Book Review: Vanished by Joseph Finder

Purchased online at The Book Depository

With his novel Vanished, Joseph Finder introduces the character of Nick Heller a private spy who served with the U.S. Army Special Forces.  In this first instalment Nick is dealing with the disappearance of his older brother Roger who vanishes after his wife is attacked. Nick faces the task of protecting his sister-in-law and nephew while uncovering the circumstances of his brother’s disappearance. The more he uncovers the more he realizes that his brother is living a double-life. This fast-paced book leads readers into the grey area where governments and private contractors work in, in other words, the money-making side of war.

Our hero is intelligent, tough, loyal and seems to follow his own code of honour. He can also be funny, charming and a smartass when the situation calls for it. Like any great character there’s conflict in his background. His father is in jail for fraud and grand larceny after embezzling millions of dollars and his once close relationship with his brother is now rocky.

Vanished is an enjoyable action-packed read filled with interesting characters. I’m glad I decided to read it before reading the ARC I got of Buried Secrets. the next book by Joseph Heller featuring Nick Heller private-spy extraordinaire.

Book Review: Ape House by Sara Gruen

Spiegel & Grau. Purchased online at The Book Depository

In Ape House, a touching story written by Sara Gruen of Water for Elephants fame, Isabel Duncan is a scientist that researches and cares for  six bonobos at a research facility affiliated with a university.  These bonobos are special because they are able to communicate with humans using American Sign Language. Shortly after a journalist visits the bonobos, the research facility is hit by a bomb that severely injures Isabella. While she’s recuperating. the apes are sold and Isabella, normally reserved, finds herself reaching out to others to save the apes from exploitation.

As with Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen delivers an entertaining novel that also educates the reader on aspects of animal cruelty. In this case, the treatment that apes receive at the hands of scientists at pharmaceutical companies. The book also touches on the amazing research being done by places such as the Great Ape Trust where scientists are studying language acquisition and other behavioural traits in bonobos, chimps, and orangutans.

I really enjoyed reading about the bonobos and their individual personalities. I loved the Isabel Duncan character for her dedication to the bonobos which she describes as her family. My only complaint is that I found some of the characters in the book superfluous and a bit annoying. I found myself racing through these bits so that I could get back to the main bonobo-centric story-line. I was so engrossed with this book that I missed my bus stop while on my way home one evening.

Overall, Ape House is an entertaining and captivating read that may inspire readers to learn more about the preservation and protection of the Great Apes.

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Montreal Mile End Walking Tour

For my English class, I was asked to write an essay to compare my view of Montreal with the view of Montreal depicted in the books were a studying this semester. The reading list for this course includes Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill, Bottle Rocket Hearts by Zoe Whittall, Barney’s Version by Mordecai Richler, Standing Wave by Robert Allen, The Rocking Chair by A.M. Klein and Stranger Music by Leonard Cohen. I picked Barney’s Version so last weekend I did a walking tour of the Mile End area in Montreal that is featured prominently in Mordecai Richler’s books.

Here are a few of the photos I took with my trustworthy point and shoot camera:

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They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children: The Global Quest to Eradicate the Use of Child Soldiers by Roméo Dallaire

Random House Canada. Purchased at Concordia University Bookstore.

Retired Lieutenant-General Roméo A. Dallaire gives a detailed description of the issues governments and NGOs face as they try to stop the use of child soldiers in conflicts around the world. Thanks to his military background and his first-hand experience with child soldiers during the Rwandan genocide, Lt-General Dallaire is able to give a clear account on how and why children are used in armed conflict. He says candidly that the key to stopping this epidemic of child soldiers is prevention as he explains the inadequate resources to rehabilitate former child soldiers. He details the work of the Child Soldier Initiative foundation and his work in getting military and humanitarian organizations to work collaboratively to prevent the use of children in war. He ends the book with a plea to the reader to become involved and he lists the many ways the public can help organizations fighting the use of child soldiers.

I found this book powerful because in addition to the raw facts, Lt-General Dallaire has chosen to include two fictional accounts to illustrate the issues surrounding the use of child soldiers. This first account is the story of a boy who is taken from his village after seeing his family murdered. It shows his transition from child to soldier and his eventual death at the hands of a U.N. soldier. The second story is told from the point of view of a U.N. soldier who kills an opponent during a skirmish with rebel forces only to realize that the “soldier” he shot is just a child.

Bullet Work by Steve O’Brien

Received review copy via LibraryThing

Bullet Work, illustrates, sometimes with too much detail, the stark reality of life on the backside of a fictional racetrack in Virginia. Within the plot of the extortionists blackmailing the trainers by harming their horses, we meet Dan Morgan a horse owner and A.J the young man who has the uncanny and wonderful gift of being able to communicate with the horses and maybe even feel what they’re feeling.

It is an interesting book overall but I had a few issues with the storytelling.  First, it took me some time to get into the book because the author goes in some detail when explaining the jargon and the roles of the different people who work on the racetrack. Second, we see very little of A.J. who is admittedly the most interesting character in the story. I would have loved to read more about A.J.’s connection to horses.

On the positive side, Bullet Work gives us a glimpse into the excitement of the world of horse racing and a look at the passionate people who make a living on the racetrack.

Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival

So if my social anxiety disorder doesn’t act up, I will be attending the following two sessions of the Blue Met Festival:

FRIDAY, APRIL 29 2011 @ 8:00 PM
OPENING YOUR LIBRARY: CANADA EDITION
What Canadian classics are seminal to our national identity according to this select group of Canadian writers and thinkers? What books do these writers treasure? What books influenced them the most? Four Canadian writers talk about their personal libraries. With Charles Foran, Alexander MacLeod, Kathleen Winter, Kate Pullinger.
SATURDAY, APRIL 30 2011 @ 12:00 PM
VARIED TRAJECTORIES: MONTREAL WRITERS RICHLER & GLASSCO
Two Montreal writers, Mordecai Richler & John Glassco, and their wildly different backgrounds, careers, and legacies. With Charles Foran, Charles Taylor Prize-winning author of Mordecai and Brian Busby, author of A Gentleman of Pleasure: One Life of John Glassco, Poet, Memoirist, Translator, and Pornographer.

Book Review: Two Kisses for Maddy by Matthew Logelin

Grand Central Publishing. Received review copy via netgalley.com

Two Kisses for Maddy by Matt Logelin is a wonderful tribute to his daughter Madeline and his late wife Liz.  The book takes you through Matt and Liz’s courtship, the difficult pregnancy, Liz’s unexpected death and the first year Maddy’s life. It’s a heartbreaking but uplifting story. Through the sadness you catch glimpses of Matt’s sense of humour. Matt is frank about how clueless he is with dealing with his wife’s death and raising a daughter on his own but his love for Liz and Maddy shines through as well as his determination to do what’s best for Maddy.

This book shows that when it comes to grief there is no one-size-fits-all solution.  The situation “fucking sucks” as Matt says and it’s OK to cry and swear. Everyone must find their own personal way of dealing with loss though, as you can see through Matt’s experience, reaching out to family, friends and sometimes even strangers is of great help.