Sunday, 1 December 2013

A Herring Without Mustard Review

In this third installment of Alan Bradley’s murder mystery series, eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce must uncover several secrets.  Among them are who bashed in Fenella Faa’s skull with her own crystal ball, who killed Brookie Harewood with a de Luce lobster pick and hung him from their Poseidon water fountain and what does the religious sect of the Hobblers have to do with things? 
                As in Bradley’s second novel, I found the mystery aspect of the book confusing.  I suppose this is necessary in murder mysteries to keep the reader from guessing the solution too early, however I find the confusion off-putting.  It could be that I read the book too slowly and forgot clues and characters along the way.  I really shouldn’t read befuddling books during the school year.  My brain is otherwise occupied!
                My favourite aspect of the Flavia de Luce books are the de Luce family and the setting.  Flavia is an endearing and persistent character.  I enjoy learning more about her odd family and their history.  I especially delight in the interactions between her, her sisters and her father.  Porcelain was an exceptional character and I hope to see more of her in future books.  I was excited to learn about secret passageways in the Buckshaw home.  I also adore the descriptions of Feely’s piano-playing, which are what got me reading the book in the first place.  One of the announcers on CBC radio read an excerpt from The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie to introduce a piano piece and I knew I needed to read more.
                In summary, Alan Bradley has created a unique murder mystery series with excellent characters and lovely setting.  I don’t find myself needing to read the next book right away, but once a year, a Flavia de Luce book is quite delicious.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

The Guidebook to Killing Lions in Africa

A writer friend of mine lent me this book because of the powerful writing.  I’m glad for his   This is Graydon Baker’s first book and is written as a kind of letter to his young son, Lukamay, to tell him about his time as a Canadian missionary to Tanzania, Africa in 2007.  It is written in several forms, there are letters, journal entries and newspaper clippings.  I enjoy this kind of format, maybe because I’m a history and research-lover. 
Baker is a master story-teller.  He is an adventurer and seems to have a kind of over-encompassing faith in people and God.  He does things I certainly hope my children never do and at the end of the book he warns his son not to take these experiences as a licence to make poor decisions for himself, but rather as proof of God’s grace in his life and to make good choices in his future. 
I was impressed by Baker’s honesty in sharing his mistakes.  I certainly wouldn’t want to release a book to the world with such confessions, but I believe that in doing so, he has presented a much more honest and impactful look at what it is to be a missionary. 
I especially enjoyed the letter he wrote to his son urging him to wait for the right woman to marry.  He shared a journal entry he wrote which imagined what his someday-wife would be like, even though he didn’t know her yet.  I think that is a wonderful thing to share with your child.
I did have to put the book away for a month or two near the beginning when Baker shares his story of climbing Mount Marida.  What started as a day trip to the mountain, turned into several days lost on the mountain without food or water.  He and his friend Byron keep pressing on when it was obvious they were not prepared.  I became angry with Baker for taking such a risk.  Having grown up in the Rocky Mountains, I heard too many stories and experienced school mates dying on mountains because they were not prepared, but I’m glad I picked up the book again.  I had thought Baker was being glib about his crazy decisions, but I later saw he regretted his choices but used the story to show God’s grace.
I recommend this book to anyone interested in Africa or missionaries or to those who just enjoy hearing a well-told story.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

In To The Bend By L.H. Stone

I am counting this book as part of my Canadian Book Challenge even though it has not yet been published.  It was written by a Canadian friend of mine who asked me to read it to help her figure out if it flowed or not.  I certainly hope it will be available for the rest of the world soon, because it is a fun and enjoyable read!
            In To The Bend has several stories interwoven through the book, but it begins and ends with Holly Bender, a passionate, accident-prone, soft-hearted woman with a mysterious past.  Throughout the book, she avoids thinking about her past, but can’t help keeping the picture of her former lover clipped to her car’s sun visor so that she can still talk to him.
            In a strange form of penance, she agrees to knit 250 scarfs for a church charity, although she has no idea how to knit.  (At the time, she thought she was volunteering to make bars not scarves.)  In true Holly fashion, she would rather find a way to fulfill her promise than confess her mistake to the pastor.  She starts to spread her story among friends and eventually gathers a rag-tag group of outrageous and enterprising women of all ages.  Each of these women come with their own story, which are unraveled as they meet.
            The book is filled with amusing and down-to-earth dialogue.  The WAKS (Women Always Knitting Society), is the kind of club most women would love to find.  There is wine, music, stories, laughter and, well, knitting of course.  While the women love to tease one another, they exist to help one another and their community. 
            Stone herself is an avid fan of Maeve Binchy and Stephen King and I think this shows in her work as she writes both wonderful characters and dialogue while being able to create the odd creepy and unnerving scene.  Stone also has a great gift for reading her work aloud.  I hope she will one day be able to present this as an audio book, but it would need to come with a strong warning “Caution, listening while driving will cause serious laughter which may lead to hazardous driving!”