Thursday, 31 January 2019

Signup for Gentle Spectrums 2019

After skipping a year, I'm back participating in this fun challenge.

Hosted here, this challenge has several categories to read books in. They are:
1. Limitless Palette - Colours
2. Canadian
3. Continents
4. Fashion and Decor
5. Educational
6. Hope and Triumph
7. Animals
8. Natural Environment
9. The Arts
10. Toys or Hobbies
11. Healthfulness.

It should be interesting.

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Need To Know

Finished January 25
Need to Know by Karen Cleveland

This spy thriller has CIA analyst Vivian Miller at the verge of a breakthrough to a Russian sleeper cell. But when one of the faces in the cell is that of her own husband, she freezes, unable to process what this means.
Vivan met her husband Matt just as she was beginning her career. They now have four children, including one with special medical needs. Many decisions have been made during the course of her career, that brought her to this dilemma. Her choice to join the unit looking at Russia. Her choice to take only a short maternity leave after her first child. Her choice to have Matt stay home with the kids to keep her better health coverage. Their recent move to a bigger house in a better neighbourhood that stretched their finances. She can't afford to turn in Matt, but how can she not.
As the story develops, I saw her missteps, and her courage to not go past a certain point in her ethical dilemma. I saw how she got herself into an even more difficult situation that she was in to begin with. This is a story of espionage that I hadn't imagined before, and one that kept me reading.
And an ending I won't easily forget.

That Part Was True

Finished January 22
That Part Was True by Deborah McKinlay

This novel has two main characters. One is British Eve Petworth, reader, single mother, and middle aged woman finally starting to live her own life. The other is American Jackson Cooper, novelist, divorced man with no children, who is questioning his career.
The connection between them begins when Eve writes to Jackson saying how much she enjoyed one of his books. The two soon discover a shared passion for good food and the creating of it. Their correspondence continues over a period of months, mostly one that others in their lives are not aware of. They share recipes, talk about their lives, and find comfort in the ongoing conversation.
Outside of the letters and emails, both have lots going on. Eve's daughter Izzy is planning her wedding, and expressing regret about the recent loss of her grandmother, Eve's overbearing mother. Jackson has a bit of a writer's block, and is starting to date after the end of his marriage. Both have great confidants: Jackson's actor friend Dex, and Eve's housekeeper and friend Gwen.
This is a story of a friendship as it evolves, and we see each character deal with life's challenges and learn to trust themselves.

Come From Away

Finished January 21
Come From Away by Genevieve Graham

This novel takes place during World War II in rural Nova Scotia. The author was inspired by a historical rumour. It was known that there were German submarines operating along the Atlantic coast of North America during the war, and there was a story that some of the men from one of these ships came ashore one evening and attended a local dance. There is no historical face to base this on, but Graham thought "what if..." and this story was born.
At the center of this story are two characters. One is Grace Baker, a young Nova Scotia woman whose three older brothers have all joined the war effort. One in the navy, one in the merchant marine, and one as a infantry man. Grace longs to do something herself, but instead remains at home, and runs a general store for a neighbour who has health issues.
The other character is Rudi Weiss, a young man in the German navy, assigned to a local submarine, and part of a group of young men who were allowed off the ship to attend a dance. At the dance the two meet and are attracted to each other, but go there separate ways.
But circumstances bring them together again, and this becomes a story that shows the human element of war, the power of second chances, and a young woman learning that things aren't always black and white.

A Howl of Wolves

Finished January 21
A Howl of Wolves by Judith Flanders


This is the fourth book in the series featuring editor Samantha (Sam) Clair. Here it begins as she is out at a play that her upstairs neighbour Kay is in, along with Kay's six year old son Bim. With her is her boyfriend, Jake, a homicide detective. Kay and her husband Anthony are both actors, and rent the second floor of Samantha's house. On the third floor is reclusive Mr. Rudiger, an insightful man who has become a good friend. As the play unfolds, it first appears that someone is playing a practical joke, making up a prop figure to look like the director of the play.
But, as Jake realizes, and Samantha soon catches onto as the play ends, the prop has been replaced with a real man, and he is dead. Samantha helps Kay and Anthony out as the days go on, assisting with keeping an eye on Bim, both at the theatre and rehearsal space, and outside of them.
On the work front, Sam is dealing with an upcoming sales presentation, and angling for her author to get a key spot before the buyers. Luckily she has a good team on her side, with some good contacts.
I like this series for the humour included, with lines that make me laugh out loud.
I also like the plots, and how solving them often requires specialist knowledge, a good eye for details, and good contacts, all of which Sam has. I also like the secondary characters, from Samantha's lawyer mother Helena, to Jake, the other tenants of the house, and Sam's coworkers and friends.

Ghost Riders

Finished January 16
Ghost Riders by Sharon McCrumb

This novel takes place in the North Carolina mountains. Part of it is from the 1860s when the war reached this area, and is centered around a young married couple Keith and Malinda Blalock and a young lawyer, real-life Zebulon Vance. Keith was brought up by his mother and stepfather, and leans toward the Union side, but many of the men of the hills side with the south. When Keith is finally forced into the Confederate Army, Malinda is determined not to let him be alone, and she follows him. Keith ends up in the men commanded by Vance, and thus their paths cross for the first time. Keith and Malinda end up on the Union side, but in a sort of unofficial capacity, fighting in the hills that are their home.
More than a hundred years into the future, mountain man Rattler and wisewoman Nora Bonesteel are drawn into the story as rebel reenactments draw the spirits of the past into the present creating a dangerous situation.
I enjoyed the history of this novel, learning more about how the war affected the backcountry of North Carolina, and about the man trying to do the best for the people of Appalachia, Zebulon Vance. Any civil war pits neighbour against neighbour, and sometimes even brother against brother, and this was certainly true for the United States Civil War. Seeing some examples of how this played out was eye-opening.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Kingdom of the Blind

Finished January 15
Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny, read by Robert Bathurst

I've always enjoyed this mysteries, for the inclusion of the personal life of the characters, and for the complex story they tell. Here, Armand is under suspension from his role as head of the Surete of Quebec for his actions in the previous book. Jean-Guy was also under suspension, but his has been lifted and he is now acting in Armand's role. Isabel, injured in the last book, is still on leave.
As the book opens, Armand is off to a meeting he has been summoned to by a letter. But the letterhead has the name of a dead man, and the contents of the letter give no indication as to the purpose of the meeting. Armand is intrigued, but wary.
When he arrives at the house, about twenty minutes away from Three Pines, he finds one car. Before he can enter the building, another car arrives, that of Myrna. They find that they have received the same letter. A third person arrives, a young man with a unique style, that they don't know.
The three of them soon discover that they have been named liquidators (executors) in the will of a woman they've never met, Bertha Baumgartner. They have some time to think about it before accepting, and as a snowstorm is moving in quickly, they find themselves all in the village of Three Pines. As the story of the Baumgartners and their odd inheritance history is revealed, they also find that there are some in the village that have met Bertha, as her preferred title, the Baroness.
This is but one of the stories of this novel. Although Armand is on suspension, he is still trying to track down the missing drug shipment from the previous novel. His drive to recover the missing carfentanil is a noble one, but he crosses some ethical lines as he does so. One of them involves a young cadet that he previously was close to, who has now put her future on the line in a misguided action.
This novel has a lot of twists and turns, reveals and secrets. Some I guessed at, other I did not. The book ends with some interesting changes to the lives of ongoing characters, and I will be interested to see where these changes take them.