritten Girl is a sorta fairytale. We take very unfairytale characters through a fairytale setting, taking the mickey out of a number of cliches, while at the same time celebrating the genre." His love of this literature is evident in the style and content of his writing as he riffs a bit on the standard characters of fairy tale fare: the damsel in distress complete with attitude; the Fearmonger - specific to no book but present in all; and the Mystery Man whose Magical Mystery Train holds many familiar tales, including a nod to Murder on the Orient Express.

For adult readers, Bow takes us on a delightful, nostalgic trip with The Unwritten Girl; however, what is more important is how young adults will respond to this book. Despite its fantasy/fairy tale setting, The Unwritten Girl addresses some fairly serious issues; mental illness, being an outsider, the death of parents and bullying. In many ways, this is a fairly dark book and Bow deftly handles these significant topics without resorting to clichés or becoming preachy.

Given that Bow has short excerpts of what appear to be "future" adventures of Rosemary and Peter on his blog, I am hopefully that we'll soon see more books featuring these engaging characters. I read this through in one sitting and my autographed copy is going into my permanent collection.

ISBN10: 1550026046
ISBN13: 9781550026947
Publisher: Boardwalk Young Adult Fiction, A Member of the Dundurn Group
Publication Date: April 1, 2006
Binding: Paperback
Book Website:

Related Books of Interest (...or, if you loved The Unwritten Girl, you'll probably like these):
* The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue
* Green Angel by Alice Hoffman
* Varjak Paw by SF Said
* Airborn by Kenneth Oppel


Thursday, July 06, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: The House of Paper by Carlos María Domínguez

Bluma Lennon, a Cambridge academic, is struck and killed while crossing the road in Soho. Her death, occurring while reading a poem by Emily Dickinson, is taken by her colleagues to show the dangers inherent in books and reading.

Following her death, a colleague discovers, among her possessions, a mysterious copy of Joseph Conrad’s The Shadow Line, strangely inscribed and covered in what appears to be cement. His investigations lead him to Buenos Aires and the Uruguayan coast, in search of Carlos Bauer, an obsessive and dedicated bibliophile whose mania for books has led to his mysterious disappearance. And so begins the unusual and haunting tale that is The House of Paper.

Carlos María Domínguez’s The House of Paper is an obvious homage to the magical realism of Jorge Luis Borges. Domínguez has learned well at the knee of the master, integrating Borges’ playfulness with language, creation of miniature worlds and views of literature as recreation into this slender volume.

Readers should not be fooled by the miniature nature of this work for, like much of Borges’ canon, many large themes are touched upon: the nature of time, infinity, labyrinths, reality, and identity. Books create labyrinths of rooms, libraries and collections define identity, and reality is subsumed when Bauer loses the index to his massive and valuable collection of books. In describing this loss, one of Bauer’s friends resorts to the analogy of losing the ability to access one’s memories:

“Then one day, unexpectedly, you lose the sequence of these memories. They’re still there, but you can’t find them…Your personal history is lost…The worst thing about it is that the facts are there, just waiting for someone to stumble on them. But you don’t have the key. It’s not forgetfulness drawing its kind veil over things we cannot tolerate. It’s a sealed memory, an obsessive call to which there is no answer.”

Readers must decide if it is this loss of identity, and the key to his library, in the fire which leads Bauer to the madness that is his undoing? Perhaps the madness already existed and the loss of the key brought freedom for him from slavery to his books? Whether these questions are ultimately answered is left for readers to decide.

The House of Paper draws readers in and will cause many to reevaluate their relationship to their books. If cataloguing methods are stages within the disease, then most readers are far from the illness inflicted on Bauer. In his library, Shakespeare cannot be placed next to Marlowe, because of accusations of plagiarism between the two, and Martin Amis cannot sit alongside Julian Barnes because of a falling out.

Conrad’s The Shadow Line is referred to throughout the narrative and, like Conrad’s novella, The House of Paper is an ironic commentary on the nature of experience and wisdom reflected through the story of one man’s struggle with his books. Like Conrad’s protagonist, our narrator is never named; however, he is not the true protagonist in this tale, rather it is The Shadow Line itself.

“And again he pleaded for the promise that I would not leave him behind. I had the firmness of mind not to give it to him. Afterward this sternness seemed criminal; for my mind was made up,” the captain said of the delirious sailor on his sickbed, victim of a “downright panic.” In those words it seemed to me I heard the tacit appeal the book had been making to me from the very start.

Peter Sís’ whimsical illustrations add much to the sense of being outside of any recognizable time while reading this compelling novella.

See the review posted at ReadySteadyBook.

ISBN10: 0151011478

Translated from the Spanish by Nick Caistor
Illustrated by Peter Sís

Publisher: Harcourt Books (US), Harvill Secker (UK, Published as The Paper House)
Publication Date: October 6, 2005
Binding: Hardcover

Related Books:
* Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges
* Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges
* The Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: Pursuing Giraffe: a 1950s Adventure by Anne Innis Dagg

In 1956, Canadian Anne Innis Dagg set sail for Africa, pursuing her dream to study giraffe. One of the first zoologists to study African mammals in Africa, Dagg broke many stereotypes undertaking behavioural research – years before Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey began their better-known studies.

For Pursuing Giraffe: a 1950s Adventure, Dagg has compiled her journals and letters home to create a moving story of woman’s pursuit of knowledge in a new field. As Dagg shares, women did not normally enter science programs at University, were still expected to wear skirts to school and did not have the opportunities to apply for field research like their male classmates. It is from these limitations that Dagg struck out into new territory, traveling alone when she was only twenty-three years old and finding a location in South Africa willing to host a female researcher.

Readers may be tempted, with 21st century viewpoints, to denigrate Dagg for her apparent naïveté in journeying to Africa with no knowledge of the political climate. However, it is precisely this unbiased naïveté that presents a compelling picture of the world Dagg entered. Assuredly, it is only a narrow window into a complex situation but an important one. With a scientist’s eye, Dagg chronicles every reaction, including her own biases, her idealized notions of Africans, and her utter bewilderment at the political mire she has encountered. This honest reporting allows readers to arrive at their own conclusions.

Dagg set out with enough money for approximately a year in Africa and a host who may have turned her away after discovering she was a woman. Her research included hours of footage on the animals grazing and male giraffe sparing, studies of the plants preferred by the giraffe in the dry and wet seasons and her groundbreaking discovery of homosexual behaviour among male giraffes.

Her daring nature coloured her pursuit of the giraffe, and in the end, she managed to study the animals in both Southern and Eastern Africa, leaving just as the Group Areas Act goes into effect and apartheid is implemented as we understand it today. Pursuing Giraffe: a 1950s Adventure is as much a story about women’s roles in the world as it is about scientific research and personal growth.

ISBN10: 0889204632
ISBN13: 9780889204638

Publisher: Wilfrid Laurier University Press
Publication Date: January 2006
Part of the Life Writing Series


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Summer Reading

It's the time of year when newspapers and magazines publish their "summer reading lists". On Sunday, Guardian Unlimited published their list of summer reading recommended by booksellers and writers. Jessa Crispin posted her scathing look at the new summer releases at The Book Standard.

So I decided I should post my top picks of books I want to read over the next two months. For some reason, summer to me always means reading mystery novels, so my top picks are mostly in this genre.

1. The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde - Just released this past weekend, I can't wait for my copy to arrive! I've ordered a hardcover copy because this is going into my permanent collection. It may take a bit longer to arrive...

2. Aftermath by Peter Robinson - Somehow I ended up a book behind in this series so I need to read this before Piece of My Heart, the newest Inspector Banks mystery.

3. Season of Iron: a Dr. Rebecca Temple mystery by Sylvia Maultash Warsh - The Castle Street Mysteries imprint of Dundurn Group releases high quality mysteries. I have not read any in the Dr. Rebecca Temple series so I'm eager to try this most recent release.

4. Before the Frost: a Kurt and Linda Wallander Novel by Henning Mankell - The first Kurt and Linda Wallander novel. I haven't read any of this great Swedish series but it comes highly recommended.

5. Jass: A Valentin St. Cyr Mystery by David Fulmer - This has been sitting on my to be read pile for a while. I loved the first Valentine St. Cyr mystery (Chasing the Devil's Tail: A Mystery of Storyville, New Orleans), racing through it in record time so I know I'll enjoy this one.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: The Dodecahedron; Or, A Frame for Frames by Paul Glennon

Dodecahedron: A Platonic solid composed of twelve pentagonal faces, with three meeting at each vertex. It has twenty vertices and thirty edges. Definition from

Paul Glennon’s The Dodecahedron or A Frame for Frames: a novel of sorts is composed of twelve short stories, each representing one of the pentagonal faces of a dodecahedron. The key to understanding this unique work is in the subtitle: “a novel of sorts.” Instead of creating a series of unrelated short stories, Glennon has added a new dimension to his work by applying Oulipian principles (OuLiPo is a group of French authors who create literature based on arbitrary constraints of their own making) to his collection. Glennon explains these principles in the book’s afterword:
“Each chapter was to be as self-contained and whole as any short story. As in a story cycle, each story would cast a new light on the ones that preceded it, and promote a novel-like unity of themes. What I did not want to write was a cyclical book, in which the final story is the final word, a story with more authority than all others, one that casts a sort of judgment on the rest…I envisioned a book in which each of the twelve chapters or stories represented a face of the dodecahedron…In A Frame for Frames these sides represent a relationship to an adjacent story…Each story must refer to or be referred to by each of the five stories adjacent to it.”
A further constraint Glennon puts on his work is also best explained by his own words:
“A dodecahedron has twenty vertices, points where three sides meet. In A Frame for Frames these vertices are represented by certain repetitions and recurrences in each of the three stories that meet in these points. If the elements that represent the vertices were extracted and placed in the order of their first appearance, they would form another text of sorts, which might provide another perspective for evaluating the whole.”
Glennon’s stories cover a wide range of genres; diaries of adventurers, conspiracy theories, academic essays, all leading to unexpected connections. The stories, as stand-alone tales, are entertaining but it is in their interlacings that they become luminous. A Frame for Frames consists of stories about stories, adding both a platform on which to build this three dimensional creation, and the invisible conception itself. Readers will be tempted to create a dodecahedron of their own to unravel Glennon’s creation.

The ethereal creations arise, like the shadow child in “Why Are There No Penguins?”, taunting the reader with half-realized ideas. Even if the reader never sees the creation Glennon intends, the hallucinatory threads invented by the mind are magical in their own right.

Hallucination and dream states exist throughout these stories, most apparently being in “Tenebrian Chronicles” where monks spend months each year dreaming the histories and world events they later inscribe as fact.

Glennon introduces his readers to a profound journey of the mind and senses; one that will remain in their minds as clearly as if they had eaten the pages of this mesmerizing book, like the hero in the lead story “In My Father’s Library.” The quote by Francis Bacon, which prefaces "Library," could easily be applied to the entirety of A Frame for Frames: “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.”

No matter how the reader dips into The Dodecahedron or A Frame for Frames: a novel of sorts, this book will remain with them long after the final page is consumed.

See the review posted at ReadySteadyBook.

ISBN10: 0889842752
ISBN13: 9780889842755

Publisher: The Porcupine’s Quill
Publication Date: September 2005
Binding: Paperback

The book's cover image is a photograph of a room in the Collegium Maius, Cracow, Poland, where Copernicus studied in 1502, taken by Erich Lessing. The dodecahedron illustrations are from

Related Books:
* 3 by Perec (Includes La Disparition [The Void], a novel written entirely without the letter E) by Georges Perec
* If On a Winter's Night a Traveller (Se Una Notte d'Inverno un Viaggiatore) by Italo Calvino
* Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn