Sunday 31 January 2016

Last post for January...

It’s hard to believe that this month is over and we’re halfway through winter, and yet  It’s so mild and rainy outside today that it feels more like spring… I hate when the seasons get all mixed up like this!  Good thing I have a hot cup of chai tea and a yummy Cranberry Scone from Future Bakery to cheer me up!  

I took advantage of the opportunity to read whatever I wanted to get to a book I’ve been meaning to read for quite some time.  Empire Falls by Richard Russo has been sitting on my shelf for years, I’ve really wanted to read more of this Pulitzer Prize-winning author’s work.  It ended up taking me two weeks to read, since I had many other things that I had to do in the evenings over the past couple of weeks, significantly cutting into my reading time.  I finally finished last night, just in time to tell you about it this morning.  This novel tells the story of a small American town not far from Boston and the people who live there.  Much of the town is owned by the wealthy Whiting family who live on the other side of the river, now headed by Francine Whiting, an elderly but intimidating woman whose motto is “Power and control”.  She not only owns the properties and businesses in the town, she feels that she owns the citizens of Empire Falls and has the right to orchestrate what goes on there and how the town is run.  Miles Roby is one such individual, someone for whom she has a certain fondness, but who may also turn out to be her greatest challenge.  Miles manages the Empire Grill, a diner that has been serving the townspeople of Empire Falls for decades.  Miles' mother, Grace, had worked for the Whiting family her whole life, first in the shirt factory, then as a personal aide to Mrs. Whiting.  When Grace became ill while Miles was away at college, he returned home to care for her and began working at the Grill.  Twenty years later, he’s still in the same place, just barely getting by, in the midst of a divorce he never wanted.  What holds him together and keeps him going is his awkward, intelligent, talented teenaged daughter Christine, nicknamed “Tick”, who prefers being with her father rather than her mother, Janine, and Janine’s fiance, Walt Comeau.  He also still holds out hope that he may finally have a relationship with Charlene, a waitress at the Empire Grill with whom he’s been in love since high school but who has always been just out of reach.  Miles, too, has been the reluctant recipient of adoration from Cindy Whiting, Francine’s daughter, who was crippled in an automobile accident when she was very young, leaving her dependent on the kindness of others.  Grace encouraged Miles to befriend Cindy, a request he undertook grudgingly.  Now Cindy is back, and, being the sole heir to the Whiting fortune, the time is right for Miles to make his move on her and secure his and Tick's financial future.  But Miles is haunted by memories of his past, particularly of a vacation he took with his mother when he was nine, when they spent a week at Martha’s Vineyard and spent time in the company of a mysterious stranger named Charlie Mayne.  And the pressures from the people around him to make a change, to take advantage of opportunities rather than just let life happen to him, are making life harder and harder for him to manage.  His brother David, a reformed alcoholic and excellent chef, wants to expand the restaurant’s menu, extend the hours, and even get a liquor license, to finally make the Grill profitable.  His soon-to-be ex-mother-in-law wants him to move on and leave her daughter to her fate as the new Mrs Comeau.  Cindy, of course, wants to finally have her love realized and returned.  But will mild-mannered Miles be able to get out from under Mrs Whiting’s thumb and make the right decisions for himself and his family while still maintaining his personal integrity?  That is the question that drives this slow-moving, detailed narrative.  It resembles a soap opera in style, but it contains many insights into the human condition,  the way people live their lives, and the things some people choose to do to keep their lives going.  I didn’t love this book, but I’m so glad I finally got a chance to read it.  It was very well-written, with skilled use of language, fully-developed characters, and complex relationships between townspeople, friends and family.  I think I may have enjoyed it more if I had never read John Steinbeck’s The Winter of Our Discontent, because it reminded me so much of that wonderful novel.  There were so many parallels, from the mild-mannered protagonist who could have achieved so much more in life but who suffers from thwarted ambitions, the daughter who is instrumental in directing his actions, and the small-town setting, mostly owned and controlled by a single wealthy individual, and filled with quirky characters whose stories intersect with the protagonist and influence how he perceives himself, his fate and his destiny.  It also reminded me of John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany, in that religion and the church play a significant role in shaping Miles’ experiences.  It was definitely a good reading experience, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys domestic fiction set in a small town. This book was also adapted for television and made into a mini-series starring Ed Harris, Helen Hunt, and many other well-known actors.  I haven’t seen it, but I’m interested in checking it out if I can get my hands on it somehow.  

And I just finished listening to an audiobook, The Most Dangerous Thing, by Laura Lippman, read by Linda Emond, who did an awesome job of capturing the many different characters’ voices and points of view.  This novel begins with Gordon “Go Go” Halloran spiralling out of control as he falls off the wagon and drives into the wall at the end of a street near his childhood home.  His death (accident or suicide?) brings together the remaining four in the circle of childhood friends whose experiences one summer may have changed their lives.  Gwen, Mickey, Tim, Sean and Go Go were inseparable at the end of the ‘70s, but after a particularly devastating experience during a hurricane, they drifted apart.  Now, decades later, the truth about the incident threatens to surface and these four individuals, now adults who should be ready to take responsibility, must decide not only how to handle the truth, but what the truth actually is.  Can adults be held responsible for acts they committed as children, when they believed they were choosing the best course in a situation where there is no clear right or wrong?  Lippman is most well-known for her “Tess Monaghan” series, but I prefer her standalone books, and this one did not disappoint.  It had a complex plot, well-developed characters, and addressed issues of childhood actions and truth in retrospect.  There were so many characters and time periods that it was often somewhat confusing, and I felt that the appearance of Tess Monaghan near the end felt totally out of place, but everything came together in a satisfying conclusion. All in all, it was the type of story I enjoy, dealing with shared experiences and family secrets, so it was a positive listening experience.  If you also like these complex domestic dramas with a mysterious twist, you may enjoy this one, too!

That’s all for today.  I want to try to get outside before it starts to rain… ugh!

Bye for now…

Sunday 24 January 2016

Book talk on a chilly morning...

I have no yummy treats to accompany my steaming cup of chai this morning, just a bowl of homemade applesauce mixed with cottage cheese, a surprisingly delicious way to compensate for my indulgences over the holidays!

My book club did not meet on Monday night as planned, due to the inclement weather that day.  I expected we might just skip this meeting and plan for a future date with a new book, but due to improved weather conditions and the enthusiasm and availability of people in the group, we ended up meeting on Thursday night, and it what a lively discussion indeed.  Just to quickly remind you, Liane Moriarty’s book What Alice Forgot tells the story of Alice Love, a 39-year old woman who, while at her Friday spin class, faints and falls off her bicycle, hitting her head and suffering a concussion.  When she awakes, she thinks she is 29 years old, newly married and expecting her first child.  She has forgotten everything that has happened over the past ten years, and is shocked to discover that she is a slim, fit, well-off mother of three children, and that she and her husband Nick hate each other and are getting a divorce.  Over the course of the book, as bits and pieces of her memory begin to return and as the people around her fill her in on what has been happening in her life, she wonders whether it would be better not knowing how she became who she is;  in short, she both wants her memories to return and also wants to remain blissfully ignorant.  In my last post, I hadn’t quite finished the book, but I wasn’t loving it.  It was a great premise, but it lacked the conviction of her other novels.  It didn’t quite seem believable, the characters were fairly flat and two-dimensional, the story dragged, the pacing was off, and the last bit where everything was explained felt as though Moriarty’s deadline for book submission was nearing so she stayed up all night, writing and wrapping  everything up quickly and neatly.  I was not alone in this opinion - we all agreed that this was not her best book, that it was an interesting, but not entirely believable, story.  We felt that she could have organized the book differently to keep readers more interested during the middle section, when things dragged.  One of our members, who recently turned 40, seemed to have enjoyed it the most, as for her, like Alice, that signified a turning point in her life, a cathartic time when she evaluated her life and, also like Alice, had to let go of the things that were no longer important.  (I wonder what a 29-year old reader would think of this book?!)  We all agreed that the ending felt rushed, and that the characters should have been more fully developed.  Some of us appreciated that there were three different storylines in the book, as revealed by Alice, her sister Elizabeth, and their adopted grandmother Frannie, and a couple of us agreed that Elizabeth was our favourite character, the one towards whom we felt most sympathetic.  But one of our members felt that Moriarty was trying to pack too much into the book, that she included these other storylines to appeal to all readers, including older readers (Frannie’s story) or women who struggled to have children (Elizabeth).  I hadn’t thought of that, but once she mentioned it, I could see how that made the novel feel somewhat “cluttered” and unfocused.  One member, who had read other books by the author, said it was almost as if this book was by a different writer, but we pointed out that there were similarities to her other books:  dealing with serious issues in a realistic, but also humourous, way, and presenting ordinary domestic situations but including a mystery that keeps the story going and the reader interested, as the solution is not revealed until the very last pages.  So all in all, this was a good choice for a book club discussion, but not one of her best books.

And I want to quickly mention that I went to see the film adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s book Room yesterday, and I thought it was very emotional, very moving and really well-acted.  I wasn’t a huge fan of the book, although I listened to it as an audiobook and did enjoy that format.  This book begins with a mother and her five-year old son living in a single room, held captive by Old Nick. The boy, Jack, has never been outside, so Room is his whole world - the only thing he knows about the world outside is through what he watches on TV, which he does not understand represents the real world. When their situation becomes precarious, Ma comes up with a plan for escape, and what ensues are the challenges that they face when they re-enter society. This book has two distinct parts, captivity and freedom, and I remember enjoying the first part of the audiobook better than the second part.  The film, however, focuses more on the second part, which I think really works. Donoghue wrote the screenplay, so hopefully she was able to transfer the things she felt were important from the book to the screen.  I would definitely recommend it, but be sure to bring lots of tissues!

That’s all for today.  Bundle up and get outside!

Bye for now…

Sunday 17 January 2016

Post on a snowy, snowy day...

I am appreciating my hot cup of chai tea this morning, as the cold weather seems to be here to stay.  I like this type of weather - it makes me feel invigorated just walking in the cold on a snowy trail.  And hot beverages are so much better when you really need to be warmed up.  I’m nibbling on some macarons that I bought from a bakery at the St Lawrence Market when I was in Toronto on Friday.  I have three flavours, Raspberry-Rosemary, Creme Brulee and Espresso.  They are so expensive that I’ve been savouring them over the last couple of days, but will finish them off this morning.  I first discovered these delectable treats in a book that I read for my “Friends” book club.  One of the characters raved about them, and I remember we all thought it was strange that this character was going mad over a box of macaroons.  A short time later, at a Volunteer Appreciation event, I came across little tiny layered treats in different flavours that represented foods from France, and they were called macarons.  I had one, and it really was worth raving about.  They are expensive, but worth enjoying as a treat every once in awhile… exactly what I’m going to do this morning!  As an aside, I can’t remember whether I read about these treats in My Husband’s Secret or The Elegance of the Hedgehog.  I put that question out to my book group, and hopefully someone will have the answer for me at our meeting tomorrow night.

I was facing a dilemma while I was cooking and baking this morning (macarons are a good treat now and then, but nothing beats homemade Date Loaf… mmm!!!) - I’m not quite finished my “Friends” book club selection, so I debated whether to finish the book before writing my blog, or writing about my opinions before finishing it, or just waiting until next week to write about our discussion.  I decided to summarize the book now and offer my initial thoughts, then give an update if anything changes after finishing it and/or having the group discussion.  The book is What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty, and it tells the story of Alice Love, a 39-year-old mother of three in Sydney Australia who, during her Friday spin class, falls off her bike, hitting her head and suffering a concussion.  She seems to recover nicely, except that she she has lost the memories of the last ten years - she thinks it is 1998, and that she is 29-years old, newly married to Nick, and pregnant with their first child.  What follows is her reentry into her life, where she discovers that she has not one but three children, that she is ultra-slim and fit, and that she and Nick are getting a divorce.  No one seems to want to give her any information about why they are separated; some find it hard to believe that she’s really lost her memory, while others just plain forget that she can’t remember things.  When she meets her “new” friends, she is shocked at their attitudes and behaviours, which she realized she, too, must share and approve of as the 39-year-old Alice.  She then meets her older husband and her children, and she is taken aback by the hostility of her oldest child and her husband towards her.  In short, she is horrified by the person she has become and the things she has done over the past ten years.  But is it too late to rectify these situations and change the future of her family?  This book has been recommended to me by various people in the past, particularly my massage therapist, who also loves to read.  This title was also on a Top 100 Best Book Club Choices list I found online, and I’ve read two other books by Moriarty which I really enjoyed.  So I thought I would love this one, too, but I found it really difficult to get into.  The beginning dragged, but it seemed to pick up a bit about a quarter of the way into it.  Unfortunately it never seemed to have the realistic feel of her other books; it is more like a fairytale, an “if I’d only known then what I know now” kind of story that never really works.  Now, granted, in the last 50 pages, it may all come together, but I don’t know how Moriarty could pull that off.  I find it hard to believe that no one is willing to fill Alice in on what has happened in the last ten years.  And I can’t believe that no one would drag her to a doctor when her memory loss continues for a week after her fall.  I’m curious what the other women in my group will say about the book, and will update you after the meeting.

I also finished listening to an audiobook on Friday, Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulks.  This is a recent “James Bond” novel, and since I have never read any of the originals by Ian Fleming, I can’t really compare it.  But it was fast-paced, with a complex, international plot featuring nasty villains and a beautiful woman, although not the many “spy gadgets” that I would have expected from watching a few of the “James Bond” movies.  In this book, set in 1967, Bond is nearing the end of enforced sick leave after his last case, during which I inferred that he was badly hurt, both physically and emotionally.  He is called back to service early, but told that his performance is being monitored to see if he is still up to this type of field work.  He is instructed to gather information on Julius Gorner, a brilliant but psychologically disturbed megalomaniac with a deep-seated hatred of England.  It turns out that Gorner is running legitimate pharmaceutical factories, but also heroin factories,  around the world, with the intention of creating addicts and drug-slums all over England.  His one weakness is his deformed hand, which resembles an oversized monkey’s paw, and which is always kept covered with a white glove.  When Bond is sent to Tehran to find Gorner’s factory, he makes contact with Darius, the Persian agent known as “Pistachio”, who helps him make his way around the city and provides information on Gorner.  Bond has also been contacted by Scarlett Papava, a beautiful young woman who asks for Bond’s help in finding and freeing her sister, Poppy, who is being held in the clutches of Gorner against her will.  Together Bond and Scarlett must find a way to shut down Gorner’s factories and also to stop his plan to send in bombs to Russia, supposedly under the guise of a stolen British airliner so that, at the height of the Cold War, Russia would believe that the UK is waging war on them.  This farfetched plot is exactly what I would expect from a “Bond” novel, so it was not disappointing, although it’s not exactly the type of book I would normally choose.  Based on the few “Bond” movies that I’ve seen, I expected more sexual content, but there was little of that, which was totally fine with me.  It was OK, not a great book, but definitely worth listening to, as it kept my interest pretty much to the end.  

That’s all for today.  Stay warm, and Happy Reading!

Bye for now…

Sunday 10 January 2016

Books and tea on a rainy Sunday morning...

It’s raining quite hard this morning, and is forecast to stay like this all day, so I think it will be an inside day, a perfect day for reading, among other things.

My volunteer book group met yesterday to discuss A Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott.  Set in Los Angeles in the late 1930’s, this book is told from the point of view of Julie Crawford, a young woman who has escaped her family and hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana to try to make it as a screenwriter in the glittery world of Hollywood.  She lands a job working on the set as David O Selznick begins filming Gone with the Wind, and she is fortunate to meet Andy Weinstein, Selznick’s right-hand man, who introduces her to Carole Lombard.  Outspoken, brash Lombard takes Julie under her wing and guides her along as she encounters the drama and controversies that take place during the filming, on and off the set, while also falling in love with Andy, a Jewish American during the time that Europe is on the cusp of WWII.  Alcott provides plenty of inside information about the lives of actors and other members of the filming crew, as well as details about the making of this famous film.  Along with the budding love story between Andy and Julie, we also get details about the romance between Carole Lombard and Clark Gable, how Gable was finally able to secure a divorce from his first wife and marry Lombard, and their struggles to have a baby.  As well as with the story about the making of the film and the romances, Alcott also includes the struggles some actors and other film people had at this time when they are advised to “just ignore” what was happening to Jews in Europe.  She suggests that Hollywood as a whole made the collective decision to turn a blind eye in the years leading up to the war, and it was not until 1939 that they began releasing anti-Nazi films (  The book also provided details about the racism that still existed in many parts of the United States, including the involvement of the NAACP in the filming of Gone with the Wind and the treatment of black actors during the gala release of the film, a three-day party in Atlanta where these actors were not permitted to attend.  Without these parts of the story, the book would have been merely entertaining and light, but the introduction of such serious topics as racism and the Nazis added depth and weight to the novel.  For probably the first time ever in the history of this book group, all the members and I were of the same opinion about the book!  None of us loved it, but we all felt that it was a worthwhile read because we learned so much about Hollywood and filmmaking and Gone with the Wind.  None of us are real “Hollywood gossip” types, but this book did not feel like gossip; rather, it was a relaying of the challenges actors face when every detail of their lives is always on display for public consumption.  We felt that Julie was a strong female character who defied convention and struck out to make it on her own, and we were all glad she succeeded.  We felt that the major themes in this book were the struggles to remain true to yourself amidst the artificiality of the film world, the difficulties in having lasting relationships, and the changing roles of women.  As I discovered yesterday, when we all have the same opinions about the book, there is very little to discuss.  We spent much of our time talking about the movie, about what we have read recently, about books we may consider putting on our list in the future, and about bullying and Nietzsche’s concept of “the will to power”.  We talked about past books and former book club members, which sort of confused our new member; then, "to confuse her even more", one member, with a small twitter, brought up Bear by Marian Engel. While we haven't mentioned it in a while, this landmark novel made an appearance once again, and through a bit of probing, we determined that our new member, too, has read this "love story". All in all, while it was not a book that lead to great indepth discussion, this book led to an interesting and varied discussion for our group so I felt it was a good choice and a successful meeting.  It is fairly light, and the details about actors and filmmaking are really interesting, so I would recommend this book if you are in the mood for this type of quick read.

That’s all for today.  Stay dry!

Bye for now…

Sunday 3 January 2016

New year, more books...

It seems strange for me to have a Sunday morning where I’m not writing a blog post, so although I just posted on Friday, while I drink my hot cup of chai, I wanted to write a short post about a book I read recently.

I read a book that has been nominated for the Ontario Library Association Forest of Reading Silver Birch Fiction Award.  The nominees for this award are geared towards readers in grades 4-6, and Rain Shadow by Valerie Sherrard is the first nominated title that I have read.  It is set in Manitoba in the 1940s, and is told from the point of view of Bethany, an 11-year old girl knows that she is not like other children.  She doesn’t learn as quickly as others and she has a limp, which sometimes makes people behave meanly towards her, whispering about her and calling her names.  Bethany has an older sister, Mira, aged 14, who is also sometime mean, but other times she defends Bethany from rude classmates.  When tragedy strikes the family, Bethany’s world is torn apart, and as she is shuffled from place to place, she is not sure she will ever again find a place that she can call home.  This book was very emotionally moving and Bethany’s experiences were both realistic and heartfelt.  There were moments of cruelty offset and outnumbered by moments of real understanding and tenderness.  This book tackles themes of bullying, depression, and what it means to truly belong.  Bethany’s close relationship with her father, as well as her relationship with her neighbour, Mrs Goldsborough, are genuinely moving, and we the readers are left with a sense of hope as the story leads to an uplifting conclusion.  I really enjoyed this book, and look forward to reading a few more nominees before the final voting in April.

That’s all for today... wow, this is probably the shortest post I’ve ever written.  Time to get outside and play in the snow!
Bye for now…

Friday 1 January 2016

Happy New Year!!

On this cold, snowy morning, as I welcome in the new year, I’m enjoying a hot cup of chai and thinking about what I’ve read in the past week and the best books and audiobooks I’ve enjoy over the past year.

I read couple of books this past week.  The first is a book that has been much praised and recommended as one of the Top 100 Books of 2015.  Outline by Rachel Cusk is set in Athens over the course of two days, where the main character, the nearly-nameless narrator, is teaching a writing course.  Beginning with her flight from London to Athens, she describes her interaction with her seatmate, an elderly Greek man with whom she strikes up a conversation, and whom she refers to as “my neighbour”.  She then relates conversations with various people she meets up with over the next two days, some people she already knows, some she has just met.  She is invited to accompany her neighbour on a boatride to a small island.  (I kept expecting the Greek man to say “My father was a very big man”, but alas, the story never became that interesting!)  She meets a friend for coffee.  She describes her students and relays their stories.  She meets another friend for dinner.  And then, it is time for her to go home.  My expectations of this book were pretty high, and I have to say, I was very disappointed.  The writing was skillful, and there were moments of great insight, but without a story, there seemed to be nothing to hold this narrative together, which is funny, because many of the conversations are about writers and writing, what makes a good writer, and what makes a good story.  In fact, this seemed not so much a novel but a series of short stories loosely connected by the narrator, the writer who is teaching the course.  Any one of these conversations could have been the basis for a really great novel, but they never actually went anywhere.  As one character refers to herself near the end of the book as “an outline”, so, too, did I feel that these stories, these conversations, were merely outlines for great novels that were never written.  I don’t mind when an author does not reveal the narrator’s name to the reader, which is used as a literary technique to achieve a particular end, and so it seemed with this book, too… but then, her name is revealed, just once, near the end, and I found myself wondering “Why?”.  It seemed to feature different stories told by different (mostly middle-aged) characters, all seemingly suffering some degree of mid-life crisis, and discussed relationships between men and women, relationships between parents and children, and relationships between writers and their works.  It ended up being pretty repetitive, and I realized that this was because the story told by every character was told using exactly the same voice, despite the stories being “told” by different characters.  There was no distinction between voices, and so I found myself, in the middle of a “conversation”, having to flip back to see who was speaking.  This was very annoying.  Cusk certainly has skill with her use of language, and I may someday try reading one of her more “conventional” novels (if she has any), but this book was ultimately disappointing - at least it was short!

I read another Red Maple nominee written by Canadian children’s author Allan Stratton called The Dogs.  This novel was very different from We Are All Made of Molecules, in that it deals with very serious topics and an eerie atmosphere pervades the story until all is resolved at the end.  Cameron and his mom have relocated five times since leaving abusive husband and father Mike.  This time, they have moved to an abandoned farmhouse near Calgary, just outside of a small town called Wolf Hollow.  This farmhouse may be haunted by a young child named Jacky, and possibly also “the dogs”, vicious animals that are rumoured to roam the property at night.  Cameron has an active imagination at the best of times, and his mother is always on high alert for signs that her husband has found them, so, fed by zombie games and a sensitivity for the supernatural, Cameron’s paranoia pervades the story.  The reader is never quite sure what is real and what are his dreams and imaginings, and so we are always led to believe the worst.  This psychological thriller is scary and serious, and deals with themes of bullying and stalking, but it also features characters who are supportive and caring, and we as readers experience the drama along with these characters and, like them, we expect the worst but hope for the best, until we finally reach a conclusion that is both satisfying and hopeful.  Not a light read like Molecules, but written with skill and sensitivity, this was an awesome book.

And I finished listening to an audiobook yesterday, The House of Silk, by Anthony Horowitz, read by Derek Jacobi.  This is the first novel featuring fictional detective Sherlock Holmes that has the endorsement of the Conan Doyle estate.  The story begins with an art dealer, Edmund Carstairs, seeking the assistance of Holmes in locating the man who has been seen following him over the past few weeks, a man who requested a meeting but then never showed up.  The man’s identity is revealed to be Keelan O’Donoghue, one of the leaders of the Flat Cap gang from Boston, a gang whose other members, including Keelan’s twin brother, have been killed in a confrontation over the theft of money and destroyed paintings on a train headed to Boston from New York.  Carstairs fears that Keelan has followed him back to England to seek revenge for the death of his brother.  This investigations leads to the discovery of a murder, at which point, according to Watson, this otherwise trivial case becomes “interesting”.  When the disappearance and death of a child follows soon after, Holmes is more determined than ever to get to the bottom of the mystery, feeling somehow responsible for this death.  He must determine what the House of Silk is, but his interest lands him in jail facing charges of murder, and it is up to Watson to continue searching for clues that may lead them to discover the truth.  What they find is so terrible they are reluctant to even speak of the nature of the crimes, and feel that the conviction of all involved can never undo the harm that has been committed.  I have never read any original Sherlock Holmes stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but I enjoy watching the Sherlock Holmes series starring Benedict Cumberbach, and I can see how so many of the features in this book are similar to the BBC series.  Having nothing except this series to compare it to, I would say that Horowitz did an amazing job of capturing the essence of the original stories:  he used the correct language and terminology, and the characters were well-drawn, at least resembling those in the series, although the Holmes in the series is more critical and less “friendly” towards Watson than in this book.  I will have to read some of the originals to make a comparison.  By the way, British actor Jacobi did an excellent job of narrating this novel.  And there is a follow-up to this book, Moriarty, by Horowitz, which I have taken out but then returned to the library unread, as I had too many other things to read - I should check to see if it is available as an audiobook!

Speaking of free time to read, since I am no longer writing reviews for the local paper, I now find myself with time to read books on my own bookshelves that have been waiting patiently to be read, sometimes for years!  I would like to devote the next year to reading some of these titles.  I have a few in mind already, Border Crossing by Pat Barker, Empire Falls by Richard Russo, The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander and Solar by Ian McEwan, as well as some of the "Sherlock Holmes" stories.

And now, as is my tradition for my New Year’s post, I have a list of my favourites from 2015 (these are just books I read or listened to in 2015, not necessarily books published last year).  I read 68 books this year, and listened to 22 audiobooks, and there were so many great books that I’ve had to make 3 lists:

10 Best Adult books:

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Hunger of the Wolf by Stephen Marche
Nothing Like Love by Sabrina Ramnanan
A History of Loneliness by John Boyne
Exceptional Circumstances by John Bartleman
The Past by Tessa Hadley
Punishment by Linden MacIntyre
The Library of Unrequited Love by Sophie Divry
The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling
The Mountain Can Wait by Sarah Leipciger

5 Best YA Books:

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
The Fall by James Preller
We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen
Say You Will by Eric Walters
Love is a 4-Letter Word by Vikki VanSickle

5 (+1* ) Best Audiobooks:

Syndrome E by Franck Thilliez
The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
The Sea by John Banville
The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D by Nicole Bernier
The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin
*The Uncoupling by Meg Woolitzer (this one wasn’t amazing, but it was worth listening to)

That’s all for today.  I hope 2016 is filled with good friend, good times, and of course, plenty of great books!

Bye for now…