Book Review: Truth in Advertising

13547308This was one of those “put everything you are reading aside and pick this one up NOW!” kind of books. It had it all– laugh out loud humour, a non-cheesy love story, tissue needing sadness, great secondary characters, family drama and secrets revealed at just the right time. A GREAT choice for the Critical Era Book Club once again! If you haven’t joined yet– what are you waiting for??

From Goodreads:

F. Scott Fitzgerald said that there are no second acts in American lives. I have no idea what that means but I believe that in quoting him I appear far more intelligent than I am. I don’t know about second acts, but I do think we get second chances, fifth chances, eighteenth chances. Every day we get a fresh chance to live the way we want.”

FINBAR DOLAN is lost and lonely. Except he doesn’t know it. Despite escaping his blue-collar Boston upbringing to carve out a mildly successful career at a Madison Avenue ad agency, he’s a bit of a mess and closing in on forty. He’s recently called off a wedding. Now, a few days before Christmas, he’s forced to cancel a long-postponed vacation in order to write, produce, and edit a Super Bowl commercial for his diaper account in record time.

Fortunately, it gets worse. Fin learns that his long-estranged and once-abusive father has fallen ill. And that neither of his brothers or his sister intend to visit. It’s a wake-up call for Fin to reevaluate the choices he’s made, admit that he’s falling for his coworker Phoebe, question the importance of diapers in his life, and finally tell the truth about his past.

Truth in Advertising is debut novelist John Kenney’s wickedly funny, honest, at times sardonic, and ultimately moving story about the absurdity of corporate life, the complications of love, and the meaning of family.

What makes this book is DEFINITELY the way it is told!  Fin lives and breathes advertising and the dialogue in his head reads like one big commercial, complete with a kick ass soundtrack, masterful fade outs and world-famous “talent” at every turn. He is used to selling his own lies to himself– his interpretation of the defining moments of his life, his current success as a creative copy writer and hiding his true feelings at all costs– but, his father’s impending death is making it harder and harder for Fin to continue to believe. As he is forced to face the truth for the first time in his life, he begins to fall apart at the seams. 

Will Fin ever be able to tell himself the truth and find happiness? Will he give up the business of lying? Will he ever find out who Gary is? Will he make things right for his father and his family?  Can he sell the toxic and non-flushable diapers at the Super Bowl? Will he get the girl??? Read it and find out! Breaks. Your. Heart. Good. Stuff. It had me laughing out loud in some parts, biting my nails at others and definitely crying by the end. Such a great cast of characters– I fell for Fin hook, line and sinker, I wished I could hang out with Ian and Keita (his fabulous friends) and I think that I actually work for Martin (what an d*ckhead)! ;). My first 5 star read of 2013. I enjoyed it so much! John Kenney– what an AWESOME debut!

What a terrible thing it is to not love someone who loves you. Far worse is acting as if you do.” ~Fin

(this was put together by the author and his publishing company as a tongue in cheek “advertisement” for the book. Hee Hee! Well done!)

Book Review: The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow

silence of bon

“(They could never have explained Bonaventure anyway because there is no scientific word for miraculous.) They didn’t know that through his remarkable hearing he would bring salvation to the souls of those who loved him.”

“She could not understand that Bonaventure’s muteness was not a handicap at all but a gift – an extraordinary, inexplicable, immeasurable gift that allowed him to hear what no one else could. The silence that had taken Bonaventure’s voice was the very same silence in which exists the Universe of Every Single Sound, a place that reverberates with perfect peace and mirthful bliss, but also with despair’s deep moaning and the whispers of secrets…Those secrets were waiting for Bonaventure to hear them and find them and take them out for healing.”

Marvelous! Wonderful! Extraordinary! Splendid! A true gift to the reader! I am certain I will not properly convey how brilliant this story was, but please just believe me that this book was a true gift to read as the last one for 2012. It was such a special book.  Thank you so very much to HarperCollins and Edelweiss for advancing us a copy of The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow. This absolute brilliant gem is set for release in February 2013. So it’s not so very long away, but you must make sure to look for it!  Promise! When I first read the description of this tale, I immediately thought, “doesn’t this sound remarkable”? And oh how remarkable it truly was. The writing, so gorgeous, it just envelopes you in its beauty. “Though they had come together to mourning’s abyss, each looked into the gorge alone.” It truly makes you stop and listen.  The sense of Hearing and Listening are profoundly employed throughout this story. It also has ghosts, religion, spirits, mysticism, crazy evangelical preachers speaking in tongues, Hoodoo and Voodoo and everything else awesome!

Bonaventure Arrow only experiences his world through sound. His early years are spent communicating only through a series of clicks, facial and hand gestures. It was wonderful to sit back and read about Bonaventure’s impressions of people, just by listening. The sound of his ghostly father is always familiar to Bonaventure, even though he doesn’t see him, has never seen him, he is always comforted by his deep, reassuring voice. His grandmother Roman however, is one person that causes Bonaventure distress and anxiety (and always for good reason! Grandmother Roman is a despicable and self-righteous woman). He is most at comfort laying against his mother’s chest and feeling her throat for the vibrations as she speaks. Bonaventure, we are told, has been placed on this earth to help heal the secrets, and there are aplenty in his family that need to be released, healed and put away forever.

The characters and their parts in this intricate story are each wonderful works of art:

The Wanderer: He is anonymous and responsible for the murder of the beloved son, husband and not-yet father, William Arrow. The Wanderer has returned from WWII missing half his face. Unable to properly communicate, he seems to become possessed or preoccupied with a mission that takes him from Michigan to New Orleans in order to kill William. Forever after that he remains as John Doe in an asylum. No one, not even himself, knows or understands what provoked him to shoot and kill William. All is revealed however in the end with great heartbreak.

William: ghostly William must take care of three tasks before he can fully move on to Heaven. He enlists the help of Bonaventure as he is one of only two people that know of his presence. Bonaventure is the only one to hear his ghostly father who watches over him. William’s completion of the tasks and his final letting go to move on to Heaven will make you cry. I cried. A lot.

“What does red sound like?” — it sounds like fireworks. Do you like fireworks? –“Yup, I can hear fireworks, but I can’t hear red. You’re the only one that can do that. You’re the only one that can hear a lot of things. You’re the only one that can hear me.”

The Grandmothers: William’s mother Letice, wracked with guilt over her son’s death and cannot overcome that it must have had something to do with those secrets long kept tucked away in a box.  Dancy’s mom Adelaide Roman: a despicable, hateful woman that is just mean-spirited and just one of those characters you love to hate, but also has secrets of her own. She is healed as well, but in a very unique and rightful way.

Bonaventure’s mother, Dancy: She is left bereft over William’s death and feels it is entirely her fault as well. As hard as it is for both William and Dancy to let go of one another, it is necessary for total healing.

Then there is Trinidad Prefontaine. In the beginning, she is constantly aware of an imp’s presence, her feet itch when she feels him near. She is eventually joined to Bonaventure, and becomes a significant person in his life. Trinidad has been given the gift of sixth sense, or The Knowing. She too will work with Bonaventure to expose and heal the secrets, and is aware of William’s presence in his childhood home, the same in which Letice, Dancy and Bonaventure live.

And of course there is Bonaventure. One spectacularly, amazingly special boy with an incredibly special gift. Through Bonaventure you hear, and you listen and it’s simply beautiful. It’s simply astonishing and amazing to read. It is definitely a book I did not want to see come to an end. You will want to relish and lose yourself in this beautifully written tale. Absolutely fan-fabulous-tastic! So many amazing poignant moments that cause you to stop and listen and just close your eyes at how beautifully those moments are written on the page.

Slowly and elegantly, the secrets are unveiled and it is up to Bonaventure and with help from Trinidad to interpret, discover and bury them in the past where they belong.

What a wonderful wonderful book to close out 2012 with! 5 beautiful stars! Again, make sure you pick this one up when it comes out! It does not disappoint in any way!

Bonaventure would come to know that life is not always made of beautiful sounds, that too many sounds make cacophony, and that every voice matters. 

He would come to understand that there’s a difference between the will of God and the will of man, that the acts of one person affects the lives of others, and that God reaches out when it all goes wrong.

Audiobook Review: In the Pleasure Groove – Life, Death and Duran Duran

***DISCLAIMER: This will be a 100% biased review!!!***

John Taylor, founding member of Duran Duran and bass god extraordinaire, has written his autobiography. WOW! Am I dreaming?? Reading + Duran Duran– my 2 favourite things all in one!?? Yes! It is true! In the Pleasure Groove – Life, Death and Duran Duran tells the story of how the most wonderful band in the world came together, how they lived through the excessive 80’s and how they are still making FANTASTIC music to this day (seriously, pick up their latest– All You Need Is Now— it is great GREAT stuff!!). 

For those non-Durannies out there, Duran Duran is a band that was formed in Birmingham, England in 1978. They were part of a musical movement called the “New Wave”– a kind of glam/punk fusion that infiltrated the radio waves during the early half of the 1980’s. The look was extremely androgynous and Duran Duran definitely fit the mould–  Frilly shirts? check! Scarves and sashes? Check and check! Burgundy hair, eyeliner and pouty poses? Check, check and check! By 1984 they had 5 hits, were the HUGEST band in the world and 13-year-old girls EVERYWHERE had posters of John Taylor on their walls (myself included). Some 30 years later our JT tells the tale from his perspective. 

JT has said in several interviews that his book is not a time-line history of the band filled with facts that you could find with any Google query but it is more of an opportunity to pay homage to the place of his birth (Birmingham) and to the people who made it all happen. As the “young prince of the neighbourhood” we hear about his earliest memory (walking to church with his mum to listen to the hymns), his introduction to “popular music” through his cousin Eddie and meeting up with pal (and co-founder of Duran) Nick Rhodes to skip school and sneak off to concerts at age 14 (same age as my son! YIKES!)! Once he caught the music bug he KNEW that he had to be a part of it– all he had to do was learn an instrument! Maybe I would have liked a teenie tiny bit more about his brief solo career and a bit more detail regarding the Reunion (of the Snake!) of 2003 but– hey! I can’t complain!

Reading this book would have been a pleasure on its own but I made the wise choice to listen to the Audiobook narrated by none other than the man himself!! Can I love him even more after that?? I don’t think so! JT’s speaking voice was absolutely perfect– it felt as if he was speaking just for me! It was touching to hear him speak so fondly of his parents, his band mates and to fellow musicians that he has both admired and been in competition with. His ups and downs make him even more human and possibly even more attractive.

John Taylor is a genuinely nice guy who is excited to be sharing his story as I found out in Toronto, Ontario on October 29, 2012. Over 500 people showed up at the Indigo Bookstore (in TERRIBLE weather) to listen to him speak about his book and he stayed until all who wanted a signed copy were satisfied! Such a GREAT guy! Can’t WAIT for the new album and to see them live again (which they are planning for 2013). Not every band can brag a 30+ year old career! I am a lucky fan! 5 stars from this Durannie (maybe a 3.5 for non-fans– if there is such thing)!

Audiobook Review: City of Women

Absolutely astonishing! Even more extraordinary is the pure listening pleasure offered by this audiobook. I strongly encourage you to listen to this in audio! The City of Women is a fantastic & fabulous story superbly narrated by Suzanne Bertish. She fills this exceptionally well-written story with all the added passion, excitement, suspense and intrigue right up to that final, breathtaking and heartbreaking CD!

The only regret about listening to the audiobook in the car was that so many of those many number of exceptionally poignant or breathtaking words could not be ear-marked to write in here. Gillham’s writing honestly took my breath away many times! However, my sincere thanks once again to Audiobook Jukebox and Penguin Audio for providing a copy of the audiobook, as it was definitely one of the very best I’ve listened to this year! I wouldn’t trade listening to this book for anything! You’ll just have to grab a copy yourself to experience his wonderful writing.

The City of Women centres around Sigrid Schröder, whose husband has gone to the front to fight at the height of WWII and whom must remain in Berlin, now the city of women as over 300,000 men have perished or off fighting Hitler’s war.

Gillham has divinely captured the varied personalities of the women Sigrid lives and interacts with daily, in her job and in her apartment building. From the fiercely disagreeable bitch of a mother-in-law, to the women that dare to speak out against Hitler to the women that then denounce those that have spoken out. All of this in one small building. Sigrid is not quite sure as to where she fits in this new world order- not quite the “good German woman” that her employer or mother-in-law feel she should be, but still not quite the woman silly enough to draw attention to herself for disobeying any of the many rules now governing every aspect of life in Berlin.

This synopsis from Goodreads explains very well the storyline of The City of Women: But behind this façade is an entirely different Sigrid, a woman who dreams of her former lover, now lost in the chaos of the war. Her lover is a Jew.

But Sigrid is not the only one with secrets.

A high ranking SS officer and his family move down the hall and Sigrid finds herself pulled into their orbit.  A young woman doing her duty-year is out of excuses before Sigrid can even ask her any questions.  And then there’s the blind man selling pencils on the corner, whose eyes Sigrid can feel following her from behind the darkness of his goggles.

Soon Sigrid is embroiled in a world she knew nothing about, and as her eyes open to the reality around her, the carefully constructed fortress of solitude she has built over the years begins to collapse. She must choose to act on what is right and what is wrong, and what falls somewhere in the shadows between the two. (Goodreads)

There is one young girl in Sigrid’s building that disappears and keeps odd hours, and basically does everything but what she is employed to do. Sigrid notices that instead of minding the many children, she is coming and going and frustrating her employer with her unexplained absences. Sigrid takes it upon herself to follow Erika one evening and discovers something that will awaken a new identity in Sigrid. She also discovers a heartfelt and strong kinship with Erika, risking much to assist her and keep her alive.

Sigrid immerses herself in this pulse-pounding, life-threatening and edge-of-your-seat suspenseful underground world of extraordinary women that are risking their lives to hide Jews, political dissidents and undesireables. Although the risk is so great, Sigrid fully comes alive and becomes an indispensible and instrumental participant in these clandestine assignments. The intrigue, daring and suspense will keep you glued to this story!

The story of some extraordinary citizens coming to the rescue of Jews during WWII is definitely not a new one, but Gillham has finely brought our attention to these remarkable women that risked so much when they made their choice to do what they felt was right and just. Definitely a 5 star read for me. It’s also up there on the favourites list!

In somewhat related news, I came across this article this morning about the book Soldaten. It contains many transcripts from German POWs detailing their knowledge of the mass killing of Jews. It sounds like a chilling read.