Category Archives: Fiction

No Such Creature: Win #Win Win

Guys. Folks. Folx. PEOPLE. Giles Blunt’s No Such Creature is so good!

[What if I stopped writing in sentences and paragraphs and just did the whole post in hashtags because no one reads anymore (which I get is an ironic complaint when you’re reading a blog post about reading a book and so clearly you are someone who reads and I’d argue reads too much if you’re reading This? I DIGRESS). So here’s my attempt: #suspense #mystery #literary #fiction #men #actors]

Oh I already want to weep. Like how do the people tolerate themselves with all the ###.

Right, so here we go in round two:

I came to Giles Blunt by accident. Camping with all the family mum realized she’d already read her book and so we swapped. She ended up with something too on the nose about the 1918 pandemic (#why) and I found myself with Giles Blunt’s No Such Creature. And I thought, okay, camping book, fine fine. And then! What fun! What a romp! What great writing! More exclamations!

Following Max and his great-nephew Owen as they traipse around the country pulling off elaborate heists, the novel is as much about familial belonging and love as it is about the tense moments of robbery. No, it’s more about that. It’s about what we do out of guilt, out of commitment and out of love. It asks readers to imagine new constellations of family all while packing a steady pace of drama and intrigue. There are scenes of toes being cut off layered next to poignant scenes of childhood loss and grief. It’s a marvel!

There’s nothing provocative or political about the book – except maybe some out-of-wedlock-sex? #hahaha – and depending on where you’re at right now that may be a #win or a #loss. It’s really just two white men getting away with crimes so #theworld #shrug

Honestly. Closing weeks of summer this one is just #fun. We’re headed to the cottage next week and I just ordered the first in Blunt’s more popular and well feted Cardinal series. So stay tuned for more #enthusiasm from me if the series proves as delightful as this standalone contribution.

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Filed under Fiction, Mystery

Bath Haus: Maybe-Murder, Definitely Mystery, but Easy to Solve, so Maybe-Mystery

I was recently getting my haircut and reading P.J. Vernon’s Bath Haus (I’m terrible at chatting with hair stylists and so I read a book). I’m not usually concerned about being seen reading whatever I’m reading, but in this self-described ‘thriller’ (I should amend my title) there are many, many scenes describing sexy things and murderous things and I kept imagining the stylist reading over my shoulder and judging me OR being so engaged that she’d cut off my ear, which is to say, the book had me on edge.

By the mid point of the book it’s not particularly challenging to sort out the whodunit behind the thriller bits, but there is sufficient tension and slow drip of information to make you want to keep reading. Plus it was – for me at least – a novel plot to have a gay couple maybe murdering and being thriller like. Plus a very mean mom character, which, as I understand it, always does turn the children into criminals.

It’s a good book for vacation, and with a few weeks left of summer, you could do worse. But also better. So… maybe? I don’t know. Like if the library has it on the shelf: get it. If you have to put it on hold and wait a week maybe don’t. And so ended the least helpful review of all time. Ever. The end.

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Filed under Book I'll Forget I Read, Fiction, Mystery

How to Pronounce Knife: 🔪 Friends give friends [this] short story collection[s] and other surprises

What? Two reviews in two days? It’s because Souvankham Thammavongsa’s How to Pronounce Knife is impossible to put down. (And because I am between series on tv) The short story collection has common threads in Lao immigrant experiences of labour and family, but also of something like dignity and something like connection. I say something like because I’ve been lately trying to explain more and more abstractions to the kid and realizing how a word like dignity connotes so much more than ‘respect’ and ‘connection’ so much more than ‘linked’ so you’ll have to trust me that this collection makes an argument for the dignity of labour and the vitality of touch.

It is a collection free in its imagination and particular in detail. Reciting a list of the range of plot points and settings is the stuff of book jackets and you can take my word that the stories are wide ranging. Instead I’ll share the moments I liked best were of children experiencing the gutting mixture of mortification and gratitude that comes with parents making sacrifices and doing their best and yet – to the child – never quite doing or being what they hoped. And of characters who tolerate the impossible – e.g. living with your wife’s adulterer – because action would be admitting this impossible thing was happening and might necessitate a response.

The writing is exceptional; the stories swift and absorbing. Thanks to the non-book-book-club for the conversation and for K. for putting the book in my hands.

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Filed under Fiction, Giller prize, Prize Winner

All Adults Here: I’m 37! Happy Birthday! But… Not an Adult. No I am.

For 90% of last year I thought I was 37. I was not. I was 36, so this year, when I *really* turned 37 it felt like a gift. Surprise! You get to be 37! Again! It does Not Bode Well for my memory.

You’d think being 37 a second time would mean I’d have adult-ing sorted out. And to be clear, I do. But whenever adult became a verb, I lost track of what it meant in the pop culture sense – something about being the one to empty the dish drain of all the chopped up bits of food and stringy what’s its. Probably it means being a little rich and having a cleaning person so if you don’t really want to clean the dish drain you don’t have to (I have just googled it, and I am right.)

Emma Straub’s All Adults Here isn’t much clearer about what it means, except to insist at various points in the novel that all the grown children are adults. It follows a folksy white family from a super small town – like it has scenes of literal protests to keep big box stores from buying in – and their ups and downs and inbetweens. Astrid, the matriarch, offers the most scandal in announcing in the early pages that she is bisexual (the drama! the scandal!). Oh and there’s a daughter who decides to have a baby on her own Out of Wedlock (the drama! the scandal!). And a son who was never properly loved by his father (I can’t even).

I shouldn’t make fun of it, but it just read as so quaint when the world is on fire to be fretting about maintaining the downtown core.

Oh but actually, now that I mention it, the book does have a lovely set of scenes with the teenage character, Cecelia, figuring out the difference between privacy and a secret, and making this particular adult worry *even more* about how to raise children in this world even if it wasn’t already actually on fire.

For all my griping about how earnest it is and how willing to have everything work out in the end, I did enjoy reading it. Probably because we’re all yearning to have everything work out in the end. If you can suspend the desire for something real, and instead embrace this fiction-on-a-fiction, the adult-ing, of being an adult, then I’d recommend. If nothing else it would make a good beach read: entirely unaffecting while also being engaging.

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Filed under Book I'll Forget I Read, Fiction