Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Daughter: A Novel by Jane Shemilt

The Daughter
The Daughter
A Novel
by Jane Shemilt
William Morrow Paperbacks, 352 pages

How well do you really know your family?

The layers of Jenny's family secrets, intricacies, and complications are peeled away bit by bit in the days, weeks, and months after her daughter disappears.

The perfect seeming family crumbles slowly with tragedy, showing that perfection was never there to begin with. Each member of the family has much to hide.

An interesting view on family and families. One woman's breaking down and building back up in spite of everything and everyone around her. Of finding herself in the most terrifying of situations.

The book demonstrates that we can be stronger than we look. And that you never really know what is going on inside another human being.

From the Back Flap:

Jenny is a successful family doctor, the mother of three great teenagers, married to a celebrated neurosurgeon. 

But when her youngest child, fifteen-year-old Naomi, doesn't come home after her school play, Jenny's seemingly ideal life begins to crumble. The authorities launch a nationwide search with no success. Naomi has vanished, and her family is broken. 

As the months pass, the worst-case scenarios—kidnapping, murder—seem less plausible. The trail has gone cold. Yet, for a desperate Jenny, the search has barely begun. More than a year after her daughter's disappearance, she's still digging for answers—and what she finds disturbs her. Everyone she's trusted, everyone she thought she knew, has been keeping secrets, especially Naomi. Piecing together the traces her daughter left behind, Jenny discovers a very different Naomi from the girl she thought she'd raised. 

Jenny knows she'll never be able to find Naomi unless she uncovers the whole truth about her daughter—a twisting, painful journey into the past that will lead to an almost unthinkable revelation. . . .

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41475About Jane Shemilt

While working full time as a physician, Jane Shemilt received an M.A. in creative writing. She was shortlisted for the Janklow and Nesbit award and the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize for The Daughter, her first novel. She and her husband, a professor of neurosurgery, have five children and live in Bristol, England. Follow Jane on Twitter, @janeshemilt.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Make Something Up: Stories You Can't Unread by Chuck Palahniuk

Make Something Up
Stories You Can't Unread
by Chuck Palahniuk

Doubleday Canada Hardcover, 336 pages

Certainly the strangest book of short stories I have read in quite some time. Possibly ever. One can't help but wonder if at least some of them are the travails of a drug-fueled mind. Others have a certain sense of wisdom. And a few seem forcibly shocking. None of these descriptions would shock a Palahniuk fan, of course - this book is, I am guessing, exactly what they would hope for in a collection of his short stories.

For those not familiar with Chuck Palahniuk (of Fight Club fame), enter with caution.

These are wild waters. Bad is good, good is bad. Sin is delicious and normal is nowhere to be found.

I know there is a certain subset of the population that gobble up these bizarro tales and their twisted sense of morals - and they will be well pleased indeed.

From the Back Flap:

Stories you'll never forget--just try--from literature's favourite transgressive author.

     Representing work that spans several years, Make Something Up is a compilation of 21 stories and one novella (some previously published, some not) that will disturb and delight. The absurdity of both life and death are on full display; in "Zombies," the best and brightest of a high school prep school become tragically addicted to the latest drug craze: electric shocks from cardiac defibrillators. In "Knock, Knock," a son hopes to tell one last off-colour joke to a father in his final moments, while in "Tunnel of Love," a massage therapist runs the curious practice of providing 'relief' to dying clients. And in "Excursion," fans will be thrilled to find to see a side of Tyler Durden never seen before in a precusor story to Fight Club.

     Funny, caustic, bizarre, poignant; these stories represent everything readers have come to love and expect from Chuck Palahniuk.

CHUCK PALAHNIUK is the author of fourteen novels--Beautiful You, Doomed, Damned, Tell-All, Pygmy, Snuff, Rant, Haunted, Diary, Lullaby, Choke, Invisible Monsters, Survivor, and Fight Club--which all have sold more than five million copies in North America. He is also the author of Fugitives and Refugees, published as part of the Crown Journey Series, and the nonfiction collection Stranger Than Fiction. He lives in the Pacific Northwest. Visit him on the web at

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Predictions: A Novel by Bianca Zander

The Predictions
The Predictions
A Novel 
by Bianca Zander
Paperback, 400 pages

The Predictions starts off in a hard working commune that doubles as a sort of human experiment in parenting. Or not parenting, as it were.

The kids are left to find out who they are on their own, and form a bit of a clan themselves.
When the hard-working commune has a shift in focus, the young start to scatter to find themselves away from the confines of where they were raised.

Poppy Harvest (a last name they all share) clings to the Predictions that a visitor has made for her and her life.

As she gets buffeted around the real word, her only point of reference to fall back on is the card she was given that night.

An interesting coming of age book. Certainly different context than many have experienced. I am not a stranger to communal life, but this is certainly more extreme than I remember.

More Kibbutz than hippie. Strict. No wonder the kids want out.

I can't say I really connected with the characters, but I found the trip fascinating nonetheless.

An adventurous story of growing up. 

From the Back Flap:

Gaialands, a bucolic vegan commune in the New Zealand wilderness, is the only home fifteen-year-old Poppy has ever known. It's the epitome of 1970s counterculture—a place of free love, hard work, and high ideals . . . at least in theory. But Gaialands's strict principles are shaken when new arrival Shakti claims the commune's energy needs to be healed and harnesses her divination powers in a ceremony called the Predictions. Poppy is predicted to find her true love overseas, so when her boyfriend, Lukas, leaves Gaialands to fulfill his dream of starting a punk rock band in London, she follows him. In London, Poppy falls into a life that looks very like the one her prediction promised, but is it the one she truly wants?
The Predictions is a mesmerizing, magical novel of fate, love, mistakes, and finding your place in the world.

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Bianca ZanderAbout Bianca Zander

Bianca Zander is British-born but has lived in New Zealand for the past two decades. Her first novel, The Girl Below, was a finalist for the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award, and she is the recipient of the Creative New Zealand Louis Johnson New Writers' Bursary and the Grimshaw Sargeson Fellowship, recognizing her as one of New Zealand's eminent writers. She is a lecturer in creative writing at the Auckland University of Technology. Check out Bianca's website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Boo: A Novel by Neil Smith

A Novel
by Neil Smith
Trade Paperback, 320 pages

Boo is a strange and magical book. A book about life, death, the afterlife (such as it is), bullying, being weird, self-discovery, and forgiveness.

This all happens in an odd yet compelling format. And Neil Smith pulls it off.

In an afterlife of thirteen year-olds, Boo, ever the scientist, sets out to discover the truth about his surroundings and ultimately himself.

It is odd and oddly real. Touching and funny and heartwarming.

And you will immediately think of all the people that need to read it.

Good for ages 12 to 112, and likely should become part of the curriculum. I just handed it to my 23 year-old son, I hope he recommends it to all his friends.

From the Back Flap:

Boo is the highly anticipated debut novel from one of the most incomparable voices in Canadian literature: Bang Crunch author Neil Smith.
          Oliver Dalrymple, nicknamed "Boo" because of his pale complexion and staticky hair, is an outcast at his Illinois middle school--more interested in biology and chemistry than the friendship of other kids. But after a tragic accident, Boo wakes up to find himself in a very strange sort of heaven: a town populated only by 13-year-old Americans. While he desperately wants to apply the scientific method to find out how this heaven works (broken glass grows back; flashlights glow without batteries; garbage chutes plummet to nowhere), he's confronted by the greatest mystery of all--his peers. With the help of his classmate Johnny, who was killed at the same time, Boo begins to figure out what exactly happened to them (and who they really were back in America) through this story about growing up, staying young and the never-ending heartbreak of being 13.

NEIL SMITH is a French translator and the author of the critically acclaimed national bestseller Bang Crunch. He has been nominated for the Hugh McLennan Prize for Fiction, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize–Best First Book (Canada), as well as the Journey Prize 3 times. He has also won the First Book Prize from the Quebec Writers’ Federation. He lives in Montreal.