Monday, August 3, 2020



I heard about this novel through Canada Reads. Because people said the style was interesting, and then I saw a copy at my favourite secondhand book store, and bought it. Could not put it down.

Stylistically, I agree. A tour de force. Set in St. John's, Newfoundland, in the weeks between Christmas and Valentine's Day. In other words, winter. Around The Hazel, a restaurant, around which every character hovers. The novel has three sections, Prep, Lunch, Dinner. There are no chapters, only scenes. Each character narrates scenes from his or her POV, sweeping in and out of past and present. Olive, sleeping in the doorway, bumming smokes. Iris, the hostess, having an affair with John, the chef. George, his wife and part owner of the cafe, with her father, Big George. Omi, Ben, & Damian work there. Major David, the mayor, Amanda, an actress, her twin brother Calv, and his old friend Rog eat there. A few other characters are alluded to but never seen-Sarah, a former employee; Susie & Donna, Calv's mother and girlfriend.Tom, Damian's ex. Olive's father and nan. Iris's father and mother. One character, Calv, has a thick NFLD accent. 

You learn way more than you want to know about what goes on the behind the scenes in a restaurant, and in relationships. Incredibly written. As I said, a tour de force. The last scene unforgettably vivid. 

Saturday, July 25, 2020


Ruth C. Robbins. SECRET CUPID: Love at the Stationary Store. SP, 2019.

A fast lighter than Harlequin read. Sad young widow feels alone and rejected. Goes to a mixer. Meets 2 men. Problems ensue. I like the way the mystery is tied into the stationary store setting. 

I know I'm guilty of the same thing but it makes me sad to see women with no emotional life except longing for a man. And all the small town people whose lives peaked in high school. Sad. 

This slim volume suffers from many pitfalls of self-publishing. Tips: number your pages; choose fonts that are readable size, and line-spacing that is reader-friendly; ask someone who is good at it to copy edit. The bonus chapter made no sense, unless a reader said that you have to tie up all the loose ends, and make everyone happy in the end? 

Wednesday, July 15, 2020


Russell Peters, with Clayton Peters & Dannis Koromilas. CALL ME RUSSELL. Doubleday, 2010. 

An entertaining memoir of Brampton ON - raised comedian. Family ties, an Anglo-Indian family, the brothers born one in India & one in Canada. Bullied at School. ADD and directionless. The heroic climb from open-mic nights to sold out arenas. Generous with his gratitude. Sharing a bit more than I care to know. Especially the bits about counting sleeps. It seems his ideal woman is a porn star. Shopping. Labels. Being star-struck. An eternal boy in this book, published ten years ago before either of his children were born. What I learned of the life of a touring comic would not make me want to try that career. But you have to admire the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit. 

Saturday, July 11, 2020


Patrick Friesen. A BROKEN BOWL. Brick, 1997.

Poetry. Always wonderful. 

Sunday, July 5, 2020


Robin Wall Kimmerer. BRAIDING SWEETGRASS: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants. Milkweed, 2013.

I've heard about this book for years, owned if for more than a year, and finally, with the lockdown, had the opportunity to give it the time and attention it deserves. It is one of those books you dole out to yourself is digestible doses, in order to make it last as long as you possibly can. A book you never want to finish, because then you will have to leave the beautiful plants, and their teachings and teacher. 

Monday, June 22, 2020


Garth Pettersen. The COLD HEARTH: #3 in The Atheling Chronicles. Tirgearr, 2020. 

Finally finished reading The Cold Hearth, after several pandemic weeks of being unable to read or to concentrate on anything.

Found myself both rushing to finish and avoiding the final chapters, so fearful was I that the book’s title foreshadowed tragedy. Would it, like a Shakespearean play, end in a wedding or in a funeral?

How do we begin to imagine human communities of more than a millennia ago, with different tribes and different languages, and even different landmasses (Norway, Normandy, and different parts of England). Politics, gender differences, battles and conquests, daily rituals of eating and sleeping: what would be the same and what would be different from us today? This story stresses our desires to build a home, to find a compatible partner, to accept or decline an inheritance, to take our pleasures of the senses and the natural environment, to defend ourselves from those who want what we have. Immersed in the reading, I could even imagine myself riding a horse, another thing that will never happen in the real world.

PS: All three covers in this series are gorgeous. 
PPS: The writer is a friend, and an inspiration. jmb

Saturday, June 20, 2020


Toko-pa Turner. BELONGING: Remembering Ourselves Home. Her Own Room Press, 2017.

Self-help focusing on grief, ritual, nature, community, and dreamwork with Sufi and Jungian principles. Personally, I found the dreamwork the most interesting. The style of writing seems a bit overwrought to me, with too many words. But very positive and encouraging. From a woman born in the UK, with Polish grandparents, raised in a Sufi community in Montreal, and now residing locally, on one of the gulf islands between the mainland and Vancouver Island. 


Megan Gail Coles. SMALL GAME HUNTING AT THE LOCAL COWARD GUN CLUB . Anansi, 2019. I heard about this novel through Canada Reads. Because peo...