4.5 stars In 1850 the gorilla was regarded in the same way as Bigfoot, the Yeti or even the Loch Ness Monster are considered today. There are a few a...more 4.5 stars In 1850 the gorilla was regarded in the same way as Bigfoot, the Yeti or even the Loch Ness Monster are considered today. There are a few ardent believers but most regard them as scary or amusing myths. Now imagine if someone were to find the Bigfoot creatures and shot as many as possible. This is the intriguing story of how a poor, mostly uneducated explorer named Paul du Chaillu set out for the Gabon to prove the gorilla actually existed and was not just a story told by native Africans.The area he traveled was a blank spot on the map, unexplored by white men. He endured many hardships before accomplishing his goal.He sent bodies of gorillas he shot to Britain and America and found himself capitulated into fame and derision. His discoveries landed him into the center of the debate and rivalry amongst accredited scientists and scholars. Darwinism had just been introduced and the discovery of the gorilla was too startling to ignore. For some it seemed to indicate proof of evolution from a lower life form. Also debates were intensified regarding the inequality of races and the institution of slavery which still existed. At the time there was no objection to the capture of pygmies or the display of deformed Africans by P.T. Barnum and others.Fundamentalist religion was also growing which included the belief that the world was only 4000 years old which opposed Darwinism. Scholars and scientists were prone to ignore objective facts due to their entrenched religious or scientific beliefs. Accredited scientists began to look in scorn on this small, flamboyant man who gave such entertaining lectures on his adventures and the behaviour of gorillas he observed in the wild.He was hyperactive and spoke with a heavy French accent, and in no way resembled their accepted African explorers like Stanley, Livingston, Speck and Burton. Du Chaillu wanted to be considered great by the scientific and geographic societies of the day, but lacked the credentials to be taken seriously by many. Religious fundamentalists already angered by Darwinism did not take kindly to du Challiu. Many scientists, religious leaders and those pro-slavery intended to ruin the reputation of the explorer whom they considered less authoritive and educated than themselves. As du Chaillu had often lied about or kept secret his background, whispers began that his writings about his explorations and observations about gorilla behaviour were falsehoods and that he was probably of mixed-race. He decided to return to Africa to restore his reputation, where he met with even greater hardships. His understanding was that his second expedition was to be covered by funds from a geographical society, but most of these monies were denied.He spent the rest of his life in obscurity and poverty. The later part of his life was devoted to Nordic studies, turning as far from Africa and gorillas as possible. He died in St. Petersburg. His discoveries fueled the imaginative writings of Edgar Rice Burroughs (Tarzan), Arthur Conan Doyle among others, and also the earliest King Kong movie. This book is highly recommended to anyone with an interest in exploration during the Victorian age, Africa, gorillas,19th century society, debates on Darwinism, slavery,social class,racial intolerance, or simply a great story. (less)
I know very little about the world of banking and high finance and found the book boring, but only in the beginning. As the plot got underway I found...moreI know very little about the world of banking and high finance and found the book boring, but only in the beginning. As the plot got underway I found it difficult to put down. The lead character, Ava, is a beautiful, Chinese-Canadian woman who works as a forensic accountant. I don't know if this is an actual job in the real world. Her specialty is recovering huge debts owed to people who were cheated in business. She lives in Toronto and her work includes a great deal of travel. Her partner is an elderly Hong Kong man whom she calls 'Uncle", and she works for a percentage of the recovered funds.I found the locale of Guyana fascinating, which is an unusual setting for an action book. The other settings were not described as vividly. Her travels in this case takes her from Toronto, through Hong Kong, Bangkok, Guyana, and the British Virgin Islands. Her assignment is to recover a 5 million dollar debt owed to a nephew of one of 'Uncles" friends. I thought Ava was methodical, ruthless, cold and brutal and I did not warm to her. She knows some obscure and deadly martial arts. In Guyana she meets Captain Robbins who seems to control the police, army officers, politicians and criminals and she must contend with him and his nasty brother in her attempts to recover the debt. This is the first of a series, and hope that subsequent books may make Ava more vulnerable and likable.(less)
"Light Lifting","Alexander MacLeod", This Giller nominated book consists of 7 short stories which are dark and often filled with dread. Several I woul...more"Light Lifting","Alexander MacLeod", This Giller nominated book consists of 7 short stories which are dark and often filled with dread. Several I would rate 5 stars, as they were concise, and filled with suspense. A characteristic was the abrupt ending of the story just when the person seems certainly doomed. I couldn't give all the stories a 5 star rating, as the writer sometimes seemed to meander and stray from the main story plot, but the best stories were very good indeed."(less)
3.5 stars. A highly original story, and my favorite book with a talking duck-billed platypus as the main character. Albert, the Platypus has escaped fr...more3.5 stars. A highly original story, and my favorite book with a talking duck-billed platypus as the main character. Albert, the Platypus has escaped from an Adelaide zoo and travels by train to Tennant Creek. From there he starts on a quest to find the rumored Old Australia, where animals live in peace and he can swim all day. Carrying only an empty soda bottle, Albert finds himself in the outback desert, a most inhospitable place for a platypus.He soon meets up with other animals,and becomes friends with an elderly wombat who likes to start fires. They spend the night drinking and gambling at an old mining town where the bar tender and bouncer are kangaroos. They do not like Albert because he is not a marsupial. Since Albert was drunk he remembers little about the night. Albert is now wanted dead or alive. Posters everywhere offer a reward as he is blamed for burning down the building and cheating at cards. At this point the story turns into an old-fashioned shoot-em-up Western adventure. There are drunken bandicoots, dingoes, a kangaroo militia, a visitor from America whom I believe is a raccoon,an opossum and a broken down former prize fighting Tasmanian devil. Some of my favorite books have had talking animals as the subjects (Watership Down, The Plague Dogs) or as narrators (Art of Racing in the Rain)where the animals still behaved like animals. By giving Albert and the others many human characteristics took away most of the charm of the story for me.The animals fought with guns, spears and every other type of weapon. The had clothing and sat around a fire brewing tea, which for me detracted from their animal characteristics and weakened the story. Albert carries a gun but was glad to see him resort to his poisonous spurs which platypuses have in order to fight.I think the book would make an enjoyable animated movie. There are themes of friendship, loyalty, bravery and prejudice against ones who are different, and the quest for a better life. (less)
"A Dead Hand: A Crime in Calcutta","Paul Theroux" "I found this an unpleasant and disturbing story about a Western writer who gets involved with a we...more"A Dead Hand: A Crime in Calcutta","Paul Theroux" "I found this an unpleasant and disturbing story about a Western writer who gets involved with a wealthy and mysterious woman renowned for charity work when she asks him to solve a murder. The woman is not what she seems and leads him through the cults and child labor workshops in the country. Found the story ugly and pointless."(less)
Author Andrew Westroll, tells the heart breaking true life stories of chimps living on a 240 acre farm near Montreal. Westroll volunteered to work fo...more Author Andrew Westroll, tells the heart breaking true life stories of chimps living on a 240 acre farm near Montreal. Westroll volunteered to work for the sanctuary's founder, Gloria Grow for several months. He got to know the individual chimps and learned their terrifying histories. We learn that the US is the only country still permitting biomedical research on chimps. Attempts are being made to pass legislation banning the practice. Arguments have been made that although chimps and humans have over 94% DNA in common, there are enough differences to have made much of the experimentation without value for humans. Baby chimps were removed from their mothers right after birth and kept in isolation, and so did not learn socialization skills.They lived in fear of humans who would approach the cage with dart guns to knock them out. From there they were repeatedly injected with deadly viruses or subjected to invasive surgeries.The lab chimps suffered from resulting PTSD, severe psychotic withdrawl or rages, were physically ill from HIV, hepatitis, heart strain and other physical conditions . They subjected themselves to self mutilation and were terrorized to the extent that they would attempt to severely injure other chimps or humans when they eventually came in contact.Several of the chimps at the sanctuary were brought up as pets and discarded to labs when they became to big to dress up and play with, or had been circus performers. Within the sanctuary they are given the chance to heal their physical and mental wounds as much as possible. They slowly begin to socialize with other chimps, building strong friendships and alliances and show grief and mourning when a friend dies. The physical layout of the sanctuary seems an ideal one where the animals can experience the sun and contact with one another, and retreat to be alone if they wish. I wish more pictures of the buildings and more diagrams were displayed as I found it hard to visualize. You can read all about the sanctuary and its chimps and see their pictures here: http://www.faunafoundation.org/index.... The book is highly recommended although the individual histories are hard to read. For some reason the farm will not be allowed to accept any more rescued or retired chimps, and I hope that this will be changed.(less)
"They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children: The Global Quest to Eradicate the Use of Child Soldiers","Romeo Dallaire"
"This was a compelling bo...more"They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children: The Global Quest to Eradicate the Use of Child Soldiers","Romeo Dallaire"
"This was a compelling book which explained the recruitment and use of child soldiers in detail, and the horror of not only their victims but the life many child soldiers are forced to live. Physical and psychological abuse and drugs are frequently used to keep them in line, and describes the effects on their former communities. He also tells about the fate of girls abducted from their homes and forced to become soldiers and bush wives. Organizations are working to free, educate and integrate the young people back into villages. This is very difficult. One reason is the some of the young soldiers had power, and the impoverished children in villages who were never child soldiers, feel how unfair it is that these former soldiers, some who may have murdered their families and friends, are now being housed, clothed and educated by relief groups while their own needs are being unanswered. Romeo Dallaire is working hard to end the use of child soldiers and find better ways to lead them to a normal, productive life and is to be commended. A real Canadian hero!. The one problem I had with the writing was the frequent use of initials for the fighting factions and relief organizations, which I also found confusing in his first book. This is an important book in its detail and explanation of what makes a child soldier and hopefully ways this atrocity may be ended."(less)
I had never read any other of Wayne Johnston's writings, and found this an unique book . The prose, especially Landish's utterances contain much witt...more I had never read any other of Wayne Johnston's writings, and found this an unique book . The prose, especially Landish's utterances contain much witty word play, consisting of puns, malapropisms, rhymes, anagrams, etc. The book is set in St. John's, Newfoundland, and later in North Carolina, where Landish's former former friend at Princeton University has built a lavish home on an 8,000 acre estate named Vanderland. This is based on the mansion George Vanderbilt had constructed, and is still the largest home in America, now a tourist attraction with $15 tours and souvenir shop.The characters in the book are fictional but the mansion and grounds are based on reality. Landish Druken meets Vanderluyden when both are students at Princeton.He moves into Van's residence which they call Lotus Land. Here they hold weekly salons which attract other students, probably partly due to Van's elaborate food and drinks. Landish is the better student, and is considered very witty and eloquent, whereas Van is introverted and grasping for friendship. Landish helps him with his essays and also gives him words to speak during their social gatherings. Landish knows he will be disinherited for his choice of attempting to make a living as a writer instead of a sealing captain. His father is a renowned and notorious seal boat captain who has won an award for the ship's hunters killing a million seals. The award is a beautiful hat made from the white fur of baby seals. This is the only thing left to Landish when his father dies; his wealth being distributed among the churches. Van, the son of the richest man in America, also considers himself disinherited since he is to be left only 6 million dollars, while his brothers get about 10 times the amount. His father considers him a "dud" and has never forgiven him for an event when Van was a boy. Landish is expelled from Princeton just before graduating and has blamed a scheme by Van. Van has always dreamed of having Vanderland mansion built and having Landish go there to live with himself and bodyguard.Landish tells Van their friendship is over and never wants to hear from him again. He returns to St. John's and is living in extreme poverty in 2 rooms in an attic. Before he left Princeton in disgrace, Landish stated, "I will write a book that will put in their places everyone who has ever lived. It may take me as long as a month, but I will not falter." Landish has adopted a small boy from an orphanage, after receiving letters from the boy's mother who blames Captain Druken for her husband's death on the ice. They are very cold with not enough to eat. He spends 5 years writing each day when not drunk, and is surviving with the boy by shoveling snow and on charity. Each night he burns every word he has written. Fearing for the boy's health and that he will be taken away from him and returned to the orphanage, he writes to his former friend begging to be permitted to go to Vanderland with the boy. He has no funds to go without Van's assistance, and Van refuses his first few letters, but suddenly sends 2 first class tickets. On arrival at the mansion he finds Van very cold towards him. Van now has a wife and daughter the same age as the boy. At first they are confined to an room outside the big house with the girl's male tutors. While there Druken continue to write and burn what he has written, and sometimes get drunk. He annoys the other tutors. While at Vanderland there are many lies and family secrets are revealed. I found the characters mostly unlikable,but memorable. I must say I admired the book more than I liked it.(less)
4.5 stars. This resembles a tabloid story, which makes it an easy read and entertaining, if shocking. Anderson seems to have done his homework with mu...more4.5 stars. This resembles a tabloid story, which makes it an easy read and entertaining, if shocking. Anderson seems to have done his homework with much research and interviews.: Oh Mick, You have been a very naughty boy! It chronicles a life of sex, drugs and (not so much) rock and roll.It spans from childhood to the formation of the Rolling Stones to the present 50th anniversary of the founding of the band. We have heard of some of the 4000+ women and a few of the men Mick has been involved with over the years, and some of the names mentioned in the book are surprising. Also, surprising is the reason given why the Queen decided to have elective surgery on the day of Mick's knighthood ceremony. We see Mick as a neglectful father transformed to a devoted father and grandfather. He also maintained close ties with his parents. He has the dilemma of persuading his daughters and grand daughters not to get involved with older men like himself while still leading a life of promiscuity. He seems to have given up drugs for healthy diet to maintain his energy on stage, but in early days drugs were varied and numerous . Included is the rapid decline and death of Brian Jones, who actually founded the group. As in Keith's book, Bill Wyman is barely mentioned.The long love/hate friendship with Keith Richards is probably his most long lasting relationship. If only a fraction of the book is true, it is amazing, almost magical that many of his contemporary rock stars have been dead for 40 years from excess in their lifestyle, whereas Mick continues to entertain and thrill with his energetic on stage performances with his band. Moves like Jagger, indeed!(less)
"Let the Dead Lie: A Novel","Malla Nunn" "This book was a sequel to A Beautiful Place to Die, which was one of my favorite books this year. It continu...more"Let the Dead Lie: A Novel","Malla Nunn" "This book was a sequel to A Beautiful Place to Die, which was one of my favorite books this year. It continues the adventures of Emmanuel Cooper. In the first book he was investigating a murder of a police chief in a small settlement in 1952. That book got into the hearts and minds of the various ethnic and cultural groups at the beginning of apartheid. Now Cooper has been dismissed from his job as police detective and has lost his status as a white man . His identity card is now stamped Coloured. He is working at a manual job on the Durban docks. He stumbles upon a murder of a young boy and soon finds himself charged with this murder and 2 more murders which closely follow. His former chief gives him three days to solve the murders or go to prison and probably he will be hanged. He begins a hurried investigation and finds himself involved in an international conspiracy and very much in danger. Although I did not care for the plot as much as the first novel, I am looking forward to reading more books about Cooper's crime solving adventures."(less)
This powerful book has been long listed for the Giller prize.The writing is crisp and vivid, transporting in its sense of place.The characters are we...more This powerful book has been long listed for the Giller prize.The writing is crisp and vivid, transporting in its sense of place.The characters are well drawn and seem real, and stayed with me after the book was finished. It centers around the Erskine clan living in the forested mountains outside the town of Gideon.They are an inbred, murderous group living in shacks in extreme poverty. They have a history going back many generations of incest, pedophilia and violence.They live by the motto that Erskines don't tell and don't leave. This horrific, unbelievable story is based in fact. The Goler clan of South Mountain, Nova Scotia were finally brought to justice in the 1980's.The case may be found by using Google or on Wikipedia. Although I lived near that area in the 1970's I had never heard of them, but there were supposed to be rumors in the nearby town which were ignored. The main characters are: Albert Erskine, a young man who underwent long term sexual abuse from his uncles and mothers,along with other forms of physical cruelty.He has separated himself as much as possible from his family, putting together a rickety, one room shack , but near the rest of the clan.They have started to mistrust him. Albert makes a living growing and selling marijuana, whereas his relatives have moved on from bootlegging to producing crystal meth. In the town is a working class family. The father, Tom, drives a bread truck and is struggling to pay bills and provide for his family. His wife has run away, and he has a rebellious 15 year old boy and a sad 10 year old daughter at home. There is also Dorothy, a genteel,kindly upper middle class older woman who owns an antique shop. She is being harassed by a gossipy woman who tells her she will be left behind at the time of the Rapture and her soul will be damned unless she joins her church.Dorothy has been secretly leaving boxes of clothing, food and books for Albert for years where the Erskines can find them. These people who probably would never know one another connect in unexpected ways which I won't describe as it might spoil the story. When their lives intersect there is horror, tragedy and perhaps some redemption and a better ending for a number of people. (less)