Dog On It is the first book in a mystery series featuring a dog and male detective partnership. It is a light, easy read with some smThe Short Version
Dog On It is the first book in a mystery series featuring a dog and male detective partnership. It is a light, easy read with some smils and chuckles. The dog’s personality and wise-cracking is entertaining but the mystery itself while interesting fell short with respect to suspense and sitting on the edge of your seat. Spencer Quinn, a pseudonym for Peter Abrahams is the author. The use of a pseudonym by an author who publishes another mystery series and some children’s books should have alerted me to just how light the reading was going to be. The book included some interesting characters that I could relate to. And I particularly enjoyed seeing the world through a dog’s eyes and understanding a bit more about canine attributes and behaviour. It seems the a dog’s sense of smell is the predominant sense they rely on and they have terrific vision in the dark. Their attachment to their owners is well known. In Chet, the dog’s case, he formed strong positive and negative bonds with people he met in his work and his joie de vivre was contagious. Bernie, his partner, was no slouch when it came to living life either. Will I read Book 2 in the series? Perhaps….but it’s certainly not definite. There was enough that I enjoyed to try Book 2 and see if I enjoy it more as series sometimes do build. The characters started well, so this is a strong possibility for attachments to the characters to grow. As a reading choice during a busy holiday season, it was a good choice. 2 1/2 stars rounded up to 3 stars for the characters.
The Longer Version
Read Dog On It by Spencer Quinn for a book challenge that required a book written from an animal’s perspective. Tried another more literary book first but decided to put it away for a while. It just wasn’t upbeat enough for my mood at the time.
The canine featured is called Chet and he’s the other half of a male-dog detective partnership. I enjoy mysteries and it is the first book in a mystery series by Spencer Quinn, a pseudonym for Peter Abrahams who writes other mystery series and children’s books.
What particularly attracted me to the series were the flap recommendations especially those by two very strong and well known writers.
From Stephen King (best selling author of many genres)
“Spenser Quinn speaks two languages - suspense and dog - fluently. Sometimes funny, sometimes touching and in a few places terrifying. Dog On It has got more going for it than fifty of those cat cosies. The best thing about the book is Chet, a canine Sam Spade full of joie de vivre. He’s a great character because he sums up what we all love in dogs: how they love life and how they love us. My sincere advice to you is to rush to your nearest bookstore and put your paws upon this one-of-a-kind novel.”
From Stephen B. Parker (Spenser series author just before he passed away)
“A detective, a dog, and some major league prose. Dog On It is a genuine joy.
Perhaps these strong recommendations raised my expectations a bit too high.
Here’s a sample of the writing from the 1st Paragraph in Chet’ Dogspeak:
I could smell him - or rather the booze on his breath - before he even opened the door, but my sense of smell is pretty good, probably better than yours. The key scratched against the lock, finally found the slot. The door opened and in, with a little stumble, came Bernie Little, founder and part-owner (his ex-wife, Leda, walked off with the rest) of the Little Detective Agency. I’d seen him look worse, but not often.
You get the idea. Chet and Bernie make a great team. Join them for some great fun, chuckles and adventure. Rounded up to 3 Stars. ...more
Baboushka and The Three Kings was illustrated by Nicolas Sijakov and written by Ruth Robbins in 1960 and was chosen the Caldecott Medal Winner the folBaboushka and The Three Kings was illustrated by Nicolas Sijakov and written by Ruth Robbins in 1960 and was chosen the Caldecott Medal Winner the following year. The Caldecott Medal Winner is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.
I was fortunate to be able to borrow this book on an inter-library loan. I was looking for a Christmas Story about a different culture and was intrigued by the book’s description. It is an old Russian folk tale about a Baboushka (literally Grandmother in Russian, likely because many older Polish and Russian ladies wear a triangular scarf of the same name tied under their chins.) I received a 1st Edition of the book by Parnassus Press of Berkley California from a small town library. I did a bit of research and found a used copy of this edition being offered on Abe’s books for 450 US $’s. Kudos to public libraries. Use them or lose them. With private and public money, they have made huge investments in all kinds of books for everyone to borrow and savour so that reading is accessible to all regardless of wealth.
BABOUSHKA AND THE THREE KINGS is a simple story. It is about an old woman who lives alone in a small hut. Three kings get lost in a snowstorm as they are searching for the Child that is about to be born. They want to honour him and bring him gifts and ask that Baboushka join them in their visit. It’s evening and while warm inside, outside it’s cold and blustery. Baboushka invites them to stay the night and suggests they leave together in the morning. They are anxious to find the Child and choose to leave without her. The next morning Baboushka sets out on her own with a few poor but precious gifts in her sack for the Child. Unfortunately the snow has covered the kings’ tracks and Baboushka cannot find the Child.
Last 2 Paragraphs
“And it is said that every year, at the season when the birth of the Child was first heralded, Baboushka renews her search across that land with new hope.
And it is said that every year little children await the coming of Baboushka. They find joy in the poor but precious gifts she leaves behind her in the silent night.”
Russian children apparently used to anxiously await Baboushka’s arrival just as North American children anxiously await Santa Claus today. I think the simplicity of the story and the simplicity of the poor but precious gifts is worth sharing with children at a time when consumerism sometimes seems to run amuck and overshadow why this holiday is being celebrated.
In the book however, the reference is always to the Child (the first letter of Child being in caps and always preceded the word 'the'.) There is no mention of the word Christ. Therefore, I think people of all ages; all faiths or no faiths could and would enjoy this book.
Nicolas Sidjakov’s illustrations will delight children of any age. The four-colour artwork is very striking and integrates well into the story. The designs are linear in nature - primarily black lines and black outlines filled with bursts of colour inside - warm orangey red, bright yellow and cool blue. There is a lot of white space used as well in the illustrations to ensure the coloured images stand out. I am not sure if wood block printing was used but that’s what it reminds me of.
Sidjakov includes a lot of detail in his illustrations so there are many items for children to discover on their own or to be pointed out . It is a book with illustrations that wants to be read and shared and will easily facilitate interaction and learning about another country and how people lived as well as a heart-warming message of sharing what we have with others.
Since it was written almost 60 years ago, there is a quaintness to the book. Asterisks, as an example, are used to right and left justify the print on every text page. The drawings illustrate a different time and culture in Russia. A Monarch and a Hierarchy is readily apparent in the drawings. There are Kings being pulled in a carriage driven by horses, with men riding horses following and foot soldiers following, literally 'on foot' in the extreme cold. The drawings of the rustic wooden huts with minimal and simple furniture show what a poor and hard life Russian peasants led. The onion domes and spires of Russian Orthodox Churches, signs of wealth and authority, are abundant and dwarf the smaller wooden huts and homes. There is a lot to learn and discuss based on the illustrations alone.
An added bonus in the book is a verse to sing (written by Edith M. Thompson) to music (composed by Mary Clement Sankes. The musical score has been included so you can have some fun playing the music on a piano or other instrument while everyone sings-a-long. It could be a new tradition in the making.
Baboushka and The Three Kings is worth seeking out for its novelty alone. Based on the calibre of Children’s Picture Books today, if it was just released I likely rate it 2.5-3 stars. However its age (written 56 years ago) with printing technology etcetera at the time, I figure it deserves 4 stars. Also who am I to second guess the Caldecott judges of the time, who rated this book, the best Illustrated Children’s book published in the same year in the United States. ...more
I was surprised to learn that this was Iain Reid’s debut novel because I thought the writing was particularly smart and clean. He did a great job of bI was surprised to learn that this was Iain Reid’s debut novel because I thought the writing was particularly smart and clean. He did a great job of building suspense and discussing philosophy and other topics simultaneously. Investigating further, I discovered that Reid had written two previous non-fiction books. One received a Globe and Mail’s notable book award and Reid received the RBC Emerging Writers Award in 2015. Looks like I am not alone in thinking that Iain Reid is a talented writer.
I read mysteries and thrillers as part of my reading mix but avoid the horror genre. It was a first for me due to a Book Club choice. Creepy is a word I noticed other reviewers using and totally agree. It is also a quick read (very easy in that sense), but I frequently put the book down, particularly when reading in the evening’s darkness. Some of the storyline was too intense. My heartbeat was racing. I was holding my breath and frightened about what might happen next. I understand it is this anxious and scary feeling that many people read horror stories to experience but it was all new for me. I did not feel horror in the graphic physical sense with mounting anxiety about an imminent shooting or stabbing but rather in a tortured mental and emotional sense. I had difficulty absorbing all the pain expressed verbally and non-verbally by a confused, obsessive and psychotic mind described so viscerally.
What provided relief and interest was the variety of discussions both internally in the narrator’s mind and orally between Jake and his companion - the philosophical discussions – What is real? Is thought or action the truth? In addition, their sharing of ideas about heritage, families, silence, music, the environment and a whole lot more - topics I had never considered or questioned to any degree. Besides keeping my tension at an endurable level, these exchanges definitely differentiated it from what I perceive to be a traditional horror story. The book made me think and I learned a lot.
One of the biggest things I will take away from this book is how tortuous it must be for people with extremely low sociability skills that suffer from severe social anxiety. I was aware of social anxiety at an intellectual level but Reid really showed me what a huge problem it can be for some people and how limiting it is for them in their life choices or non-choices - careers, friendships and love relationships. Even daily interactions with others necessary to exist such as shopping, banking and riding the bus would be extremely difficult and anxiety provoking. Reid really humanized these social problems.
Similarly, Reid heightened my emotional understanding of depression and suicidal thoughts, paranoia and other debilitating disorders. Reading I’m Thinking of Ending Things informed me emotionally on this subject matter. I viscerally felt the sufferer’s feelings, despair and fear. Reid demonstrated at a high level his adeptness as a writer in evoking strong feelings of empathy.
I thought most of the book was 5 star worthy. Unlike many readers, it was not the last 40 pages or ending that saved the book for me. It was quite the opposite. The book grabbed me very early on and kept me fully engaged. Based on hints along the way, I had a strong sense of what was coming and how things were going to end. I had no issues with “how” the book ended. I just thought the writing at the end let the story line down. Unlike earlier in the book, I found the writing towards the end to be confusing. I found it necessary to reread some sections, once and then again, just to be sure I understood and hadn’t missed something. It wasn’t the information itself at issue as much as “how” the information was presented. I did not think the writing was still clean and crisp. Perhaps this was intentional – to make us aware and think about all the unanswered questions. Perhaps Reid was deliberately unclear to demonstrate how many different ways and reasons a mind can be tortured. Maybe he didn’t want us to limit our thinking but to broaden our perspectives on mental illness so that in the future we would be more open and attentive to every individual and mind we see or meet daily and to provide the necessary resources and support when possible.
Whether or not these intentions of Reid are real or too big a stretch by me didn’t really factor into my final rating. While a large part of the book was 5 star worthy (only about 5% of my reads on average are awarded a final 5 stars from me) I think that the writing of the ending should have been ratcheted up a notch and rated this book 4 stars overall.
Thank you Iain Reid for this quite profound book couched in a thriller/horror story. By choosing this genre, you reached out to a much larger audience than had you written an information non-fiction book. In doing so you shone a very strong light on mental illness and isolation that will hopefully start a dialogue for more understanding and ultimately lead to solutions. ...more
While The Party Wall is marketed as a debut fiction by author Catherine Leroux, it seems to be a collection of short stories. The reviews I read wereWhile The Party Wall is marketed as a debut fiction by author Catherine Leroux, it seems to be a collection of short stories. The reviews I read were mixed and the ratings ran the gamut from 1 star to 5 stars from Goodreads’ readers I follow and whose opinions I respect. I wasn’t sure what to expect but my interest was piqued and I began to read in the very best way – with absolutely zero expectations.
I enjoyed The Party Wall. I thought the writing was fresh, crisp and filled with great feeling, nuances and observations that would only be apparent to a skilled watcher and well expressed by a good writer. There are stories about 4 different pairs. 3 pairs appear in only 2 chapters each while another pair appears in 7 chapters – the first, the last and in between all the other chapters. Each pair shares their story within its own pairing and in the end; all the dots and couples are connected and brought together in a surprising, fascinating and realistic manner. From this perspective, I can see why it’s been marketed as a novel of fiction but I expect most readers will still consider it a linked short story collection.
The category labelling isn’t really important. What you need to know is that Leroux’ writing is top-notch, captivating and creative and this book has a storyline that engaged me from the onset.
The Party Wall was originally published in French as Le mur mitoyen. It was a finalist for the 2013 Grand prix du livre de Montréal and won the Prix littéraire France-Québec in 2014. It was translated into English by Lazer Lederhendler as The Party Wall. In 2016, besides being short-listed for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, it won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Translation.
Here’s one short example of her writing:
P. 70 “A muffled noise ripples down from the second floor. Among other fabulous qualities, Marie’s feet, when moving over a wooden floor, have the ability to produce the sound of a brush on raw canvas. The note whispered at the beginning of the world. He listens to the delicate rhythm approaching until it sweeps down on him.”
There is a lot of lightness in the stories, mostly the positive human emotions of love, tenderness, friendship, family and community. There is also darkness in these same stories. We experience the unpleasant side of humans, who judge, bully, murder, shame and expose. We encounter people who hold no space in their hearts for anyone who crosses the line of their rules and expectations of society. The lack of humanity was at times gut-wrenching; but offset most times by incredible love that surpasses all and knows no bounds.
Leroux kept my attention throughout. While very literary in her writing style, her stories and imaginings are mesmerizing. I wanted to know what was going to happen next and how the story of each character would unfold. There were many surprises and constant reasons for me to stop and reflect. The storylines raise a number of important ethical and philosophical topics that we don’t often consider, or at least I had not thought about recently. I found myself constantly wondering what I would choose or how I would act in the same circumstances, whether the incident was happening directly to me or I was a bystander who became aware of the situation.
As Leroux has written – the truth can be much more fascinating than fiction and The Party Wall shows us how true this is. Despite the disparate stories, there is a common thread of connection between the couples (sister and sister, lover and lover, self and self, brother and sister and everyone they meet.) Leroux very skilfully shows us that each member of the couple is connected to the other member of the pair; but also that all the couples are connected to the other couples. Some may think the ending is too neat and predictable. I was taken aback and thought that the ending was incredibly brilliant and skilfully written. There were no loose ends and a very strong message in all the stories of humanity’s interconnectedness and our dependency on each other.
In an article from Le Devoir on September 26, 2015 translated from French into English, Associate Danielle Laurin quotes Catherine Leroux about where she gets ideas for her books. Leroux indicated, “My inspiration comes from the fascination I have for the complexity, the diversity of human experience. And its exceptions especially. Its rarities, its extremes.”
I recommend that you read The Party Wall and see where Leroux’ fascination takes you. Expect the unexpected. Expect these stories to stay with you for a while and to be absorbed into your consciousness.
It is not surprising to me that Catherine Leroux studied philosophy at the Université de Montreal based on this book. While Leroux’ writing is a bit more surreal, her writing in The Party Wall reminds me of Muriel Barbery’s writing in her globally popular literary novel - The Elegance of the Hedgehog. Barbery is also francophone and trained as a philosopher at Ecole Normale Supérieure in France. Maybe there really is something to be said for innate French sensibilité. Even if not, I’d say that Catherine Leroux is in pretty good company and has a great future ahead of her. ...more
Hot Milk is a sassy, thought-provoking read with smart clever writing that draws you in. There are great characters that form the backbone of the plotHot Milk is a sassy, thought-provoking read with smart clever writing that draws you in. There are great characters that form the backbone of the plot. It is a story about a twenty five year old woman, Sofia Papastergiadis, spreading her wings and coming of age. It is also about her most important current relationship – the one with her mother Rose, an English woman who married a Greek man. Sofia’s father deserted them both when she was very young. The setting is primarily in Spain where Sofia accompanies her mother to a healing resort. Sofia is her mom’s caregiver and companion, due to Rose’s hypochondria and mobility issues. The story also takes place for a brief time in Greece when Sofia visits her father, whom she has not seen or heard from in years, and where she meets her father’s young wife and Sofia's recently born sister/step-sister.
As one reviewer, Doug wrote about Hot Milk: “I like books that can't be pigeon-holed and this certainly fulfills that requirement.” I could not agree more. Hot Milk is probably best described as Contemporary Literary Fiction.
Contemporary - because it is fresh and touches on many of today’s current issues - issues that people in their mid-twenties, like Sofia, are experiencing. The topics cover finishing their education, getting a job, exploring their sexuality, living at home, wanting to move out, having fun, wanting to being single, looking for a relationship, allegiances to family and an umbilical cord on the verge of being cut, parents using mind games and their greater financial strength for power and control. Yes, Hot Milk touches on many contemporary topics that make up the pain and joy of growing up both in and out of the family home, causing me frequently to stop and think. It is very much about relationships and not always taking care of oneself first. It has a universality that I think would appeal to both younger and older readers.
Literary - because Deborah Levy’s writing in Hot Milk is terrific. Again, the word fresh comes to mind. Her descriptions are outstanding because they are frequently unexpected. There is great character development but perhaps Hot Milk is most noteworthy because of Levy’s ability to draw readers in. For a book that was not a mystery or thriller, it was a real page-turner. I wanted to find out more about what was going to happen to Sofia in particular but also to Rose and to all the other characters in the ensemble caste. Much of the time I was silently but strongly encouraging Sofia to go for it, to stand up for herself, to make a change and move forward confidently knowing that she had done everything she could for her mother and get unstuck from her enabler role.
Fiction - because it is not a true story but rather one of the author’s creation and imagination. It feels very authentic and covers so many topics. People of all ages, nationalities and personalities will be able to relate. It is a book about relationships and coming of age – universal themes with a new take. I related to the story line throughout. Studies have shown that fiction makes readers more empathic. Hot Milk is a composite of many different aspects of a parent-child relationship. The mother in particular seems a bit over the top. Levy creates her as manipulative, perhaps to keep her daughter near her, and she was obsessed with her own health issues. She was a bit of a puzzle to me however. I was never quite sure if she was acting as she did, out of love or fear. And I was perplexed about whether she wanted her daughter near her – to take care of Sofia or to be taken care of herself. I was also kept off-balance and unsure how many of Rose’s illnesses and idiosyncrasies were authentic or psychosomatic. Given the mind-body connection, I’m not sure that I’ll ever know and wonder if Levy’s strategy was to keep us guessing throughout. It certainly contributed to the suspense and pondering elements of the book.
Below is a sample how Levy’s writing will grab you and of her unique take on Contemporary Literary Fiction starting on Page 1:
“Today I dropped my laptop on a concrete floor of a bar built on the beach. It was tucked under my arm and slid out of its black rubber sheath (designed like an envelope), landing screen side down. The digital page is now shattered but at least it still works. My laptop has all my life in it and knows more about me – than anyone else.
So what I am saying is that if it is broken, so am I.”
Readers will find many types of relationships and varieties of love in Hot Milk. Tap into your empathetic energy and have a great ride enjoying this smartly written book. I totally get why Hot Milk made the 2016 Man Book Short List. ...more
I confess a bias that will impact this review. I am not generally a fan of dark fiction, although I have rated some fiction categorized as dark as 3 oI confess a bias that will impact this review. I am not generally a fan of dark fiction, although I have rated some fiction categorized as dark as 3 or 4 stars and a very occasional 5 stars.
I chose to read Eileen by Otessa Moshfegh even though is described as dark fiction, because it was short-listed for the 2016 Man Booker Prize. It was also rated very highly by Kirkus, Bustle, Zyzzyva and authors Jeffrey Eugenides and Rivka Galchen.
I consider 1) the quality of writing 2) whether I learn something and 3) how I connect with the book – the latter being of great importance to me when rating a book. However, a well-written book whose characters I cannot connect with or empathize with but that teaches me something can end up with a decent rating even if I dislike the characters and subject matter.
I thought the writing in Eileen shone at times but far too infrequently. Unfortunately, the lack of plot or lack of bringing me into the story resulted in a very boring book for me. Another reviewer using the term “plodding” and I think it captures the story line and writing as well as any word I might choose. At 50 pages, 100 pages and 150 pages I kept asking myself ‘why am I bothering to keep reading?’ Because it was a Man Booker short listed book, I figured it had to improve and so I continued. However, it never really got better. There were a few surprises and changes at the end….but way too few….and way, way too late.
I did not really learn a lot except that the primary female character grew up in a dysfunctional family (alcoholic parents who never make her feel loved.) She seemed very depressed, and while I hate to label anyone, she seemed mentally unhealthy and constantly living in her head with bizarre imaginings. Perhaps it was just a self-esteem and self-love issue and if she had ever spoke to a counsellor, friend or teacher, she might have turned her life around. Unfortunately, she totally isolated herself so her darkness and depression which only saw light when imaging morbid fantasies; deepened even further.
I did learn a few things about isolation and possibilities and got a very strong sense of why isolation and no reality checking with other people can lead to despair and suicide. I also learned more than I ever wanted to know about excrement, laxatives, drunks, small towns, sexual fantasies etcetera.
I do not agree with Bustle that “Her prose is breathtaking, inventive, and electric.” Nor do I agree with Kirkus that “The narrative masterfully taunts……. Moshfegh manages a slow, steady build so that the release, when it comes, registers a genuine shock.” For a debut novel, the writing was not bad and there were glimmers bordering on brilliance. My biggest criticism however is that the writing was far too repetitive and needed major editing. Mostly it was boring, boring, boring – bereft of plot or tension and very far from thrilling. I do think it could have been much better with some re-writing and a more rigorous editor. 1 1/2 stars rounded up to 2 stars primarily because Ottessa Moshfeg’s writing does show promise. ...more
Clare Macintosh was on the police force in England for twelve years before writing her first novel I Let You Go. Her detective experience shows and whClare Macintosh was on the police force in England for twelve years before writing her first novel I Let You Go. Her detective experience shows and while the book is definitely a thriller, it has very strong police procedural influences.
It was a book I could not put down. It is riveting, engrossing, edgy, creepy and scary. Some of the plot I could see coming, given the evil, controlling boyfriend – he is definitely not a nice man but there were other turns that caught me totally by surprise.
Macintosh creates some memorable characters and sub-plots as well. I enjoyed detectives from the police department – both the chief and the two detectives he regularly worked with on special assignment. I think that adding the chief’s family into the story provides an extra dimension. You get to understand the kind of impact police work can have on a family. It is a tough job for sure and the entire family sacrifices for the job.
The story that takes place in the isolated Wales cottage is also interesting. I got to meet some quirky characters as well as enjoying the descriptions of the coastline and seashore – both become strong characters on their own. Included in the sub-plots is some neighbourliness and not-so neighbourliness, new friendships and some romance to round out the plot.
I think this book displays a lot of excellence for a debut novel.
First Sentences “The wind flicks wet hair across her face, and she screws up her eyes against the rain. Weather like this makes everyone hurry, scurrying past on slippery pavements, with chins buried into collars.”
It is also one of the better thrillers that I've read in 2016. Some novels are called thrillers but would be more accurately called mysteries because they lack the thrills. I Let You Go meanwhile qualifies as a police procedural (you really get a sense for how much investigating, waiting and follow-up police detectives do as a matter of daily routine.) Every day detective work is certainly not as exciting as some of the television shows dramatize. I Let You Go on the other hand, definitely has thrills and twists far beyond the average police procedural. A realistic, interesting, chilling and thrilling 4 star read. ...more
The Hangman is a novella featuring Inspector Gamache, one member of his police team and two of the Three Pines ensemble cast featured regularly in theThe Hangman is a novella featuring Inspector Gamache, one member of his police team and two of the Three Pines ensemble cast featured regularly in the Inspector Gamache/Three Pine mystery series. The writing is straightforward, using smaller and fewer words than usual – not what I was expecting. The novel also includes no references to subjects like art, poetry, history or philosophy, which is a big reason I’ve enjoyed the first six books in this series. The plot, while well paced and a page-turner; is not very complex. There is only one plot, and not the multi-layers found in most of this series. There is a reason for this simplicity however.
It turns out that The Hangman is part of a literacy series directed at adults who have low literacy skills in their first language of English or are trying to learn English as an additional language. Penny wrote the book for an Adult Audience at a Grade 3 reading level. Despite the lack of usual complexity I have come to expect from Penny, the writing was tight and the plot kept my interest until the very last page when the facts and reasons for everything is brought to a conclusion.
Penny’s novella does a first rate job of instructing how to write a short story with one caveat – I am not sure I would have felt the character development was as successful, if I had not become acquainted with four of them in the previous books. On second thought, Penny does demonstrate her strength in creating quirky and well-rounded characters with brand new characters she introduces in this novella – all potential suspects in the investigation.
Kudos for the idea of providing quality books by well-known Canadian authors written especially for adults trying to improve their literacy either in their first language or as ESL students. It seems much more respectful to use books specifically targeted for teaching adults rather than using children’s books. It is also likely to be much more successful in encouraging these students to become life-long readers.
Grass Roots Press is the publisher and in 2016, they are celebrating their 20-year anniversary. I am neither an employee nor receiving any remuneration for this message. I just think it is a good resource and want to get the word out. I noticed that my local library has many of these titles available in their collection - for people wanting to study on their own or for family members, friends or acquaintances who might want to mentor.
I have provided some website links below for Grass Roots Press if you’re interested:
I have also included a link to Louise Penny’s website where she details information about how wide spread low literacy skills are today and why she became involved in improving literacy. Penny is the patron of the Yamaska Literary Council whose motto is “Each One Teach One”. The link below will also provide 4 links to Canadian organizations promoting and supporting literacy as well as a global group – ProLiteracy Worldwide, which was established in 2002. It is a non-profit international literacy organization, the oldest and largest literacy organization in the world.
I have digressed from the book review but literacy is such an important issue and as a book lover, I agree with ProLiteracy Worldwide’s vision that “championing the life changing benefits of literacy for adults and their familes.” From Louise Penny’s blog.
Back to the Review
Am not sure why The Hangman is labelled as #6.5 in the Inspector Gamache/Three Pines series unless the next book uses this novella as a jumping off pad. Since we already know the ending, I think it would be hard expanding the novella into a full-length novel but if anyone is able to do it, I an pretty confident that Penny could. Given her creativity and ability to put complex pieces of a puzzle together in a story and keep your interest throughout, there might be a complete book to follow.
I would say however that The Hangman would be fine to read as a stand-alone book keeping in mind that it is a book written for Adults at a Grade 3 Reading Level. It is a quick and easy read with interesting characters. Its storyline keeps you guessing until the end. It is the kind of book worth carrying just in case. You could easily start and finish it while waiting too long for an appointment or in between tasks for a break – like a single short story.
How to Rate
The Hangman has good bones and structure, which is not surprising, based on its lineage, and the high quality of Penny’s writing in her other Inspector Gamache/Three Pine mysteries.
I am not quite sure how to rate this book because it depends on what category I am rating it for so here’s my thought process:
5 stars as a novella with the specific purpose and audience it was written for 4 stars as a standalone short story 3 stars rating as a full novel – lower due to its short length and lack of complexity
I’m choosing to rate as a full novel since there really wasn’t a reader advisement on the front or back cover or marketing to suggest to otherwise. Even the inside advertisements of other books in the series don’t mention the Grade 3 reading level.
They do say, “their authors have a special talent – the ability to tell a great story, using clear language.” And that “these books are ideal for people on the go who want a short read, who want to experience the joy of reading, who want to get into the reading habit.” All very true and I may check out some other titles. I was expecting more because it was labelled #6.5 in Louise Penny’s wonderful and complexly plotted mystery series and am rating it 3 stars.