[610]: City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong


I am ashamed to admit that I don’t follow too many Canadian authors. I haven’t even read too many of Margaret Atwood’s work. Kelley Armstrong, however, is one that I don’t dare miss. She writes the best thriller in any genre, so when I came across this title, I immediately pounced at the chance to read it.

City of the Lost is the story of Casey Duncan, a detective who found herself on the run because her past came back to haunt her. On top of that, her best friend’s abusive ex found her again and decided to reunite with her the only way he knew how: by beating her to within an inch of her life.  Wanting to hide, they found sanctuary in a town where people come to disappear. In the remote wilderness of Yukon Territory, a sense of an otherworldly danger only the likes of Casey can detect. And it doesn’t take long before she’s entrenched in a series of murder investigations where the suspect roams the inside and outside of the boundary of the forest.

I’m often cautious to recommend a good crime story. But if that’s not your thing, and you’ve decided to see what you’ve been missing, Kelley Armstrong’s work is a great place to start. She somehow manages to entice non-readers to come to the dark side with her tightly-woven mysteries and seemingly stereotypical characters. Don’t get me wrong, stereotypical characters are not always a good thing, but since it’ll be a new territory, it’s oddly comforting.

You’ve got a strong female character who presents a tentativeness that you don’t normally see from heroines in the genre. Casey can kick the living daylights of the bad guys any day, but is a little insecure in some ways. She’s a study in dichotomy, oddly enough. But then again, aren’t they all? I’ve never found her to be confident, even though she’s intelligent and quick on her feet. She’s mild-mannered and even-tempered. Just don’t surprise her or she’ll shoot you first and then ask questions after.

Then, there’s the Sheriff. He was a dick. But this dick grew on me. Hard. (Sorry. I can’t resist). Eric Daulton grew up in this secret town so he has a sense of ownership and is always looking for ulterior motives from any newcomers. Casey was on his shit list at first, but she quickly wins him over with her take-no-shit-from-anybody attitude. This novel features a whole slew of shady characters with shady pasts. And since this Rockton is a place where none of that matters, the investigation was a slow process. I think the only thing I can complain about is tediousness and it wasn’t very forthcoming with clues either. But never fear Casey and Eric’s interactions were torturous fun.

Once again, Kelley didn’t disappoint. She captures the very essence of a good mystery novel in a setting unlike anything I’ve ever read before. This is a first in the series so I’m chomping at the bits to read more. The possibilities are endless for this town of Rockton, the good Sheriff and the detective.

GOODREADS SUMMARY | January 2nd, 2016 | Random House Canada | 



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[571]: Bream Gives Me Hiccups by Jesse Eisenberg


Bream Gives Me Hiccups & Other Stories / Jesse Eisenberg

I have this prejudice against celebrities who writes novels. Especially pop stars and reality tv stars. There have been a few books that I simply laugh at whenever I see them in the bookstore (see: Kendall and Kylie Jenner’s YA book). I have this urge to shake the publishers who were intent on destroying the industry by signing these “so-called writers”. Who the heck do you think you’re kidding? Your blatant money-grabbing stint is what’s going to ruin us all. Ugh. But that’s another can of worms for another day.

Not all celebrities are poseurs, though. I can name a few who are writers in their right: Steve Martin, Woody Allen, and James Franco even.  Jesse Eisenberg is one that I consider to be a multi-talented actor whom I didn’t know also writes on the side (mostly screenplays). The good news is, he knows a thing or two about writing.

Bream Gives Me Hiccups is a collection of short stories written in the most varied and quirky perspectives. Some of them funny, some of them not-so. The stories are not connected; one has nothing to do with the other,  but he manages to give each story its own life.

The first story is about a nine-year-old food reviewer who is dealing with life as he lives it with his divorced mother and how she copes with being a single parent (lots of alcohol and frivolous dining experience all on her ex’s dime, apparently.). He writes dining reviews; most of which depends not on culinary merits (he’s 9 after all), but on how it correlates with his day to day life.  Hidden behind the humour is a heart-tugging realization that the reader sees how this boy cope with his broken home.

There are 28 short stories in total; stories that are funny, engaging, whip-smart, quirky and bizarre. Eisenberg knows how to manipulate the readers into going along with his antics. He also has the uncanny ability to write interesting dialogues that makes for an easy read. But throughout the narrative, you can’t help but hear Jesse’s voice.

There really is not much to say about this collection other than I hope he’ll consider writing a  full length novel in the future.

GOODREADS SUMMARY | Bond Street Books | September 8th, 2015 | Short Stories | Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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[560]: Long Change by Don Gillmor


Long Change / Don Gillmor

“Oil is what holds Western civilization up. It is energy, politics and security. It binds Christians to Arabs. It starts wars and creates wealth.” – pp. 104

To be honest, I don’t know what it was about this book that attracted me when I read the review invite from Random House. Don Gillmor may be a Canadian household name, but I haven’t read any of his book. Moreover, oil is something that doesn’t really appeal to me. The only thing I know about it is, just like money, it’s a necessary evil. It turns out, the industry is that much interesting that I ended up devouring this book in one weekend!

Long Change is the story of one man’s life and loves as it correlates with the dog-eat-dog world of the oil business. Some could argue that his life was dictated by whichever way the oil flows. From the dry heat of Texas, to the frozen tundra of Alberta; and even as far away as the perilous remoteness of Africa, Ritt Devlin’s life was an up and down roller coaster of triumphs and failures.

He escaped the clutches of his abusive, religious father at a young age of 17 in the 50s. From there, he worked in an oilfield in Abilene, Texas. He found himself on the run from the law after an altercation with a group of men looking for trouble. From Texas, he made his way to Alberta where the oil business was just getting off the ground. He also met his great love, Oda. A tall, bookish woman who would show him the love of outdoors and the love of books.

Through the years, he’ll experience great successes and disappointments. And yet even with all that, Ritt kept a cool disposition; never losing his temper or straying away from his goal. He had a way of distancing himself from situations – however minute, or consequential it may be. I almost felt like one of the women that passed by his life after Oda. When he didn’t seem to feel a smidgeon of remorse for not trying hard enough to make a relationship work.

Ritt Devlin has a very passionate relationship with Geology. He understood it, he respected it, and he more or less took advantage of it. Even still, I rooted for him. I wanted him to find the ultimate success that eluded him. This novel had me in its grips. It’s not a suspenseful read, but the power of Gillmor’s writing is that he captures the readers from the first page. He had me interested in an industry that I hate but could not live without.  The plot moved steadily, but with relentless passion. Passion in Ritt’s relationships – personal, business, and more importantly, with the land.

GOODREADS SUMMARY | Random House Canada | August 18th, 2015 | 4 out of 5 Stars



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[507]: Blood on Snow by Jo Nesbø

DSC00035 GOODREADS SUMMARY | Random House Canada | Hardcover, 208 pp. | April 7th, 2014 | Adult Fiction | Thriller | Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Jo Nesbø is a household name in the suspense/thriller genre. And since I’ve rarely venture out into that aisle of my bookstore, I’ve yet to discover all the hows and the whys he’s so popular. At 208 pages, this book did its damnest to convince me that he is as prolific in the genre as everyone claims him to be.

I get it. I get his style. I get his characters and the brutal violence that he could very well be known for. This man has written a number of books; including a couple of stand-alones that are critically acclaimed. As an inexperienced reader of noir fiction, I’m hardly an expert. But I hope you’ll give me some leeway when I say that Scandinavian thrillers are a different beast altogether. I think did him a disservice when I tagged this book as pulp fiction during the first few chapters of my reading. Truth is, it really is not.

It’s difficult to develop a rapport with a character whose line of work dealt with the murder of suspect characters. But Olav is what you would consider as an assassin with a heart. Depending on the assignment, the chances of him saving a kill is more than likely to happen. He does his research well; he finds anything worth saving before he goes for the kill. It’s a deterrent to success in his line of work. After all, he can’t save everyone. And while he is a killer with a kind heart, he could be also be as cold as a trained assassin could be.

His latest assignment led him to a whole world of trouble. He was to kill the wife of the man who give his assignments. During his usual surveillance, he found out that she was, indeed, cheating. But the circumstances can’t be as black and white. He sees the man beats her before they have sex. He concludes that he was blackmailing her, hence the forced sex. He didn’t anticipate how badly things will turn out when he decided to kill the man instead of his boss’ wife, however.

For such a short novel, Nesbø was able to give Olav depth in characterization: he’s not a very smart man; he’s naive. He killed his father. He can’t rob a bank, or be a pimp. He doesn’t smoke, drink or do drugs. He compares himself to his version of Hugo’s Jean Valjean. He adores his mother. In one of his assignments, he decided to save a deaf-mute girl who was forced into prostitution to pay off a debt. He’s been writing her an unsent letters ever since.

Amidst the violence, blood, and gore, there is something romantic about Olav’s line of work. Or perhaps, it’s Olav himself. Nesbø gave his readers a larger than life character that’s neither good or bad; hero nor villain; a saint, as much as he was a sinner.

Jo Nesbø’s latest work is good enough for inexperienced noir readers. It’s not as evolved as perhaps his Harry Hole series, but highly recommended if you’ve ever thought of trudging through an unexplored genre.

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