A review of The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu and Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts by Joshua Hammer

This is an important subject treated with seriousness by the author, who is a journalist of some standing and the author of three other books. The title is somewhat misleading, however, as the librarians are not so much ‘bad-ass’ as courageous and dedicated to their quest to save centuries-old Islamic and secular manuscripts on a range of topics from destruction by militants of Al Qaeda.

A review of Known and Strange Things by Teju Cole

Known and Strange Things, the title coming from Seamus Heaney, is structured by division into four sections: Reading Things; Seeing Things; Being There; and Epilogue. Cole notes that the book contains ‘some of my most vital enthusiasms’ as well as pieces on the new, and that he was testing his knowledge and its limits. He left as much out as he included, and could have produced a second book with the excluded.

A review of Laurinda by Alice Pung

It would be a rare reader that didn’t feel an affinity for the protagonist in Alice Pung’s charming coming-of-age story, Laurinda. The is something universal about fifteen year old Lucy Lam’s dislocation as she tries to navigate the clique-iness, the odd social mores, and the subtle bullying that takes place at Laurinda, a prestigious private school to which Lucy has received the first equity scholarship.

A review of Time Was by Howard Waldman

Time Was is not your usual birth to death autobiography. Waldman’s haphazard style is unique and somehow manages to be both lighthearted and dark at the same time, but these vignettes have an otherworldly quality about them. The subtitle is appropriate as the disconnected voice of the narrator is not only out of time and out of place, it is one that invites the reader to that liminal space.

A review of the Play with Knives trilogy by Jennifer Maiden

All three novels explore guilt and innocence, good and evil, and the individual versus the state or government, using changing tense and viewpoints. The grand conception is fairly ambitious, but Maiden handles it all smoothly and the stories read like ordinary thrillers. The binaries that charge these books are played with in all sorts of interesting ways as the characters swap positions, power matrices, emotional landscapes, and unravel the structures in which they work.

A review of Figuring in the Figure by Ben Berman

Ben Berman’s Figuring in the Figure offers a window into his personal life. In reading the poems, we learn that Berman is a young father and that he is a wizard at word play, among other things. The poems are written in the terza rima form, a rhyme scheme of Italian origins and used by Dante Alighieri. This form allows Berman to showcase is proficiency as a poet.

A review of Beginning French by Les Américains

The writing is so descriptive and uncomplicated that is easy to imagine accompanying the family as they go from one lesson to the next. We go with them to buy furniture, buy food at the hypermarket, get the boiler fixed and tag along on their trips to the Dordogne and some wonderful French towns and villages. We experience the history, the culture and the environment through Marty and Eileen’s exquisite travelogues and memories. And if you think I have forgotten to mention the French food then you are in for a huge surprise.

A review of The Vimy Trap by Ian McKay and Jamie Swift

The Battle of Vimy Ridge took place almost one hundred years ago, on April 9, 1917, as part of the Battle of Arras launched by British and French forces against those of Kaiser Wilhelm’s Germany, to divert them from other fronts. The British and French had attempted to take the ridge and had failed. The Canadian Corps, part of the British Expeditionary Force, succeeded, with heavy casualties.

A review of The Chaos of Mokii by Geoff Nelder

At a deeper level, there are questions raised about the nature of reality that are chillingly relevant considering the fact that last year Elon Musk stated publically that there is a billion to one chance that we’re living in “base reality” (that is, a non-virtual world), and even Neil deGrasse Tyson has argued that there is a high probability that we’re living a computer simulation.