The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas

A powerful education for this middle class white woman. I didn’t want to read it, but I’m so glad I did.


The Hate U Give by [Thomas, Angie]


Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.


In the jungle the mighty jungle,

the iguana sleeps tonight.

Pink flamingo and his partner were born in 1978. They can live to be 50 years old.

A parrot grooming himself.


No, this little guy is not a toy, but rather a poisonous dart frog.

And the gods watching over it all.




Victoria Butterfly Garden more here

Britt-Marie Was Here

Some time ago, my little old aunt (who lives in Australia and shuffles off to Italy for several months of every year) suggested I read A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman (an author I had never heard of).

Well, reading Ove led me to Beartown which led me to Brit-Marie Was Here. Next up My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry.

Britt-Marie Was Here

Why do I like Backman’s books so much? They’re about people, regular ordinary people living their lives as best they can. Why do Backman’s characters sing in our hearts? For me, it’s because he takes us into their inner most being. We see their very essence—beliefs, struggles, and desires which become ours as we read. We want for them, what they want for themselves, we recognize our own strengths and foibles as we see theirs. Through his characters, Backman presents philosophical questions that we don’t consider as we hustle about our daily routines, but probably should.

An added bonus is Backman’s beautiful writing style. So pick up one and enjoy! Click here.


Fredrik Backman is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove (soon to be a major motion picture starring Tom Hanks), My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s SorryBritt-Marie Was HereBeartownUs Against You, as well as two novellas, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer and The Deal of a Lifetime. His books are published in more than forty countries. He lives in Stockholm, Sweden, with his wife and two children.

5 reasons to hate Bookbub


5 Reasons to Hate Bookbub

As an author:

  1. Snagging a spot

Here’s a recent Bookbub ad.

A Town Like Alice
By Nevil Shute
“A ripping tale of budding romance and grace under pressure” (The Times): Thrust together by war in Malaya, Jean and Joe reunite years later to invigorate a small town in the Australian outback. A thoughtful, poignant classic with over 16,000 five-star ratings on Goodreads.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love Nevil Shute and I’ve read all his books. But how’s a new author to compete with 16,000 five star ratings?

Remember trying to get a job and not being able to because you had no experience, but you couldn’t get experience because you couldn’t get a job.

Well, that’s what Bookbub feels like.

  1. Cost

If listed for $1.99 book ad will cost $1791.

If listed for $0.99 the ad will cost $1127.

If listed for free the ad will cost $712.

If a writer had that kind of money to throw around, they’d already be a bestselling author and wouldn’t need Bookbub.

  1. Time

Apply, get rejected. Apply, get rejected. Apply, get rejected. You get the picture. One publisher said it took her 6 years to get a spot for one of her authors.


As a reader:

  1. Blurbs

A New York Times Book Review Notable Book

In this New York Times bestseller

From a #1 New York Times bestselling author

In this “bewitching” New York Times bestseller

In this #1 New York Times bestseller

Really!? ALL these books are on the New York Times best seller list? NOT. Google them if you don’t believe me.

  1. Blurbs

Okay, I know I said blurbs already, but that was just the opening line. How about the actual book description?

When retired cop Jones Cooper receives an unexpected visit, he plunges into an intricate mystery. “Will have you racing to the last page” 

Kate Bishop gets caught in the investigation of a brutal slaying — and discovers a strange ability that could make her the next target. “Fast-paced, riveting, and scary. It will leave the reader breathless”

Preacher’s daughter Catherine Grace escapes her small town — only to discover that the place she left may be exactly where she belongs.

Many readers may be okay with these brief blurbs and get the book anyway (especially if it’s free), but personally, I prefer more information before I spend my money.

SO, why have I tried (unsuccessfully) for a Bookbub ad? I caved because Bookbub has the greatest reach and I’d really like for more readers to find my books. Isn’t that the goal of every author?

If I ever get a spot, I’ll let you know how it goes.




Safekeeping by Jessamyn Hope

Of the many elements that come together in a great novel, we count on the characters to drive the story, to elicit emotions inspiring pity, fear, empathy, and above all love.

In Safekeeping, author Hope delivers. This is not your typical, building a kibbutz story. Rather it is a coming together of a diverse lot of people during the dying days of kibbutz life.

Nothing will be the same as Ziva remembers from her days of founding the kibbutz. Nor will everyone find what they are seeking, but then, isn’t that “real” life? Despite the lack of a “happily ever after ending,” the tale comes to its proper conclusion and there is satisfaction in that.

Safekeeping: A Novel by [Hope, Jessamyn]


It’s 1994 and Adam, a drug addict from New York City, arrives at a kibbutz in Israel with a medieval sapphire brooch. To redress a past crime, he must give the priceless heirloom to a woman his grandfather loved when he was a Holocaust refugee on the kibbutz fifty years earlier. But first, he has to track this mystery woman down—a task that proves more complicated than expected.

On the kibbutz Adam joins other lost souls: Ulya, the ambitious and beautiful Soviet émigrée; Farid, the lovelorn Palestinian farmhand; Claudette, the French Canadian Catholic with OCD; Ofir, the Israeli teenager wounded in a bus bombing; and Ziva, the old Socialist Zionist firebrand who founded the kibbutz. Driven together by love, hostility, hope, and fear, their fates become forever entangled as they each get one last shot at redemption.

In the middle of that fateful summer glows the magnificent brooch with its perilous history spanning three continents and seven centuries. With insight and beauty, Safekeeping tackles that most human of questions: How can we expect to find meaning and happiness when we know that nothing lasts?

Is this what it takes for bookstores to survive?

I walk in expecting to see books.

Is this what it takes for bookstores to survive?

Instead I find blankets,

Is this what it takes for bookstores to survive?

and serving dishes. Yes, I’m going to read while my guests visit.

Is this what it takes for bookstores to survive?

and this little guy which I was tempted to buy. After all it had a built in screw driver.

Is this what it takes for bookstores to survive?

I passed by more dishes, ornaments, toss cushions, purses, greeting cards and paper products ( which made some sense in a book store), skin care products and then spotted diapers and wipes. Who can read with a baby in the house?

Is this what it takes for bookstores to survive?

Well maybe if you plunk them into one of these….

Is this what it takes for bookstores to survive?

Yes, there were books too. I made it to the till with my choices and ran into these counters.

Is this what it takes for bookstores to survive?

Oh, and let’s not bypass these for that baby.

Is this what it takes for bookstores to survive?

And these for ourselves on a cold winter’s night.

Is this what it takes for bookstores to survive?


As a kid living somewhere in the vast Canadian prairies, I sang, along with my friends, nasty little ditties about Mussolini, and knew that lots of Italians lived in New York, that the Godfather ruled the mobs in the US—everyone read Puzo’s books and watched the movies—and that something called The Red Brigadescaused havoc for a time.

Then, a few years ago, I stumbled across a little book called Clash of Civilizations over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio by Amara Lakhous. (2006).


A satire told with sympathy for the international cast of Italians and the immigrants who want the good life of Europe but grieve for what they have lost—family, identity, home…

In this book, Lakhous highlights the danger of language barriers.

Lakhous uses the character Parviz, to make his point. Parviz, talking about his landlady notes: “She calls me guagliò, it means ‘fuck’ in Neapolitan. At least, that’s what a lot of Neapolitans I’ve worked with have told me.” In fact, guagliòmeans, at least literally, “boy.” He always answers her with a simple “merci”.

The landlady’s response is telling:

“That good-for-nothing is rude when I call him guagliò! I don’t know his name, and in Naples that’s what we say, but he answers with a nasty word in his language. I don’t remember exactly the word he always says, maybe mersa or mersis! Anyway, the point is, this word means ‘shit’ in Albanian and is used as an insult. What makes me even more suspicious is the fact that he’s tried over and over again to convince me that he comes from a country that isn’t Albania.”

In fact, Parviz is Iranian.

We also glimpse the conflicts that arise from grievances between Italians, between Italians and immigrants, and between immigrants and immigrants. Many of these stem from stereotyping:

“Everyone knows that Sardinians are famous for kidnapping.”

“”I’m not embarrassed to say, I wouldn’t trust a Neapolitan, even if he was San Gennaro!”

“Why can’t the police be strict with immigrants who are criminals? Why should the honest ones who sweat for a piece of bread suffer!”

I waited impatiently for Lakhous’ next book, Divorce Islamic Style (2010), to be translated – it was published in 2012.

AMARA LAKHOUS: SHINING A LIGHT ON IMMIGRANTSHere the focus is on Muslim immigrants, delving into the personality of a few characters, providing a greater insight into Muslim thought and beliefs and the struggle of immigrants to reconcile their convictions with their new lives in Italy.

One solution is to congregate in a “ghetto” where they live together with like-minded people, but even that doesn’t solve all their problems.

Issa, who shares a two-room apartment with eleven other immigrants, bitterly notes:

“There is a hierarchy based on native country; the eight Egyptians feel that they are the true landlords. Maybe they’ve been infected with that shitty virus that strikes all majorities, always and everywhere: screw the minorities.”

Lakhous tells us that Sofia, an Egyptian immigrant with a wonderful daughter and a lousy husband, is both Muslim and inquisitive. Having heard a good deal about the sloe-eyed virgin females awaiting male Muslim martyrs in paradise, she ponders issues such as “the billion-euro question” that many will not ask:

“What does a Muslim woman get if she has the good fortune to set foot in Paradise?”

We also see that what an immigrant deals with in adjusting to this “good life” they sought with such hope goes well beyond the job hunt and language learning.Sofia complains of how she is perceived:

“I was always arm in arm with a crowd of ghost companions. Their names? Jihad, holy war, suicide bomber, September 11th, terrorism, attacks, Iraq, Afghanistan, Twin Towers, bombs, March 11th, Al Qaeda, Taliban.”

In the end there is no real resolution for Sofia.

AMARA LAKHOUS: SHINING A LIGHT ON IMMIGRANTSAnd finally, I was able to get a copy of Dispute Over a Very Italian Piglet (2014), in English.

Europa editions, the publisher that has brought Amara Lakhous to America, gives this description on the book’s jacket. First the setting:

“It’s October 2006. In a few months, Romania will join the European Union. Meanwhile, the northern Italian town of Turin has been rocked by a series of crimes involving Albanians and Romanians. Is this the latest eruption of a clan feud dating back centuries, or is the trouble incited by local organized crime syndicates who routinely ‘infect’ neighborhoods and then ‘cleanse’ them in order to earn big on property developments?”

Next the plot and the main character:

“Enzo Laganà, born in Turin to Southern Italian parents, is a journalist with a wry sense of humor who is determined to get to the bottom of this crime wave. But before he can do so, he has to settle a thorny issue concerning Gino, a small pig belonging to his Nigerian neighbor, Joseph. Who brought the pig to the neighborhood mosque? And for heaven’s sake, why?”

Here, our protagonist, the journalist Enzo Laganà,  manipulates the press with stories that are pure fabrication, “fake news” at its best.


Some things are similar to Canada of course. We, too, have our internal problems, our French/English conflict for one, which flares up from time to time—Quebec threatens to separate—and then it dies down.

We also have immigration issues. During the late 70s and early 80s I lived and worked in a suburb that was home to 76 different ethnic groups, 46 of which were represented in our student- body. We saw firsthand some of the conflicts, but only the mere tip of the iceberg was revealed to us. I would constantly hear things like:

“Mrs. Jones, I’ll apologize to you, but a Vietnamese never apologizes to a Chinese.”

“Mrs. Jones, my mom says I can’t bring Nguyet to my house, but we’re friends. Why is she being like that? What can I do?”

A hierarchy among the immigrants we did not see. As Canadians, how could we?

Reading Lakhous led me to draw certain conclusions.

In my mind, Canada is too young to have the intensity of internal conflicts that occur in Italy. Those come from a long history that allow grievances to fester and grow over time to become, “Everyone knows Sardinians are famous for kidnapping.”

I also believe that the effect of immigration on any country is partially dependent on size. Italy is about 301,340 sq km, while Canada is 9,984,670 sq km, making Canada 33 times bigger. Thousands of people entering a country as geographically large as Canada are less likely to have as profound an impact as seems to happen in Italy.

By 2014, when Lakhous wrote and published Dispute over a Very Italian Piglet, he had become much harsher. I take this to mean that, with the influx of refugees recently, the sheer numbers seeking safety and prosperity in Italy, tensions are running high.

AMARA LAKHOUS: SHINING A LIGHT ON IMMIGRANTSLakhous also critiques the political establishment. He throws around names that mean nothing to me—of politicians and the mafia— but their actions and behaviors sound alarmingly like Trump and his ilk.

If corruption runs rampant in Lakhous’ Italy, if the ties between politicians and the mafia are as blatant as he says, is that any different than the American president and senators who cozy up with the NRA? Or corruption in any other country?

Ultimately, what Lakhous gifts us with are understandings and truths that hit home no matter who you are or where you are in the world.

Now, please excuse me while buy and read The Prank of the Good Little Virgin of Via Ormea (2016). Described on its jacket as a “farcical whodunit”, I know it will be far more than that.

No, this is not Syria

Downtown Victoria, BC, next door to the Inner Harbor, the demolition crew provides grand entertainment for locals and tourists on a sunny Saturday. But why are they tearing down this old building?


No, this is not Syria

Customs House, which takes up an entire city block framed by Government, Wharf and Courtney streets, was built on the harbour between 1894 and 1898. It has been variously known as the Federal Building, Post Office and Customs House, the latter for its role in processing goods leaving and entering the country. Its important historical features include the façade’s sandstone walls, quarried from nearby islands in Georgia Strait.

It also has what might be considered an eminently forgettable element — the addition of a post office, built in 1952 in a drab post-war style. It’s this not so pretty bit that is being torn down before construction begins on a project that will incorporate the original building to become a commercial/condo complex.

A week later it looks like this:

No, this is not Syria

Why is there a baobab tree on the cover of my book?



Why is there a baobab tree on the cover of my book?

See a baobab tree and you’re instantly intrigued. How can something grow and survive with its roots in the air? Not only do they survive, they are instrumental in the survival of humans providing food, medicine, shelter, and material to make cloth, ropes, baskets….

The baobabs in Mali fascinated me and it was logical to have a boabab play a role in the parts of the story set in West Africa.

Searching for a picture to use on the cover led me to: the fony baobab tree in Madagascar estimated to be over 1000 years old. (photo by David Thyberg)

Why is there a baobab tree on the cover of my book?

and this: A hollow 3000 year-old baobab in Zimbabwe (photo Christophe Poudras) which can house up to 40 people.

Why is there a baobab tree on the cover of my book?

and this: Avenue of the Baobabs – western Madagascar (photo Dani-Jeske)

Why is there a baobab tree on the cover of my book?

and my favorite: In Mali.

Why is there a baobab tree on the cover of my book?

To learn more about these amazing survivors in the harshest of conditions click here. 

And to see what happens under that baobab on the cover of my book go to my website.