Book Review: All the Broken Things

17834903Thank you to Random House Canada for sending us this delightful and tender story that makes your heart ache while reading and continues to give it a squeeze when you reflect upon it.

All the Broken Things is a coming of age story quite unlike any you’ve read before. Before you even read of Bo’s life, you are given one giant eye-opening and powerfully stated “Author’s Note”. It was one that I couldn’t stop reading over, thinking about and sharing. In it tells the wild truths about Canada’s (Ontario) manufacture of Agent Orange, bear wrestling and freak shows.

September, 1983. Fourteen-year-old Bo, a boat person from Vietnam, lives in a small house in the Junction neighbourhood of Toronto with his mother, Thao, and his four-year-old sister, who was born severely disfigured from the effects of Agent Orange. Named Orange, she is the family secret; Thao keeps her hidden away, and when Bo’s not at school or getting into fights on the street, he cares for her.
One day a carnival worker and bear trainer, Gerry, sees Bo in a streetfight, and recruits him for the bear wrestling circuit, eventually giving him his own cub to train. This opens up a new world for Bo–but then Gerry’s boss, Max, begins pursuing Thao with an eye on Orange for his travelling freak show. When Bo wakes up one night to find the house empty, he knows he and his cub, Bear, are truly alone. Together they set off on an extraordinary journey through the streets of Toronto and High Park. Awake at night, boy and bear form a unique and powerful bond. When Bo emerges from the park to search for his sister, he discovers a new way of seeing Orange, himself and the world around them.
   All the Broken Things is a spellbinding novel, at once melancholy and hopeful, about the peculiarities that divide us and bring us together, and the human capacity for love and acceptance.

This is a lovely synopsis really, and while it does clearly sum up what happens in the story, it doesn’t really seem to capture enough about it, you know? I’ve been struggling over the past many days in my attempts to write thoughts full of clarity and charm about this story after closing the pages of All the Broken Things. Then I happened across Kerry’s review over at  Pickle Me This, and found that here, here is what I think I’ve been trying to say:

I finished reading the book the other day and have not quite discovered what I think of it yet. “I think it’s a novel meant to be deeply considered rather than summed up in a sentence or two,” is what I wrote on Sunday in an email to a friend. The novel is a peculiar shape, not quite what I am used to. I found it to be a page-turner, difficult to put down. It’s a novel that moves through time and space almost as quickly as I moved through its chapters, and I have this theory that its plotted more as an epic tale than a novel.

I’ve been staring at this page for a few days on end now, wondering how best to write an appropriate review for a story that I quite enjoyed, a story that was a fast-moving, very enjoyable tale, but as Kerry says, it’s not something you can really write about in a sentence or two. All the Broken Things is written with spare prose, there are no superfluous or overly descriptive words used throughout, and yet, upon closing, its prose haunts your mind for days on end. A wonderful and delightful tale. I do recommend reading it. You won’t be able to stop thinking about it after finishing though, I’m warning you now.

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Book Review: The Hungry Ghosts

ghostsMany thanks to Random House of Canada for sending this marvelous novel; a story that I thoroughly enjoyed from beginning to final page.  The Hungry Ghosts has everything you want in a smart read: marvelously intelligent characters, elegant prose and most of all, great wisdom.

The Hungry Ghosts centers around Shivan Rassiah, a wonderful character in war-torn Sri Lanka, whose life becomes a wide open book for the reader.  Shivan’s mother and sister live with him in his grandmother’s Colombo home at the novel’s start, which proves an impossibly uncomfortable situation.  Shivan’s grandmother adores her beautiful grandson, and places him on a pedestal.  Her love for him places everyone else in a dark shadow, and simultaneously drives an invisible wedge between Shivan, his mother and his sister.  While the politics of his home country ravage communities and citizens, Shivan’s extraordinarily wealthy grandmother miraculously keeps her family safely tucked away.  The reason for this emerges as the story progresses, and Shivan comes to discover her true character. Continue reading

Book Review: What Echo Heard

13000539Fernie, British Columbia. Do you know where to locate that on the map? I will freely admit that I did not know. Now however,  I’m all about this little city nestled in the Rockies of British Columbia. I need to go there! Fernie is home to Oolichan Books. They contacted us wishing to send us a book from their catalogue, would we be interested? Oolichan Books…now that’s an interesting name isn’t it? Here’s what it means (taken from their website):

Our name is taken from the small fish, once plentiful in West Coast waters and a staple in the diet of First Nations people to whom it was sacred. The oolichan, often referred to as the candlefish, is believed to possess healing powers and guarantee longevity. Continue reading

Book Review: Just One Evil Act

17624975Elizabeth George has delivered another solid read in the Inspector Lynley Series.

Originally, I felt some hesitation towards it, because of the length of it and wondered if the pacing would keep my interest in reading. Also, unfortunately, some of the reviews (just glanced at) didn’t express a lot of love for this 18th in the series. Yet, these hesitations were easily put to rest. I learned, fairly early on, Just One Evil Act was going to evolve into two mysteries – a kidnapping and a murder – involving the same characters taking place in parallel time. The pacing was just right and there weren’t any feelings of fatigue or boredom. That’s quite an accomplishment for the 700+ page novel! However, while I cannot say there wasn’t a high level of frustration with Detective Sergeant Havers for her damning behaviour in this story, I did understand her actions were due to her feelings for her neighbour, Taymalluh Azhar and his daughter, Hadiyyah. There was continued frustration as well with George’s heavy use of Italian, that for the most part went untranslated throughout. Yet, George does put it all to bed quite neatly in the end for a very satisfying read. Continue reading