Monthly Archives: January 2017

Two Books worth Reading

Just returned from Kamloops and visiting with Reissa and Dale.  Great and exciting time.

First Book:  A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman is a hilarious and often poignant novel about a man who has recently lost his wife and has been forcibly retired from a job he has held for more than 30 years.  Ove, the title character, is somewhat of a perfectionist and a stickler for rules.  He might also suffer from a bit of OCD.  But he is definitely a “grumpy old man” who holds no truck with the modern world and really doesn’t understand it.  Over the course of the novel, Ove begins to unwind a bit and the reader comes to understand and really love him.  He learns patience and empathy and how to continue living.  This is a wonderful novel.  (Translated from Swedish by Henning Roch.)

Second Book:  Serial Monogamy by Kate Taylor. Sharon, the main narrator, is a successful writer, a wife and mother of young twin girls.  She has recently been commissioned by the Toronto Telegram to write a serial novel on the bi-centennial of the birth of Charles Dickens.  The story within the story is mainly about Nelly Ternan, Dickens’ mistress for the last decade or so of his life.   Each instalment is dated.  At the same time as Sharon is writing, she has discovered her husband is having an affair with a doctoral student of his (he’s a Dickens scholar and lit. professor at the U. of T.  He moves out only to return to Sharon and the twin girls when Sharon is diagnosed with breast cancer.  The two stories are parallels.   Taylor has researched Dickens’ life thoroughly and written about cancer without being cloyingly melodramatic.  “It is what it is.”  But the book is a excellent examination of a marriage that is both strong and weak at the same time.

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Another interesting book

Tapas on the Ramblas.  As if the title isn’t intriguing enough, the story line, settings and plot intricacies will have you turning the pages.  I think this is the first of Saskatoon writer Anthony Bidulka’s Russell Quant mysteries although I’ve read three others, but out of order.  Having been to Barcelona and tasted tapas on the Ramblas (Barcelona’s main pedestrian thoroughfare) I was intrigued from the very start.  Quant is the gay former policeman, now a private detective working out of Saskatoon.  The previous stories centred around Quant’s adventures in and around Saskatoon, interesting enough, but this time Bidulka takes us on a Mediterranean cruise while the detective tries to solve who is it that is attempting to murder businesswoman and (hated?) family matriarch Charity Wiser.  Besides the regular interesting characters this time members of the Wiser family (there’s a family tree at the start of the novel to help you keep them straight – and they’re not all straight by any means) create a wealth of interesting and amusing characters.  Bidulka writes with not only a keen eye for setting, but a truly enjoyable if rather camp sense of humour.  And of course, the ending will surprise most readers.

The Illusionists: Live from Broadway

Went to the Princess of Wales theatre yesterday afternoon (New Years Eve day) to see The Illusionists.  We had excellent seats near the front of the second balcony and anyway, it wouldn’t have made all that much difference because they had a screen which brought you the action as if on T.V.  At any rate, it was all a bit underwhelming.  First of all, the music was completely too loud and distracting.  The little boy in front of us – about 4 years old I’d guess – was so frightened that his parents actually covered him up and gave him earphones.  I don’t know why live entertainTment has to be so loud all the time.  Or am I just showing my age?  Jeff Hobson who acted in a way as M.C. was probably the best.  His magic was his comedy.  One especially funny moment involved a child picked apparently at random from the front row of the audience who turned out to be the best part of the entire show.  But Hobson was funny in his own right.

The Korean “Manipulator”, Yu Ho-Jin was also mesmerizing as he made his scarf into cards which then seemingly disappeared into thin air and back into his scarf once more.  He came back at the end with more hand/card tricks that were delightful.  Could have used much more of him.

Andrew Basso, “the Escapologist” escaped from the “water torture” tank in full view of the audience within three minutes and it was suspenseful, but I’ve seen it before and it’s a bit “old hat”.  He was only on stage for the one “trick”.

Darcy Oake, the one Canadian who is billed as “the Grand Illusionist” was okay, but the fact that I really can’t remember one of his illusions says something I think about the performance.

Dan Sperry billed as “the Anti-Conjuror” did some rather disgusting tricks – like placing a toonie in his eye and then cutting it out of his arm.  I thought his performance could have been avoided altogether.

Kevin James, “the Inventor” was actually boring.  He too chose a child out of the audience, but she was stilted, seemed scared and he did very little to settle her or help her perform.

Colin Cloud, the Scottish “Deductionist” was similarly unimpressive.  The tricks were fairly obvious.

Altogether I enjoyed watching the illusionists and magicians on America’s Got Talent more than I did the show at the Princess of Wales.  Perhaps T.V. just lends itself better to that kind of show, but really, The Illusionists at the live theatre was a disappointment.