Sunday, 25 January 2015

The Sacred Cut

Finished January 25
The Sacred Cut by David Hewson

This novel is the third book in the series featuring Detective Nic Costa. Set in Rome, just before Christmas, the city is in the middle of a snowstorm, when an alarm in the Pantheon causes police to arrive.
What they discover when they get there is a tableau they don't know how to interpret. A woman is dead, naked, placed in a certain way, and with marks cut into her skin. But who has done it, and why, and what did the person who set off the alarm see before she ran.
Before the Italians can begin the formal investigation, before Teresa Lupo can do an autopsy, the FBI is there, taking over, and the Italian intelligence seems to be wanting that to happen.
With one of their own citizens dead though, Costa and his fellow officers, not to mention Teresa, aren't so quick to let this go. They want to know what is so sensitive they are being frozen out, and why one of the American agents, Emily Deacon, doesn't seem to know either.
As Emily begins to come around to their way of thinking and their grasp of the situation begins to grow, they also begin to wonder just who the real bad guy is in this situation.
I always enjoy the rebelliousness of Nic Costa, the shrewdness of his boss, Falcone, and the other characters that surround them. This case is interesting, with elements of terrorism and conspiracy.

Friday, 23 January 2015

The Crane Wife

Finished January 22
The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness

This fantasy novel was inspired by a story the author heard in kindergarten.
George Duncan, American living in London, divorced amicably, father of a divorced daughter and grandfather to a four-year-old boy, is awakened in the middle of the night by an outlandish cry that reaches him viscerally. He, without looking, rushes outside towards the sound, only to find a crane, injured by an arrow shot through one of its wings, He struggles to free it from the arrow, and succeeds. After the crane flies away, he is unsure whether it was real or a dream.
The next day, at his print shop, a woman, Kumiko, comes in with a piece of art to frame, and he makes a connection with her. As he spends more and more time with her, he cannot believe that he is lucky enough to get a woman like this to love him.
When his daughter eventually meets her, she loves her too.
But there is always a piece of her that he doesn't know, that he can't reach, and he continues to want this despite what he has. Will this aching need destroy what he has?
Interspersed with George's story and his daughter Amanda's story, is the story of a woman who can fly and a volcano. This story is moving and meaningful. How does it relate to George and his life. That is the heart of this book. What it means to love, especially what it means to love oneself.
A wonderful treasure of a book.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

The Long Way Home

Finished January 22
The Long Way Home by Louise Penny, read by Ralph Cosham

In this book in the series featuring Chief Inspector Gamache, Gamache and his wife have settled into life in Three Pines. Gamache is gradually recovering from his ordeals and learning to live a quiet peaceful life.
But then Clara Morrow comes to him for help. Her estranged husband Peter didn't show up on the anniversary of their parting as they agreed that he would, and she is beginning to worry. She wants Gamache's assistance in finding him.
Clara isn't sure what sort of man she'll find, and whether there is a future for the two of them together, but she still loves Peter and cares about what happens to him. She is sure that he would have come home if he could, and is worried about what may have prevented him. She wants to lead the search, but knows that she needs help.
So Gamache goes to one set of contacts, and sets a search of Peter's movements in in motion, while Clara and Myrna go to another set of contacts in Ontario. What they discover, leads them to travel together, along with Beauvoir toward eastern Quebec, and eventually the remote shores of the province as they trace Peter's trail. Reine-Marie and Ruth also make a journey of discovery in the search to gain information, and I enjoyed seeing more of them.
From Clara and Peter's art school professors to calls to European stops on Peter's travels, the group gradually begins to decipher some of what Peter has been up to, and who he has met along the way.
Literary allusions run thick here, and there is much introspection by all parties as they learn not only of Peter, but also of themselves during their quest.
I was moved both to tears and to laughter as I listened and only grew to enjoy these characters more than ever.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

To Travel Hopefully

Finished January 18
To Travel Hopefully: Footsteps in the French Cévennes by Christopher Rush

This memoir is about the time in Rush's life when he was dealing with massive grief. It is done in 3 sections. The first section, The Road to the Cévennes, is about the dying of Chris's wife Patricia in the summer and early fall of 1993, and about his reactions to both the dying and the death over the next several months. Patricia died far too young, and her illness was avoided until beyond redemption. Chris's two children, Catriona and Jonathan were 16 and 11. Chris' grief took its toll on them in addition to their own grief as they lost their mother.
Part two, Between Two Lives, looks at what brought Chris from this, and his connection to the writer Robert Louis Stevenson. Inspired by Stevenson's life changing journey by donkey detailed in his book, Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes, Chris plans out a similar journey, following as closely as possible in Stevenson's footsteps.
The third part, In the Cévennes, tells of Chris' journey. He hires, rather than purchases, a donkey named Anatole, recommended for this trek by the owner Monsieur Lac, and is coached in the proper handling and treatment of the donkey. He equips himself for the journey in a similar fashion to Stevenson, and follows his route as closely as possible. This is a difficult walk, through rough terrain, through much inclement weather, and Chris sleeps some nights out in the open, not always according to plan. His journey is physically demanding, but also emotionally and mentally challenging and Chris comes through it a changed man.
The writing is florid, and frank. He does not shy away from his experiences, whether uplifting or embarrassing. He is open about his feelings, his outbursts and his resentments, in a way few of us are willing to lay out for public view.
One of my favourite passages is from a man that Chris meets at a monastery he stays at enroute, who tells him
"Don't get stuck in the past, he went on to advise me. Or the future. That's the trouble with human beings. We're an illogical lot. Animals are more logical, though it's the logic of instinctive innocence. They don't wander about in times that don't belong to them, like we do. We're always running away blindly from the only time that does properly belong to us: the present. But the present is never the end we have in mind, with the result that we never actually live but simply hope to live, dream about life. It's perfectly logical too, you see. When a man is forever planning how to be happy, it stands to reason that he will never actually be so. Take my advice, my friend, be happy: live your life now, not tomorrow." 
This is an inspiring read and one that inspires the reader to reflect.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Reading Bingo 2015

Reading Bingo is back, and this year it is focused on Canadian books.
So of course, I have to take on the challenge.

Thanks to Random House Canada for offering this again. Such a fun idea.
And I already have one square!

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Keeper'n Me

Finished January 11
Keeper'n Me by Richard Wagamese

This novel was one of Wagamese's earlier novels, about a young man, Garnet Raven, who was removed from his native family when he was very young, and taken into foster care. Garnet was shunted around from one foster home to another, and grew up without any connection to his culture. In his twenties he made a connection with a black man and was welcomed into his family in a way he'd never been welcomed into any foster home and began adjusting his identity around black culture. But a misstep in judgment landed him in jail, and it was there his birth family found him.
Upon his release he made his way to the small northern community his family now lived in, and began to get to know his siblings, his mother and his roots as an Anishanabe.
An older man in the community, Keeper, took on teaching him about his culture in a very thoughtful way, and Garnet describes his assimilation of his native culture, his re-connection to the community, and his relationship with Keeper. Interspersed with Garnet's story is commentary from Keeper, about his views of Garnet's assimilation.
This is a book of what it means to belong, about taking the time to listen to your heart and learn what it is trying to tell you. It is a book of family, of culture, and of being human. It is serious and full of humour, just like life. A great read.

The Magic Mistake

Finished January 8
The Magic Mistake by Barbara Brauner and James Iver Mattson, illustrated by Abigail Halpin

This book is the second in the Oh My Godmother series aimed at 8-12 year-olds. Lacey Unger-Ware is back and she's also back in the role of fairy godmother.
As the book begins, Lacey and her family are set to attend the civic wedding ceremony for Gina, Lacey's best friend Sunny's mother. But sadly, Gina is stood up, and retreats into depression, staying home in her pajamas and eating cake. Shortly thereafter, Lacey receives a visit from the fairy godmother Katarina. Lacey is invited to attend the Godmother Academy and given an envelope with the name of the person she will be fairy godmother to during her initiation challenge. Lacey doesn't want to leave her family to go to the Academy and resists opening the envelope to accept the invitation. But when the envelope is opened accidentally and she sees the name on the card is Gina, she knows that she must do what she can to help Sunny's mother regain happiness.
A series of mistakes, misunderstandings, and comic episodes take Lacey through the rest of the book, with her best friends Sunny and Paige along as cheerleaders and assistants.
This is a fun series set in a world of magic and wonder. I liked that Lacey's superpower was empathy, and her actions showed that this was a real trait for her. It also showed Lacey and her friends taking responsibility for tasks within their families, and learning about different viewpoints in their school activities.