Sunday, 15 July 2018

Hometown Cowboy

Finished July 15
Hometown Cowboy by Sara Richardson

This is the first in a series of romance novels set in Topaz Falls, Texas. Jessa runs an animal rescue center started by her father. Though her parents never married, and lived apart, Jessa was close to both of them. She got her vetererinarian degree, and then her MBA in preparation for working with her dad and making the center a success. But just before she came on board, he died of a heart attack. Her dad's best friend, Luis Cortez has been great. helping out at the center and treating her like the daughter he never had. Jessa had spent summers with her dad, and loved to hike the Cortez ranch and the mountains around it. She's spent a lot of time doing that with Luis.
Another thing that Jessa has always wanted was a family, and she's been engaged but things have never worked on. After her last boyfriend, and major funder of the rescue, dumps her rather publicly, she engages her friends in helping her get together a new look to engage with the community and find new funders. She says she done with men for now.
Lance Cortez is working hard to take the top medal at the upcoming World Bull Riding championships, and he's been focused on his career for years. He's also not a fan of marriage ever since his mother left his father, him, and his two younger brothers when he was only fourteen. After an arson incident, his middle brother, Lucas, went to jail, and his younger brother, Levi, soon left for the high life of rodeo.
When Lance's training is interrupted by a worried ranch worker telling him his father never came home from the hike he went on yesterday, Lance seeks out Jessa to see if she knows where his father might have gone. He's never really paid much attention to Jessa, but now he really sees her for the first time, and he must adjust his view of her. As he feels drawn to her despite his lack of experience of or interest in relationships, Jessa must fight against her own feelings to stay true to her dreams.
I liked the family aspects of the book, with Luis and his sons, and the other ranch workers. I also liked the close group of girlfriends that Jessa found when she came to town.
A light romance with some pretty hot scenes. Good start to a new series.

I Let You Go

Finished July 13
I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh, read by Nicola Barber and Steven Crossley

This suspense and mystery novel unveils things gradually, so you aren't really sure what is happening until part-way through the book, and even then not everything is clear until the end.
The book opens with a terrible scene. A mother is walking her young son home from school, and the day is gray and rainy. As they come to the last street before home, the boy lets go of her hand and rushes to beat her home, but a car comes, seemingly out of nowhere and hits him. It does not stay at the scene.
DI Ray Stevens, DS Stumpy, and trainee Kate work on the case, following up on a myriad of clues to try to figure out who the driver of the vehicle was. There are lots of tips that must be followed up on, lots of CCTV footage to view from various places nearby, and lots of time needed. But after a few months, no real progress is being made, and the funding for the case is pulled back, making it inactive. The mother feels that people are blaming her for not taking enough care, and she doesn't feel supported by the police, and she decides that she has to go away, away from the memories of her son, and of the blame and guilt.
We now switch to see Jenna Gray quickly packing up her most important possessions and running from Bristol, first by bus, and then walking. She has no clue where she is going. She just has to get away from all the things that remind her of her son and of the accident. She finds herself in a small town on the coast of Wales. There, she rents a small cottage inland, and begins life anew. She is haunted by the accident, having nightmares that wake her screaming, and she secludes herself. The manager of the nearby caravan park, Beth-Ann, who assisted with her finding a place to live, makes some overtures and gradually Jenna begins to come to life again. She takes her artistic leanings in a new direction, and begins to find a quiet way to make enough funds to live on.
The viewpoint switches back and forth between Ray and Jenna until we get to the second half, when a new voice is brought in, one that has big significance to the case.
This is a story of twists and turns, of love and fear, of lives ruined, and of marriages.

American by Day

Finished July 12
American by Day by Derek B. Miller

I really enjoyed Norwegian by Night by Miller, and this is a follow-up book to that one. Set in 2008, shortly after the earlier book ended, but published this year, there are occasional allusions to some of the events of the present, which I enjoyed.
Chief Inspector Sigrid Ødegård has taken a leave after the conclusion of an investigation into the case covered in the earlier book, and finds that instead of relaxing on the family farm, her father is sending her to the United States to look for her older brother, Marcos, who appears to be missing.
Marcos was an adjunct professor at a small college in upstate New York, and Sigrid flies through Iceland, to Montreal, and then on to Watertown.
Sigrid's reactions to her environment, her questions about the things happening around her, and the reactions of those she interacts with are a big part of this book, and a source of humour, insight, and storyline.
When Sigrid arrives she finds that her brother is indeed missing, and that he is connected to the death of a professor at the same college he worked at, a professor he was involved with romantically, and a professor who was African American and wrote and researched race issues. There is another death connected to the professor on a personal level, also race-related, and Sigrid's view of the situation is vastly different than the one the police seem to have.
The sheriff of the area seems like a nice man, but he ignores the media to his peril, and sometimes bends too much to the political pressure of the state authorities. He takes a close watch on Sigrid, asking that they work together, but, as Sigrid envisions a different outcome she isn't always on board with his actions.
This is a story that involves American race relations, politics, the view of "outsiders," mental illness, police relations, motivations, and communication. There is also guilt, perceived and felt, and the search for what is right. A wonderful read.

Joyful Stitching

Finished July 11
Joyful Stitching: Transform Fabric with Improvisational Embroidery by Laura Wasilowski

I was drawn to the cover of this book, the colour and playfulness of the design.
The book provides a brief introduction to free-form embroidery, and then discusses the tools that are needed or helpful and materials that can be used for this work.
The author then shows different methods for transferring designs to embroidery, discussing fabric choice as an element of method choice.
There are then stitch directions for twenty-one different embroidery stitches, using pictures and examples from the projects in the book. The stitches covered are: backstitch; blanket stitch; bullion knot; chain stitch; couching; cross-stitch; ermine stitch; fern stitch, fly stitch; french knots; herringbone stitch; lazy daisy or detached chain stitch; long-and-short stitch; needle weaving; pistil stitch; running stitch; satin stitch; scattered seed stitch; sheaf stitch; stem stitch; and straight stitch.
The book then gives instructions for six different projects, all fun and colourful, with lots of pictures showing the steps through the project. Patterns are included.
Ideas are given for displaying the work and other ideas for more of this type of embroidery.
I found myself inspired by the ideas here, and looking forward to trying some of them myself.

The Last Time I Saw You

Finished July 10
The Last Time I Saw You by Elizabeth Berg

This story follows several people as the prepare for their fourtieth high school reunion. Each has their own reasons for going, and their own expectations of what the night will bring.
Dorothy Shauman is recently divorced, and hopes to finally get her chance with Pete Decker, the high school quarterback. Dorothy was popular in school, but didn't have a ton of friends. The girlfriends from back then are still in touch with her, and will also be attending the reunion. There is much gossip among them about who is going to be there and what each person's marital status is.
Mary Alice Mayhew was bullied in school, but rose above it, trying not to let it affect her. She is recently retired from her job as a researcher, and living in the house that used to belong to her parents. She has made a friendship with the older neighbour next door, Einer, who watched her grow up, was aware of the bullying and insists on going as her escort, in case anyone "tries anything".
Pete Decker has recently separated from his long-suffering wife, and is beginning to realize just what he has lost. He plans to go to the reunion to try to reconnect with his wife, who was his high school sweetheart.
Candy Sullivan was one of the prettiest girls in school, but she didn't date much among the boys in her class. She's been married for years, and lives a life in luxury, but never feels that it fits her that well. When she has a health scare, she insists on going to the reunion alone, taking the time to think about her next steps.
Lester Hessenpfeffer was a smart but nerdy kid, and he goes to the reunion mostly because of the nagging of his office manager who wants to see him move on with his life. He was widowed years ago, and hasn't been interested in relationships since then, except with a mentoring grandfatherly relationship with the girl who lives next door. They share an interest in animals and science. He doesn't have a lot of expectations for the reunion, but has a thought for Candy, wondering what she is like now.
This is a book of memories, regrets, hope, and renewal. Most of them don't get the outcome they expected from the reunion, but they all get something, something that brings a change to their lives.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Restless

Finished July 5
Restless: A Ghost's Story by Rich Wallace

As the title indicates, this story is told by a ghost. The story takes place in the town of Sturbridge, Pennsylvania, and the central character here is Herbie, a 17-year-old entering his senior year of high school. Up to now, Herbie played soccer, but the new coach doesn't appeal to him, and when he quits the team, the coach slings an insult at him that he couldn't make footfall or the cross-country team, so Herbie decides to do both. There are no rules against it, but it hasn't been done before, and meeting the challenges of both will require a lot of work on Herbie's end. As the year begins, one of his regular runs is through the cemetery, and Herbie's energy draws the attention of a ghost who hasn't been able to move on, Eamon Connelly, a young man who died in 1888, while trying to scale a cliff just below the cemetery late one night. But Eamon isn't the narrator of this story, although he does have a central role.
The narrator is Herbie's brother Frank, who died years ago when he was 17 of lymphatic cancer. Frank hasn't been able to move on either. He also hasn't been able to make himself felt in any way to Herbie, except in Herbie's dreams, even though he spends almost all his time with him.  But things seem to be changing. Herbie actually sees Eamon's ghost that night when he runs, and he begins to wonder, about energy, about life after death, about ghosts, and about many other things.
A couple of years back, Herbie's parents separated and he moves back and forth between them. This is definitely better than when they were together, arguing so much.
As he continues to work hard at school, at his sports, and as he meets a girl that seems to like him as much as he likes her, his interest in his brother and in the ghost he continues to encounter lead him to think hard. But he's not the only one. Frank is also entertaining some ideas that he never considered before, and that just might change everything.
A wonderful story of the need to prove oneself, of the idea of possibilities beyond what has been proven. A story that I truly enjoyed.

12th Annual Canadian Reading Challenge

I'm once again joining this fun reading challenge to read Canadian books.
It is hosted by Melwyk here

I nearly made it to 50 books last year, so even though the challenge is for 13 books, I'm going to try to hit 50.

This should be fun!