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Moncton Reads

We're celebrating CBC Canada Reads 2012 with a local twist. We've asked five people in the Moncton area to read and review the books in the national competition. You'll hear one of our reviews each morning this week on 106.1 FM and we'll be posting them here on our website.

We have several Canada Reads books to give away, and two weeks from today, we'll be awarding our grand prize: all five Canada Reads books in a Canada Reads Fabric bag. There are two ways to enter our competition for Canada Reads books:

You can email your mini review on any of the five Canada Reads books or call our Talkback Line with your review: 853-6636 or 1-877-222-1061.

  • On A Cold Road by Dave Bidini

  • The Game by Ken Dryden

  • The Tiger by John Vaillant

  • Prisoner of Tehran by Maria Nemat

  • Something Fierce by Carmen Aguirre

  • Here's a review we received from Linda Vienneau on our Facebook site:

    I read The Tiger...great read! Very detailed and interesting information about "Siberian"Tigers in the wild and how they react to threaths from humans who will do them harm. Read it


    Melissa Cormier of Moncton is assistant director of the Frye Festival. This is her review review of Marina Nemat's "Prisoner of Tehran A Memoir".

    Marina Nemat arrived in Canada in 1991. The story about how she came to freedom is almost impossible to believe.

    Marina was the daughter of second-generation Russian immigrants. She was brought up as an Eastern Orthodox Christian. Both of her grandmothers had immigrated to Iran to escape the Russian Revolution.

    The author comes of age in Iran during the late 1970's when Ayatollah Khomeini took power and promised to free the people of Iran from the Shah. In reality, the situation becomes increasingly volatile.

    Opposing the policies of the new Islamic government, she attends demonstrations and, at school, speaks out against the revolution . She pays the price and in 1979, at the age of 16 Marina and jailed at a political prison in Tehran.

    She serves her sentence in the infamous Evin Prison for speaking out against the Iranian government. She is tortured and sentenced to death. The author narrowly escapes execution when a young man working at the jail intervenes. Her unlikely savior and their incredible story are captivating. Ali Moosavi saves her life, using his connections to spare Marina from execution. It is clear early on that Ali has developed an attachment to Marina. She is forced to marry the young man to save her family from threats of harm. Marina also has to abandon her Christian church amnd convert to Islam.

    The book is an inspiring read about courage, perseverance and never losing one's faith. The description of the hardships and horror of the jail are balanced when Marina transports her readers to her childhood in Tehran. She recounts happy moments at her parent's cottage, describing the lush scenery and warmth of the Caspian Sea.

    It is impossible not to be inspired by this author's incredible and courageous journey. Despite the atrocities and horrible living conditions she is subjected to, Marina maintains her trust in God. I see her as a heroine, not only for her strong faith, but her ability to survive in prison while helping other young women.

    More than 17 years go by before Marina decides to share her story and give the victims a rare voice. Her journey and the ones of many other women similar to hers are too often silenced. We hear stories of wars and conflicts around the world from the news angle. Reading from the perspective of a victim is an eye opening experience.

    As a reader, it put so much of my own life in perspective. We get caught in the routine, most of us working too hard. We rarely stop to think about and appreciate our freedom. To those like me who were born and raised in Canada and who live our lives here, it is difficult to imagine not being able to choose what we can read. What we're going to wear. And whom we have relationships with. From now on, I will take the time to appreciate that I am able to choose those things for myself.


    Eugen Weiss of Moncton is a former CBC Radio producer. We invited him to review "Something Fierce" by Carmen Aguirre.

    The photo on the cover of Carmen Aguirre's book was probably taken in the late 1980s, around the time she and her soon-to-be-husband-of-war took oaths that pledged their lives first of all to the Chilean resistance.

    She would be about 20. The face is not fierce; rather it has that next-to-dead look passports require. Her tale has pointed me to look at her eyes, and I think I see in the broad band of iris in her left eye an illustration of how she turned into tradecraft the terror seeded in her by a platoon of Pinochet's soldiers some 15 years earlier.

    This Terror - she sometimes capitalizes it - is a gut sense of being on the edge of an abyss of pain, betrayal and death. It has come upon her thousands of times at night and by day, a panic she has learned to hide by careful control of her breath and even the ordinarily involuntary dilation of the pupil; This, she has learned, border guards and police treat as a flag of fear that puts the lie to any claim of common and innocent purpose. She will call on her tools of calm for the next few years, evading surveillance, carrying instructions into Chile from Argentina. She and her husband learn to fly, and bring supplies to insurgents in the moutains of Chile. Her useful dread first came to Carmen in 1973, after Augusto Pinochet led a bloody coup against the government of Salvador Allende. The authorities in the family's provincial town told her mother to stop wearing pants; her Mami put on skirts; They said, fly the flag as proof of patriotism; she flew it, but at half mast.

    Then came the raid. Her parents were out, and 5-year-old Carmen and her 4-year-old sister Ale were at home with a servant. The troops searched the house, questioned the girls, and then before leaving - laughing - subjected them to a mock execution.

    Their parents had fled, and - long story short - the girls soon joined them in Vancouver.

    Aguirre's book opens six years later. Her Mami and Papi have split. Mami and her new mate Bob have resolved to heed the Chilean resistance's call for exiles to return to wage guerrilla war against the Allende regime. In Bolivia and Argentina, they will set up safe houses for others in the resistance, and later scout out smuggling routes through the Andes. Rather than stay in Vancouver or go to Cuba, the girls would go along; her Mami sensed that even surrounded by Chilean exiles, the girls' sense of home was being erased.

    It was risky business. The military dictatorships of Chile, Peru, Bolivia and Argentina shared a war on the left through what was known as Operation Condor.

    Aguirre's book traces the course of their undercover lives in sequence; partly in summary, often with the recall of dialogue and of instructions memorized before they were burned and the ashes flushed down a train toilet. It is no surprise that Aguirre has found success in the theatre, as actor and writer. Her text bears the fluidity no doubt helped by her reading drafts of the work at the Banff centre and elsewhere. It is a very human document, often wryly funny. And always overtly confiding and confessional.

    The Chilean resistance Aguirre joined didn't win. Pinochet lost a referendum on continuing in power in 1986. By 1990, as his grip on Chile loosened and a liberal democracy began to emerge, the resistance disbanded. The last 500 proscribed exiles, her Mami and Papi among them, were free to return. Some did, if only to visit.

    And Aguirre is free to tell of her Terror with corresondingly great candour.

    The back flyleaf of her book has a recent photo of Carmen Aguirre. There is nothing impassive about it. Big shiny smile. A twinkle in her eyes has come from the shadows.



    Bruce Dougan from Riverview is manager of the Magnetic Hill Zoo. We think that makes him the perfect choice to review "The Tiger".

    Having worked with tigers for most of my 40 years in animal care and knowing how intelligent, powerful and complex they are, I was intrigued and anxious to read "The Tiger". It's a true story of life in Eastern Russia and the reality of the people who live off the what the forest can provide for them. They're in direct competition with the local wildlife. It includes two large cats, amur tigers and amur leopards, and two species of bear, the European brown and black bears.

    The story is divided into three main components. The first starts by introducing us to a dedicated wildlife conservationist (Yuri Trush). He was chosen to lead the World Conservation Siberian Tiger Trust in the Bikin river area of the primorye region of Eastern Russia. A formidable job that required the protection of a highly endangered species (the tiger) that was loved, hated, feared and respected by all who lived near the Taiga.

    As you hear about Yuri Trush, you learn about the geography of the region and the history of how this area of far Eastern Russia was settled. Life in far eastern Russia is hard, and the pioneers who settled there endured hardships much like pioneers in the western parts of North America a century ago.

    The focus then turns to the life of a young local man, Vladimir Markov, who raised bees and lived, at least in part, off of the Taiga (forest), and what he could harvest and in some cases poach from it. This young man was hunted and killed by a tiger that appears to have done so out of revenge. It is the job of Yuri Trush to find this tiger and destroy it.

    The second part of the story tells the tale of the second victim of the tiger, a young man from the same village of Solonye who is also killed by the same tiger, now obviously wounded.

    Part 3 of the novel concentrates on the hunt to kill the tiger that has terrorized the people of the region. He has now changed his life long hunting patterns and set his sights on human prey. As is mentioned in the novel, once you set on a tiger's trail, you will meet up with him. That's because once he knows you are following him, he will lie in wait to remove the threat. The hunting party does encounter the tiger after tracking him for over a week. The final meeting ends in the death of the tiger. The autopsy revealed that it had been shot several times with different rifles and had been suffering for quite some time.

    The book is factual and speaks so the real character and intelligence of the most powerful land predator on earth. Imagine a prize fighter who can knock a man out with one punch. Now multiple his weight by 3 and his strength by 4 and the intensity of an attack by 10 and it may be close to what you would experience if a tiger attacked you. Your end would come quickly.

    A quote from Charles Darwin perhaps when speaking of animal intelligence said it best:

    Nevertheless the difference in mind between man and the higher animal, great as it is, certainly is one of degree not of kind.

    In conclusion, this book was a very interesting story that kept me wanting to read just one more chapter. Having had lifelong relationships with tigers, I can say that their bonds are strong. They are very aware of how certain individuals impact their lives either positively or negatively. They are a very complex animal and certainly one of the most feared and revered. Those traits are very well documented and referenced in the story. The fact that it is based on a true story adds intensity to the tale.


    Tim Belliveau of Moncton grew up on hockey. Now he's retired after spending years writing during his career in public relations and communications for government agencies and institutions. This is is revew of "The Game" by Ken Dryden.

    I played a lot of hockey as a kid in the 1950s and 60s. It was a time before global warming where, even in a city like Toronto, we still had real winters and could play endless hours of hockey outdoors. When I was eleven years old, I joined my first real hockey team, the Leaside Rangers. It was like joining the pros. Our sweaters looked just like those of the New York Rangers. Even though I was secretly a Montreal Canadiens fan - a sentiment I inherited from my father - I was still pretty darn proud of that Rangers jersey. Hockey was serious fun. It wasn't just a game it was The Game.

    In 1983, former Montreal Canadiens star goaltender, Ken Dryden wrote a book called, appropriately enough, "The Game." What I like most about it is that he captures beautifully this sense of "serious fun." He communicates an unbounded, childlike enthusiasm for the physicality of the game, for its speed, its grace, its rough edges. But, lawyer that he is, he also brings an incisive mind to bear on some of the tougher issues the game faced then and, in some cases, still faces.

    At heart, "The Game" is an insider view of hockey at the NHL level. Although it might have been just another ex-NHLer's, supposedly "candid" locker room memoir, "The Game" is something more. It is very well written, nicely paced and thoughtful.

    It gets us inside the heads of some of the great players and coaches of the time. It explores the changing nature of the game itself, examines some of the pitfalls of professional sport and communicates some of its joys.

    Some of the best moments in the book are really no more than asides. I like, for example, Dryden's description of then-Boston coach Don Cherry stepping down off the boards after one of his typically colourful rants, a "tiny permanent grin on his face, like a ten-year-old kid holding a stink bomb behind his back." The book is spiced with many such moments - both amusing and perceptive.

    Thirty years on, The Game is still a great read. For us baby boomers and beyond, it brings back fond memories of the Montreal Canadiens' glory days. For the contemporary hockey fan, it's a reminder that the game has a history and a context, that even at the professional level, it's not always about money - that it often transcends its jock roots and approaches something akin to poetry. Like the game itself, Dryden's book is "serious fun." I recommend it highly.


    Brock Gallant is drummer with the Moncton band, The Divorcees and entertainment manager for the Moncton club, Plan B. He read and reviewed Dave Bidini's book, "On A Cold Road":

    Reading "On a Cold Road" as someone who's never been a fan of The Rheostatics seems almost fitting. The book does as much to paint a vivid picture of touring in Canada as it does extolling the pain and frustration of being in a band that has become famous for not becoming famous.

    As I thumb through the pages, I constantly refer back to the "Chorus" page at the front of the book. I am trying to match the names of the contributors with their accomplishments that seem to be fading from the Canadian consciousness like the final note of a concert that echoes through The Gardens. Bitterness and resentment speckle the pages of "On a Cold Road." To the uninitiated, it may read like sour grapes. But as a musician who has followed in the wheel tracks of bands like the Rheostatics, across Canada in search of an audience, this bitterness is soothing and reassuring. At the same time it's somewhat heartbreaking.

    It's hard to understand what people mean when they say they do it for the love of the music. As Dave Bidini so skillfully demonstrates in his book, we are all influenced by the romance of the generation before us. We see the lights, the big stage. We imagine what it is like to be backstage sipping alcoholic beverages and munching on exotic snacks, or escaping to the confines of our tour bus with blacked out windows.

    Drifting from town to town, soaking up the adoration and love of our millions of fans. We dream of a day when we can play our own songs to fans who love us as much as we love those who have sparked our passion for music.

    However, as Bidini charts his journey from his first downtown gig at the Edge to some of the band's biggest shows opening for the Hip, we don't get an account of how far they've come and how appreciative they are for the opportunities. Instead, we get a candid account of a band that is insecure, dysfunctional and constantly seeking to determine their own worth by comparison to others. We get a true account of just about any band from Canada (Nickelback, Rush and Bryan Adams excluded).

    By the book's final pages, I feel like I have spent a night in the basement of the Townhouse in Sudbury, or in the loft above the Apollo in Thunder Bay or the band room at Plan B in Moncton. I feel like I have been welcomed to the after-party. It's where the players have finally put to rest the bravado and ego that is required to perform on stage, night in and night out, and have begun to reveal, like they all do at these after parties, the war stories.

    It's these stories from musicians of all stripes and stature that provide balance in this book. They remind us all that what happens on stage is a "show." It's not real, no matter how much we want it to be. We all play lousy gigs. We all fight. We all say things we wish we hadn't. We all do silly things in the name of showmanship. We always think that by the next gig we'll get it all figured out.

    But we won't. With the exception of a very few, musicians in Canada will always feel this way. We'll be pushed into believing that we need to go south or to Europe or some far off land to finally become successful in Canada. This is the book I would have written if I were finished playing music in Canada. But I'm not done yet. Bidini's book has reminded me that I do play for the love of music. I do it FOR the lousy gigs, and the failed experiments because, on the other side of the coin, someone is watching me completely oblivious to my own insecurities and shortcomings. They don't know what I intended to play, they just know the show. And the show must go on.

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