At the Stroke of Nine O’Clock – Jane Davis

Read a book by Jane Davis: These Fragile Things. 

Think: Amazing. Riveting. So well written. Doesn’t get any better than this.

Read another book by Jane Davis: A Funeral for an Owl.

Think: Complex. Amazing characterizations. So well written. Doesn’t get better than this.

When you’ve read all of her books and think Davis can’t possibly outdo herself, she writes a new book.

And it’s even better. How does she do it?

The magic of Davis’ writing is hard to define. It’s not just in what she says. The power comes from what she doesn’t say, but hints at. She gives the reader enough that the “missing bits” serve to strengthen the   characters and plot in the reader’s mind.

The quote on the cover sums it up well.


Computers — Photos — the Munchkin

I bought this computer ten or twelve years ago, wrote and published seven novels on it and helped three other authors with their books. But for the past couple of years it’s been failing and slowing down and misbehaving so I knew the time had come to replace it.

Of course sending it to my favorite computer shop to be euthanized meant I’d have to back up my files and pictures to an external hard drive.

Files? No problem.

Pictures? Could be an issue.


Now, you have to understand that I’ve never been a big picture taker so where did all these come from?

Well, in 2009, the munchkin was born and I had a cell phone with picture taking ability. Did I go crazy? perhaps a bit. 12,901 pictures crazy in the Munchkin file alone — that’s what you see in the picture above — I didn’t bother to count the pictures in all the other files (trips, blog pics, etc).

I checked the external hard drive. Some of the pictures were backed up, but not all. Took me a couple of days to sort everything out. Will I be more careful labeling files and sorting pictures in the future?


Then a horrid thought occcurs. What if the hard drive should fail? I call my favorite computer shop.

“I’ve backed up all my pictures and files on a hard drive. Should I do a second backup?

The answer is an unequivocal, “Yes!”

I run out and buy a 128G Flash Drive. The young man in the store assures me that it can hold 30,000 pictures. That should be enough, but just to be sure, I buy a smaller flash drive for the files.

Now, I’m happily writing this on my new laptop which already has a folder with several (no I won’t say how many) new pictures of the munchkin on it


The Oppenheimer Alternative – Robert J. Sawyer

I’m currently reading Mr. Sawyer’s latest novel. Once again, his brilliance shines through as he weaves a fascinating tale of past events and speculates on the future.

Could Earth really be destroyed by the sun in 2026?


Sawyer writes:

” Magicians are reluctant to explain how a trick was done, and so I was loath to include an afterword in my novel The Oppenheimer Alternative that would immediately explain what parts of the story were real and which were imaginary. I wanted the book to sit with readers for a bit, as any other novel would, before delineating fact from fiction. But if you’ve come here, you’re clearly curious about that and so here are the answers you’ve been looking for.”

[The Oppenheimer Canadian Alternative Cover][The Oppenheimer Canadian Alternative Cover][The Oppenheimer Canadian Alternative Cover]

Can’t keep a reader out of a bookstore

Social distancing (Pandemic shopping) for books at Victoria’s best book store.

Munro’s Books now occupies a landmark location in the heart of Victoria’s Old Town, but its origins are much more modest. In 1963, Jim Munro and his first wife, Alice — yes, that Alice Munro — set up shop in a long, narrow space on Yates Street, near Victoria’s movie theatres. Bookstores were few and far between in Victoria; Jim’s main competition in those days came from the book sections at the local department stores. But the location was convenient for younger, movie-going customers, and the staff’s interest in new trends in writing and other art forms built a loyal clientele. The store relocated to larger premises on Fort Street in 1979 and then to its current location in 1984.



Loteria – Mario Alberto Zambrano

I was drawn to this book by the cover as the lottery cards I’ve seen in Mexico are so intriguing.

In Loteria , Zambrano  has woven the story of one family’s dysfunction through the Loteria cards. Told through the eyes of the 11 year-old daughter, the story of their ruin is all the move harrowing. Sad as it is, the reader is compelled, by the format and the writing, to finish the novel.


In Lotería, the spellbinding literary debut by Mario Alberto Zambrano, a young girl tells the story of her family’s tragic demise using a deck of cards of the eponymous Latin American game of chance.

With her older sister Estrella in the ICU and her father in jail, eleven-year-old Luz Castillo has been taken into the custody of the state. Alone in her room, she retreats behind a wall of silence, writing in her journal and shuffling through a deck of lotería cards. Each of the cards’ colorful images—mermaids, bottles, spiders, death, and stars—sparks a random memory.

Pieced together, these snapshots bring into focus the joy and pain of the young girl’s life, and the events that led to her present situation. But just as the story becomes clear, a breathtaking twist changes everything.

Beautiful full-color images of lotería cards are featured throughout this intricate and haunting novel.

The First Emma – Camille Di Maio

The First Emma

Two stories in one.

The first: Emma Koehler, the Emma of Hotel Emma in San Antonio, was the wife of a German born brewer. He had two mistresses, both named Emma. When one of the mistresses murdered him, Emma, the wife, took over the brewery just as prohibition began. She was able to keep all her employees working and Pearl was one of the brewing companies not to go out of business. She also steered the company through the depression.

The stuff of fiction, right? Nope. It’s all true. And a fascinating story it is.

The second: Emma hires a young girl, Mabel Hartley, to write her story. Mabel, a fictional addition, flees Baltimore for San Antonio when she is offered the job. Unfortunately her story  is weakened by a rather contrived love interest .

Having said that, I still recommend this book for Emma’s sake. She was an amazing woman.


Camille Di Maio’s fifth novel THE FIRST EMMA is the true story of Emma Koehler, whose tycoon husband Otto was killed in a crime-of-the-century murder by one of his two mistresses—both also named Emma—and her unlikely rise as CEO of a brewing empire during Prohibition. When a chance to tell her story to a young teetotaler arises, a tale unfolds of love, war, beer, and the power of women.

Wise words from Robert J. Sawyer

I have refrained from talking politics or the current world situation on my blog, but feel compelled to share this with Mr. Sawyer’s permission.

 never got to work at the ROM, but my novel Calculating God was set there, and, as part of the Museum’s celebration of its 100th birthday, they put a placard in the sidewalk our front of the Planetarium commemorating that fact.

I am privileged to count Rob a friend. I first met him a number of years ago when I attended one of his writing courses at the Banff Centre (School of the Arts in Banff, Alberta, Canada).

Rob is a renowned science fiction author who has won numerous awards . But, if you’ve read his novel QUANTUM NIGHT  (published before Trump was elected), you will know just how politically astute he is.

Quantum Night

Recently Rob posted this on Facebook. 

An old friend asked, “Robert, are you now becoming political?”

My Response. Of course I’m political. I’m an engaged citizen and the world is in crisis. I always have been political, but who ISN’T political these days?

The United States fought a war over taxation without representation; any citizen who just goes along with whatever the government is doing without engaging in the discussion and participating at the ballot box is giving up the WHOLE POINT of democracy.

In Canada (and other parliamentary democracies), we have something beautiful: “Official Opposition.” The notion, enshrined in our laws, that it is fully patriotic and righteous to oppose the current government is something deeply precious.

Support of the government is fine, too, as long as it’s carefully considered support, not just keeping one’s head down and trying to ignore what’s going on.

Note: Rob has dual citizenship.

Rob’s latest book:

The Oppenheimer Alternative Kindle Edition



Stories of the Sahara – Sanmao

Stories of the Sahara by [Sanmao,, Mike Fu]

I don’t remember how I found this book, but I’m so glad I did. Having spent time in Mali and traveled to Tombouctou, I was enthralled by Sanmao’s life and adventures in Spanish Sahara.

Read more about Sanmao here.


.Sanmao: author, adventurer, pioneer. Born in China in 1943, she moved from Chongqing to Taiwan, Spain to Germany, the Canary Islands to Central America, and, for several years in the 1970s, to the Sahara.

Stories of the Sahara invites us into Sanmao’s extraordinary life in the desert: her experiences of love and loss, freedom and peril, all told with a voice as spirited as it is timeless.

At a period when China was beginning to look beyond its borders, Sanmao fired the imagination of millions and inspired a new generation. With an introduction by Sharlene Teo, author of Ponti, this is an essential collection from one of the twentieth century’s most iconic figures.

VALENTINE – Elizabeth Wetmore

Valentine: A Novel

I’ve read Caleb Pirtle’s  books and blogs set in Texas—enough to know that the climate is harsh and drilling for oil even harsher,

In VALENTINE, by Elizabeth Wetmore, harsh morphs into downright grim. The relentless heat seeps out of every page urging you, the reader, to turn on the air conditioner. The violence and the apparent lack of caring, like a punch to the gut, leave you breathless. Yet, you keep turning the pages. You have to know.

The widow, the young Mexican girl, the pregnant mother and her daughter, the young girl trying to take care of herself and her father—each presenting the oil patch from their point of view with their fear and strength and the often deeply buried tenderness making unexpected appearances.


Mercy is hard in a place like this….

It’s February 1976, and Odessa, Texas, stands on the cusp of the next great oil boom. While the town’s men embrace the coming prosperity, its women intimately know and fear the violence that always seems to follow.

In the early hours of the morning after Valentine’s Day, 14-year-old Gloria Ramírez appears on the front porch of Mary Rose Whitehead’s ranch house, broken and barely alive. The teenager had been viciously attacked in a nearby oil field – an act of brutality that is tried in the churches and barrooms of Odessa before it can reach a court of law. When justice is evasive, the stage is set for a showdown with potentially devastating consequences.

Valentine is a haunting exploration of the intersections of violence and race, class, and region in a story that plumbs the depths of darkness and fear, yet offers a window into beauty and hope. Told through the alternating points of view of indelible characters who burrow deep in the listener’s heart, this fierce, unflinching, and surprisingly tender novel illuminates women’s strength and vulnerability, and reminds us that it is the stories we tell ourselves that keep us alive.