Category Archives: Reviews

She’s Back! Snowed In With Murder – Auralee Wallace READ ERICA BLOOM’S NEXT ADVENTURE TODAY!

Perhaps it is fitting that today is release day for Auralee Wallace’s next installment of the wildly funny Otter Lake Mysteries. Since there is an ice storm set to hit any moment, what better way is there to spend a snow day than reading about how to solve a murder in the midst of a Nor’easter Bloom style?

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SYNOPSIS

There’s no retreat and no surrender when Erica Bloom finds herself stuck in a snow storm with a stone-cold killer. . .

Erica has returned to Otter Lake, New Hampshire, to rekindle her romance with Sheriff Grady Forrester at her mom’s island retreat, currently closed for the off season. Just ahead of a rapidly advancing storm front, Erica arrives to discover Mom has rented the lodge to a reality TV show. They’re filming the wealthy but awful Boatright brood, who’ve been summoned here by their patriarch because—so he says—one of them wants to kill him.

SNOWED IN WITH MURDER
Great television, terrible timing. Not only are Erica’s romantic hopes snuffed out like a candle flame, the nasty Nor’easter just became a superstorm…and no one is getting off the island ’til it blows over. When the power fails, it’s lights out for the patriarch. Now, marooned with a murdered millionaire and his feuding family, it’s up to Erica to take the killer by storm and get back to the business of reuniting with Grady—until death do they part!

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REVIEW

First and foremost if you haven’t read the Otter Lake Mystery series YOU ARE MISSING OUT! One-click it now. Seriously, this author is a true genre breaker. I am a die hard romance reader who rarely strays from my bodice-ripping/bare-chested reads but for Ms. Wallace it is always a pleasure to read about what this unlikely (read somewhat Scooby Dooesque) band of characters are up to and how they are dealing with all the dang bodies! While the humour may test the bounds of the plausible it is always worth it to suspend disbelief for a while and hang with Erica, Freddie, and Rhonda! I am continually amazed at this ridiculously talented author’s ability to enchant and amuse with her words.

In the spirit of full disclosure I beta read this gem. Our poor Erica just can’t get a break when she blows into town just ahead of an epic Nor’easter her plans to woo back the oh so handsome Grady Forester are dashed when she finds that the retreat has been rented out and if possible even worse to a clan that has to be read to be believed! If ruining her best laid plans weren’t enough, they are there to film the pilot for a reality TV show! To add insult to injury this is no Bachelor reboot, before she can come up with a Plan B to try and save this weekend from epic failure status the Boatright family patriarch very suspiciously meets his maker leaving Erica in the now unfortunately familiar position of having to unmask a killer. Be prepared for madcap antics and hi-jinks a plenty! I loved the absurdity of our poor sleuth’s attempts to solve this crime before some decides to cut what could be Erica’s final scene.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Auralee Wallace is the author of the Otter Lake Mystery series which includes Skinny Dipping with Murder and Pumpkin Picking with Murder. She has played many roles in her life, including college professor, balloon seller, and collections agent. When this semi-natural blonde mother of three children (and psychiatric nurse to two rescue cats) isn’t writing humorous novels about quirky characters, she can often be found pontificating about the Golden Age of soap operas or warring with a family of peregrine falcons for the rights to her backyard.

 

 

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What Alice Forgot – Liane Moriarty GUEST REVIEW

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I have always been a fan of amnesia stories, especially ones where there’s a potential for the character to have a “do-over” when it comes to life’s myriad of little choices. Based on reviews from my friends, I knew I would enjoy Liane Moriarty’s writing. When I stumbled over What Alice Forgot at the end of the summer, it was a fantastic read from beginning to end. I say this despite the fact that from almost page one, I felt a small ball of anxiety form in my chest, as the full ramifications of what losing a decade of one’s life could cost a person.

The story begins with Alice Love re-gaining consciousness after taking a fall at the gym. As Alice starts to fully appreciate her predicament, it becomes clear that her life has not turned out quite as she imagined. While Alice tries to piece together a decade of her life that she cannot remember. Not only has she forgotten her three children, Alice is blind-sided by the fact that her husband has moved out and divorce appears imminent. Her relationships that she has with the rest of her friends and family are tumultuous at best. Alice tries to come to terms with her life while frantically trying to repair all that has gone wrong. Moriarty balances Alice’s story with just the right amount of wit and drama that leaves you laughing out loud and simultaneously eye-twitching  in the same chapter.

It has been a very long time since I’ve had such an emotional reaction to a novel. As I followed Alice’s journey to reclaiming her memories, I had to put the book down at times because it became too stressful to continue. As Alice, bit by bit, learns the truth of how her marriage has fallen apart and the impact of that on her children, you just keep hoping that she gets a second chance to repair some of damage that has been done. Don’t get me wrong, Alice is not a horrible person, not even in the slightest. She just seems to have fallen into a pattern of choices that leads her away from the people that she cares about the most.

When I started to reflect on the wreck that had become Alice’s life, I could see how easy it would be to fall into the same vortex of hurt and recrimination that she seemed to be swirling around in with almost every person that she loved. It’s the little hurts and frustrations that we take out on those closest to us because we unconsciously see them as our safe space.  But is it really? One of the lessons that Alice learns is that over time, those relationship bonds are not as unbreakable as she once thought. A good lesson for all, I think.

I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen – Sylvie Simmons

GUEST REVIEWER – Surly Joe

  • sylvie-uk2Title: I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen
  • Author: Sylvie Simmons
  • ISBN: 0061994987 (ISBN13: 9780061994982)
  • Series: Stand Alone
  • Published: September 18th 2012 by Ecco (first published October 18th 2011)
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Genre/s: Non-Fiction/Biography
  • Print Length: 576 pages
  • Source: Purchased

DESCRIPTION –  (from Goodreads) The legend behind such songs as “Suzanne,” “Bird on the Wire” and “Hallelujah” and the poet and novelist behind such ground-breaking literary works as Beautiful Losers and Book of Mercy, Leonard Cohen is one of the most important and influential artists of our era, a man of powerful emotion and intelligence whose work has explored the definitive issues of human life—sex, religion, power, meaning, love. Cohen is also a man of complexities and seeming contradictions: a devout Jew, who is also a sophisticate and ladies’ man, as well as an ordained Buddhist monk whose name, Jikan—“ordinary silence”—is quite the appellation for a writer and singer whose life has been anything but ordinary.

I’m Your Man is the definitive account of that extraordinary life. Acclaimed music journalist Sylvie Simmons crafts a portrait of Cohen as nuanced as the man himself, drawing on a wealth of research that includes Cohen’s personal archives and more than a hundred exclusive interviews with those closest to Cohen—from his lovers, friends, monks, professors, rabbis and fellow musicians to his muses, including Rebecca De Mornay, Marianne Ihlen, Suzanne Elrod and Suzanne Verdal—and most important, with Cohen himself, whose presence infuses these pages.

Starting in Montreal, Cohen’s birthplace, where he first found fame as a poet in the fifties, Simmons follows his trail, via London and the Greek island of Hydra, to New York in the sixties, where he launched his music career. From there she traces the arc of his prodigious achievements to his remarkable retreat in the mid-nineties—when on the cusp of marriage to a beautiful actress and enjoying the success of his best-selling album to date, he entered a monastery on a rocky mountaintop above Los Angeles—and finally to his re-emergence for a sold-out world tour almost fifteen years later. Whether navigating Cohen’s journeys through the back streets of Mumbai or the countless hotel rooms where he has stayed along the way, Simmons explores with equal focus every complex, contradictory strand of Cohen’s life—from the halls of academia to the arenas of rock ’n’ roll—and presents a deeply insightful portrait of both the artist and the man whose vision, spirit, depth and talent continue to move people like no one else.

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HallelujahLeonard Cohen

You finish listening to a song of Leonard’s and you know he’s said everything he had to say, he didn’t let the song go till he was done with it.”
Sylvie Simmons, I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen

REVIEW

CohenFive hundred pages deep into Sylvie Simmons biography I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen, she describes the 75 year-old Canadian icon as he steps onto a small stage in a Fredericton, New Brunswick theatre at the start of his 2008 tour. He is “in his sharp suit, fedora and shiny shoes, looking like a Rat Pack rabbi, God’s chosen mobster”. He is playing to an intimate audience of 700, It’s a tune-up. Weeks later, he will be at the Glastonbury Festival in England in front of over 100,000 people. He is on a wave that will last almost two years and cross continents. It will become the biggest, most successful, most critically-acclaimed tour of his career, grossing over $50 million. After 50 years of work and conflict, drugs and depression, always searching for truth, always fleeing from convention, the poet/writer/singer-songwriter/performer is at his pinnacle. He is loved and respected worldwide. He is the epitome of cool.

cohen-beadsLeonard Cohen has lived a remarkable life and it is intimately documented in I’m Your Man by Simmons, a music journalist and author of both fiction and non-fiction. From his early years of privilege, growing up in an affluent Montreal community in a household that included a butler, a gardener and a chauffeur, she traces his most unusual path, having amassed an astounding amount of detail from over 100 interviews with Cohen’s friends, lovers, family, acquaintances, and with Cohen himself.

As a child, “he seemed conventional, respectful of his teachers, the least likely to rebel”. But while his appearance was conformist, his mindset was to seek. As a teenager, he would wander the streets of Montreal at night, passing bars, cafes and strip clubs, looking through windows at the otherworldliness of a strange subculture. His searching would become international as well as spiritual, literary and chemical. By the time he was in his early ‘30s, a published poet and novelist, Cohen had lived in New York, London, Paris and Greece. He had socialized with Andy Warhol, Allen Ginsberg, Jim Morrison, Jackson Browne, Patti Smith, played guitar with Jimi Hendrix, and had a 24-hour “relationship” with Janis Joplin. His relationships with hash, speed, opium, acid and alcohol lasted much longer. His spiritual searching has included Judaism, Scientology, Hinduism and, most importantly, Zen Buddhism, where he lived in a California monastery for five years and was ordained as a monk.

BLThe accolades that Cohen received in his later years were a long time coming. In 1966, his second novel, Beautiful Losers, was described by the Toronto Star as ‘the most revolting book ever published in Canada”. Some of his early music was called “blatantly bad…deliberately ugly, offensive”, also “matter-of-fact to the point of being dull…just irritating”. But by 2009, Cohen had received virtually every award and honour possible – Junos, Grammys, countless accolades for his poetry, the Order of Canada and an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His song Hallelujah, which took five years to write, has been covered by over 300 artists in the last 20 years.

By 2012, the year I’m Your Man was published, and in his late ‘70s, Cohen was in more demand than ever. He had risen, fallen, and risen again. After a lifetime of complicated and intense relationships – with women, with record and publishing companies, with his words and music and with himself – he was also, finally, at peace.

LCQ

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

simmonsSylvieSylvie Simmons is a London-born, San Francisco based music journalist, named as a “principal player” in Paul Gorman‘s book on the history of the rock music press In Their Own Write (Sanctuary Publishing, 2001). A widely regarded writer and rock historian, she is one of very few women to be included among the predominantly male rock elite. She is also the author of a number of books, including biography and cult fiction. – From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Email – sylvie@sylviesimmons.com

CKIn his own words – Surly Joe is a moderately nondescript Toronto-based white guy who spends too much time contemplating the nature of boredom.  His aspirations waver between wanting to be either a professional gambler or a Zen monk, with a touch of writing on the side.  After completing university with a degree in a subject that does not readily lead to any sort of viable employment, he wandered through Europe and Northern Africa for a while collecting stories and useless trivia,  Circumstance led to a career back in Toronto.  He now spends his money on food, friends, wine and annual trips to Las Vegas.

 

For Anne – Leonard Cohen

GUEST REVIEWER – Surly Joe

“Deprivation is the mother of poetry.” ― Leonard CohenThe Favorite Game

Leonard Cohen Poem copy

Before his fame and acclaim, Leonard Cohen published this short poem in a 1961 collection called The Spice-Box of Earth. They were new words from an apparently old soul. Bittersweet, filled with regret, the poem is a brilliant twenty-four word realization that something very special was gone. It is stark, simple and stripped-down, where what is left is all that matters, like Hemingway removing his adjectives or Eric Clapton stressing the silence between the notes of his guitar solos.

So what is left? Presumably a young man thinking about his former lover. There is no explanation as to why the separation occurred but its reason is secondary to what he is experiencing in the current moment, and that is the discovery that he has been forced, perhaps by his own behaviour, deeper into adulthood and cynicism. Annie is gone and, in his hindsight, so too is the pure, idealistic love that he unknowingly had. Suddenly the world seems large and empty, the man-child is insignificant, and the concept of how to proceed is daunting.

In order to protect his ego and heal his wounds, he initially tries to remove himself from emotion. Annie becomes Anne. A name that is cute, tender and innocent is now more formal, stiff, detached. Despite the obvious feelings that remain, he attempts to create separation. The poem is not “To Anne’”. It is more formally “For Anne”, as if he was only addressing an acquaintance. The title implies he is trying to be aloof, but he is quickly exposed and the poem’s first three words open the floodgates to his remaining emotion.

Leonard Cohen’s first book of poetry, written in 1956 when he was a student at McGill University in Montreal, was called “Let Us Compare Mythologies”. In this poem, Annie has become his mythology. She is a story that he is re-reading. He may progress. But not yet. He is stuck. The word “compare” appears three times, more than any other word. It is the action in which he is trapped, like a hamster on a wheel.

The end result of “For Anne” is that there isn’t yet an end result. There is just the realization that what he had, and what he didn’t appreciate when he had the chance, is gone. But only because it is gone could he discover what he had in the first place.

LCLeonard Norman Cohen is a Canadian singer-songwriter, poet and novelist. Cohen published his first book of poetry in Montreal in 1956 and his first novel in 1963.
Cohen’s earliest songs (many of which appeared on the 1968 album Songs of Leonard Cohen) were rooted in European folk music melodies and instrumentation, sung in a high baritone. The 1970s were a musically restless period in which his influences broadened to encompass pop, cabaret, and world music. Since the 1980s he has typically sung in lower registers (bass baritone, sometimes bass), with accompaniment from electronic synthesizers and female backing singers.
His work often explores the themes of religion, isolation, sexuality, and complex interpersonal relationships. Cohen’s songs and poetry have influenced many other singer-songwriters, and more than a thousand renditions of his work have been recorded. He has been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame and is also a Companion of the Order of Canada, the nation’s highest civilian honour. Cohen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 10, 2008 for his status among the “highest and most influential echelon of songwriters”.

Leonard Norman Cohen. (2014). The Biography.com website. Retrieved 10:18, May 27, 2014, fromhttp://www.biography.com/people/leonard-cohen-9252529.

Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer GUEST POST

GUEST POST – Surly Joe

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SYNOPSIS – In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a party of moose hunters. How McCandless came to die is the unforgettable story of Into the Wild.

Immediately after graduating from college in 1991, McCandless had roamed through the West and Southwest on a vision quest like those made by his heroes Jack London and John Muir. In the Mojave Desert he abandoned his car, stripped it of its license plates, and burned all of his cash. He would give himself a new name, Alexander Supertramp, and , unencumbered by money and belongings, he would be free to wallow in the raw, unfiltered experiences that nature presented. Craving a blank spot on the map, McCandless simply threw the maps away. Leaving behind his desperate parents and sister, he vanished into the wild.

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Freedom from everything… That is the main point.” – Zen master Shunryu Suzuki

REVIEW – There’s a derelict shell of a seventy-year old bus sitting empty in the Alaskan bush. Over the last twenty years, it has become a destination, the end goal of a pilgrimage for anti-establishment dreamers, drop-outs, hard-core wilderness lovers and curiosity seekers who want to honour an intriguing, complicated and, depending on the point of view, either an unintentional hero or a naive narcissist named Chris McCandless. At the age of 22, after graduating from Emory University in Atlanta, McCandless burned all his identification, donated his life savings to charity, and disappeared from his upper middle-class family without a word. Changing his name to Alexander Supertramp, he wandered alone to Alaska, where his body was eventually found rotting in Fairbanks Bus No. 42.

“I’m absolutely positive I won’t run into anything I can’t deal with on my own,” McCandless wrote early in his journal, one of the main sources of information author Jon Krakauer used for Into The Wild, his fascinating examination of McCandless’ short life. Even in the first phases of his wandering in California, Mexico and Nevada, when he was malnourished, dirty, and living under bridges or sleeping in the desert, he was in his element. “God it’s great to be alive! Thank you. Thank you,” his journal reads. In a letter to a friend he met on the road, he explained “nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future.” And written on a sheet of plywood discovered near his Alaskan bus, he described himself as “an extremist, an aesthetic voyager whose home is the road”, who rejected society “to kill the false being within”. He was living his life his way, away from a corrupt, crushing establishment. He was free.

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To many native Alaskans, however, and other readers of Into The Wild , Krakauer’s portrayal of McCandless is irresponsible and romantic. To them, McCandless wasn’t a heroic figure at all, just “one more dreamy half-cocked greenhorn who went into the country expecting to find answers to all his problems and instead found only mosquitos and a lonely death”.

One of the last entries in his journal gives credence to this opinion. Desperately sick, knowing that he was near the end, McCandless wrote an SOS letter to the world. “I need your help. I am injured, near death…I am all alone. This is no joke.” Ironically, he signed it with his real name. He was reaching out to the society he had rejected, victim to his ultimate freedom.

“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” Janis Joplin

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

avt_jon-krakauer_29261Jon Krakauer is a preeminent writer of narrative non-fiction. His numerous bestsellers include Where Men Win Glory, Under the Banner of Heaven, Into the Wild, and Into Thin Air. He is editor of the Modern Library Exploration series.


CKIn his own words – Surly Joe is a moderately nondescript Toronto-based white guy who spends too much time contemplating the nature of boredom.  His aspirations waver between wanting to be either a professional gambler or a Zen monk, with a touch of writing on the side.  After completing university with a degree in a subject that does not readily lead to any sort of viable employment, he wandered through Europe and Northern Africa for a while collecting stories and useless trivia, circumstance led to a career back in Toronto.  He now spends his money on food, friends, wine and annual trips to Las Vegas.

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THIS EARL IS ON FIRE (Season’s Original #2) – Vivienne Lorret

Liam is not ready to let go of the one woman who stirs his deepest longings.

 

THIS EARL IS ON FIRE

Season’s Original #2

Vivienne Lorret

Releasing August 2nd, 2016

Avon Impulse

 

The sheltered daughter of a country baron, Miss Adeline Pimm comes to London looking for adventure… and finds it in the form of a bloody, unconscious man slumped in the doorway of her family’s rented townhouse. Though his identity is a mystery, Adeline is inexplicably drawn to the handsome, injured man and vows to nurse him back to health.

Liam Cavanaugh, the scandalous Earl of Wolford, is startled when he awakens in an unfamiliar bed, wrapped in bandages that hinder his eyesight, with no memory of why he was beaten half to death. Although he can’t see the witty young woman who tends to his wounds, her alluring voice–and a single stolen kiss from her soft lips–help soothe his pain. But when he is fully healed, Liam is not ready to let go of the one woman who stirs his deepest longings.

Liam will do whatever it takes to see Adeline again, even if it means giving up his rakish ways. But his disreputable past is not so easily forgotten and his secrets are far more dangerous than he-or Adeline-ever imagined.

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Don’t miss the first title in the Season’s Original Series

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USA Today bestselling author, VIVIENNE LORRET loves romance novels, her pink laptop, her husband, and her two sons (not necessarily in that order … but there are days). Transforming copious amounts of tea into words, she is an Avon Impulse author of works including: Tempting Mr. Weatherstone, The Wallflower Wedding Series, The Rakes of Fallow Hall Series, The Duke’s Christmas Wish, and the Season’s Original Series.

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Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë – The Original Punk Feminist

GUEST POST – Surly Joe

SYNOPSIS – Jane comes from nothing but she desires everything life can offer her. And when she finds work as a governess in a mysterious mansion, it seems she has finally met her match with the darkly fascinating Mr Rochester. But Thornfield Hall contains a shameful secret – one that could keep Jane and Rochester apart forever. Can she choose between what is right, and her one chance of happiness?

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REVIEW

Let’s start with the blatantly obvious. Jane Eyre is a classic. Received warmly and immediately successful when it was first published in 1847, Charlotte Bronte’s novel has been read, studied and appreciated by millions ever since. The story is simple yet always engaging, the language is detailed and flowery, typical of nineteenth century English literature, however never daunting or overblown. For a book of almost five hundred pages, it is a surprisingly quick read.

SHPThis is not what makes it a classic. Jane Eyre, the character, is why it is a classic. She is a rebel with principles. She is a feminist. She is a survivor. In the 1920s, she would have been a flapper. In the 1970s, she would have been a punk. Not a sniveling, dirty, randomly-destructive punk. An innovative, creative, anti-establishment punk. She would have hung out with Vivienne Westwood and Patti Smith and lived her life her way.

“I can live alone, if self-respect, and circumstances require me so to do. I need not sell my soul to buy bliss. I have an inward treasure born with me, which can keep me alive if all extraneous delights should be withheld, or offered only at a price I cannot afford to give.”Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

tumblr_nuxdqbx5Nj1u7ezalo1_500Right from the earliest pages, when Jane is a child orphan living in an abusive environment with extended family who think they are doing her a favour by keeping a roof over her head, the seeds of her feistiness become apparent. She was conscious that she did not fit in, and so, “like any other rebel slave”, she says “I felt resolved, in my desperation, to go all lengths”. She had in her “the mood of the revolted slave” and found her surroundings “Unjust! – unjust!

As Jane matured, and even as she seemingly fell in line with convention, finishing school and getting a job as a teacher, her individuality and strength of character simmered under the surface. She admitted to herself, ”I desired liberty; for liberty, I gasped, for liberty I uttered a prayer”.

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It was a long and difficult path to find the freedom she craved. Oftentimes, owning only the clothes on her back, she trudged on and maintained her focus. In one instance, when she was forced to survive for two days with no food, water or shelter, it almost killed her.

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But Jane Eyre is not a tragedy and Jane Eyre is not a tragic figure, And when the good turns of fortune finally arrive, her principles and her individuality become even more pronounced and admirable. Despite the appearance of settling for conformity, it is her own conformity. It is dictated by no one. Her inner punk is alive and well.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Charlotte Bronte
Charlotte Bronte

Charlotte Brontë was a British novelist, the eldest out of the three famous Brontë sisters whose novels have become standards of English literature.

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CKIn his own words – Surly Joe is a moderately nondescript Toronto-based white guy who spends too much time contemplating the nature of boredom.  His aspirations waver between wanting to be either a professional gambler or a Zen monk, with a touch of writing on the side.  After completing university with a degree in a subject that does not readily lead to any sort of viable employment, he wandered through Europe and Northern Africa for a while collecting stories and useless trivia, circumstance led to a career back in Toronto.  He now spends his money on food, friends, wine and annual trips to Las Vegas.

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