Tag Archives: 5 stars

Book Review – *Picaflor* by Jessica Talbot

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This book was truly a pleasure to read. Talbot has a way of using simplicity to approach the most complex of emotional subjects, including the wake of a suicide, a complicated childhood, the wonder and fear of starting fresh in a new place, the guilt and nostalgia of homesickness, and the satisfying though tentative steps one takes from desolation to confidence, healing and self-actualization. Based on the author’s own life, this book rings true without being trite or bitter or overdramatic. Talbot is succinct and graceful in her use of description, private yet open when sharing her inner thoughts. Picaflor┬áis a gem to come across, a breath of fresh air, depicting the hummingbird in each of us, trying to find home. 5 out of 5 stars.

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Husband/Wife Book Reviews: ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ by Alexandre Dumas (March 19th, 2015)

Re-posted from LiveJournal:

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As you can tell, since my last entry (basically about a year ago already!) in which I reviewed Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and was given the further assignment by my husband Graham to read Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo, my copy of this beloved tome of over 1400 pages has seen some wear and tear. But it is now finished, and worth every single day I spent reading it!

The first Dumas book I ever read was an adapted version of The Knight of Maison-Rouge, which I do NOT recommend, especially as the adaptation I was unfortunate enough to read included such verbs as ‘electrified’ (as in ‘her presence electrified the silence’ or some similar usage) when CLEARLY, electricity was probably not discovered, let alone in such popular usage as to include in the lexicon of the average person. (Does anyone else get really annoyed by such anachronisms?) I would someday like to read a translated but NOT adapted version, as the story itself would have been interesting if it weren’t for grievous errors like those mentioned above. Needless to say, my first Dumas experience wasn’t as illustrious as his reputation had given it to be.

HOWEVER. I had seen the 2002 movie version of The Count of Monte Cristo,and had truly enjoyed it. I had also had the distinction of reading from cover to cover an unabridged version of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables a few years previous, so I knew I was up to the task. I accepted, and thus my journey began.

Wait and hope: One of the last lines of this book basically describes the many facets of it, for those two elements are necessary for both revenge and redemption (two major themes of The Count of Monte Cristo). They are also important in every stage of a person’s life, which is so clearly seen in the life of poor Edmond Dantes. As a young sailor he waits and hopes for his chance to become captain and to marry Mercedes, the woman he loves. When that is all taken away from him, the fact that he has waited and hoped makes his disappointment even more palpable. While in prison with the intelligent Abbe Faria, he vows for revenge and this is what he waits and hopes for. When the Abbe dies and leaves his entire treasure to Dantes, he sets his desire for justice into action, but must wait and hope for each piece of his carefully constructed plan to fall into place. When his whirlwind of revenge begins to negatively affect the hopes and dreams of his young protege, Maximilian Morrel (the son of his former shipmaster), Edmond realizes that perhaps all he needs to wait and hope for is happiness, and after so much waiting and so much hoping, he seizes the day and sails off into the sunset with his new love, leaving Maximilian and his fiancee with a more positive form of his life motto of wait and hope

This book has everything. It has crime. It has romance. It has the dreams of the young crushed by the ambition of the powerful. It has murder, duels, intrigue, exotic locations, bandits, dandies, honour, luxury, and revenge, revenge, revenge! This book was originally serialized, which is why it was so long: it was so popular nobody wanted it to end! The Count of Monte Cristo was the popular TV drama of its day, and there are so many ways that modern shows have drawn from serialized works like it, I would be here all day if I tried to point them all out. All in all, I give this book 5 stars out of 5. It can be a bit daunting to carry around a hard copy like I did, so if you really can’t bring yourself to carry a book the size of a Bible around with you, please do get this on your e-reader. It will be worth your time, I promise you.


‘Poison Makers’ by Jimmy Olsen (September 22nd, 2014)

Reposted from LiveJournal:

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I just finished reading Jimmy Olsen’s Poison Makers, a great novel set in the seventies, revolving around South and North American political conflict, and voodoo. There are ten years between Poison Makers and Olsen’s first novel,Things in Ditches. The years have been good to him. He has matured in his style and truly reached the heights of his potential in this novel. I enjoyed Things in Ditches, but Poison Makers actually taught me about a completely different way of life, a different time, and very different struggles than my own while still keeping the characters incredibly tangible and down to earth (I felt like EJ could be my next-door neighbour or someone walking the streets of my own city). Olsen manages to take voodoo (and specifically, zombies), topics that are often joked about or over-dramatized, and bring their realities to light, challenging misconceptions while still underlining the power of belief and the power of voodoo as something to respect and properly fear. After reading this book, I respect the combination of faith and drugs that is voodoo more than I ever did before, because the power of the human mind and will is something to be in awe of (and sometimes protect oneself from).

Mr. Olsen ties the zombie/voodoo drama into conflicts between the continents of North and South America, (specifically the countries of Haiti, the Dominican Republic, the United States of America, even Cuba). This book has so many levels. Haiti and the Dominican Republic share one island (Hispaniola) and yet, as EJ (who is from the Dominican side of the island) states in the book about the people in Haiti,’Their poor are starving, ours are only hungry.’ Olsen makes a point of connecting that juxtaposition with the complications of life as a South American minority living in ’70s-era United States compared to the privileged life and condescension of the Caucasian majority. The general point is that we as people underestimate and abuse one another, for power, from bitterness, with hatred. My favourite part about this book is that Jimmy Olsen spent years living in the Dominican Republic and his opinions and observations are taken from first-hand experience, which lends a credence to this book that truly ups the ante.

All in all, even though I found the ending to be a little weaker than the rest of the book, there were a few spelling/grammar errors, and I think the cover of the book needs a different design to draw in more readers (the photograph really embodies the spirit of the book, but only after I had read it did that truly sink in, and I was a little put off by the cover at first), I give this book a 5 out of 5. Mr. Olsen, I love your books. Please keep writing more!


‘Things in Ditches’ by Jimmy Olsen (March 13th, 2014)

Originally posted on LiveJournal:

This was the lovely book sent to me to review by the ever-obliging Jimmy Olsen. AND I LOVED IT.

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I did not expect Things in Ditches by Jimmy Olsen to be as good as it was. A murder mystery set in a small town in Minnesota? What could be interesting about that? Plenty, it turns out. Having lived in small towns most of my life, I was pleasantly surprised by the true-to-life foibles and quirks of the characters of Willow River, Minnesota, who seemed as though they could step out of the pages at any moment to give me their small-town gossip. This book especially shone in comparison to an anthology I have recently read, all stories claiming to be in small towns of just over 700 people, yet complete with street gangs, multiple insurance firms, and booming coal businesses.

The mystery itself was intriguing and kept me guessing, even, at times, laughing. The conclusion was all one could hope for, with a resolution to every loose end and a twist at the revelation of the true killer that infinitely satisfying.

One other aspect I found endearing, being from Winnipeg myself, was Olsen’s mention of it as the protagonist’s possible getaway point.

All in all, I give this novel 5 stars out of 5 and recommend it to anyone looking for a mystery that could be happening right now, next door.

Congrats to Jimmy Olsen for a stellar first novel.