Friday, 29 January 2016

Adulthood is a Myth - A Review

ADULTHOOD IS A MYTH by Sarah Anderson

Whether you are 15 or 105 there is a drawing (or “scribble” as Ms. Anderson describes them) in this book for you.
Each page contains a cartoon depicting a day or event in the life of “everywoman”.  Whether it be a day at school, gift giving occassions, an afternoon at work or a night spent staying up too late reading, Ms. Anderson has a humorous take on the situation.
This was a fun book to page through while chuckling to myself with each turn of the page.  I sat down and read it in one go and then found myself going back through it looking for my favorite “scribbles” to reread and enjoy another snicker or outright laugh.

If you are looking for a book that will provide plenty of smiles (and give no offense); one  that you can give your teenager or your grandmother when they’re having a bad day … this one definitely fits the bill.
I received this book at no charge from the publisher, Andrews McMeel Publishing, via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book will be available on March 8th, 2016 from your favorite bookseller or online book provider.  Amazon link HERE.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from the Senior Spotlight Blog)

Most people know of me through my webcomic, Doodle Time.  Out of all my work, that's been the most successful.  Doodle Time is currently syndicated by Universal Uclick.  I also just wrote an article for College Humor in comic format, and Buzzfeed recently named the strip as one of the best webcomics of the year.

As for my illustration work, which is very different from my cartoon stuff, I had an internship with an art rep over the summer and we've been talking about working together in the future, so I'm looking forward to continuing to make illustration work after I graduate.

To see more of Sarah's work, visit her professional links:

Thursday, 28 January 2016

In the Dark - A Review

IN THE DARK by Chris Patchell

This book is described as an “edge of your seat suspense novel” and it certainly lives up to it’s billing!

Brooke was last seen two days ago.  Her roommate thought she was at her mother’s house and her family thought she was in her dorm.  When Brooke missed attending her sister’s school concert it was a sure indication that something was very wrong.  She was last seen in a bar, where she went to see her high school boyfriend Jesse, who she heard was back in town.  Brooke’s mom, Marissa, had never liked Jesse.

The police don’t seem interested in investigating a college student who has only been off the radar for a couple of days.  But Marissa knew her daughter would not just go off without letting someone know … especially without her life saving insulin.

Life had never been easy for Marissa and her girls but despite her bad choices and failed relationships the one thing that was a certainty was that Marissa loved her daughters and nothing would stand in the way of her finding Brooke.

I found “In the Dark” to be a well-written, extremely suspense filled book with plenty of twists, turns and red-herrings to keep me guessing right up until the point that the author wanted me to know the “who” in the “who-dun-it”.  I suspected everyone until slowly, at exactly the right point, Ms. Patchell let me know who the bad guy was.  But rather than slow down at that point the story picked up to an exciting ending.

I would highly recommend this to any reader who enjoys a truly suspenseful read.

My only two (very mild) criticisms would be that some of the descriptions the author uses were a little questionable.  So much so that sometimes I had to stop and reread them to make sure I had actually read what I read.  This made for a bumpy read in some sections in a book that was, in all other ways, a real page-turner.  One example was a passage describing a main character, the police detective.  Our character describes the scene … “The pre-dawn air smelled like car exhaust and bacon grease.  A line of squad cars set the perimeter.  Blue and red light flashed in the muddy gray dawn.”  It just jumped out at me that “bacon grease” might not have been the best descriptor for a scene where many police officers were in attendance.  It seems a bit nit-picky (and I found it humorous) but there were other instances as well.   Also, although the love interest and job prospects came as no surprise and did serve to move the story along, some of Marissa’s actions had me questioning whether this would be the way a mother would react if her daughter was missing.  Small things that should not stop anyone from picking up this book.

All in all a good read and I’m giving it 3 ½ stars … I liked it … and I definitely plan on picking up Ms. Patchell’s other book, “Deadly Lies”.

I received this ebook at no charge in exchange for an honest review.  I would also like to apologize to the author and Bostwick Communications for taking so long with my review.
The ebook got a little lost on my Kindle.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from Amazon)

When Chris Patchell isn't hiking in the Cascade Mountains or hanging out with family and friends, she is working at her hi-tech job or writing gritty suspense novels. Writing has been a lifelong passion for Chris. She fell in love with storytelling in the third grade when her half-page creative writing assignment turned into a five-page story on vampires. Even back then Chris had a gift for writing intricate plots that were so good her father refused to believe she didn't steal them from comic books.

Years later, Chris spent long afternoons managing her own independent record store and writing romance novels. After closing the record store and going to college, Chris launched a successful career in hi-tech. She married, had kids but amid all the madness, the itch to write never really went away. So she started writing again. Not romance this time - suspense filled with drama, and angst, speckled with a little bit of blood.

Why suspense? Chris blames her obsession with the dark on two things: watching Stephen King movies as a kid and spending ridiculous amounts of time commuting in Seattle traffic. "My stories are based on scenarios I see every day, distorted through the fictional lens. And my stories come with the added bonus of not having to be restrained by socially acceptable behavior."

Recipient of the 2015 Indie Reader Discovery Award for DEADLY LIES

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Is There Something You Would Like to Tell Me?

Apparently, according to, there are 14 secrets that book lovers keep to themselves.  Anything you feel the need to get off your chest?

So, just what are these deep dark secrets that Bustle thinks we all share?

Lying about your weekend plans.

Not every book-lover is confident in saying her weekend will consist of devouring a few books and loving every second of it. Even if you love boasting about it, there's probably been at least a few times where you've told a little white lie about spending Friday night out and about rather than in your bed all curled up with a book.

Judging people by their bookshelves.

If you've ever walked into a date's room and can't seem to find a single book around, it's definitely a red flag to leave immediately.

Buying pretty new versions of books you already have.

You can never have too many Alice's Adventures in Wonderland or Pride and Prejudice, right?

Pretending to have read each and every “classic” book out there.

When it comes down to certain classics you know you'll probably dislike (or gave up reading in high school) you can usually fake it if it ever comes up.

Book buying vs. grocery shopping.

You can live off of ramen and mac and cheese. Books are more important because they feed the soul.

Rereading a favorite book 10 to 20 times.

For books you love, maybe your favorite YA novel, or that quirky book no one has ever heard of, you've read them dozens of times. So many times, you could probably recite the beginning of each chapter, know exactly which page a quote comes from, and recall a character's physical traits better than your own.

Traveling means getting to see the most incredible bookstores around the world.

Traveling is one thing a book-lover does everyday (in our minds, of course). When we actually get to leave our home and visit new places around the globe, a habit I have, and many of my book-loving friends also share, is having to visit new and amazing bookstores everywhere we go.

Internet stalking your favorite author for hours.

Websites are filled with neat facts, extra writing, and fans just like you. Maybe you won't admit to it, but you've definitely internet stalked a well-loved author of yours a few times.

Imagining your life as a novel on a daily basis.

As a book-lover, you like to imagine how your life would look if it were documented in a book. If your life were in book-form, it would probably be a lot more exciting, which is exactly why you love thinking about it.

Creating perfect music playlists for reading (or specific books)

Creating playlists to listen to while reading a new book because once you’re done reading, that song will always remind me of that book and those characters. If you haven't tried this already, it'll become one of your favorite new secret habits.

Using phrases from certain characters as if you came up with it.

After finishing works by Virginia Wolff or Jane Austen, it's impossible to resist using incredible phrases like "as long as she thinks of a man, nobody objects to a woman thinking" and "intolerably stupid." Of course you very well know you didn't come up with it, as do most people, but you still love doing it.

Taking forever to finish a book because you don’t want it to end.

It's not an everyday habit, but when this happens, you're torn between wanting to finish and not wanting to move on.

Going to your favorite authors and books for advice.

Friends and family are usually great resources for advice on just about anything you're struggling with, but the best for book-lovers is found in books.

Spending a significant amount of time worrying about a fictional character.

On the train, in the middle of class, or during a dull meeting at work — thinking about characters is a major secret habit of any and every reader.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

It Doesn't Have to Be About Chocolates and Flowers!

There are not many independent bookstores around anymore.  In my neck of the woods there is one that comes to mind and I think the reason they are still around is because of their "out of the box" thinking.

Wordsworth Books ALWAYS has something interesting going on.  The sponsor author events, have great "bag-o-book" sales and maintain a very strong presence in the community on on social networking.

This idea came up on their Facebook feed today and I think it's a wonderful idea ...

"Blind Date with a Book"

Books wrapped in brown paper with enough of a description to give you a little direction as to whether it would be interesting or not.  

It's a great idea in bookstore but I think it could be a really fun idea for an "any occasion" book exchange too. 


Friday, 22 January 2016

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Brooklyn on Fire - A Review

BROOKLYN ON FIRE by Lawrence H. Levy

Before I start my review, let me say that it is not imperative to have read the first book in the series to enjoy this one.  Yes, there are tidbits of background information that you may have missed but Mr. Levy does an admirable job of imparting the important bits so that this can be a “stand alone” read.

With limited career options open to her as a female Mary has weighed out the pros and cons of various possible job choices.  After helping solve the Goodrich case Mary has decided that she would make a great detective.  Never one to let social norms and expectations stand in her way and only too well aware of the fact that in early 19th century New York City women DID NOT become police officers, Mary sets up shop as a private investigator in a small back office (cleaned out broom closet) of a bookstore.  Convenient, as her job in the bookstore helps her make ends meet.  She has the time … she has the business cards … she has the determination – now all she needs are some clients.

Mary is as surprised as anyone when a young woman comes into her “office” and hires Mary to look into the death of her uncle who supposedly died of a heart attack several years ago.  Little did Mary know when she accepted this case that it would lead to her butting heads (and other body parts) with the upper echelon of New York society, the Vanderbilts, the Rockefellers and the Carnegies.  As Mary delves deeper into her case of suspected murder there are many surprises on the way for both Mary and the reader.

As in the first book of the series actual historical figures abound, important issues, events and scandals of the time are cleverly woven into the story.  The reader is skillfully transported back to New York City of the 1800’s.  These truths entwined in the story make this interesting historical fiction and Mr. Levy’s characters make it an entertaining read.  Even Mary Handley was a real person and, although I have not taken the time to look into her history, I feel sure Mr. Levy has taken a few liberties with her character.

On the positive side – I really enjoy Mary, her way of thinking and bucking tradition, her attitude and her intelligence/clever instinct.  Also, as they did in “Second Street Station” Mary’s mother and father offer some fun comic relief throughout the story … especially her mother, who is written so well as a shining example of a woman bound by tradition, the polar opposite of her daughter, in whom she is equal parts disappointed and extremely proud.  I also very much liked Lazlo, Mary’s employer, provider of her office space and biggest supporter.  Should there be a third book I hope he makes an appearance.

(very small spoiler ahead)

There is something I will be watching for should there be a third installment in this series.  While I would definitely recommend this book to anyone that likes a lighter historical fiction read for me there were a few issues.  The foremost being that this is only the second book in this series and it already has that “cookie cutter” feel; as if Mr. Levy found a formula that worked in the first one, altered some names, came up with a new mystery and plugged it in to the pages.  It did help move the story along and allowed me to learn about a something new, however, if Mary is going to have a new and tragic love affair in each book it may put me off continuing with the series.

All in all a good read and I would definitely pick up another book in the series just to see where it takes Mary.

I received this book at no charge from the publisher, Crown Publishing, via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from his website)

LAWRENCE H. LEVY is a highly regarded film and TV writer who is a Writers Guild Award winner and two-time Emmy nominee. He has written for various hit TV shows such as Family Ties, Saved by the Bell, Roseanne, and Seinfeld. Second Street Station is his debut novel and Brooklyn on Fire is his second book.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Happy (Belated) Birthday A.A. Milne

So, yesterday I posted Birthday greetings for Edgar Allen Poe and today I realized that A.A. Milne's birthday was on January 18th.  Interesting that these two 19th century writers, who could not have been more diverse in their writings are both so well remembered and loved.  I came across this picture on Facebook, and although admittedly a little morbid ... I found it amusing.  There are some pretty creative folks out there thinking these things up.

And, Happy belated Birthday to A.A. Milne.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Mr. Poe's Birthday

So today is Mr. Poe's birthday.

What better way to celebrate than listening to Vincent Price read "The Raven"?  Yes, it's old and a little scratchy but that just seems appropriate somehow.

Here's the link ...

Broken Wheel - A Review

READERS OF THE BROKEN WHEEL RECOMMEND by Katarina Bivald and translated by Alice Menzies

This was a charming read that will, without a doubt, hold lots of appeal for those who are already book lovers.  If there’s someone you know that doesn’t understand the love of books … hand them a copy of this and insist they read it.  It might just enlighten them to some of the magic found in the pages of a book and entertain them with a good story as well.

Sara Lindqvist lost her job at a small bookstore so finding herself at loose ends she decides that the time is right to visit her pen-pal Amy Harris.  She packs up her things and makes the trip from Sweden to the small town of Broken Wheel, Iowa.  She and Amy have been corresponding for a long time, sharing not only things about themselves but their mutual love of books.  Unfortunately for Sara, the day she arrives in Broken Wheel is also the day of Amy’s funeral.  With Amy’s house available to her for as long as she cares to stay Sara decides, despite not knowing another soul in the small, somewhat forgotten and run down town, to finish out her holiday in Broken Wheel.

The citizens of Broken Wheel, out of respect for their beloved Amy, welcome Sara and try to keep her entertained.  But reading and walking can only hold a young lady’s attention for so long.  In an attempt to fit in Sara takes all of Amy’s books and starts a small, almost “pop up” bookstore.

Sara’s one little change to the main street seems to invigorate the town and as one by one they begin to drop by the bookstore Sara gets to know her quirky neighbors and they her.

But are the books she’s recommending enough to bring this sleepy little town back to life?

This was a good story and I adored Ms. Bivald’s small town characters.  I don’t think she missed a cliché or a stereotype yet made them all come together in a very readable and very entertaining book.  Ms. Bivald managed to slip a few book recommendations within the pages of this book weaving them seamlessly into the story.  She made me want to visit Broken Wheel and Sara’s bookstore.

As much as I would highly recommend this book to a wide variety of readers I am giving it three stars.  After reading the first two-thirds of the book and being totally drawn in by the story and characters I was a little let down by the last third.  It seemed the book went from charming and humorous to comical and almost slapstick.  I think “Readers of the Broken Wheel Recommend” deserved better.

I received this book at no charge from the publisher, SOURCEBOOKS Landmark, via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from her Goodreads author profile)

Katarina Bivald grew up working part-time in a bookshop. Today she lives outside of Stockholm, Sweden, with her sister and as many bookshelves she can get by her. She's currently trying to persuade her sister that having a shelf for winter jackets and shoes is completely unnecessary. There should be enough space for a bookshelf or two instead. Limited success so far. Apparently, her sister is also stubbornly refusing to even discuss using the bathroom to store books.

Katarina Bivald sometimes claims that she still hasn't decided whether she prefer books or people but, as we all know, people are a non-starter. Even if you do like them, they're better in books. Only possible problem: reading a great book and having no one to recommend it to.

Monday, 18 January 2016

After the Crash - A Review

AFTER THE CRASH by Michel Bussi and translated from the French by Sam Taylor

When you turn to the first page of this book make sure you have set aside a good block of time for reading because once you start “After the Crash” you are not going to want to put it down.

Just before Christmas in 1980 a plane takes off with 198 passengers on board including two babies, each three months old.  Unfortunately, a freak snowstorm happens and the plan crashes into Mont Terri on the Franco-Swiss border.  The flames that erupted quickly consumed those passengers not killed instantly on impact.  The terrain and the storm thwarted rescue efforts.  When the first responders finally got to the scene it seemed the miraculous had happened; a baby was found alive, cradled in her carrier, apparently thrown from the plane far enough to avoid the flames but close enough that they kept her from freezing to death.

This was in the days before DNA testing and due to a convoluted set of circumstances neither of the two infant’s families could definitively identify the baby.  It could either be Lyse-Rose de Carville (the grand-daughter of a wealthy Parisian family) or Emilie Vitral (the grand-daughter of a poor family from the French countryside).

The courts finally decided Lylie’s (as she had come to be known in the papers) fate.  But for one family and one detective this was not good enough.  They had to know, without question, exactly who Lylie really was.  So on the day of her 18th birthday Lylie received a handwritten notebook of about 100 pages in length summarizing the 18-year long investigation.

This book grabbed me at the introduction and didn’t let go again until I turned the last page.  Maybe not even then since I am still pondering the “what ifs” today as I decide what to say about this book?

It is well written with certain parts even making my think “Wow, that’s pretty amazing”.  The author has a talent for suddenly taking the reader on a short stroll away from the action.  Just as the reader starts to wonder why this little side step Mr. Bussi draws a beautiful parallel to the story.  It’s just enough to allow the reader to catch their breath before plunging back into Lylie’s life.  The twists and turns are not limited to the action and plot in this book but involve the characters as well.  Of course, Lylie and Marc, the young couple at the center of the story are the protagonists – the good guys, and everyone around seems to change and morph so that I could not decide who to trust until the epilogue.  Rather than find it frustrating … it was intriguing and kept me turning the pages!

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys sitting down to a good mystery with just the right amount of angst, an added touch of “thriller” and a little romance on the side.

I received this book at no charge from the publisher, Hachette Books, via Netgalley
 in exchange for an honest review.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from Wikipedia)

Michel Bussi (born 29 April 1965 in LouviersEureFrance) is a French writer of detective novels, and a political analyst and Professor of Geography at the University of Rouen, where he leads a Public Scientific and Technical Research Establishment (French: Unité mixte de recherche, "UMR") in the French National Centre for Scientific Research (French: Centre national de la recherche scientifique, "CNRS"), where he is a specialist in electoral geography.

According to the Le Figaro/GfK list of bestsellers, he was one of the ten best-selling French writers of 2013, selling around 480,000 books.

Uhmm! Really?

Sleep and I have had an on again/off again relationship lately.  On the plus side – its amazing how much reading one can get done in the quiet pre-dawn hours of the day.  This morning I finished the book I was reading so rather than jump right into another one I looked around on Facebook a little.  There is always plenty on there to whittle away a little bit more time before officially starting the day.

This morning I clicked on to a post by Book Riot entitled “Thirteen Things an Adult Should Actually be Embarrassed to Read“.  It was an interesting list until I got to #8.  Huh?  No clue what they were talking about??  What else to do but click on the link? Okay, so now it made sense – but – is this a real thing?

Book Least Likely to Appear in a School Library:
Penis Pokey by Christopher Behrens.
It’s a board book that, um, you stick your penis through. So.

Never mind “least likely to appear in a school library” … NEVER to be borrowed from ANYBODY and definitely NOT to be purchased at a used book venue of any kind!

As far as the rest of things adults should be embarrassed to read?  Here’s the list according to Book Riot.

1. Your significant other’s email. Don’t you read advice columns? This always ends badly.

2. Your friend’s book that you borrowed a really, really long time ago and never gave back.

3. A book with the movie version of the cover when the non-movie version of the cover is readily available.

4. A book that you have dropped in the bathtub, because you don’t have that fancy bathtub caddy thing to prevent such mishaps, Becky?

5. The last page of a book when you have not yet read all its other pages. That’s cheating.

6. A book that is trying to bite you. If you had read YA, you’d know to stroke the spine.

7. The Facebook feed of that person who you were never friends with but find oddly fascinating.

9. A book that is bound with human skin.

10. Other people’s text messages, even if they were in the bathroom when the text popped up and they’d never know you peeked.

11. A book that you don’t enjoy. Stop wasting your time.

12. Anything that tells you that other people’s feelings about what you read are important. They’re not.

13. Absolutely nothing, because you’re an adult and you can do what you want!

And I have to say ... LOVING this bag!

Friday, 15 January 2016

Smoke - A Review

SMOKE by Catherine McKenzie

Beth used to fight forest fires.  She left that vocation in order to concentrate on her marriage and to focus on trying for the baby she and her husband so desperately want.  The baby that she hopes may save their marriage.  Things don’t go quite as planned and on the eve of discussing the possibility of divorce a forest fire erupts on the outskirts of town.  Instantly, she is drawn back into the excitement she, admittedly, has missed.  This fire might not only destroy her home but her marriage as well.  When all is said and done, will anything good be able to rise out of the ashes?

I am a bit ambivalent about this book.  While the story is good – I did enjoy reading about the forest fire and the tools used to fight it as well as the stress both the fire and the investigation surrounding it had on the inhabitants of the town.  However, it seemed to be lacking the page-turning excitement I thought it might have.  With an out-of-control forest fire raging all around them I found it a little difficult to believe that a town would go ahead with an annual fund-raising dance?  Add to that the fact that for the most part I didn’t really care for the character of Beth I wasn’t drawn into this book as much as I had hoped I would be.

The action did pick up in the last third of the book, but it was not until that point that I began to care about what happened to this town and its inhabitants.  Two-thirds is a lot of book to read through before things become captivating.

All that being said I think I went into this book with the wrong idea about the story.  I was anticipating a little more fire-fighting.  Someone else reading this without that mistaken preconception will probably enjoy the whole book rather than just, as I did, the last third.  The book was certainly well written and I would not hesitate to pick up another book by Ms. McKenzie.  I would just make certain I was more clear on the subject matter.

I received this book at no charge from the publisher, Lake Union Publishing, via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from her website)

A graduate of McGill University in History and Law, Catherine practises law in Montreal, where she was born and raised. Catherine's novels, SPIN, ARRANGED, FORGOTTEN and HIDDEN, are all international bestsellers and have been translated into numerous languages, including French, German, Portuguese, Polish, Turkish, Slovakian and Czech. HIDDEN was also a #1 Amazon bestseller and a Digital Bookworld bestseller for five weeks. She has also published a novella, SPUN, which is a sequel to SPIN.

ARRANGED has been optioned for film, and SPIN has been optioned for a television series. A short film of ARRANGED was made in 2014 and won a Canadian National Screen Institute Award. Catherine was on set while they filmed it. It was one of the cooler experiences of her life.

Catherine’s fifth novel, SMOKE, will be published by Lake Union on October 20, 2015. She is currently at work on her sixth novel, which is expected to be published in 2016.
An avid skier and runner, Catherine climbed the Grand Teton in 2014.

And if you want to know how she has time to do all that, the answer is: robots.

The Bette Davis Club - A Review


A “road trip” book for the “over forty” set.  So much fun!

The Hollywood elite.
A runaway bride.
A vintage sports car.
A cross country romp.
A flawed heroine.
A damaged hero.
Not one, but two, mysterious manuscripts.
A maniacal bad guy.
A lesbian dance competition.
A tragic love affair.
The voice of reason in the form of an always-rational best friend.
A failing business,
And the chance at a multi-million dollar payoff at the end of it all.

What more could you possibly want in a quick, fun read on a Sunday afternoon?

Margo leaves behind her floundering business in New York City to attend her niece’s wedding in sunny Los Angeles.  After helping herself to a dress and shoes from her half-sister’s closet and more than a couple of drinks from the open bar she is summoned into the house and told that the bride is no where to be found.  Margo is charged with the task of hunting her down and bringing her back.  At her disposal is her father’s classic red MG and, since Margo does not drive, the jilted groom as her chauffeur and the promise of a big payoff if she returns with the bride … oh … and more importantly it seems, some of the items she has liberated from the house before departing.

So begins a cross-country romp, most of it along the infamous Route 66.

I liked this book a great deal.  It’s the perfect escape on a wintry afternoon when you have time to suspend reality for a little while and live vicariously through Margo’s well-intentioned yet often near disastrous escapades.

This is an enjoyable, light, fun read that is very well written.  So sad to know the author has passed away.  I think I would have certainly enjoyed other books written by Ms. Lotter.  If you read my “About the Author” section you will learn that quite obviously Ms. Lotter maintained her sense of humor right to the end and died with grace and dignity.  Much like her heroine Margo, she did things on her own terms.

I received this book at no charge from the publisher, Lake Union Publishing, via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from the NY Times

From the time she was a teenager, Jane Lotter, a lifelong resident of Seattle, loved to write — jingles for a greeting card company; news and features for a local real estate magazine; a weekly humor column in the now defunct Jet City Maven; and, most recently, a comic novel, completed shortly before her death.

Those best acquainted with her describe Ms. Lotter as a woman who had great spunk, knew her mind and, even at the age of 60 and dying of cancer, was wise beyond her years. So last spring, when she told her family that she was planning to write her own obituary, they weren’t too surprised, though they’d never heard of anyone doing that.

The paid obituary, which was published on July 28 in The Seattle Times, began:
“One of the few advantages of dying from Grade 3, Stage IIIC endometrial cancer, recurrent and metastasized to the liver and abdomen, is that you have time to write your own obituary. (The other advantages are no longer bothering with sunscreen and no longer worrying about your cholesterol.)”

Like any writer worth her salt, she used this final opportunity to list her awards and plug her book: “First Place in the Mainstream Novel category of the 2009 Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary Contest for my comic novel, ‘The Bette Davis Club’ (available at”

Even the best obituaries must leave much of a lifetime out, as Ms. Lotter herself noted: “I would demonstrate my keen sense of humor by telling a few jokes here, but the Times charges for these listings by the column inch and we must move on.”

Ms. Lotter’s dream was to get a novel published, but she ran out of time and self-published it as an e-book.

Ms. Lotter took advantage of the state’s Death With Dignity Act. “Suicide is the opposite of how Jane saw her life.  She loved life. She just didn’t want to end up like a fish flopping on a dock.”

On July 18, the couple and their two children gathered in the parents’ bedroom. Ms. Lotter asked to keep in her contact lenses, in case a hummingbird came to the feeder Mr. Marts had hung outside their window.

The last song she heard before pouring powdered barbiturates, provided by hospice officials, into a glass of grape juice was George Gershwin’s “Lullaby.” Then she hugged and kissed them all goodbye, swallowed the drink and, within minutes, lapsed into a coma and died.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Just Mercy - A Review

Well, we are two weeks into January and I am already woefully behind on posting reviews

This is my first review this year and it was my transitional book ... started in 2015 and finished in 2016.  And, may I say it was a hell of a way to start off the new year of reading!

JUST MERCY by Bryan Stevenson

After reading this book it occurred to me that had someone recommended “Just Mercy” to me as a riveting legal thriller I would have believed them … it is THAT well written.  It is a compelling; page turning read yet sadly, every story in this book was true - lived by those unfairly sentenced and by the author trying to rectify the miscarriages of justice.

“Justice is for those who can afford to pay for it”

In 1986 Walter McMillian was accused of killing 16-year-old Rhonda Morrison in the back of a dry-cleaning store in Munroeville, Alabama.  Three witnesses testified against him at trial, while six black witnesses testified that he was at a church fish-fry at the time of the murder.  Walter McMillian was found guilty and sentenced to death.  He was on death row for six years before Bryan Stevenson took on his case and discovered that Mr. McMillian was indeed at the fish-fry and could in no way have committed the crime.

“One of the really bizarre parts of this whole case for me was this whole episode took place in Monroeville, Ala., where Harper Lee grew up and wrote To Kill a Mockingbird. If you go to Monroeville, you'll see a community that's completely enchanted by that story. ... They have all of this To Kill a Mockingbird memorabilia. The leading citizens enact a play about the book. You can't go anywhere without encountering some aspect of that story made real in that community.

And yet, when we were trying to get the community to do something about an innocent African-American man wrongly convicted, there was this indifference —
and, in some quarters, hostility.”

Walter McMillian’s story is the main focus of “Just Mercy”, however in his role as the founder and Executive Director of the non-profit Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) Mr. Stevenson has sought to overturn not only wrongful convictions but unjust convictions as well.  These stories comprise most of the rest of the book. 

Trina was a fourteen-year-old girl when she was accused of and tried for murder.  Trina’s lawyer, at the time, never challenged the decision to try Trina as an adult.  He was subsequently disbarred and jailed for unrelated criminal misconduct.  Trina was forced to stand trial for second-degree murder as an adult.  Francis Newsome, also involved in the crime, testified against Trina in exchange for the charges against her being dropped, and the 14-year-old was convicted of second-degree murder.

“Delaware County Circuit Judge Howard Reed found that Trina had no intent to kill.  But under Pennsylvania law, the judge could not take the absence of intent into account during sentencing.  He could not consider Trina’s age, mental illness, poverty, the abuse she had suffered, or the tragic circumstance surrounding the fire.  Pennsylvania sentencing law was inflexible: For those convicted of second-degree murder, mandatory life imprisonment without the possibility of parole was the only sentence.  Judge Reed expressed serious misgivings about the sentence he was forced to impose.  ‘This is the saddest case I’ve ever seen,’ he wrote.  For a tragic crime committed at fourteen Trina was condemned to die in prison.

Not long after she arrived at prison a male correctional officer pulled her into a secluded 
area and raped her.

The crime was discovered when Trina became pregnant.  As is often the case, the correctional officer was fired but not criminally prosecuted.

In 2014, Trina turned fifty-two.  She had been in prison for thirty-eight years.”

Trina’s story is not the only one.  Mr. Stevenson also recounts the story of a young man, convicted at 13 years of age and held in solitary confinement for more than fourteen years, allegedly for his own protection fearing he would be abused in general population.  Mr. Stevenson arranged to have photographs taken of the young man.  He was so moved because it was the first time since being sent to prison he had any human contact other than having meals passed to him.  In a letter to Mr. Stevenson he wrote, “As you know, I’ve been in solitary confinement approx. 14.5 years.  It’s like the system has buried me alive and I’m dead to the outside world … but today, just the simple handshakes we shared was a welcome addition to my sensory deprived life.”

In 2005, the Court recognized the difference between children and adults and required that children be exempt from the death penalty under the Eighth Amendment.  Does it go far enough to ensure that children are not lost in the prison system?

Interspersed with these stories are some staggering statistics about incarceration in America.  Again, the book explains far better than I could ever paraphrase …

“Between 1990 and 2005, a new prison opened in the United States every ten days.  Prison growth and the resulting ‘prison-industrial complex’ – the business interests that capitalize on prison construction – made imprisonment so profitable that millions of dollars were spent lobbying state legislators to keep expanding the use of incarceration to respond to just about any problem.  Incarceration became the answer to everything – health care problems like drug addiction, poverty that had led someone to write a bad check, child behavioral disorders, managing the mentally disabled poor, even immigration issues generated responses from legislators that involved sending people to prison.  Never before had so much lobbying money been spent to expand America’s prison population, block sentencing reforms, create new crime categories, and sustain the fear and anger that fuel mass incarceration than during the last twenty-five years in the United States.

Prison for profit.  Frightening on so many levels.

While I have read several books on the subject of wrongful convictions and unjust sentencing practices (most recently the excellent book “Unfair” by Adam Benforado) this is the first I have read that so clearly and succinctly gives the statistics behind the prison system.  A heart breaking, and admittedly tear inducing, as the people’s stories were – the bare statistics were shocking.

I’m not of the mind that no one deserves to be punished.  Of course they do.  Because I live in Canada capital punishment is not on the table for sentencing at capital trials – I waver in my personal belief in some cases such as that of Paul Bernardo.

Mr. Stevenson, near the end of his very well-written and educational book poses an important question …

“Why do we want to kill all the broken people?”

“I worked in a broken system of justice.  My clients were broken by mental illness, poverty, and racism.  They were torn apart by disease, drugs and alcohol, pride, fear, and anger.  I thought of Joe Sullivan and of Trina, Antonia, Ian, and dozens of other broken

children we worked with, struggling to survive in prison.  I though of people broken by war, like Herbert Richardson; people broken by poverty, like Marsha Colbey;

people broken by disability, like Avery Jenkins.  In their broken state, they were

 judged and condemned by people whose commitment to fairness had been

broken by cynicism, hopelessness and prejudice.”

“Enjoy” seems like the wrong word to describe a book like this, but I am very glad I read it.  It is important to know that no system of justice in infallible and that there are people like Bryan Stevenson out there who think it important enough to try and correct that … who go and do just that … and then take the time to make sure that the rest of understand it as well.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from his website)

BRYAN STEVENSON is the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, and a professor of law at New York University School of Law. He has won relief for dozens of condemned prisoners, argued five times before the Supreme Court, and won national acclaim for his work challenging bias against the poor and people of color. He has received numerous awards, including the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant.

For more information on child imprisonment, excessive punishment or any other topics discussed in this book visit and Mr. Stevenson also has a TED TALK and a video about “Sentencing Children to Die in Prison” posted on his website at

RIP Professor Snape

This second week of 2016 has been a sad week for music and now film.  Alan Rickman star of so many well known movies has passed away today.  Probably best known to the reading community as Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter movies.  Can anyone read the books and not see Mr. Rickman's iconic portrayal?

Don't worry Alan ... I'm sure there is a library in heaven.  If not, I'm not going!

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

David Bowie's Top 100 Favorite Books

This interesting list was part of an article published in the Los Angeles Times.  I thought it would be worthwhile to share it.

The list, which is featured on Bowie's official website, is preceded by text noting that several people suggested "a Bowie Book Club to tackle each of the 100 volumes."

It would be a fitting tribute to the legendary singer — just as fitting as illustrator Jen Lewis' sweet, and now heartbreaking, drawing of Bowie as the title character from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's "The Little Prince."

From Bowie's Facebook page, his complete list of 100 books:

"Interviews With Francis Bacon" by David Sylvester
"Billy Liar" by Keith Waterhouse
"Room at the Top" by John Braine
"On Having No Head" by Douglass Harding
"Kafka was the Rage" by Anatole Broyard
"A Clockwork Orange" by Anthony Burgess
"City of Night" by John Rechy
"The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" by Junot Diaz
"Madame Bovary" by Gustave Flaubert
"The Iliad" by Homer
"As I Lay Dying" by William Faulkner
"Tadanori Yokoo" by Tadanori Yokoo
"Berlin Alexanderplatz" by Alfred Döblin
"Inside the Whale and Other Essays" by George Orwell
"Mr. Norris Changes Trains" by Christopher Isherwood
"Halls Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art" by James A. Hall
"David Bomberg" by Richard Cork
"Blast" by Wyndham Lewis
"Passing" by Nella Larson
"Beyond The Brillo Box" by Arthur C. Danto
"The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind" by Julian Jaynes
"In Bluebeard’s Castle" by George Steiner
"Hawksmoor" by Peter Ackroyd
"The Divided Self" by R. D. Laing
"The Stranger" by Albert Camus
"Infants of the Spring" by Wallace Thurman
"The Quest for Christa T" by Christa Wolf
"The Songlines" by Bruce Chatwin
"Nights at the Circus" by Angela Carter
"The Master and Margarita" by Mikhail Bulgakov
"The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" by Muriel Spark
"Lolita" by Vladimir Nabokov
"Herzog" by Saul Bellow
"Puckoon" by Spike Milligan
"Black Boy" by Richard Wright
"The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald
"The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea" by Yukio Mishima
"Darkness at Noon" by Arthur Koestler
"The Waste Land" by T.S. Elliot
"McTeague" by Frank Norris
"Money" by Martin Amis
"The Outsider" by Colin Wilson
"Strange People" by Frank Edwards
"English Journey" by J.B. Priestley
"A Confederacy of Dunces" by John Kennedy Toole
"The Day of the Locust" by Nathanael West
"1984" by George Orwell
"The Life and Times of Little Richard" by Charles White
"Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of Rock" by Nik Cohn
"Mystery Train" by Greil Marcus
"Beano" (comic, ’50s)
"Raw" (comic, ’80s)
"White Noise" by Don DeLillo
"Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom" by Peter Guralnick
"Silence: Lectures and Writing" by John Cage
"Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews" edited by Malcolm Cowley
"The Sound of the City: The Rise of Rock and Roll" by Charlie Gillete
"Octobriana And The Russian Underground" by Peter Sadecky
"The Street" by Ann Petry
"Wonder Boys" by Michael Chabon
"Last Exit To Brooklyn" By Hubert Selby Jr.
"A People’s History of the United States" by Howard Zinn
"The Age of American Unreason" by Susan Jacoby
"Metropolitan Life" by Fran Lebowitz
"The Coast of Utopia" by Tom Stoppard
"The Bridge" by Hart Crane
"All the Emperor’s Horses" by David Kidd
"Fingersmith" by Sarah Waters
"Earthly Powers" by Anthony Burgess
"The 42nd Parallel" by John Dos Passos
"Tales of Beatnik Glory" by Ed Saunders
"The Bird Artist" by Howard Norman
"Nowhere To Run: The Story Of Soul Music" by Gerri Hirshey
"Before The Deluge" by Otto Friedrich
"Sexual Personae: Art And Decadence From Nefertiti To Emily Dickinson" by Camille Paglia
"The American Way Of Death" by Jessica Mitford
"In Cold Blood" by Truman Capote
"Lady Chatterly’s Lover" by D.H. Lawrence
"Teenage" by Jon Savage
"Vile Bodies" by Evelyn Waugh
"The Hidden Persuaders" by Vance Packard
"The Fire Next Time" by James Baldwin
"Viz" (comic, early ’80s)
"Private Eye" (satirical magazine, ’60s – ’80s)
"Selected Poems by Frank O’Hara
"The Trial Of Henry Kissinger" by Christopher Hitchens
"Flaubert’s Parrot" by Julian Barnes
"Maldoror" by Comte de Lautréamont
"On the Road" by Jack Kerouac
"Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonders" by Lawrence Weschler
"Zanoni" by Edward Bulwer-Lytton
"Transcendental Magic, Its Doctine and Ritual" by Eliphas Lévi
"The Gnostic Gospels" by Elaine Pagels
"The Leopard" by Giusseppe Di Lampedusa
"Inferno" by Dante Alighieri
"A Grave For A Dolphin" by Alberto Denti di Pirajno
"The Insult" by Rupert Thomson
"In Between The Sheets" by Ian McEwan
"A People’s Tragedy" by Orlando Figes
"Journey Into The Whirlwind" by Eugenia Ginzburg