Saturday, 29 April 2017

Among the Ruins

Finished April 29
Among the Ruins by Ausma Zehanat Khan

This is the third book in the series featuring Esa Khattuk and Rachel Getty, of Canada's Community Policing department, based in Toronto. This one is a departure in terms of setting however, as it begins with the murder of an Iranian-Canadian international activist in Iran.
Khattuk is on leave, taking a personal trip to Iran, following the action in book two, recovering from the situation he found himself in at the end of that case. Getty is a bit at loose ends, wrapping up paperwork and worrying about him. When a woman approaches Khattuk to let him know of the murder, he is shocked and dismayed, but unsure of what he can do to assist the situation. As she convinces him to take action, and he becomes involved with a local group of young people advocating for change, he also finds that he must involve Rachel, asking her to talk to people back in Toronto that may know what the activist was doing and why she returned to Iran despite the obvious dangers.
Rachel becomes closer to Nate as she relies on his assistance during Khattuk's absence, and she is still working to reestablish her relationship with her brother Zack.
This book involves both old and new characters, and a situation that is out of their official jurisdiction. However, with human rights being very much a part of their casework, it speaks to both officers and makes them take risks they wouldn't have thought they'd do. It also works to bring Khattuk back to his old self.
I loved the descriptions of Iran, from architecture, to food, to art, to culture that this book digs deep into. This is an interesting direction for the series, as well.

The Second Mrs. Hockaday

Finished April 25
The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers

This US Civil War novel begins with one wedding, quickly followed by another. Agnes, the daughter of Carthene, Placidia's father's second wife is being married, and Placidia, only sixteen was not part of the wedding party. Placidia, called Dia by her family is a girl of spunk, with a talent for horses. Energized by riding a horse deemed unrideable by others, she comes upon her father and a Confederate army officer who is purchasing a mule from him. A connection is made, and by the end of the weekend, Placidia is travelling with Major Gryffth Hockaday back to his farm. His first wife died in childbirth while he was away at war, and Placidia looks forward to taking on responsibility for the infant Charlie and the farm duties.
With their honeymoon cut short by war demands, the couple have only two days together before he returns to the fight, and they are separated until after the end of the war. Placidia misses him dreadfully, and fights off conmen, raiders, and other dangers alone with the servants on the farm. Despite her isolation, rumors that she was pregnant and killed her baby are circulating and come to the major's ears as her returns. Charged with a crime, Placidia tells what she feels she can in letters to her cousin, a young war widow with a daughter. Adding to the tale are court documents, and a few letters from Gryffth to Placidia during the war.
The second part of the book is told again in letters to the now grown man Charles from his brother, as they learn about the story of Gryffth and Placidia, and piece together the missing information to complete the story.
This is a sad book, of love, mistrust, and honor. A book of secrets and of promises. A tale of betrayal and of justice.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Fates and Furies

Finished April 23
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff, read by Will Damron and Julia Whelan

This novel tells the story of a couple, Lotto and Mathilde, first in Lotto's voice and then in Mathilde's. Lotto is short for Lancelot, and he comes from Florida, where his father died young and his mother now holds the purse strings of a water bottling empire. He has a younger sister, Rachel, and a paternal aunt, Sally. After his father's death, he ran wild with a group of local kids a bit older than him, and when things came to a head, got shipped off to boarding school, in exile. He was an outsider at first, until he found a way to be popular, and his anger sadness is one he fights his entire life. He loves attention, adulation, and admiration. When his first choice of career doesn't take him where he dreams, he chances upon another that does. As he keeps looking for more, he finds himself also more lonely.
Mathilde is also exiled at a very young age, sent to an uncle that provides shelter, a basic education, and food, but no more. Mathilde grows up feeling that she doesn't deserve love or happiness, that at the core of her is a dark place. When her uncle won't fund her college, she finds a way to do it without him, but it only confirms her feelings about herself.
When the two meet, they find something in each other that fills a hole in them. And for a long while they feed off each other, but this dependency is both good and bad, and, in the end, unsustainable. Neither one gives all of themselves, Lotto not seeing what Mathilde is really worth, and Mathilde not seeing her own value.
This is a sad book, with characters who never get enough, who hold a grudge long past normal, and some who see the real goodness in people beyond what they themselves believe.

The Clay Girl

Finished April 22
The Clay Girl by Heather Tucker

I loved this book. I've been reading it very slowly, so as to savor it.
The main character here is Hariet (Ari) Appleton, and this book takes her from the age of eight through sixteen from 1961 on. Ari's family has issues, big issues. Her father is an abuser, and a charmer, and when she is eight and the authorities become aware of the abuse, rather than face up to it, he traumatizes his daughters further by killing himself in front of them. The kids are all farmed out to various relations, with Ari being shipped out to Cape Breton to stay with her Aunt Mary and Mary's partner Nia. They give her the home and love that she has never had from her own parents. Ari also has an imaginary friend that she talks with, and who never deserts her, Jasper, a seahorse.
Unfortunately, Ari is returned to her mother in Toronto, she reunites with her sisters, all of whom have been touched by their past. She also finds her mother with a new man, Len. A good man. Even as Ari's mother sinks back into a life of addiction and men, Len is constant and his family becomes a refuge for Ari, just as the family she left in Nova Scotia was. Her sisters have different reactions to their abuse, some needing to go through worse times before finding their feet. One leaves, one finds religion of a sort, and the others make their way through various dark experiences to happiness. Ari, as the youngest can't escape so easily, as even as she plans her way out, she finds new obstacles set before her, new losses to endure. But she also finds new allies, new friends, and new family, even where she least expects it.
Ari's voice is unique, and she emerges as an artist and storyteller through her life experiences. As she is told by her aunt, she is not dirt as some described her but clay, malleable into a wondrous being. I fell in love with her, and ached with her during the bad times. She is empathetic, observant, and smart. I want to see more of her story.

A Place Called Sorry

Finished April 19
A Place Called Sorry by Donna Milner

This novel takes place in the interior of B.C. in a small town called Sorry, with the majority of the story taking place in the 1930s. The story of the town's name is an interesting one, and speaks to the nature of the community.
Adeline (Addie) Beale lives with her parents and her grandfather Chauncey on a large ranch outside of town. Addie loves the ranch and pretty much lives outside, to the dismay of her mother, a woman who grew up in Vancouver and was educated as a nurse, but met Addie's father when he was getting his law degree, and married him. She misses the city, but she knows her husband's life is entwined with the ranch. When tragedy strikes the family, things change drastically.
Addie spends a lot of time with her grandfather, and he shares with her diaries that he kept as a teenager when he first arrived in B.C. with his father. As Addie gradually learns of her grandfather's past and its tragedies, she also finds a new friend in another outsider in their small town. Alan Baptiste is the son of Rose, the wife of the store owner in town Dirk VanderMeer. Alan's mother brought him with her when she married Dirk, afraid that if she left him on the reserve, he would end up in residential school. The two get along well, have similar interests, and both are picked on by the schoolteacher Mrs. Parsons, Alan for his race and Addie for her unconventionality.
When Alan's family also faces tragedy, he comes to work at the ranch and the two grow closer. But the town isn't done with them yet, and as the war begins, more challenges come into their lives.
This is a story of prejudice, of finding your own way in life, and of facing your past, even the parts you regret. It is also a story of our country's history, one that still affects us today.
Milner's writing, as always, brings it to life, making me care about these people and their lives.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

A Cast of Vultures

Finished April 18
A Cast of Vultures by Judith Flanders

I thoroughly enjoyed the first in this series featuring book editor Samantha Clair, A Murder of Magpies, so was eager to read this one. There is a lot going on in this book, which always makes for a page-turner. Sam is involved in her neighbourhood, and has become a go-between between two gardening friends, Mr. Rudiger and Viv. Mr. Rudiger is her upstairs neighbour, living on the top floor of her house, and Viv is an older woman who lives closer to the farmer's market Sam visits every Saturday. When she stops by Viv's as normal to deliver some cuttings, Viv unexpectedly invites her in and involves her in a little B & E as a worried neighbour of a missing man. Soon after, a house in the neighbourhood burns down, and the circumstances lead to an investigation.
Meanwhile, the publishing firm Sam works at has called in management consultants to make some changes, and her able assistant Miranda has concerns about a memoir she is editing.
Sam attends meetings, both work and community, gathering information, calls on her well-connected mother Helena for assistance, as well as a young techie, and her boyfriend, a CID investigator.
When she finds herself targeted by unknown men, she can't help but start making connections.
I love Samantha's intelligence and wit, and the writing is wonderful.
One of my favourite scenes is this one:
Christ, I was naked. I'd been too startled, first, and then too scared, to notice, but here I was, standing with an adolescent boy in a light well at two in the morning, with only a phone to cover myself with. And phone coverage, as we all know, is never very reliable.
which gives an example of her humour. I also like that she knows her skill set and her values, but also acknowledges her failings and her insecurities. She is a woman who stands up for herself and her friends, but isn't afraid to admit her mistakes. A very relatable character.

One Tiny Lie

Finished April 16
One Tiny Lie by K.A. Tucker

This is the third book in a series, and the only one I've read so far. Livie is just starting college, at Princeton, the school that her father wanted her and her sister to attend, just like he had. When she was eleven, her parents died in a car crash, one that badly injured her older sister Kacey. Kacey has struggled to recover, and even though Livie seems to be doing well, getting great marks and doing everything according to a long-set-out plan, Kacey is worried about her. So Livie agreed earlier in the summer to talk to someone and she's been shaking her life up a bit.
Now, as Kacey sees her off to school, she finds herself talked into an off campus party, where she lets loose a lot more than she ever has, beginning with Jello shots. The next morning she finds herself with a new nickname, an incomplete memory of the previous evening, and a sore back. As she gradually remembers the events of the evening over the school term, she settles into a pattern of partying, studying, and questioning her own feelings, and finds herself drawn to a young man that she knows is trouble.
This is a story of coming of age, but also one of coming to terms with the past, not only for Livie, but for other characters as well. Her relationship with her sister is a strong one, but this is the first time she's really been making decisions that are hers alone.
Despite the American setting, the author is Canadian. This series will definitely appear to the adult reader ready to move on from teen fiction.