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Book Reviews in December 2005 Issue

Note from Editor
Editor's Note
by Olga Stein
The new year is nearly upon us. We'd like to take this opportunity to thank our sponsor, Amazon.ca, and its staff, a truly fine bunch, for their continued support. We also want to thank Canada Council and Heritage Canada. Their generous support has ensured BiC's survival. They truly are champions of the arts in this country. We want to thank the Ontario Media Development Corporation as well for a hefty business development grant, and finally, our loyal contributors and readers.
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No Country for Old Men
by Cormac McCarthy

Alfred A. Knopf
320 pages $32.95 cloth
ISBN: 0375406778
Book Review
Missing the Good Old Days
by Steven W. Beattie
It has been seven years since Cormac McCarthy published Cities of the Plain, the final volume of his so-called Border Trilogy, and 20 years since he unleashed on the world his ferocious masterpiece, Blood Meridian.
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I Should Never Have Fired the Sentinel
by Jennifer LoveGrove

ECW Press
72 pages $16.95 paper
ISBN: 1550226703
Modern and Normal
by Karen Solie

Brick Books
96 pages $17 paper
ISBN: 1894078470
Book Review
More Servings Please
by Lyle Neff
"There is at the heart of metaphor a delicious amoral joy." So blurbs Don McKay on the back of Karen Solie's new book Modern and Normal. It's an intriguing thing to say of Solie, and perhaps of her interesting young colleague Jennifer Lovegrove, whose second collection, I Should Never Have Fired the Sentinel, tills similar artistic soil. Both are observant Canadian women whose sense of morality appears bruised by the jittery, elbow-throwing era we live in.
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Catullus
by Translated by Ewan Whyte

Mosaic Press
128 pages $20 paper
ISBN: 0889628106
Book Review
Catullus and Lesbia Get Laid
by Asa Boxer
Let's be honest, the main reason we keep Catullus around is for the dirty stuff. I can certainly appreciate the cachet of releasing his verse in a modern translation for our so-called "uninhibited" generation; there is a sophomorically naughty pleasure involved in reading the decadent verses of an ancient Roman poet. But it's hard to understand why Catullus's sensibility deserves to be considered "modern"
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Bizarre Winery Tragedy
by Lyle Neff

Anvil Press
64 pages $14 paper
ISBN: 1895636663
Book Review
Fancy Bling and Classic Togs
by David Hickey
In his third collection of poetry, Bizarre Winery Tragedy, Lyle Neff returns to the well-trod territories of city and self that preoccupied his earlier work. The best of these new poems, however, reveal the relaxed movements of an experienced traveler, one more willing to pause and contemplate the people and scenes that populate his East Vancouver streets. Less apparent is the jocular posing that undermines the quality of his earlier collections.
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Treble
by Evelyn Lau

Polestar
120 pages $18.95 paper
ISBN: 1551927896
Charlatan
by Stephen Laird

Ronsdale Press
88 pages $14.95 paper
ISBN: 1553800222
Book Review
Underwhelmed
by Ian LeTourneau
The cover photograph of Stephen Laird's Charlatan shows a "Charlatan puppet", a figure that looks like one of Darth Vader's red-robed imperial guards from Return of the Jedi, except this figure has a large beaked nose. Most intriguing is that attached to his index and middle fingers is a saw.
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Afterlands
by Steven Heighton

Knopf Canada
408 pages $32.95 cloth
ISBN: 0676976778
Book Review
From Ice to South American Jungle
by Paul Butler
It's 1876. A piano recital with a difference is underway in a packed Connecticut concert hall. Punnie, a ten-year-old Inuit girl, plays Mendelssohn with the skill and flair of a professional musician. Although enjoying the "tremendous novelty" of the performance, two members of the audience argue playfully about the girl's nationality, one claiming her for the U.S., another for Canada and the British Crown. Meanwhile, the young pianist struggles with a growing cough.
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A Long Way Down
by Nick Hornby

Riverhead Books
352 pages $35 cloth
ISBN: 1573223026
Book Review
Unlikely Coalition
by Christine Fischer Guy
Reading a Nick Hornby novel is like having a chat in a pub with a witty, garrulous friend. He leans in close, addressing you directly; you can almost feel his hot breath on your neck. There's the wink-wink, nudge-nudge intimacy of a long friendship, and the instant intensity that goes with that. But if the self-deprecating, brutally honest voice makes you laugh, it would be a mistake to say that Hornby writes for pure comedic value, or that his purpose is insubstantial.
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Earthbaby
by Peter Such

Ekstasis Editions
339 pages $21.95 paper
ISBN: 1894800575
Book Review
Superbly Speculative
by Antony Di Nardo
Towards the end of this heart-racing, head-rush thriller, Andrew Tremaine reflects on "how much the world has changed in little more than a very old person's lifetime." It sure has. The year is 2039. Geo-politically, the world is divided between a democratic Eurosoviet alliance and a despotic North American Protectorate ruled by a military-industrial junta in the clutches of an ultra-conservative, "Lifeist" general. Space travel is back on top of the international agenda.
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The Year of Magical Thinking
by Joan Didion

Alfred A. Knopf
227 pages $33.95 cloth
ISBN: 140004314X
Book Review
Joan, Dark
by Lyall Bush
Joan Didion's basis for departure in her writing has always been her body and her nervous system, though readers could be forgiven for believing that she starts with her note-taking eyes, or her mind and wit, or her ears. All these she has put to mesmerising use for decades as a reporter on the American scene, its stories inside stories, its conscience. That's not how it sounds on paper of course, at least not right away
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Edmund Wilson: A Life in Literature
by Lewis M. Dabney

Farrar, Strauss and Giroux
639 pages $49 cloth
ISBN: 0374113122
Book Review
The Immortal Edmund Wilson
by Ray Robertson
Covering virtually one entire side of the four-drawer filing cabinet in the room where I write is the wall of heroes-a collage of pictures of people who have inspired and continue to sustain me-that I've steadily assembled over the last decade or so. For anyone who knows either me or my work, the choices aren't surprising: Barry Hannah, Mordecai Richler, Jack Kerouac; Gram Parsons, the Ramones, Marc Bolan; old friends, deceased pets, favourite relatives.
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Arthur & George
by Julian Barnes

Random House
368 pages $34.95 cloth
ISBN: 0679314172
Book Review
Odd Couple
by Kevin Higgins
My review copy of Arthur & George arrived on the morning of Monday, October 10th. The winner of the 2005 Man Booker Prize, for which Arthur & George was short-listed, was to be announced that night. It was the third time a Julian Barnes novel had made the list; Flaubert's Parrot got there in 1984, as did England, England in 1998. The publicity sheet accompanying the book announced, "Arthur & George is the odds-on favourite to win this year's Man Booker Prize
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The Accidental
by Ali Smith

Penguin
320 pages $30 cloth
ISBN: 0241141907
Book Review
Caustic Light in the Dark
by Ross Wilson
The Accidental begins with a meditation on beginnings, as though we have been invited to witness the conception and gestation of the book itself. Does day begin with dawn? Does a personality begin in the womb? Is the beginning different for everyone? It would seem so, for The Accidental begins anew with each new chapter, offering the perspectives of its characters as refracted through the lens of a third-person narrator.
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The Sea
by John Banville

Knopf
208 pages $29.95 cloth
ISBN: 0307263118
On Beauty
by Zadie Smith

Penguin
464 pages $34 cloth
ISBN: 0670045276
Book Review
Oranges and Apples
by Todd Swift
London's literary world-and so by extension Britain and Ireland's, for better or worse-is currently in the grip of a tussle over the role (or purpose) of poetry. This is not new, as each literary period offers a Dryden or Eliot to steer the course, away or towards certain styles, certain prescribed limits for figurative language. In late November this year, George Szirtes took the stage for the annual T.S.
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A Map of Glass
by Jane Urquhart

McClelland and Stewart
384 pages $34.99 cloth
ISBN: 0771087276
Book Review
The Hands of Chance and Change
by Cynthia Sugars
In Jane Urquhart's latest novel, A Map of Glass, there is a hotel which, over the course of a few decades, gradually becomes subsumed beneath layers of sand. The inhabitants see it happening but are at a loss to stop it. Like Yeats's rough beast slouching towards Bethlehem, the quicksands of time subject everything to their will, whatever one may do to fend them off. Such is the slow inexorability of destiny.
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The March
by E. L. Doctorow

Random House
384 pages $35.95 cloth
ISBN: 0375506713
Book Review
Monolith on the Move
by David H. Evans
The history of the Historical Novel has itself been somewhat novelistic in its vicissitudes. The opening chapters make sensational reading: Sir Walter Scott's Jacobite thrillers burst with spectacular effect onto the stage of a European imagination that, as Georg Luk▀cs pointed out, had been primed for their reception by the turmoil of the Napoleonic era, during which history seemed to be taking place right under one's nose.
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A Wall of Light
by Edeet Ravel

Random House Canada
272 pages $32.95 cloth
ISBN: 0679313532
Book Review
Funny Girl
by T.F. Rigelhof
Edeet Ravel is a novelist who can fascinate and frustrate a reader in almost equal measure. The fascination comes from the scope of her ambition. A Wall of Light is her third novel in three years, the concluding volume of the Tel Aviv Trilogy that began with Ten Thousand Lovers (2003), which was shortlisted for the Governor General's Fiction Award, as well the Amazon.ca/Books in Canada First Novel Award, and Look for Me (2004) which won the Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction.
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What Good are the Arts?
by John Carey

Faber & Faber
286 pages $30 paper
ISBN: 0571226027
Book Review
On Art and Artistic Judgement
by T.F. Rigelhof
Over the past couple of decades in Mulroney's and Chretien's Canadas, no less than Thatcher's and Blair's Britains, the case that the arts are good for us has been made increasingly on economic grounds: the arts are "cultural industries" providing jobs, attracting consumers, and generating tax revenues in ways that effectively counterbalance their costs to the public through arts council grants-or so they say
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Revisiting the Waste Land
by Lawrence Rainey

Yale University Press
205 pages $47.25 cloth
ISBN: 0300107072
Book Review
Restringing the Waste Land
by Hugh Graham
John Peale Bishop, editor of Vanity Fair and one of the first to read Eliot's poem The Waste Land, was unable to say anything except that it was "immense, magnificent, terrible." Bishop lost his innocence not long after that, and went down a rabbit hole of interpretation. The critics soon followed him there. Eliot would have said that Bishop had got it right the first time. Eliot himself wrote that the emotional force of a poem "can communicate before the whole text is understood.
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On Bullshit
by Harry G. Frankfurt

Princeton University Press
80 pages $13 cloth
ISBN: 0691122946
Your Call Is Important To Us: The Truth About Bullshit
by Laura Penny

McClelland & Stewart
288 pages $29.99 cloth
ISBN: 077107042X
Book Review
The Persistence Of Humbug
by Gordon Phinn
Surprising as it may seem, a seventy-page essay by a moral philosopher from Princeton has become something of a bestseller. Originally a paper presented at a Yale faculty seminar twenty years ago, Harry G. Frankfurt's "On Bullshit" eventually made its appearance in a journal, then in a 1988 collection of Frankfurt's work, The Importance of What We Care About: Philosophical Essays, and now as a handsomely bound pamphlet. It can be found almost anywhere the printed word is held in high regard.
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Hypocrisy: Ethical Investigations
by BTla Szabados and Eldon Soifer

Broadview Press
352 pages $27.95 paper
ISBN: 1551115573
Book Review
Defining Hypocrisy
by Michael P. Nelson
A few years ago students in my advanced environmental ethics seminar, which centred on the topic of the relationship between environmental philosophy and environmental activism, venomously and frighteningly turned on one another. When a pair of students made a presentation focused on putting one's environmental ethics into practice, the class pounced on them in classic cat-on-mouse fashion.
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A Safe House: Holland, 1940-45
by Maria Jacobs

Seraphim Editions
150 pages $18.95 paper
ISBN: 0973458852
Canada and the Liberation of The Netherlands, May 1945
by Lance Goddard, ed.

The Dundurn Group
239 pages $29.99 paper
ISBN: 1550025473
Book Review
Saviours
by Clara Thomas
Holland was overrun by the Nazis in 1940 and occupied until 1945. A Safe House tells the story of Maria Jacobs, ten years old when the occupation began, her brother Wil, and her mother, Lucie, who sheltered Eli, Naomi, Lena and Joe, all Jews, in their home during these dangerous years. Ostensibly they were by themselves: Maria's father, Jaap Schroder, a captain in the Merchant Marine, had got away to work for the allies.
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Stauffenberg, A Family History, 1905-1944
by Peter Hoffmann

McGill-Queen's University Press
424 pages $29.95 paper
ISBN: 0773525955
Book Review
Botched but not Forgotten
by Peter Yan
Despite the aesthetic evil of the many footnote numbers scarring the text, Professor Peter Hoffmann of McGill University has written a very readable history of Claus, Count Von Stauffenberg and his historic failed attempt to kill Adolf Hitler on July 20, 1944
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Interviews
Interview: Beauty of an Author, Camilla Gibb interviewed by Nancy Wigston
by Nancy Wigston
Born in London, England, Camilla Gibb grew up in Toronto. She earned degrees in anthropology and Middle Eastern studies from the University of Toronto, followed by an Oxford PhD in social anthropology. Gibb pursued her fieldwork in Ethiopia, which proved fertile ground for her latest novel, the Giller Prize short-listed Sweetness in the Belly.
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The Sweet Edge
by Alison Pick

Raincoast Books
284 pages $21.95 paper
ISBN: 1551927837
First Novels
A Review of: The Sweet Edge
by W.P. Kinsella
"Ellen has been happy. How can she get back to that? Eight months ago is only eight months. If time lands here then it must have started somewhere. She must be able to track it back. If someone can pass her the spool she will wind the whole year in again. She will put it in her pocket and take it home. She will unspool time to back before this happened, before it all went wrong." Ellen has moved to Toronto to be with her boyfriend, Adam
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George & Rue
by George Elliott Clarke

HarperCollins
223 pages $32.95 cloth
ISBN: 0002255391
First Novels
A Review of: George & Rue
by W.P. Kinsella
"The cold, grisly wrist kiss of handcuffs" is only one of hundreds of striking images found in Africadian author Clarke's difficult story of brothers, George and Rufus Hamilton, who were hanged over 50 years ago for a despicable and senseless murder. Asa, father to George and Rufus, describes his wife, Cynthy: "Dependin on light, she was tawny and mahogany and dusky and chocolate and coffee an coconut and brass and bronze and rosy
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Feed My Dear Dogs
by Emma Richler

Knopf Canada $35.95 Hardcover
ISBN: 0676976719
First Novels
A Review of: Feed My Dear Dogs
by W.P. Kinsella
I've been holding this book for months, I guess in the hope that it would become easier to read. I tried several times but got bogged down in the first few pages. It is an impressionistic fictional memoir of the childhood of five precocious children in the Weiss family. The narrator, Jem, is the same as in Richler's earlier book, Sister Crazy-only this time the work is not nearly as interesting.
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Midnight Sun
by Lawrence Osgood

Goose Lane
286 pages $22.95 paper
ISBN: 0864924348
First Novels
A Review of: Midnight Sun
by W.P. Kinsella
Strangely, this is the second book dealing with people canoeing down a river in the arctic. Only this time they are peripheral characters, a couple, who also come to a bad end. The husband is drowned, the canoe and supplies lost, but the woman survives, and is rescued by a young Inuit. However, in the surreal world of the modern arctic, some young Inuit girls form a cult which worships the white woman's toque.
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Paris: Capital of the World
by Patrice Higonnet

Harvard University Press
536 pages $23 paper
ISBN: 0674017587
George Fetherling
A Review of: Paris: Capital of the World
by George Fetherling
As long ago as the Middle Ages, the word "Parisian" stood not simply for a resident of Paris but also described a trublion or troublemaker, especially of the political kind. So Patrice Higonnet tells us in his history of the city Paris: Capital of the World, a book both lively and serious. There was the French Revolution, when a mob forced the king to return from Versailles and then executed him.
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The Women of Beaver Hall: Canadian Modernist Painters
by Evelyn Walters

Dundurn Publishing Group
192 pages $60 cloth
ISBN: 1550025880
Gift Books
A Review of: The Women of Beaver Hall: Canadian Modernist Painters
by Olga Stein
The Beaver Hall Group was an association of Quebec artists which officially began its existence in 1920. Under the leadership of A.Y. Jackson, the group attracted and fostered the work of artists interested in the newest European trends and unconcerned about the consequences of cold-shouldering traditional approaches to subject representation.
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In Fine Form: The Canadian Book of Form Poetry
by Edited by Kate Braid and Sandy Shreeve

Raincoast Books
304 pages $29.95 paper
ISBN: 1551927772
Gift Books
A Review of: In Fine Form: The Canadian Book of Form Poetry
by Olga Stein
If you enjoy poetry, have read a great deal of it, and regret never receiving a formal education in this branch of literature because you were too busy pursuing a formal education in something else, you'll find In Fine Form a handy pleasure. If you ever wanted to know what a Ghazal, Glosa, Madrigal, Pantoum, Sonnet, or Sestina look like (to name but a few of the forms encountered here), you'll be grateful for this book.
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The Oxford Companion to Philosophy
by Edited by Ted Honderich

Oxford University Press
1056 pages $60
ISBN: 0199264791
Gift Books
A Review of: The Oxford Companion to Philosophy
by Olga Stein
This book should be acquired by or given to a serious person-this is to say, anyone interested in ideas, in their origins and how they pertain to politics, morality (and by implication, how they define what is good for society and/or the individual), and truth or knowledge, as opposed to mere opinion, of earthly and metaphysical matters.
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Tea and Pomegranates: A Memoir of Food, Family and Kashmir
by Nazneen Sheikh

Penguin Canada
197 pages $26 paper
ISBN: 0143017799
Last Words
A Review of: Tea and Pomegranates: A Memoir of Food, Family and Kashmir
by Brian Fawcett
This is a small book with just 10 food recipes. It is as advertised: a memoir of food, family, and Kashmir. What isn't advertised is the elegance with which those three elements are integrated and rendered indivisible, and how deliciously informative it is, both in the culinary and cultural sense. Like most Canadians, I've tended to lump the regional cuisines of India together.
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Wish: Market to Table, a Food & Entertaining Guide
by Donna Dooher and Andrea Stewart, with Suzanne Dimma and Jane Francisco

CanWest Book
160 pages $19.95 paper
ISBN: 097374104X
Last Words
A Review of: Wish: Market to Table, a Food & Entertaining Guide
by Brian Fawcett
If Emily Richards may not be all that exotic, but her multicultural credentials are impressive. Of Italian descent, she grew up in Sault St. Marie, Ontario, has a Portuguese maiden name (Fernandes), and is married to an Anglo-hence the WASP surname. She's actually of Calabrian descent, which isn't quite the same thing as being Italian.
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Italian Express: 150 Fast and Easy Family Favourites
by Emily Richards

Harper Collins
200 pages $26.95 paper
ISBN: 0006395147
Last Words
A Review of: Italian Express: 150 Fast and Easy Family Favourites, Emily Richards
by Brian Fawcett
Wish: Market to Table is the product of lifestyle magazine. If Canadian Living generally targets suburban women in their mid-40s as its cultural demographic, then Wish seems to be aimed at working women about 10 years younger who are slightly better educated, well-heeled, and noticeably more corporate and urban.
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Swimming in the Monsoon Sea
by Shyam Selvadurai

Tundra Books $24.99 cloth
ISBN: 0887767354
Children's Books
A Review of: Swimming in the Monsoon Sea
by Heather Birrell
Swimming in the Monsoon Sea, Shyam Selvadurai's first novel for young adults, is a gentle, well-paced and moving yarn of first love, family and belonging-a Sri Lankan Cinderella story for the 21st century. As the story opens, we meet Amrith, the novel's 14-year-old protagonist, a gifted actor and loner who carries his self-conscious share of adolescent secrets and shame.
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Tales of the Monkey King
by Retold by Benjamen Santamarfa. Paintings by Brian Deines

Tundra Books
32 pages $22.99 cloth
ISBN: 0887766846
Children's Books
A Review of: Tales of the Monkey King
by Olga Stein
The writing is somewhat uneven in quality, though by and large this retelling of an ancient Chinese legend is captivating and will be enjoyed by kids 10 years of age and younger. This book was written with the noble aim of forging "a bridge of understanding and support between Canadian and Latin American children
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The Strange Voyage of the Raconteur
by J. C. Mills

Key Porter Books
244 pages $15.95 paper
ISBN: 1552637190
Children's Books
A Review of: The Strange Voyage of the Raconteur
by M. Wayne Cunningham
On the fateful June morning, when teenaged Joe Allenby helps to dock the damaged sailboat, Raconteur, at the marina in his Great Lakes home town, he has no notion of the adventures ahead of him. But Toronto artist-author, J. C. Mills, a noted raconteur herself, clearly does, and her engaging novel about Joe and the events that take place, The Strange Voyage of the Raconteur, is a well-crafted mix of seafarers' myths, sailing misfortunes and adolescent fears and hopes.
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Skybreaker
by Kenneth Oppel

HarperCollins
340 pages $22.99 cloth
ISBN: 0002006995
Children's Books
A Review of: Skybreaker
by M. Wayne Cunningham
Toronto author, Kenneth Oppel, is once again flying high. Skybreaker, the recently released sequel to his 2003 award-winning, Airborn, is already winging its way up the kid's lit charts and gaining critical kudos on the way. Now, likeable 16-year-old Airship Academy cadet, Matt Cruse, and his vivacious girl friend, Kate de Vries, are cruising at 20,000 feet with a mostly Sherpa crew in the Sagarmatha, an airship of the skybreaker class that's built "like a tiger shark".
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