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American Dirt


  In my last post, I ranted about media hype for books and blithely announced that I was going to read American Dirt instead. At that time I did not know American Dirt was an Oprah Book Club recommendation. (No, I didn’t notice the little yellow sticker on the cover.) Nor did I know that the book was mired in controversy. As a non-Latina, I will not comment on the controversy, but I will say that I’ve spent a lot of time in Mexico and learned from a variety of sources (some much more reliable than others) a few details of crime and corruption at all levels of government and society, so will comment with that perspective. American Dirt started out very strong and I was quickly immersed in the...
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What does Media Hype really say about a book?


This whole business about “hype” and “buzz” gets me riled. I’d love some of that for my books of course. At the same time, I think too much hype can kill a book. Hyped books that I tried: Remember the  The Da Vinci Code? Well, I ran out and bought it, read it, hated it, finished it because it was a hard cover and cost so damn much. What a waste of money. Lesson learned: At the very least wait for the paperback or go to the library. By the  way, you can still see Dan Brown laughing all the way to the bank.   The Night Circus. At least I had a Kindle by the time I bought and read this one, or rather tried to read this one, so I didn’t waste as much money. I found the bits I did read boring and...
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Book Series – Awesome or a Flop or Somewhere in Between?


Davida Chazan blogged about reading series on The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog Here and Here Responding to her prompted me to write a blog of my own.   Somewhere in Between: I read several of the #1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books before I finally tired of them. (He shouldn’t have written so many!) I did like them because, although they were in Botswana and I lived in Mali, the books presented a picture of the gentle side of Africa and were in many ways a journey down memory lane — i.e. I enjoyed them for the nostalgia.       Awesome:  I discovered and fell in love with The Mrs. Polifax series and read every single one in order. If you decide to try them, start with the first — The Unexp...
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Will You Ever Change? — Aurelie Valognes


    All families have their ups and downs and idiosyncrasies. In Will You Ever Change? Valognes provides the reader with a gentle look at the dynamics of one family in France. That the story is infused with touches of French culture and French cuisine, enhances the enjoyment of this delightful light read. BLURB: As Martine and Jacques Le Guennec prepare for their annual family Christmas dinner, Martine reminds her husband to be on his best behavior. Their son Nicolas is bringing his girlfriend, Jeanne, to their home for the first time, and she doesn’t want Jacques to scare this one off.Jacques has always ruled his roost with patriarchal bravado, and he can’t help but verbally antagonize ever...
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Safe crossing – goose style – Victoria, BC


“Look left. Look right.”   Mother Goose honks sternly and the flock gathers.   “All clear. We’re good to go.” And so they do.   Before long, Mother Goose will be leading them south for the winter, but today they’ve enjoyed a bit of relaxation in the beauty of Victoria.   http://www.darlenejonesauthor.com   Original link
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A walk in the park leads to “Five Wives” – Joan Thomas


Walking my dog the other day, I see a woman sitting on the grass with a book, her dog nearby. The dogs decide a meeting is in order, so while they sniff noses, I ask the woman what she’s reading. This leads to a discussion of books, our reading preferences, and sharing of recommendations. I tell her to check out any or all of Jane Davis’ books. She tells me about Five Wives. I check the blurb (see below) and decide to try the sample. I’m mesmerized and buy the book. Five couples and their children go to Ecuador to bring the light to an isolated tribe–the Auca. Armed with what they deem to be good intentions, but with not even a superficial understanding of the natives and their culture, thes...
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Rereading novels

I read Jane Davis’ marvelous new novel, At the Stroke of Nine O’clock. I immediately turned to page one to begin rereading it which prompted me to post this question on Facebook. Have you ever read a book you liked so much that you turned back to page 1 to reread it immediately? If so, what was the book? The responses varied from “never” to “more than once.” Never: Nope. Too many good books to spend time reading a book more than once. No, never. But if I were to lie and say I had, it would probably be “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” or maybe “The Lazy man’s Guide to Enlightenment.” No, but I recently reread a book that I read when I was a teenager. I did not remember that I had read i...
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Phones to the rescue


  My daughter calls from Mexico in a panic. The ATM she was using clicked and chattered as they usually do, but no money was ejected from the machine. This has happened to me a couple of times over the years so I know the feeling. “I’m not at home and my phone charge is dangerously low,” she says. “Please check my account to see if I’ve been debited.” Yep. She’s been debited. I call her back and tell her I’ll phone our bank. I explain what happened to the young man and tell him that my daughter can’t call him herself because she’s running out of charge. “I just had a woman call from the US with the same problem,” he says. “Don’t worry, we can sort this out.” The young man at the bank needs i...
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At the Stroke of Nine O’Clock – Jane Davis


Read a book by Jane Davis: These Fragile Things.  Think: Amazing. Riveting. So well written. Doesn’t get any better than this. Read another book by Jane Davis: A Funeral for an Owl. Think: Complex. Amazing characterizations. So well written. Doesn’t get better than this. When you’ve read all of her books and think Davis can’t possibly outdo herself, she writes a new book. And it’s even better. How does she do it? The magic of Davis’ writing is hard to define. It’s not just in what she says. The power comes from what she doesn’t say, but hints at. She gives the reader enough that the “missing bits” serve to strengthen the   characters and plot in the reader’s mind. The quote on the cover sums...
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Computers — Photos — the Munchkin


I bought this computer ten or twelve years ago, wrote and published seven novels on it and helped three other authors with their books. But for the past couple of years it’s been failing and slowing down and misbehaving so I knew the time had come to replace it. Of course sending it to my favorite computer shop to be euthanized meant I’d have to back up my files and pictures to an external hard drive. Files? No problem. Pictures? Could be an issue.   Now, you have to understand that I’ve never been a big picture taker so where did all these come from? Well, in 2009, the munchkin was born and I had a cell phone with picture taking ability. Did I go crazy? perhaps a bit. 12,901 pictures crazy ...
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The Oppenheimer Alternative – Robert J. Sawyer

[The Oppenheimer Canadian Alternative Cover]
I’m currently reading Mr. Sawyer’s latest novel. Once again, his brilliance shines through as he weaves a fascinating tale of past events and speculates on the future. Could Earth really be destroyed by the sun in 2026? AFTER YOU HAVE READ THE BOOK go HERE to learn more. Sawyer writes: ” Magicians are reluctant to explain how a trick was done, and so I was loath to include an afterword in my novel The Oppenheimer Alternative that would immediately explain what parts of the story were real and which were imaginary. I wanted the book to sit with readers for a bit, as any other novel would, before delineating fact from fiction. But if you’ve come here, you’re clearly curious about that and so h...
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Can’t keep a reader out of a bookstore


Social distancing (Pandemic shopping) for books at Victoria’s best book store. Munro’s Books now occupies a landmark location in the heart of Victoria’s Old Town, but its origins are much more modest. In 1963, Jim Munro and his first wife, Alice — yes, that Alice Munro — set up shop in a long, narrow space on Yates Street, near Victoria’s movie theatres. Bookstores were few and far between in Victoria; Jim’s main competition in those days came from the book sections at the local department stores. But the location was convenient for younger, movie-going customers, and the staff’s interest in new trends in writing and other art forms built a loyal clientele. The store relocated to larger prem...
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Happy Birthday Canada!


Proud to be Canadian!  Original link
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Loteria – Mario Alberto Zambrano


I was drawn to this book by the cover as the lottery cards I’ve seen in Mexico are so intriguing. In Loteria , Zambrano  has woven the story of one family’s dysfunction through the Loteria cards. Told through the eyes of the 11 year-old daughter, the story of their ruin is all the move harrowing. Sad as it is, the reader is compelled, by the format and the writing, to finish the novel. Blurb In Lotería, the spellbinding literary debut by Mario Alberto Zambrano, a young girl tells the story of her family’s tragic demise using a deck of cards of the eponymous Latin American game of chance. With her older sister Estrella in the ICU and her father in jail, eleven-year-old Luz Castillo has been t...
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The First Emma – Camille Di Maio

The First Emma
Two stories in one. The first: Emma Koehler, the Emma of Hotel Emma in San Antonio, was the wife of a German born brewer. He had two mistresses, both named Emma. When one of the mistresses murdered him, Emma, the wife, took over the brewery just as prohibition began. She was able to keep all her employees working and Pearl was one of the brewing companies not to go out of business. She also steered the company through the depression. The stuff of fiction, right? Nope. It’s all true. And a fascinating story it is. The second: Emma hires a young girl, Mabel Hartley, to write her story. Mabel, a fictional addition, flees Baltimore for San Antonio when she is offered the job. Unfortunately her s...
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Wise words from Robert J. Sawyer

 never got to work at the ROM, but my novel Calculating God was set there, and, as part of the Museum’s celebration of its 100th birthday, they put a placard in the sidewalk our front of the Planetarium commemorating that fact.
I have refrained from talking politics or the current world situation on my blog, but feel compelled to share this with Mr. Sawyer’s permission. https://www.sfwriter.com/ I am privileged to count Rob a friend. I first met him a number of years ago when I attended one of his writing courses at the Banff Centre (School of the Arts in Banff, Alberta, Canada). Rob is a renowned science fiction author who has won numerous awards . But, if you’ve read his novel QUANTUM NIGHT  (published before Trump was elected), you will know just how politically astute he is. Recently Rob posted this on Facebook.  An old friend asked, “Robert, are you now becoming political?” My Response. Of course I’m political...
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Stories of the Sahara – Sanmao

Stories of the Sahara by [Sanmao,, Mike Fu]
I don’t remember how I found this book, but I’m so glad I did. Having spent time in Mali and traveled to Tombouctou, I was enthralled by Sanmao’s life and adventures in Spanish Sahara. Read more about Sanmao here. Blurb: .Sanmao: author, adventurer, pioneer. Born in China in 1943, she moved from Chongqing to Taiwan, Spain to Germany, the Canary Islands to Central America, and, for several years in the 1970s, to the Sahara. Stories of the Sahara invites us into Sanmao’s extraordinary life in the desert: her experiences of love and loss, freedom and peril, all told with a voice as spirited as it is timeless. At a period when China was beginning to look beyond its borders, Sanmao fired the imag...
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VALENTINE – Elizabeth Wetmore

Valentine: A Novel
I’ve read Caleb Pirtle’s  books and blogs set in Texas—enough to know that the climate is harsh and drilling for oil even harsher, In VALENTINE, by Elizabeth Wetmore, harsh morphs into downright grim. The relentless heat seeps out of every page urging you, the reader, to turn on the air conditioner. The violence and the apparent lack of caring, like a punch to the gut, leave you breathless. Yet, you keep turning the pages. You have to know. The widow, the young Mexican girl, the pregnant mother and her daughter, the young girl trying to take care of herself and her father—each presenting the oil patch from their point of view with their fear and strength and the often deeply buried tendernes...
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AKIN — Emma Donoghue


Absolutely marvelous! Noah is about to celebrate his eightieth birthday in Nice — the city where he was born, the city he hasn’t seen since he was four years old – when his eleven year old great nephew is foisted on him by a desperate and persistent social worker. Noah, determined to get to Nice and unravel the mystery of his mother’s photos, refuses to give up his trip and takes the boy along. The ensuing adventures of this unlikely pair take the reader on a wild ride through Nice and back to WWII as they search for the answers Noah needs. A story of adventure, bonding, and finding home. BLURB Noah Selvaggio is a retired chemistry professor and widower living on the Upper West Side, but bor...
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Tacos de birria – Canadian style


One of our favorite breakfasts in Mexico can be found at the taco stand a couple of blocks down the street. Tacos de birria: Shredded meat served with onions (cooked or raw), broth from the meat if you like, and your choice of hot sauce (the red one) or salsa suave (the green one made from avocado). Well, we’re back in Canada and found these treats at our favorite coffee shop, La Roux Patisserie, in China Town, Victoria, BC. I know,> A french pastry shop in China Town!? But, hey, you can’t argue when everything is so tasty.. https://laroux.ca/   http://www.darlenejonesauthor.com Original link
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