Showing posts from June, 2015


Book cover design by Stephen Best   I was so entrapped by  Barbara Kyle 's novel that I devoured it in two days. Another dinner not cooked… * This thriller will please fans of Linwood Barclay, Paula Hawkins or Gillian Flynn—all the left-field twists and turns are there, plus you actually learn something, and without boring exposition. One of the things I loved most about the setting of the book was how unabashedly Canadian it was. Kyle includes doffs of the hat to our coloured bills and ‘bull’s eye’ coins, maple syrup, the RCMP, Canada geese and the CPR, but there are no  clichés or   schlock: no cops ordering double-doubles at Timmy’s or references to losing hockey teams. These cultural markers are seamlessly woven into the plot. And the Canadian setting is actually part of the plot. (I don’t know if the situation in the States is comparable, but I suspect American readers will find familiar themes.) An American oil company with a Canadian division is extracting

Remember those 1970s posters that said “I’m Special”?

Photo by V.Wells Copyright 2015  New York Times op-ed columnist David Brooks has written a book that quashes that adage of modernity: in The Road to Character , he proposes that we have two sets of value systems that are embodied by inner selves Adam I and Adam II: the former reflects ‘résumé virtues’ and the latter, the ‘eulogy virtues’. We should be as worried about the latter as the former, he argues, and we’ve done a lot of damage by bringing up a few generations of kids by telling them incessantly and in every way possible that they are ‘special’. Brooks examines the lives of several illustrious individuals and fleshes out the defining moments and influences in their lives that led them to develop character. For instance, his thesis is upheld by the likes of George Eliot and her interest in ‘moral improvement’ (p.183). He also discusses several in light of their vocations, but not with the self in mind: “A vocation is not found by looking within and finding your pa

Book Recommendation: Disenchanted by Janet Ursel

I have a confession: I pick up fantasy novels somewhat cautiously. My favourite genre, speculative/post-apocalyptic lit, often gets lumped under fantasy/sci-fi, which I find curious, because I don’t think a post-apocalyptic world is necessarily fictitious. But the branch of fantasy that involves dragons or other worlds or time travel…sometimes I need to be convinced. (Don’t get me wrong: I had to stop reading a spec. lit. book that I was going to review: it wasn’t worth my reading or writing time.) So when I embarked on Janet Ursel’s upcoming fantasy novel Disenchanted , I didn’t expect to be hooked to the point of not making dinner that night and reading a third of it in one go, after a full day of other editing work. It is another world and time, and it does involve magic. But this is a multi-dimensional treatment of fantasy that Ursel makes work beautifully. As an editor, I see a lot of writing problems, so my mind is trained to note them even when reading for pleasure. I dog

I Bid You Welcome...

Both of my movie recos this week touch on the topics of intimacy and mental health. I went on a bit of a vampire movie-binge this weekend because of my recent tweeting with author M. Jess Peacock about his new book Such a Dark Thing: Theology of the Vampire Narrative in Popular Culture (a read that I recommend). I saw some common themes in the 1931 Tod Browning version of Dracula —that of Bela Lugosi fame—and Two Days, One Night (dir. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 2014) starring Marion Cotillard (who is becoming a Meryl Streep for me). This French film is about a factory worker whose coworkers must vote on keeping her on staff or earning sizeable bonuses, and she has the weekend to contact them at their home addresses and persuade them to vote for her. With this, my first viewing of Dracula , some things were fun—guyliner and haunted-house armadillos—and made me think of The Rocky Horror Picture Show . I also noted some fun trivia about it online . But there were other things I n