AuntMarge64's Explores Canada

SnakCanadian Fiction/Non-Fiction Reading Challenge

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AuntMarge64's Explores Canada

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Redigeret: mar 5, 2015, 9:18 pm

My Mum was Canadian (from Ottawa) and I've spent many summers in the area, so this will be a bit of a homecoming.

British Columbia:
F: I Heard the Owl Call My Name by Margaret Craven *****
F: Still Missing by Chevy Stevens ****½

F: Icefields by Thomas Wharton ****


F: The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields ****
F: The Road Past Altamont by Gabrielle Roy **** 3/5/15

F: Old City Hall by Robert Rotenberg ****
NF: Ottawa Old and New by Lucien Brault ***½
F: Forty Words for Sorrow by Giles Blunt ****
F: The Delicate Storm by Giles Blunt ***½
F: Fields of Grief by Giles Blunt ****

F: Still Life by Louise Penny **** 2/22/11

New Brunswick:

Nova Scotia:
F: The Museum Guard by Howard Norman *** 9/3/10




F: The Trudeau Vector by Juris Jurjevics **** 10/24/10

Northwest Territories:


jan 24, 2010, 4:57 pm

Well welcome home then, auntmarge!

feb 6, 2010, 8:32 pm


Old City Hall by Robert Rotenberg **** 2/6/10

The first in what will hopefully be a series of mysteries. The action is told through the eyes of several major players (a detective, a police officer, several attorneys, a reporter, and a witness), most of whom would make a great continuing cast of characters.

A newspaper deliveryman arrives at a luxury condo in downtown Toronto to find one of his regular customers, a well-known radio host, with blood on his hands and his wife dead in the bathroom, declaring that he's killed her. The accused will speak to no one, including his attorney, and over the next few months it's up to the defense, prosecution, and police to try to piece together what happened. On the one hand, handing out the action to so many main characters makes the puzzle more complicated; on the other, although we learn of their personal lives and how they handle investigations, this approach gives the reader a certain detachment from the story, since there is no one character with whom to connect. The upshot was that while I couldn't put the book down, I didn't feel as intense an emotional reaction as I have to other mysteries or suspense novels. Definitely recommended.

Redigeret: mar 12, 2010, 11:03 pm


Ottawa Old and New by Lucien Brault ***½ 3/9/10

Written in 1946, this is a standard type city history of the time, with topical chapters rather than a strictly chronological treatment. There are about 2 dozen black and white illustrations. Much of the information is offered to give the contemporary reader an overview of then-current conditions of politics, services, economy, religious institutions, etc. There is an attached fold-out map which shows locations for many of the historical events mentioned.

mar 9, 2010, 4:14 pm

Old City Hall is up as an Early Reviewers book. I have my fingers crossed.

mar 9, 2010, 4:19 pm

>5 RidgewayGirl: Hi RidgewayGirl,

I saw that and thought some lucky folks are in for a treat.

apr 12, 2010, 11:07 pm


I Heard the Owl Call My Name by Margaret Craven ***** 4/12/10

In 1960s British Columbia, Mark, a young ordinand, is sent as vicar to a remote group of Indian villages on the upper coast. He doesn't know that the bishop has been informed that Mark is fatally ill and that he is being sent to learn from the Indians and prepare to die. As Mark slowly makes his way among a people strange to him, he finds that the quiet life among the fishing towns he services grounds him, and the Indians slowly accept him and make him one of their own.

This book is a gem and reminded me of Willa Cather at her best. Yes, it's sad, and that is known from the first page, but the unfolding of the story leaves the reader feeling a bit blessed herself.

Redigeret: apr 13, 2010, 1:20 am

I remember when I Heard the Owl Call My Name was everywhere. Haven't heard about it for a very long time though--I must track down a copy. Thanks for your post.

edited to fix touchstone

maj 12, 2010, 8:27 pm


Icefields by Thomas Wharton **** 5/12/10

A lyrical story of obsession, exploration, and, most centrally, glaciers. A young British doctor, Ned Byrne, takes part in an 1898 expedition to a glacier in Alberta (Canada), during which he falls into a crevasse and sees what he thinks is an angel embedded in the ice. He spends part of each of the next 25 years trying to determine when the ice around the now-closed crevasse (and angel) will reach the end of the glacier and melt. The story interweaves Byrne's life with those of other characters from around the glacier: a young Indian woman who tells him tales of the past while he recovers from his injuries in her cabin; an ex-guide turned guesthouse entrepreneur who wants to encourage tourism to the glacier; the guesthouse's manager, with whom Byrne begins an ongoing relationship; and a world famous female alpinist and the young guide who becomes infatuated with her.

None of the characters are revealed deeply to the reader, and the author uses dashes rather than quotes to indicate dialogue, increasing the sense of distance. The glacier is the main character. The writing is gorgeous, especially the voice used for Byrne's private notebooks, although one of my favorite passages is from Hal, the young guide, discussing his lover: She travels like the meandering heroine of a novel for children, shrugging off the entanglements of one chapter and moving on to the next, never stopping long enough in one place for it habits of defeat and cynicism to cling to her.

maj 12, 2010, 10:09 pm

Nice review of Icefields. That one's inching higher on higher on 'gotta read'.

Redigeret: jun 15, 2010, 4:42 pm


Still Missing by Chevy Stevens **** ½ 6/15/10

Wow, this is a novel you can't put down!

Realtor Annie is kidnapped from an open house, held for over a year by a psychopath, and finally makes an escape, only to find that she cannot shake the terror and even the "rules" he forced her to follow. And that's page one.

Annie's story is told in a series of therapy sessions, and as they progress she tells of her captivity, fears, and attempts to reconnect with family and friends, and of the police investigation into her case. The story is gripping, violent, and believable. Very highly recommended, and brava to a new writer in the world of suspense novels!

jun 15, 2010, 5:05 pm

Thank you for these reviews AuntMarge! I Heard the Owl Call My Name is on my TBR pile, and I just added Old City Call to my wishlist :)

jun 25, 2010, 8:17 pm

MANITOBA (I'm including this under Manitoba because it is the most well-realized locality.)

The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields **** 6/25/10

A gentle, compulsively readable story of one woman's life from birth to death, told interchangeably in the first- and third-person. Each chapter takes place in a new decade, so we see Daisy's life episodically, but the intervening story, and the very detailed descriptions and experiences of secondary characters, result in an overall impression of having been present for her entire life, which spans most of the 20th century. Daisy is born in rural Manitoba; raised in Winnipeg and then in Bloomington, Indiana; raises her family in Ottawa (Canada); lives her widow years in Florida. Surprisingly, the semi-diary format does not leave the reader feeling as close to Daisy as might be expected, but her parents, husbands, children and relatives, friends, and late career as a gardening columnist, are all imagined with a richness which was a pleasure read.

Redigeret: sep 3, 2010, 11:32 pm


The Museum Guard by Howard Norman *** 9/3/10

Set in late 1930s Halifax, Nova Scotia, this story of love, obsession, identity, and art takes place as Canadians are just beginning to hear of the horrors Hitler is bringing to Europe and to Europe's Jews. The writer holds the reader at arm's length, leisurely edging towards the heart of the tale, a spell-binding gem which takes up the last 100 pages. Unfortunately, the story should have been a novella, not the 300-page novel it is. I say unfortunately because I think many readers will give up in disinterest before they get to the wonderful conclusion.

sep 4, 2010, 6:06 pm

I do like the sound of The Museum Guard auntmargie, and thank you for the review! That can be one problem with books of that type, they can tend to be a bit longer than they needed to be.

sep 5, 2010, 9:32 am

>15 Bcteagirl: I'll be most interested in your own review if you decide to read it!

sep 5, 2010, 11:36 am

I will keep my eyes open for a used copy and let you know if I spot one :) Probably one for 2011 I have quite a backlog as it is :P

okt 30, 2010, 10:16 am


The Trudeau Vector by Juris Jurjevics **** 10/24/10

(It took me a while to decide exactly where in the Canadian Arctic this takes place, but all hints, as well as author acknowledgments, place it in Nunavut. As well as the dark and cold of the winter, mentioned below, there is a major character who is Inuit and who discusses his heritage, and there is an Aleut burial ground with mummies which the characters explore.)

A solid thriller which takes place in the high Arctic winter, which in itself is a tense addition to the suspense. At a Canadian research facility, internationally staffed, three scientists die nasty deaths for which no one can find a cause. All died at exactly the same time, out on the ice in the dark, from what appears to have been a new pathogen or chemical. A fourth scientist with them kills himself. The Canadians bring in an American pathologist who is known for luck and intuition, and she is delivered to the facility just before winter closes the facility to normal transportation until spring. Meanwhile the Russians search for a missing sub bringing home a 5th scientist from the lab.

The science is very interesting, and the cold and dark permeate the story. The tension mounts throughout the book, with only small detours for personal dramas. As is typical in novels in which experts are being portrayed to a general readership, there is a bit too much explaining of details you'd think the characters wouldn't have to spell out for each other, and the fact that a Russian submarine can get to the station but no one seems to think the scientists can get rescued nagged a bit. But overall, this is an delicious way to while away a few hours, especially if you're warm.

(I found this on the dollar shelf at Borders - it's so nice to take a chance and be rewarded! If anyone is interested, I've listed the book on BookMooch.)

okt 31, 2010, 2:19 am

Hi Aunt Marge! I'm relatively new here, so I had not seen your thread before!! I read Still Missing by Chevy Stevens too -and I thought it was a wonderful book.Great suspense, great plot!!

Nice to meet you! :)

okt 31, 2010, 10:13 am

>19 vancouverdeb: Hi V.Deb! I just wandered through your profile and saw Bcteagirl's suggestion of the CBC's Canada Reads Fans group, so I joined. I'm wondering - does Robert Bateman have much of a public presence out there? I know he lives on one of the islands nearby, and I've been to several of his appearances in NJ. Recently through BookMooch I received a copy of a little book he wrote on environmentalism, Thinking Like a Mountain.

okt 31, 2010, 12:56 pm

Awesome that you joined the CBC's Canada Reads group!!

Redigeret: nov 1, 2010, 1:02 am

>20 auntmarge64: As far as I know Robert Bateman still lives on Salt Spring Island. I gave one of his guests a ride from the ferry to his house one day. I don't know about a public presence, but his books are held in very high regard, especially around these parts. How did you like Thinking Like a Mountain?

nov 1, 2010, 1:36 am

20 - Hi Marge! here is a link to an article about Robert Bateman -and some of this paintings.

What I've read in both here and in the newspaper is that his art is somewhat controversial in part because he a conservationist , and some of his paintings depict this -but also because many art galleries to not regard his art as serious art, worthy of a display in art galleries. I believe that may be the case at the Vancouver Art Gallery. On the other hand - he is a very popular artist around BC and Vancouver. I have a couple of friends who have purchased originals of his art - back in the late 80's -and at my local grocery store - the past couple of months I have seen a Robert Bateman Framed Print/ or Original - I'm not certain - up for a silent auction that will benefit a charity -not certain which one , off hand. I would say that Robert Bateman is very well known - but is not regarded as well as he might be by art critics.

As a person, no, I would not say he has a very public presence. He does live on Salt Spring Island, yes.

nov 6, 2010, 10:05 am

>22 VivienneR:, 23

Bateman is considered controversial? I mean, what could be less controversial than pictures of nature? And because he's a conservationist? Isn't that like saying someone's controversial because they believe in a healthy diet? (Shaking my head in amazement.)

He had a large showing at the Smithsonian in the 80s, the only living Canadian so honored, as I recall. I do know what you mean about his art being judged as non-art because it's realistic - another black mark on the art world, from my perspective. We'd much rather look at squiggles, drips, pain, and deformed perceptions.

I was just reading up on him and discovered he's 80 this year. I've met him a couple of times at showings and he'll always be much younger in my memory.

nov 6, 2010, 12:19 pm

Denne meddelelse er blevet slettet af dens forfatter.

Redigeret: nov 8, 2010, 1:10 pm

I think the general public likes him, but some of the more 'serious' artists would consider it lower art, sort of like the feelings about Thomas Kinkade and his endless paintings of cottages, or artists like Bougereau where still painting in the old style that people wanted to buy while everyone was jumping on the impressionist bandwagon.

nov 8, 2010, 1:08 pm

>26 Bcteagirl: You described it very well, Bcteagirl. It's more a case of snobbery than controversy.

nov 8, 2010, 5:47 pm

I would not compare Robert Bateman and Thomas Kinkade Painter of Light(tm).

Bateman, and other nature painters tend toward the science side of art. That's not a criticism, but it does separate them from where art is currently going. Most artists, especially artists who are able to make a living off of their art, aren't cutting edge, but follow their own muse. Do you think Bateman is terribly concerned?

nov 8, 2010, 6:09 pm

I don't think their art is the same, I much prefer Bateman.. I was simply describing the fact that I think they suffer from a similar form of condescension surrounding their work. :)

Redigeret: nov 9, 2010, 4:38 pm

Here is a quote from the article that I linked up :

Over his career, Bateman has weathered criticism, particularly from detractors who diminish his oeuvre as simple illustration not worthy of art museums. The painter remains sanguine about the whole debate.

“The least important topic facing the planet is whether the Art Gallery of Ontario or the National Gallery of Canada has major shows of wildlife art,” he says.

“I know where the — I call them the priesthood — is coming from. I understand it and see their point of view. We have people in our own family who consider Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro too bucolic,” he laughs.

“I understand my critics. I can have conversations with them. In fact, I kind of enjoy a little bit of sparring and repartee, but my feelings aren’t hurt.”

Bateman has also had to deal with criticism of his decision to sell prints of his original works.

“I’ve been lambasted, including on CBC-TV, in the Globe and Mail, coast to coast on a CTV morning show years ago,” he recalls.

I don't say I agree with that at all, I was merely answering your question to the best of my ability. If you read further in the article, of course, some are troubled by Bateman's depictions of areas in which conservation have not been handled well. Once again - I don't agree with that -but that is the perception of some .

I like Bateman just fine. :)

nov 9, 2010, 3:21 pm

Oh, I'm so glad to see some others who love Bateman's work. He was a scientist first, and his work is so exacting I tend to rank it with Audubon's. I do see why people thought it lessened his paintings' prestige when he started to sell prints, though - although my whole family has them now.

nov 10, 2010, 12:52 am

I love the precision of his art too. I'm glad he was able to take the criticism so well. Thanks vancouverdeb for posting the article.

dec 27, 2010, 2:42 pm


Forty Words for Sorrow by Giles Blunt **** 12/26/10

The first of a suspense series set in Algonquin Bay (read North Bay), Ontario and starring the troubled Detective John Cardinal and his new partner, Lise Delorme, whom he suspects is investigating him for corruption (she is). Keeping her at arms' length, Cardinal investigates several brutal murders which appear to be the work of a serial killer. At the same time, Delorme balances trying to get him to trust her so she can contribute to the murder investigation, at the same time setting him up for a sting to see if he is, indeed, guilty.

The murders are grisly and described in detail. The landscape (northeastern Ontario in winter) is vividly portrayed. There is an actual mystery only part way through the book since murderers are revealed not too far into the story, so this is suspense more than mystery, as Cardinal and Delorme frantically try to piece together clues from the victims they've found in order to find the common thread and rescue a boy they think the murderers are holding. Recommended!, she said, as she checked local libraries to see who owns the second in the series.

dec 27, 2010, 7:36 pm

I'm glad you liked it!

dec 27, 2010, 8:36 pm

>34 RidgewayGirl: Do you have any idea what happened with his latest Cardinal/Delorme book, Crime Machine? It was apparently published in August 2010 and is now out of print in the U.S., although it seems to be available in Canada.

dec 30, 2010, 1:49 pm

No idea. I have only just now gotten a copy of By the Time You Read This, which is the 4th one.

dec 30, 2010, 6:14 pm

Here is a link to the I think all of the books written by Giles Blunt. This is amazon ca , which may or may not deliver to the US - I am not certain. I suspect that our Canadian authors may not always be as popular in the US as in Canada? Just a guess.

Hope that helps in your search -and Happy New Year! :)

Redigeret: dec 30, 2010, 6:21 pm

I checked amazon com here -

For Giles Blunt books, and found some -but Crime Machine was only available in Hardcover or Kindle edition at Amazon com. Perhaps you might wish to try purchasing from Amazon ca? Sorry I cannot be more helpful. I've noticed even in Canada, some older and less popular titles by other authors are only available via some format of ebook .

dec 30, 2010, 8:03 pm

>36 RidgewayGirl:, 37

OK, thanks. When I get that far in the series I'll see if there's a way to order it.

dec 31, 2010, 7:25 pm

I think you can download the kindle type software to your computer for free if you wanted a non-hardcover version of it. :)

dec 31, 2010, 8:22 pm

>40 Bcteagirl: Amazon U.S. does have a link to a vendor who will sell a copy for $35. But no Kindle version available for the U.S. right now. :(

jan 1, 2011, 1:18 pm

Ah too bad. I will keep an eye out up here for a copy for you :)

I had the opportunity to grab an exlibrary copy of The Museum Guard, was checking out your review just now.

jan 2, 2011, 8:40 pm

>42 Bcteagirl:. Thanks! So, are you going to read The Museum Guard?

Redigeret: jan 5, 2011, 8:38 pm


The Delicate Storm by Giles Blunt ***½ 1/5/11

Well-written and exciting sequel to Forty Words for Sorrow, which was the first in the Cardinal/Delorme detective series set in Algonquin Bay, Ontario. Two seemingly unrelated murders lead the police to Montreal and a 30-year old separatist plot involving both Canadian and U.S. covert intelligence. The historical detail is fascinating. There is a pleasant karmic twist in store for Cardinal, which fans will be glad to see, but the finale fizzles after a terrific build-up. Still, I'll be happy to read the next in the series and hope to see an ending I can cheer.

jan 6, 2011, 12:47 am

I will read The Museum Guard but am trying to work my way from the oldest books to the newest. I will see if I can stand waiting or not :P

jan 6, 2011, 9:30 am

Hah! Well, the only way I can keep on track is the 11 in 11 Challenge and it's sisters, because I own pretty much all the books I plan for each category and really try to stick to it. Otherwise, it would be complete chaos. Of course, I survived very well that way for 60 years, but now that I'm on LT and BookMooch, I have too many books in the house not to work at the piles. It doesn't help that twice a year there is a library nearby that has a small but wonderful book sale at which they sell all the ARCs they've collected for six months, so whatever progress I've made is crushed by incoming finds.

jan 6, 2011, 12:30 pm

Ah yes the library booksale... my old nemisis/hero. Antihero? I understand quite well! :P

jan 6, 2011, 3:51 pm

Hi Aunt Marge,

I'm just joining this group today.. I thought i'd mention that Newfoundland and Labrador is one province so that is one less book to find. For this province might I suggest Donovan's Station by Robin McGrath. I've read it some time ago so I can't count it on my list, but it was very enjoyable.

jan 6, 2011, 4:17 pm

arrwa: Many people choose to separate them out, same as Cape Breton and Nova Scotia :)

jan 6, 2011, 4:19 pm

@ Bcteagirl - yes i've noticed that now.. should have done some more thread reading before opening my trap. I think I will continue to keep them together for my list.

jan 6, 2011, 4:43 pm

heehee no worries! You are not the first person to notice that :) I love your addition to the Newfoundland books :)

jan 6, 2011, 5:36 pm

And I hate to say it but I didn't know they were the same province.... Oh, brother.

Redigeret: feb 23, 2011, 9:51 am

Still Life by Louise Penny **** 2/22/11

A thoroughly enjoyable cozy mystery, a genre I rarely read but was drawn to by rave reviews for this author. I didn't find the mystery very difficult to unravel, but somehow it didn't detract from the immense pleasure I got from this tale of quirky small-town characters. There is a great deal of gentle humor (She was almost certain she was at the right baptism, though she didn't recognize all that many people) and quite a bit of amusing banter between the close-knit group at the center of the story, and also some interesting comments on the French/English tension in Quebec. I spent many summers in rural Quebec from the 50s to 90s and watched first-hand the increase in distrust that developed, although as an American I was excused a bit from the resentment towards the non-French. (Although my English-speaking friends there felt some resentment towards Americans.) Here, one English-Canadian character mentions his own irritation at being unable to have a store sign in his own language, and the main character, a French-Canadian inspector, muses that it was one of the fundamental differences between anglophone and francophone Quebecers; the English believed in individual rights and the French felt they had to protect collective rights. Protect their language and culture.

I was a little disappointed I predicted the solution to the mystery correctly, because I'm not usually good at that and enjoy being surprised, but I will definitely read more in this series to see how these wonderful characters' lives develop.

Redigeret: mar 11, 2011, 10:00 am

Fields of Grief by Giles Blunt **** 3/10/11

The fourth in the Cardinal/Delorme detective series set in northern Ontario, and easily the most emotionally difficult to read. Two main themes permeate the story: suicide and long-term child molestation by a beloved family member. The physical details are not particularly graphic in description, but the emotional toll on the victims and their families affect the reader enormously. This is especially true of the descriptions of family grief following suicide, a young victim's dread and confusion during years of rape, and the horror of watching a predator leisurely plan for a new conquest after the first child has grown too old for him. This book is heart-breaking in many ways and truly depressed me. But, and this is a big but, for readers of the series this is a must-read because what happens here is integral to the lives of the main characters. (And for that reason, a reader new to the series should not start here.)

Blunt's descriptions of the bad guys' motives often bore me, and that's true here, too, except for the chilling portrayal of the child molester. All-in-all, this is probably the best of the series to date because of its emotional impact, but I do think that if Blunt would keep his attention on the cops he'd have more cohesive and dramatic stories - and perhaps a commercial hit series on his hands.