Archive | September, 2009

The Mark by Jason Pinter

22 Sep

The Mark



Things are not looking up for Henry Parker

His relationship with his girlfriend is suffering and his new job writing for the New York Gazette is not the thrilling dream he thought it would be.

But his luck looks as it’s going to change.

Jack O’Donnell, the New York Gazette’s star reporter, gives Henry Parker a chance. He needs a bit of help with a story he’s working on. Nothing too strenuous or exciting but he would get credit for the work.

For Henry, the chance to work with his idol is worth anything. But for Henry, it could cost him his life.

Jack is writing a story on the criminals of New York. Henry is given the task of interviewing ex con Luis Guzman. But when he shows up at the apartment, things go incredibly, horribly wrong.

When someone dies, Henry is fingered as the killer. Having no choice but to go on the run for his life, Henry gets help from the beautiful NYU coed Amanda. Together they must find out how Henry became wanted by the NYPD, the FBI and the mob.

Or die trying.

If you think this is your average run of the mill, cookie cutter thriller, think again. The Mark is an incredible book that pulls you in from page one and doesn’t let go. Pinter’s first novel did two things: it reinvented the thriller genre and gave voice to one of the most intelligent protagonists of our time.

What I loved about The Mark was that everything about it was unexpected. Unlike most thrillers, Pinter gives you the time to become emotionally involved with Henry and his troubles before pulling the rug out from under you.

He allows you into Henry’s life, into his mind and then turns the tables and changes all the rules.

Not only has Pinter given us a well great mystery, he’s also given us a well written thriller with a great plot and believable fleshed out characters. He also doesn’t give you a lot of time to breathe.

It’s also a wonderful study of what happens to someone in danger and what they are willing to do. It’s a look at what one man is pushed to do in order to find the answers and a thrilling portrayal of a shadier side of life that most of us will never see.

From page one you’re pulled along into one of the most emotionally charged suspense thrillers that I’ve read in years. Those that have overlooked the suspense genre in the past few years would be wise to pick up The Mark and enjoy it’s brilliance. I loved every twist and turn The Mark is amazing make your heart race suspense.  

Henry Parker is here to stay and I for one couldn’t be happier. I can’t wait for the next thrill ride.


The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

13 Sep

year of flood


The earth as we know it no longer exists.

The world is an empty place, destroyed by the Waterless Flood. It is a world where gene spliced animals now roam free; animals like liobams (a lion and lamb hybrid) and Mo’Hairs (multi-coloured sheep used for growing hair replacements) and rakunks (racoon and skunk hybrids).

It is no longer a world for humans.

But yet, two people have survived the Waterless Flood: Toby is holed up inside of AnooYoo, a health spa that catered to the rich and Ren, locked inside a safe room inside Scales and Tales, a high end sex club.

While both continue to fight the land and the animals in order to survive, they both reflect on how they arrived at their places in life. Through a series of flashbacks, we’re shown Ren and Toby’s story and we learn about the Gods Gardeners.

Both were involved with The Gods Gardeners, a religious sect that preached love for everything, every plant and every animal. They are a religious sect that is separated from regular life and shunned by society at large.

But The Gods Gardeners is also a sect that hides secrets. People do not have a past, only a future. But secrets, even if they are not spoken, have a way of breaking free, despite our wish to keep them silent…

My meagre plot summary in no way comes close to covering the entirety of the plot in The Year of the Flood. It is an epic, sprawling novel that moves back and forth between past, present and future effortlessly.

There is no way I could convey to you everything that is in this novel. The Year of the Flood touches on a multitude of subjects including science, religion, the environment, love, desire, cannibalism, war and so on. It would at first glance that there is too much that is covered in The Year of the Flood, that Atwood has filled it too full.

But it is not too full; Atwood manages to pull of the impossible and creates an incredible novel that speaks to the heart, to the mind and to the spirit.

I was incredibly excited when I learned that Atwood’s new novel would be a sequel to Oryx and Crake, perhaps my most favourite of Atwood’s novels. I wondered if she’d be able to write as good a novel as Oryx and Crake a second time. Thankfully, The Year of the Flood is better.

Though the future she presents is grim, there is a dark humour present. Her characters are also incredibly realized and well developed. You care about these people from the first page. It is almost impossible not to.

In the end, though, The Year of the Flood wasn’t a sequel. It is more of a companion book to Oryx and Crake. In fact, The Year of the Flood covers the same time period and overlaps with the plot of Oryx and Crake.

Also, there is a balance between the two. In Oryx and Crake, we focused a lot on the relationship between men: between Snowman and his father, Crake and his father, between Crake and Snowman themselves. In The year of the Flood, the characters that Atwood focuses on and develops are female: Toby and Ren, Amanda Payne and more.

It is a story of the love between daughters, between young girls and elder women, a story of friendship between girls that grow into women. Where Oryx and Crake was inherently male, The Year of the Flood is inherently female.

Though The Year of the Flood is told from Ren and Toby’s point of view, the novel is really about the story of three women (Ren, Toby and Amanda) and their will to survive in a cruel and harsh world. It is a story of hope, despite all odds. A story of the power of love.

Once again, Atwood presents us with a dark novel tinged with humour that is unclassifiable. Despite the darkness, I did not want The Year of the Flood to end. Part parable, part science fiction, part speculative fiction, part literary tale, part cautionary myth, The Year of the Flood is Atwood at her most dark and her most incredible.

Atwood shows us that even in the darkness there is light. And even in the most cruel of situations, there is beauty.

Androgynous Murder House Party by Steven Rigolosi

10 Sep




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Robin Anders is dissatisfied with life. An independently wealthy person and an incredible snob, Robin wonders if this shambles of an existence can be called a life?

Hoping to alleviate the boredom, Robin agrees to the requests of Lee, an ex lover, and opens up the Long Island estate house that has been closed for some time. They will have a weekend party and everyone will come: Lee, Alex, Chris, Law and J. The weekend will be fun, they promise; it’ll be lovely.

Robin wonders if the party is a good idea; after all, isn’t it asking too much of someone to tolerate friends who are also charlatans and entertain them at the same time?

But, despite better judgement, Robin agrees. Robin hopes the weekend will go quickly, that it will not be too horrible. Thankfully Robin has a very large supply of pills and alcohol to help numb the tediousness.

Lee agrees to inform everyone and Robin will get the house ready. Robin gets everything she needs for the weekend party from an ad in the back page of The Clarion, a local newspaper. Robin is even able to rent live peacocks to strut outside the house. Nothing is as grand as a peacock.

But when Robin arrives at the Long Island estate, things go from bad to worse. A chandelier in Robin’s bedroom falls to the floor; it would have crushed Robin to a blood pulp had Robin entered a second earlier.

Other weird things begin to happen, each of them a near death experience where Robin could have died. Thankfully, Robin survives each of these transgressions by taking a lot of pills. Even if one is shaken on the inside, one must appear calm on the outside.

Robin does begin to wonder, however, if someone means to do her in. Robin wonders if one of her friends means to commit murder, with Robin as the intended victim?

When Lee is found dead, Robin knows that there is something suspicious going on and that one of the people in their group is a murderer. Robin decides to investigate, to find out who amongst them is a killer, stepping directly into the line of fire.

But there is a bigger mystery than murder afoot that the reader will have to try to figure out on their own: Are Robin, Lee, Alex, Chris, Law and J men or women? Gay or straight? There is only one way to find out…

Let me say two things right off: First, Androgynous Murder House Party is an incredible book. It kept me guessing from page one until the very last page. Androgynous Murder House Party is the third book in Rigolosi’s Tales From the Back Page Series and each book just keeps getting better!

Secondly, Rigolosi should be heralded and commended for writing Androgynous Murder House Party. It was incredibly hard to write this review without giving anything away. I’ve never realized how hard it was to write something without gender and that’s just a review. I can only guess at how hard it was for Rigolosi to write an entire book without giving away who was who and what was what.

Aside from being a top notch mystery, Androgynous Murder House Party is an incredible feat of word craft that left me breathless. Not only is it a book written completely without gender, it is also a very tongue in cheek portrayal of the upper class or the very rich.

It’s a wonderfully sardonic and very funny glimpse into a portion of society that most people would rather avoid. Rigolosi manages to pull off the tone and cadence of Robin’s voice perfectly.

Not only is Androgynous Murder House Party an incredible mystery, it’s also a perfect tongue in cheek portrayal of a society and its people. Even better, it presents the reader with an even bigger mystery to solve that of gender.

Steven Rigolosi has once again reinvented the mystery genre with his best book yet. Androgynous Murder House Party is funny, sarcastic, fresh and edgy. If you read one book this year, make sure that it’s Androgynous Murder House Party. You won’t regret it.

But if you do, send your regrets now. Or regret it later…

Generation A by Douglas Coupland

10 Sep




I always await the publication of a new Douglas Coupland novel with something approaching the anticipation of Christmas morning. I need it now now now and I can’t wait to open it and see what’s inside.

Thankfully, Generation A by Douglas Coupland is the greatest of gifts and one of the best books I have read in a long time. It may even top my current Coupland favourite, JPod.

Generation A is set in a world that is incredibly familiar to our own. But clearly quite a few things have changed. There are drugs we can take to slow down our lives. Things like apples are incredibly hard to come by. And bees are extinct.

That is, until five people, in different corners of the world get stung by five separate bees. The Wonka Children, so they call themselves, struggle to live in a world after they have become celebrity/freaks where, because of a bee sting, they become famous.

If it sounds bizarre, that’s because it is. And delightfully so.

The novel is told from the five points of view from the five sting victims. Don’t worry, the chapters are told in delightfully short bursts (no chapter over ten pages here, folks) to fit into our high tech life-style. When you’re on the run, your reading time is quick.

Coupland manages to cram some incredible things into those short chapters. After reading Generation A, I’ve been exposed to nakedness, religion, voyerism, different religious beliefs, call centres, references to the Simpsons (Mmmmm….honey), parody’s of American culture, the point and purpose life, whether it is better to believe in a higher power versus not, the ideas and fundamentals of what makes people real.

I could go on.

It is a delightful mental marathon that makes me want to keep up. It is such an intelligent piece of writing and it reads like Dan Brown on crack. I mean that in a very good way. Think of Hunter S Thompson mixed with Oscar Wilde, Margaret Atwood, Carol Shelds and Jack Kerouack.

It is an incredibly environmental book, but it is also a very intense look at our culture and our dependence on media and media devices. It is about our dependence on a lot of things. It is wonderfully funny and humorous and at the same time rather grim and mysterious.

In short, it is a joy.

The Bride’s Farewell by Meg Rosoff

2 Sep



I have just finished an amazing book.

It is part fairy tale, part love story. It is a cross between Charles Dickens and Lemony Snicket. It is part Brothers Grimm and part historical melodrama.

In other words, it is unclassifiable.

I am speaking of The Bride’s Farewell, the new novel by the New York Bestselling, Carnigie Award Winning author Meg Rosoff. This is her fourth novel for young adults, but even there I would say that genre does not suit her.

Meg’s novels are for young adults in that they feature a younger cast of characters. But the themes her books deal with are much more adult; incredibly darker and moodier than most juvenile fiction published today.

Her first novel, How I Live Now, featured a young girl and her cousin that have survived a bombing in a future not unlike ours; and fell in love. Her second novel, Just In Case, concerns a boy who, to escape Fate, reinvents himself; he even imagines an invisible dog for himself that other people can see. Her third novel, What I Was, can be described as a boarding house love story between two boys.

Quite obviously, Meg Rosoff never writes the same book twice.

I was eagerly awaiting to see what Meg Rosoff would give us with The Bride’s Farewell. I wondered what the setting would be. In Rosoff’s novels, the characters and the place around them play equally important roles.

She is a beautiful storyteller. For me, she seems to have written each of her books carefully, choosing each word so that it feels right. Though her books may be short in length (each of her four novels are around the 200 something page count), the emotion and the power in her novels makes the books feel stronger, somehow; more vibrant.

I’m always a little nervous when I begin a Meg Rosoff novel. Since no two stories are the same, I wonder where she is going to take me; what story she is going to tell. Her novels remind me of the novel in verse books written by Ellen Hopkins. Though Rosoff writes in prose, her books mirror Hopkins’ in that they always present us with stories that are engaging, beautifully written and emotionally charged. And each time you open one of their novels you wonder where you are going to end up.

When I read a Meg Rosoff novel, I treat the book as if I am pursuing a gem. So clearly I had high expectations for The Bride’s Farewell. Meg Rosoff’s new novel has been one of my most anticipated reads of 2009.

I am delighted to say that I was not disappointed in the least. 

Quite the contrary, in fact. I think that The Bride’s Farewell is Rosoff’s best book to date. It concerns sixteen year old Pell Ridley who runs away from her home on her wedding day in the year of eighteen hundred and fifty something.

She leaves home with only her horse Jack and her brother Bean, a boy who does not speak. What she returns with is so much more.

I won’t say any more of the plot then that, only to say that you should experience the story as I did. Meg Rosoff writes novels that are not just merely read; they are explored. Each page brings you deeper into the story of Pell and what happens to her that, by the end, you will never want to leave her world. 

Ultimately, The Brides Farewell is really about three things: It is about family and courage. And the incredible power of love.

Through stunning words, vivid imagery, Meg Rosoff has given us a delightful historical novel that reminds us of something important.

She reminds us that we cannot get where we are going, if we do not remember where we came from.

Though the book may seem grim at times, The Bride’s Farewell is ultimately a joyous novel about the search for who we are and the happiness we find at discovering our place in the world.